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Bolton carrying the load for upstart Spring Grove

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Tanner Bolton is used to being the center of attention.

For the past four seasons, the Spring Grove senior has done nearly everything for the Rockets. He frequently takes face-offs. He's played midfield when needed. And he's the centerpiece of the team's offense, often tasked with both scoring goals and setting up his teammates.

All of those responsibilities have made it easy for other teams to key on him. When you play Spring Grove, the one player you know you have to stop is No. 27.

And yet teams still can't stop him.

With his senior season winding down, Bolton has scored a whopping 223 career goals and has established himself as one of the top players in the YAIAA. The York College commit has also improved each season, scoring 61 times as a sophomore, 63 as a junior and now 76 as a senior.

Watch: Bolton a 'rock' for Spring Grove

For those around Bolton, his success is easy to explain.

"He's a hard worker," Spring Grove senior Dylan Griffiths said. "He just doesn't stop, always fights. He's going to do what needs to be done to win."

Added head coach Scott Toman: "He does so much more than just scoring goals for us. He plays unselfishly and plays as hard as can be. He's just a rock."

Bolton is considered the best player in the 11-year history of Spring Grove's program. Of course, having one great player doesn't guarantee success. The Rockets went a combined 20-31 his first three years and are currently 8-9 and on the outside of the league playoffs.

Still, the team has improved each season during Bolton's career and is in position to make the District 3 playoffs for the first time. While that will be a nice way for Bolton to end his career, he admitted the past four seasons haven't always been easy.

"It's frustrating because sometimes I'm getting locked off or double-teamed, but that's when we have players like Dylan or Zeb (Hollinger) that can step up," Bolton said. "You just can't let (being the opposing team's focus) get in your head. Just gotta keep playing."

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An extremely dedicated lacrosse player, Bolton works on his game year-round and plays for York's Black Dog Lacrosse Club in the offseason. But while he's now preparing to play in college, he didn't always see himself as a lacrosse player.

Growing up, Bolton played football and baseball and enjoyed those sports just fine. But his two older lacrosse-playing sisters, Mollie and Carly, didn't like sitting through his "boring" baseball games and suggested he try their favorite sport when he entered middle school. Since Griffiths — his best friend — already played, Bolton decided to give it a shot.

He quickly found that he liked lacrosse's combination of physicality and finesse. And after switching from defense to offense in the eighth-grade, he realized he had found his niche.

"Baseball is like finesse, and then football is just like beating people up and then lacrosse is the in-between," Bolton said. "You get some stick skills and you get to rough (people) around a little bit."

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Along with taking face-offs and scoring goals, Bolton has another important role on the Rockets as team captain. Even with his high school career winding down, he still takes time to explain simple techniques to Spring Grove's younger players, according to Toman.

Sure, he's not the only senior in the league who does that. But for a team that will need someone to step up next season once he's gone, it's a critical task.

"He's a quality individual, not just a great lacrosse player, he's well-rounded," Toman said. "It's the things off the field that make the difference. With the younger kids, helping them out with how to protect their stick when they're dodging, how to shoot, helping out the goalies. That's huge."

When Bolton goes to York College next season, he'll be joining a top Division III program that won't need him to handle such a large load. While he may get to experience more wins in college than he has in high school, he'll always appreciate his time with the Rockets.

"It's sad because I love playing here under the lights, but I know I've got four more years," Bolton said.