Brunswick School lacrosse had a season to remember

Brunswick School’s Cam Stafford goes hard to the net during a recent game. The Bruins finished the season with a 15-3 record after starting 1-3. — Dan Burns photo

Brunswick School’s Cam Stafford goes hard to the net during a recent game. The Bruins finished the season with a 15-3 record after starting 1-3. — Dan Burns photo

The Brunswick School lacrosse program has seen its fair share of talented teams battle against some of the best competition around year after year.

However this spring, it’s hard to argue that the Bruins had its best season in recent memory and quite possibly in its storied history.

The Bruins finished the regular season with a 15-3 record. For the first time since joining the highly competitive Western New England I Division, Brunswick was a champion, sharing the title with Deerfield Academy.

Not bad for a team that started its season 1-3, and unsure what the future would hold.

“It’s remarkable the dedication and determination they had,” Brunswick School head coach David Bruce said. “The captains held captain’s practices without me knowing to get them out of ruts. It was well received from the other players. Our season was an amazing accomplishment. It’s great for the team, but it’s also great for the alumni who put them in this position and for the program in general.”

Brunswick started the season with a loss to Haverford School. After beating Colorado’s Mountain Vista School 14-6, the Bruins lost a double-OT thriller to Deerfield 10-9 and fell to Hill Academy 10-7 a game later.

However, that was the last time Brunswick finished in  the loss column, as they ran off 14 consecutive victories, which included games against powers Salisbury School (14-9), Avon Old Farms (13-7), Taft School (11-4), Westminster School (10-6) and St. Augustine’s Prep (6-5).

Deerfield’s lone loss was to Taft School 8-7 early in the season.

With both Brunswick and Deerfield losing one game each in conference, and no postseason tourney, the schools were named co-champs.

It’s the first time the Bruins had a share of the title and the team’s best finish other than this year was last year’s sole possession of second place.

“It was a terrific season,” Bruce said. “We beat really great teams and were going through a stretch where we were beating teams by a few goals that we weren’t supposed to beat. It was a great run and the unselfishness by our seniors was impressive. Hopefully that gets passed on.”

Leading the way for Brunswick’s success was the play of its senior captains.

In net, Tommy Heidt had another stellar campaign and showed why he’s one of the best netminders around. He finished the season with 145 saves and kept the Bruins in every game they played.

And that’s in addition to breaking his collarbone against Westminster and playing three games through the pain before it was too much to handle.

“He’s a special player and does whatever it takes to get a team to win,” Bruce said. “He played hurt for us. He’s the ultimate team player. He didn’t mind when a goal was scored and kind of just moved on past that. He didn’t hang on the past.”

When it came to faceoffs, there weren’t a lot of people better than Alex Kelly. Out of 325 faceoffs, Kelly won an impressive 227 and was able to help his team control possession of the ball for a good chunk of many games. In addition, Kelly also led the team with 137 groundballs.

“He was a physical workhorse for us in the middle of the field,” Bruce said. “He got some bumps and bruises along the way and that didn’t stop him from being highly effective at winning faceoffs. Alex actually was impressive this year because he changed his faceoff game against some opponents that were causing him trouble. It was nice to see him being flexible in his style.”

Defender Henry Hobbs was stellar throughout the season, no only with his 21 groundballs, but as the voice of the Brunswick defense.

“He knew what he could bring to the team and did a great job making sure the defense didn’t take a lot of penalties and that they didn’t give up a lot of open looks at the net,” Bruce said.

While the three captains were the obvious leaders for the team, both on and off the field, Bruce said that all his seniors did a great job building team chemistry and making sure everybody felt important.

“The seniors created an amazing atmosphere on the field and in the locker room,” Bruce said. “The captains were an amazing asset to the team and were true leaders, both on and off the field. Then there were seniors like Cam Stafford who led us down the stretch and came up huge for us. Jaime DeNaut was looked at as more of a role player to start the season and ended the season as one of the leading offensive scorers. Each senior had their own role and knew they were each a piece to the puzzle of our success.”

Although he’s only a junior, Marshall Dickson was the team’s leader when it came to lighting the scoreboard. He finished with 23 goals and added a team-high 40 assists. Dickson also grabbed 23 groundballs.

“Marshall was like the quarterback of our team,” Bruce said. “We rely on him to make smart decisions and not turn the ball over. He did that. We always knew that good things would happen if the ball was in his stick. However, he doesn’t get all those points without his linemates of Jack Knight and Cam Stafford.”

Helping Dickson this season was Knight, who finished with 14 goals and 16 assists. Knight also pitched in with 32 groundballs. On the other side of the attack, Stafford was just as strong, netting an impressive 34 goals and six assists, while picking up 22 groundballs.

A huge addition for the Bruins this season came from newcomer to the program Reilly Walsh at attack. Walsh made his presence felt early and often, finishing with a team-high 40 goals and nine assists, while obtaining 16 groundballs.

“Reilly has a great shot and is really aggressive,” Bruce said. “He has a powerful shot and be produces a lot of big moment goals. He doesn’t get phased by dodging a pole and with him on the field, he was a match-up nightmare for the opposition.”

Jamie DeNaut was also a force, finishing with 18 goals and eight assists.

Alex Buckanavage pitched in with nine goals and six assists.

While the offense was clicking almost all the time and with Heidt between the pipes as a rock, Brunswick’s biggest strength this season came from its defensive middies. Hayes Murphy, John Fox, Matt Sealy and Cobb were lights out throughout the season.

Sealy finished with 46 groundballs, while Fox added 61 groundballs. Not to be outdone was Hayes Murphy, who took home 39 groundballs.

“When you don’t have to slide all the time to them, then they can shut down some of the opponent’s top midfielders and that puts your defense in a pretty good position,” Bruce said. “Most teams need to find that short stick match-up and attack the short sticks, but for us sometimes it’s what we encourage them to do.”

As a team, the Bruins scored 184 goals this season, added 111 assists and only gave up 124 goals to its opponents. Brunswick had 613 shots at net and picked up 593 groundballs.

Brunswick’s opposition grabbed 357 groundballs.

While this was a season to remember for Bruce and the Brunswick lacrosse program, the head coach knows there’s still work to be done if his team plans to repeat this year’s success.

“We are returning a lot of players and hopefully we can bounce right back into where we finished the season,” Bruce said. “We still have some question marks, like figuring out the faceoff X. We have a strong goalie that will take over for Tommy, but nobody is Tommy. I think there are a couple of question marks every year, but I think we have a few guys that can step in and do the job.”

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