Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
May 4, 2017
With all the finest ingredients available on their cutting board, the Kenston lacrosse boys are busy concocting a recipe to sauce things up for the remainder of the season and carry them deep into the playoffs.
Putting together back-to-back wins last week, beating West Geauga, 17-9, on Tuesday, and then Louisville, 20-1, on Friday, the Bombers improved to 6-5 – getting above .500 for the first time since their victory against Solon, 10-3, in a season opener on March 22.
And while the Kenston boys are grooving toward the right rhythm, they’re still in search of a 48-minute game, head coach Jay Lammers said.
“We’re riding the roller coaster of high school sports,” he said. “Some days we’re up. Some days we’re down. But it seems like we’re trending in the right direction right now.”
In the West Geauga game, specifically, the Bombers faced a 5-5 deadlock at intermission, before going on a 12-4 run to finish the game.
After going up, 3-0, out of the gates, the Kenston boys got a little too comfortable against a dangerous Wolverine squad that entered that game with just one loss, Lammers said.
“Our guys were just being very nonchalant with the ball and not as focused as they could be,” he said. “And then, after reminding them that nothing is given, you know, just taking a quote from LeBron, that nothing is given and everything is earned, not only in Northeast Ohio but especially in lacrosse – you’ve got to go out and earn it every single shift.”
Kenston junior midfielder Brian Apshago, senior attackman Norman Kubbins and junior attackman Jack Rogers sparked the Bombers’ offense on an 8-1 rally in the third quarter of that game.
“So, you’re right. It was a tale of two halves, and I wish I could tell you what the secret sauce is,” Lammers said. “We’re still trying to bottle that. And we’re getting closer and closer to that secret recipe every game we play. And, by the end of the season, we hope to have that bottle ready to go for any occasion.”
Kenston and West Geauga are the top contenders to give defending Division II regional finalists University School and Chagrin Falls a run for their money in the postseason, according to Lax Power.
The Bombers have played a more competitive schedule than West Geauga so far this season, however, taking on teams like Division I perennial power Massillon Jackson, Division II state final-four favorite St. Francis de Sales and University School.
Kenston’s home triumph against Louisville on Friday was their lone contest of the season – win or loss – decided by a double-digit goal differential. The Bombers led, 10-0, after the first quarter, before unleashing their reserves.
“When we saw we were kind of having our way, we really stressed to score in system and not to just run past guys,” Lammers said. “We wanted to make sure goals were assisted and that we were getting the right cuts and the right picks in the right motion of our offense. We wanted to let the offense carry us and not just being bigger, faster athletes than Louisville and continually try to shove the ball down their throats.”
Kenston junior Dillon Beal, a first-team all-region faceoff specialist last season, only lost one battle at the X when the coaching staff pulled him from the Louisville game to give other guys an opportunity, Lammers said.
Heading into that game, Beal was winning more than 60 percent of his faceoffs this season, the coach said.
“He is killing it,” Lammers said. “And he was pretty upset when we pulled him midway through the Louisville game and told him he would be a cheerleader for the rest of the day, because he had only lost one faceoff in the game. And he was upset that he wasn’t perfect on the day.
“And my assistant coach told him, he said, ‘Hey, we’re always pursuing perfection, but we don’t realistically hope to obtain perfection. But, as long as we pursue perfection, we will be OK.’ And it puts a smile on your face to see a smart kid like Dillon put a scowl on his face and say, ‘No, I want perfection.’”
While Rogers, Kubbins and Apshago have been doing most of the scoring damage for Kenston this season, the Bombers have run a balanced offense with senior midfielder Devin Farrar, junior midfielder Brandon Oakes and junior attackman Will Britton.
Apshago, specifically, was a second-team all-region attackman last season, primarily quarterbacking the offense from behind the cage, before making the transition to middy this spring.
“Having Brian run out of the midfield gives us a dynamic that not a lot of other teams have,” Lammers said. “You know, having a guy that’s that quick who has that change of pace running through the midfield, I think, gives us a huge advantage over a lot of our counterparts. He is just athletically on a different plane than a lot of kids playing lacrosse in Northeast Ohio.”
Kenston’s defense, meanwhile, is backboned by senior long-stick midfielder Brandon Wenger and senior goalie Simon Coughlin – both second-team all-region selections in 2016.
Coughlin has kept the Bombers in tight games this season, including a 4-3 loss against Jackson, and could be a game changer for Kenston in the playoffs, Lammers said.
“He is saving balls at over a 60-percent clip,” the coach said. “His goals-against average is right around seven, and we’re playing a tough schedule. And we play a style of defense that doesn’t sit on its heels. Sometimes we give up close shots trying to get the ball back to our advantage. So, Simon has really had to step his game up.”
And at LSM, Wenger has an unbelievable art of forcing turnovers, Lammers said.
“I don’t feel shy saying that he is the best LSM in our region,” the coach said. “He is really good at what he does. He is a guy that can run with anybody, throw checks on anybody, controlled checks, and get the ball on the ground with the best of them.”
Resuming game action against North Canton Hoover on Tuesday, ranked No. 5 among teams across Northern Ohio, according to Burning River Lacrosse’s coaches poll, Kenston lost a 8-4 home battle, in a game they trailed, 6-1, at intermission.
Up next, the Bombers will host Orange at 7 p.m. Friday.
“What we’re preaching right now is focus and accountability,” Lammers said. “We know that we’re a good team, but we can’t rest on those morals. You know, JJ Watt has a great quote where he said, ‘Success isn’t owned. It’s leased, and rent is due every day.’ We have to understand that, if we want our talent to come through and impress people the rest of the way.”
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