BURNT HILLS — It helps when there’s a pipeline.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake senior Ryan Lussier and freshman Ronan Kuhn combined to win 14 of 20 faceoffs in the Spartans’ 14-2 win over Scotia-Glenville in a Section 2 Class C boys’ lacrosse semifinal Monday.
The duo is the latest in a long line of Burnt Hills midfielders that controls the X. It doesn’t hurt that they’re coached by modified coach and Burnt HIlls graduate Marc Leveroni, a 2018 SUNY Potsdam graduate who was the primary faceoff man his last two years, as well as being given pointers by 2022 high school All-American Rocco Mareno, who just completed his freshman year at Towson.
Mareno — who said he got back from Towson on Friday, cleaned out his car, then hopped back in it to go to Burnt Hills’ practice — said there’s a tradition of teaching the younger faceoff guys.
“When I was in eighth or ninth grade, I got introduced to senior Riley Holzman, who went on to Clarkson, and coach [Tom] Schwan taught me that in his system, the older faceoff guy taught the younger faceoff guys, and that there was a tradition of going back and helping out.”
Lussier and Kuhn roughly split the draws, something they said has been mostly true this season. Kuhn was mainly a faceoff player Monday, but Lussier, who will play at SUNY Oneonta next year, played more of an all-around midfielder’s role, sometimes being on a wing when Kuhn faced off.
“Yeah, knowing I’ve got him on the wing is kind of a safety if the ball gets out there,” said Kuhn, who noted that, as per tradition, he learned the varsity ropes from Lussier.
But Kuhn has worked with Mareno for a couple of seasons now.
“He plays hockey as well, so he’s got a nose for the ball and the puck,” Mareno said. “He learns very quickly, he’s knowledgeable, he’s got a bright future. Sometimes he struggles; it’s OK, he’s a freshman, that’s expected.”
Mareno also noted that freshman faceoff player Max Johnson got called up from the JV team.
“It’s his first year ever facing off, and he picked it up,” Mareno said. “He’s very athletic. I taught him something Friday, and he did it in practice Sunday. For Max, he’s got to get the confidence, but between him and Ronan the next few years, that’s going to be a crazy duo.”
Lussier is 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, with Kuhn around the same height and not that much bigger, so they’ve won the majority of their faceoffs this season via quickness.
“Just try to get the ball out and not fight for it; make it a ground ball because we’re both better at getting the ground ball than, like, muscling it out. We just try to go with speed,” Lussier said.
“Ryan’s a shorter guy, but he plays like he’s a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder,” Mareno said of Lussier. “Ronan’s the same way. He has moments when he might not get his nose dirty, but other times he gets right in there and is fearless.”
“It’s definitely a fun experience, and I’m ready to go with this group,” Kuhn said.
Contact Will Springstead at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @WLSpringstead.