Delbarton is favored but Mt. Lakes and Chatham will challenge

 By Mark Kitchin


Delbarton is once again viewed as the favorites when it comes to boys lacrosse in Morris County but it will have to fight off challenges from Mountain Lakes and Chatham if the defending MCT champs want to continue their title reign.

The lacrosse season officially begins on Monday although the NJSIAA gave some teams the option to start play on Saturday.

Although there are many Green Wave players returning from last year with varsity experience, Delbarton coach Chuck Ruebling is not afraid to utilize younger players in order to improve his team. 

“We’re playing a lot of guys,’’ Ruebling said. “I think we’re very athletic but a little bit on the young side. We might pay for playing the younger players but hopefully it is going to pay dividends in May.’’

Will Reynolds and Kohl Geibel are among the standout defensemen returning while Brendan Huston leads a group of newcomers looking for work on the varsity level. Last year’s goalkeeper John Schissler is much improved going into his junior season.

The Green Wave midfield can quickly become its strength. Cole Riccardi and John Shaffer are aggressive around the net. Duke-bound Shaffer scored some big goals last year and is a talented leader. Riccardi was highly recruited and is headed for Notre Dame.

Jack Shaffer (23) is one of the many players ready to keep Delbarton among the best in the state.

Jamie White is a tough cover because of his speed and teammates Matt Killian and Dylan Conflaw bring skills and savvy into the mix.

Delbarton also has a good tandem at faceoff with Jack Clark and Austin Williams. Attack is the only position with limited experience but that doesn’t mean talented players in other positions won’t be moved to those spots or younger players won’t step up.  

Circle the calendar for April 21st though. That’s whenMountain Lakes and Delbarton will have their regular season meeting which is often a preview of the county final.

Mountain Lakes has talented players in important spots and will continue its tradition of top notch lacrosse. Attackman Jon Broome tallied some pivotal goals last year. Rob Orazietti can be creative on the attack and has a sneaky shot. Eric Dircks is also a playmaker and midfielder Dylan Muti is a hustler on both ends of the field. Tyler Batesko anchors the Lakers defense and Mike Sanzone will be important on face offs and has skills on both offense and defense.

Mountain Lakes’ Dylan Muti (38) could play a major role in helping the Lakers challenge for the crown.

Chatham has a lot coming back and is capable of making great strides this season. Thomas Stephan, a 3-sport athlete who was part of MCT winning teams in soccer and basketball, anchors the Cougars defense. Goalkeeper Corey Fritts has experience between the pipes. Midfielders Matt Proto and Corey Heideran are tireless workers and skillful offensive players. Owen Hewes and Kyle Howard Johnson also make their presence felt and sophomore David Gill is newly pledged to Duke. On attack Sam Carson and Scott Kepler should provide a consistent flow of goals on offense.

Morristown continues to improve and will build on the momentum it gained by earning its inaugural appearance in the Morris County Tournament semifinals last year. At times Stephen DeLargy can be a force of nature on the field. He is an athletic feeder with a great shot. Conor Dolan and Brian Begley are capable of setting the tempo with their midfield play. Long stick middie Andres Rodriguez and defender Matt Drake are superb one-on-one defenders and opportunistic when a ball is on the ground.

Madison will be a little thin this year but should not be ignored. Billy Battaglia and Michael Clemente are capable of scoring in bunches. The Scarpella brothers, Collin and Christian, have solid instincts and impressive skills. Kinnelon had a youth movement last year.  They should benefit from it this season. Attackman Kobi Frankel has a quick stick. Greg Budd leads an aggressive midfield and junior Sean Robbins is a defensive catalyst.

West Morris has some emerging players. Nobody outscraps midfielder Kevin Reidinger. He doesn’t mind winning faceoffs and taking them to the cage. Jason Mackewicz and Joe DeBiasse also lend their experience to the midfield. Improving defenders Chris Carfaro and Nick Hamilton are charged with helping goalkeeper Nick McKaba shut down opposing offenses.

Syracuse-bound goalkeeper Tyler Avallone is tough to beat between the Mendham pipes. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound athlete is one of the area’s top keepers. Defenseman Stephen Graziano is known for his toughness and one-on-one skills. The Minutemen midfield could be a dangerous one. Sophomore Will Robinson and junior Tim Lewis are being heavily recruited and VMI-bound Scott Smullen is talented on the draw and skillful on the dodge. The always thrilling Pooley Trophy game between the sister-school rivals is scheduled for the night of May 3 at West Morris.

Dylan Johnson and Dylan Pickard lead a solid core of seniors for Jefferson. The Falcons will miss up-and-coming LSM Steve Dallicardillo who tore an ACL during wrestling season. They will challenge Vernon and Sparta in the Rizk. Montville will also be in that race. Attackman Brian McCormack (35 goals, 15 assists), four-year starting midfielder Raf Correa and goalkeeper Ben Laub power the Mustangs’ machine.

Expect more Chatham celebrations by Sam Carson (34) and Kyle Howard Johnson (23) this season.

Mount Olive is a favorite in the Klank Division. The Marauders strengthened their schedule and have a savvy group returning. Mount Olive has an athletic defense anchored by Austin Niblett and goalie Brandyn Merkle (6.4 goals allowed). Nick Verrone (82 ground balls, 33 forced turnovers) helps put in transition an offense that includes midfielder Tyler McEvoy (30 goals, 22 assists) and attackman Connor Buoye (45 goals, 7 assists). Morris Hills continues to build its young program. Eric Turner (24 goals), Anthony Vergara and Steve Rome give the Scarlet Knights a reason to cheer. Midfielder Brendan Riefberg and defender Jason Norton will play big roles in Roxbury’s resurgence. Morris Knolls is also looking toward a banner year. Senior attackman Dmitri Paleocostas (20 goals, 17 assists) and senior goalkeeper Tim Zangara (196 saves) should keep the Golden Eagles soaring. Randolph has an interesting mix of experience and youth. Senior attackman Kevin Faber and senior midfield Eric Smith hold the keys to the Rams’ success on offense. If senior Matt Gaudioso, junior Robert Parker and sophomore John Castro can organize the defense, they might go a long way.  

Shane Lilienthal anchors the midfield and will be an important leader for Pequannock. The Golden Panthers expect to be among the best in the Pooley Division. Ryan Van Bachoven and Tyler Macejka are among the players that will be buzzing the nets. Boonton will rebound with the help of attackman Trevor Krupinski (36 goals, 17 assists), midfielder Matt Cohen (71 ground balls, 70 percent on faceoffs) and goalie Mark Matarazzo (193 saves). Brian Evans is the new coach of the co-op team at Park Regional. Seniors Nick Falcone, Nick Fano and goalie A.J. Dean will provide leadership for the squad that employs both Hanover Park andWhippanyPark lacrosse players.

Morris Catholic and first year coach Luke Miller has some talent to rally around. Mike Purcell and John Dunn will be counted on to carry the Crusaders offensively. Tyler Doyle and Jack Clendenny will work hard to keep the ball out of the net.


About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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