After dominating faceoffs in a recent game, Loyola midfielder David Tamberrino pounded his chest. "It's a jungle out there," the senior said later. But for yet another day, Tamberrino was the king of the beasts.
Tamberrino ranks among the Baltimore City/County area's top faceoff midfielders with Dulaney's Matt Mindel, McDonogh's Dan Callaugher, Boys' Latin's Alex Smith and Mount St. Joseph's Dan Michalowicz.
They play a position where glory is rare, but bloody knees, wrist injuries and torn gloves are commonplace.
"It's like an old, western showdown," said Michalowicz, who, at 6 feet 2, 225 pounds, will play linebacker at Towson University. "Before a game, you're eyeing the other guy, trying to intimidate."
Mindel has won 81 of 110 faceoffs and has 13 goals and 12 assists. The second-team All-Metro wrestler said he was encouraged by his father, Iver, to be a faceoff midfielder. Iver often employed wrestlers on faceoffs as a Pikesville coach in the early 1990s.
"It involves speed, balance, quickness and strength," Matt Mindel said. "You're down on the ground like you're down on the mat."
The faceoffs pit two players crouched head-to-head in the center circle. Their toes dig into the turf, forcing their weight forward. The ball is pinned between the heads of their lacrosse sticks, which are placed back-to-back on the ground.
"You try to anticipate when the ref's going to blow the whistle so you can make the first move," Mindel said. "Then the ref says, "Down, set," blows the whistle."
And the battle is engaged.
"You want to control the ball quickly, clamping down or pinning it with the back or front of your stick," Mindel said. "You either flick it where you want it to go - to a wing guy or an open area where you can go and get it - or you box out the other guy like in basketball."
But all of that hard work still can go for naught.
"The winner of the faceoff is the team that gets possession of the ball first. So even if you pop it out, his team can pick it up before yours does and win it," Mindel said. "A penalty can also cost you possession. It can be frustrating. But it's worth it to say you're the best that day."
Members of the Poly baseball team literally punch a clock as they walk out of the locker room before a game or practice. "It's an old clock that doesn't function," said Engineers coach Chris Vaccaro. "But it's just to let the players know it's time to go to work."
The defending Baltimore City A Division champion Engineers have been mowing down the opposition in blue-collar fashion, winning 30 of their past 33 games, including all 12 this season. Largely a team of contact hitters, Poly's batting average is .350 with 113 RBIs and only nine home runs, but it has scored 171 runs and has a team ERA of 2.34.
Right fielder Austin Carter and infielder Anthony Fitzgerald are two of the team's four seniors. They are batting .359 with 10 RBIs and .442 with 26, respectively. Second-team All-Metro pitcher/infielder Corey Cascio is 5-0 with 63 strikeouts and has an 0.46 ERA. Freshman Brandon Roane has 14 RBIs and is hitting .400. Pitchers Shawn Thomas and Robbie Arnold are a combined 6-0 with 48 strikeouts and only seven walks.
The Engineers hope their talent and work ethic will add up to another city title. They play host to Mervo tomorrow, at Patterson on Wednesday, City at Poly on Friday and Towson on May 6.
Simon simply scores
Mervo senior midfielder Simon Benjamin is Baltimore City's most dominant lacrosse scorer with single-season school record for points (113) and goals (87). He also has 26 assists for the Mustangs (7-2 B Division).
Benjamin, who has recorded four 10-goal games and two nine-goal games, has drawn interest from Salisbury University and Harford, Catonsville and Dundalk community colleges.