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Bayhawks play back-to-back for second time this month

For the third time this season the Chesapeake Bayhawks will play two games in one weekend. The Bayhawks open another back-to-back situation at Atlanta on Saturday night, then return to Annapolis to host the Dallas Rattlers on Fan Appreciation Night on Sunday.

Chesapeake (7-4) can clinch a berth in the Major League Lacrosse playoffs by winning both games. The Bayhawks are currently tied for first place with the Boston Cannons (7-4).

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“This is the third time we will be experiencing this type of situation so we know what to expect and how to handle it,” Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle said.

Chesapeake lost a 14-13 heartbreaker to Denver in the traditional Fourth of July game held at Broncos Stadium at Mile High then flew home and beat Atlanta 16-13 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium two days later.

Earlier this month, the Bayhawks beat the New York Lizards in Annapolis on a Saturday night then again on Long Island on Sunday evening.

Chesapeake must bounce back from a difficult 12-11 overtime loss to Boston last Saturday night. The Bayhawks will travel to Beantown on Sept. 7 for a rematch with the Cannons and Cottle has a feeling the two teams could meet again in the playoffs.

“Boston is as good a team as we’ve played this season. That is a solid squad on both ends of the field,” he said. “We will need to play better in order to beat Boston the next time around. There’s the old saying ‘Never waste a failure.’ We need to learn from that loss to Boston and not make the same mistakes again.”

This will be the third meeting this season between the Bayhawks and Blaze, but the first at Grady Stadium in midtown Atlanta. Chesapeake and Atlanta (7-5) split a pair of contests in Annapolis.

Attackman Shayne Jackson and Tommy Palasek are the catalysts of a Blaze offense that leads Major League Lacrosse in scoring with 177 goals, 17 more than No. 2 Boston. Jackson and Palasek ranks second and third, respectively, in MLL with 48 and 45 points. Midfielder Cole Bryan (43 points) and attackman Randy Staats (40) are other key figures for Atlanta.

“We’re going against the best offensive team in the league. Atlanta is very potent and we will need to play great team defense,” Cottle said. “We need to put all our chips on the table and win that road game on Saturday night. That would give us some confidence and momentum coming home the next day.”

Dallas (4-7) has an even tougher weekend, playing at Boston on Saturday night then traveling to Annapolis afterward for the Sunday evening (5 p.m.) affair. South River High graduate Chris Chick is one of the top players for the Rattlers, having been chose an MLL All-Star as a long stick defensive midfielder.

This is the third meeting between the teams this season, but the first at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Chesapeake defeated Dallas 14-11 in the season opener and 13-11 on July 14 at The Star complex in Frisco.

Backup goalie Brian Phipps (Severn School) made his season debut the last time Chesapeake played on consecutive nights. “I think you could very well see Brian Phipps in one of these two games this weekend,” Cottle acknowledged.

Back-to-back games are grueling for two positions in particular — goalkeeper and faceoff specialist. Cottle is also considering activating a second faceoff man to help out season-long stalwart Kenny Massa, who leads Major League Lacrosse in winning percentage (61.2). Kevin Massa, who the Bayhawks signed last week, could be called on to back up his younger brother while Matthew Pedicine and Tyler Barbarich are the other possibilities.

Incomparable attackman Lyle Thompson continues to lead MLL in scoring with 59 points on 38 goals and 21 assists. Thompson was named Offensive Player of the Week after amassing seven points in the loss to Boston, further bolstering his case for MLL MVP.

“Lyle is a great player who respects the game and comes ready to play every night,” Cottle said. “I think Lyle has been the best player in the league by far. I also think we could do a better job of moving and cutting to help him as opposed to standing around so much.”

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Shane Simpson blew past a defender to score on the run early in the game while Brendan Bomberry added two goals off the two-man game. Cottle said the Bayhawks need more scoring and creating out of the midfield moving forward.

“We’re better dodgers than we showed on Saturday night. That will be a big emphasis in practice this week,” he said.

Simpson has proved a tremendous addition since joining the Bayhawks on Aug. 3, contributing five points and providing a lift in the clearing game. This is the first season of Major League Lacrosse for the Canadian native, who was a member of the North Carolina national championship club in 2016.

“Shane Simpson has tremendous speed. He may be the fastest midfielder in the league,” Cottle said. “He’s a dangerous run dodger, a winner and a competitor.”

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