In 2003, my high school participated in our third state title game in four years.
Back then, the winner of the Pittsburgh championship went right to the state title game to play the winner of the Philadelphia title.
Now that the game has grown in the state and become a sanctioned sport, Pittsburgh hasn’t had as much success in the state playoff. A blog post for another time.
We knew that we weren’t going to win the state title in 2002. Ridley had two returning All Americans.
Our scouting report said Brett Moyer, Hofstra defenseman, hadn’t lost a one on one in two years. (No idea why that was included in the scout.)
In 2003, we felt like we had a chance. Happy to argue with any Pittsburgh lacrosse historians about 2003 Mt. Lebanon being the best Pittsburgh team of all time. There were multiple D1 recruits on offense and defense and the second midfield line had two D3 commits and the third middie was preferred walk on at a Patriot League school. No Pittsburgh team has come close to that senior class.
The Uncle Rico is strong in me.
In 2003, we had played Georgetown Prep, Haverford, and Brother Rice. We knew what good lacrosse looked like.
But during warm ups for the state title game, Ridley kids were talking trash to us.
I distinctly recall one of my teammates being unnerved by it. And I was unnerved by him being unnerved because I had never seen him be bothered by anyone in Pittsburgh.
It was very much like when Scott Farkus gets hit in the face more than once.
When they scored early and often in the first quarter, we were on our heels.
We had been bullied literally and figuratively for the first time all year.
It was a treat to play against Georgetown Prep. We beat Haverford. We needed to be perfect against Brother Rice to beat them. None of those teams went out of their way to make us feel less than the way Ridley did.
A recent Saturday Down South article about Alabama’s chances to repeat reminded me of this moment in my lacrosse past.
The post suggested that the reason the Tide may not win the 2018 title may be the same reason they didn’t win the 2016 title.
Alabama has been so dominant this fall that their defense hasn’t been tasked with playing a full game yet.
The same thing happened in 2016. The article suggested that the defense wasn’t conditioned to play a full game and were therefore tired in the title game against Clemson.
Your defense not being prepared to play a full game because you’ve been waxing everyone all year is the definition of a champagne problem.
More broadly though and something every team faces…you don’t know how your team will react until they are in that moment.
Alabama didn’t know how they’d handle playing a full game of defense because they hadn’t.
No one had talked trash to us all year. And then, they did.
We were slow to react and recover.
Should Nick Saban have played his starting defense longer in meaningless regular season games or was taking them out to keep them healthy the right move?
How many people out of a 100 would say your starters should play every minute of every game so they are conditioned to play the full time at the risk of injury?
Is it possible to prepare your team for a first quarter deficit after listening to pregame trash talk?
Is it possible to prepare your team for playing a full season without playing a meaningful game until the last game of the year?
Maybe, despite the defense being gassed, if Saban doesn’t fire Lane Kiffin, Alabama wins anyway.
Maybe if Lane Kiffin wasn’t behaving poorly prior, he doesn’t get fired.
Earlier I talked about not having my team ready to hold a lead in crunch time and how we spent the next fall ball reviewing end of game scenarios.
It will be interesting to see how Alabama handles their inevitable run to the national title assuming they acknowledge the defense not being fresh in 2016.
Can you predict the situation in 2019 that will give your team difficulty and can you organize the strategy to solve that problem in time?
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