By Spencer Schultz and Scotty O'Bryan
The nationally ranked Jamesville-DeWitt High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse team has high hopes this season to return to the state final for the fourth time in five years, after losing to Yorktown in the championship last season.
According to the April 27 poll by the New York State Sportswriters Association, the team’s 10-1 record has them ranked fourth in Class B. “This team is just starting to understand their potential,” says Head Coach Jamie Archer.
J-DHS’s only loss came from rival West Genesee on April 18. The J-DHS squad was in close contention with West Genesee up until the end of the fourth quarter, bringing the game into sudden death overtime. West Genesee slipped a goal past J-DHS just a minute into the extra time, thus ending the game. Even with the close game, many J-DHS players became frustrated, due to their inability to bring the ball down the field to score. “Obviously, the loss hurt. But our team wasn’t clearing well; it was just a bad team effort all around,” says sophomore defensive player Nick Palin.
Though the loss to West Genesee is a disappointment, the team still came out victorious in close matchups against powerhouses Cazenovia, Christian Brothers Academy and Fayetteville-Manlius earlier in the season. Coach Archer feels that the season has been a success so far. “We started our season with veteran defense, and we just needed to give time to an inexperienced but talented offense to get their confidence,” says Coach Archer. “Now I feel that our defense has done a great job of that, and our offense is really starting to move the ball very well.”
The team’s tough games were not yet over after the West Genesee game, as on Saturday April 25 J-DHS traveled to face Fairport, “one of the best teams” J-DHS will play this season according to junior Michael Swan. J-DHS ended up dominating the game, winning 14-7. Coach Archer describes the victory as a “great confidence booster” for the team after the tough loss to West Genesee.
Although most players on the team see the state championship as their final goal, Assistant Coach Jeff Ike reminds the boys that there is much more to accomplish before the team reaches that last game. “Our immediate goal is to win our league, and the next step is winning the sectional championship. If we do that, then we can start to focus on the state tournament,” says Coach Ike. To reach their goal, Coach Archer says that the team needs to continue to focus on improving their communication, both on offense and defense.
After reaching the state championship in 2014, J-DHS was a goal short of defeating Yorktown, a team that will be a top contender for the championship this year as well. “We’d like to get back to that championship again to finish what we started,” says Coach Ike.
This year’s J-DHS team is on track to reach the state tournament again, as last year’s squad was 7-2 at the same point in the season. “We are really going to try our hardest to make it back the state tournament. A great attribute of this year’s team is that they're very gritty. They scratch and claw every second of the game and they never give up no matter the task, in practice or in any of the close games, and that has benefited us tremendously this year,” says Coach Ike.
Although the J-DHS Boys Varsity Lacrosse team has many returning stars from last year’s roster, a new face has made a huge impact to the team in his first season as a varsity player. Freshman midfielder Griffin Cook is already turning heads, with two game-winning shots in the first weeks of the season. “He plays with confidence; he doesn’t play like he’s a freshman,” says Coach Archer. “He works so hard at what he does. He’s young, he’s quiet at practice, he pays attention, and when you tell him to do something, no matter what area of the game it is in, he finds a way to get it done,” adds Coach Ike.
It’s not often that freshman are moved up onto varsity, says Coach Archer. “We do not have many freshman play at the varsity level unless we feel they can definitely help our team. Griffin definitely helps our team,” says Coach Archer.
This far in the season, Cook, who plays primarily midfielder and attack, has a recorded 14 goals, the fourth most on the team. Sophomore attack Ryan Archer has the most with 28. “For a freshman, the amount of goals he has is insane. He will go Division I for sure,” says Swan.
Since he is the youngest player on the varsity team, Cook often is given many jobs to carry out during practice, and has been deemed the “waterboy” by some of the team’s older players. “I always get stuck with all the worst jobs on the team, like bringing the water jug to the bus,” says Cook with a laugh.
Though veteran players of the team call Cook “waterboy,” they still do recognize his significance to the team’s success this year. “He’s a great player and he will definitely help us get a ring on our fingers this year,” says Swan. “Griffin knows when it’s his time to step up at the pivotal moments and has scored some big goals for us this season,” says senior captain and midfielder Ryan Durkin. Despite the fact he is youngest on the team, Cook says that his age and grade don’t affect the way he’s treated by his teammates. “There’s never been a problem before and I’m friends with a lot of the guys off the field,” says Cook. “As long as Griffin is doing his job and scoring goals, his age doesn’t matter,” says Palin.
Cook’s skills on the field shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as he comes from a family well known for lacrosse. Cook’s grandfather is a former starter for Syracuse University, while two of his uncles played Division I lacrosse as well. Cook credits his family with supporting him in his lacrosse goals. Cook was actually first introduced to the sport by his uncle, who gave him his first lacrosse stick at the age of one. Though his father never played lacrosse, after Cook took an interest in the sport, he made the commitment to always practice with his son. “My dad helps me improve a lot because he is always willing to come outside and play catch with me whenever I ask,” says Cook.
Still verbally uncommitted, Cook hopes that lacrosse can help him get into a good college in the future.
After high school lacrosse there is no offseason for Cook, as he also plays both basketball and football. “Basketball helps with my footwork and football helps my muscular strength and endurance,” says Cook. In addition to the extra two sports, Cook plays on various lacrosse teams year round. He’s played for a number of travel lacrosse teams in the past, but currently plays travel for Orange Crush, based out of Central New York.
Though Cook’s contributions to the team shouldn’t be undermined, players and coaches alike insist that reaching the state championship is a “team effort,” according to Durkin. “Every person on the team has the same goal; to win a state championship. Right now, we are all just trying to come together as a team and get a ring on our fingers,” says Swan.