Readers know I have a policy of not writing up blowout victories but last night’s game requires an exception for two reasons. One is that there were individual performances within the game worth mentioning and the other is because going to West Boca High for the first time in 3 years brought back some interesting and emotional memories of the venue and one of the head coaches.
Last year I wrote a feature on ‘Where Are They Now’ that was well received and the 2nd one I was thinking of came from a game I covered in 2014 between Coral Springs Charter and Taravella, and I will write that up eventually. One memory last night was triggered by the new Taravella coach, Christian Young, who actually played in that game! He replaced Joe Chiarella and let’s see how it goes.
Here’s the link to the article about the game he played in: LINK
It’s funny, but a lot of what I wrote about the play of that game held true last night too . . . the passion of the players, not slowing down at all, playing the whole 48 minutes. Although Taravella came out on the short end of the score I was delighted by a feisty attitude of their players, particularly the Lubin brothers, Ethan and Aidan, two small dynamos who did not back down an inch to far bigger kids. In fact, the entire Taravella squad was vocal and active all game long and it was a joy to watch. Goalie Fabian Tudorov hung in there for 12 saves. Keep it up kids! Your intensity and 48 minutes of hustle were exemplary.
West Boca had the high-end talent that made this game fairly easy for them. Reid Smith and Aidan O’Neill combined for 10 goals and 7 assists, with Dominic Petrone chipping in a hat trick. What was even more impressive was how Smith and O’Neill spent most of the 2nd half trying to get their inexperienced teammates, some getting their first game action, a chance at a goal. It’s not always about padding the stats, it’s about being their for those who need to learn.
When I checked the MaxPreps roster for West Boca, it was sort of off because there were a few kids who graduated. I was quite surprised to see Griffin Berke’s name on it, as I thought he had to have graduated (and when I got to the field and asked West Boca Coach Thomas Gramando he confirmed Griffin had graduated). When I wrote the article “River Wins The ‘War For Four'” (LINK), about the battle for the last spot in the District playoffs (West Boca had never made it), the article was very popular because it highlighted the under-the-radar battles that go on beyond the glamour games. Berke was a freshman who I could have sworn was under 5′ tall and in an amazing back and forth battle that ended 13-12, found the ball in his stick with about a minute to play with WB on the man-up, and when he was left alone, walked in and fired, just missing to the far side. What got my attention, and lasting memory, was his willingness to take that shot in that situation, while Spanish River shut off his more heralded teammates.
I can still envision the shot, since my spot in the press box was right behind his line of sight. A couple of inches further left and he’d possibly be even more lasting in my memory. Either way, just another great moment over the years of writing for FLN.
But clearly the most memorable moment at WB, and easily the most emotional I ever felt after writing a piece, was the night the Stoneman Girls played their first game after the 2018 shootings at MSD. Tuesday will be the 3rd anniversary of that game, and it hit me even more than covering the first Boys game and maybe it was because it was a road game versus the Boys home tilt that year. I wrote nearly 8,000 words for Inside Lacrosse online recapping the day of the shootings and the aftermath, but this day stood tall. A full, giant moon just over the school and a setting sun gave it almost a feeling of a canvas.
And even now I get a little choked up when I read the article, and particularly these words (LINK TO THE ARTICLE):
There was an interesting thing going on in the stands with the parents too
Their intensity over the past two weeks seemed to go away last night
As the score got to a point where the victory was no longer in doubt the emotions turned into something more familiar.
Talking to each other
Lining up for pictures as a group as others took turns taking the group picture.
The pictures they will keep for generations to come . . . this was the day we started to put a smile back on our faces
Of the nearly 1,000 original articles I’ve written for FLN, that article, A Small Step For Lacrosse, A Giant Leap For Regaining Equilibrium, is still my favorite story I’ve authored. And those words are something I hope I am remembered for long after I’m done.
Three WONDERFUL memories, all linked together by a game last night that would not make it to Sportscenter’s Top 10 in any way . . . on a grass field next to the edge of the wilderness that leads to the Everglades . . .
It was a pretty quiet night of sound, but it was a very loud night for memories.
Kids, play with your heart, not just with your skills and mind . . . trust me, it works.