WEST GOSHEN >> There will be quite a few new faces on the field and the sidelines during the 2021 boys’ lacrosse season in Chester County.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that the 2020 campaign never got off the ground due to the coronavirus pandemic. Another factor is that there are an unusual number of new head coaches, specifically among programs in the Ches-Mont league.
Eric Jackson retired from coaching prior to the 2020 season after winning 235 games, two district titles and a state crown at Avon Grove. His replacement, top assistant Brian Wallace, finally gets his head coaching career underway with the Red Devils. Bob Allvord is back at Kennett, replacing Jim Trowbridge. Todd Cliggett is out at Downingtown East and Joe Horvath is in. And Dan Ellis is a first-year head coach at Coatesville, which begins its first season fielding a varsity squad.
But perhaps the strangest change comes at West Chester East, where Jim Schorn has been replaced by Matt McCormick.
“It’s a shocking, crazy scenario,” Schorn said.
“I was not brought back to East over a technicality by the (Human Resources) Department.”
Ironically, Schorn’s last season was actually his best during a 10-year run at East. In 2019, the Vikings went 14-2 and rolled to the program’s first outright Ches-Mont league title in 31 years. Along the way East topped the two-time 2A state champs from Bishop Shanahan as well as 3A power Avon Grove.
As a result, Schorn was named the Daily Local News Coach of the Year.
“If you take the wins and losses out of it, I’ve done a great job building this program,” he pointed out. “All I’ve wanted to do is things right for my players, the school and the district.”
Schorn’s dismissal was particularly disheartening because prior to his 30-years in coaching, Schorn played lacrosse at West Chester East from 1987-89, and helped the Vikings go unbeaten and win the state crown in 1988.
“I’ve been there the last 19 years,” he said. “I graduated from there, I played there.”
The details behind his ouster is a complicated tale of events that date back nine months. As a non-teacher, Schorn typically applies for his job in June every year, and he’s hired at a West Chester School Board meeting in the fall (he owns a site construction and tree removal company).
“But in 2020 they didn’t do that,” Schorn said.
“They didn’t want to have these contracts in place, and then have the season cancelled due to COVID because then they would have to pay us. They don’t want to spend the extra money if they don’t have to. I get it, I’m not a teacher.”
Early last winter Schorn was told that he needed to get some tasks completed. One is called Safe School Training, an online class that deals with issues like concussion and suicide awareness, cardiac care and anti-bullying. In addition, his clearances were due, where a background check for criminal history is required every five years.
“I told them I didn’t want to spend 10 hours on the computer, and spend $100 on my clearances, until I was hired,” Schorn said.
On Feb. 9th Schorn was notified that his hiring had been approved, so he completed Safe School Training the following day and applied for his clearances.
In mid-February he was notified of a Zoom meeting the next day with Human Resources, but Schorn told them that he was out of town that day on business. Instead of rescheduling, Schorn’s top assistant coach, Mike Dunn, was brought in to the athletic department the next day and notified that they’ve been told to start looking for a new head lacrosse coach.
“My booster club and my parents lost their minds,” Schorn said. “It was a technicality and they thought they had to replace me.
“This was like an unforeseen byproduct of COVID. We wouldn’t be here if they had hired me back in September like normal.”
Initially Dunn was offered the job, but declined. Eventually East hired Matt McCormick as a replacement. He is the nephew of West Chester Henderson Athletic Director Ken McCormick.
“(Dunn) was offered the job but turned it down — he was so upset about what happened,” Schorn said.
“(McCormick is a) nice guy. He will do a good job.”
Contacted for a comment, Jeff Ulmer, Director of Human Resources West Chester School District said: “I am unable to comment on any personnel matters other than we now have a new coach who meets all the requirements necessary to be employed under the school code.”
Schorn has since been offered an assistant coaching job at Downingtown West but declined. He is taking this season off but may get back into coaching next season if the right job opens up.
“Now I’m just sitting here scratching my head,” he said. “I miss the day-to-day ritual and the competitiveness, and my coaching staff. But I miss the kids more than anything.”
Jacob Greiner played for Schorn from 2016-19, was named the Daily Local News Player of the Year as a senior, and is now playing college lacrosse at Division I Jacksonville (Fla.). He said: “I loved playing under Jim Schorn. He’s the greatest coach I’ve ever had. He lets his player’s just play.”
Here is a closer look at this year’s teams:
Buoyed by a very strong senior class, Malvern Prep will likely be a state and regional powerhouse yet again this season. With Jake Brownley (Harvard recruit), Mike ‘Pup’ Buono (Penn State) and Cooper Frankenheimer (North Carolina), the Friars should be stout defensively. The attack is led by Will Peden (Penn State) and Colin McGill (Dartmouth), and add in offensive minded midfielders Eric Spanos (Maryland) and Nick Potenski (Duke) and you have a potent Malvern offense. “Our experience is at attack and defense, but we are young at midfield,” said head coach John McEvoy. “I am confident that we will play aggressively when the ball is loose and in between the lines, and we are working hard to get better acclimated to each other and create our identity.”
A traditional state power, Conestoga sure looks the part once again for 2021. The Pioneers were Central League and District 1 champs in 2019 and advanced to the PIAA 3A Championship Final. There is plenty of firepower on the attack with Joey Allen and Patrick Reilly, who combined to score 33 goals and dish out 26 assists in ’19. The midfield has great depth with Aiden Kelly, Graham Blatchford, Peter Detwiler, Max Austin and James Condi. The defense will lean on seniors Andy Marquet and John Serafim.
With proven standouts at all levels, Avon Grove should contend for a Ches-Mont title. Colby Riddell is a versatile two-way midfielder and fellow senior Matt Rayne is back in goal. Jacob Nolan headlines the defense, and seniors Jake Vitone and Aiden Firth are dangerous on the attack. The Red Devils also have a bevy of newcomers poised to make an impact, including Preston Boyd, Trent Lyckovich, Kyle Anthony and Tyler Umbach.
There is a lot of uncertainty this spring for Bishop Shanahan even though the Eagles captured the last two 2A state championships (2018, 2019). Longtime head coach Jon Heisman has just three starters back from the ’19 team, but all three are impactful performers: attacker Owen Mehok (St. Joseph’s commit), midfielder Colin Gucwa (Drexel) and defender J.D. Shimer (Ursinus). “We are very thin and will be counting on some very young players to play up,” Heisman said. “We are in a total rebuild and plan on progressing day-to-day.”
West Chester Henderson
Paul Stankewicz heads into his 39th season at West Chester Henderson with three key returnees on defense: Jack Gibbs, Jack Missett and Jeremy Reinhardt. The Warriors were 10-6 in 2019 and are looking to get back to the district playoffs. Dan Carnuccio and Dan Terry are back in the midfield, and Alex Romano returns on the attack.
Bob Allvord is back for his second stint as the head coach at Kennett, and he inherits some key pieces from a 2019 team that went 13-6. Seniors Sam Forte (St. Joseph’s recruit) and Richie Hughson are stabilizing forces in the midfield. Senior Vince Cresci leads the defense and junior Jake Freeberry is the top returnee at attack. Allvord last coached the Blue Demons from 2010-13.
West Chester Rustin
West Chester Rustin won 10 of its last 11 games in ’19 and the pandemic robbed the Knights of continuing the momentum in 2020. This spring Rustin is loaded on defense with senior Alex Pratzner leading the way, along with Jon Pechin and Drew Lanius. The midfield is anchored by Tucker Flynn, and senior attacker Owen Murray is headed to Division I Quinnipiac next fall.
Joe Horvath has been the head coach at Downingtown East for more than a year but is finally making it official in 2021. The Cougars boast an elite defender in junior Liam Quinn (St. Joseph’s commit), and have experience with seniors Luke Wetzel on the attack, and Mike Ostertag and Andrew McCook at midfield. East will be bolstered by a strong sophomore class featuring Bo Horvath, Bryson Kolinsky, Sam Barton and Mike Waite. Replacing Nico Iacovino (Villanova) in goal will be a priority.
There are a lot of upperclassmen on the Unionville roster, which makes for a lot of experience particularly in the midfield with seniors Haden Quillman, Nick Farrell and Will Snook. Another senior, Cooper Ash, is one of the Ches-Mont’s top long-stick defenders and is headed to Division III Babson (Mass.) this fall. “We have some new faces that will get a lot of playing time and we are well rounded at just about every position,” head coach Steve Holmes said.
Downingtown West’s top player could be promising and versatile sophomore Bret Bergey, who can play attack or midfield. The Whippets also have returning upper-class defenders like Egan Butala, Jackson Chiappa and Ryan Dever. The offense is bolstered by the return of Kevin Lundmark, Kurt Rashau and Tyler Rodrguez. The goaltender s Zach Rossman. “Having not played an official game since May of 2019, anything is possible,” said head coach Billy Davis.
Despite the COVID-19 hiatus, the numbers are at an all-time high at Great Valley at both the varsity and junior varsity levels. The 2021 Patriots are loaded with seniors and juniors, including a solid group of midfielders like Darren Middleton, Michael Corrigan, Daniel Siaton and Andy Talone. The top returners at attack: Jack Meyer, Hayden Darabant and August Flynn. “The 2021 season presents many uncertainties, but also excitement,” said head coach Ben Walton.
West Chester East
New West Chester East coach Matt McCormick has a senior standout on both offense and defense in Seth Cohen and Aiden Long. Cohen is a midfielder and Long is a defender who plans to play Division III Montclair State next fall. The roster also has returnees like Wyatt Pease, Sam Pfaff, Lorenzo Grello and Ryan Devletian. “Our goal is to get as much playing experience as possible leading into Spring Break so we are best prepared to face tough Ches-Mont rivals throughout April and May,” McCormick said.
With seniors Cooper Johnson and Mark Chromo on the attack, Oxford can be dangerous. The defense is led by senior long-stick middie Jonathon Widdoes and junior defender Dean Hunsicker. For the Hornets to be more competitive in the Ches-Mont, however, junior newcomers like Dakota Jones, Will Ehrhart and Sean Poole will need to make significant contributions.
For the first time since 2004 Coatesville is fielding a varsity squad, and the head coach is Dan Ellis, who was a former football star at Downingtown High School and Virginia. “This season has been the culmination of many years of development from the youth level,” Ellis said. “A lot of our players have been playing together for many years and are looking forward toward the first varsity season.” The top performers on offense include Alex Ly and Deyon Moreno. Midfielders Logan Fleming and Frankie Holm and Allen Gregg on defense are also expected to lead the way.
There is star power at Westtown, and senior midfielder Hakim Hicks leads the way. Headed to college powerhouse Johns Hopkins next fall, Hicks could be the fastest lateral player in the state. Senior Oneniotekowa Maracle is a dangerous winger and has committed to Lafayette. The defense is anchored by goalie Charlie Herlosher and Mike Tayloe. “We have our sights set in the Friends School League championship,” said head coach Carl Starkey.
Devon Prep was 6-12 overall in the Philadelphia Catholic League in 2019, but the Tide have quite a few returnees this spring. Dan Brown and Chris Walton combined to score 30 goals and 26 assists as freshmen two years ago. Defender Nadir Bryant and goalkeeper Liam Davies are also back. “They are ready to put their frustrations and emotions regarding last season behind them,” said head coach Mark Consolo. “Many have shared their feelings on how the pandemic has brought them closer as a group and built a stronger brotherhood on the team.”
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