Lacrosse: West Forsyth boys focused on the now

Wolverines undefeated heading into thick of area play

The West Forsyth Wolverines don’t look too far ahead. That philosophy should serve them well over the next several games, starting Thursday when they host the Lambert Longhorns in an area showdown.

The Wolverines (11-0, 6-0 Area 4) are expected to take over the top spot of this week’s 7A rankings when they’re released after current No. 1 North Paulding lost to unranked Allatoona over the weekend.

The Longhorns (9-2, 4-0) are ranked No. 4.

John Laden is in his 12th season coaching the Wolverines, who have been to the quarterfinals three times since first qualifying for the playoffs in 2017. Talk of matching or surpassing that feat has not been discussed as a team because, all season, their only focus has been the next game.

“We’re superstitious like that,” Laden said. “We take what’s in front of us. We could have a great finish to the year, but there’s seven games left before the playoffs. We take things one game at a time, and our focus right now is Lambert.”

The Longhorns are current two-time defending champions and, along with the Wolverines, headline a dense Area 4 that also includes No. 6 Buford (9-2, 5-0) and No. 8 Denmark. Coincidentally, those are the Wolverines’ next three opponents before their spring break.

The Wolverines have already beaten three ranked teams, opening their season Feb. 7 with a 16-1 win over Etowah, ranked No. 8 in 5A-6A. On Feb. 16, they beat 5A-6A’s No. 4 Alpharetta 11-6. Last Tuesday, they beat 7A’s No. 3 North Gwinnett 17-5, also an Area 4 rival.

“We feel like we’re having a good year and we’re excited,” Laden said. “The kids have bought in to what we do, and we have good leadership. We’re moving along at a pretty good pace.”

A big strength of the Wolverines is their team depth on both sides of the ball, which goes a long way in maximizing the capabilities of senior midfielder Greyson Brockman and junior attackers Will Zylstra and James Davidson. Brockman, a four-year starter, has 30 goals and 20 assists through 10 games and Zylstra has 39 goals and 13 assists. Both are committed to Mercer. Davidson has 17 goals and 18 assists.

The Wolverines are winning games thanks to an up-tempo style of play in which they’re aggressive on both sides of the ball.

“Defensively, we like to get after people a little bit,” Laden said. “From the moment we start riding, we like to pressure people and invoke panic. We try to be a non-hesitation team. If there’s a slide, don’t hesitate. Offensively, we like to get after it as well. We’re sharing the ball and making things happen in a good way. We’re playing good, team-oriented offense, and we like to spread the scoring out.

“We’re playing well on both sides right now.”

The competition doesn’t drop off after spring. The Wolverines will be greeted by 5A-6A’s No. 10 Cambridge their first game back on April 11. On April 18, they play 7A’s No. 10 Hillgrove.

With a combination of a tough area and non-area schedule, the hope for the Wolverines is that when the playoffs arrive, they’ll be ready to take the next step as a program, meaning the semifinals and beyond.

“(Area 4) is the toughest in 7A, or certainly the deepest,” Laden said. “When the (reclassification) came out, you could see we had a very strong area. North Gwinnett, Buford, Milton (also in 4A), we usually play them (every year) anyway. From there, we added teams we think will prepare us to be the best we can by season’s end.”

The Wolverines conclude their regular season at home against Creekview April 22.