By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/2/17
Jef Hewlings’ impact on the field with Strath Haven since arriving as head coach five years ago is hard to dispute.
It took him a few years to shape the team the way he wanted it to be, but last year, he guided the Panthers to 19 wins, a share of their first Central League title and a spot in the state semifinals.
Take a look at what Hewlings and his team have done off the field, though, and you might be even more impressed. The Panthers (4-1) are routinely helping out in the community throughout the year, but there’s one cause that hits home the most for Hewlings.
Five years ago, he started the Play for the A’s day in honor of his late mother, Shirley, who passed away in 2009 from Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, it’s grown from a single game to Saturday’s seven-game affair, four of them varsity games. Top-ranked and Malvern Prep (5-0) handled Hewlings’ Panthers, 15-7, in the nightcap, but the day was about teaming up in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
“It’s near and dear to my heart because of my family’s experience with Alzheimer’s,’ Hewlings said. “My mom passed away in 2009. She got sick in the early 2000s, and what I remember most is how my dad took care of her.
“I also remember how it changed our family dynamic, so that’s why we started it. The first year, it was just a game, and we said, ‘We’re going to make a contribution to the Alzheimer’s association.'”
The other varsity scores Saturday were: Harriton 12, Methacton 8; Marple Newtown 13, Abington 7; Radnor 12, Wissahickon 1.
“It’s grown to an all-day event,” said Hewlings. “We’re not looking to probably grow it beyond what we’re doing, but this is the first year that we’ve had eight varsity teams here. Those teams have helped us along the way.
“They’ve been part of the preparation of it, some of them have made contributions. We talk to the kids about an opportunity to change lives off the field, as well as do what you need to do on the field, and in lot of respects, it was what we did today. It was a successful day, despite the fact that Malvern just kicked our …”
That’s nothing to be ashamed of, though. Malvern’s going to beat up on a lot of teams this year. The Friars, the top-ranked team in Philly by Phillylacrosse.com, stormed out to a 7-1 lead, scoring on their first six possessions of the game.
The usual suspects all contributed for John McEvoy’s team, led by Notre Dame signee Mike Fay’s four-goal, one-assist outburst and four points apiece from Matt Boles, Quinn McCahon (Penn) and Billy Coyle (Cornell). Fay, McCahon and Coyle have all had games like that before, but Boles came off the bench to replace an injured Scottie White (Ohio State) and fit right in with the Friars’ impressive assortment of offensive talent.
“I was hoping I could get some goals,” said Boles, who went a perfect 4-for-4 shooting the ball. “The guys around me are such good dodging threats, so I know that as long as I’m moving, they’re going to draw some space and maybe get me open for some goals.
“It’s so fun. We have so many weapons, we can come at you from any way, and once we get rolling, we’re really hard to stop.”
Boles, though, didn’t lose track of what the day really meant. His grandmother battled Alzheimer’s, so he’s well-aware of the importance of fighting the disease like the teams did by joining forces with the Taylor Community Foundation.
“It was a really fun game all around,” he said. “They’re a great team, and it was a cool event to be a part of. All in all, it was a really good day. It makes it more of a game. It’s really fun to be part of that and it makes it more meaningful.”
Strath Haven, which figures to be a top contender for the first District 1 Class AA title and Phillylacrosse.com’s No. 8-ranked team, showed that it can at least keep pace with the powerful Friars for extended periods of time. There’s plenty of work to be done, but that’s what these games are for. Will Huestis led the way with a hat trick, while Jeff Conner (Saint Joseph’s) dished out assists to Tyler Fink and Liam Carney.
“Everyone can shoot, so we have to be ready for everyone, and we left guys open, which we couldn’t do,” said Haven goalie Will Brake, a Dartmouth commit who stopped 10 shots. “We just have to match up better. It exposed a lot of our weaknesses, so we can learn a lot from this game.
“I think we can get a lot better from this game. (Play for the A’s) really makes this game really special. We’ve done a lot this year, doing a lot of charity stuff, and it makes it special since Coach cares about it and we care about it.”
Malvern Prep (5-0) 7 2 3 3 — 15
Mike Fay 4g, 1a
Matt Boles 4g
Jack Traynor 3g
Quinn McCahon 2g, 2a
Billy Coyle 2g, 2a
Luke DiGiacobbe 1a
Seamus Glynn 1a
Jordan Donaghy 1a
Andrew Clark 12 saves
Sean Christman 18-for-26 faceoffs
Strath Haven (4-1) 2 2 0 3 — 7
Will Huestis 3g
Tyler Fink 1g
Liam Carney 1g
Ibrahim Pio 1g
Hunter Mazur 1g
Jeff Conner 2a
Will Brake 10 saves