By Michael Bower
Lacrosse in California has quickly closed the gap to the level of talent in Maryland and New York. And Poway High coach Zack Burke, who played and coached in Baltimore for a good chunk of his life, thinks it is only a matter of time until California passes the East Coast.
“The gap is not as big as it use to be,” said Burke, a former Coach of the Year in Baltimore. “Out there you probably have 10 guys on a good team that can play at the college level and out here you probably have about six.”
“The difference is out here you can play everyday,” he continued. “There is no couch time or heat problems in the summer. That and all the athletes that seem to end up here in California gives us an advantage.”
For now, though, the benchmark for high school lacrosse continues to be set by schools in the East, especially in Maryland. And that’s why when those schools come to town it is a big deal.
Last year, Rancho Bernardo hosted DeMatha Catholic of Maryland, a perennial power, and fell 8-7. On Tuesday night at 7, Poway will take its shot against the Stags, which through Monday are ranked No. 10 in the state of Maryland by Laxpower.com.
“It would really give our guys a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season to be able to knock them off,” Burke said. “They always have physical athletes, they have a great tradition and a great coaching staff. We have our hands full, but we are confident. I don’t know if we will win, but I think we will be able to compete. I don’t expect to get blown out.”
Playing a team like DeMatha also gives players a shot to impress colleges. It’s no secret that a scout is far more blown away with a strong performance coming against a team from the East Coast than one here in California.
“The second I call back East and say this guy had two goals and an assist against DeMatha, it just justifies that player,” Burke said. “So playing these guys helps me with my job and that is to give guys an opportunity to get into college.”
The Titans entered this week with a 4-1 record, their only loss coming to Torrey Pines, 11-4, on March 19. Poway trailed 7-0 midway through the second quarter and Burke was disappointed with the way his team started that game.
“They just didn’t believe in themselves against Torrey Pines,” he said. “We can’t come out like that. We have to come out hot and full of energy.”