Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Similar stories, different results for Hornets, Coyotes

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Damascus’ Brian Shephard (right) and Clarksburg’s Michael Dixon mix it up Thursday during the first round of the 3A-2A West Region playoffs. Damascus won, 11-3, and went on to beat Seneca Valley, 8-7, in the quarterfinals.
The first round of the 3A-2A West Region boys lacrosse playoffs featured two teams at a vastly superior place than they were a year ago. In 2007, both teams finished with winning percentages below .500 — this spring, neither did.

But where Damascus is right now, Clarksburg hopes to soon be.

The 11-3 Swarmin’ Hornets win on Thursday night at home was not entirely unexpected. After years of mediocrity, a new coaching staff — including first-year head coach Kevin Piroozmand, a 2001 Seneca Valley grad, a team Damascus beat Saturday in the quarterfinals, 8-7 — has ushered in a new era at Damascus. This year, it’s been led by a balanced attack, one in which anyone on the offensive front line is capable of carrying the offense.

This was at its most evident against the Coyotes (7-7 record). Eight players netted goals in the opening-round victory — which became the team’s modus operandi in 2008. Piroozmand said that between six and seven players are at nearly identical scoring figures for the season.

‘‘We were pretty crummy the last two years,” said Damascus attackman Brian Shepard, on a team that averaged just six victories in consecutive seasons. ‘‘Honestly, having coaches not a lot older than us that have played high-school lacrosse has made it a lot easier.”

Though there is no focal point to Damascus’ offense, Shepard played perhaps the most integral role on Thursday, scoring the first two goals of the game and completing the hat trick early in the fourth quarter. Attackman Erick Hinkle added two tallies and a brilliant first-quarter assist, in which he was blasted by a Coyote defender just after finding Shepard wide open a few feet from goal.

Sean Latourneau, Elias Mavromatis, Cody Lister, Brian Fowle, Danny Lattman and Brian Yost also added tallies for the Hornets. The defense was just as stellar, especially goalkeeper Erick McCoy, who stopped 10 shots.

The playoff victories buoyed Damascus (10-4 record) into the regional semifinals on Tuesday at top-seeded Walkersville, a game that ended too late to be included in this edition.

‘‘If you look at our stat sheet, you’ll see that it’s spread out across the board — I think that’s key,” said Piroozmand. ‘‘We’re much more settled with the ball and we’re much more patient this year.”

While the Coyotes’ season ended in their playoff opener, 2008 was nothing but promising for the second-year varsity team. It was a roster with just six seniors versus 23 underclassmen, but Clarksburg managed to finish the regular season with a winning record.

It was an explosive offense that made the Coyotes so improved this season — the team logged 16 goals in four different games. Led by attackman Charlie Lindoerfer, one of the team’s few senior starters who registered team highs with 42 goals and 110 ground balls, they outscored county 3A⁄2A⁄1A Division rivals, 94-40.

And almost all of their weapons come back. A slew of sophomores return on what could be a dominant team for the next two years. Zach Hills (32 goals), Bryce Apple (22), Brent Kidwell (16) showed outstanding potential for second-year players, as did goalkeeper Joey Kelly (60.3 save percentage).

‘‘You know, Damascus is one of the best teams in transition in the county, and I thought we actually did a pretty good job against it,” said Clarksburg head coach Curtiss Belcher. ‘‘The seniors get a lot of credit for the winning season. We weren’t a good team last year. The guys could have folded a year ago but they didn’t. I think we took the next step to beginning a winning program.”