Chris Johnson's “Gamber A” team has been a monster in MYLA for the past three years. The Maryland Youth Lacrosse Association has held no fear for his youngsters as they have grown, played there, and won.
Over the past three years, Gamber has gone 29-1. This year, it was 10-0 in the boys Junior B Division for eighth graders. This weekend, that division begins its postseason playoffs which will culminate for the local kids next weekend if they are still around.
Judging from their record so far, they will be.
There's been a problem in the past with the postseason, however. And despite the fabulous regular season records the team has amassed, it has been unable to play in those games. About half of its players are also rostered on high-powered club teams, and their games often conflicted with MYLA's postseason schedule.
Gamber coach Chris Johnson said in recent years he was unable to resolve those conflicts. So his team skipped the MYLA postseason.
This year though, he’s made arrangements with the club teams that he says will allow his players to miss some of those teams’ games without being penalized.
Thus they can turn their attention to winning MYLA.
The 20-some players on the team come primarily from the Westminster and Sandymount areas of the county. Johnson has coached many of them since they were five years old-some nine years.
As this season dawned, seven had moved on to high school from last year’s Gamber 9-1 team. Johnson and his assistant coach Scott Steers had to find seven replacements. They quickly got them. And, those seven had played in other rec programs and clubs and were well-experienced.
Hence, the two coaches felt they wouldn’t miss a beat one the season began.
“We thought we’d do very well this year,” Johnson said. “We had a great group of kids, and we were very confident.”
The regular season began in early April with two lopsided wins. Then came Gamber’s toughest game of the year so far.
“Hereford is a good team, and they have good coaching. They were leading us at the half,” Johnson said. “But we came back and went up by three goals. They scored a goal late in the game to make it close.”
But that late goal only made it close — not close enough. Gamber won 9-7. Two weeks later, Gamber beat Freedom 9-5. But the rest of the games were either lopsided wins or forfeits.
Overall, the team was second in the 11-team loop with 105 goals. It allowed 30, which was third lowest. Hereford, which lost only to Gamber and had a 9-1 record. Scored 128 goals and allowed only 28, both league-leading marks.
The Gamber coach indicated that his team might have scored more goals and allowed fewer. However he says he substituted liberally and moved players around frequently because their team was up by big margins. Defenders became attackers and scored goals while attackers played on defense or even played in goal.
The kids took to the switching.
“I remember moving one attacker back on defense where he’d never played,” Johnson said. “After the game was over he came up and hugged me, saying that’s the most fun he’d ever had in lacrosse.”
Johnson attributes his squad’s success to its offensive capabilities and its team play.
“Every kid on this team can score every time he has the ball, and that’s why they are willing to share it,” the coach said. “Moving the ball around gets you goals. We get the ball to the open man, and he scores. Lacrosse is an easy game as long as we aren’t selfish.”
He is confident that they will have a successful postseason, noting that they have already beaten the teams they will face in the tournament. All he worries about is overconfidence and the negative effects that could result from showing off.
“All we need to do is play smart lacrosse,” he said. “Our downfall will come if they try to showcase. I want to stop that. If they share the ball, they can’t lose. We’ve already beaten everybody in our bracket, and all we have to do is play our game.”
After this spring season, the team is finished. Come fall, its players will move on to Westminster, Francis Scott Key, Winters Mill, and various private schools which have recruited them.
Johnson says he’s done coaching for awhile and will spend his time watching his two sons’ athletic careers at Westminster.