Century High junior Erik Harrell was playing football in the Pikesville Wildcats Youth Football League when his coach, who also coached lacrosse, asked him whether he wanted to try lacrosse.
“With me being so young and I loved playing sports and doing new things I said, ‘Yea, I’m down to do it,’” Harrell recalled. “With my build because of football and me playing running back and linebacker, they felt the faceoff position would be the best fit for me, so it just started from there, probably when I was around 12.”
He fell in love with the position and was so valuable for Century this past season that he has been named Carroll County Times Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.
Harrell was a FOGO, an acronym for face off-get off, but that didn’t stop him from helping his team dominate time of possession by winning 83 percent (60 of 72) of his faceoffs.
“For me, I just feel like it’s the feeling of being able to control the entire game,” Harrell said. ‘From the faceoff position, you know you always start off from the jump and you can continue to control the game by having the ball every second for your team and I think that is what really just pushes me to win every faceoff and just get better.”
Harrell transferred to Century from New Town before his sophomore year, but didn’t get to play lacrosse because COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season.
Century coach Jeremy Benson had two quality faceoff specialists in Harrell and senior Cameron Santos, but Harrell proved early in tryouts how badly he wanted to play.
“They competed well in practice in our drills,” Benson said. “When it came down to game time, he really dominated.”
He dominated enough to help the Knights to an undefeated regular season (7-0) this spring, the first in program history, and also the first Carroll County boys lacrosse title in school history.
The Knights defeated South Carroll in the Class 2A West Region semifinals before ending the season with a loss to Glenelg in the regional finals.
“He’s a super-competitive kid and he’s really hard on himself, so he puts a lot of time in,” Benson said. “FOGOS are their own kind of animal, and a lot of those guys don’t play on the field because they just put so much time into the individualized grind of facing off, so it is a lot of individual work ethic which he has a lot of.”
As he grew into the position, he was driven to be the best.
“As I realized I wanted to really be great at this position and be one of the better faceoff guys I started doing camps and working with a lot of like top guys in my class,” said Harrell, who thinks his collegiate future will be in lacrosse. “Lacrosse is like everything right now, that’s where all my looks and everything like that are coming from, so I feel like lacrosse is the way for me.”
At 5 feet 8 and 205 pounds, Harrell was not only physical on the faceoffs, but he also knew how to win them with little help from the wings.
“It’s crazy how much he wins and he gets on average six ground balls, so he is winning them literally to himself,” Benson said.
Harrell studied pro faceoff specialists like Trevor Baptiste and top college players to refine his craft.
“Guys that I really look up to and when I watch them play in college, I was like they are the only ones getting the ball, they don’t even need wing help, so that really motivated me to get the ground balls and bring it down and get it to my offense.”
He created instant offense, including him registering five assists and two goals, including one score in the 16-6 loss to Glenelg in the playoffs.
“He’s winning it to himself and pushing the transition,” said Benson, noting that he had 42 ground balls. “He’s able to create a little more offense if we need him to, but he just gets us a possession and we are able to get our offensive guys on.”
Harrell’s most memorable game was the team’s one-goal win over South Carroll in the playoffs when he won nine of 10 faceoffs and collected six ground balls.
“It was a very tight game, they came back and it was 8-7 at the time, and I had to go out there and get that faceoff and I got it and we possessed the ball and we just ran the clock out and got that win,” he said.
Harrell scored a goal in a win over Westminster, but it was his faceoff work that took center stage when he won 11 faceoffs and had seven ground balls.
“That was a breakout game because they had two really good faceoff guys,” Benson said. “He really dominated them. It was really jaw-dropping.”
He also held his own against Glenelg and relished the experience.
“With me, I always like going against the better guys, it really pushes me and it really shows my talent, and that I can actually go up against these better guys,” Harrell said.
FIRST TEAM ALL-COUNTY
Braden Chaney, South Carroll, junior
Keith LaPierre, Francis Scott Key, junior
Landon Bruce, Century, senior
Matthew Canedo, Century, senior
Jack Sabo, Westminster, junior
Matthew Williams, South Carroll, junior
Seamus Kearney, South Carroll, senior
Owen Bitner, South Carroll, senior
Cam Doolan, Westminster, senior
Erik Harrell, Century, junior
Will Tobias, Winters Mill, senior
Bryce Zepp, Francis Scott Key, junior
Connor Zombro, Century, junior
Brady Covey, Westminster, sophomore
Jesse Jason, Liberty, junior
Zack Johnson, Westminster, junior
Jackson Zimmer, Century, senior
SECOND TEAM ALL-COUNTY
Century: Trent Hillis, Chris MacDonald, Andrew Marcinko, Brent Wehland. Francis Scott Key: Connor Fitzgerald, Ben Martin, Ryan Stull. Liberty: Nico Hodgkiss, Justin Long, Brett Nastos. Man Valley: Gabe Eichler, South Carroll: Jake Langille, Sean Reilly. Westminster: Mason Fisher, Jacob Hogue, Alex Steers, Ian Welch. Winters Mill: Jax Francisco, Jacob Kruelle.
1. Century (7-0 county, 8-1 overall); 2. Westminster (7-1, 8-2); 3. South Carroll (5-3, 6-4); 4. Francis Scott Key (2-4, 2-5); 5. Winters Mill (2-6, 2-7); 6. Liberty (3-6, 5-7); 7. Manchester Valley (1-7, 2-8).
1. Zach Johnson, Westminster — 50 points (37 goals and 13 assists); 2. Brady Covey, Westminster — 44 points (25 and 19); 3. Jackson Zimmer, Century — 40 points (19 and 21); 4. Jesse Jason, Liberty — 33 points (21 and 12); 5. Cam Doolan, Westminster — 28 points (22 and 6).
Latest Carroll County High School Sports
6. Connor Zombro, Century — 22 points (17 and 5); T7. Jackson Wright, Liberty — 20 points (17 and 3); T7. Owen Bitner, South Carroll — 20 points (15 and 5); T9. Blake Ray, Manchester Valley — 18 points (17 and 1); T9. JT Calhoun, Manchester Valley — 18 points (10 and 8).