Don't expect to hear the word "repeat" from anyone associated with North Harford's boys lacrosse team.
Sure, they would all like to repeat their state title-winning season. That goes without saying. But no one on the team is making predictions.
"Last year at the beginning of the season, we really didn't expect to get that far," said Hawks midfielder Brett Schreiber. "Getting to the state championship game seemed so far away then. We took the season one game at a time. That's what we have to do this time."
TheHawks polished off their 11-1 season in 1990 by defeating Andover, 5-1, to win the first official Class 1A/2A state championship. They also won the Harford County title.
It's no surprise that the Hawks are pegged by every single coach in the rest of the county league as the team to beat. After all, the Hawks return their goalie, three of the top four defenders and two of the county's top midfielders.
Butcoach John Grubb and his Hawks aren't banking on another title -- oreven dominating the county.
"I look back two years, when this wasthe JV team and they lost six games," said Grubb. "C. Milton Wright,Fallston and Bel Air beat us twice. That tells you something about what could happen this year."
Grubb's main concern is the attack, where he lost all of his starters and two-thirds of his second trio. Gone are the prolific scorers and the newcomers so far haven't caught up with the speed of the varsity game.
The only veteran, senior Justin Smith, wasn't even an attackman last year. He converted from theHawks' second midfield unit. Four juniors up from JV -- Chuck Kelly,Mike Minderlein, John Pace and Bruce Axelsson -- are fighting for the remaining two starting spots.
"They are still playing JV lacrosse," explained Grubb. "The varsity game is a much faster game. You've got to get your shots off faster and make passes faster. But they're nervous. They feel a lot of the responsibility (to try to live up to last year's attack). We have tried to push them and they are coming along, but slowly."
Since the attack may take some time to pull together, the Hawks will rely heavily on their midfield and defense to pull them through. Luckily for Grubb, he has some of the top talent inthe county in his stopper corps.
Most opposing coaches consider returning goalie Tom Murrell the best in the league, and Grubb won't argue that. Last year, Murrell competed every day with teammate Jamie Blalock for the starting spot. The Hawks were 9-1 with Murrell in thecage and now, he has the starting job all to himself.
"He's even better than he was last year," said Hawks defender Chris Gress. "He'sa gamer. He doesn't always look that good in practice, but I was impressed after the first game. He's just real quick and he can clear the ball really well. He takes control of the defense."
Gress, a third-year starter, does his share of defensive work as well. Grubb saidGress is "the most solid defenseman we've had in a while. He just doesn't make mistakes."
Jason Ketner also returns to the defense. The best athlete on the defense, Ketner has great stickwork. Joining them is Chris Beall, another senior, who was the No. 4 defenseman last year.
However, the strongest part of the Hawks' game is their midfield and that may make up for a lot of the problems with the attack. "The midfield is going to have to take over the offense," said Schreiber. "The midfield is going to have to control the game."
The Hawks should be up to that task since they have probably the best midfield in the metro area:
Tim Lucky, the expert faceoff man; Schreiber,the ground ball hog; and first-year starter Steve Overbey, whose skills are rapidly catching up with those of his talented teammates. They should be up to the task of making transition the best part of the Hawks' game.
Even though North Harford returns a lot of talent andits JV won the county title last year, it knows that winning a second title will be a lot harder than winning the first.
"We don't putpressure on ourselves to do it again," explained Schreiber. "We can achieve that goal, but it's going to take a lot of work."
So far, Grubb has been pleased that the Hawks know they have a lot of work ahead. "I think they realize we're not the same team we were last year,but these kids are not sitting back on their laurels," said Grubb, who is entering his 14th season.
"They know what it took last year and the type of dedication it takes to win a state championship. That's not something easily repeated."