There will come a time when the reality of the situation hits the 14 seniors on Bishop Timon-St. Jude’s boys lacrosse team like a thundering check.
When it happens, and it will, the players will need a moment to catch their breaths. They may feel an unexplained ache. In fact, the Tigers might feel out of sorts.
Only then will they start to understand the finality of the situation they’re in after they play their last game together.
This year will be the end of the road for one of Western New York’s most decorated classes in the sport.
Two-time state Catholic champions. Four-time Monsignor Martin Association playoff champions. Winners of the prestigious North American Lacrosse Invitational in 2013.
Perhaps that’s why the Tigers’ focus is on winning right now. Celebrating another state Catholic championship sure would be a nice way to dull the sadness of their time as teammates coming to an end.
“I don’t think the kids realize how over it is once high school is over,” Tigers coach Mike Burke said after a recent practice. “I don’t think they realize it’s different. It’s a game-changer. You don’t see everybody everyday like you used to. You make new friends in college.”
“We’re real close,” said returning All-Western New York first teamer Connor Fields, a senior and the national record holder for goals in a season with 129 who will attend Albany on a scholarship.
“I never knew any of these kids before I came to Timon. It means a lot (to go out with a championship).”
Timon (8-4) enters the home stretch of the regular season ranked first in Western New York by Laxpower.com. The juggernaut averages more than 15 goals per game, and the crew’s only losses have come against national No. 1 Boys’ Latin, No. 2 Culver Academy of Indiana and two to fifth-ranked Hill Academy of Ontario.
Aside from the obvious, Timon players do have plenty of good reasons for not thinking about the end of the road. One of the reasons is in its own league in the form of St. Joe’s.
The Maruaders have a way of testing the Tigers’ mettle and did so once again earlier this month when they had a lead on Timon with 30 seconds left in regulation. But that refuse-to-lose mentality surfaced in this one for the Tigers, who tied it with 11 seconds left on a Layne Collins goal. Maryland-bound Adam Dimillo won it in overtime for Timon, which lost in controversial fashion the previous season at St. Joe’s – a loss that snapped the Tigers’ 49-game regular season league unbeaten streak.
“We’re trying to be the best we can be and beat every team we play,” said Dimillo, whose 36 goals rank second on the team to Fields’ 72. “Winning is what really counts. You don’t want to lose any games your senior year.”
Sean Hillery is a Division I talent who will hang up his spikes at the end of the season and will likely attend St. Bonaventure instead of the host of lacrosse schools pursuing him. He is an intense leader and one of the best defenders in Western New York. He is one of the reasons the Tigers yield just 8.58 goals per game.
The Monsignor Martin Association has four teams ranked among the top 12 in Western New York. St. Joe’s (9-3) is ranked second, Canisius (8-5) sixth and Nichols (6-8) 12th. Timon hosts Canisius today at 7:30 p.m.
In league play, only St. Joe’s has played Timon close this season.
If the Marauders do find a way to upset the Tigers, junior Pete Masters may play a hand in that. He already has 18 goals (17 more than last season), including a four-goal effort during the 12-11 loss to Timon. Sophomore goalie Eric Deakin is one of the best in the area (save percentage of 63.0 percent, 5.88 goals-against average). Senior defenseman James Bassett will attend Division II Merrimack, while Mark Nasca, Nigel Davis and Myles Young (18 goals) lead the midfield.
Canisius is led by three future college players, including Taylor Sharman (Baldwin Wallace), Joe Pernick (John Carroll) and Andrew Cleary (John Carroll).
Perhaps it’s wise Timon’s seniors really haven’t focused on the end of the road.
“There are no easy games,” Fields said. “We’ve just got to come focused to every game.”