Lake lacrosse team gets one last tune-up before tourney

FELTON – When the boys’ lacrosse state tournament brackets are announced, this year’s Lake Forest team will put their names in the schools’ history books as the first Spartans team to qualify for the playoffs in that sport.

While the storyline is that the team will compete in the program’s first state tournament, the headline will be that this was just the second season the Spartans have competed at the varsity level.

Last season, the boys’ lacrosse team came very close to qualifying for the tournament during its inaugural campaign by posting an impressive record of 8-6.

Although the No. 1 reason for a first season winning record was team talent and good coaching, the Spartans also surprised several of their opponents that felt a fledgling team could not be all that good.

Lake Forest plays Smyrna Wednesday night in its regular season finale. (The Journal/file photo)

Lake Forest plays Smyrna Wednesday night in its regular season finale. (The Journal/file photo)

“We did surprise a lot of teams last season,” said Lake Forest head boys’ lacrosse coach Brandon Savage during a preseason interview. “While I know we will not surprise any teams, I feel we have the talent to have a very good team this season.”

Good has turned out to be an understatement as the team is heading into its last regular season game against Smyrna Wednesday with a 10-4 record and an almost certain berth in the state playoffs.

“I feel we are already in the state tournament,” said Savage, who is assisted by Clay Pepper, Gavin Schukoske and Kawain Riley. “I was a coach at Dover for five seasons and one of the coaches there is good with (state tournament) numbers and he said we are currently one of the top 10 teams in the state.

“Actually, if we beat Smyrna and Delmar keeps winning, we should have a home match in the first round of the tournament.”

With the exception of a 2-0 win over Glasgow, it’s obvious the Spartans offense is playing its best lacrosse of the campaign. In addition to an 18-17 overtime loss to Sussex Tech, Lake beat Sussex Central 16-3, Indian River 18-16, Milford 13-7 and Red Lion 16-10.

“Our offense is clicking right now,” Savage said. “They are starting to trust each other, which gives our offense a lot of ball movement, which provides us with a lot of open shots.

“Another reason I can say our players are trusting each other is that our assist numbers are very good over the last several matches.”

Even though Lake was winning most of its matches during the first half of the season, it was obvious the Spartans opponents were doing their best to keep senior Austin Aguilar from scoring as a way to victory.

“We are now making teams have to worry about other players in addition of Austin,” said Savage. “By the way our offense is playing now; other teams have to worry about (senior) Dawaunta Parker, (senior) Ben Moore, (sophomore) Carter Kenton and several others coming down the field with a chance of scoring.

“So, now they know that we are not just a one dimensional team and they need to defend other players in addition to Austin.”

Included among the teams Lake has a chance of meeting in the state tournament is a Delmar squad that has defeated the Spartans twice this season.

While Savage knows why his Spartans have struggled against the Wildcats, there is a fix to the problem.

“They run a zone defense which we have had trouble scoring against it,” he said. “A lot of their players are already in set defensive positions which make it tougher for us to score against.

“What we have to do and what we have been working on is to move the ball more quickly and effectively through the zone in order to get our players open for a shot at the goal.”

No matter how this season turns out, it has been one for Lake’s record books.

“The fact that we are making a little bit of noise and other teams need to worry about playing us, it’s great for our program,” said Savage. “I feel because of our success, more kids are going to want play lacrosse at Lake Forest, which will only make our program stronger.

“Also, our success will hopefully establish a middle school lacrosse team as well as a youth program in Harrington and Felton.

“It’s also great for the community because our success has made it obvious that lacrosse is here to stay because it’s a fast paced game that if fun to play.”

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