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Another Sweet finish for Duxbury

Coach, son relish last season together

Sam Sweet, son of coach Chris Sweet, and the other 17 seniors on the Duxbury boys’ team are determined to make a run at a ninth state title. Sam Sweet, son of coach Chris Sweet, and the other 17 seniors on the Duxbury boys’ team are determined to make a run at a ninth state title. (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)
By Andrew MacDougall
April 5, 2012
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Sam Sweet has vivid memories of him, his older brother, Derek, and their father, Chris, a four-time All-American, tossing the lacrosse ball around in the backyard.

From first grade on, Sam Sweet was front and center at every Duxbury High varsity lacrosse home game with his mother, Julie, after his father was named head coach in 1999.

He recalls how big the players were, his father seemingly in command of grown men.

“It was awesome, especially when [Duxbury] started winning all the state championships,’’ said Sweet. “I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I looked up to him. He was a hero of mine, and still is. It was cool seeing all the success that they had with him and him building a successful program.’’

Nearly a decade later, the father-son game has moved from the backyard to a grander stage, with more concrete goals.

The elder Sweet has effectively built a lacrosse dynasty: Since 2002, the Dragons have appeared in all 10 Division 1 state championship games, capturing eight state titles. Countless players have gone on to play at the best college programs in the country. A few are playing professionally.

Three years ago, Derek departed as a state champ before heading off to Division 3 power Lynchburg College, where he is now a star attack.

Sam is now preparing for his final season under his father’s tutelage before continuing his playing career next season at Hamilton. And neither father nor son are eager to see the season end.

“There’s a lot of wonderful things being out there with your son every day, spending the quality time that maybe a lot of dads don’t get to spend, so I cherish that,’’ said Chris Sweet.

“Just knowing from past seasons, [this season] is going to fly by real fast, so we’re going to try to enjoy every moment, every minute, and hope for the best for him, for the team, and then move on to the next chapter.’’

Before then, though, the Sweets and the rest of the Dragons are determined to make a run at state title No. 9.

This Duxbury squad has depth that rivals any team Sweet has coached in the last decade. That depth has been tested early on, with 11 injured players not in uniform but on the sidelines for scrimmages against Salisbury and Fairfield Prep last Saturday at the Rivers School in Weston.

“That’s going to help us going forward when we get our other guys back,’’ said Sweet.

The Dragons have 18 seniors on the 33-player roster, all contributors to a 60-7 record and two state titles in three years.

Fourteen will play lacrosse in college. There are more recruits than starting positions (10).

“This year there’s definitely a lot of senior leadership,’’ said 6-foot-4 senior defenseman Matt O’Keefe, headed to Johns Hopkins this fall. “There are a lot of guys stepping up. This year, we have a good core group that are all just raising the bar for everyone in practice, and I think it will pay off in the long run.’’

The Dragons boast arguably their deepest team since the 2005 championships, which included future Major League Lacrosse players Max Quinzani (Duke), Chris Ajemian (Fairfield), and Kevin Gould (Bentley), as well as college standouts Chris Nixon (Georgetown) and Alec Siefert (Ithaca).

That team went 23-1.

Last June the Dragons avenged their 2010 final defeat to St. John’s Prep with a 16-9 victory at Harvard Stadium. In the process, the Dragons said goodbye to Globe All-Scholastics Bryan Barry (Fairfield), Kane Haffey (Phillips Exeter), and Peter Willauer (Colby).

Senior Will Siefert has replaced Haffey at the left attack spot, while Jay McDermott, takes over for Willauer on the defensive end. In addition, the Dragons return four Patriot League All-Stars in James Burke, Reilly Naton, Max Randall, and Paul Hellar.

“We’re satisfied with some things and unsatisfied with others,’’ said Seamus Connelly, a 6-foot-3 attackman who will play at Duke next season. “We’re just trying to focus on the little things and get into midseason form quickly.’’

That midseason form will have to come quickly for the Dragons, especially if they wish to prove their talents on the national stage.

The Dragons play host to powerhouse Irondequoit (N.Y.) Saturday before hitting the road on back-to-back weekends to face perennial national powers Garden City and Jamesville-Dewitt in New York.

In three weeks’ time, the Dragons could make their claim as one of the top three teams in the country, or a team that may only be the best in Massachusetts. The stakes are high, but Sweet wants his team focused on the game at hand, not the repercussions a win or loss would have on the team’s national status.

“Every day we have to remind them. ‘Don’t listen to the hype,’ ’’ said Sweet. “We don’t read the news, we make the news.’’

Andrew MacDougall can be reached at andrew.macdougall@globe.com.

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