Thursday, April 4, 2013

Inside Look: MAHOPAC

By Zach Smart

The blue-and-gold coated banner hanging in Mahopac High School's gym appears as if it hasn’t collected a single iota of dust over the years. The words emblazoned across it serve as motivation for a young team aching to leave its imprint on the program.

The banner reads, “Mahopac Indians. New York State Champions. 1996.”

After a severe Section 1 championship year hangover in 2012, which eventually caught up to them in last year’s sectional title game loss to Mamaroneck, Mahopac has wiped the slate clean. It’s been more than just fluids, excessive sleep, a few Advils, and a big jug of Gatorade to cure this 2011 championship hangover.

Mahopac committed much of their off-season to rectifying the costly mistakes of last year’s title game.

And so the focus flipped. Mahopac is tasked with forging a callow young group into a unit, empowering a new core of scorers, and implementing a versatile offense that thrives in the run-and-gun style.

Spearheaded by one of the section’s elite in Richmond-commit Brendan Hynes at LSM, the defense returns a wealth of experience.

Finding the offensive players to step in and fill the scoring gap left by Anthony Berardis, Charlie Evans, and James Schiera won’t be as simple.

Known for a 1-2-2 motion the Indians are looking to install suffocating defensive pressure. Creating turnovers into transition leak-outs is a considerable aspect of the game plan.

“We want to take advantage of transition,” said head coach Mike Haddeland, a key piece on that 1996 state championship team. “We want to create havoc on the defense and push, push, push.”

Flushed into a leadership role is middie Nick Oliver, who bagged a hat trick in the Indians’ 12-2 pelting of Suffern. Oliver has deposited five goals in two games.
Mahopac’s win was much-needed, as the Indians were pelted and welted to the tune of a 16-3 Northport washout in their opener.

Oliver will look to snipe and rip shots on the fly alongside Ross Thompson, a crafty 6-foot-1 veteran who can dodge as well as he can orchestrate plays. A number of fresh faces, who will earn meaningful burn, are still gelling.

Defensively, the Indians have a veteran savvy. That starts and ends with Hynes, a fierce gamer.

“Physicality, he’s gotten a lot bigger,” explained Haddeland.

“Mentally, he understands the game a whole lot better. He’s such a leader, that’s his biggest attribute, his ability to lead in big moments. He never shies away in crunch time. He rises."

Embodying the mentality expressed by gangster rapper 50 cent and the country strong Tom Petty, Hynes simply won’t “back down.” He shoulders the Navy Seal “any time, any where” philosophy.

Against Suffern, Mahopac negated a team with lofty aspirations to appear in the conversation with Westchester’s perennially tough. The Mounties are bent on helping bridge the gap between Rockland and Westchester lacrosse.

 The defensive pressure of the ‘Pac, non-existent during the Northport throttling, suddenly emerged against Suffern.

With increased physicality, Mahopac rifled shots early, reeling off a 10-1 tear as they shredded through a listless Suffern defense.

A torrent of turnovers and ball control issues derailed Suffern. The Mounties appeared more engaged in a potential post-game fight than they were the actual game.

 Haddeland and the coaching staff hope it’s a portent of things to come.  

Practicing on the tennis courts at Mahopac High during the snow-blanketed days of early spring didn’t build much turf experience, albeit pre-season battles against nationally ranked opponents such as St. Anthony’s, Nisky, and Don Bosco certainly popped this team’s cherry in time.

The Indians, again, have no easy outs. The schedule includes area foes such as John Jay-Cross River, Somers, Yorktown, Lakeland/Panas, and Brewster.

If the outdated state championship banner, a devastating 9-8 sectional championship loss to then-underrated Mamaroneck serve as motivation, this ‘Pac team will push to earn a return trip to the hallowed lacrosse grounds.