By BOB YORK —
The boys of Deerfield really tied one on this spring.
These ceremonious sessions are nothing new, however. They take place, like clockwork, on the third Wednesday of May. That’s the day the Big Green wraps up its Western New England Division I Boys Lacrosse League schedule and for this Band of Brothers, it doesn’t mean bottoms up, but rather thumbs up–for chalking up yet another league championship.
This season’s coronation marks the fourth straight year the Big Green has worn the crown and the 11th time in the past 13 years that it has captured at least a share of the prestigious pennant. Despite this spring’s 11-1 league showing and a 15-1 overall record, that single blemish–as usual–forced Deerfield to settle for a tie atop the league’s final standings for the seventh time since the turn of the century. This spring the Big Green will share the crown with Brunswick School. Deerfield has captured the league championship outright in 2002, 2007 and 2011 and 2013.
“We didn’t leave ourselves much margin for error this season,” Coach Chip Davis said of his team that won three of its first four games by a one-goal margin. “Overall, we were involved in four one-goal games and we won three of them, so I feel pretty fortunate to end up where we did.”
With little wiggle room ever being afforded in this highly-contested league, give or take a goal here or there, Deerfield could have either finished alone on top–or as an also ran. Three of those one-goal games involved league opponents in which the Big Green produced a 2-1 record. It’s first, a season-opening 10-9 win over Brunswick would give Deerfield the inside track for the title, but not before it prevailed on a Duke Repko (14) goal in double overtime.
Just one week later, it took three overtime periods to outlast Westminster, 5-4, thanks to a Tim Edmonds tally, while Navy Prep fell in regulation, 8-7, in an independent game. An 8-7 loss to Taft in regulation at the midway mark of the season knocked the Big Green from the ranks of the unbeaten. It managed to remain in its “Run for the Roses,” however, as it closed out the season on a 9-0 run and did so by outscoring its opponents by a 113-50 margin.
“This was as much of an overachieving team as I’ve ever coached at Deerfield,” said a proud mentor. “We knew going into the season that we weren’t the favorites. In fact, during a preseason poll, we were ranked fifth out of 12 teams. I think the key was that this was a very close-knit team. They stuck together and believed in each other and not even a tough loss to Taft could knock them off their game. They simply regrouped after that loss and ran the table.”
Despite its low preseason billing and a nail-biting first two weeks of the season, Deerfield not only ended the campaign atop its own league but among the elite of New England as well as the entire nation.
The Big Green wound up ranked third in the Northeast by Inside Lacrosse, but was ranked second among New England teams, as five New York clubs made up half of the top 10 listing while four hailed from Connecticut and one–Deerfield–from Massachusetts. Darien (Conn.) High School was rated the No. 1 squad, followed by Massapequa, N.Y. Big Green league mates Brunswick (15-3) and Avon Old Farms (16-3) were ranked fourth and seventh respectively.
Ironically, even though Darien was not on Deerfield’s schedule, the two powerhouses still managed to find a way to tangle this spring.
“We scrimmaged each other on the way back from our preseason training camp in Florida,” explained Davis. “Although it was only a scrimmage and we didn’t keep score, it was a very closely contested contest … I’d say it ended up something like 8-8, and both the Darien coach and I agreed that if it had been a game, it would have been a great one.”
Inside Lacrosse recognized the Big Green on the national stage as well, as it honored Deerfield’s good deeds with a seventh-place ranking in the Division I listings–and that’s a list that includes 3,366 high schools/prep schools. Deerfield wasn’t the only Western New England League member to get credit where credit is due, either. Brunswick finished eighth in the final poll, while Avon was rated 14th. Salisbury School, which finished at 11-5 this spring, was 23rd in the pecking order.
It proved to be another typical year for the Big Green on the scoring charts, as it outscored its opponents by nearly a 2-1 margin at 189-107, and after tossing out those four one-goal games, its average margin of victory this spring was a comfortable six goals.
While the Big Green was busy outscoring its opponents once again by a hefty margin, the reason for its dominance this spring shifted to its own end of the field. After graduating its top seven scorers–who combined for 223 points and 146 goals–from least year’s team, an extremely stingy defense stepped up to pick up the slack.
Deerfield allowed an average of just 6.6 goals a game–a figure considered as minuscule in a sport such as lacrosse–and never allowed a single opponent to venture into doubles figures. The main culprit behind the opponents’ season-long power outage was goaltender David Hamilton (14), who was one of five Big Green players to earn all-league status this season.
“Overall, I feel as though our defense did a very good job this season, especially during the early part of the season when the offense hadn’t really began to click yet,” said Hamilton, who will be standing between the pipes for Trinity College next spring. “And I think if you check the final stats, you’ll find we allowed fewer goals than any other team in the league this season.”
Adding to the wow factor is that all four of Deerfield’s starting defensemen from a year ago matriculated to the collegiate level, including three who moved on to the Division I level. So, needless to say, this year’s rendition of DA’s defense was a bit on the inexperienced side. Nevertheless, it got the job done.
Tops on the list was post grad Scott Flynn, who is headed for a career at Cornell following a season with the Big Green that earned him league all-star laurels. Two other stalwarts in front of Hamilton were Quinn Morris (14) and Camil Blanchet (14). Both, according the Hamilton, had stories to be told.
“This was Quinn’s third year on varsity,” said Hamilton, who was the owner of a save percentage north of .600 this season, “but this was Quinn’s first year playing defense. His first year on varsity he played attack. Last year he was a long-stick midfielder. This year he played defense and he did a fantastic job.
“As for Camil, who’s going to be playing hockey at Bowdoin next year, he’d never played a minute of lacrosse before this season, and he too, really caught on quickly” added Hamilton, “and did an outstanding job for us.”
“Everybody stepped up for us this spring,” said Davis, “but they had to. We lost a total of 22 players from last year’s team to graduation, so we were pretty much starting from scratch this season. It certainly made things more challenging but the kids met that challenge and met it right from the outset.”
“Knowing we weren’t among the top-ranked teams in the league really served as motivation,” said Hamilton. “It gave us a little chip on our shoulders and we felt as though we had something to prove to everyone we played … and we did.”
Deerfield spread the wealth as far as its all-star selections were concerned. With Hamilton and Flynn located in its own end, three others–Edmonds, Repko and John Jackson (14) made themselves to home heading up Deerfield’s offense. Edmonds, who is Harvard bound, received his all-league plaudits as an attackman after leading the team in scoring and earning the Rhodes Cup as the Big Green’s MVP. The other team award, The Benjamin C. Haviland Trophy, was presented to Oli Merison (14), a long-stick midfielder. Both Jackson (Middlebury) and Repko (Bucknell) were midfielders.
“I think the makeup of this team played as much a part of its success as did our performance on the field,” said Jackson. “There we no superstars … no huge egos. Just a bunch of hard workers who were super close and really believed in each other and game in and game out, we always seemed to find a way to prevail.”
Next fall’s captains will be Harrison Lane (15), JC Pardo, (15), Joe Redfearn (15) and Andrew Bowman (15).