Jackson boys lacrosse gearing up for tournament run

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

JACKSON TWP.  – After waiting nearly two years to get back on the field, the Jackson Polar Bears are finally getting to see the pieces of their lacrosse puzzle come together.

The 2020 season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic and in the long lapse between the 2019 season, the Polar Bears looked toward a return to action, knowing it wouldn't happen until the spring of 2021. Now that their chance is here, they haven't squandered it.

At 11-2 and with wins over Chagrin Falls, New Albany, Hilliard Davidson and Shaker Heights, they're entering the tail end of the campaign confident and also focused on continued growth.

"Our win over New Albany was a big moment for us.  It is always difficult to travel and play down in Columbus," head coach Bobby Lyle said. "We were down 5-2 after the first quarter and tied 5-5 at half ... we went on a big scoring run in the second half to win the game 20-8. It was the first time the team played to their full potential and the energy was some of the best I have ever seen.  It was one of the most fun games I have been a part of watching the team build off of one another."

That kind of win in which it closed strong against a solid opponent gave Jackson a boost and continued a promising start to the season as the program began with a senior class who were sophomores the last time the Polar Bears played a varsity game. Every game has been a chance to continue to come together as a group.

That coalescence has been apparent on the offensive end especially as a balanced attack has seen Jaden Spears (29 goals, 20 assists), Thomas Chevalier (29 goals, 18 assists) and Gregory Thomas (24 goals, 11 assists) lead the way. Having scoring balance has been key against a difficult schedule and it has also been buoyed by a strong defense with goalie Brady Hawke helming a stingy unit that showed what it could do against New Albany, especially in a second half where Jackson ceded just three goals.

Hawke, whose 60-percent save rate, 93 saves and 6.5 goals-against per game average, has been a steadying force between the pipes and his efforts have taken on added importance in the wake of a recent wave of injuries. 

"We still have some work to do to be postseason ready.  We have been battling some injuries throughout the season and have been slowly getting our team back to full strength," Lyle said. "I have been very pleased with the development the team has shown each week, especially from our younger players. To be fully prepared for the postseason, we need to keep developing our sense of urgency that every play matters."

That sense of urgency is about to take on added importance given the demanding stretch ahead. 

With only a few games remaining prior to the postseason – a postseason featuring a bracket containing some of Ohio's best Division I programs  the importance of playing your best lacrosse rises with each game. Oh, and there's the small matter of the May 14 regular-season finale against a certain team whose colors happen to be orange and black.

Needless to say, after missing a season and a rivalry game, the Polar Bears and Hoover Vikings are amped to face one another again. You could  even say there will be double the anticipation and energy for this game on account of it having been two full years since the last installment of the  rivalry.

"This is a game we have circled on our calendar, as I am sure they do too," Lyle said. "The team is very fired up, but we know we have a lot of  work to do before then. It should be a spirited affair, especially after not having a season last year.  We are excited for the opportunity and  working to be the best version of ourselves every day.

That Hoover game is set for 7 p.m. at Hoover, capping the regular season for both sides and offering each a chance at showing just how ready they are to finish their year on a high note.