Saturday, May 4, 2013

Murphy Cup Always A Classic, No Matter Who Is Who

By Zach Smart

Statistics and power of schedule tell us a good deal about this year’s Murphy Cup, another page in a chapter in the thick-paged book on  this storied rivalry.

And so the lawn chair quarterback and the guy who sifts through the bevy of stat sheets and peruses the numbers in the Journal News scorebook assumes Yorktown will arrive at this game bedecked in championship attire.

According to the lawnchair quarterback, the guy who is at open gym three days a week but never jumps in a game, Yorktown will pound Lakeland/Panas. Lawnchair quarterback wisdom tells us that L/P is suffering residual effects of the youth movement and growing pains.

Yes, Yorktown has handled prosperity with ease, they’ve toppled the nation’s elite of the elite (the Chaminade win registered the Huskers presence to lax junkies across America, proving just how ready made they are). The Huskers have made a living out of compensating for spotty first half play with dynamite, balls-to-the-wall execution in the third quarter.

That’s been the period when back-breaking runs, explosive by-the-bundles scoring, and a hellfire offense unleashes a furious tear that breaks the game open. You can't let Yorktown get a breather in the third quarter, when they are on their feet and eyeballing seams and scanning the field for open looks.

 So, they should wipe the turf this mediocre L/P squad with their J.V. team right?

Think again.

 The history and intense nature of this rivalry shows us that anytime these two teams are getting after at it, the emotions are high, competitive spirit permeates the turf air, and tempers occasionally flare. That typically results in a back and forth blood feud.

Rankings, records, and lofty aspirations don’t matter much for this one. Even if it was the case of the big ticket seller first the dungeon dweller, expect L/P to piece together their best and most emotional performance of the season.

We witnessed the LP resilience back in 2010, when a team comprised of veterans who were exhausted from carrying the second class citizen tag to Yorktown came out guns-a-blazing in the third quarter, ripping off a 4-0 run that bled into the fourth quarter.

“The Murph cup is the biggest game on the schedule, every season,” said Justin Mabus, the former Yorktown playmaker now at Towson.

“It’s always intense. It’s always a good game. The game is always exciting and you can never guess the outcome. It’s a game of spurts, a game filled with excitement. It’s a privilege to play in honor of Charlie Murphy.”

L/P, a program once rife with Division-I talent (see Monteferente, Chris or  Caffrey, Rob or Prunty, Conor or maybe Honovich, Shawn for more on that one) does not contain the same veteran savvy it once did. Still, the Rebels have a go-to guy in Siena-bound Brian Prunty, a veteran keeper in Mike Zingaro, and a core of athletes getting their varsity teeth cut.

To paraphrase a young man who once starred at Lakeland/Panas a few years back in the day, “Just because we don’t have five All-Americans doesn’t mean you can write us off completely.”

Ray Gallagher, the legendary local sports guru and Examiner News columnist, said the rivalry game won’t lose any luster this season.

“It’s the only one-sided local rivalry in history to maintain that kind of bite,” Gallagher said. Other one-sided rivalries fizzle. Not this one.”

Yes, Yorktown possesses a finely oiled machine offensively. A finely tuned defense spearheaded by Hopkins-bound Trevor Koelsch, who’s handled the chore of locking up on every All-American in sight, has helped spur the Huskers’ El Aziza-hot start.  

With UMass-bound senior hunting for his shot early and often, the onus has been on supplementary sniper Brian Prestreau (Stony Brook) and Connor Vercruyesse  to provide timely goals. Both Division-I signees rose to the occasion with a sense of fervor against heavily hyped and previously undefeated Ridgefield. The Huskers survived every push they made, answering the call by painting the pipe at opportune times. Nick Mariano received the focal point treatment, as he was battered and bodied up by a Ridgefield defense hell-bent on keeping the senior slinger at bay in the first half.

The clamp down operation didn’t last long. The young man known in lacrosse circles as ‘Nicky Lax’ popped in back-to-back goals, including the tie-breaker and the go-ahead from long range as Yorktown seized a 7-6 lead as the troops headed to halftime. A lob pass from Mariano to Vercruyesse, who bagged a turnaround rip, was the true dagger as Yorktown delivered an 11-8 win.

L/P (3-9) overcame an abysmal start to the season, when the growing pains compounded. The Rebels snapped out of a 0-5 free-fall with a win over Somers. Back to back losses to John Jay-Cross River and Bronxville, a pair of upper-echelon teams served as preparation for a hot-shooting Yorktown team of this caliber.

The records, rankings, and personnel may change. There is a significant gap between the two teams’ level. Still, the nature of this storied rivalry will stay the same today.

Whether the lawnchair quarterback likes it or not.