By Alex Frazier
Courtney of SuburbanOneSports.com
Coaches always laud players that give 100 percent.
Upper Merion’s James Brennan III is that kind of player. And more.
As his lacrosse coach Brady McCormick said, “He’s non-stop.
Even when he doesn’t have 100 percent left, he’s still going to try to give you 100 percent. He only plays one way and that’s all or nothing to the point that we have to pull him if we need to. It’s amazing how a kid can be like that. He’ll inspire the rest of the guys around him.”
“If I’m out there, I might as well do it all and leave everything on the field,” said Brennan. “If there’s something you feel you could have done (and didn’t), it will follow you around for a while.”
Brennan has started for the Vikings since he arrived in ninth grade. The first year he played on the second midfield, but even then his influence was felt.
“He’s always been a key contributor since the day he stepped on the field,” said McCormick.
Brennan was an invaluable player this year on Upper Merion’s first Suburban One American Conference league championship team (shared with Wissahickon). Not only did he score 27 goals and 13 assists in 18 regular season games, but he also won .598 percent of his face-offs.
In fact, in most games he was dominant on the draw.
“He’s fantastic,” said McCormick. “Other than (Plymouth Whitemarsh’s) Shawn Kaplan, who’s basically developed his lacrosse career to making himself better at every run for face-offs, James was dominant against every single person he was up against.”
Brennan said that he took to face-offs almost from the time he started playing lacrosse in eighth grade.
“I liked them a lot,” he said. “It was a one-on-one opportunity. I competed and learned some stuff from other kids. I practiced at it a lot.”
For big games, he will actually study his opponent’s techniques, so he can figure out what will work.
“It becomes like a chess match,” he said.
A perfect example of his value to the team came in a stretch at the beginning of April when the Vikings played five games in five days.
McCormick said of him, “James finished the five games with nine goals and 36 groundballs and was dominant in face-offs for each game. The game that stands out most in those five games is an 11-10 win in overtime over Great Valley. James had a hat trick with the final two coming at 0:01.2 of regulation to tie the game and a minute and a half into OT to win it.
“Throughout the Great Valley game, James controlled the face-offs and ended up with 11 groundballs. The goal to tie the game began with James winning the face-off at 0:12 of the fourth quarter, picking up the ground ball and dodging through four defenders to finish with a left-handed bouncer at 0:01.2.”
As good as Brennan is in lacrosse, he will most likely play football next year at Shippensburg. He started playing around the age of eight with the King of Prussia Indians. As a junior in high school, he was named first team all-league as a defensive end. A captain of the Vikings this year, he was named first team linebacker.
The decision to play football wasn’t an easy one.
As he explained, “In football season, I think football is great, the best sport ever. And the same for lacrosse. In the middle of lacrosse season, I love it. I can’t really pick. They bring different things to the table.”
He is leaning heavily toward football right now because he has been recruited. Only a couple of schools like Susquehanna and Chestnut Hill showed any interest in him in lacrosse.
“I didn’t play any club to get my name out there,” he said.
His summers were mainly taken up with preparing for football season.
Despite that, he was selected to the first team all-league last year at midfield and would appear to be a lock to repeat this year.
“Football has always been his first love,” said McCormick. “After this year when he saw what he could do and how he could really contribute and make good plays and how much fun he had, he’s at least considering that maybe he has a future there.”
As dedicated as Brennan is to sports, he is not all brawn and no brain as he might seem to opponents he faces on the athletic fields.
“He’s a really funny, bright kid,” said McCormick. “He has a very quick wit. Behind his goofiness is a very quiet intelligence. Kids playing against him saw a kid that’s physically intimidating in the midfield and physically dominant with the face-offs and had a cannon of a shot. A lot of kids would have looked at him and thought that he was more muscle than brain, but James is a very bright kid.”
Brennan carries a 3.0 GPA and is considering majoring in secondary education with a focus on history or criminal justice.
Both careers appeal to him because he doesn’t want a desk job. Coaching is also an interest he would like to pursue.
“A lot of my football coaches are teachers,” he said. “They said they loved it; it was the best job there is. It would be a pretty cool job. I could interact every day with kids. You’re not always stuck behind a desk. And I’ve always been good at history. That’s why I chose that field.”
“No matter what he decides he’s going to do, he’s going to do it well,” said McCormick. “He’s going to be able to handle anything that’s thrown at him.”
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