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BOYS LACROSSE: Deep talent pool makes up 2011 All-County selections

Birmingham Brother Rice senior Bennett Packer (right) keeps goes up against Troy Athens senior Joe Kemp in a game earlier this season. Both were selected to this year's Oakland Press All-County team. (The Oakland Press/Jose Juarez)

Novi Detroit Catholic Central senior Mike Birney (left) is headed to play for Detroit Mercy next season. (The Oakland Press/Jose Juarez)

Birmingham Detroit Country Day junior goalie Ahmed Iftikhar helped lead the Yellowjackets to a Division 2 state championship this season. He has already committed to Johns Hopkins. (The Oakland Press/Jose Juarez)

Brother Rice junior Henry Nelson (right) led the Warriors in scoring this season. (The Oakland Press/Jose Juarez)

The talent pool for high school boys lacrosse is deeper in Oakland County than anywhere else in the state. It’s been that way for a while, and was proven to be the case yet again this season.

Eight teams from Oakland County reached the regional finals this season in Divisions 1 and 2 and both state championships were won by county teams, with Birmingham Brother Rice winning in Division 1 and Birmingham Detroit Country Day winning in Division 2.

On an individual scale, 13 players from Oakland County received All-American recognition — among them was this year’s Mr. Lacrosse winner Will Meter from Brother Rice. Obviously, trying to pick one All-County squad out of such a wealth of talent is a difficult task. So we picked two — a first team and a second team, along with a list of honorable mention candidates. Every player on the first team received All-American recognition as did a few players selected to the second team. The gap between them is slim, but here’s how this how this year’s All-County selection process turned out, beginning with the first team:

Will Meter (A), Senior, Brother Rice — Meter dished out 68 assists and scored 45 goals this season as he tallied 113 total points en route to leading the Warriors to their seventh consecutive MHSAA state title. Meter, who missed much of last season with an injury, returned this year and took on more of a leadership role and became the primary facilitator of a very talented Warrior offense. He was tied for fourth in the nation in assists and tied for 14th in total points according to ESPN Rise.

He will be joining the inaugural varsity lacrosse squad at the University of Michigan next season.

“The one main thing to say about Will is that he’s the type of player that puts the team first,” Brother Rice coach Rob Ambrose said. “He’s got a tremendous work ethic, he’s a true team player and he really made sacrifices for us to make the team better. He could care less about his individual stats, so long as the team succeeds.”

Riley Kennedy (A), Junior, Brother Rice — Kennedy was a relentless offensive attacker for the Warriors this season, scoring 62 goals and providing 30 assists. He scored four times and assisted on two other goals in Brother Rice’s win over Ada Forest Hills Eastern-Northern in the Division 1 state title game.

Bennett Packer (MF), Senior, Brother Rice — Packer, much like Meter, developed into a solid leader on what was primarily a very young Brother Rice squad. Perhaps his biggest contribution was that of a consistently calming influence and his knack for scoring timely goals which either ended an opponent’s momentum or began a Brother Rice run. He finished with 20 goals and 13 assists.

Henry Nelson (MF), Junior, Brother Rice — Nelson led the Warriors in scoring this year, which is no easy task, with an absurd 66 goals. While his primary role was to put the ball in the back of the net, he also provided 12 assists. In his biggest scoring outbreak of the season, Nelson scored seven goals in the Warriors’ regional final win over Clarkston.

“We pride ourselves on being unselfish,” Ambrose said of his many offensive weapons. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are very talented offensively, but what makes them great players is their willingness to play within a team system and have that unselfish approach.”

Chris Walker (D), Senior, Brother Rice — For a team that wins virtually every game by seven or more goals, a sturdy defenseman like Walker can fly under the radar. But make no mistake, Walker’s ability to shut down opposing team’s top scorers was just as big of a contributing factor in the Warriors’ large margin of victories as was the Brother Rice offense. Walker was second on the team in ground balls with 91.

Mitch Burgin (A), Senior, Novi Detroit Catholic Central — Burgin has been steady as a rock for the Catholic Central program during his career.

A reliable scorer and effective team leader, Burgin helped lead the Shamrocks, great success during his time with the program. He was a four-year varsity player and a two-time All-American selection.

“Mitch is always a threat because he is just a vacuum on ground balls, has a knack for finding garbage goals and is great at catching and releasing in the crease. He’s also a very good feeder,” Catholic Central coach Dave Wilson said.

Mike Birney (MF), Senior, Detroit Catholic Central — Birney is an all-around athlete who really excelled in his role on the Catholic Central lacrosse field. A team captain this season, Birney also showed his leadership on the grid iron in the fall, serving as the starting quarterback for the Shamrocks this past season. He will be playing lacrosse at University of Detroit Mercy next season.

“Mike is a physically superior athlete who will handle the physical needs of playing Division I lacrosse at Detroit Mercy next year,” Wilson said. “He has great speed and a cannon for a shot. He is literally a one-man clearing machine and wore a lot of hats for us this year.”

Joe Kemp (A), Senior, Troy Athens — Kemp scored 65 goals and provided 27 assists for Athens this season and was a key factor to the Red Hawks reaching the state semifinals. He finished third in the voting for this year’s Mr. Lacrosse and was also pivotal in helping mentor some of the younger players on the team. He will be playing at Sacred Heart University — a Division 1 school in Fairfield, Conn. — next season.

“Joe was the clear leader of our team this year as a senior captain,” Athens coach Nick Stensen said. “He was truly dominant in every game he played. Some teams we played tried to focus their entire defense on trying to stop Joe and not a single one could do it. Joe’s best contribution to the team this year was his dedication to making the younger players better. He did everything he could to give back by teaching the underclassmen as much as he could.”

Ahmed Iftikhar (G), Junior, Detroit Country Day — Iftikhar was the catalyst for the Yellowjackets’ state championship run this season. His superior goaltending ability allowed the defensive-minded Country Day squad to stay in and win low-scoring games throughout the year. Against East Grand Rapids in the Division 2 state title game, he held a usually potent Pioneers offense to just five goals. Coming back next year, along with several other returning players, he could very well help lead the Yellowjackets to another state title. Iftikhar has already committed to play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins.

“He gives us a comfort zone and allows us to take some more risks knowing that we have someone like him back there,” Country Day coach Byron Collins said. “He’s got a calming presence about him which creates a stable mindset on our players because he’s so reliable and consistent. Having him back there really just eliminates a lot of the pressure from our other players because he takes so much on his shoulders.”

Brandon Beauregard (A), Senior, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep — Beauregard provided much of the firepower for a Fighting Irish squad which got off to a red-hot start to the season and ended up reaching the state semifinals for the second straight season (reached Division 2 state finals in 2010). The high-scoring attacker — on his way to play lacrosse at Detroit Mercy next season — finished with 71 goals and 58 assists.

Mack Gembis (D), Senior, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood — Gembis’ senior leadership helped to solidify an otherwise inexperienced Cranbrook team — albeit a talented one — this season. In the midst of a coaching change and large-scale roster turnover, the defenseman helped keep the Cranes in games with his physical defense, always matching up with opponents’ best offensive player. He helped Cranbrook to the regional finals this season.

Coach: Rob Ambrose, Brother Rice — While it’s true based on his team’s talent level and performance Ambrose could be penciled in for this honor every season, the veteran Brother Rice coach performed perhaps the best coaching job of his career this year. Ambrose came into this season with one of the youngest teams he’s ever had — and yet again the Warriors were still untouchable by any team in the state.

Ambrose prides his program on never taking a rebuilding year and his ability to manage talent and maintain an ever-high standard is a major reason Brother Rice has won every MHSAA Division 1 state lacrosse title.



Second team

Dan Kreza (A), Senior, Troy Athens — Scored 47 goals and 19 assists despite missing nearly half the season with an injury.

Kevin O’Grady (A), Junior, Clarkston; Jordan Kincaid (A), Junior, Clarkston; Travis Craft (A), Junior, Clarkston — The trio of junior attackers was an offensive force for the Wolves this season and a big reason Clarkston finished with a school-record 17 wins.

Taylor Howell (A), Senior, Novi — Howell was one of several seniors who left his mark on the Wildcats lacrosse program, helping lead Novi to the state semifinals for the first time in school history. Howell scored two late goals to lead Novi past perennial power Detroit Catholic Central in the regional final.

Harrison Rosenfeld (A), Junior, Detroit Country Day — Rosenfeld saved his best performance for the biggest moment this season, scoring four goals against East Grand Rapids to help the Yellowjackets win the Division 2 state championship.

Tim Urso (A), Senior, Catholic Central — Urso is a Division I talent and was a consistent scorer for the Shamrocks during his career.

KC Kennedy (MF), Senior, Brother Rice — Kennedy was the primary faceoff guy for the Warriors this season and was arguably the best at that craft in the state. He won 64.8 percent of his faceoff opportunities.

Joe Mikkelsen (MF), Senior, Novi — Mikkelsen played well enough to earn All-American honors this season and was a key component to the success of the Wildcats.

Joe Gifford (D), Senior, Notre Dame Prep — Gifford was one of the better defenders in the state this season and is headed to Detroit Mercy next year.

Christian Eckert (G), Senior, Brother Rice — On top of his on-field performance, Eckert also earned Academic All-American recognition this season. He’ll be playing lacrosse at the University of Michigan next year.

Coach: Brian Kaminskas, Clarkston — Kaminskas was named Coach of the Year this season by the coaches association.



Honorable mention

(In alphabetical order) Brad Bogus (Lake Orion); Matt Burnett (Clarkston); Mike Demarco (Rochester Adams); Matthew Giampetroni (Cranbrook); Kevin Horton (Clarkston); Nick Kondoleon (Troy); Jack MacLean (Detroit Country Day); Spencer McInnis (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s); Jacob Pincura (Rochester Adams); Lee Teasley (Rochester Adams); Nick Youngerman (Troy Athens); Mike Sullivan (Detroit Catholic Central)

Last Updated: 8/2/2011 8:32:20 PM EST

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