DUXBURY, Mass. -- It seems simple in theory - the faceoff guy wins the ball to an open spot and two players come scrambling off the wing to get a ground ball. To actually put it into practice with two long poles, however, is another thing entirely.
Duxbury has been running long stick midfielders James Burke and Reilly Naton off the wings for the last two years with Henry Narlee working the X for control. Whether Narlee wins it to himself or pushes the ball to open space for his two athletic teammates, more times than not the strategy results in a possession for the Dragons.
Wednesday night, the tactic showed its true value. With Narlee battling against one of the state's elite FOGO's in Medfield's Clay Richard, whichever guy was able to win the most was going to provide a big boost to his unit. With a little help from long-stick friends, it was Narlee who turned the faceoff-X into the X-factor.
The two battled to a draw in the first half, but Narlee took over in the second, winning seven straight draws, either to himself or to his teammates, and the Dragons were able to break open what was a fairly tight game with a 7-0 run en route to a 17-7 win over the Warriors.
"[Narlee] did great. Clay is a great faceoff guy and I thought Henry did a great job and I thought that was a key," Duxbury coach Chris Sweet said. "If we win faceoffs and then we get James Burke and Reilly Naton scooping balls out there and moving it downfield, that generates a lot of offense. That's what we need to be successful."
Sweet also appreciates the fact that he has a pair of tremendous athletes with which to utilize such a strategy in Burke and Naton. The duo showed off their prowess as Reilly finished with two goals and two assists and Burke added a goal of his own.
"Those two guys...you can't do it with any two poles. It's Reilly Naton and James Burke," Sweet explained. "They're two tremendous athletes, they can get the ball off the ground and they have great vision and they can run like the wind. They find our attackmen and then they stay involved in the offense. They don't just give it up to the attackmen and get off the field. They stay involved because they've got the skills and the sense to do it."
Knowing that Narlee was in for a terrific battle against Richard, who is capable of turning the tide of any game with his ability to win draws and displayed as much during Medfield's run to a second straight Div. 2 state title last season, both Burke and Naton gave a tip of the cap to their own faceoff specialist.
"Narlee, he's a workhorse down there," Naton said. "Clay Richard is a great faceoff guy, we knew that going in. It was a big game for Narlee and we told him he had to make plays today and I think he did a great job. He won it to himself a lot, he played it to us - we never know what's going on with him. The kid always gets it open space and we'll take our chances with the ground balls."
Added Burke, "Henry obviously gets it going at the X and puts the ball in space and from there me and Reilly just pride ourselves on never giving up. It's all out until the ball is ours and its worked well for us so far."