Talk with McDonogh boys lacrosse coach Andy Hilgartner about the two players most responsible for the Eagles' dominating play on defense this season — close defenseman Bryson Greene and long pole Kyle DeVinney — and he's quick to state that the two senior standouts are altogether different.
Greene brings a calming influence. Hilgartner calls him a "thinking defenseman" whose smooth play does the talking. He's smooth, technically sound and textbook when it comes to covering the opponents' top attackman.
DeVinney is a storm by nature. Hilgartner believes he's the finest athlete on the McDonogh campus and his drive and tenacity provides game-changing plays.
Greene will play at Georgetown and plans to study business or marketing.
A desk job isn't an option for DeVinney, who's set for the Naval Academy with an eye on a career in the Special Forces.
Plenty different indeed, but the two do share one thing in common: Clamping down on opponents.
"They've just been phenomenal for us," Hilgartner said. "It's such a luxury to have Bryson Greene there to shut down the opponent's best attackman and Kyle DeVinney to cover their best midfielder. Knowing those guys can do that is great. It's something we can rely on and then we just have to worry about the other matchups."
The No. 3 Eagles are 10-2 this season and 6-1 in the wide-open Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's A Conference, just one game behind No. 1 Calvert Hall (11-0, 7-0) in the league's Black Division. On Thursday, the Cardinals will travel to McDonogh for a 4 p.m. game that will be for first place.
The Eagles' senior-laden defense, also boasting goalie Ben Falcone and close defenseman Greg Caso, has limited opponents to less than six goals per game this season. How stingy it remains will play a big role in how far the Eagles will go this season with a league championship clearly in sight.
"There's good trust with everybody," Greene said. "We all know how we play, so we know what's going to happen next and we just kind of click that way."
Greene began playing lacrosse when he was 6, starting on attack, then dropping to midfield before finding his home on defense in middle school. After spending his freshman year at Gilman, he transferred to McDonogh and has been a fixture on varsity the past three years.
The MIAA is stacked with gifted attackmen and Greene has a book on each. Boys' Latin standout Wells Stanwick likes to start his work from behind the goal; St. Paul's Taylor Michel likes to body up on a defenseman. Greene, who has 48 ground balls, can go on and on about each team's top threat.
"Every game you have to be mentally ready because each one is a whole new challenge," he said. "You have to figure out what each team likes to do, all the different strategies and how each player plays. It's difficult but something I've grown used to. I think I help out by keeping everything in perspective, not getting too anxious when we're down and not too overconfident when we're up. I just like to stay balanced and enjoy it after we win."
While Greene excels playing on an even keel, DeVinney provides four quarters of full-blast play.
Growing up in Maine, his top sports were ice hockey and soccer, with lacrosse trailing third on the list. After coming to McDonogh in his freshman year, it climbed to the top by the time he earned a spot on varsity as a sophomore.
His breakthrough game that season came in a win against Pennsylvania-based power Haverford.
Said Hilgartner: "After the game, their coach told me he kept telling his players that [DeVinney] couldn't keep running like that all game long, that he would wear down. But he said he just kept coming after his guys for all four quarters."
Incorporating skills he developed playing ice hockey and soccer, DeVinney's strengths are pouncing on ground balls and delivering checks that keep opponents on alert. On the season, he has a team-high 67 ground balls and has contributed three goals and three assists.
Free spirited, he also leads the team in pranks. Greene laughs when he recalls the day DeVinney had a dead squirrel riding on a skateboard and another time when he gave no thought to climbing on top of a building at school to retrieve a Frisbee. April Fools' Day has traditionally been a day at McDonogh for seniors to pull off pranks, but as a junior last year, DeVinney beat them to the punch in what he described a "prank within a prank."
He added: "There can be a lot of pressure when you go out on the field and I feel I bring an air of comic relief. I like to use my enthusiasm to boost the spirit of the team."
All jokes aside, the Eagles defense is an undeniable force, with Greene's poise and DeVinney's energy the starting points.
"They play great team defense," said Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly. "When you have guys that are as individually gifted and talented as Bryson and Kyle — and they're staying within the team concept — it's pretty impressive and makes things tough."