Written by Andy Newman Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00
The Great Neck North High School Blazers lacrosse team will have two magic numbers on their minds as they prepare to open their season this Wednesday at St. Mary’s in Manhasset, “5” and .500.
“5” is the number of victories the Blazers need to symbolically give their late coach, Chris Deeks, his 200th career victory as a high school coach. Most of those victories were recorded as head coach of Floral Park Memorial. Set to return to North for his third season, Deeks unexpectedly passed away last August while getting ready to lead North’s football team for the first time.
The goal of a .500 season for the lacrosse team has been set by Deeks’ long time assistant and friend, Wally Cook, who has taken over as head coach. Cook worked with the late coach at Memorial High for 13 years and as his assistant at North. The Blazers were only 4-11 last year but Cook pointed out that many of the losses were extremely close. They were 5-9 the year before. “I’m optimistic that we’re going to break .500 this season, “ Cook said, citing his strong knowledge of his players’ past performances
Cook intends to keep Deeks’ hat and stick on display all season long as a motivational tool and as a reminder of Deeks’ dedication and goal of strengthening the school’s program. “We want to get Chris his 200th win,” said Cook. “It’s the right thing to do. The best way to commemorate his memory is to see him get that 200th win.”
Cook believes that a winning record this year is attainable, citing Deeks’ guidance over the past two seasons and a large turnout when spring practice began last week. “Going over .500 would be a great accomplishment,” Cook added, noting that North hasn’t had a strong team since the 1980’s.
He also bases his optimism on the ability of several of his top players, Evan Dorman, Alex Ludwig, Robert Campbell, and Oliver Elihu. Dorman (who will play lacrosse next year, over basketball, at Haverford College near Philadelphia) and Ludwig (now a junior) starred for the Blazers during the just completed basketball season. Ludwig is now playing his third varsity sport this school year, having also starred during the soccer season.
“He’s a natural,” said Cook. “He’s got great athletic ability.” Campbell also plays ice hockey, and Cook adds, “He’s got a chance to be a top scorer.” Elihu, a co-captain with Dorman, Campbell and Jordan Arabian, was also a captain of the football team.
While Cook assisted Deeks for two years at Great Neck North, he knows most of his players for longer than that. “I was impressed with the boys the first time I saw them when they were ninth graders, “Cook explained. “I was assigned to referee one of their games. I saw then that they were very good athletes and good learners. They had great stick handling skills which have only gotten better.”
Cook also has a strong history as a soccer coach at Floral Park, coaching that team to an unbeaten season in 2006 —- the only Floral Park sports team to ever go through a season without a defeat. The school opened in 1952. There’s another important Floral Park connection to this year’s Blazer team. Cook’s four assistant coaches – William Green, Joe McDonough, Derek O’Haire and Eric Zilenek – are all former players/coaches from Floral Park.