Watson attacks new role Crusader relishes being team leader

April 04, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

For St. Paul's senior attackman Michael Watson, the test of his leadership abilities came in the Crusaders' season-opening game against No. 2 Gilman.

With the score tied at 7 just 57 seconds into the second overtime period, Watson, the area's only returning All-Metro boys lacrosse player, scored the game-winning goal.

The goal was the All-American's second of the afternoon, securing an 8-7 victory that maintained the top-ranked Crusaders' 26-game winning streak.

FOR THE RECORD - The spelling of St. Paul's coach Mitch Whiteley's name has been corrected for the database. See microfilm for original story.

More important, it was evidence that the speedy 5-foot-9, 165-pounder has accepted the challenge of leading the Crusaders to a third straight Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference crown.

"I liked that responsibility in overtime. I wanted to take the ball and score," said Watson, 18, who had been shadowed by Gilman's Neal Granick for most of the rain-soaked afternoon.

"You've got to contain Watson, and Neal did a good job of taking away his strength on the right side," Gilman coach John Tucker said. "To beat St. Paul's, you've got to stop Michael Watson. And that's tough to do because he's excellent at finding opportunities for the open shot."

Severn, ranked No. 14, experienced Watson's wizardry three days later on March 26, when Watson's four goals and five assists led to a 21-3 rout of the Crusaders' MSA A Division II rivals.

It has been an auspicious start for the area's best player, who has 11 goals and 12 assists. Watson's 122 career goals and 49 assists are 63 points shy of the school record (234) set by Tim Whiteley, The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year last season.

And with Whiteley (University of Virginia) and honorable-mention All-Metro Rob Bouse having graduated, Watson has become the primary focus of opposing defenses.

"In three games, he's got 10 goals and seven assists -- that's more than some kids get in a whole season," St. Paul's coach Mitch Whiteley said Friday, two hours before Watson's goal and five assists helped the Crusaders (4-0) to an 18-1 victory over unranked McDonogh.

Against McDonogh, senior midfielder Ben Strutt and junior midfielder Jamie Pollick each had four goals, and senior midfielder Brad Read scored three times, but Watson remains the center of attention.

"This is the first time he's had to shoulder the brunt of the attack, but that's no problem for him," Whiteley said. "He's a team captain, a tremendous competitor and the kind of kid who gets better the more pressure you apply."

Watson, who has a B average, will join Tim Whiteley at Virginia next season.

He has improved his scoring every year, netting 23 goals as a freshman, 39 as a sophomore and 49 last season.

But with a youthful team around him, Watson is starting to take his game to another level -- which means improving on his career-best 23 assists of a year ago.

"We've got a young midfield. And in our attack, Pollick's a junior, Tucker Radebaugh's a sophomore and Joey Unitas is a senior who didn't play a lot last year," said Watson.

"But I learned a lot about myself against Gilman. I feel that someone has to be ready to take on that leadership role, and that's where I come in. I saw what Tim went through last year, and that's going to help."

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