The 2012 Season is almost here!! Teams are getting together in the weight rooms, playing in winter leagues, and there are some great tournaments throughout the state in November and December. So let’s take a look at the major changes that have taken place since last season, who is the team to beat in each district, and who are the guys to watch!!
This week we bring you the previews for Districts 1-10. Please feel free to log in and leave your own thoughts or let us know how off-base we are! You can also use the contact form at the top of the page and send us the names of some players who you feel were left out. We will be happy to update the article with your thoughts.
This year the District by District preview is being brought to you by Deep South Lacrosse. Deep South Lacrosse is located in Gainesville, FL. The website address is www.deepsouthlacrosse.com. The owners are R.J. Fuhr and Chad Hightower. Both owners are extremely passionate about growing the great game of lacrosse and also providing a retail store with plenty of selection in equipment and apparel. R.J. and Chad are more than store owners. They both have sons playing high school lacrosse and R.J. is the Head Coach at Trinity Catholic HS in Ocala, FL. Both have over twenty five years of coaching experience in youth athletics and love introducing lacrosse to so many new players in the Central Florida area. Please visit the store and also take a look at the website. You can also like Deep South Lacrosse on Facebook.
District 1 – Leon, Maclay, Lincoln, Chiles
This district has changed little since last season. The ripple effect of adding a ton of South Florida teams to the FHSAA line up and nearly doubling the number of districts did not reach as far north as Tallahassee.
Expect either Leon or Maclay to win this district in 2012. Leon is really stepping it up this year playing a truly State-Wide schedule. We expect the competition they are playing during the season to have them ready for the play-offs. They have Vero Beach, Ponte Vedra, Episcopal, and a pair of North Carolina teams on the schedule.
There is a tough task waiting the winner of this district as they will more than likely play Episcopal-Jacksonville in the first round of the state tournament.
District 1 players to watch this season from Leon are Goalie Daniel Hoch, Grant Wallenfelz, Nathan Granger, Matt Henderson, Will Moor, and Galen Postma. Look for Tripp Transou and Tucker Schwarz from Maclay to have stand-out seasons and Chiles’ Austin Cunningham and Lincoln’s Brad Wheeler.
District 2 – Episcopal, Paxon, Robert E. Lee, Stanton
Although this district has been re-worked since last season, it is not much of a mystery. All four of these teams were part of the ten-team District 2 last season. Aside from Bolles, Episcopal was the class of the field and ended up winning the District after Bolles was forced to forfeit some of their games and thus, did not make the district play-offs. But Bolles is now out of this district and the other three teams were trounced by double digit margin of victories by Episcopal last season.
Now led by one of the State’s top senior goal tenders, Beau Courtney and the addition of new head coach Pat Harnett, they will not be stopped by Paxon, Lee, or Stanton. Other players who will help lead Episcopal include Connor Clark A/M Grad (Sr.), Jonathan Creech M (Sr.), and Matt Stiefel A (Jr.).
Once out of the Districts and into the first round of the state tournament they will face to top team from District 1. In fact, we believe they will probably see the second round of the state tournament where they will face the winner of the District 3 champion vs. District 4 Champion. We predict Bolles to come out of that game setting up a “must see” game.
District 3 – Atlantic Coast, Fletcher, Providence, Sandalwood
Fletcher and Sandalwood should be battling it out for the district championship. The other two teams in the district are 2nd year Atlantic Coast and newcomer, Providence. Duval County has been going through some rough times in regards to finances. FloridaLacrosseNews.com has covered the Duval County Bowler-In-Chief as well as Lighthouse Lacrosse’s efforts to help solve the problem.
The final result is that Duval will have lacrosse, but the Duval County Athletic Director/ Chief Bowling Fan has decided that the teams will not have assistant coaches this season. This is going to make it tough on coaches at these schools. New teams have new players. New players need to be taught skills as well as team concepts. It is going to be very tough for one person to be able to teach 25 or more kids how to play this game without help.
The team that rises to the occasion this season and takes this district will probably be rewarded with a game against Bolles in the first round of the tournament.
Here are some of the Sandalwood players to keep an eye on.
Mike Newman (Sr.), and juniors, Doug Stone and Erik Nilsen are expected to play well and contribute to most of the production for a young offense. On Defense, Seniors Anthony Russo and Matt Aviles should play well enough to contribute to a very successful season. In goal, Justin Pardee (Sr.) will provide some experience after playing goalie all season last year, but will share time with Will Monlezun (Fr.) who is coming in with playing experience and will be able to play attack and midfield with ease as well.
Sandalwood’s biggest games will be the two against Fletcher. That is always a dogfight, with Sandalwood getting their first ever victory over Fletcher 10-6 last year.
District 4 – Bolles, Fleming Island, Mandarin, Wolfson
The top competition for Bolles in this district is Mandarin who was 5-5 last season. Both Fleming Island and Wolfson are programs in the building stages and will have trouble unseating Bolles. We anticipate Bolles moving on from this district and cruising through the first round of the play-offs to face Episcopal or Leon in the second round.
Bolles captains Alex Ruiz and Zach Ashourian are both going to be players to keep an eye on this season. Alex should see a ton of minutes a middie and has the potential to have 30G and 20-30A. Michael Haueisen (c) is a junior attackman who is looking to transition to middie this year and should have a solid year. Tyler Gibson looks to play a prominent role as a faceoff middie and could step up and be a scoring threat he is very good at getting to crease and popping in some quick stick shots.
District 5 – Bartram Trail, Creekside, Nease, Ponte Vedra
Bartram Trail, Creekside, and Nease will once again field competitive and hard working teams. Rob Jennis has taken over as the new head coach at Creekside and will certainly have the Knights ready to play, but the fact is that last year PV beat Bartram Trail 15-1 and 15-2, Creekside 18-9, and Nease 14-1. Bringing back most of the team that went all the way to the final four last year it’s hard to see how they won’t repeat last year’s success. Creekside and Bartram Trail both have some good talent that should make for quite a solid clash when they see each other.
Players to watch in this district are PV’s Brendan Francis A (Navy), Marcus Dunlap F/O M (Bucknell), Connor Peaks G (Delaware), and Keenan Crosby D (Rollins). At Bartram Trail keep an eye on Chase Hancock, Nick Correra, Ty Sellers, Ryan Wendlandt, and Phil Robertson. Creekside players that are sure to have an impact are Kevin Mckernan, Mark Trummel, and Gian Noto.
District 6 – Flagler Palm Coast, Matanzas, Menendez, and St. Augustine
This is a newly minted district. Last season Menendez was part of a mostly Jacksonville district, FPC and Matanzas were lumped in with Seminole High School and Lake Mary and St. Augustine was not in district last year. However, considering that FPC thumped Matanzas and Menendez last year and the Lake Mary is now out of their way, it looks like this could be the year for Flagler Palm Coast to play in the state tournament.
Keeping things interesting, however, will be the elevation of previous assistant, Mike Jones at Matanzas High School, to Head Coach. Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast are the two seasoned teams in this district, so don’t expect Matanzas, who is hosting the District Tournament, to just hand the trophy to Flagler. One big game to watch this season is Pedro Menendez vs. Matanzas. Matanzas has won last 3 games by a combined 5 goals.
In non-district games, FPC will host Alpharetta from Georgia while Matanzas will host Lawton Chiles from Tallahassee and St. Edwards (Vero Beach) in the same week.
Players in District 6 to keep an eye on: FPC has two special players to watch, senior midfielder/attackman Wes Adams and junior attackman Shane Noble. Both players can change the game at any time and can shoot at will. Also keep an eye on junior Pedro Menendez goalie Zach Westpheling who continues to improve with every game.
District 7 – Buchholz, Eastside, Gainesville, Oak Hall, P.K. Yonge, Trinity Catholic (Ocala)
District 7 is a very interesting District and we suggest folks around the state keep an eye on some of these teams in the coming years. One thing to keep in mind is that North Central Florida has no shortage of Athletes. You can find plenty of kids from Gainesville and Ocala on college rosters in many sports. So there is no reason the same can’t happen for lacrosse.
This District has had some new faces added and quite a few coaching changes. The new kid on the block, Trinity Catholic in Ocala, already looks like the team to beat. This year they are transitioning from IA to FHSAA. They were 7-3 last year in their inaugural season and will return two leading scorers, attackmen Kevin Norman and Hunter Fuhr. Their goalie, Mike Manseu is now playing at FAU and will be missed. The Trinity Catholic defense will be led by Anthony Crisera and Braden Doyle. Another big returner for TC is senior midfielder, Will Cothran, a FOGO who also a reliable two way middie.
They were State Champions in football in 2010, and produced current Gators quarterback, John Brantley, so you know these guys can produce winning programs.
After 10 years coaching and a ton of success locally, founding Head Coach Jeff Rant has retired. Now the program will continue under the coaching direction of Rick Kirshner. Kirshner played and coached at national power-house Landon in Bethesda, MD. They will be a little younger this year but will certainly be planning on defending their district championship after a 6-0 district record last year.
Buchholz has the largest number of players of any program in this district and is one of only two teams in the district to field a JV program. They also finished above .500 last year for the first time, so don’t count them out.
Kurt Saddleman has taken over for Chuck Rogan at Gainesville High School and Rogan has moved to Eastside. GHS has more experienced sticks but EHS should be faster and more athletic. It should be fun to see these two face-off on March 6th at Eastside for what could be the 4th and final spot in the playoffs. Keep an eye on Gainesville’s senior middie Adam Horn.
District 8- Father Lopez, Lake Mary, Seminole, Winter Springs
Four teams, four new coaches. Shawn Perkins left Lake Mary and Garrick Robinson now has the reigns there. Jeff Reedy replaced one year coach Chuck Scales at Seminole, Keith Marks is in at Winter Springs after Brian Gback stayed closer to home at Merritt Island this season, and Jordan Clancy has taken on the program at Father Lopez.
Although Seminole is a program with some promise and Winter Springs is a program with history nobody in this district should be a serious threat to Lake Mary this season. Despite the loss of top scorer, Jarrod Forehand, Lake Mary will be young but the small senior class has taken on leadership role well while adapting to a new coaching staff.
Lake Mary players to keep an eye on this season include;
Senior goalie Dave Moore. Dave has been a four year Varsity starter at LMHS, Co-Captain last year, MVP team award last year, All Conference and All District recognition last year, and currently heavily recruited within the NCAA DII Deep South Conference. On defense Kyle Swink, senior, is a third year varsity member and only returning defender from last year, will lead a young defense full of sophomores. At Midfield Josh Reedy, senior, is one of the leading scorers from last year. He is a full field middie who also plays on man up and man down units. Also at midfield, Cole Lindquist, Junior, is another one of the leading scorers from last year. On attack look for Connor Accurso and Andrew Bence, both seniors. Connor is a returning starter and solid leader of the attack and Andrew is a dangerous scorer who also plays midfield.
The winner of this district will play the winner of the District 9 tournament. That could possibly set up a very interesting Lake Mary vs. Lake Brantley game. The next step will be a game against the winner of the District 10 vs. District 11 match up. District 11 is the most competitive district in the State this year featuring Boone, Bishop Moore, and the defending State Champion Lake Highland Prep. This is the bracket that will most likely produce a state Semi-Finalist.
District 9 – Apopka, Lake Brantley, Lyman, Wekiva
In years past Apopka has been accused of walking down an easy road to the regionals. That is no longer the case. They will need to get past Lake Brantley just to make it out of the Districts this year. Last season Lake Brantley beat Lake Mary in the first round of the tournament and defeated Apopka in the second round to reach the State’s final four. You can bet that Adam Van Valkenburg is planning for a big senior season running the Lake Brantley midfield. Tim Gehlbach scored 10 goals last year as a freshman and should be fun to watch as he gets a little more experience. Lake Brantley will no doubt be leaning heavily on the highest scoring returner, John Dougherty, a senior attackman.
Lyman is beginning a re-building phase with new head coach Tahn Waugh and a bunch of new players but should have enough to finish third in this district.
District 10 – East Ridge, Lake Minneola, Ocoee, West Orange
This is going to be West Orange’s year to win a district championship. East Ridge is going to do what they can to prevent that from happening, but we predict West Orange to win this one. They have been edged out by Apopka the last couple of years and now with the new alignment they have this one in their sites.
Lake Minneola is a brand new school and will begin the long road to building a program of their own and Ocoee is coming off a 5-10 season last year.
Some of the guys in this district to watch are East Ridge’s TK Shaffer and Ocoee’s Trey Hartman. West Orange is returning several good players including Grant Hughes, senior midfield. Grant returns after scoring 38 goals last season and scooping up 108 ground balls. He had a solid off-season as well picking up the Top Midfielder Award at Dixie Top 150 Camp. He is joined at the midfield by a good looking sophomore, Grant Malquist. At the attack West Orange returns All-district Alec Benkovich who netted 44 goals last season and look for sophomore Nick Poidomani to have a break-out year. Defensively, Seniors Parker Jones (D) and goalie Jonah Larsen will be tough to get past. Parker picked up the Top Defenseman Award at the Dixie 150 and Jonah made 200 saves during his All-Metro and All-District season in 2011.
Please feel free to leave your comments and be sure to check back next Monday for the Districts 11-20 FHSAA Season Preview!