Five-foot-7 senior attackman Jesse Kendall of Howard High displays confidence and courage against bigger opponents

Rising to challenge


May 02, 2007|By Alejandro Danois | Alejandro Danois,[ special to the sun]

With Howard clinging to a late onegoal lead over Reservoir this season, Lions attackmanJesse Kendall walked to the sideline and greeted his visibly agitated coach in the fourthquarter.

With the Lions' defense struggling with a few minutes left, Kendall took control.

"He looked me right in the eye and calmly said, 'Coach, don?t worry. I'm not losing this game and we?re not losing this game,' " Howard coach Josh Bound said.

Kendall trotted back on the field and proceeded to score his fifth goal of the day ? to go along with four assists ? and seal the Lions' victory.

That kind of confidence and determinationhave aided the 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior in his quest for respect throughout his high school career.

With the Howard lacrosse program experiencing its first winning season since he has been at the school, Kendall's talent and accomplishments are finally being recognized. He has 33 goals and 27 assists this season in leading Howard to a 7-5 record. The Lions had gone 16-31 over three years before this season.

"If he was 6-foot-3, he?d be a highly recruited Division I college player," Bound said. "His work ethic is exceptional, he sees the entire field and he?s the kid that opposing teams always have to worry about and account for. He?s one of the most awesome players I've ever coached and is in some very select company in terms of talent."

Kendall has always been viewed as a sort of novelty because of his smallish stature. But once the game is under way, his size takes a back seat to his drive and skill.

As a 5-1, 110-pound freshman, he was placed on the varsity after tryouts and informed that he would be used in a utility role. But his desire to be a consistent presence on the field was a motivating factor in his decision to play on the junior varsity team.

"I felt like I needed that experience to get prepared, and playing JV was a crucial step for me," Kendall said. 'I wanted to play and have a good season."

While the varsity team struggled, Kendall led the JV to a winning season.

His decision also had some long-term ramifications.

"I got a chance to connect with a lot of my current teammates and develop friendships," he said. "If I'd stayed on the varsity, I would never have gotten to know them as well as I do now."

Pulled up to the varsity for the playoffs that season, Kendall figured he'd get some valuable practice experience. But when one of his teammates was ruled ineligible, the freshman made an auspicious and unexpected debut.

In his first varsity action, he scored three goals and had four assists in a playoff game ? a victory over Joppatowne.

"Once I started throwing with my teammates and got a feel for the guy defending me, I wasn?t nervous anymore, and even though the size difference was really big, I knew I could handle it," Kendall said.

By the next season, even with a growth spurt that pushed him to 5-5 and 130 pounds, he was still the smallest player on the field. But because of his leadership and talent, the coaches named him a team captain.

"He is a worker who has great leadership qualities," Bound said. "He does not give up."

Opposing coaches elected not to guard him with their best defenders early in his sophomore season and ultimately paid for it.

"People underestimated me because I was small, but I proved that I was good enough to play andmake a difference for my team," Kendall said. ?And even though we weren't winning, I knew there was some future potential for us."

Against Atholton that year, he recorded three goals and three assists in a narrow loss. But in his mind, his individual performance was overshadowed by what he was unable to accomplish.

"I missed what should have been the winning shot and was pretty upset," Kendall said. ?I told myself, 'I have to be the man and finish in those situations. I have to do that formy team.' "

He finished his sophomore campaign with 39 goals and 37 assists. Last year, with defenses intent on stopping him, he compiled 31 goals and 32 assists en route to All-County second-team honors.

"If he was on a team with a winning record, he would have been a firstteam selection without a doubt," Bound said.

Said Kendall: "Despite the fact that my numbers were down, last year was very impressive from a team development standpoint. The games were closer, we had more players stepping up and you could sense that we needed one more year to become a solid team."

Kendall uses his exceptional quickness, field vision and deceptive strength to create advantages where none seem to exist.

Defenders are hesitant when he cradles the ball in his stick.

They are unable to hit him with the checks they are accustomed to because of his speed and lowcenter of gravity.

"If they make the wrong move, I'll run right past them and I already have a feel for whether I?m going to pass or shoot," Kendall said.

Scampering near the net, he is apt to catch the pass and unleash a laser shot in one motion, catching more than a few goalies unaware over the years.

Although he broke the school?s alltime points record this season and has surpassed the 200-point total in his career, Kendall ? who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average and plans to major in business and finance at the University of Delaware?is driven by wins, not statistics. "I didn?t even know he broke the record because he acted the same as he always does," Bound said. "He shows up day in and day out, works hard and is dedicated towinning."

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