Tough Act to Follow

Westminster football and lacrosse star Ryan Finch fought through a painful heel injury to have another standout season for the Owls' lacrosse team.


Some days, Ryan Finch could barely walk because of the pain in his heels, but he always made it to the lacrosse field at Westminster High School.

While he is still waiting to undergo tests, which could reveal hairline fractures, heel spurs or plantar fasciitis, there is little doubt among his coaches and teammates that Finch is one of the toughest athletes in the metro area.

The senior was an All-Metro pick as a running back last fall, rushing for 1,267 yards and 14 touchdowns and gaining 804 receiving yards with 10 touchdown catches. Finch finished this past lacrosse season with 35 goals and 45 assists. He won 78 percent of his 292 faceoffs and controlled more than 200 ground balls.

"Aside from him being a great player with skills and being unselfish, the first two things I think about with Ryan Finch are the size of his heart and his toughness," said Westminster lacrosse coach Jeff Doolan, whose team went 13-5 and lost to Dulaney, 10-9, in the Class 4A-3A state semifinal. "I have coached a lot of years on the high school level and on the college level, and he is without question the toughest kid I have ever coached."

Westminster football coach Brad Wilson said it takes more than just toughness, however, to put up those types of numbers, and that Finch embodies all the characteristics - talent, drive and focus - that make up a great athlete.

"The word that comes to mind for me to describe Ryan, other than toughness, is passion," Wilson said. "He plays and practices with a passion that is unmatched. One of the greatest compliments you can give athletes is that you say they practice as hard as they play in a game, and there wasn't a day that went by that he didn't practice like he played."

Finch's prowess might have been best demonstrated in Westminster's football game against Seneca Valley, when he scored five touchdowns - two rushing, two receiving and a 90-yard kickoff return - to finish with 429 all-purpose yards.

On the lacrosse field, Finch helped the Owls capture the Carroll County championship with two late-season wins over Century and North Carroll. Against Century, Finch dished out three assists and won 10 of his 13 faceoffs in an 11-3 win. He then had eight assists and won 15 of 19 faceoffs in Westminster's 15-10 victory over the Panthers.

For an athlete that stands only 5 feet 8 and weighs 170 pounds, Finch is often the most dominant player on the field. While he might be viewed as undersized for a running back, Finch said his stature is never part of the equation when he is sizing up his opponents.

"In football, you just keep moving your feet and they have to catch you," Finch said. "In lacrosse, to be good at faceoffs, it is just timing on the whistle and you have to be quicker than the other guy to get the ground balls."

Finch said his toughness comes from growing up in a household where sports were prominent. His father, Ray Finch, played football, lacrosse and wrestled at Westminster High, and later wrestled for Penn State. Ryan and his brother, Alex, played football and lacrosse together in the family's back yard and for recreation league teams in Carroll County while growing up.

"My parents have backed me up in anything I ever wanted to do, sports or no sports," said Ryan, who plans to follow his brother and sister to Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., where he will play lacrosse. "They always supported me. My brother and I are really tight."

Alex plays attack at Messiah, and next year the two brothers will team up for the first time since Ryan was a sophomore at Westminster (when the Owls lost in the state title game to Severna Park). Another Westminster graduate, Bryce Geiman, also plays for Messiah, and Ryan and Alex's sister, Shannon, graduated from Messiah earlier this spring after playing field hockey and lacrosse.

In addition to the opportunity to join his brother, Ryan said he chose Messiah because of its academics and the chance to play for coach Geof Weisenborn, who is the former coach at Francis Scott Key.

Finch plans to study business and economics, perhaps one day helping with the family business, Finch Services Inc., which sells, rents and services outdoor equipment.

"[Weisenborn] contacted me at the school, and the program seemed right," Finch said. "So far, they have had good success and that is what attracted me to the program."

Both Doolan and Wilson said Finch often leads by example, but he also became more vocal in his senior season.

"Last year, there were other kids on the team that had that vocal role, but it has been nice to see him evolve into the role as well," Doolan said. "He is as competitive as anyone I have ever met. In the heat of the fire and when the game gets tough, he is a little bit more vocal because he is so fired up and competitive."

Finch, who had more assists than goals this season, would take the open shot when available, but he had no problem giving the ball up if he saw one of his teammates in better position.

His unselfish play benefited the team, but it is his toughness that has earned the respect of his teammates.

"He can't run half the time, he goes home limping and he can't even walk in the door the next day in school," Westminster attackman Pat Smith said. "But he comes out every game, gets the faceoffs and finds the open guy."

Rich Scherr contributed to this article.

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