On a chilly, brisk, and windy morning, the three captains stood in front of 29 other members of the Duxbury High boys’ lacrosse squad, their teammates neatly arranged in six rows, the leaders shouting commands before a showcase against Long Island power Garden City.
After their stretching routine, the captains and their comrades congregated into a ferocious mob inside Harvard Stadium Saturday, essentially cross-checking each other to get fired up as the pregame clock wound down.
The trio, attackmen CJ LoConte and Bobby O’Brien , along with defender Jay Walsh, may be lacking in game experience, but this is their team now. They are the onfield leaders for a program that is the two-time defending Division 1 state champion — winners of nine of the last 11 crowns — and a feeder system for Division 1 college programs up and down the East Coast.
This is Duxbury boys’ lacrosse, where nothing is done by accident under the direction of 15-year head coach Chris Sweet .
But this year is a little different from most — there’s some doubt about Duxbury’s ability to again reach the state title game. The Dragons (2-1) graduated a senior class larger than usual, with 17 of the 18 grads playing collegiately, many at Division 1 schools.
The result is this year’s edition of the Green and White being, well, a little green. In true Duxbury fashion, though, the Dragons are reloading — not rebuilding.
“This group waited patiently in the wings,” Sweet said.
“Even though these guys don’t have true game experience, they practiced every day with last year’s players. And trust me, the games are easy compared to practice. So they’re battle-tested in terms of every day at practice.”
The reloading starts in the back, with junior goalie Nick Marrocco, a Georgetown recruit, set to fill the void left by Henry Buonagurio (now at Drexel). Marrocco got off to a good start, shutting out North Quincy, 23-0, in the season-opener March 28.
If Marrocco falters, sophomore Jack Corbett is ready to step in. He has already verbally committed to Harvard.
“Nick’s done a great job,” Sweet said. “He’s made quality stops and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s been playing great. We have two quality goaltenders, so we’re really fortunate.”
The defense is a relatively inexperienced group with a high ceiling. Walsh, who on occasion saw the field late in blowout wins last season, is the anchor, with seniors Marshall McCarthy , John Hurvitz, and George Ward also contributing.
McCarthy, a 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker on the football field last fall, made the transition to defense just three months ago but has impressed teammates and coaches.
Walsh conceded the unit cohesiveness isn’t quite there yet, but that will come in time.
“We’ve got some great athletes,” he said. McCarthy has been “doing really well for us. He’s a big, strong kid. Johnny Hurvitz, he’s another football standout — fastest kid on the team and doesn’t really get beat that often.”
Senior midfielder Jack Sullivan , one of the few holdovers from last year’s squad, will be counted on on offense, and is just one of a number of players the Dragons will look to for scoring.
LoConte said this team has a lot of balance — something past years’ teams didn’t necessarily have — and it could pay off. Bobby O’Brien, his younger brother Trevor, and junior Brendan Burke will all be making significant contributions.
“These guys, for the most part, are unselfish,” Sweet said. “The guy we look to take the shot is the guy that’s open.”
The Dragons will likely take their lumps.
A 10-1 loss to Garden City — widely considered one of the top public school teams in the country — was one. Duxbury could hardly get anything going offensively, with the Trojans winning nearly every draw control creating time-of-possession problems and a stifling defense preventing the Dragons from getting many good looks at the net.
But this is Duxbury boys’ lacrosse, where nothing is done by accident.
“Including the game we played [Saturday] against Garden City,” said Sweet, noting that the matchup better prepares his team for MIAA competition later on.
“That has a huge purpose in what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s simple in that we’ve got a tradition of winning, of getting to the championship game. That’s our big goal — to be playing at Harvard Stadium in June.”
LoConte is confident that Duxbury will be there. Continuing the legacy is a significant motivating factor, so much so that “it’s everything.”
“Our motto on the team is ‘Tradition never graduates,’ so it’s definitely a big thing,” LoConte said.
“I got a bunch of guys [from last year’s team] texting me saying, ‘Keep your head up. You’ll be back here in June, you’ll win a championship on that field in June.’ It’s awesome.
“We’ll be back here in June.”
Cohasset girls push up
The Norwell High girls have long set the standard in the South Shore League, but Cohasset is looking to change that.
Behind first-year coach Kully Reardon, who spent last season as an assistant under MaryEllenO’Neil, the Skippers are off to a 2-0 start, outscoring Sandwich and Abington, 31-8.
“Norwell has been the league leader for so long, but I think we’re going to give them a test,” Reardon said. “We should if we stay playing as a team and not play as individuals.”
Reardon brings a lot of knowledge to the program, having spent more than a decade at Babson, but Cohasset has quite a bit of talent on the field, too, with four Division 1 recruits: senior midfielder Hope Kissick (Florida), junior midfielder Maddie Curley (Boston University), junior defender Molly Fitzgerald (William and Mary), and junior midfielder Kathryn Dunn (Georgetown).
The coach expects big things from Cohasset — which she called “a hotbed” for lacrosse talent — as long as they play together the way they did the first two games.
“Now that they know assists are more important than goals, they see that and see it takes an entire team to bring the ball up the field, and not just one person,” Reardon said. “That’s really resonating with them, and it’s more fun to play like that.”
Ciessau boosts Scituate
Scituate senior attackman Tucker Ciessau netted the 300th point of his career Thursday vs. Whitman-Hanson, a 22-3 Sailor win. The Bellarmine-bound All-American collected four goals and three assists for the second time in as many games to start the season for the Sailors (2-0). He is rapidly approaching 2009 graduate Kyle Crowley’s school record of 323 points.Tim Healey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.