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Concord boys’ lacrosse team faces trial by fire

For the first time in 17 years, the Concord High boys’ lacrosse team is entering a season with a new head coach. Former assistant Jeff Smith took over in the middle of last season after the sudden resignation of Darren Premo, but now Smith has a chance to lead and mold the team from day one.

“Last year was just shooting from the hip, but now I’ve had time to prepare, learn more about coaching and leading a team at the varsity level, and seeing where other programs are at and where we need to go,” Smith said. “So there’s a lot more confidence going in and understanding what we need to do this year.”

Judging by last year’s result, there’s plenty for the Crimson Tide to do. Concord scored just 5.2 goals per game, allowed 12.5 and finished the season 2-13. Smith won’t shy away from these facts or all the hard work his team is facing.

“The kids are very enthusiastic and I think we’ll be able to play at a higher level than we were last year, but we’re still in that growing process and learning a lot as we go,” Smith said. “There are some very seasoned teams in (Division I), and we’re going to give everybody our best shot and we’re not conceding anything, but we have realistic expectations.”

Concord would probably be best served with some easy games to open the season, but the schedule is just the opposite for the Tide. The first four games are against last year’s four semifinalists, starting at Pinkerton Academy in today’s season opener. It doesn’t get easier in games five and six when Concord travels to Division II power Souhegan and then hosts Pinkerton.

“Our hope is that some of these teams overlook us,” Smith said. “We’re that team that maybe you didn’t expect to improve and we can capitalize on that.”

As tough as last season was for the Tide, the team did gain experience together, and that should help move things forward this spring.

“Not many people graduated from last year’s team, so we have a lot of players who have been playing together for at least a year, so I think our chemistry is better and we’re playing better as a result,” senior midfielder Adam Resnick said. “I think our work ethic is great, too. No one really gives up. Maybe we’ll let up a goal here or there, but we won’t let it get to us and we just bounce right back.”

Resnick, a three-year starter, will move from attack to provide the midfield with some more experience and stick skills. He and Austin Erickson, another senior, will lead the Tide’s offensive push from the midfield. Senior Tommy Skafidas will be back in the faceoff circle, where he has made some solid improvements, according to Smith, and he’ll be leading the Tide’s defensive midfield crew.

After a nice varsity debut last year, sophomore Tyler Martel is back on attack for Concord. The same goes for junior Tyler Hatch, who started alongside Martel and Resnick last season. Senior Sean Mamos has returned to the program and will also start at attack to open the schedule.

The in-home defense has looked good for Concord during the preseason. Senior Nick Engel and juniors Kyle Cushman, Tyler Kukla and Sean Larner all gained experience with the long poles last season and figure to be one of the team’s strengths this year. The Tide also has multiple options at long stick midfielder, including senior Sean Woodworth and junior Travis Duhamel.

Sophomore Nick Zavorotny will start in net and try to fill the big shoes of graduated second-team All-State goalie Cam Cassavaugh.

“I played goalie, so I’m well aware of his growth scale and where he’s at,” Smith said. “There’s going to be a lot of learning on the fly against some very talented shooters. Not to make any excuses, but some of those guys are going off to Division I programs on rides, so Nick will do his best and we’ll do what we can to support him, but it’s going to be a trial by fire.”

It won’t be much different for the rest of the Concord team, but the Tide players are willing to undergo that trial and they believe it will make them better.

“We’ve been developing and going through the basics first and then we can work our way up to a level that will rebuild the program,” Resnick said. “We should be much more competitive by the end of the season and I think we’ll be able to play with the best teams in the state.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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