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May 6, 2014

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Nike/US Lacrosse South Boys' Region Report

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com

Related: National Top 25 | NortheastMid-Atlantic | Midwest | West

Player of the Week 

Reid Thedford, Lake Highland Prep (Fla.)

The junior midfielder had three goals on four shots to lift the Highlanders to a second straight state championship. He also had an assist and three ground balls. All three of his goals came in a 12-minute span in the first half, giving Lake Highland a 4-1 lead with about two minutes left in the second quarter. Thedford, who led the Highlanders with 58 goals and 22 assists this season, also had a hat trick in the state semifinal win over Ponte Vedra and tallied two goals and an assist in a third-round state play-in game last week.

Also notable: Sam Romano, Episcopal Dallas (Texas); Nick Forbes, Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.); John Madden, Memphis University School (Tenn.); Ryan Silvester, Benjamin (Fla.)

Game of the Week

Lassiter (Ga.) at Harrison (Ga.), May 6

This is one of the more intriguing first-round match-ups to open the GHSA Class 6A state playoffs. On paper, this looks like an easy win for Harrison (16-1), as Lassiter (9-8) sits just above .500, but don't count out the Trojans just yet. Playing an arguably more difficult schedule than Harrison, Lassiter's eight losses were to teams with a combined record of 113-29 – none have more than five losses and all have double-digit wins. The Hoyas, meanwhile, are on a mission to prove their regular season was no fluke. Their one loss was to 2013 state champion Centennial.

South Region Top 10

1. Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), 20-3
The Highlanders repeated as FHSAA state champions, beating Benjamin 9-2 in the final for their third title in four years. Reid Thedford finished with three goals and one assist to lead Lake Highland, which, in the two games leading up to the championship, had outscored Dr. Phillips and Ponte Vedra 34-12.

2. Episcopal Dallas (Texas), 18-2
The Eagles claimed their first state title since 2007, beating Dallas Jesuit 9-4 in the THSLL Division I final Sunday to avenge their only in-state loss of the season. Episcopal had lost to the Rangers in the regular-season finale and had finished as the state runners up last year. Sam Romano was named tournament MVP after scoring two goals in each of the final two games, including in an 8-5 win over Highland Park in the semifinals.

3. Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.), 17-0
The Crusaders won their Big Eight Conference semifinal game against Northwood (N.C.), 17-0, on May 1 and were set to play Chapel Hill (N.C.) in the championship Monday night. Mark Schachte and Robbie Lavelle each scored three goals, while Nick Forbes (two goals, two assists) and Gannon Morrison (one goal, three assists) led Gibbons in points.

4. Ponte Vedra (Fla.), 21-3
The Sharks beat Maclay 12-8 to advance to the state semifinals for a third year in a row but their season -- and a 13-game win streak -- ended with a 14-9 loss to eventual champion Lake Highland Prep. Cody Legeza led Ponte Vedra with two goals and two assists, after also scoring three goals against Maclay. Mile Silva finished with seven goals over the two games, while Colin Peaks had 18 saves.

5. Milton (Ga.), 16-2
The Eagles added a 15-9 win over Alpharetta (Ga.) last week and head into the playoffs as the top seed from Area 2. They play Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) in the first round Tuesday. Milton picked up some momentum the last few weeks with wins over out-of-state competition such as Jupiter (Fla.), Charlotte Latin (N.C.) and Memphis University School (Tenn.).

6. Charlotte Latin (N.C.), 16-1
The Hawks have won four straight since their two-goal loss to Milton (Ga.), including wins over Providence Day (N.C.) and Charlotte Christian (N.C.) last week. Seeding for the NCISAA playoffs will be decided Wednesday and play begins Saturday.

7. Memphis University (Tenn.), 13-3
The Owls bounced back from their loss to Milton (Ga.) with a 10-4 win over Christian Brothers (Tenn.), as they improved to 9-0 against in-state opponents. Patrick Dimento led the team with four goals and an assist, John Madden won 12 of 18 faceoffs and finished with seven ground balls, and Brant Newman had 12 saves in goal. MUS heads into the first round of the TSLA playoffs Tuesday against Briarcrest.

8. Dallas Jesuit (Texas), 15-3
The Rangers advanced to their first state final since 2011 with a 13-6 win over the Woodlands (Texas) in the semifinals, but Episcopal Dallas denied them in their attempt to claim the program's first state title. It was their fifth straight Final Four appearance. Jesuit had lost 6-5 to Episcopal in the state semifinals last year.

9. Benjamin (Fla.), 15-6
The Buccaneers couldn't have been too disappointed with a state runner-up finish. After a 4-5 start to the season, they won 11 straight to make it to their first state championship game, including a 14-9 win over St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) in the semifinals with the help of Ryan Silvester's four goals. Benjamin trailed Lake Highland by just two at halftime but was outscored 5-0 the final two quarters.

10. Harrison (Ga.), 16-1
The only blip on the Hoyas' record is a 17-14 loss to 2013 state champion Centennial (Ga.) on March 29. Since then, they've won six straight, outscoring opponents 98-22, including last week's 16-9 win over Kennesaw Mountain. Harrison plays Lassiter (Ga.) on Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs.

NOTEBOOK

Episcopal Dallas coach Pat Kennedy preaches the importance of always looking forward and not dwelling on past results.

But Sunday's 9-4 state championship win over Dallas Jesuit served as a dual redemption for the Eagles, who had lost to the Rangers in the regular-season finale and had finished as the 2013 runners up to St. Mark's (Texas) last year.

The title is the Eagles' fourth overall.

"It feels great," Kennedy said. "I think the whole team really bought into the system and what we're trying to do with the program. I think a lot of guys used the term 'unfinished business.' I always said, 'Last year was last year. We lost four great seniors, and we gained a lot of different players so it's a different team,' but we did have a lot of players back and that (loss in the state final last year) may have had a factor in terms of the focus they had in the offseason to prepare."

Episcopal had just a 5-4 lead early in the fourth quarter but got three goals in a 90-second span -- including goals from Will Stroud and Richie Loftus within seven seconds of each other and the third from Jack Beare -- before Sam Romano ended the scoring with 32 seconds left.

Romano and Beare each finished with two goals and one assist, and Loftus tallied one goal and two assists. Charlie Sikes made 10 saves in goal, adding to the 11 saves he had in the semifinal against Highland Park.

"It summed up our season," Kennedy said. "It was a total team win. Our defense played unbelievable, and they really sparked our transition game, knocking down passes, intercepting passes, getting key ground balls and pushing it up the field. We scored numerous transition goals, and that was a big key."

***

Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) just might be the new St. Andrew's (Fla.) in Florida.

After watching the Scots win nine state titles in 11 years, the Highlanders swept two championships away from them in 2011 and 2013 and now have won three of the last four after beating Benjamin for the 2014 crown Saturday.

Lake Highland was playing in its sixth straight Final Four and fifth straight championship game.

It didn't look so promising at season's start, though, as the Highlanders had to replace nine contributing seniors from last year's team. With a new cast in place, Lake Highland won 14 straight to close the season after back-to-back losses to McDonogh (Md.), 9-8, and Boys' Latin (Md.), 14-11. The Highlanders' only other loss was a 12-10 decision against Jupiter on March 1.

"If you saw where this group was when we started, I am sure there were a lot of doubters," Highlanders coach Chris Spaulding told the Orlando Sentinel. "All season long, they've embraced improvement and made the sacrifices to get better."

***

John Carroll (Ala.) proved the postseason truly is a season of its own. After losing two regular-season games to Vestavia Hills (Ala.), the Cavaliers got the one that mattered most. John Carroll beat Vestavia Hills 14-11 to claim the Alabama state championship Sunday night. John Carroll finished 10-9, while Vestavia Hills was 11-5.

***

New Orleans Jesuit (La.) def. St. Paul's (La.), 11-4, on April 27 to win its third straight state title. Arman Alizadeh scored four goals and was named Offensive MVP, and Eric Wright was named Defensive MVP after making 11 saves in goal. Jesuit finished 14-0.

***

Centennial (Ga.) will begin its state title defense with the start of the playoffs this week.

The Knights finished off their regular season in dominant fashion, bouncing back from a rash of injuries with a 21-3 win over Pope.

Junior Nathan Solomon led the team with six goals and four assists, and Cole Woodward won 10 of 13 faceoffs and finished with 14 ground balls.

The Knights (13-5) play Grayson (12-4.) in the first round of the playoffs Tuesday.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com every Tuesday throughout the high school season for updates to the Nike/US Lacrosse Regional Boys' Top 10 rankings and the Nike/US Lacrosse National Boys' Top 25.

2014 South Region Report Archive


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