Morning Jac: "Just the First Game" for York
As far as scheduling goes, the York and Stevenson game slated for this Saturday night was locked down relatively late in the process. It was until August when the Spartans and Mustangs hammered out the final details. That's when York head coach Brandon Childs sent the news to his players.
How was it received?
"It was was presented as an opportunity in an email over the summer, but it has never really been talked about again in that light," Childs said of meeting the defending national champions. "The guys get it and they see it as an opportunity. But we haven't been harping on it, to be honest."
Childs and his staff haven't been dwelling on the fact that they are trying to dethrone the champs for a couple of reasons. The first is pretty obvious: he doesn't want to get his guys so focused on one game that the trajectory of the season is linked to this one result. Childs describes his team as "carefree" approaching Saturday's game.
"We haven't really made this game about Stevenson; it's just the first game on our schedule," Childs said on Monday. "I don't get a sense that our guys had a different approach than any other game, but now we're in the week of the game, so maybe this afternoon will be a different story. They've just been focusing on what we need to do to get better at our stuff. I think carefree is a good way to describe them."
The other reason is logistical.
"We try to have as much consistency week in and week out and in Division III we play a lot of midweek game, so we probably won't focus on Stevenson until Thursday or Friday," Childs continued. "It's a little bit unique because it's the first game and we don't have film. We just don't know what to expect, so there is less to prepare our guys for. We're going to have to fight the temptation to start working on Stevenson, but I want to keep it consistent with what we're going to do."
Inconsistencies arise for York when approaching the season as a whole. Last spring, this weekend was used for a scrimmage against Dickinson. The Spartans looked solid against the Red Devils, helped by the fact that Childs was on Dave Webster's staff for three seasons and understood what his team would face. Now he's sacrificed that tune-up date for not only the top team in the country, but a program he doesn't know that well.
"Not having that scrimmage seemed like a good idea back in August, but now that we're playing the defending national champion without a prior scrimmage it has got me rethinking my strategy a little bit," Childs said with a small laugh. "But at the same time if we play the same way we've been practicing, I think we'll put our best foot forward."
In reality, it should be Stevenson that is a little uneasy for this contest. The Mustangs have the confidence that comes with a title and some key advantages (like on faceoffs, to name one), but York is a deep and experienced team. Junior attackman Tyler Hutson, the CAC player of the year in 2013, is the most recognizable name, but there are some others guys primed to breakout.
Childs talked about sophomore Joseph "JoJo" Joseph as a good example. A second line midfielder last year who finished with six goals and three points, Joseph has been nearly unstoppable in intrasquad scrimmages and has been bumped up to the first line for Saturday's game. Sophomore goalie James Anderson is also emblematic. He got 29 minutes of burn in net as a rookie, but is already pushing presumptive favorite Caleb Abney, also a sophomore, for the starting spot.
"It's a lot easier on the coach and the goalies if you just pick a guy and go with him," Childs admitted. "But if you can get two guys who are platooning and doing it great, I think it can be pretty special. But the hard part is committing do it. Honestly, six days before our first game, we don't know what we're doing there yet."
While there is no prior film heading into Saturday, these two aren't complete strangers. They played in 2012 – Stevenson's last year in the CAC and Childs first season with the Spartans – with the Mustangs pulling out a 7-5 victory (the two teams were tied at fives after three quarters). Stevenson is expected to have a huge advantage at the faceoff dot with MLL draftee Brent Hiken matching up with two freshmen, but the Mustangs went 15-for-16 against York two years ago and still were in a dogfight.
Childs readily admits that Stevenson is vastly improved from that last meeting, but so is his squad, which finished 13-4 last year and is receiving votes in this week's USILA poll. Alas, none of that stuff matters.
It's just the first game.