Brother Rice Answers Hartland's Championship Challenges

By Jason Schmitt
Special for

June 12, 2021

HOWELL — Over the years, teams have learned not to blink an eye when facing Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice on the lacrosse field.

It really doesn’t take all that long for the Warriors to make an opponent pay.

Hartland learned that first-hand Saturday during the MHSAA Division 1 Final at Parker Middle School. The Warriors erased a two-goal deficit over the final 21.4 seconds of the first half, then proceeded to outscore the Eagles, 6-0, in the third quarter en route to a 14-9 victory.

“That was huge,” Brother Rice head coach Ajay Chawla said. “We’re down two, and they’ve taken the momentum over. We score two quick ones there at the end. That was a game changer. We went into the locker room and instead of being down two, we’re tied.”

Hartland had rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to grab a 5-3 lead with 1:15 left in the first half. Five Eagles scored, capped off with a goal by senior Charlie Anderson, who took a pass from freshman Drew Lockwood and scored to give his team its biggest lead of the game.

Brother Rice wasted little time answering. Sophomore Ben Eck scored the first of his two goals, battling his way through the Eagles’ defense to put one upstairs and cut the lead to 5-4. After gaining possession of the ensuing faceoff, Chawla called a timeout to set up one last play before halftime.

“We were talking (during the timeout),” said Warriors senior Luke Dudley. “I wasn’t really beating my guy to the net in the first half, but I was getting my hands free. I knew I had (Josh Schlackman) off the pick, hit him, bang.”

The goal certainly changed the momentum in favor of Brother Rice.

“We fell asleep a little bit, and there were a couple of plays that we needed to be dialed in on to end the quarter. That happens,” Hartland head coach Nick Levanti said. “They’re a good team, and if you give them opportunities to score, they’re gonna. We gave up some easy ones there.”

Brother Rice dominated the third quarter. Sophomore Sam Klein scored seven seconds into the second half, and Dudley scored three of his game-high four goals in the third.

Brother Rice lacrosse“We were obviously a little worried at first, going down, it was a bit of a surprise,” Dudley said. “But we’ve got guys out here who can step up and score. The offense got together. The defense got together. And we talked things out and knew what we had to do. We came out, got some gritty goals.”

Hartland scored the first goal of the fourth quarter, snapping an eight-goal streak by the Warriors. Junior Ryan Krause took a pass from junior Bo Lockwood to make it an 11-6 game. But Brother Rice would answer with a pair of goals from Dudley to push the lead back to seven.

“If you want to play good lacrosse, state championship lacrosse, there’s a margin for almost no error against any team,” Levanti said. “Especially Brother Rice.”

Eight Brother Rice players scored in the win. Robert Reaume, Josh Schlackman and Eck each had two, while Zach Rivers, Paulie Fortino, Klein and Hunter Polonkey each added one. Seniors Tommy Kunz and Nate Randall combined to make 12 saves in goal.

It was the second-consecutive Division 1 championship for the Warriors, who have now won 15 of the 16 MHSAA Division 1 titles handed out.

“At halftime, we reminded them of what they can do,” said Chawla, whose team finished the season 18-2. “They've never lacked heart and hustle and energy this year. What we have lacked sometimes is a little execution. We just weren’t executing. And we started to execute there in the second half. You saw what kind of team we can be when we execute.”

Senior Noah Luck led the Eagles with three goals. Bo Lockwood finished with a pair of goals and four assists. Drew Lockwood (two goals), Krause and Anderson rounded out the scoring for Hartland (22-2), which lost only to Brother Rice (twice) this season.

The Eagles are a young team, and Levanti said he’s excited about the future.

“We had a lot of young guys who stepped up and helped us throughout the year,” Levanti said. “We learned a lot about ourselves, about how tough we really are. It’s incredible, the amount of work ethic these kids have. We have a lot of sophomores, a lot of freshmen. I think there’s a really bright future for this program.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Brother Rice’s Ben Eck (38) works to get past Hartland’s Jack Sargeant. (Middle) The Eagles’ Joey Mattord (23) walls off Rice’s Connor Borkowicz.

Future Has Arrived as Port Huron United Continues Impressive Climb

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 8, 2024

Brad McDougal knew when he returned to the Port Huron United lacrosse program in 2019 that in order to grow it to what he thought it could be, he’d have to build for the future.

Bay & ThumbHis plan was simple and time-tested: Start a youth program that would get players within the school system playing together more frequently and against better competition, preparing them to one day be varsity players.

It didn’t take long to see that it could work, and perhaps better and faster than he had hoped.

“We’ve known for a while (this was the year),” McDougal said. “Basically, when I started with that youth team, my ambition was if I can get four or five kids that have been coached, then build around them for the varsity program, that would be great. It turned out to be 15 of them.”

Behind 15 seniors, the majority of whom were part of McDougal’s original youth team, Port Huron United is competing at a level it never has before. United is ranked No. 9 in the Division 1 MPR following a 10-3 start, and won the Macomb Area Conference Red title for the first time in program history.

It’s a history that McDougal is plenty familiar with, having been a high school junior when the program began in 2006. McDougals have been part of the program ever since, whether it was him as a coach fresh out of high school and now, his brother Ben as a player, or his father Brian as a coach at various levels throughout all of it.

“Being around it as long as I have, that has sunk in,” he said. “The amount of teams that are reaching out to us now that never would have before – teams reaching out for film, ‘How were you able to defend this?’ Teams reaching out for scheduling that I think would have just ignored the email a couple years back. It’s definitely not lost on me.”

It’s also not lost on the players, who have heard McDougal talk about the program’s beginnings and have also seen first-hand a quick ascent.

As freshmen, this current group of seniors were a major part of a varsity team that played in the MAC Blue – the MAC’s divisions are based on performance, with Red being the highest – dominating it and earning promotion to the MAC White the following season. Another unbeaten league season put United into the MAC Red in 2023, and while there were some growing pains in going 2-3 against higher-level competition, there were signs of better things to come.

Matt Graham (12) maintains possession against the Cougars. “The second my class joined, we just dominated our leagues,” senior goalie Danny Moore said. “We went from Blue to White to Red in three years. Last year in the Red, we went 2-3, but it wasn’t without close games. I think (the rise) definitely stunned us a little bit. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about the giant leap we took. It’s like a world record long jump.”

Moore said the team started this season “like a cannonball out of the cannon with too much gun powder” as this group of seniors knew it was their last opportunity to play with one another.

United was dominant in its MAC Red season, going 5-0 and out-scoring opponents 61-12, not allowing more than three goals in any single game.

On the season, it has outscored opponents 136-50, led by senior goal-scoring threats Silas Klink, Jacob O’Hare, Nate DeLand, Matt Graham and Tim Monaghan. Moore is stopping more than 80 percent of the shots he’s faced, behind the defense of seniors Jack Bennett and Max Williams, and junior Parker Quinn, among others.

That’s despite a beefed-up nonconference schedule, which McDougal put together to better prepare his team for the upcoming postseason.

“We have a way harder schedule this year,” Klink said. “We haven’t ever made it to the Regional Final in all the program’s history, so that’s a big goal. I think scheduling all these teams, Coach McDougal knew what he was doing to get us battle-tested.”

Boys Lacrosse Regionals open May 16, and Lake Orion – which defeated Port Huron 11-4 in the season opener – is the host of United’s bracket.

Winning a Regional is the next goal for Port Huron, and McDougal repeatedly tells his team he wants a Michigan trophy. They’re ready to do all they can to make that happen, but also aren’t shying away from the possibility of blowing away his expectations once again.

“State champs,” said Bennett, who has committed to play lacrosse at Albion College along with Moore. “We want to go all the way. It would just be like – I don’t even know how to describe it. For the program, it would further push lacrosse at my high school and Port Huron. Twenty years ago, we didn’t even have a lacrosse team, so I think it would really push lacrosse in Port Huron.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Port Huron United’s Silas Klink (1) makes a run at the goal against Macomb Dakota. (Middle) Matt Graham (12) maintains possession against the Cougars. (Photos by Margaret Quinn.)