Playing up to task on attack at St. Paul's Complements: Buggs Combs, Chris Kakel are each other's best supporting cast.

April 05, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

St. Paul's coach Rick Brocato calls them "fire and ice" for their contrasting styles as attackmen.

"Their my No. 1-and-No. 2 scorers, and they're each having tremendous seasons," said Brocato, in his second year as coach for the No. 2 Crusaders (5-0). "Both of them have 16 ground balls, so they really hustle that way. They bring different, yet complementary dimensions to our team."

Buggs Combs stands 5 feet 10, weighs just 160, and often will take on larger defensemen, scrap for ground balls, and, upon scoring a goal, react in a way that is the envy of the opposition.

His foil, 6-4, 210-pound Chris Kakel, "is the big guy who kind of sits back, calms down the offense," Combs said.

"I'm like the wide receiver -- definitely more emotional. He's the quarterback," said Combs, 18, the top scorer with 21 goals and 10 assists. "Most of my assists have been to Chris. We complement each other well."

Kakel, a more patient but equally effective finisher, is the No. 2 scorer with 14 goals and nine assists. He has thrived around Combs.

"Riding, hustling, going after ground balls, and general scrappiness are things Buggsy's helped me with," said Kakel, 18, who is bound for Duke.

Kakel, a 3.85 student, started playing when he was 6 in Lutherville recreation, and Combs at 5, in Cockeysville. Each honed his skills in St. Paul's middle program before Combs, son of Towson State football coach and Calvert Hall graduate Gordy Combs, decided to follow in the footsteps of his father as a freshman.

"My father graduated from Calvert Hall, and my real name,

Andrew, is after a brother there," said Combs, who quit the team after two years due to a "difference of opinion" with the athletic department. "Not playing probably hurt college recruiting."

But any damage done has been repaired quickly by what has been nothing less than a stellar season thus far. He's converted 13 goals and assisted on seven others in the past two games, with a seven-goal, one-assist effort in Tuesday's 14-11 win over No. 4 Loyola.

"After being at Calvert Hall, which is Loyola's rival, that was definitely a big win for me," said Combs, sold on St. Paul's after attending a camp with several of its players. "I was concerned, coming here, about fitting in with guys who knew each other in some cases for 12 years.

"But the Loyola game clinched the team concept for me. All I had to do was get open, or make the right cut, and the ball was in my stick. I think my teammates fed me every goal but one."

Combs, a 3.5 student, has narrowed his college picks to Maryland, Butler and Penn State.

"I want to go away to college, but not too far away. And I want to go somewhere where there's big-time sports that I can support when I'm not playing lacrosse," said Combs, who grew up near Towson State's campus and was a mainstay at Tigers athletic events, often backing up the goals at TSU men's lacrosse games.

"I considered Towson, but living only five minutes from the school, it would be too much like staying home."

Kakel "will step right in and contribute at Duke," said Brocato, "where the players are big," and the concern is productivity.

"It seems like offense is where they need the most help," said rTC Kakel, who starred as a linebacker in football and a forward in basketball.

In choosing the Blue Devils, Kakel did not follow previous St. Paul's attackmen -- Tim Whiteley (1992 graduate), Michael Watson (1994) and Tucker Radebaugh (1995) -- to Virginia.

Since winning consecutive league titles, St. Paul's has gone 8-6 and 8-8 during the past two seasons. The Crusaders visit No. 1 St. Mary's on Wednesday. "We won our conference in football and basketball," Kakel said. "It would be great to have a sweep."

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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