Pictured tying up his man on a face-off against Franklin on Sunday night, Walpole native Joe LaRosa (44) has become a cog on BC High varsity lacrosse's face-off unit with the Eagles just one win away from a state championship. Photo by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Commuting from Walpole to Dorchester every day for school is certainly a road less travelled, but it is one that has paid off immensely for Joe LaRosa.
A junior at BC High, the Walpole native has become a pivotal part of the boys lacrosse team as the Eagles' primary face-off specialist. As far as what brought him to BC, LaRosa says the school's atmosphere upon visiting, as well as their excellent academic reputation, really drew him in.
"I chose BC over Xaverian and CM because in my opinion it had a better reputation for academics and their athletics are great as well," said LaRosa. "It would have been a lot more convenient to go to one of those two schools or a school closer to Walpole, but something about the people and overall atmosphere at BC made me really want to go."
In part thanks to LaRosa's efforts at the face-off X, the Eagles put together a 10-3 regular season, which included a pair of wins over Xaverian and a thrilling 8-7 overtime win against St. John's Prep. LaRosa says doing extra homework on opponents leading up to games and analyzing their tendencies has really helped.
"This is really my first year that I started scouting other teams' face-off guys," said LaRosa on how he's been able to emerge as one of the conference's top face-off specialists. "This is because I realized through my coaches how important it is to get a feel for how different opposing guys play. I first look at the opponent’s clamp and exit to see if I will need to counter or not. After I figure out how hard the match up is, I then look at their skills after the face-off and judge whether I want to quick clamp and get the ball out fast, or tie up and let my wings grab the ball."
Along with extra preparation and film watching, LaRosa also credits the coaching he's received with his club team Laxachusetts, Faceoff Factory, as well as Michael O'Brien and Marcus Craigwell at BC High.
"Joe Nardella and Faceoff Factory [FOF] helped me in so many ways to improve my game," said LaRosa on his emergence in 2021 with BC. "Joe teaches patience, breathing and how to overall develop the speed of your hands to get a quicker clamp and exit. FOF has really shaped me into the face-off man I am today. Laxachusetts helped me with my overall understanding of the game and what it truly means to be a face-off guy. My coaches at BC have definitely shaped me into the player I am today. This is because I developed most of my skills from Laxachusetts and FOF, but coach [Michael] O'Brien and [Marcus] Craigwell really helped me see how to combine the two positions from being a face-off man and being a field player. They emphasize on fundamentals, which overall helped me get a better understanding of how I should play the game. They also helped me develop better strategies I use during every game, depending on how face-offs are going."
On Sunday night, the No. 6 Eagles knocked off top-seeded and previously unbeaten Franklin to win the Division I South sectional. The win advanced BC to play North sectional champ St. John's Prep in the state finals on Wednesday.
During BC's second of three meetings with Prep in the regular season on June 4, LaRosa won two critical face-offs late to allow his team the chance to score two goals in under a minute, tie the game and force overtime. Carter Rice later won the game for BC in the extra period.
In order for BC to win on Wednesday in the fourth installment of this rivalry in 2021, success at the face-off X will be a must, as it was in the June 4 matchup. LaRosa gave a brief scouting report on what he thinks he has to do in order to be successful ahead of Wednesday's state championship bout.
"SJP is obviously our top competition this year," said LaRosa. "[Owen] Umansky and [Graham] Tyson are good face-off guys and very different. I go in with two different clamp techniques to help win the face-off. With Tyson, I tie up more because his stick is a lot more stiff than Umansky's. That allows my wings to help on the ground-ball. I like to face Umsansky more because I can quick clamp and get the ball out quicker, which ultimately gets my team more opportunities like you saw in the overtime game against SJP."
At the time of print, BC High will travel to St. John's Prep for a 6:30 face-off on June 30.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.