There was a time right before entering high school when Jesse Jason didn’t know if lacrosse was the sport for him. But there was one person he never wanted to let down: 4-year-old Jesse Jason.
“I dealt with rough coaching in club lacrosse,” Jason said. “So, it was kind of like I was beaten down and I didn’t know if lacrosse was what I wanted to do. I was just playing ’cause I was thinking about the little kid that started playing just to have fun.”
Jason’s freshman year at Liberty paired him with a coaching staff that helped him rekindle the joy he first experienced as a 4-year-old, when he borrowed some sticks from a neighbor and threw the ball around with his dad.
Jason grew as a player and a leader in his time with the Lions, culminating in a senior season in which he scored 55 goals, handed out 24 assists and led Liberty to its second straight Class 1A regional championship. For his accomplishments, Jason is the 2022 Carroll County Times All-County boys lacrosse Player of the Year.
Jason said this year’s results trace back to his first season at Liberty.
“I think it all started my freshman year, I was kind of thrown into the water and they were like, ‘You’re one of two freshmen on varsity, this team’s yours in a couple years, so you’re going to have to figure yourself out.’ It forced me to mature pretty early as both a man, a leader and a lacrosse player,” he said. “I started working on my game, really paying attention to what the people above me were doing early on as leaders and then watching the game as much as I could to build that IQ, build the skills to be what I needed to be later in my career.”
As Jason progressed, so did the intangibles he brought to his team.
“I grew more into a vocal leader as the years went on as I built that confidence in myself and saw myself more as a coach on the field,” he said. “Our offensive coordinator was like, ‘Listen, there’s a lot of times when you’re not going to be able to hear me on the sidelines, so you’re going to have to do some traffic control, make sure everyone is in the places they need to be and doing what they need to be doing.’”
Jason had a strong running mate in Jackson Wright (42 goals), who played alongside Jason on varsity as freshmen. Add in 20-goal scorers Aiden Ventura and Edwin Blyden, as well as Dylan Minnich, and Liberty had a dynamic offense with all the pieces working together.
“To the day I die I will never tell anyone that I did it by myself,” Jason said.
Part of what makes Jason such an effective player are the traits that made him fall in love with the sport in the first place.
“I loved how creative the game was and how fast-paced it was, how in lacrosse, your personality really shows on the field,” Jason said. “I think that was huge for me. I have a pretty outgoing and vibrant personality. I think my play style shows that pretty well. I throw some weird shots and some weird passes, but my guys know that because they know me off the field and on the field I’m a spontaneous, random guy. I’m going to do what feels right. If it’s not right, then I’ll learn about it, figure it out. But if it’s right, then it’s really cool and we can all celebrate about it.”
Jason will play in college at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.). The Hawks won the Northeast Conference championship this spring before losing to No. 4 seed Yale, 18-16, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve always been huge on building a story,” Jason said. “Kind of what I tried to do at Liberty, build something that would last past me. That’s a big thing with St. Joe’s, they’re right there on that cusp. They just need that one extra player or that one big play to get to the next level.”
And with that, he’s fulfilling the dream of a 4-year-old playing outside with his father.
“I’m going to be playing Division I lacrosse which is what that little kid wanted to do,” Jason said. “I made him proud there.”
Coach of the Year
Jeremy Benson, Century
Coming off last year’s county championship, the first in program history, Benson said before the season that the team had “a target on its back.”
In 2022, Benson’s Knights withstood the best shots from all county teams to repeat as unbeaten county champions. The biggest win was a 9-8 overtime victory over Westminster, the second straight year the Knights beat the Owls in what turned out to be the county-deciding game.
Century finished with a 9-5 overall record utilizing a balanced offense combined with a rugged defense. The Knights advanced to the Class 2A regional final, where their season ended with a 12-10 loss to Glenelg.
All-County first team
JT Calhoun, Manchester Valley, junior, attackman
Calhoun led the Mavericks wit 28 goals and 17 assists. He also picked up 31 ground balls.
Zack Johnson, Westminster, senior, attackman
Johnson led the Owls in goals (41) and assists (22), totaling 63 points. He scored multiple goals in 12 of 16 games.
Connor Zombro, Century, senior, attackman
Zombro was second on the Knights with 25 goals and also handed out 16 assists for the county champions.
Nick Arnold, Gerstell, junior, midfielder
In 17 games, Arnold amassed 34 goals, 18 assists and 53 ground balls. Gerstell coach James Harkey called Arnold “the engine of our offense.”
Mason Fisher, Westminster, junior, midfielder
Fisher scored 18 goals and was second on the team with 13 assists to finish the year with 31 points.
Jacob Hogue, Westminster, senior, midfielder
Hogue was second on the Owls with 29 goals. He also finished the year with eight assists.
Grant Miller, Manchester Valley, sophomore, midfielder
Miller scored 24 goals while handing out 11 assists for the Mavericks. He also picked up a team-best 62 ground balls.
Brent Wehland, Century, senior, midfielder
Wehland led the county champion Knight with 36 goals and was second on the team with 18 assists.
Evan Tubb, Gerstell, freshman, long-stick midfielder
Tubb was a strong on-ball defender for the Falcons and also won 19 of 32 faceoffs. He collected 74 ground balls and caused 31 turnovers.
Jack Sabo, Westminster, senior, defender
Sabo was a key piece of an Owls defense that allowed just 5.2 goals per game. He also had one goal and one assist.
Mikey Simmons, Westminster, junior, defender
Simmons was critical to Westminster’s strong defensive year in which the Owls held six opponents to five goals or less while posting two shutouts.
Jameson Smith, Century, senior, defender
Smith led a Knights defense that gave up an average of 7.7 goals per game and only allowed three opponents to score in double digits.
Matthew Williams, South Carroll, senior, defender
Williams led a Cavaliers defense that allowed just 6.6 goals a game.
Erik Harrell, Century, senior, faceoff specialist
Harrell was the top faceoff man for the unbeaten county champion Knights.
Keith LaPierre, Francis Scott Key, senior, goalie
LaPierre was recognized by opposing county coaches as the top goalie in the league. He made 205 saves for the Eagles with a .635 save percentage.
All-County second team
Ryan Barnard, South Carroll, senior, attackman
Jessie Tobias, Winters Mill, junior, attackman
Jackson Wright, Liberty, senior, attackman
John Pavlick, Century, senior, midfielder
Reed Postlethwait, Winters Mill, sophomore, midfielder
Cash Stanton, South Carroll, junior, midfielder
Aiden Ventura, Liberty, junior, midfielder
Connor Babcock, South Carroll, senior, long-stick midfielder
Will Davis, South Carroll, senior, long-stick midfielder
Carroll County Daily Headlines
Payton Park, Westminster, junior, long-stick midfielder
Ryan Cavanaugh, South Carroll, senior, defender
Scott Domboski, Winters Mill, sophomore, defender
Trey Lapidario, Winters Mill, senior, defender
Nick Prokic, Century, senior, defender
Alex Steers, Westminster, senior, faceoff specialist
Kevin Connor, Manchester Valley, senior, goalie