By Tyler Ford’s account, the first time he and Pat Carlin met was about five years ago when the two were teammates on Fighting 4, a premier lacrosse club run by the Binghamton Lacrosse Club.
Their lacrosse paths will come full circle this fall, when the pair will room together as they begin what both hope will be fruitful collegiate experiences as part of the Syracuse University men’s lacrosse program.
“We talk about it a little bit,” said Ford, a fifth-year player on the Owego’s varsity team, on what lies ahead. “We’re both looking forward to next year.”
Carlin, the fourth-year Vestal varsity player, is unable to hide his anticipation of playing for one of the greatest programs in college lacrosse history.
“I think about it, I don’t think anybody in my position wouldn’t think about it,” Carlin said. “I’ve played a bunch with Tyler, he’s a good guy. It’s going to be awesome next year.”
While both understandably have an eye toward next season, Ford and Carlin are doing their best to finish their respective scholastic careers in satisfying fashion. The midfielders have been among Section 4’s elite for several seasons, garnering numerous postseason honors as well as heightened attention from opposing defenses.
Despite the best efforts of their opposition, both continue to find success. Ford has tallied 36 goals and four assists in eight games, and while Carlin’s goals (10) and assists (6) are not eye-popping, he’s won 71 percent of his face-offs and is Vestal’s leader in groundballs in helping the Golden Bears to an 8-0 start.
“This season is going pretty well,” Carlin said. “Coach (Chris Dutkowsky) told me at the start of the year I was going to get the most attention. So I accepted that I won’t get the most points, but that I’d do whatever I can do on the field to help the team win.”
Dutkowsky, a former lacrosse standout at Vestal and later at Cortland State, is in his first season as Vestal’s varsity coach. He had never had the opportunity to coach Carlin prior to this season, but the senior has more than lived up to Dutkowsky’s expectations.
“The biggest thing about Pat, he’s just such a presence on the field,” Dutkowsky said. “When he’s on the field, he’s always drawing the long-stick middie, or he’s drawing a double team. That makes our other guys more successful, because he opens things up. He does that just by being on the field.
“And he’s a great leader in the locker room. When he talks, people listen to him. He’s one of my three captains, and he’s the most vocal.”
Ford’s individual success this season has been bittersweet. Owego has struggled to a 3-5 record and faces an uphill climb for positioning in next month’s Section 4 Class C Tournament. However, Ford remains optimistic his team’s fortunes will improve.
“We have moments of excellence on offense and defense, but we haven’t been able to do it at the same time,” Ford said. “Hopefully we can win out or at least make a run.”
Owego coach Brian Kinney has coached Ford for the duration of his varsity career. He said the ability has always been there for Ford, but experience has made him a more well-rounded player.
“The athleticism, that stands out,” Kinney said. “In the last year, though, I’ve seen the maturity now. He understands the role and expectations I have of him.”
“He played basketball, which was good for him, it gave him another role, and I think that helped him see how his teammates handle their roles.”
Ford said as an eighth-grader he tried to take note of how the upperclassmen went about assisting the younger players. He’s made a conscious effort to do the same.
“I feel I’m more of a leader now,” Ford said. “We have a lot of new kids on the team, so I’m doing what I can to help make our team better. Team chemistry is huge, so I try to make friends with everyone.”