East Xtra: Greensburg Central Catholic finishes a strong season

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When a prospect signs up for the Greensburg Central Catholic High School boys lacrosse team, the thought of playing and competing in the WPIAL playoffs are likely to occur.

In a season that just completed -- Mike Evans' 10th as the team's head coach -- Greensburg Central Catholic finished with a 7-7 record, and advanced to the WPIAL Division II semifinals, where the Centurions fell to Quaker Valley, 12-11, in a game that took two days to complete as a lightning storm on May 21 forced the game to be suspended and concluded the following day.

In three of the previous four seasons, the Centurions reached the championship game, losing three times to Hampton. The year they didn't reach the title game -- 2010 -- the Centurions suffered a similar fate to the one they experienced this year when they lost in the semifinals.

Besides playoff experience, the other common thread for a GCC boys lacrosse player is that Evans doesn't have a lot of company on the sidelines.

"This was one of our smallest and youngest teams," he said. "We had a total of 17 players. We had three seniors and three juniors, and the rest were sophomores and freshmen."

Despite the sparse numbers, the Centurions were still extremely competitive this season

"We were one goal away from playing in our third championship game in a row," he added. "We had our opportunities to win [the semifinal], but we couldn't get the tying goal."

There weren't many players, but the rival coaches saw fit to name five of them to the all-section team, and three of them will be back for at least one more season.

The two players graduating, senior attack Brady Wargofchik and senior defenseman Michael Dowling, had a lot to do with the team's success and appearances in the postseason.

"Brady had one of the most phenomenal goal-scoring years in GCC history," Evans said. "He had close to 50 goals this season, and he's an intelligent kid."

Wargofchik will enroll at Bucknell, but will be focusing on his studies and doesn't plan to play lacrosse in college.

In addition to playing defense, Dowling had a crucial role as the Centurions' faceoff specialist.

"That's a very important job," Evans said. "Possessions mean everything, especially in a close game."

Evans said Dowling's role was especially crucial in a 9-4 WPIAL first-round victory against Vincentian Academy.

"He just dominated in that game, and he prevented them from getting the ball," he said. "In the first half, Vincentian might have possessed the ball two to four minutes."

The three underclassmen honored were sophomore midfielder Barrett Naugle, junior defender Nick Benjamin and junior long-stick midfielder Albert Blevins.

The coach just marveled at Naugle's contributions, which included scoring almost 40 goals this season.

"In the 10 years I've been coaching, I've never asked a sophomore to do as much as Barrett did this year," Evans said. "He never came off the field. He would play attack for us. He'd play midfield for us. He played man-up and man-down, and he was always running.

"We'd ask him to clear the ball, and he would do it. He did everything well."

Benjamin's great strength was in forcing ground balls, lacrosse's equivalent of a fumble in football.

"He'd force maybe eight to 10 ground balls a game," Evans said. "Whenever Benjamin was matched up against someone, you could count on the ball being on the ground. He also had an uncanny ability to pick off passes."

Described as fast and tough, Blevins was usually paired up with the other team's best offensive threat.

"If we wanted a guy taken out of the game, Albert was our guy," Evans said. "He was our shutdown guy."

Some high schools have established lacrosse programs on the middle-school level. Evans said help is on the way for his program.

"For the first time, we had a middle-school program this year," he said. "We've been teaching incoming freshmen the game's fundamentals, but now we'll have players who will know the fundamentals when they get to high school."

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