Gilford’s Steven Hickey broke the school record for goals in a single game earlier this season as the Eagles opened the season 5-0 entering the month of May. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
April 30, 2012GILFORD – Coming off a trip to the Division III state championship game a season ago, the Gilford High School boys' lacrosse team saw a major overhaul in its roster coming into this spring. Through five games however, the results are as good as can be expected for the Golden Eagles. Gilford entered vacation week 5-0 on the young season, and the holes that needed to be filled after graduation and transfer losses have been indeed getting clogged up in a big way.
"That's been the biggest key, filling in some of the anticipated holes from last year," said Gilford coach Dan Kallmerten. "Some kids have really stepped up. I thought I could put a pretty good starting team on the field this year but the biggest concern was our second and third midfields, who could be on it?"
Filling that second midfield line has been a trio of youngsters who have made their presence felt in a big way already. Sophomores Chris Medlin and Jack Athanas and freshman Brogan Hurst have given the Eagles a steady number two line, and the results speak for themselves.
"Chris Medlin is just playing great and he's anchoring that second line," said Kallmerten. "He's really becoming a strong lacrosse player and likely a future star for us. Jack's been a stable force for us and we basically have him concentrating on the defense end since he's still learning the game. And Brogan has kind of come out of nowhere. He started the year with the JV team but impressed us so we gave him a trial with the second line on the varsity. Really, at the midfield line in this division you have to be athletic and he's really shown us in a couple of games that he's starting to get it and catch on. But overall that line has been huge, being able to play that line regularly has been a huge advantage. You can't play that first line the whole game so we needed some guys to step up."
The top midfield line of Brendon Murphy, Eli Stockwell and Sam Prescott has been as good as advertised, with Kallmerten pointing out Prescott's ability to do all the little things as a key in their early season success.
"I can't say enough good things about those guys," the coach said.
The Gilford attack has been paced by senior Steven Hickey, who broke the school's single-game scoring record in a win over Lebanon earlier this season.
"He's been on a scoring tear," said Kallmerten of Hickey. "I think as the year goes on, he'll be seeing more coverage but now, he's really someone who has generated a lot of offense for us."
Hickey has been matched well with Ryan Brown up front for the Eagles, and Kallmerten has been impressed with the duo's ability to find each other on the field. Other attackers that have contributed include Dylan Robbs and Chris Dormody.
While the defense has been strong behind the likes of Ben Morris, Malcolm Benavides and Jason Hayden, goalkeeper Brett Hanson has stepped in and played like one of the better goalies in D-III to this point of the season. Gilford allowed just an average of four goals per game through its first five contests.
"We've heard from a couple coaches, they knew we lost our three-year starting goalie (Norm Harris) and they asked after the game, where did this kid come from?" said Kallmerten of Hanson. "He's really made some amazing saves. We just played Merrimack Valley and we were pretty closely matched with them. Brett did as much to win that game as anyone on the field. He stopped some incredible shots and from distance, he's money in the bank."
While the team's 5-0 record entering this week has been impressive, Kallmerten knows there is plenty of work to still be done. The Eagles haven't played any of the big guns in Division III yet, with the schedule getting tougher in the coming weeks.
"If you look at the teams we've played, they've generally been in the bottom half but the team has played pretty well so I'm very happy about that," he said. "It was kind of a kick to see for a little while us ranked number one in the division, I don't think that's ever happened to us. We haven't played the big boys yet but we're getting to that part of the season. I think we have some weaknesses to work on, man down defense hasn't been great, man up offense hasn't scored a ton, but we're in a good position to make a run to the playoffs. Now we start playing the teams that are higher in the division and see what we can do."
With so many new pieces to the puzzle, easing into the schedule hasn't been a bad thing at all. If anything, it's been a nice transition to the younger and less experienced members of the Gilford squad.
"I think the schedule benefited us this year," Kallmerten admitted. "By getting some of the teams that are lower in the standings early, we're getting a chance to get your feet wet. That's important to team chemistry going forward."
The Eagles travel to Hollis/Brookline today before games with Windham and Plymouth. All three squads have winning records.