Crabs make it a three-peat in Vail
VAIL, Colorado ” The familiar chant started as the final seconds wound down Wednesday. It continued as the Baltimore team posed for a team picture with every family member seemingly present with a camera.
And it erupted again when the Baltimore players accepted the championship trophy at Ford Park.
“Crabs, Crabs, Crabs.”
Each year, it’s new cast of characters in Baltimore blue and gold, and for the third year in a row, the Crabs locked their claws onto a boys high school Vail Lacrosse Shootout title. Tuesday, Baltimore broke open a close 6-5 game at halftime against the Colorado Favorites and cruised to a 13-6 win.
“It’s great just to represent the area,” Crabs midfielder Peter Smyth, of the Baltimore/Washington D.C. all-star team. “Last year, I had bunch of buddies who came out here and played. They said it was a great time.”
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“This is my first tournament with the Crabs, but coming out here, we came out wanting to win,” tournament MVP Jake Fradkin said. “We came through.”
After beating each other up during the high school season in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association or in nonconference play in between the two cities, the Crabs come out to Vail for the Shootout. It’s fun, but there seems to be a legacy to protect.
“This is sweet,” Crabs coach Chris Malone said. “I think when you’ve won it here for the last two years, coming out here for the third time, there’s a little more added pressure. You’ve got the alums who’ve played in the past, who’ve won, and they’re cheering you on. You’ve got the younger kids who are in high school cheering for you now. There’s a lot of pressure. These guys played well all week and really came together as a team.”
For the Favorites, who also played under the appellation of Victorious Secret, it was a tough way to end an otherwise successful week. Having been incorrectly dubbed as castoffs from Team Colorado, which took third Wednesday, the Favorites showed that lacrosse is on the rise in the Centennial State.
“I think Colorado lacrosse has come so far in the past few years,” Favorites coach Jack Giancola said. “I’ve always said our best players can play with their best players any time anywhere. That’s been evidenced this year.”
But when push came to shove, Baltimore won out. The first half ended with Colorado killing off 1:30 of penalty time and the Favorites trailing, 6-5. It was a combination of stellar defense and a great transition game from the Crabs and poor ball-handling by the Favorites that led to a Baltimore landslide in the final 24 minutes.
“I think we played smart,” Malone said. “On the offensive end, we had some possessions (in the first half) we threw away in the first 10-15 seconds of having the ball, and in the second half, we had it for a minute and scored.
“We also started sliding a little different. We were going to make them beat us with their left hand. We didn’t feel like they had too many guys out there in the midfield who could beat us left-handed. I think this helped us.”
Baltimore’s Michael Grossman scored with 8:22 left in the third, and Colorado’s Ryan Link answered three minutes later. From then on, the Crabs took over.
Alex Capretta and Grossman struck to put the Crabs ahead, 9-6. In the fourth, the onslaught continued with Jake Willertz twice, Eric Keppler and Capretta again. The Crabs seemed to capitalize on every small mistake Colorado made.
“It all started with M.J. Leonard in goal and the defense,” Smyth said. “Once we started making stops on defense, we just settled the ball on offense 6-on-6.”
Both teams were conglomerations of their high schools back home. Colorado at times looked like Cherry Creek’s varsity team with some players from Regis, Kent Denver and Mullen sprinkled in for good measure.
The Crabs represented the MIAA and the nation’s capital’s best.
“I remember when I was playing it was always fun playing with guys you faced all year,” Malone said. “But as a coach, it’s a different challenge. Now you have a couple guys with different roles. They have to want to do those roles. These guys were willing to do whatever it took.”
While the current Crabs will scatter all over the country to play for college programs, Baltimore will be back in 2009 for an attempt at a four-peat.
“I don’t know if I want that job,” Malone joked.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.