When the junior high and college-aged players gather for their respective Hero's Lacrosse All-Star teams tomorrow at Anne Arundel Community College, few will be taking the exhibitions too seriously.
But, when the high school-aged All-Stars face-off at 5 p.m., they'll be all business.
For many of the male high school players, tomorrow's game is the only opportunity they'll get to display their skills in front of college scouts. Mike Bellotte, coach of the South, expects that everyone will be trying to leave a favorable, lasting impression.
"I don't think a lot of them will be staying out late the night before this game," Bellotte said on Wednesday. "This is the game everyone wants to do well in. For a lot of these kids, this is the only chance they will get to be seen.
"Unfortunately, the kids from private schools have a better chance of getting recruited because of their reputation and the rapport their high school coaches have with the colleges, but for a lot of the public school kids, this could make or break it for them."
Milford Marchant Sr., director of the Hero's high school league, -- said the organization sent invitations directly to the coaches of 85 Division I and III college lacrosse programs informing them that the game would be showcasing 52 of the areas top players.
Marchant said that more than 20 coaches attended last year's event and several schools, including Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Towson State and Pennsylvania, already have confirmed that they will be present.
The Hero's All-Star Day will include five games, beginning with the junior and senior high school girls games at 9:30 a.m. at 11 a.m., respectively. The junior high boys will take the field at 3 p.m., followed by the high school game and, finally, the Open Division contest at 7 p.m.
The Open Division, which consists of past and present college players, will feature some of the county's best athletes, including All-American Steve Marhol (South River/UMBC), Will Ahern (St. Mary's/Duke), Tom Dwyer (St. Mary's/Brown), Craig Bullen (Severn/Maryland), Lindsay Dixon (Broadneck/Towson State) and Jason Wade (Severn/North Carolina).
The high school teams, which were chosen following a tryout last weekend, will get a chance to work together as a unit for the first time in a practice session tonight at AACC. Despite their unfamiliarity as teammates, Bellotte believes his team will be just that on the field -- a team.
"The quality of lacrosse in this county is such that these guys have been taught the basic fundamentals of lacrosse," he said. "Like we told them at tryouts, 'We don't really care who scores all the goals today.' What we're looking for, and what scouts look for, is to see if you make the right decision when the opportunity arises. Whether the ball goes in the net or not, we want to see if you made the right pass.
"You won't see a Division I lacrosse game, but you will see a good lacrosse game . . . with the way they split the teams up."
Unlike a normal North-South game, the teams for Saturday's showdown were chosen for the sake of parity, with no regard to regional demographics.
While Bellotte sees the teams matching up "unusually well," he does think he may have gotten the pick of the litter in the way of attackmen.
"I think we have three of the best attackmen in high school lacrosse," said Bellotte. "Danny Collins (St. Mary's sophomore), Danny Wolf (Archbishop Spalding sophomore) and Maury Lapointe (Mount St. Joseph senior) are three of the best and that attack will be the key to our success."
Scoring on Bob Bohanon's North contingent won't be easy with junior Sam Peterson in goal. Peterson was the mainstay of Broadneck's defense last season and one of the reasons the Bruins won the Class 3A-4A state title.
Two more reasons that the Bruins were successful, and the North shouldn't be counted out, are defenseman Alex Irmler and Jason Hull.
Irmler, a senior defenseman, and Hull, a senior attackman, should gain the attention of college scouts. And so should senior midfielder John Miller of Severna Park and senior defenseman David Lachappelle of Severn.
Miller is aware of who will be in the stands at Siegert Field, but said he doesn't want to put too much pressure on himself.
"I'm looking to have fun and, hopefully, I'll give [the scouts] a good look so that maybe I can go someplace where I want to go," said Miller, who lists his top college choices as Penn State and Maryland. "There should be a lot of competition. I'm going to go out and play the hardest I've ever played and try to win."
Said Bellotte: "Everyone likes to win, but it's not that important to win. I want to see them play smart, fundamental lacrosse, so they can show the college lacrosse coaches who come that the quality of lacrosse in Anne Arundel County is some of the best around. We want them to know that we just don't produce a football player with a stick."