Private schools rule county lacrosse world Not drawing students from wide area hampers public school teams

Boys Lacrosse Preview

March 20, 1997|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

When it comes to success in boys lacrosse, Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion St. Mary's immediately comes to mind. Last year's 17-0 season put an exclamation point on the Saints being a cut above the rest.

The Saints were only the third undefeated team in A Conference history, indisputably the best high-school lacrosse league, not only in Maryland, but the nation.

On the public school scene, Broadneck has been the team of the '90s with three state titles (1992, 1993 and 1996), but from a quality standpoint is not in the same league with the Saints.

In 17 seasons under coach Jim Moorhead, the Saints have gone 87-0 against county public schools and other non-league opponents.

The Saints were the No. 1 ranked team in The Sun's final poll for 1996, and five other private schools were ranked ahead of No. 7 Broadneck (19-1), the state's top public school team.

Severn School, another private school, was 6-9 and ranked No. 9 ahead of No. 10 Annapolis (13-3) in the final poll. Despite its record in the MIAA A Conference, no public school team can compete with the Admirals.

Why such a staggering disparity?

Several reasons and several misconceptions fuel never-ending arguments off the field among coaches, players, parents and fans.

Annapolis coach Dan Hart, whose Panthers won a state title in 1994, bristles at the mere mention of the private schools, particularly St. Mary's.

The Panthers have never beaten their Annapolis neighbor in more than 40 years of playing. In the 1994 state title year, Hart's Panthers won 16 games but lost two lopsided contests to Severn and, yes, St. Mary's.

"They have too many advantages over us," says Hart. "It's not a level playing field when we play them. They recruit."

St. Mary's has players from all over the county and is, of course, not restricted to a specific district or locale as the public schools are. Therein lies the difference.

Broadneck coach Clay White, whose Bruins never beat St. Mary's in the defunct Al Laramore Easter Tournament, echoes Hart's sentiments. White adds: "They can start practice anytime, and they have no grade-point average requirement, like we do."

Moorhead disagrees.

"We don't recruit. Only two of our 35 varsity players don't play another sport, and we started practice five days [Feb. 24] before the public schools, and we don't practice on Saturdays," says Moorhead.

"Our tradition brings the kids to us. We have financial aid based on need. If it's available, an athlete might get it, but being an athlete has nothing to do with the decision-making process."

Moorhead, who is also St. Mary's president and a public-school product (he graduated from Towson High in Baltimore County), says that "county public schools do a great job, but public vs. Catholic school is so vastly different and difficult to compare."

Public school coaches are not allowed to recruit in any form except to encourage students in their school community to stay. Severna Park coach Greg Manley convinced five outstanding freshmen, who might have otherwise gone to St. Mary's or Severn, to stay.

"We had an outstanding recruiting class," joked Manley.

White, Hart and other public school coaches argue that it is easier academically to play at St. Mary's or Severn.

Anne Arundel public school student-athletes must attain a 2.0 grade-point average to play, while neither St. Mary's nor Severn has a minimum GPA.

But Moorhead says fewer than 10 students in grades 10 through 12 at St. Mary's don't have at least a 2.0.

"If they fail a subject, they must make it up in summer school -- no repeating the course," said Moorhead. "If they don't earn eight credits, they are not asked back.

"Participating in athletics is important in the high school experience, but we don't perpetuate poor grades. If our young people don't do the job academically, they are not asked back."

St. Mary's and Broadneck, however, are very similar in the philosophy of diversity. Both schools encourage participation in more than one sport and have not surrendered to the popular trend of specialization.

Moorhead has a host of lacrosse players who were key members of the Saints' top-ranked football team.

"We don't encourage our lacrosse players to play year-round. We want them to play other sports," says Moorhead.

White agrees.

"It's too easy to burn out playing one sport all year, and I blame soccer for that," said White. "We want our kids to play more than one sport at Broadneck, and that's the philosophy from the top [administration] to the bottom.

"All the coaches at Broadneck have the same philosophy, and it carries over from sport to sport. We want our players to use lacrosse as a vehicle to college, not the end-all."

Lacrosse differences in public and private schools are not recruiting, athletic scholarships and minimum grade-point averages.

Rather simply, there are no limits on St. Mary's attracting students, but public schools are restricted to districts. Until public schools adopt open enrollment, private school lacrosse will rule.

Boys lacrosse, preseason poll

1. Boys' Latin

2. St. Mary's

3. Calvert Hall

4. Loyola

5. Gilman

6. Broadneck

7. St. Paul's

8. Mount Hebron

9. McDonogh

10. Severn

11. Severna Park

12. Hereford

13. Mount St. Joseph

14. Friends

15. Dulaney

Others considered: John Carroll, Arundel, Catonsville, Annapolis The boys preseason lacrosse poll was picked by The Sun staff.

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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