By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/18/09, Updated 4/3/09
Springfield-Delco, which is off to a 5-0 start and ranked 10th in the country in the LaxPower Computer ratings, will meet North Jersey power Ridgewood at 9 a.m. in a special preliminary game to the Big City Classic tomorrow at Giants Stadium.
A crowd of more than 20,000 is expected for the inaugural Big City Classic, which features three major college men’s matchups: North Carolina vs. Virginia at noon, Syracuse vs. Princeton at 2:30 p.m., and Hofstra vs. Delaware at 5 p.m. Inside Lacrosse is sponsoring the event.
Springfield, a junior-laden team, is expected to contend for a championship in the rugged Central League. The Cougars, coached by Michael Friel, are ranked fourth in the Pennsylvania Lacrosse Media Rankings and fourth by Phillylacrosse.com in the Philadelphia area
Ridgewood, coach by Mike Pounds, went 18-5 last year and opened its 2009 season Wednesday by defeating A.L. Johnson Clark, 14-4. Last year Maroons claimed the Bergen County title and the New Jersey Group 3 state championship before falling in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions. Ridgewood finished 56th in the LaxPower National Computer Rankings and currently is 65th in the Rankings.
Pounds is helping promote the Big City Classic with other lacrosse organizations in the Ridgewood community. He and Friel agreed to play each other after their teams met at Champ Camp last summer at Johns Hopkins, and both welcomed an invitation to play in front of the big stage at the Meadowlands.
“We’re involved in promoting the tournament and possibly having (Giants Stadium) host the NCAA tournament in a couple of years,” Pounds said. “When they were putting the schedule together, we got involved in conversations and they thought it was a good idea to have two high school teams onboard.
“We’ve gone back a few years,” Pounds added of his team’s recent rivalry with Springfield-Delco. “We’ve seen each other twice in Champ Camp, and one year we scrimmaged down there. It’s going to be a great day. Both schools are excited about the game and we’ll all get involved in a tailgate afterwards.”
Friel said his team is thrilled to play a top-notch program in a pro stadium.
“This is a great chance for our guys to play great competition with the backdrop of a major college tournament,” he said. “We’re going to stay after the game and watch the college games. The kids are so excited.
“Playing this type of competition can only help us.”
Springfield has only three seniors on its roster, but has a standout junior class. One of those juniors, defender Brendan Nave, has committed to Penn State and Friel said at least five others are receiving significant Division I interest. Four of his juniors were first-team All-Central League picks last year as sophomores: goalie Austin Kaut, long stick midfielder Joe Addona, middie Josh Cavanaugh (36 goals, 24 assists in 2008) and attacker Colin Keegan (40 goals in 2008).
Junior Jordan Demcher and sophomore Joe Venit are threats on attack with Keegan. Senior John Cugini will complement Cavanaugh at the midfield, along with juniors Bobby Gildea and Larry McLaughlin. Also, senior defender Matt Maccario has committed to play at Wheeling Jesuit and defender Tyler Canada has committed to Goucher College
Pounds said his team lost a number of key seniors (17 in all) and is young, but should again be a force in Bergen County with a cast led by attacker Ryan Polak (signed with Duke) and long stick midfielder Pat Kiernan (Navy).
“We do have a lot of young players and I don’t think we’ll be quite as strong,” he said. “We lost a ton to graduation, but we’ll be very capable. I expect it to be no different from the other times we’ve played. It will be a very competitive game. He (Friel) does a good job with his team.”