Portions of this article appear in the February issue of Lacrosse Magazine, a US Lacrosse publication. Join today to start your monthly subscription.
Alabama Rising in the Ranks
by Daniel Malloy | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
|Junior John Somerall of Mountain Brook (Ala.) High School has drawn NCAA Division I interest from Navy, Loyola, Army and Providence.|
As the Diamond Lacrosse Invitational wound down in November, a coach announced the states represented by the 120 elite high school players gathered in Brooklandville, Md. One was greeted with a bit of confusion.
"They have lacrosse in Alabama?" a kid interjected.
John Sommerall chuckled with the rest of them. The junior from Mountain Brook High School outside Birmingham is used to his home state being overlooked in the lacrosse world. But college coaches are starting to take notice as more Alabamans ditch footballs for sticks.
"There are good athletes," said Chris Cos, who coaches the club program at Hoover High School and the Bamalax all-star team. "They're fast. They're physical. They may not have true lacrosse ability, but they're getting there."
Most play like converted football players, Cos said, but Alabama does boast a few top-shelf players like Sommerall, the faceoff whiz with a missile shot.
Somerall has attracted Division I attention, following in the cleats of Brye "James" French, from Millbrook, Ala., who is at the Naval Academy Prep School this year and will play next season at Navy.
When Midshipmen head coach Richie Meade first saw French play at a camp in Birmingham, he turned to Cos and said, "Don't tell anyone else about Alabama."
Unfortunately for Meade, the secret is out.
This will be the third year Cos has run a camp at the University of Alabama with Georgetown assistant coach Scott Urick and Loyola assistant coach Dan Chemotti. Just this weekend, former Duke players Ed Douglas, Nick O'Hara and Dan Loftus provided a two-day clinic to 50 of the state's best players at Hoover High. US Lacrosse's Fast Break Initiative likewise hit Birmingham for clinics in the fall.
Somerall said Navy, Loyola, Army and Providence have recruited him. French and Huntsville's Jeremy Sherman were named the state's first ever All-Americans last year.
The attention focused on the top talent, Cos said, has attracted more younger kids, who are emulating attackmen instead of quarterbacks. Cos said Hoover will field two junior varsity programs this year, while Mountain Brook could field three to avoid turning kids away. Bamalax plans to add an under-11 all-star team.
Still, the interest outside the Birmingham area is low, Cos said, and the sport remains unsanctioned in Alabama. Hoover and Mountain Brook frequently travel to Memphis or Atlanta to get competitive games.
Cos said lax rats like Sommerall - who works part time ringing up sales and stringing sticks at Cos' store, Faceoff Alabama, in Birmingham - are far too rare.
And Alabama lacrosse players still deal with an inferiority complex. Sommerall said his goals for this year include executing passes with more touch and not being intimidated when playing in tournaments.
"It's when I start playing with kids from up North," he said. "I wouldn't say I get nervous, but I start to question what I can do... I start thinking too much about how good the talent is that's playing against me and whether or not I can do the same things."
That might be why Cos said he occasionally has to prod Sommerall to go to the net. At a recent all-star tournament in Tampa, Fla., Cos asked in the huddle if anyone would be mad if Sommerall shot the ball the next five times down the field. The answer was a resounding no.
Within minutes, Sommerall charged in and whipped a goal to the top corner.
Yes, they do have lacrosse in Alabama, and it can be pretty darn
Seasons Start in the South
High school lacrosse in February? You bet. Teams in Alabama,
Florida, South Carolina and Georgia report as early as the second
week in February before the sport hits its stride nationally in
Reigning Alabama boys' champ Hoover opens Feb. 17 at Homewood.
Reigning Florida boys' champ St. Andrew's opens Feb. 11 against Cardinal Newman; reigning Florida girls' champ opens Feb. 10 against Lake Brantley.
Reigning South Carolina boys' champ Greenville opens Feb. 24 against Spartanburg.
Reigning Georgia boys' champ opens Feb. 21 against Wesleyan.
All Eyes on Florida's Bellando
Can any high school boys' team in Florida even touch St. Andrew's? Not if Matt Bellando has anything to say about it.
The Scots have won six straight - and 12 of the last 14 - Florida state championships. Most recently they drubbed Lake Brantley for the inaugural FHSAA-sanctioned title.
Bellando, a rising junior attackman, led the Scots with 70 goals and 30 assists as a sophomore in 2008. He was one of just two sophomores in the nation to earn US Lacrosse High School All-American distinction.
He's a hockey transplant that could draw even more attention this year - starting Feb. 11, when St. Andrew's hosts Cardinal Newman to open the 2009 slate.
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