Yes, you will notice something new this season! A name sponsor! Florida Lacrosse Showcase joins the fold. To be fair to them, I’m still the only one choosing the schools so aim your vindictiveness to me, not the Showcase!
We all are still grieving and learning to cope with the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas and many of the readers know I’ve put some thoughts in print about it and I’ll be adding one more thing to it further along in the preview, but I am going to try to give the readers some respite here and focus mainly on what is coming up, starting tomorrow.
So let’s start with something that will let us get into the mood for a little lacrosse!
Heck, it’s been a tough week, let’s do another one, from the high school scene around the country
Maybe an enterprising video savant could do one up of Florida kids? I’ll certainly publish it! (Of course, please be mature about the music content . . . )
Okay, first, the normal housekeeping. Although some of this actually did not go into law yet . . .
Senior Writer Lee Roggenburg is out with his first annual preseason Top 25 (since it was a Top 10 the first year and Top 20 the last 4) for Florida High School teams. In keeping with the fine new legal tradition of modern society it should be noted the opinions expressed are solely of the author and not the senior management, board of directors, general ledger staff, and all other associated FLN owners and employees. So all digs, barbs, outright annoyances and curt, snarky remarks need to be directed at Lee personally, not the site. Lee’s direct cell phone number is not listed specifically for this purpose but he can be reached at email@example.com. We only ask that physical threats and comments on his manhood directed at Lee be limited to 2 per day as that is all his public defender can handle. Lee, as always, is a big believer in pacifism when it personally impacts him.
And most importantly, past performance is no guarantee of future results . . .
And to include our new rules (which are still considered new rules since they are not officially in place yet) . . . I have come up with a way to comply with the BICE . . . Best Interest Contract Exemption . . . for our readers! Those who are heavy readers need to sign up for our Fee-Based reading plan, which will charge you a fixed rate based on last year’s number of words read. Those of you who only check in a few times each week . . . well, first of all, SHAME ON YOU . . . and you will be able to sign up for our Commission-based reading plan, where we will charge you $0.01 for every line you read. Thanks to Wikileaks we are able to use the newest available software to count eyeballs through our new Skype feature to come up with a billed amount.
Of course none of this is true but stay tuned to see if the regulators get their way . . .
Thankfully, Facebook, Google, and many other social media sites have not caught on to the fact I am to the right of center and have not censored me yet in my lacrosse opinions, but then again it’s likely I’m a lot further down the food chain than just about everyone anywhere so why bother on their part?
Now, let’s review last season, starting with the 2017 Preseason Poll
#1A – St, Thomas Aquinas – I always give the defending champs the top spot until they are beaten.
#1B – Ponte Vedra – because I pick them to win it all
#3 – Oxbridge Academy – last year’s playoff run was no fluke. Could be the best matchup in the finals to beat PV if it came down to it
#4 – Saint Andrew’s – loses a lot but really learned how to play together last year and that goes a long way
#5 – Lake Highland Prep – I’m really worried this might be too high but the next few weeks will tell me more
#6 – Jupiter – Last season I started them way too low, not making that mistake this year
#7 – Stoneman Douglas – EVERYONE I talked to in the offseason told me they will be really good
#8 – Benjamin – will have to see how they handle the adversity
#9 – Maclay – once again, can you possibly schedule a southern weekend next year so I can really tell?
#10 – HB Plant – lost some key pieces, will have to prove they can stay here. Schedule is a little light so record should be pretty good.
#11 – Creekside – maybe too high but sneaky good season last year. 3 goal loss to PV was PV’s closest game. Same district as PV keeps them a little under the radar
#12 – Gulliver Prep – Only losses last year were to teams above them in this poll
#13 – Lake Mary – very competitive last year but just didn’t win the tougher games. Tough schedule again this year will get them ready
#14 – Nease – same issue as Creekside. PV’s district will mask how they do
#15 – Belen Jesuit – really nice story from last year. Will have a really good record again but SA is not on the schedule this season so they need to win all the games they are supposed to
#16 – Oak Hall – got out of district but also couldn’t quite compete with the best teams on the schedule
#17 – Newsome – solid record last year but the schedule is soft so I can’t really do better than this
#18 – Gulf Coast – could be last year’s version of Belen Jesuit . . . ready to step up but the softer schedule keeps them down here
#19 – West Orange – transfers can lead them up
#20 – District 23 – I can’t figure this one out yet but someone will be there. Yesterday’s results make this tough to think . . . Oxbridge slammed Jensen Beach and Martin County routed Spanish River on the road. Maybe Martin County earns that first slot.
Saint Edward’s – have to mention them because with that beefed up schedule it will be hard to rank them unless they take some of them down
Boca Raton – mentioning them because while they will likely be around .500 it is a team of sophomores and freshman and next year they’ll start to make some noise . . . and don’t be surprised if they get a major win this season either
Barron Collier – maybe one more good run in them
Montverde Academy – unlike IMG they joined a District and they are certainly looking to make some noise
Melbourne Central Catholic – another really good season last year but a little short of Top 20 consideration
Saint John Paul II – Andy Bolger always plays a tough schedule. Last year it caught up to him . . . can some of those losses be turned around? Perennial Top 20 program in the past.
Buchholz – can the growth in the program continue?
Pine Crest – Coach Harris again put up a nice winning record but didn’t get the big win
Berkley Prep – another good season but not quite there yet, can they get a big win?
That’s really not all that bad.
Obviously some of the teams in the poll didn’t quite play up to snuff but no horror stories. The ‘also considered’ pretty much covers most of the teams that played well but didn’t quite make the grade. I did spell Berkeley wrong but corrected it for this article. Missed out on Hagerty and American Heritage/Plantation and Tampa Jesuit. Probably a strong ‘B’ should be the grade.
I put “A Strong B” into the YouTube search box but the only thing I came up with was a Russian channel, and there’s no point in opening myself up to charges of colluding with them . . . when I put it into Google the first results were about computer coding and the difference between <strong> and <b> . . . and that’s more boring to me than cricket . . .
Of course, the Finals prediction of Ponte Vedra and Jupiter didn’t come to pass but I did get the other two slots right for the Final Four and it wasn’t a huge leap to all four. A one-goal loss to Benjamin in the District final likely kept Jupiter out of the Final Four and of course PV’s loss to Lake Mary was a stunner.
So I get a ‘C’ for the Final Four and that might be generous.
For those who need a little reminder of the great event last year
And this one from the Palm Beach County Sports Commission really captured the weekend’s events well
And here’s how I ended last year with the Final Media Poll of the Year
Here It Is . . . The Final FLN Media Poll for the 2017 Season!
I decided to go with a Top 25 this year due to . . .
A) There’s more than 20 teams that deserve the recognition
B) To suck up even further to the lax community . . . ?
By the way, I know some of this will scratch some heads but with all the A beat B who beat C who lost to A type games this season I am going as much with my eye test as with power rankings and comparative results . . . so no cards and letters wondering why . . .
Just because a team misses the Final Four doesn’t mean I will not look at the entire season’s body of work and this poll reflects that. Realistically I could have clustered teams even more than the 2 ties. Lake Mary, Bishop Moore, SA and Oxbridge are all close together, as are Benjamin, PV and Jupiter. The only easy one is STA.
#1 – St. Thomas Aquinas
#2 – Benjamin
#3 – Ponte Vedra
#4 – Jupiter
#5 – Lake Highland Prep
#6 – Lake Mary
#7 – Bishop Moore
#8 – Oxbridge
#9 – Saint Andrew’s
#10 – Barron Collier
#11 – Stoneman Douglas
#12 – Hagerty
#13 – Saint Edward’s
#14 – Tampa Jesuit
#15 – Bolles
#16 – Oak Hall
#17 – West Orange
#18 – Berkeley Prep
#19 – Nease
#20 – Pine Crest
#21(t) Belen Jesuit
#21 (t) Gulliver Prep
#23 – Newsome
#24 – American Heritage/Plantation
#25 (t) – Riverview-Sarasota and Maclay
Just outside the Top 25
Saint John Paul II
Again, congratulations to the St. Thomas Raiders and the Bishop Moore Hornets for their state titles!
Just 260 days to go . . .
Author’s Note: 260 is now ONE DAY . . . President’s Day seems to be a great way to kick off my annual goal of seeing more and more attendance at the games!
But if you go . . . there’s one thing to remember from the events in Parkland . . .
Yelling at officials over a missed push or whether a late hit was a penalty, or anything else, kind of pales right now.
If you are tempted to yell out, keep it in, for the kids’ sake.
Root for you team, remember it’s still a high school game, and remember your sportsmanship.
Set the example this year.
Time for an Intermission . . . Interlude . . . Run to the refrigerator time
Nice job Carc! “What about Brady? What position could he play?” . . . “ehh . . . put him in goal . . . he can’t run and he can’t dodge” – Gold!
Something I am recycling from last year
Attendance at High School Games
Last season I made an effort to encourage attendance at high school games and I’d like to put that into overdrive this year.
So here we need to take the bull by the horns and make it happen ourselves, as a lacrosse community. We all know how attractive this game is to watch when well played and the next step is to grab that young kid who DOES NOT PLAY LACROSSE and encourage them to go to the high school games.
A few years ago it was common to see young kids with sticks and balls playing around during the halftime. I’m seeing that less and less. Those kids have grown up and have not been replaced at the games.
I want everyone who is a fan to make a pledge today . . .
Attend three games with one of your child’s friends who does not play. Take them to the game. Talk to them about what you like about the sport.
Make them a fan.
High Schools, I mentioned in the 2nd Season Update let the young kids in for free.
I want to see the crowds and I want to see them ALL OVER.
SELL the game. Constantly. To Friends and Neighbors.
It will have a lasting effect over time.
But you have to start NOW.
Kids and Parents, Please Take Heart To This
We are blessed with so many great players down here.
But one thing that has been going on awhile down here is starting to catch up with us.
Way too many of our kids go away to school and end up coming right back a year later. Some didn’t even make it a full year.
Which means that the process they used to investigate the school they committed to was not rigorous enough.
I can’t say this ENOUGH.
Choose the SCHOOL, not the LACROSSE PROGRAM.
Assume you will never play one minute and make the choice that way.
It’s not brain science, it’s about understanding that your college choice is THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE you make up until this point in your life.
I went to college in 1976. No internet, no virtual reality videos, no email back and forth.
Peterson’s Guide to Choosing A College, or whatever the title was . . . in that quaint old institution, the library. I don’t even remember if you could buy that book in a book store.
And it seems I was able to make a better decision than a number of top lacrosse players down here.
I’m not naming names.
But you have to understand that COLLEGE COACHES ARE PAYING ATTENTION to our attrition rate.
And if you don’t think that is starting to get factored into their recruiting thinking you are mistaken.
I grew up in a town on Long Island where many of the new families that moved in were ones where the father was the first person from their family to go to college. When it came time for many of us to choose our school the fallback position was ‘choose the most prestigious school you get into’. It almost was for the bragging rights among the families in the neighborhood. I still can remember some of those discussions when families got together (that happened a lot more back then than it does now). That wasn’t very smart back then and you might have ended up going to the school that didn’t fit you very well. Stress of staying in school at a place that was possibly over your head was a problem for some. Now, I am seeing the lacrosse equivalent of that at times down here. Go to the biggest lacrosse name school that recruits you, even if they are just looking for some practice bodies.
Yes, that does happen, even if the coach doesn’t necessarily think you are ever going to play. That gets even worse if they are recruiting you because they figure you don’t need a scholarship. Last year Paul Davis published a first hand recollection and timely warning of this tendency.
Choose the SCHOOL, not the LACROSSE PROGRAM.
Unfortunately I found out that Blue Oyster Cult is playing Mizner Park in downtown Boca . . . on Saturday, May 12th at 6:00pm. With Eddie Money and Foghat.
The same night that Boca Raton High will be hosting the FHSAA Championship games.
So this is as close as I get to see Hobart’s Eric Bloom in concert again . . . for this tour
The story of how Eric got that gig has Hobart written all over it . . . good, got my Statesman plug in for the article!
Okay, on to Boca High and the Final Four
Last year we had a big upset in the Northeast, Districts 1-8, as Lake Mary rallied from a 6-1 deficit to overcome Ponte Vedra in the Round of 16 to make it to Jupiter.
We had a scintillating Round of 16 game in the Central as Lake Highland rallied in the last minute to get to, and win in OT, that matchup with Bishop Moore and they found a way to get past Lake Mary in the state semis.
In the Southwest/Treasure section, Benjamin again snuck past Jupiter in the District and went to the semifinals, beating a solid St. Edward’s and Barron Collier squads before falling short again against St. Thomas.
In the Southeast, once again Oxbridge took down Saint Andrew’s in the first round and then St. Thomas played a lights out defensive game to take down the Thunderwolves (another year has passed and AGAIN no one has come up with a true definition of what a Thunderwolve is) on their way to Jupiter.
Of course, STA ended up again taking home the championship as they pulled away late from LHP.
Coaching changes have cropped up at many schools.
Jupiter, Benjamin, Lake Highland
That’s three big time changes
And it will likely affect Jupiter the least
Hence part of my predictions
I suspect Ponte Vedra will rebound this year. Two big transfers and Lake Mary lost a lot. Ponte Vedra did lose talent too, but has more in the pipeline this year than the Rams. No one else right now looks ready to take this spot, although I see Oak Hall, Bolles and Nease really starting to gain. Of those two Oak Hall gets a little better shot this year due to their senior class and their desire to avenge the district final upset.
So pencil Ponte Vedra in for this slot.
In the Central it gets really interesting. LHP really dodged the proverbial bullets last year and this is the year where the hunters are finally going to get their shot. I saw Bishop Moore’s great road win over Benjamin and the last mountain top to scale is getting past LHP, and I think this is the year they can do so. The Tampa area has also taken major steps but Berkeley Prep had a bad outing against LHP and I have to see something more to feel they can challenge the LHP/Bishop Moore level. Hagerty had a great year and wants to establish consistency but the schedule makes it harder to see them going through.
I think this is Bishop Moore’s year and will set them up for the semi matchup with PV. The two teams do meet in the regular season and sometimes a team will play possum in this situation. March 17th if you are in the Orlando area.
In the Southeast/Treasure Coast it will likely be about 4 schools. The Jupiter/Benjamin survivor, St. Edward’s and Barron Collier. We’ll be watching Cardinal Mooney and Riverside-Sarasota too to see if they continue to improve but one of them will need to prove they can beat BC, which Riverside came close to last year. Hard to see Jupiter this year not gaining revenge against their district rival. They are loaded, played a lot of underclassmen last year, and Benjamin lost a lot. St. Edward’s is the sleeper pick from this region as Coach Doug Bailey has quietly gone about his business and built a consistent program lately.
So let’s go with Jupiter to get to Boca, ironically after hosting the Final Four the last two years.
In the Southeast we get our usual ‘World Cup Group of Death’ level of competition. It’s too soon for a school like American-Heritage Plantation to be able to take their district given that the initials STA also reside there but Coach Chad Moore is building a really good program there. Saint Andrew’s will face a stiff test in Saint John Paul this year. Oxbridge pretty much is on autopilot in district this year. Gulliver and Belen should meet again in the Round of 16. And Stoneman will really have to dig deep down. Pine Crest and Cardinal Gibbons are already tough competition this year and how the Eagles react is going to be a season-long story to follow.
STA returns a lot of talent, but is a little light up front. So many top graduates the last two years will test them on offense more than anywhere else. If there is a sleeper issue for the playoffs it might be if STA gets held down on that end.
This is such a c*** shoot to predict. STA is still the favorite going in but Oxbridge and SA might be closer this year.
I’ll still go with the defending champs but boy I am not comfortable about it.
Potential Spoilers to the Final Four party
The Tampa survivor
SA, Benjamin and Oxbridge don’t count as underdogs
So we get down to . . .
Ponte Vedra vs Bishop Moore and Jupiter vs STA
Would it surprise anyone if both those games went to OT?
But first, from last year
Last year I predicted a Ponte Vedra-Jupiter final and that didn’t come close to happening.
The strange thing is that I’m inclined to predict it again.
And potentially look foolish AGAIN.
What made STA so tough the last two years was the mental strength their upperclassmen were able to convey and lead to their team mates. It will again take a lot of it to three-peat. I believe it is now FORTY straight wins over Florida teams so it will be interesting to see what happens if a Florida school takes an early season win. STA is playing some big time non-Florida competition, as are many other Florida schools this season and it could take a toll over the season. Jupiter is playing their normal Florida gauntlet and they meet STA on March 29th in the regular season too.
So we could easily have regular season re-matches in the Final Four and that could also factor into who wins the whole thing.
So, let’s look foolish a little again and pick against STA in the semifinals.
I’ll take Ponte Vedra over Bishop Moore because PV has played more big games the last few years and has that experience.
Due to Jupiter’s district losses the last two years their roster does not have much FHSAA experience but since they play STA each year there will be no deer in a headlight feel to that game for them. I’ll go with them finally reaching their first FHSAA championship.
And guess what! Jupiter and Ponte Vedra are ALSO scheduled to play in the regular season this year!
Frankly, and this is a cop out . . . picking the winner on this one is pretty much impossible at this point. One mistake I made on the Inside Lacrosse podcast last season was to stick to my guns even though there was enough info out there to make an adjustment in my predictions and I will learn from that this year.
I’m going to go with Ponte Vedra to win it all TO START, but I’ll certainly be revisiting that thought as the season goes on . . .
Either way it’s going to be a great playoff.
And now, before the unveiling of the Florida Lacrosse Showcase Preseason Media Top 25 I need one more intro . . .
And here it is!
The Florida Lacrosse Showcase High School Top 25 for the Preseason!
#1A – St. Thomas Aquinas – the champs get the top spot until they lose it
#1B – Stonemen Douglas – no, they don’t actually have the horses for this but getting through last week is as big an accomplishment as anyone else will face this season. We’ll worry about their true ranking after they start playing
#3 – Ponte Vedra – reloading for a run back to what they missed last year
#4 – Jupiter – underclassmen got their training under fire last season, will they finally get to the summit?
#5 – Bishop Moore – expectations are finally high, can they cope with it
#6 – Oxbridge – another big first round playoff win
#7 – Benjamin – tough to start higher due to the graduations but always seems to make me look penurious
#8 – Saint Andrew’s – maybe the lack of expectations from all of us might work in their favor this year. A complete mystery to me.
#9 – Lake Highland Prep – surprise run to the finals but Coach Vander Meulen has huge shoes to fill
#10 – Lake Mary – the program is starting to feel Top 10 every year
#11 – Oak Hall – another team that needs to prove something this year, the talent is certainly there
#12 – Saint Edward’s – quietly building for the long run
#13 – Berkeley Prep – great season last year but a bit of a coaching hiccup in the offseason will be possibly an issue
#14 – Tampa Jesuit – a great regular season and a first round district dud.
#15 – Bolles – another sneaky good year. Final eight run and took Lake Mary down to the wire
#16 – Hagerty – great regular season but schedule starts them here
#17 – Newsome – heck of a year, another that needs to up the schedule
#18 – Nease – another sneaky good team, with last year’s biggest surprise with the Jupiter road win. Tough district foe make it’s hard to place higher to start.
#19 – West Orange – another team that has to get a better schedule
#20 – Barron Collier – lost a lot but has been solid for years
#21 – Pine Crest – I’m hearing others tell me they are ready to reassert themselves
#22 (t) – Gulliver Prep – throw a blanket over the next two
#22 (t) – Belen Jesuit – covered by the above blanket
#24 – Saint John Paul II – another one that a number of coaches are talking up to me
#25 – Riverview-Sarasota – get’s the nod over Cardinal Mooney due to last year’s results
Just outside the Top 25