Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Episcopal School of Dallas wins LAX Patriot Cup against state-ranked The Woodlands
UNIVERSITY PARK — When ESD junior Sam Romano committed to one of the nation’s top lacrosse programs before his sophomore season, the days of being an unknown, up-and-coming player were over. Heavily marked on a state-ranked roster, the Syracuse commit manages to have a major impact as he did in ESD’s 10-8 victory over The Woodlands in the Patriot Cup at SMU’s Gerald Ford Stadium.
“All the pressure he gets, you notice how he opens everything up for others,” ESD coach Pat Kennedy said. “Sam, overall, is a good athlete. He can shoot or he can get others good shots. And he’s timely. The last time we played The Woodlands in the state quarterfinals, he scored the last goal just like he did here.”
Romano’s only goal was critical late in the third quarter as he whistled a shot past the goalie’s shoulder for the final two-goal lead. Also state-ranked, The Woodlands had rallied to pull within a goal after falling behind by five. As a private school under SPC rules, ESD has only been practicing for two weeks before its early season showdown in the Patriot Cup, a weekend of college and high school lacrosse which also raises revenue for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Along with teammates Jack Beare (Notre Dame), Richie Loftus (Dartmouth) and Foster Huggins (Loyola University in Maryland) who have signed to play NCAA, Romano is an experienced veteran used to high expectations and trying to get ESD (4-0) back to the Texas High School State Lacrosse championship where its season ended last year in a dramatic overtime loss to rival St. Mark’s.
“We’re a new team in a new year,” Romano said. “We remember last season to use as motivation, but we’re really not looking back. We’re a tight-knit group who have really bought in what is good for the team is good for everyone.”
Romano’s ground-ball skills, speed and passing at midfield helped ESD take a 6-1 lead on The Woodlands as highly regarded freshman Nakeie (Nick-i) Montgomery scored three goals. Montgomery already is considered one of the country’s top Class of 2017 college prospects as defending national champ Duke is among the many colleges already in the recruiting mix.
The Woodlands’ Graham Casey picked up his third goal to pull within, 8-7, but ESD’s experience paid off in the second half. A typically strong finisher, Beare scored a pair of goals along with Loftus and Romano adding the final two. Returning starting sophomore goalie Charlie Sikes also made a much-needed save in the final minutes to cut The Woodlands’ rally short.
Lacrosse is hot in Texas
For Dartmouth’s last game at Vermont last Tuesday, there was shoveled snow on the sidelines. For the return St. Mark’s senior Jeff Perkins, an 81 degree temperature was a reminder of working up a good sweat while playing lacrosse.
“Our last practice (in New Hampshire), I think it was negative degree something,” Perkins said. “We’ve got a lot of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York guys who can’t believe we’re playing in February and it’s 80 degrees.”
Dartmouth freshman defender Justin Harvey of St. Mark’s is the only other Texas player on the roster although there are two players from California. Dartmouth scored multiple goals late to defeat Sacred Heart, 14-10, in a back-and-forth NCAA Division I matchup. Dartmouth lost to Georgetown at the Patriot Cup last year.
Defending D2 state champs beat HP2
The Flower Mound Force, sporting similar colors to the orange of Syracuse and upstate New York native coach Terry Cole, took advantage of its size and experience to defeat Highland Park 2, 13-9. Flower Mound won the THS Lacrosse D2 title last year in the state championship in Plano. Highland Park’s largely upper class varsity is among the top-ranked D1 programs including Jesuit, St. Mark’s, ESD and Coppell.
A fifth-year program, Flower Mound is developing a program to meet stadium and roster make-up requirements to qualify as a Division I program. Flower Mound has more than 60 players in its high school program with youth leagues expanding every season to exemplify the sport’s growth. Of the state’s nearly 80 D1 and D2 programs, almost half are in North Texas.