By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/23/14
The face-off specialist is clearly recognized as a key component for any successful team, and the Philly has produced its share of top-flight players at the X.
To capitalize on the rich talent in the region, Episcopal Academy and NXT LC assistant coach John Bodnar (former standout at Cabrini College) created the Philly Face-Off League for experienced specialists to receive training and face off against each other in weekly sessions.
The summer league has regularly drawn between 25 to 40 players for high school and middle school players at Radnor’s Memorial Park in Wayne. The league began last winter and continues this fall at Cabrini College with expansion to a Philly Face-Off South Jersey Chapter at Total Turf in Pitman. (Click here for website.)
The 90-minute high school sessions feature training and then 1-on-1 competitions with two groups, ending with King of the X and third-place face-off playoffs.
The winner Tuesday was St. Augustine Prep 2015 Will Fox, a Fairfield commit, who bested Ridley 2017 Cade Heverly, 4-3, in a best-of-seven final. In the consolations, Hill School 2015 faced La Salle 2017 A.J. Giuliani.
In most weeks, the top-rated face-off specialists from the Philly region are present. This was the first time for Fox, who was happy to make the 45-minute ride to compete.
“I’ve had it on my radar for a while and I was looking to get reps and I knew it was going to be good competition because I reached out and heard who was coming,” said Fox. “It definitely showed how good all these guys are and how good they will be – you are constantly getting good reps week in and week out.”
Heverly, who started as a freshman for Ridley, a playoff team, said getting work against more experienced players is invaluable.
“It just makes you better; there’s not just public school kids, there’s public, private and everyone,” he said. “You going against the top talent, it’s great. You learn people’s new moves, some of these guys are going to college to play. I see where they are strength-wise.”
Heverly said it’s fun adjusting to each player’s talents.
“Everybody knows each other and I have been coming almost every week so it helps for summer tournaments,” he said. “I start Tuesday, take a couple days off and then get back into it (on the weekend). You’ve got to constantly get better; everybody is adapting to everybody – you have to try new things.”
Bodnar – who runs the league with another former Cabrini face-off standout, Mike Dolente (Duke’s L.C. FO coach) – has been pleased to see the league grow. Other top college face-off specialists also help coach; on Tuesday there was All-America East Adam Yee (Penncrest, Hartford).
“I have been coaching at Episcopal and working with the face-off guys and you can only get so much better playing the same guy over and over,” said Bodnar. “I know there are some rivals here, but they leave their egos home because they do know at the end of the day this is what’s making them better.
“They want to get to the next level so they have to go up against guys at this level or it’s a stalemate and you don’t get better. They can tell. Now they go down to different showcases against kids from Maryland and New York and I feel we are doing a lot better in events.”