Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
May 27, 2021
The key word is patience. That was something that Kenston Bombers boys lacrosse head coach John Tallman stressed over the course of the 2021 season. Like a lot of teams the Bombers had many new faces and needed to learn how to play together. Kenston only had four returning starters from the 2019 season.
It was a slow process as the Bombers struggled to experience the breakout game they desperately needed to start finding their flow. While the first-year Kenston coach remained patient he did admit it was important for his team to find some momentum especially before the Division II Region 6 postseason began.
The Bombers finally broke through with a victory on May 5 against Western Reserve Conference rivals the Riverside Beavers. This marked the first year the WRC was keeping a record of league play and the team with the best conference record would have the honor of becoming the first-ever WRC boys lacrosse champions. The Beavers and Kenston were the top two teams in the conference so the game was significant in determining who would take the conference title. The Bombers saw their six-goal lead at the break get whittled down to one goal in the second half but responded with two goals late to claim the 10-9 victory and clinch the WRC.
The Kenston coach noted the Bombers seemed to be hitting their stride with a two-game winning streak before the playoffs began. That came crashing down when the Bombers dropped their season finale on May 14 against the Gilmour Academy Lancers. Coach Tallman expressed how disappointing it was to end the regular season on a low.
It wasn’t something the Bombers could afford to dwell on as the Kenston coach explained that he huddled the team together at practice the next day and stressed the importance of wiping the slate clean. He admitted that it would have been nice to have that three-game win streak before the postseason but if the Bombers could not ride a hot streak into the playoffs then they’d have to do it during postseason play.
The Bombers had battled all season to establish consistency on the offensive end. Coach Tallman explained that his players not only needed to learn to play together but also to trust one another. It was not something that was going to magically happen overnight. Kenston appears to have found that trust in each other as it routed the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders 15-5 on May 20 under the lights at Kenston Bombers Stadium.
The Bombers’ offense was showing signs of life prior to the playoffs as they put up some big numbers. Coach Tallman credited those high scores to the fact his team installed a zone offense midway through the season to combat the various zone defenses they were seeing.
“Once our guys could recognize the zone was against them it made it a lot easier to run the offense. One of the drawbacks to having guys both playing and seeing the field is that they don’t always see the defense that’s up against them. It’s not always easy to see the zone,” noted the Kenston coach.
Kent Roosevelt opened the contest running a man-to-man defense but didn’t have success slowing the Bombers down as they scored three unanswered goals in the opening quarter. The Rough Riders then switched to a zone defense and coach Tallman said it took Kenston a minute to read the defense but once it did it ran its zone offense to perfection.
“Basically what we did was use our zone offense against them just to get their guys out of place on the field and get them moving in the wrong direction while we were moving in the right direction,” explained the Bombers’ coach.
Kenston’s zone offense propelled it to a 5-1 lead at the end of the first but needed its defense to stand tall. Despite its defensive struggles Kent Roosevelt was getting a lot of possessions at the face-off as the Bombers’ primary face-off man junior attacker/midfielder Jameson Parker was unavailable for the Thursday night match.
Senior midfielder Kaden Laehu stepped into the draw circle and the Kenston coach praised him for making sure there wasn’t a steep drop-off at the position. When the Rough Riders did have possession the Bombers got up close and personal.
“Mostly our guys were really good at pressing up on the guys who had the ball to make it uncomfortable for them,” said coach Tallman. “We were on their hands as much as they could which makes it really difficult to move the ball around.”
It was a dominating performance on both sides of the ball with Kenston holding a 12-2 lead at the half. Coach Tallman credited junior attacker Brendan Garvey for keeping the offense in sync. The Bombers’ junior tallied 46 goals and 15 assists in the regular season and has continued that trend into the playoffs.
The Kenston coach cautioned that his team was not ready to celebrate anything yet despite returning to the regional semis for the first time since the 2018 season. If the Bombers can get some payback against Gilmour on May 26 then they will advance to the regional finals for the first time in school history and face neighborhood rival Chagrin Falls at C.S. Harris Stadium this Friday night.