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The weather was cold, the effort lethargic. The York Suburban boys’ lacrosse team needed a spark to get the engine humming.
It was last Friday against Eastern York, and the Trojans were in a hole. That’s when Bryce Gavin returned to the lineup.
Gavin suffered a cut on his face on the first play of the game, when his helmet was ripped off. He went to an urgent care not far from the school to get stitches.
He eventually came back to the game, however, late in the third period. And back stormed the Trojans, completing the comeback with a 14-12 victory over the Golden Knights.
Gavin's play was important — he scored a goal in the rally and controlled the faceoff circle — as was his spiritual presence.
“Early in the game, I was cold. I wasn’t feeling well,” said junior goalie Blake Wallace. “Bryce came back, got an adrenaline rush and the whole team got fired up. It was awesome.”
Added freshman attackman Dominic Corto: “We were feeling kind of down in the second quarter. They were on a run. As soon as he came back, he brought the energy back to the team. We wanted to win for him.”
Said junior attackman Riley Purcell: “For the whole team, it was a moment of realization. … When he walked off the field, he wasn’t done. He came back to finish. For us as a team, we wanted to finish it. Big momentum change.”
The win, if nothing else, allowed Suburban to continue building on what has been a productive, if not surprising, season.
The Trojans sit at 5-1 on the year, with their lone defeat coming to YAIAA leader Central York by a 9-7 score. Despite the defeat, the Trojans battled the Panthers tooth and nail that evening.
To some degree, their success goes against conventional wisdom. After qualifying for the District 3 tournament two of the past three years, the Trojans lost the league's top player, Collin Mailman, to graduation this offseason. Another one of the team’s top players, Mike Sipes, also graduated. On paper, it appeared the program would be entering a rebuilding stage.
The Trojans responded by turning to younger players to supply some firepower. Corto joins Purcell and fellow freshman Austin Sipes (Mike’s brother) as York Suburban’s starting attack.
Other freshmen who have made an impact have been Phinean Smith, and twin brothers Evan and Nate Lecates. Sophomore Justin Shocker helps lead the defense.
That youthful group complements the veteran poise of juniors Purcell, Wallace and Gavin, along with senior John Geary.
“The freshmen and the underclassmen have just stepped up this year,” Gavin said. “They’ve provided a big boost for the team.”
While Beam said the Trojans take pride in being able to change style of play depending on opponent, players said that York Suburban likes to take an up-tempo, fast approach to the field of play.
The group is also balanced. While last season the offense predictably went through Mailman, this year the Trojans spread the wealth.
Beam took responsibility as coach, saying last year he didn't make adjustments when the opposition keyed on Mailman.
“This year, I’m not saying it’s impossible to defend us,” Beam added. “I’m saying five, six, seven guys are taking eight, nine shots. As opposed to one guy taking 20. It’s a fun thing where we share the ball.”
Said Wallace: “If someone isn’t having a good game, we’re able to make up for that. Everyone on our team can play. We’re not relying on a couple guys. The whole system revolves around the whole team.”
That chemistry has extended off the field as well.
The Trojans said they had their third or fourth team dinner of the season earlier this week, and players said they typically hang out off the field following games and practices.
On Sunday, which is typically an off day for the team, players can still be found shooting around at the practice field.
“It contributes to winning, it contributes to the team concept and it contributes to retention,” Beam said. “Guys that aren’t seeing the field as much, they still know that they’re part of the team, they still know that they’re a part of the family.”
It also never hurts when a player returns from injury to complete a comeback effort.
"It was a close game, I knew we needed to win," Gavin said. "I just didn’t want to let my team down.”
“A momentum swing,” Beam recalled. “That’s for sure.”