3d Rising - Player Evaluations from 3d Lacrosse, 4/18

Georgia has no shortage of athletes and college lacrosse coaches are increasingly recruiting players from this area. Two cases in point are Neal Hicks, Lovett class of 2006, who was a team captain for Notre Dame when the Irish played in the 2010 National Championship and Scott Ratliff, Walton class of 2009, who plays for the reigning National Champions, Loyola. Ratliff was picked up in the second round of the MLL draft by Boston.

What makes the difference in terms of a player's / program's success is the quality of the coaching. To date, any program with a state championship to its credit has had consistent and experienced coaches, most having played at high level D1 universities. A common phenomenon, certainly within the public school programs, is to have a titular head coach who teaches at the school (a GHSA requirement) and then a community coach (CC) who serves as Director of Lacrosse, and is the real source of lacrosse expertise and coaching.

Two other factors have contributed to the high level of lacrosse in Georgia. First, kids are playing lacrosse a young age. The number of community run youth feeder programs for the public high schools has continued to grow with 24 teams competing in the Metro Atlanta Youth Lacrosse Association (MAYLA). Further, most private schools field middle school teams. The second area of growth has been in club programs. Among Georgia's many summer club teams Thunder LC, LB3, and Rage stand out. As an example, Thunder's top teams are highly competitive in northern hotbed tournaments. Last summer, the Thunder 2015s went 4-1 at Crabfeast and beat the Crabs 2015 team at Boys' Latin. The Thunder 2016s won the A bracket of Tri State.

Taking into account the fact that many of the top players from the classes of 2014, 2015, and 2016 have had a stick in their hands for close to 10 years and have spent the last 3 summers playing in competitive tournaments for their respective club teams, college recruiters would be foolish to ignore the Georgia talent pool.

Game 1: Walton 3 / Pope 8

Walton High School, Marietta, GA
Walton is a 6A program that is struggling to rebuild after winning it's first and only state championship in 2011, the first year Georgia went to 2 divisions. Walton is a classic case of the impact of strong community coaches. Tim Pritts (Rutgers) and John Holthaus (Loyola) led the Raiders to an 8-4 win over Harrison, but it was years in the making. Along the way, they developed Scott Ratliff and Holthaus' relationship with Charlie Toomey was instrumental in placing Ratliff at Loyola. Pritts and Holthaus stepped down as Walton CCs following the 2011 championship season.

Pope High School, Marietta, GA
Pope is always a bridesmaid, but never a bride. The head coach is Carl Pfaff. A consistently strong 5A and below program, Pope lost in the state final to Lambert in both 2011 and 2012. Much of Pope's success can be attributed to its strong feeder program where volunteer coaches like Bruce Oswald (Drexel), Paul Devereaux (Army), and Frank Daniels have developed many of the key players from a young age. Pope's Senior Select (8th grade) feeder team crushed the MAYLA competition last year, so the seeds have been sewn for a bright future for the Greyhounds.

#9 Cody Polifka 2014
Pope High School, Marietta GA
Position: Attack
Sub-Position: Dodger, finisher
Rating: Player

Cody Polifka had 3 goals in this battle between East Cobb rivals. A multisport athlete who plays football for Pope and has hockey in his background, Polifka could best be described as stout. At times he prefers to run through defensemen as opposed to around them to score and gets away with it. He's a righty who worked well in tandem with #25.

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