Two Fallston High teams, backed by outstanding fundamental play, appear ready to sweep into postseason play as county champions.
The boys lacrosse team (10-1) has already accomplished the feat, going unbeaten in the county and overwhelming seven fTC opponents by an average score of 19-4.
The baseball team is trying to duplicate it. It is 7-0 with games remaining at Havre de Grace tomorrow and home against Harford Tech on Wednesday.
A year ago, the lacrosse team won a regional title and lost to Mount Hebron in overtime in the state semifinals, and the baseball team lost to eventual state champion Joppatowne in a regional final.
Since then, each team, loaded with veterans, has had a state championship as a long-range goal.
Fallston's baseball team is trying to join the lacrosse team as a state champion. The school won state lacrosse championships in 1985 and 1987, and the baseball team feels it's on the verge.
"This season, we have felt a lack of respect by others for what we have accomplished," said senior first baseman and four-year starter Rob Myers of the team's 11 straight wins.
The perceived lack of recognition has motivated the team, especially last week when it whipped two of its closest challengers, C. Milton Wright and Edgewood.
Another factor in Fallston's success is eighth-year coach Mark Puckett.
"One thing that makes Coach so good is that he gets so much out of the talent," said Myers. "We don't have any draft-types on this team, but we do have a good group, and he gets the most out of it."
Senior Brandon Brockmeyer is one of the team's top pitchers (4-1) and he and Deyesu are among the county's leading hitters with averages around .500. Shaun Matthai (3-1) is another strong pitcher and among the county leaders in runs scored.
Myers' batting average is down slightly from a year ago when he hit .486, but he is among the county leaders in hits and RBI, and he believes he is a more well-rounded, confident player.
Deyesu, having a strong all-around season, concurs, saying, "Just the way he handles himself has been an important factor for us."
Player experience and a coach who plays the game are two of the main reasons Fallston's lacrosse team has turned into a juggernaut.
Coach John Conley plays indoors for the Philadelphia Wings, recent runners-up for the Major Indoor Lacrosse League championship, and outdoors for Greene Turtle LC.
"He plays and coaches the modern game and because of this, I think he gets more respect from us," said attackman and leading scorer Brad Baker. "When he says, 'I can't tell you the number of times I've done this,' we understand."
Senior midfielder Dan Bowers, a two-year captain (he was a tri-captain on Fallston's state champion soccer team), has been a key faceoff man for four years, and is second to Baker in goals scored.
"Facing off is a science," he says, "and you are always watching the other player, trying to find your counter-move. Coach has helped, too, because he has brought out new ideas from his experiences that have helped."
Conley saw the potential for this team when the current seniors ** were freshmen, and had it confirmed last year. "After the loss to Mount Hebron, I realized how talented a group we had, and how many of them would be back," he said.
Fallston lost its season opener to No. 1 St. Paul's, 13-6, after trailing at the half, 4-3. "That showed we had the potential. Since then, it has been a motivational effort," senior defenseman Chip Turner said.
Conley considers his offense "explosive," and it starts with the goalkeeper.
"We've been working them on outlet passes. When they make a save, their first move is to look up and zing the ball to the first open middie they see. We have tremendous speed in the middle, so once we get the ball, the midfielders fly, and we have all kinds of offensive options.
"We want them to be able to free-lance, because we want to emphasize concepts rather than specific plays."
At the same time, the coach preaches basics, treating every team as though it was No. 1. "Proper execution avoids developing bad habits," he said.