Monday, June 26, 2017

Mass High School Rivals and UMass Teammates, Izzo & Fahey Reunite on Boston Cannons

James Fahey in action for the Cannons. Photo by James Cirrone.
By Marisa Ingemi (@Marisa_Ingemi)

Every once in awhile, a pair of high school teammates meet up again, whether it be in college or the professional level. For a pair of Boston Cannons teammates, they’ve had the opportunity to compete against and with each other for nearly a decade.

Ryan Izzo and James Fahey, both key cogs in the Cannons defense, played together at UMass.

But before their college days, the two competed against each other in the MIAA.

Both had different paths to the pro game. Izzo was drafted in the fifth round by the Ohio Machine before being shipped to his hometown team.

“I didn’t even know I was being traded, they made it before I was spoken to,” Izzo said. “It was awesome to get surprising news. To play in this league let alone for the Cannons, I’m very proud of it.”

Fahey, meanwhile, hadn’t viewed professional lacrosse as a career path. It took open tryouts for the Cannons’ longpole defender to get a look.

“Throughout college, I never thought of myself as a player who would get drafted,” Fahey said. “Senior year, I really put together a real good season and coach told me I could play. I wasn’t drafted in 2014, back when it was in preseason, and it was based off junior year and not senior. If it was the way it is now, maybe I would have been drafted.

“Right when he told me I could make it, we were at team dinner before a game at a local place in Amherst and I sat by coach, a conversation came up and he said I could play. I kept that to heart. Once I finished that year I kept playing summer ball and I got sick and tired of the competition, I knew I could play better. I knew there was a higher level I could compete at.”

Izzo also saw how his teammate has grown on the field.

Ryan Izzo feeling right at home back in Massachusetts.  Photo by James Cirrone.
“I’ve been playing with James since 6th grade,” Izzo said. “Wherever he’s playing it seems I’m playing. He’s always been a great athlete. I've seen him get smarter with the game. He had a tough time starting in college and getting to next level, but has made great strides, being selected in open tryouts and one of the key players on the team now.”

Growing up in Boxford, Fahey initially went to Masconomet before transferring to St. John’s Prep in Danvers, en route to aiming for a state title.

“It was the competition level and ability to win a state title,” said Fahey. “Those were two things i really wanted. I want to play (Lincoln-Sudbury), Duxbury, BC High, Xaverian, I wanted to play Billerica, all these powerhouse programs in Mass. Masco is very sheltered in their program, not a lot of their kids were full time lacrosse players or played club ball, a lot didn’t have aspirations to play college lacrosse.

When season time came they took it seriously, but St. Johns Prep played full time summer, indoor in the fall and winter, then captain’s practice in the spring. I tried to get Masco to partake in offseason activities, but some kids would rather go skiing with parents, they didn’t want to play. Friends who went to St. John’s Prep painted a real good picture, and they had an opportunity to win a state championship.

“If I had to compare, it was like being on the Cannons. Going from a level not satisfied with and then being where you want to be.”

Fahey made it to the state title game in his junior season, where Prep picked up a “controversial” loss to Duxbury, and then in his senior year, a “controversial” win over the Dragons.

Izzo, a Walpole grad, was also successful in his quest for a championship.

“All four years were great,” Izzo said. “Going 24-1, losing to St. Johns Prep was our only loss. They also won the championship that year. It was a great opportunity to play with guys who went to college, Davis Butts went to Loyola and won a title, Mikey Connors went to UVM, lots of great players locally, it’s cool to see.”

That loss to St. John’s Prep was a game that Fahey remembers well.

“I remember my junior year we played at Walpole, it was so hot on turf, they had brand new turf, it was their first season on it,” Fahey said. “First hot spring date of the year and Walpole was good. They had a really good faceoff guy, they had Butts and Izzo. Connor Whittemore going to Merrimack, they had a pole going to UVM, their goalie was unbelievable. One of those games you wanted to transfer to St. John’s for, to be a part of.

It was a struggle until the end and we came out on top. Games like that that stick in your mind. I still remember the stick I was using in that game. There was one critical faceoff and my coach told me to go take it, I remember lining up, I might have cheated, but I won.”

The second time around, it Walpole got the better of Fahey’s Eagles.

“I remember getting a good whack on Izzo in that game too,” Fahey said. "I remember going out for the coin flip and ref was giving our guy a hard time for some reason and it was like, 'it’s okay we’ll be roommates in college next year.'”

Izzo also almost had a path that didn’t include pro lacrosse, as he initially intended to play football at the next level.

“I had my achievements in football, and a lot of people thought that would be my sport, and I even though that junior year.,” said Izzo. “I started recruiting process, went to Syracuse, Richmond, BC. While I was there I visited Richmond and played lacrosse, they told me I had potential to play lax at the next level.

“It stuck with me and my high school coach told me the same thing. He told me do whichever one will make me happy. I never got an offer for football, so I went with gut feeling, especially with injuries in football, it isn't the brightest thing, especially being 5-foot-8, you don't know how you’ll fare, so I made the decision based on what my gut told me.”

Before playing in high school, the duo played together for a club team.

“It was the Nor’Easters in 8th grade,” said Fahey. “That was an all star team picked by a father who wanted to put together a team of the best kids in the state and compete against other best teams in (an) age group. That’s how that team started. The majority were best players in our class for college recruitment. A lot of us ended up at UMass as well as Ryan and I.”

Those days of youth were also spent attending Cannons games, where both Izzo and Fahey grew up attending contests before the team had even moved to Harvard Stadium.

“I used to go and watch Sean Morris and all those guys, the Powells too,” said Izzo. “Going back, that was what we all did. Walpole youth teams would go. Now [as a player] you're running around and you see kids now doing that, it’s crazy, it brings you back a little bit.”

After competing at the high school level, both took offers to play at UMass. Izzo and Fahey, along with Cannon captain Will Manny, are the only three Minutemen in Major League Lacrosse.

Now, members of a Cannons team looking to return to the postseason, it isn’t lost on either local product how far they’ve come.

“To be able to make it to this level is a dream in itself, but growing up watching the Cannons' original team is an honor,” Izzo said.

“It’s a dream come true,” Fahey echoed. “Some of those college players end up with the Cannons, you go to Harvard and see those players play, you're going to see the best in the world play the same sport that you play. It's a great experience, you grow up going to Pats and Sox, if your lax you grow up going to the Cannons.”

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