Until Saturday night, most of what I knew about the ancient sport of lacrosse is that Jim Brown and Johns Hopkins were good at it.
A lot of people say that Brown was a better lacrosse player than he was a football player. During his senior year at Syracuse, Brown scored 43 goals in 10 games. This seems like a lot. Brown is in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in Baltimore, on the campus of — you guessed it — Johns Hopkins University.
Jim Brown was a badass in every sport he tried, so I’m sure he must have been a badass in lacrosse. He probably wore a dashiki and kufi instead of one of those lacrosse helmets. I wonder if he felt hassled by The Man on the lacrosse field? Perhaps against Johns Hopkins he did.
Since the NCAA began a lacrosse championship in 1971, only nine schools (41 play) have won it. Syracuse has won it 10 times and Johns Hopkins nine. (The others are Princeton, North Carolina, Virginia, Cornell, Duke, Maryland and Loyola of Maryland. Lacrosse, as you might have deduced, is big on the Eastern Seaboard.)
This year, Johns Hopkins failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time in 42 years. The Blue Jays went 9-5, but help is on the way.
His name is Kieran Eissler, No. 22, on the Henderson Cougars.
Watching Eissler against Palo Verde in the Southern Nevada Lacrosse Association championship at the Faith Lutheran football field must have been like watching Jim Brown against Johns Hopkins. Or on the set of “The Dirty Dozen.” Or just walking down the street.
Only instead of a dashiki and kufi, Eissler sported a mohawk. (Actually it was more like a faux-hawk, as there is short hair on each side of his head.)
Eissler, like Brown a lacrosse midfielder (he also played cornerback for the Coronado football team), scored four goals in the Cougars’ 12-9 victory. Like Jim Brown against the Nazis, he was all over the field.
Next year, Kieran Eissler will play college lacrosse for Johns Hopkins. This is a bit of a surprise given this year’s Johns Hopkins roster does not list a single player who grew up west of the Mississippi River (unless you count Apple Valley, Minn., which is practically on it).
It is not a surprise considering Eissler used to sleep in Johns Hopkins pajamas.
If there is a first family of Las Vegas lacrosse, then Kieran Eissler’s family is it. His father, Chris, is the Cougars’ coach (most of the players are from Coronado High School; the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association does not recognize lacrosse as an official sport.)
Chris Eissler, who coaches while holding a lacrosse stick, played the sport in the Sachem School District on Long Island. He told me this during the game, which you don’t get very often in high school football or high school basketball, now that Al La Rocque has retired.
Kieran’s mother, Amy, is the Cougars’ manager. His brother, Quinton, No. 00, is a sophomore attacker for the Cougars, an excellent player in his own right. Quinton sometimes assists on Kieran’s goals, or the other way around. Sometimes Kieran scores unassisted.
A lot of times Kieran scores unassisted.
Kieran scored twice during a nine-second span early in the third quarter, which gave the Cougars an insurmountable five-goal lead, though Palo Verde, which defeated Henderson in last year’s final, pulled to within 9-8 once. After a Palo Verde player named Josh Lovejoy was taken from the field on a stretcher, the kids in the black shirts dominated much of the second half.
But the Cougars scored three of the last four goals. I think it was after the second one that Chris Eissler tossed away his lacrosse stick, because the Cougars had assumed another insurmountable lead and there was only about a minute to play. That’s when we had our chat, and he said there had been a lot of pressure on Kieran, because Kieran is the best player in the city.
And he said this sort of sheepishly, because he didn’t want it to sound braggadocious, though it is true.
A lot of people were at the game, and though there was lots of pushing and shoving on the field, because pushing and shoving and banging sticks are inherent to lacrosse, there was sportsmanship, too.
The clock in lacrosse stops only for timeouts and injuries; it is a fun game to watch, though the beige-colored ball sometimes blends into the webbing of the lacrosse sticks and can be hard to follow, especially when the players whip it to and fro at speeds approaching 100 mph. A bright orange lacrosse ball, or a lime green one, might help.
But make no mistake about this: lacrosse is a physical game that takes a lot out of the players. Sometimes even literally.
Just before the second half was to begin, Garrett Engle, No. 10 on the Cougars, walked past me in a hurry to where the rocks were on the side of the bleachers and threw up.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.