The Live Oak High boys lacrosse team has been steadily building and is one of the rising programs in the Central Coast Section.
The Acorns barely missed out on making the playoffs last year, but this season they’re intent on not only making the postseason but winning a game or two in the tournament. Having moved from the Pacific Coast Athletic League to the Blossom Valley Athletic League this season, Live Oak can clinch an automatic playoff berth by winning the Mount Hamilton Division championship.
“Everything we do is gearing up for the playoffs,” Acorns coach Gavin Herr said. “That’s our focus.”
Live Oak has won its first two league games by a combined margin of 35-9, and Herr doesn’t expect too much resistance from the three other teams in the division. The only drawback of switching leagues is Live Oak could very well overwhelm every team it plays given Sobrato, Leland and Pioneer are relatively inexperienced and Christopher, while competitive, might be hard-pressed to keep up with the Acorns’ high level of play.
But the pros of going to the BVAL are enormous, as the team cuts down on travel time and has a guaranteed spot in the playoffs by winning the league title. The Acorns, who are 5-0 with a No. 2 ranking in the CCS by Max Preps, have won by identical 10-9 scores against solid teams in Mitty and Los Gatos.
Live Oak led Los Gatos 10-5 entering the fourth quarter before surrendering four goals and holding on at the end. In the first three periods, the Acorns were in rhythm and playing at a high level. Herr was pleased until the final quarter in which they failed to finish strong.
“We almost gave up that lead,” he said. “I think if we take that game a little more seriously at the end, I don’t even think it’s close.”
Live Oak has a deep 27-man roster led by a host of talented players including Nolan Ledwith, Colby Allen, Luke Richey and Collin Fisher. Ledwith, a junior long stick middie and defender, leads the team with a .733 faceoff winning percentage and 21 ground balls.
“Nolan is a really special kid,” Herr said. “A hard worker, big leader and really does love this team and it shows in every practice. It’s been really awesome having him on the team.”
Fisher, a senior attacker, has accumulated nine goals and a team-best seven assists through the first four matches. A physical talent and presence, Fisher has been shooting and facilitating well, consistently creating scoring opportunities.
“Collin is a tall, righty attackman, but we use him everywhere,” Herr said. “The top guys have specific roles, but they’re so capable that they can play pretty much anywhere on the field.”
Allen, a senior attacker, has a team-high 12 goals and is dangerous whenever he has the ball.
“Colby is lightning in a bottle,” Herr said. “He’s very dynamic with the ball on the attack, and we really need him. He’s having a special season and he’s been great.”
Richey, a junior utility, has been utilized at every position outside of goalie. He’s on the field in man up and man down situations, on the attack, in the middle and is the short stick middie on the man down defense.
“Luke has been really impressive,” Herr said. “He’s a big boy, strong, runs hard, covers distance very easily. He’s a one-man clearer and we trust him a lot when he has the ball. He shoots, dodges, does everything. A special kid.”
Junior Ryan Forbis, who leads the team with 13 takeaways, has been rock solid at defender, highlighted by some incredible play in the final minute of the Los Gatos match.
“He was really composed,” Herr said. “He comes out and gets three takeaways in the course of 20 seconds to stop them from being able to get a shot on goal. Not one single [illegal body] check or foul and his ball control was amazing. Like a surgeon, it was awesome.”
The team has tremendous depth at goalie which showed against Los Gatos. Senior starter Blaine Barnes was unable to play, so freshman Kyle Carmichael stepped in and was a difference maker.
“Kyle showed up huge,” Herr said. “He made a bunch of big saves and played well under pressure clearing the ball. It was really impressive.”
Kenyan Castro has also displayed scoring ability early in the season and has nine goals. Herr also runs the South County Outlaws Lacrosse club team, and several of the Live Oak players have gone through the program. The Outlaws season runs concurrently with the high school season, and they practice at the Morgan Hill Sports Complex and Community Center and have home matches on Sunday.
For Herr, seeing some of the players start at 11 or 12 and develop into bona-fide high school players is always a special deal.
“It’s awesome to see how they’ve developed over the years,” Herr said. “They come in with experience and that helps with overall success. It’s going to be a really special season.”