A lot has changed since May 22, 2019, when the last game featuring an Anne Arundel County public school boys lacrosse team was played.
The pandemic wiped away an entire season last spring, costing the Class of 2020 the opportunity for a proper sendoff. The repercussions of that — for some teams anyway — is being felt now and will last for years to come.
The unknown will be the overarching theme to this eight-game season. Many teams return few if any starters from their 2019 teams, which could make for some surprising results and upsets along the way.
But the traditional public school powers will continue to be. Severna Park, which has won the past four Class 4A state titles dating to 2016, will be the team to beat once again in the county and state-wide, should there be Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association playoffs in June.
However, the Falcons won’t look the same by any means, and it starts at the top. Dave Earl, who had coached Severna Park since the start of 2015 and won four county and state titles in going 83-11 in his five competitive seasons, is taking a year off for personal reasons. Travis Loving, the team’s defensive coordinator, will serve as interim coach.
Loving’s Falcons, who have not lost to a county opponent since 2015, have plenty of talent. Senior faceoff specialist Colin Shadowens, a Navy commit who won 72% and had a team-leading 167 ground balls in 2019, is the lone returning first team All-County performer in the league.
Senior attackman Kyle Griffith, an Air Force commit, has been a starter since his freshman campaign and will be the quarterback of the offense. Defensively, senior goalkeeper Will Bray is a four-year varsity player and will be helped by senior defender Rory Sullivan.
As was status quo for the 2019 season, Broadneck will pose the biggest challenge to Severna Park this season, and fans won’t have to wait long to see which team will set the standard for the coming campaign. The Bruins and Falcons square off Friday night at 7 p.m. in Annapolis.
Jeff McGuire is entering his second year as head coach but will be making his coaching debut Friday. He has a lot to like on this roster, which includes four varsity players but no starters from 2019.
Broadneck has a ton of multi-sport athletes and several players who played together in the offseason.
South River, per tradition, will be in the mix as well. The Seahawks, who are the last county team to beat Severna Park in the 2015 playoffs, return six 2019 starters but did have a drop in their participation at tryouts as well as a transfer and an opt-out.
Arundel is another team to watch with five returning starters, while Southern is always competitive and battle-tested come playoff time under coach Brendan Brace. He noted his team does have a learning curve ahead, considering many juniors and seniors don’t have that varsity experience yet.
Annapolis has a new coach in alumnus Peter Papaleonti, who has set high expectations for his squad that is loaded with seniors and eager to show the league “how special this team is.”
The effect of COVID is felt more heavily among the remainder of the league. At Chesapeake, second-year coach Brooks Beaty said it was hard to get players and keep them involved during the pandemic, and several key underclassmen left for private schools. Still, Beaty is excited about his senior class and to watch the younger players compete for playing time.
Momentum was building for Glen Burnie before the pandemic struck, as the Gophers in 2019 had their best record since 1996 at 7-8. COVID has halted that progress.
Coach Ricky Deitchman said only a handful of his players competed during the offseason, which “has set us back.”
“[The pandemic] has greatly impacted our team. It has been hard recruiting ninth graders and was very difficult to retain this year’s 10th graders who only had two weeks last year,” he added. “We also had a massive drop off in seniors coming out as they are focused on finishing school. Our numbers are the lowest they have been in six years. However, the players we have are dedicated and committed to our program and each other.”
North County has similar issues, coach Dennis Sullivan said.
“Our numbers are a shadow of what they have been in the past. The biggest problem is the inability to recruit new players and we have lost in the neighborhood of 20% of our returning players,” he said. Still, the Knights bring back five players, including junior attackman Josh Martel, who led the team in scoring as a freshman.
Old Mill coach Pat March said his tryout participation dropped by 50%, but the Patriots feature a strong senior class that will be led by attackman Ben Wilson, who has 103 career points.
And Northeast, which isn’t far removed from an 11-win season and regional championship appearance in 2017, is experiencing issues, too.
“The pandemic has hit Northeast hard as several experienced players and many younger returning players have decided not to play for various reasons. Some got jobs they can’t leave; others just lost interest and several others are staying away for health and safety reasons,” veteran coach Walt Blahut said.
“We have also incurred issues with academic eligibility, as more than 10 student-athletes will be lost for at least the first two games. So both our JV and varsity teams will hit the field on May 7 with less than 20 players each,” he added.
On the plus side, Blahut said many of those who did decide to return spent the offseason gaining valuable experience playing together in summer, fall and winter leagues.
Meade did not have enough players to field a JV team this spring but coach Aaron Courtney has “28 eager kids ready to learn and play this wonderful game.”
The AACPS season begins Friday with six games at 7 p.m. Each team is scheduled to play eight games with contests scheduled for Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays through June 4. No MPSSAA playoff plans have been announced and AACPS might have a playoff event if that does not materialize.
Here’s what to expect from each of the 12 public school programs:
2019 record: 8-5 overall
Coach: Peter Papaleonti, first season
Top players: Seniors Jake Bishop (A), Jake Leming (A), Peter Papanicolaou (D) and Aidan Heim (M); junior John Gonsalves (D).
Faceoff: “The Annapolis Panthers boys lacrosse team is back to make some noise this year. We have a dedicated group of seniors and juniors who are chomping at the bit to show the county how special this team is. As a new coach, it was important for me to set high expectations right from the start. We will be competitive in every game that we play this season. The 2021 team wants to be recognized as one of the top performing teams in the county. They have been working tirelessly to make this year a memorable one. We are working hard to bring success back to the Annapolis Panthers lacrosse program. #BeTheBest” — coach Peter Papaleonti
2019 record: 10-6
Coach: Bobby Baur, third season
Top players: Seniors Connor Newell (G), Camden Buckley (D), Mayy Logan (M) and Lucas Shahady (LSM); juniors Noah Bell (A), Matteo Ciccerello (FO) and Hunter Russell (D).
Faceoff: “The 2021 Arundel Wildcats are excited to be on the field and compete with the best teams in the state. We are excited for our opponents and excited for every opportunity to play every day. We are working toward our team goals and focusing on what we can control so we can grow.” — coach Bobby Baur
2019 record: 13-4
Coach: Jeff McGuire, second season
Top players: Seniors Aiden Doyle (A), Sam Kelley (M), Zach Ray (D), Suri Phillips (D), Cam Norton (D), Mitch Murray (A) and Simon Moore (A); juniors Kyle Pierce (M), Nate Levicki (D), Tyler Gilbert (D) and Davis Fisher (A).
Faceoff: “We have an athletic team comprised of multi-sport athletes. This senior class has bought into our culture and what we expect as a coaching staff. We have a strong core of hungry underclassmen in the ranks. We view every game as an opportunity to be together and compete. We want to play fast and play an up-tempo style.” — coach Jeff McGuire
2019 record: 7-9
Coach: Brooks Beaty, second season
Top players: Seniors Blaine Smith (A/M), Evan Winterbottom (G), Natal Enoch (M) and Chandler Booker (D); junior Eric Wagonhoffer (A); sophomore Andrew Beal (M).
Faceoff: “The goal this year is simple: finish the season. COVID protocols and season time frame could make the completion of the season tricky. With a new coaching staff and limited face-to-face time over the last two seasons, a learning curve is to be expected. We want to compete and get better every day. We’ll rely heavily on a tight group of seniors that missed out on varsity experience as juniors to embrace some change in order to help ease the transition and continue to set the tone for underclassmen. Seniors will carry most of the load this year, but some talented underclassmen are eager to compete for playing time.” — coach Brooks Beaty
2019 record: 7-8
Coach: Ricky Deitchman, sixth season
Top players: Seniors Ethan Sterns (M), David Tallman (M/FO) and Nathan Gorby (D); sophomore Ethan Hansel (D).
Faceoff: “We are a young team with a high ceiling. We will learn on the fly and improve every week and through every game. The Glen Burnie team the county sees against Northeast on June 4 will be much different than the team that will open up against Meade on May 7. Our biggest determining factor for the season will be our success on EMO [extra man offense] and faceoffs. Our goal for the season is to continue growing as a program and as men.” — coach Ricky Deitchman
2019 record: 1-12
Coach: Aaron Courtney, third season
Top players: Senior Aaron Butera (A); sophomore Tyler Lofton (A/M).
Faceoff: “The virus hit us hard with losing a lot of seniors that year and most of our JV would have had their first varsity season last year but lost it. So, we have a lot of new players in the varsity world. The virus has also hurt our numbers this year, limiting us to only a varsity program. We have a lot of first-time players that will be learning the game in a varsity setting. We are really hoping to grow this year. We have 28 eager kids ready to learn and play this wonderful game.” — coach Aaron Courtney
2019 record: 7-9
Coach: Dennis Sullivan, 14th season
Top players: Seniors Julian Burgess (A), Austin Bischoff (A), Donavan Nicholas (D), Calean Young (M), Bryce Peterson (M), Elijah McBee (M) and Greg Deavers (FO); junior Josh Martel (A).
Faceoff: “I start every year thinking that I am going to go undefeated. This year is no different. We have a fantastic core of senior leadership and our underclassmen are all poised to help contribute. Our biggest concern this year is to stay COVID free and keep our team, which is small in numbers healthy. Josh Martel, Julian Burgess, Donavan Nicholas, Calean Young, Bryce Petersen, Elijah McBee and others are all poised to have fantastic years. No matter what, this will be a year to remember. Go Knights!” — coach Dennis Sullivan
2019 record: 4-11
Coach: Walt Blahut, ninth season
Top players: Seniors Riley Pitt (M), Robbie Price (D), Cole Sledgeski (D), Tag Greenwood (D), Reese Cianfrani (A) and Brian Abrams (A); junior RJ Breeden (A); sophomores Danny Wright (D), Jonah Williams (D) and Scott Czyz (M).
Faceoff: “The 2021 season for Northeast will be no different than any other season. Our players will continue to work hard in practice to get better every day and to be the best they can. We do not look at this year as a developmental year. Our focus is on today and preparing our players to have successful futures in everything they do. We will take it one day at a time and deal with all the challenges that we face as best we can. We are aware of the consequences should we, as individuals and the team as a whole, not follow health and safety protocols. Every player knows that we are blessed to have this opportunity to be together with our friends, enjoying the experience and competing together.
“Success this year will be completing the season as a team, safe and healthy. Also feeling satisfied that we gave our best effort every day and in every game. Winning is a bonus.
“We have many challenges to face and overcome. Low numbers, injuries, heat, academic concerns and COVID protocols all present a broad minefield to maneuver through during our short two-month season. On the field, our defense will be key to winning games. Although the offense lacks the multiple scoring threats as in past seasons, we have some future budding stars and unknowns that will develop and continue the blue collar, hard-working reputation that Northeast lacrosse has been known.” — coach Walt Blahut
2019 record: 8-8
Coach: Pat March, fifth season
Top players: Seniors Ben Wilson (A), Zachariah Turner (A), Zeke Brown (M), Colby Dellinger (D), Max Burton (LSM), Alex Jones (M), Luca Martemucci (M), Noah Mckeon (A), Kristopher Owens (M) and Travis Revis (LSM).
Faceoff: “As always, we will be relentless competitors in each and every game.” — coach Pat March
2019 record: 19-1, Class 4A state champions
Coach: Travis Loving, first season (interim)
Top players: Seniors Kyle Griffith (A), Charlie Evans (A), Kurt Klaus (M), Connor Koistinen (M), Colin Shadowens (FO), Tommy Haskell (M), Will Bray (G) and Rory Sullivan (D).
Faceoff: “We are working hard each and every day and just trying to get better today, as compared to the previous day. We are only worrying about the things we can control. We know there are going to be players who will have to quarantine, games postponed/canceled, etc. While we can’t control all of this, we can control having socially distanced practices during drills and breaks and being responsible off the field in order to limit possible exposures. We are super pumped to have the opportunity to play eight games, get better each outing, then hopefully have the opportunity to compete for a state championship.” — coach Travis Loving
2019 record: 9-9
Coach: Brendan Brace, 16th season
Top players: Senior Jackson Perkins (D); juniors Garrett Simi (M), Mason McGivern (M) and Jackson Germann (D).
Faceoff: “We have a lot of enthusiasm for the opportunity to play. We had a good chance to make a playoff run last year before the pandemic derailed the school year, season and life as we knew it. We are eager to go out there this year and play lacrosse. We are going to go out there and work to get better every day and, given the opportunity, go as deep as we can into a playoff season.” — coach Brendan Brace
2019 record: 9-6
Coach: Colin Campbell, fifth season
Top players: Seniors Zachary Nolte (D), Nick Rehanek (D), Jake Travis (M) and Andy Foy (M); juniors Connor Chick (A) and Greg Usher (G); sophomores Henry Sykes (M) and Jake Adams (A).
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Faceoff: “The squad has a strong mix of senior and returning experience and underclassmen energy and skill. We look to be strong at both ends of the fields and excel in settled offense and defense. Our goal this season, with the promise of postseason play currently unanswered, is to have an undefeated season. Many of our boys have only experienced varsity-level practices and not game-time action, so the opportunity to play against our competition and especially our rivals is our strongest motivating factor.” — coach Colin Campbell