Sporting T-shirt practice jerseys and shorts during a cold and breezy practice session one afternoon last week, the Marblehead High boys’ lacrosse team was thoroughly enjoying its newly installed turf field.
It marked the earliest date that coach John Wilkens’s club has ever been outdoors before the start of the season.
For the Magicians, that is a huge advantage.
And so too is the presence of Brooks Tyrrell, a take-charge player with both his physical talent and verbal leadership.
The 6-foot, 180-pound junior midfielder has already verbally committed to play lacrosse at the University of Notre Dame after he enrolls at the school in the fall of 2015.
“We’re psyched,” Wilkens said of Tyrrell’s presence on the team. “He’s got all the ingredients that you look for in a kid. He doesn’t like to lose, he takes it to the next level, and he can really elevate everyone’s game.”
Beverly High coach John Pynchon has called Tyrrell one of the “higher-profile players from a North Shore public school in a long time.”
Tyrrell, a three-year starter who tallied 20 goals and 16 assists last season despite being sidelined in the middle of the campaign with a broken hand, uses his lightning-quick first step and high lacrosse IQ to separate from defenders.
He showed those same skills on the football field last fall when he was the Northeastern Conference MVP after rushing for 1,900-plus yards and scoring 27 total touchdowns.
On the lacrosse field, he utilizes the same instincts he does as running back, running downhill and dodging foes. His vision is also crucial.
“My speed is what got me recruited, but Notre Dame loved my toughness and anger in my play,” said Tyrrell, whose football highlight reel also weighed into Notre Dame’s decision to offer a scholarship.
After competing in multiple lacrosse tournaments and showcases around the country with his Top Gun travel team last summer, Tyrrell caught the eye of Notre Dame coaches and raised the interest of other programs.
An early-September visit to South Bend, Ind., was all it took for Tyrrell to make his decision.
“My personality couldn’t have fallen into a better place,” Tyrrell said. “It’s a gift from God.”
But he still has a long way to go before donning the Fighting Irish’s shining gold helmet. He has two more seasons of high school lacrosse.
“It puts more pressure on me,” Tyrrell said of his plans to play for the Atlantic Coast Conference program. “It’s more of a drive; there’s no such thing as sitting back and relaxing now.
His work ethic is unquestionable. In the winter, his only offseason, Tyrrell dedicates weeks of rigorous one-on-one training to help fine-tune his offensive skills.
After every practice, the helmet and pads do not come off until he is done taking extra rounds of shots at the net with his teammates.
“He does a lot of stuff on his own,” Wilkens said of Tyrrell. “He’s got to make everybody around him better, and that’s how he leads, by example.”
There’s no lack of leadership or confidence in his game either.
“I want the ball in my hands, and my teammates know that as well; they trust me,” Tyrrell said. “I need to be as loud as anyone needs to be, and get on people if they’re making mistakes — it’s kind of my personality.”
Tyrrell headlines a Magician squad looking to build off a successful 17-4 season that ended in the Division 2 quarterfinals last spring.
Marblehead graduated two starting midfielders in Ian Maag and Zac Cuzner, both all-conference first team all-stars.
But junior goalie Nathan Maselek, a three-year starter who is the backbone of the team, according to Wilkens, and defensemen Liam Gillis and Crandall Maxwell, both senior captains, also return.
Gillis and Maxwell, along with fellow captain Dean Fader, a senior attack, have played lacrosse together since second grade, and football the past seven seasons.
“We’re trying to put Marblehead on the map, and I think we have over last couple of years,” said the 6-foot Maxwell.
The 5-10 Fader said he believes that Marblehead has a false reputation of being “soft,” and the league “better watch out.”
“We fly under the radar and no one expects a lot from us,” said the 6-foot Gillis. “It just adds to that drive; makes you work a little harder.”
“They know what it takes and they enjoy playing for each other,” Wilkens said of his seniors.
“They bring a wealth of experience, and that’s the key to a successful team.”
Asked which team the Magicians take the most pride in facing, the senior captains all unanimously answered without hesitation: Beverly. The conference rival is consistently favored in Division 2 year in and year out.
In their meeting a year ago at midseason, a tussle broke out as the Magicians earned their first win over Beverly since 2009.
“Every sport is like looking in the mirror with them,” said Gillis. “It’s always us and them.”
While an old-fashioned rivalry adds a fun fuel to his team’s journey, Wilkens said he has bigger aspirations in sight. He wants to win a state title, and he knows what it will take to get over that hump.
“Focus and hunger,” Wilkens said. “That’s it.”