Years from now, Mark McGovern might be the answer to a Harford County sports trivia question.
McGovern is now a part of Harford Countylacrosse history. On March 16, the sophomore midfielder scored the first goal of the inaugural season for the Harford Community College men's lacrosse program.
A graduate of C. Milton Wright, McGovern is one of 29 locals on the Owls' 32-man roster. There are players from eight of the county's nine lacrosse-playing high schools. McGovern is a team captain along with Jeff Hess (North Harford) and David Eddinger (Fallston).
Headcoach Frank Mezzanotte, who guided Edgewood to three state/regional titles in 16 years, also has assembled a staff of the county's top lacrosse minds to lead the Owls.
Former Bel Air coach Bruce Hart, who originated the high school lacrosse program in Harford County, coaches the defense.
Dave Volrath, longtime Fallston High coach, and Jack Arthur, former coach at Archbishop Curley and an assistant with Mezzanotte for five years at Edgewood, work with the midfield. Sonny Lauer, Volrath's former assistant at Fallston, coaches goalies.
So far, the Owls have beaten only the B teams from Gettysburg and Washington colleges, but that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm for the infantprogram. Coaches and players knew there would be uncertainty, as well as excitement
in building a program from scratch.
"I told thekids it's like driving a car," said Mezzanotte. "After you get the keys, the first question you ask is where are you going?
"You've got to set goals. We're hoping we can build a competitive program within five years, hopefully less. What I mean by competitive isn't that you come close to beating the top teams, but that you can win some of those games."
So far, Mezzanotte has mixed emotions about how his squad has fared through the first half of its schedule. It already has played -- and lost to -- the defending national junior college champ, Nassau; the current top ranked team, Essex; and the current No. 4 ranked team, Anne Arundel.
Wednesday night, the Owls fell to Nassau, 11-6.
"A lot of people thought we were going to lose by 15 goals, but we could have won it. The tapes showed we had a lot of opportunities that we couldn't finish," said Mezzanotte. His squad took a 2-0 lead before giving up seven straight second-quarter goals to the Long Island school.
The Owls got three goals from David Owen (Bel Air) and one each from Jason Smith (Bel Air), Jason Harrison (North Harford) and Colin Carr (Fallston). Goalies Kevin Shive (Edgewood), DaveDeffinbaugh (John Carroll) and Steele Phoebus (C. Milton Wright) combined for 21 saves.
An intense coach on the sideline, Mezzanotte doesn't want to settle for second best even though it is the program'sfirst year. He's trying to convince his players that they don't haveto settle either. "We've got to stop thinking we're only a first-year program, and we've got to go out there and try to win games. We need to develop a winning attitude in our players."
One of Mezzanotte's greatest challenges is bringing together so many players and merging them into a team where old rivalries have been set aside. In addition, the coach must blend them quickly, because he only will have this group for a year or two.
"It's a big problem, because you're trying to put in a system you believe in. Here's a bunch of kids just starting to understand it, and, boom, they're gone," he said.
Mezzanotte, who retired from coaching at Edgewood in 1989, officially took over the program in the fall, although he did recruit last spring. Headmitted losing some prospects because they didn't have confidence in a start-up program, and others on technicalities because of his owninexperience on the junior college level.
But Mezzanotte is pleased with his home-grown talent and plans to continue to recruit mainlylocal players. "The kids that came in came in because they wanted toplay for us. We've seen a lot of commitment on the part of our players. When you talk to coaches, they'll say that more than winning whatthey look for in a program is kids who are committed, dependable andreliable. We certainly have that here."
The Nassau game, played under the lights at Edgewood High, was one of five that Mezzanotte scheduled at local high schools to show off the program to prospective players and the rest of the community. Attendance was sparse, probablybecause of Easter break, but two weeks ago, about 800 people turned out to watch the Owls play Essex Community College at C.M. Wright.
"We want to be a first-class program," said Mezzanotte. "We'd like to see the Harford County community get behind us."
The Owls have three more games scheduled for local high schools. They will play Gettysburg's B team on April 16 at North Harford, Catonsville on April 23at Fallston, and Rockland on May 3 at Fallston. All games are at 7 p.m.