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FL MVP: Comets’ Morgan was the ‘monster’ of defense

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CARTHAGE — Through the years, Carthage has built a tradition of defensive prowess in boys lacrosse.

Yet this season, led by senior Taylor Morgan, the Comets distinguished themselves like never before in this pursuit.

“This was probably our best defensive team ever,” said Carthage coach Kirk Ventiquattro, whose team yielded less than five goals a game and posted three shutouts. “And Taylor was a huge part of that.”

At the heart of this success was Morgan, who has been selected as the Times All-North Frontier League Most Valuable Player.

Morgan helped lead Carthage to a perfect 12-0 record in winning the Frontier League’s “A” Division title, marking the 15th time it had finished unbeaten in the circuit, before again reaching a sectional final.

“This has been a great season,” Morgan said. “This is the way I wanted to go out in my senior year.”

The often witty Ventiquattro has a colorful term to describe both Morgan and his role in the team’s standout success on defense.

“He was the ‘monster’ in our monster defense,” the veteran coach said of the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Morgan. “He terrorized dodgers in our zone and controlled our opponents’ best attacker in our man (defense).”

There were two occasions in particular when Morgan made his physical presence felt.

“His job was to back up every body on defense,” said Ventiquattro, who has guided Carthage to 19 Frontier League titles in 25 years. “If opposing players were good enough to get past us, then they had Taylor to contend with. A microcosm of the season was when (Watertown’s) Brad McKinney, one of the biggest and strongest middies in the league, dodged past his guy and actually ran into Taylor. He had to take himself out of the game — and thank God Brad wasn’t hurt and he came back in.

“Taylor was like an immovable object out there ... Later when we played Auburn, almost the same exact play happened with their best middie — and luckily he wasn’t hurt.”

Morgan’s reputation as an intense and unrelenting defender contrasts with his demeanor off the playing field.

“Taylor is an unassuming, pleasant kid,” Ventiquattro said. “He’s kind of like a gentle giant. The first two years he played varsity, coach (and defensive coordinator Jean) St. Croix and I spent a lot of time barking at Taylor just trying to get some sort of meanness in him. He never really did develop a meanness, but he did develop a toughness.”

Ventiquattro added: “He didn’t need to go hit people. In his job, they came to him and he didn’t lose any one-on-one physical battles.”

With Morgan leading the way, the Comets set several school records. They not only registered the first shutout in program history — they posted three defensive gems — in blanking Lowville twice and Indian River once.

Carthage also established marks in allowing only 83 goals — for an average of 4.5 per game and 3.1 a game against league foes, all team records.

“I don’t like people to score,” Morgan said. “That’s something I think we did a good job of this year, is holding our opponents to less goals. And with Trevor (Gibbons) in goal, he’s a big guy who takes up a lot of the net and he was a big part of our season.”

When asked about his accomplishments, Taylor credited his teammates.

“Defensively,” said Morgan, “between myself, and defenders like Jake (Turck), Gunner (Serota), Adam (Kehoe) and Trevor, it’s been great. We couldn’t have done it without each other.”

After a 15-1 regular season, the Comets orchestrated another defensive masterpiece in recording an 11-5 win over Auburn in a Class B sectional semifinal.

In the Section 3 title game, Carthage met its match in the final — soundly beaten 23-9 by four-time state champion Jamesville-DeWitt. This outcome marked the only time the Comets had allowed more double digit goals all season.

Morgan has developed a special bond with his coach. The defender’s father, Mike, is battling cancer, like Ventiquattro, and both haven’t let their personal ordeals hold them back.

“Coach V has meant a lot to me,” said Morgan, who will play at Stevenson (Md.) University, which won the Division III national title this year. “He’s been a lot like a father figure and he would always call me when my dad first had cancer and asked me if I needed anything. He used to get on my case a little bit when I was a sophomore to become a better player, but we’ve had a good player-coach relationship and that’s a bond that I’ll never lose.”

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