We’re more than halfway through the boys lacrosse season, and conclusions remain hard to come by. Making sense of the Inter-Ac seems a fool’s errand, but even within the Central League, the division to two classes for this year’s district and state tournaments begets a new level of scrutiny. It’s one thing to ponder the regular season, but with such a bounty of postseason games on offer for those deemed worthy, the playoffs become a season unto itself, one worth sacrificing sharpness in April for.
Here’s the hierarchy as I see it this week. Records based on games through April 23. (Hoping to cobble together stat leaders in the coming day or two.)
1. Haverford School (7-4)
This is as tenuous as a No. 1 I’ve ever bestowed on the Fords midseason. Step back and you see that three losses have come by a combined five goals. And to watch them make Malvern Prep immensely uncomfortable in the April 7 win, it’s hard to fathom this is a discussion. But Episcopal Academy had them on the ropes for three quarters. Then the loss to Penn Charter for a first time in 14 years, then a one-goal win over Germantown Academy. Granted the Inter-Ac is the closest it’s been in recent memory – by my count, of 12 games through four turns of the schedule, six have been decided by three goals or fewer. And injuries to Johnny Nostrant and TJ Malone have blighted by Fords. While undeniably talented, the Fords seem to lack that unstoppable X factor, be it a player or a dimension.
2. Episcopal Academy (6-2)
GA stays within one goal of Haverford School but got trounced, 10-4, by Episcopal. And I’m just waiting for EA to do something crazy against Malvern Prep Tuesday that plunges the whole picture into more confusion. EA has a limited schedule with just four nonleague games, so it’s a bit tough to judge. But they have a very solid goalie in Jake Floyd-Jones and an impact defender in Conner Delaney that keeps them in a lot of games.
3. Strath Haven (9-3)
Jeffrey Conner cannot and will not be stopped – he’s averaging just north of six points per game, which is fairly ludicrous. He’s clearly the most dangerous weapon on that offense, and when he’s limited (as by Malvern Prep to two assists in a 15-7 setback), the Panthers struggle. Conestoga proved itself to be the class of the Central League with a 17-7 thumping of the Panthers last week. Interested to see how Haven navigates Haverford, Garnet Valley and Springfield waiting at the end of the schedule.
4. Springfield (9-2)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Cougars started slow and are peaking late in the season. Last time that happened, it resulted in the 2016 state championship. The time before, the 2015 District 1 crown. So yeah, be afraid of the Cougars’ nine-game winning streak. I’d also be worried about Mike Tulskie reaching Mike Gerzabek levels of production. Meanwhile, Kyle Long has 46 assists in 11 games, which I’d be willing to bet will be more than anyone in the county save for Conner will tally all season. With its defense healthy again, you don’t want to run across Springfield.
5. Garnet Valley (7-3)
The Jaguars are difficult to assess for two reasons: 1) They played the first seven games sans Matt Moore; 2) the nonleague challenges sought by coach Frank Urso include losses to Malvern Prep and Avon Grove (plus a win over Bishop Shanahan and dates looming with Haverford School and Spring-Ford). Insert Moore into an offense with Denny Nealon, Jake D’Annunzio, Jacob Buttermore and Evan Tirzonis and that’s quite a pick-your-poison on allocating short-stick middies. In Moore’s three games back, the Jags are scoring nearly 16 goals per contest.
6. Radnor (7-4)
The Raiders are an interesting case. They don’t have an attacker or defender that strikes fear in your heart. But on offense, they have five or six really good options (especially with Phil Regan and Westy McLaughlin back in the fold recently). Most of are younger players, so staying within themselves and using possessions smartly is a concern. But Radnor seems to have the potential to grow as the season progresses.
7. Haverford (6-5)
I thought the Fords would take a massive step back without Bobby McClure. They have not. Danny Tierney is a very good goalie behind an understatedly solid defense. Their attack has an odd way of alternating who steps up, and it works for them. And Luke McCallion’s faceoff prowess can be a difference maker. For them to push Conestoga to within two goals is a significant moral victory. With the split of classes, it might take a favorable seed, but the Fords could make a run at one of three states berths.
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