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EXTRA LACROSSE STICK CHECKS WILL LEAD TO STUCK CLOCK

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In an age in which the fans are looking for faster games, at least games that aren't continually stopped for TV commercials and other reasons, high school lacrosse has taken a step in the other direction.

Often promoted as the fastest game on foot, lacrosse may soon beknown as the slowest game on foot.

Seems the latest in boys' lacrosse is to make the games longer. At least that's the impression I get after learning that the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has adopted the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rule requiring four mandatory, random stick checks during a game.

Before this year, the MPSSAA rule was that sticks would be checked for illegality only at the request of a coach. Now the zebras must stop play at least four times during the course of a game to get out the tape measures and check sticks.

Each team is to be randomlychecked twice during the game and of course, other stoppages may andmore than likely will occur if a coach requests a check. So, there could be at least six checks a game or more.

All that does is impede the tempo of an exciting game and at the same time make the nativesin the stands restless.

Adding to the problem is the number of illegal sticks that are apparently being sold by local sporting goods outlets. Kids are buying sticks that are illegal, and they don't know it.

Annapolis coach Dan Hart says the unintentional use of illegalsticks almost cost his team a very important game Friday night. The host Panthers edged Arundel 5-4 in a Class 4A Region IV battle between two expected playoff teams, but the discovery of an illegal stick nearly reversed that decision.

"After a random check, we were a mandown (player is put in the penalty box for one minute for an illegalstick), and they could have cost us the game," said a disgruntled Hart.

"I'm going around to a couple of the sporting goods stores this week to find out what the hell is going on. Sticks are being sold that nobody knows are illegal, and the kids don't realize it."

The rule says that the width of a net on the top of the stick (at the widest part) must be at least six and one-half inches. Less than that isillegal because it is basically pinched, which means the player has a distinct advantage of keeping it tucked in his net and can control and whip it more readily than with a so-called legal stick.

"Thereis definitely an advantage not allowed by the rules that enables a player to fire the ball more quickly," said Hart.

One player told me that the Gait brothers, the former Syracuse All-Americans, had their sticks so pinched that they had to catch everything at the top of their net because the bottom barely cupped the ball.

"Well, see that's the thing they're trying to avoid, but the kids buying similar pockets don't realize they are spending 40 to 50 bucks on an illegal stick," said Hart.

"The kids weren't looking to cheat and use an illegal stick. They didn't know, and apparently a couple brands coming from the manufacturers out there are not legal."

Bruce Lawton, the Old Mill boys' lacrosse coach, is the Anne Arundel County chairman for the stick sport and said over the weekend that he had not received complaints over possible illegal sticks or over the new random check rule.

"No, I haven't heard from anyone with any problems," said Lawton. "But I know there are a couple new sticks on the market that are rolled in at the top and have open ends. Whether they are illegal or not, I don't know."

Besides the Arundel at Annapolis game Fridaynight, there were four other county boys' games involving public schools, including Lawton's own Old Mill team.

"We didn't have any problems in our game," said Lawton, whose Patriots were hammered 9-4 bySeverna Park.

Lawton says the stoppages didn't seem to bother anybody in his game, but I can see Hart's point that four random checks -- not to mention checks by request -- can cause unrest and undue delay.

"It's got to put an extra 15 to 20 minutes on the game," said Hart.

"Usually we're back in here (in the locker room) by 9:15 p.m. after a 7:30 start. (Friday night) we didn't get back in until after 9:30 p.m.

"The random checks are up to the discretion of the officials, and they say impact players (guys who score and who can be the difference in a game) are to be targeted."

Hart pointed out how the tempo of a game could be in the favor of one team until that momentum is halted by a stick check. In my opinion, that is a very good point, because despite what some may say, momentum is a crucial element in all of sports and especially in high school athletics.

"The tempo can be stopped by a check and give the other team a chance to regroup," says Hart. "Our fans were really upset over all the stops Friday night to check sticks, and there are some officials out there wholike to play God and could mess up a good game."

He's right. Certain officials who love to be noticed and on center stage at all times(the kind who would rather play the game than have the kids in the spotlight) could turn this new rule into a fiasco.

Even if Hart issued the only complaint the first weekend, you've got to think there will be more as we go and that maybe adopting the NCAA rule was a mistake. You have to consider that the complaint is coming from a guy whowon and is not sour grapes, but who has concern of damage it can do to the high school game.

Really, weren't checks by request enough for this level?

Certainly, the new rule is something the state needs to reconsider, and manufacturers might have to recall certain sticks. I'm sure they want to get it right so the "stick" sport can remain "the fastest game on foot."

In games not reported in yesterday'sAnne Arundel County Sun, North County's Boys' lacrosse team won its first ever-game by 4-3 over Northeast, Severna Park rolled over Old Mill as mentioned; St. Mary's Saints humbled John Carroll, 13-6; and South River ripped Glen Burnie, 15-2.

Paul Shea made his debut as North County coach a winning one after a more than successful career at Andover High. Four different Knights scored -- Bob Wolfe, James Meyer, Troy Ross and Joe Wojociechowski -- in the victory.

Severna Park exploded for five first-period goals and went on to post its 9-4 win over Old Mill. Junior attackman Mike Crawford tallied two goals and dished off five assists to lead the Falcons of coach Ed Ulrich, whobegins his fifth season with possibly his best squad.

The Falcons' three long-stick close defensemen, Nate Ripple, Jay Gibbs and Joe Brooks were also standouts in thwarting the Patriots' attack. Ripple and Brooks are seniors, Gibbs a junior.

Two very important statistics went the way of the Falcons. Severna Park was 11 for 17 on face-offs and six for nine on extra-man situations.

Coming off Wednesday's season opening 21-2 annihilation of Tabor Academy of Massachusetts,St. Mary's put John Carroll away early at Weems Whelan Field in Annapolis on Friday with 8 first-period goals.

By halftime, the Saintsheld a commanding 10-3 advantage and were coasting to their second straight win over the visitors from Harford County. Senior attackman Rob Chomo fired in four goals and had two assists for the winners, while senior midfielder David Jones and senior attackman Greg Geiger tallied three goals each. Geiger also had one assist.

Coming off a fine sophomore season in which he scored 31 goals and had 27 assists, junior attackman Matt Czoka pumped in four goals while assisting on asmany goals, as the Seahawks of South River opened with a 15-2 romp over Glen Burnie.

On the girls' side, Annapolis joined Severna Park(17-4 over Old Mill, reported Sunday) and North County (17-3 over Northeast) as season-opening public school winners. The Panthers from the Cap City buried Arundel, 17-7.

Annapolis broke open a close game with 11 goals in the second half to just two by the Wildcats. Seniors Lisa Jordan and Renee Williams scored five goals each for the winners and junior Cory Harmon chipped in with four.

Also in stick action, but at the next level, the Anne Arundel Community College men dropped their first game of the season after five wins by 11-8 to defending national junior college champion, Nassau County (2-1) of New York.

Call it a moral victory for the Pioneers of coach Buddy Beardmore if you will, because a year ago they were waxed by Nassau, 24-6. Friday, Anne Arundel held a 5-3 lead at the half, but wilted going down the stretch.

Todd Reynolds had three goals in a losing cause for Anne Arundel.

In other county sports news, North County High School has established a Scholarship Fund in honor of late Andover High basketball coach Dick Hart.

North County will be the site for a benefit hoop doubleheader on Wednesday, April 10, beginning at 6 p.m. with alumni from the two schools that merged to form the new school, Andover and Brooklyn Park playing. The second game will pit WMAR-TV Channel 2 All Stars vs. St. John's Lutheran Church (Hart's Parish).

All former Andover and Brooklyn Park players interested in playing should contact North County High at 859-5400.

Tickets for the hoop twin bill are only $5 per and are available at North County High and St. John's Church in Linthicum.

Also, the Dick Hart Scholarship Fund Committee welcomes donations, and checks should be made payable to:North County High School -- Hart Scholarship, and mailed to North County High, 415 Andover Road, Linthicum 21090.

In addition to the Hart Scholarship Fund, the First Annual Dick Hart Golf Classic is set for Friday, June 21, at Bear Creek Golf Club in Westminster of Carroll County. For details, call 859-5400.

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