DOWNINGTOWN >> It seems like a no-brainer.
Bishop Shanahan’s Jon Heisman was asked if the 2018 boys’ lacrosse season was his most rewarding as a head coach. But keep in mind that Heisman’s been at this for nearly 30 years at three different schools with a bunch of great tradition in the sport.
In the end, he acknowledged that this spring was a cut above, but it wasn’t just that his Eagles won the PIAA 2A State Championship – the first in program history.
With his youngest son, Connor, playing a key role as a senior starter, Shanahan went 22-1 and captured the District 1 crown and then the state title. Heisman has two older sons in Ethan and Chase, who were accomplished high school lacrosse talents at West Chester Henderson, but neither played for their dad.
“What made it sweeter was winning a state title with my son,” he said. “That was a big reason it was the most rewarding. It was a long time coming, and having a son along for the ride made it that much sweeter.”
The Eagles ended the season on an epic 19-game winning streak. And even though Heisman says that coaching this team was a pleasure, he seemed to make all of the right moves and is a deserving recipient as the Daily Local News’ Coach of the Year for 2018.
“We had the perfect formula where the kids were highly motivated, we had a great senior group for leadership and we got a bunch of underclassmen sprinkled in that were superstars like Gabe (Goforth) and Connor (Whalen),” Heisman said.
“As coaches, we really just kind of managed this group. Every kid just seemed to blossom. It was one of those years where we as coaches didn’t have to say much.”
Shanahan pummeled most opposing teams this season by 10-plus goals on average. And even in the PIAA Tournament, the Eagles outscored four opponents by a combined 52-24, including a 13-5 triumph over Strath Haven in the state final. The only blemish was a taut 6-3 early season setback at Avon Grove, the defending 3A State Champions.
“I thought it was a catalyst to show our kids that they could believe,” Heisman pointed out. “We outshot Avon Grove in that game. Even though we didn’t win that game, it gave us confidence that we could play with the big dogs.”
As a smaller school competing in one of the better leagues in the state, Bishop Shanahan as a program is now used to pushing itself above and beyond, and Heisman has been the guiding the way since 2000.
“We have to show up every day,” he said. “Our kids understand it’s going to be a battle royale every time out. That certainly makes you better and keeps you motivated.
“It was a joy showing up for practice every day, not that it isn’t anyway. It was just extra special this season. Our players looked forward to practice and no one missed our in-season lifting sessions. It all just seemed to gel.”