NHSLS, Naptown tourneys on tap with Under Armour Classic pending confirmation

by Nelson Coffin

With Major League Baseball still negotiating with its union and other professional sport leagues still trying to figure out the logistics of how to cope in the COVID-19 era, three local prominent lacrosse tournaments are planning on providing competition on the field late next month and in early August.

The National High School Lacrosse Showcase’s two-session format is set to unfold for the seventh straight year in Howard County (at Blandair Park and Oakland Mills High School, July 28-31).

McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner, who runs the event with former Boys’ Latin legendary coach Bob Shriver, said that after new cases of and hospitalizations for the virus have declined for more than three weeks in the state, the NHSLS officials have received the green light from Howard County to host the tournament.

Although many plans have been shattered during the pandemic, Hilgartner added that he is reasonably confident that the event will take place.

“I think all of the tournament directors are moving forward with plans to hold their events,” he said. “But at any date between now and the tournament, it could be shut down. We don’t anticipate that happening, but it could.”

So far, 30 varsity boys teams are on board to play games with 24-minute running halves July 28-29 for to vie for a championship in the Red Session while 45 boys squads will do the same July 30-31 for a White Session title.

The teams, traveling from as far as Texas, Florida and Washington state, are clustered in those brackets based on their availability to attend a particular session, rather than their projected strength.

The top-eight teams which qualify for the playoffs in each session will battle for a title, with five of those games slated to be aired on ESPNU.

Deerfield Academy of Massachusetts prevailed over Long Island power Chaminade in one of the 2019 finals while MIAA A Conference member Archbishop Spalding took down Westlake from Texas in the other bracket.

“We are also offering JV sessions that would run concurrently with both the Red and White Sessions,” Hilgartner said. “It looks like the Red JV Session is a definite go and the White JV Session is still building.”

Last summer, Georgetown Prep edged St. Paul’s in the JV tussle.

All in all, this summer’s NHSLS should make for an interesting four-day activity for the 75 varsity teams that will average between 20-to-24 players per team.

Local favorites include Archbishop Spalding, Boys’ Latin, Calvert Hall, Gilman, Glenelg Country School, Hereford, John Carroll, McDonogh, Severn, Severna Park, St. Paul’s, Towson and Westminster.

Players and their parents will be encouraged to maintain proper physical distancing from one another off the field and wear masks when appropriate, like when they are walking to and from their cars.

Post-game team gatherings for meals and refreshments will also be shelved in favor of smaller group repasts.

“We are definitely aware of health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and we certainly have respect for those with major concerns about it,” Hilgartner added. “We will have a lot of the necessary precautions in place, and we want to be smart about things. The risk (of getting or spreading the virus) is lower by being outside and the kids are in the lowest risk group.”

Neither players nor game officials will be required to wear masks during games, and an alternate-possession rule could replace the face-offs if deemed necessary.

Because of the havoc wreaked by the virus on the spring season, for the first time graduated seniors — or rising college freshmen — will be allowed to participate.

Shortly after the NHSLA concludes, the Naptown National Exposure Showcase (Aug. 2) and Naptown National Challenge (Aug. 3-5) are the next events slated to step into the local lax spotlight.

The Naptown National Exposure Showcase will give players an opportunity to work on their individual skills, participate in drills and play non-club-team games on the first day of the event.

It is a separate event from the Naptown National Challenge, an invitation-only three-day event for well over 100 nationally recognized club teams for boys in the 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026 and 2027 graduating classes.

Each class year will have its own sites, including fields at South River High School, Davidsonville Park, Annapolis High School, Kent Island High School and White Marsh Park, for games leading up to the championship finals at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis on Aug. 5, with the high school-level title games broadcast on ESPN3on.

One of the tournament’s two directors, Dave Cottle, said that the time between games has been widened to limit the interaction between players departing and entering the field.

Moreover, the Hogan Lacrosse/Legendary Sports Group lacrosse chairman said that there will be fewer teams per field for the event to help maintain proper physical distancing.

“We want players to be safe as possible, so we are trying to follow the best protocol to make that happen,” he said, noting that all employees will be required to wear masks, the number of family members allowed to attend will be reduced, each player will use his own water bottle and officials will be permitted to use a special button whistle only beyond 6 feet of any player. “Medical experts are writing our safety policy for us.”

Cottle added that neither referees nor players will wear masks during games, but will be asked to do so afterwards.

He added that game videos, a crucial recruiting tool, will be sent to college coaches unable to attend the event.

“We’re massaging it so that every coach will be able to see these kids play against top competition,” Cottle said. “It’s been a tough year for the (20)21’s and (20)22’s. They’re the most disadvantaged classes in the history of college lacrosse (recruiting).”

Another summer staple, the Under Armor Lacrosse Classic, tentatively scheduled to run from Aug 6-9, has yet to be confirmed for its 15th annual edition.

Next week, the Baltimore-based sports apparel company is expected to announce a final decision on whether the event will be held.

Other sanctioned tournaments in the area this summer, listed on the US Lacrosse website, include the following:

— The Crabcake, (7/11-7/12), Bel Air

— Future Champions Lacrosse Tournament (7/18-7/19), Cecil County.

— Summer Classic (7/21-7/22), Bel Air

— Live, Love, Lax (8/1-8/2), Aberdeen, Bel Air and North East.

— The Capital Cup (8/13-8/16), New Castle, Del.