Eastview’s Ryan McNamara, center, pushed past Prior Lake’s Zach Pentron (22) and Eric Ambroz in a recent game at Eastview High School. Photo by Renée Jones Schneider email@example.com
Mac and Cheese has been satisfying appetites for generations. Eastview's limited-edition lacrosse version -- Ryan McNamara and Jake Heppner -- is just getting warmed up.
"I'm Mac, he's Cheese; we just kind of got that during my freshman year, and it stuck," said McNamara, the junior attackman who is committed to play Division I lacrosse at Marquette. "We just know where each other are on the field. We find each other. We can always trust each other to have the ball on their sticks, to find other people or finish it ourselves."
The two offensive dynamos are a handful of games into their third season together with the Lightning, and they are making it count. After only two games, McNamara tallied 11 goals and six assists. For Heppner, 10 goals and four assists. They have grown up together playing hockey and eventually lacrosse, which became a year-round sport for both.
The high-powered duo spearheads an intimidating offense with speed, smarts and raw scoring ability. It's no surprise that Eastview sits among the top three teams in the state rankings.
"It helps to have the best player in the state on your team," coach Tim Roche said of McNamara. "And then arguably the second-best player in Jake."
Both talents were on display in the season opener against Minnetonka. The Lightning trailed by four goals at one time in the fourth quarter. They cut the lead to two with less than two minutes left before McNamara scored a goal and Heppner tied it with 30 seconds left. Eastview won in overtime, with McNamara assisting on Erik Gage's game-winner.
It was only one game, but it set the tone for Eastview, which hopes to accomplish big things this season.
"That's exactly what we needed," Heppner said. "Definitely got our name up there."
Led by a star-powered attack, the Lightning has a hoard of other strong players in a supporting cast.
Roche believes success is built through the middle of the lineup; his players are stacked precisely in that area. Andrew Koenen holds down the goal. Jack Schweich leads the defensive corps. Gage and Alex Wohl solidify midfield. Brad Hogan, who has become one of the state's top faceoff specialists, has been a prime beneficiary of an East Coast trip the Eastview club team took this summer.
"This year he's winning so many more," McNamara said of Hogan. "I don't know how he does it, but almost every time he's getting us the ball."
Hogan's success quite possibly is due to facing some of the country's top talent. In July, a group of 25 boys played 21 games in 13 days, traveling to Maryland, Johns Hopkins -- where Eastview alum Rex Sanders plays -- and the University of Virginia for a tournament. Most of those players since have made the Eastview varsity roster.
The experience is paying off for Eastview in a big way.
"Our team might not have done too well; we lost a lot of games," McNamara said. "But that harder competition helped everyone see how fast the game can be. We learned how to play faster and we brought it back here, and now it's a little bit easier."
How much easier? The Lightning started the season 4-0 and outscored opponents 43-9 in a three-game stretch after beating Minnetonka.
With some of the state's best players, depth and a team well tested, the spring looks ripe for the Lightning.