Cameron Carpenter is a backup who is stuck behind perhaps the best goalie in Western New York in Eric Deakin. But when the lacrosse season finally ends for St. Joe’s, Carpenter will likely be in the conversation for team MVP.
The 6-foot-2 junior has more than just filled a glaring need for his team. He has excelled so well in his new position at long-stick midfield that the Maruaders’ present historic season might still be a dream had Carpenter not opted to take one for the team and switch positions.
St. Joe’s clinched its first regular season Monsignor Martin Association title in its history, putting the wraps on an 8-0 league season with Wednesday’s 6-5 win over defending playoff champion Bishop Timon-St. Jude.
The Marauders will be the top seed for the MMA playoffs, which begin Monday with the higher seeds serving as host.
Carpenter, who plays wearing a goalie’s throat guard attached to his facemask and a chest protector, is a fast, athletic presence on the field. He makes smart decisions with the ball and plays in all situations.
After fighting to get what little playing time he could in the cage, now he hardly comes off the field.
“Instead of just standing there,” on the sideline “I can go out there and make a difference,” said Carpenter, who ranks second on the team in ground balls per game (2.6).
“He changed our dynamics,” St. Joe’s coach Pete Hudecki said. “He just allows us to create the transition we’ve been lacking. He plays defense up and down the field. With the way we clear the ball now with Cameron, it gives us the ability to keep Cameron on the field all the way down until we get to the six-man offense and we even keep Cameron on six-man offense for a little bit because he’s such a threat down there.”
While Carpenter’s individual offensive stats are modest (one goal, three assists), the most important number is 10. That’s the number of games the Marauders (11-6, 8-0 in MMA) have won since Carpenter entered the starting lineup following a 1-2 start.
Another key stat: 62. That’s the percentage of faceoffs St. Joe’s has won since Carpenter traded his goal stick for the long pole as he’s extremely fast breaking in off the wing on draws and scooping up the ball.
There’s another key number. That is one, as in lacrosse title No. 1 for the Marauders.
Hudecki remembers during open house when Carpenter said they would add the missing lacrosse title to the school’s championship collection during his time there. Carpenter has made good on his word but isn’t completely satisfied. He and his teammates want to add a postseason championship banner.
“It’s another thing we’ve never gotten,” Carpenter said. “Just keep going, trying to get more.”
If they fail, that won’t change the fact the Marauders have already accomplished something special with Carpenter playing a vital role.
“He sacrificed his own desire to play goalie,” Hudecki said. “That’s super-unselfish and that’s what the game of lacrosse is all about.”
• The Section VI Class A playoff bracket will be complete by Saturday as the only seeds to be decided are Nos. 1 and 2. Those seeds will go to Orchard Park and Clarence. Each team has lost once in league play (to each other) and each plays their regular-season finales Friday. Should they finish with identical league records, already-established tiebreakers will be used to determine the top seed. The Class A tournament begins Tuesday, but OP, Clarence and Lancaster have received byes into Thursday’s semifinals.
• The Monsignor Martin Association final will either be Wednesday or Thursday depending on the outcome of Monday’s Bishop Timon-St. Jude versus Canisius semifinal. A Timon win means the final is Wednesday at Robert T. Scott Athletic Complex. A Canisius win means the final is Thursday. The reason: Canisius’ commencement is Wednesday night, and Timon’s is on Thursday.