All-Area Boys' Lacrosse Player of the Year: Stonington's Mitchell Kezer
It was Mitchell Kezer's final high school boys' lacrosse game for Stonington High School, what could have been his final lacrosse game altogether.
As it turns out, it was just the beginning of a life-altering series of events for Kezer, one which caused his mom, Emily, to suppose the stars were aligned just perfectly for her son.
Kezer, an all-state defenseman the last two seasons for the Bears, was recruited by Division I Quinnipiac University from his performance in Stonington's season-ending 9-6 loss to St. Joseph of Trumbull in the Class S state tournament semifinals, played June 5 at Cheshire High.
Within the week he was headed to play for Quinnipiac ... and received word he was chosen as the first All-American boys' lacrosse player in the history of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
"It's pretty awesome. Even still, a few weeks after, I still can't believe it did happen," Kezer said of the offer to play at Quinnipiac. "... The last possible game for me to actually get scouted.
"I thought it was one of the best games I played; I didn't make too many mistakes. But it wasn't just me, it was the whole team that helped me look good. They talked to my coach and my assistant coach. After that I got an email from the (Quinnipiac) coach that said we think you'd be a really good Division I athlete. Like, 'Are you sure this email's for me?'"
Kezer, who was recruited elsewhere, but couldn't quite find the right fit, was prepared to attend UConn-Avery Point in the fall and give up on lacrosse.
A defender Stonington coach Paul Deon said is athletic enough to extend out in a zone and is the one he assigns the other team's best scorer in a man-to-man set, Kezer was named as The Day's 2013 All-Area Boys' Lacrosse Player of the Year.
"I can't think of a better way to say it: it's huge for the program," Deon said of the All-America selection.
"At the end of the day, when you take a box score down, you put in goals, assists, goalie saves. You don't see what these defenders do. There's no statistical category to say how good these kids are. The goalie has a phenomenal game and makes a ton of saves, it's immediately right there in print. Defenders don't get as much recognition."
At first, when Kezer and his older brother Alex started playing lacrosse - Mitchell was in third grade and Alex in sixth - their father Paul was upset they were no longer playing baseball.
Now, Paul Kezer is president of the Stonington Seals youth lacrosse program, where youngest son Sam is beginning his career. Alex Kezer was an All-ECC Small Division and second team Class S all-state pick on defense for Stonington, graduating in 2010, and Mitchell followed him as a defender.
Stonington was 16-5 this year, 8-0 with an ECC Small Division title. The Bears topped Large Division champion East Lyme 7-6 during the regular season before falling to the Vikings in the ECC tournament championship.
The semifinal game against St. Joseph marked the third time the Bears reached that round in the last four seasons. Stonington's defense, including Kezer, the team's 6-foot-1 senior captain, limited St. Joseph to one goal in the third quarter.
"He's got footwork, stick skills, he can clear the ball," Deon said. "He didn't have too many weak areas in terms of what you look for in a defender. He can deliver good, hard checks on target while moving with an offensive player. It's very difficult to get around him."
Kezer hopes to major in criminal justice or business at Quinnipiac, a school that until recently he didn't know much about aside from its strength in hockey.
"I visited a few weeks ago. It's beautiful and I love the campus. It's so nice down there," Kezer said. "I know it's going to be a lot different (than playing in high school). I'll have to go and see."
The Day's 2013 All-Area Boys' Lacrosse Team
Player of the Year - Mitchell Kezer (Stonington)
Attack - Mitchell Andres (East Lyme)
Attack - Ian Bond (Fitch)
Attack - Nick Geary (East Lyme)
Attack - Kevin Kolhepp (Ledyard)
Attack - Zach Poirier (Stonington)
Midfield - Nick Balestracci (Stonington)
Midfield - Adam Opsahl (East Lyme)
Midfield - Dan Riordan (Stonington)
Defense - Brandon Page (East Lyme)
Long stick midfield - Scott DeLaura (East Lyme)
Short stick midfield - Adam Reinhold (Fitch)
Goalie - Greg Swenson (East Lyme)