Perennial championship contenders return for boys lacrosse
Mar 06, 2020 01:09PM
By Travis Barton
Josh Nydegger, seen here from last season, is one of the returning attackers for a potent Brighton offense this season. He finished with 46 goals and 28 assists a year ago. (Photo by Dani Johnson)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
May 2015. Almost five years ago. That’s the last time the Brighton High boys lacrosse team didn’t play in the championship game, losing that year in the semifinals.
The ensuing four seasons saw the Bengals reach the championship game, winning in 2016 before losing the last three championship games. All by one goal, including last season’s 8-7 loss to Park City.
“Anytime you make it that far, one of the last two teams, it's always a successful year,” said head coach Chris O’Donnell. “To lose by one for the third year in a row is heartbreaking for the kids. That's a really good Park City team who’s only getting better. In a one-game series, there's no room for errors; you make a couple and that's all it takes in lacrosse.”
O’Donnell, entering his third year on the coaching staff and first as head coach, made it clear the team won’t dwell on it, leaving the past behind and focusing on what works for the new team.
“You gotta put it behind you and work to make sure it doesn't happen again,” he said.
Of course, in a talent-rich program, the Bengals have several returners — basically the entire offense — that O’Donnell expects to contribute.
“Defense is where we lost most of our people, but we got a big number of returners. That always helps,” he said.
While the team will break in a new varsity goalie and two defensemen, its offense will return all-state performers such as Blake Yates, Kyler Kehl, Josh Nydegger and Carter Budge. It also returns All-American long stick middie Matthew (MJ) Cirillo.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing Brighton won’t be on the field. Kind of.
Due to construction at the school, the varsity team will be forced to play home games at nearby Hillcrest High School, who doesn’t have a team. “More so I feel bad for the senior class that doesn’t get to play any senior games there,” O’Donnell said
O’Donnell, a Virginia native, remembered when his high school switched from grass to turf and that team was forced to play its season with all road games.
“So we still get a home game relatively close and we’re going to treat it as such,” he said. “But we’re also going to take care of their stadium, not going to trash it and make sure we respect Hillcrest for allowing us to play our games there.”
“We’re going to make it our home away from home, our den over there,” he added.
As for expectations this season, for O’Donnell, it’s simple.
“At Brighton lacrosse it's the same expectations every year, be one of the final two, make it there and give yourself a chance because anything can happen in those games,” he said, adding they have a region championship to aim for now that the sport was sanctioned by the Utah High School Athletics Association.
O’Donnell also pointed out the support he’s gotten from the school and parents with the switchover with the coaching staff and the sanctioning. “The fact that they're so involved is always a great thing for our program,” he said.
The Bengals’ first game is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6 at Hillcrest High School against a team from Pebble Beach, California.