Gaines still making his points count

Boys lacrosse: Senior Matt Gaines is Edgewood's all time leading scorer and a highly touted Division I prospect.

High Schools

March 30, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

At the time, playing lacrosse wasn't the hippest thing for Matt Gaines to do.

In his Abingdon neighborhood, it was much more popular to throw around the football, take part in a pick-up basketball game or even play catch with a baseball.

"None of my friends played lacrosse, but my brother played and I was like, `If he's playing, then I want to,' " Gaines said. "Growing up, we were always outside playing catch. He was my mentor in this game. He pretty much taught me everything."

Rob Gaines parlayed a standout career at Edgewood in the mid-1990s into two years of Division I lacrosse at Bucknell University before a shoulder injury derailed his collegiate career.

Matt has carved out a legacy of his own at Edgewood. A senior, he became the school's all-time leading scorer before the end of his junior season.

After tallying 15 goals and nine assists through the Rams' first three games this season, Gaines' career totals stand at 127 goals and 85 assists.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound attackman doubles as a face-off specialist and has won 75 percent of them over his career.

"He's the whole package," said Edgewood coach Dr. Jim Lamb. "Our assistant coach Tim Lucky was All-Metro at North Harford and played four years at Towson and we agree: Matt's a Division I lacrosse player. He's the real deal."

Edgewood is not the place you'd expect to find one of the top lacrosse players in Harford County and a potential Division I performer.

The school doesn't have a recreation feeder program like Fallston or Bel Air, thus the Rams' roster is almost entirely filled by lacrosse novices.

Though an All-Metro selection in football this past fall, Gaines, who played many positions for the county-winning football team, has been into lacrosse since he joined a Fallston recreation league when he was 7. He plays indoor lacrosse with North Harford in the winter, is in the Loch Raven summer league, and goes to camps.

Also, he usually goes down to his basement each night and bangs a lacrosse ball off the wall for at least 30 minutes, catching and throwing with both hands.

Fallston coach Matt Parks, who coached Gaines at the Battle of Hotbeds, a regional camp last summer at the University of Delaware, noticed Gaines' improving play. Gaines scored three goals in the all-star game at that camp.

"At first, he could only go to his right," said Parks. "But in our first game, he dodged to the right and then went to his left and scored. He came off the field and I said, `Somebody has worked on his left hand.'

"People were coming up to me and asking me where I found this kid. I said I didn't have to find him, I have to play against him every year."

Largely because of his performance at camps, Colgate and Delaware, both Division I programs, have recruited Gaines and he has also heard from several Division III schools. But getting people to notice has been a struggle as Edgewood High is largely foreign terrain to college recruiters.

"My brother, Coach Lamb and Coach Lucky have told me since my freshman year that I can definitely play Division I and I'm not settling for anything less," said Gaines, who said that Delaware is his most likely destination. "I was hoping more Division I schools would recruit me, but I think because where I'm at, I haven't gotten many looks."

Gaines, 18, considered transferring to one of Baltimore's private school lacrosse powers, where he'd be in the company of other players with Division I futures. There was only one thing stopping him.

"I like being the star," said Gaines with a sly smile.

One of the Rams' captains, Gaines has learned to deal with being a marked man. There are the double and triple teams and then there are the defenses which take it a step further. They shut him off altogether, the basketball equivalent of denying the other team's best player the ball.

When he gets the ball, Gaines has a variety of moves in his arsenal, all aimed at getting his defenders tangled so he can use his power and quickness to get to the goal.

"You see him go into a pack of people and he'll still come out with the ball. I don't understand how he does it sometimes," said senior attackman Ben Zimmerman, who had 46 goals last year and credited Gaines for teaching him a lot about the game.

Said Gaines: "The biggest challenge is trying to get everybody to move to the right places on the field. I always tell them that I would rather have 100 assists this season than 100 goals."

Sometimes though, like in a game last year against Harford Tech, Gaines feels the need to take over. With his team trailing the Cobras by four, Gaines scored five consecutive goals in the last two minutes to lead his team to victory.

It was a performance that would have made his brother, who's now a teacher in the Bronx, N.Y., proud.

"He always pushed me and told me that I can do whatever I want as long as I work hard," Gaines said. "Right now, he's all about me and he's supporting me to the fullest."

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