Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Central Mass Represented Well on ESPN's All State Lacrosse Team

Algonquin senior Davis Kraft does it all for the T-Hawks

By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

This is the first entry into our new "SuitePreps" section that will feature coverage of high school sports and recruiting throughout Massachusetts. Today, editor Joe Parello takes a look at Central Massachusetts and the growing high school lacrosse community in the heart of the Commonwealth.
While the depth of talent is not quite on par with the Boston area yet, the game is growing rapidly, and the quality of play is quickly rising.

While Eastern Massachusetts has emerged as one of the best lacrosse regions in the country, several programs in Central Mass have proven they belong in recent years.

That respect for Central Massachusetts was evident in this week's preseason All State team from ESPN Boston. The team includes five players from Central Mass: Two from defending CMass champion Algonquin, two from up-and-coming power Grafton, and one from St. John's in Shrewsbury.

Tomahawks on the Team

Algonquin has won the last two Central Mass titles and appeared in the last two Division II state championship games. It goes without saying that the Tomahawks are now the premier program in Central Mass, and they will lean heavily on a pair of seniors to fight off Grafton and other talented teams for another Central Mass crown.

Davis Kraft, senior midfielder: Kraft burst onto the scene as a clutch-scoring sophomore in 2011, ripping in four goals when the "Cardiac Kid" Tomahawks edged St. John's in the Central Mass title game.

Last season, Kraft emerged as one of the most balanced players in the entire state, scoring 23 goals and chipping in 13 assists, while also providing veteran leadership and starting set plays for the T-Hawks.

Giles Ober, senior goaltender: Ober has only one year of starting experience between the pipes, but the T-Hawk goalie played like a seasoned vet in 2012. Ober led Mid Wach A with only 4.38 goals allowed last season, and was excellent starting the break for Algonquin's transition offense.

Ober also made his presence known in the playoffs, holding high-scoring Grafton to single-digit points, and limiting Western Mass champion Minnechaug to only six goals in the state semifinal.

Indians on the Team

Speaking of high-scoring Grafton, the Indians put a pair of dynamic seniors onto the team, and hope that their combined scoring punch can push them past Algonquin in the Central Mass playoffs. Grafton came up just short in last year's CMass final, but proved they were a force to be reckoned with, averaging a region best 14.2 goals per game, while surrendering just under 5 goal a game.

Tyler Reilly, senior attackman: Reilly was named an All American last season after leading Central Mass in scoring with an astonishing 130 points (74G, 56A). With excellent speed and stick skills, Reilly is every bit as lethal creating for his teammates as he is attacking the cage.

In last year's CMass final, Reilly helped lead the Indians to a 7-6 halftime lead over Algonquin, but then Grafton never found its groove offensively in the second half. Look for Reilly to add to his already school record in points this year, but a CMass title will be the ultimate goal.

Bryan Rotatori, senior midfielder:
Reilly's partner in crime, and the son of coach Alan Rotatori, is fellow All American Bryan Rotatori. Like Kraft, there really isn't much the younger Rotatori doesn't do for his team. Though he finished second in the region in scoring behind Reilly with 102 points (60G, 42A), numbers don't tell the whole story.

Rotatori is also one of the region's premier face-off specialists, and he begins most set plays for the Indians. While he isn't exactly and imposing figure, Rotatori also gets where he needs to on the field with impressive strength and body control.

The Lone Pioneer

St. John's has long been a lacrosse power in Central Mass, so you'll pardon the Pioneers if they weren't satisfied with being the region's third-best team last season. The Pioneers lost a 7-6 heart breaker to top-seeded Algonquin in the CMass semifinals, and couldn't quite slow down the Indians in an 11-8 loss to Grafton earlier in the year. Still, nobody is sleeping on St. John's, as the Pioneers return one of the best all around athletes in Central Mass.

Drew Smiley, junior attackman: Smiley is probably better known for his exploits on the football field. The tall and athletic signal caller smashed the Central Mass single season passing record this past season, and became the first player in the region's history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same year.

All that being said, Smiley can play some lacrosse as well.

Smiley finished 2012 second on the Pioneers' scoring list, behind only current Syracuse player Jeff Desko. Smiley's 54 points (33G, 21A) made him a more than reliable second option for the Pioneers, but the scoring load will be placed squarely on his shoulders this season. If the Pioneers are able to challenge the T-Hawks and Indians, it will be because Smiley took his game to another level in 2013.