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There’s a reason that Ben McCarthy is the highest-rated faceoff midfielder in the recruiting rankings era.

McCarthy, the No. 2 recruit in the NLF’s class of 2024 rankings and a unanimous top-5 recruit nationally, is just built differently than everyone else. Statistically speaking from a faceoff wins and losses perspective, he won’t sit atop the throne. Simply put, though, there’s nobody that can change a game from the faceoff stripe the way that the Duke signee does.

Ask Taft, the latest of McCarthy’s victims in a 9-8 triumph Sunday at the Haverford School. At the stripe, he actually went one under .500 against Philly native Russ Fitzgerald (Prime Time), a four-star junior committed to Princeton. But the final minute showed why McCarthy was so highly pursued by every school in the country.


After Taft’s Quinn Whipple tied the game on a man-up goal, McCarthy won the faceoff, worked a give-and-go with Michigan commit Jack Long and then hammered home a goal. It looked like it would stand as the winner, until the Rhinos got a man-up opportunity and Rutgers commit Bennett Raphalian (Leading Edge) hammered home his third of the game to set up a faceoff with 12 seconds left. Overtime-bound, right?

Clutch Gene… Twice

That’s not what McCarthy had in mind. He won the faceoff forward, shrugged off a check from Fitzgerald, sprinted away from the pole and blasted home a bouncer while fading away from the net. Two goals in the final minute? For a faceoff guy? You cannot be serious. Had he ever done that before?

“Not that I can remember,” McCarthy said with a smile. “Not since I’ve been in high school. It’s just a great feeling. Jack Long had a sick ground ball and made a sick feed on the first one. He made it easy for me. Second one, we had an unfortunate penalty, so I knew we had to do something quick and luckily for me, I was in the moment and able to pull it off. … Going into the second half, I knew my time would come where I would have to do something and it showed itself there. … I was kind of surprised that the slide wasn’t as quick as I thought. I thought it’d be early, but they kind of hesitated with it, so I knew had to take it myself and I was able to pull it off.”

Scoring two goals in the final minute, winning faceoffs and playing short-stick defensive midfielder. What can’t this kid do? His athleticism has shined through, particularly this season. He burned top-5 McDonogh for two goals in Haverford’s 14-7 rout of the Eagles. He can take away opposing midfielders’ dodges and he gives the Fords so many options to dictate matchups.

“I feel like it just gives me the opportunity to change the pace of the game,” McCarthy said. “Against a guy like Russ, he’s going to hit some whistles, he’s going to make some plays. He’s one of the tougher opponents I’ll play all year, so I’m able to get that extra juice from those big plays that other guys might not. It pushes my teammates and I to keep working throughout the game.”

Fords Stay Perfect

It’s working for McCarthy and the Fords, who have been as impressive as anyone in the country in the early going. The reigning Inter-Ac champions are strong all over the field, and there’s a lot to like about their chances for a repeat. Brown commit Brady O’Kane led the offense with two goals and an assist, Richmond commit Brody Murphy made 13 saves and Duke commit Gavin Cooper (Big 4 HHH) spearheaded the defense.

The Rhinos fell to 0-2 with the deciding goal in losses coming in the final minute. They’re still coming together, but this won’t be a team you want to see in April and May. There’s a ton of talent on the roster, and if everyone can get healthy, watch out. Raphalian had a hat trick for Taft, which also got 11 saves from Ben Friedman (Prime Time / Yale). Fitzgerald acquitted himself very well with an 11-for-21 day at the faceoff stripe.

Ultimately, though, the day belonged to McCarthy and the Fords.

Taft vs. Haverford School Standouts

Angus Brown ’26, defense / LSM, Taft (Conn.) / Team 91 Long Island

Brown stood out at NLF at IMG this winter, earning All-Star honors in the process. There’s always a big difference at this age between shining against your sophomore peers and doing it against older varsity competition. Brown saw a good bit of time at LSM against the Fords and acquitted himself well against one of the top teams in the country in the process. He’s not overly big, but man, is he aggressive. He certainly subscribes to the theory that if you’re going to make a mistake, make it at full speed. An Energizer Bunny, Brown loves to press out and get out on gloves whenever possible. He communicated well with his teammates, too, certainly at a level not usually seen with sophomores. Most importantly, the moment’s not too big for him, and his future is extremely bright.

“Angus plays with a real edge and strikes a great balance between applying pressure and knowing when to defer and sink back into the team defense as a whole,” Taft coach Max Rosner said. “He’s a young player who’s earned his time for his aggressiveness and IQ on the defensive end. We’re looking forward to seeing him grow as a leader in our defense.”

Gavin Cooper ’25, defense, Haverford School (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH – Duke

Cooper has become such a versatile chess piece for Brendan Dawson to use all over the place. He can guard big or small at both LSM and close defense. He earned All-State honors as a sophomore LSM before committing to the Blue Devils. Sunday, he was tasked with taking on Quinn Whipple, one of the best lefties in the ’24 class. The slick and skilled Whipple shook free of Cooper on one sequence before snapping a pinpoint shot home, but the rest of the matchup went to the five-star defender.

Cooper’s footwork is uncanny for a player his size and for as built as he is. He did a really nice job of staying patient against Whipple’s never-ending bag of tricks, and Cooper’s power shines through when he throws checks. Having him cover you seems like an awful time. It also helps to have a great defense around him in the form of guys like four-star Notre Dame commit Kellen Gardner and four-star Penn verbal Charlie Halpert (Big 4 HHH) around him.

“I think this defense is the best defense I’ve played with,” Cooper said. “We’ve all grown up together and we’ve all had so much experience. With Kellen and Charlie, we’ve been playing together since freshman year so I think we’ve just gelled really well together. In the first couple of games, I think we’ve played extremely well together as a whole.”

Ben Friedman ’24, goalie, Taft (Conn.) / Prime Time – Yale

Friedman’s already a five-star and a top-3 goalie in the NLF rankings, but if he keeps playing like he did against Haverford, he could very well finish as the top stopper in the class. He exudes calm and never looks bothered by anything. Friedman was outstanding in the opening quarter, making five saves, including a superb 1v1 save on the very dangerous Brady O’Kane in tight. His movements are so controlled and fluid that it doesn’t even look like he’s trying. Friedman stopped 11 shots on the day and was the biggest reason why Taft came so close to the upset.

Russ Fitzgerald ’25, faceoff midfield, Taft (Conn.) / Prime Time – Princeton

And the other biggest reason why the Rhinos nearly toppled the Fords was the future Tiger’s play. Fitzgerald was outstanding in a battle of two of the nation’s top faceoff recruits and actually went +1 over McCarthy in faceoffs with an 11-for-21 day at the faceoff stripe. He was dialed in to the whistle on most reps and used his quick hands and technique to get clean wins. He had a couple of impressive pop-outs to his wings, showing his advanced knowledge of exits and where his wing guys are able to get the ball.

Brody Murphy ’24, goalie, Haverford School (Pa.) – Richmond

Even-keeled as always, the Fords’ second-year starter went toe-to-toe with Friedman in a goalie duel and came out with 13 saves. It takes a lot to get one past the future Spider, as he rarely yields a stinker of a goal. He made a terrific save on Penn commit Pearse MacDonald in the game’s final 90 seconds, but it was a set of back-to-back kick saves on Ben Wick in the second quarter that shined as his finest moments of the game.

“It helps to practice every day against one of the best teams in the country with some of the best shooters,” Murphy said. “It helped me prepare. But there are no big games. We treat every game the same and prepare for it the same way.”

Brady O’Kane ’24, attack, Haverford School (Pa.) – Brown

You can watch O’Kane play multiple games and still come away wondering whether he’s a righty or a lefty. He’s so confident with the ball in his stick and will attack a defense wherever he sees an opening, handedness be damned. He had a gorgeous high-to-high righty bardown rip off of a hard dodge from X, then followed it up with a slick feed to Navy commit Aydan DiRocco, who showed impressive hands by finishing traffic. Haverford has a lot of good offensive options, but it’s O’Kane that gets the Fords going. One of his most impressive dodges actually came on one of Friedman’s best saves of the game, but it showed O’Kane’s explosiveness and ability to get a shot off in tight.

Chris Reinhardt ’24, midfield, Taft (Conn.) / Eclipse – Notre Dame

Max Rosner must be thrilled to have Reinhardt join the program as a PG in Rosner’s first season as head coach. The Ridgefield (Conn.) native is a force all over the field, and his impact is felt in so many different ways. He didn’t factor in on the scoring, but he was still a force for the Rhinos. Reinhardt’s on faceoff wings. He plays great defense and always goes at full speed. He likely projects as a SSDM for the defending national champions, one that will be able to provide matchup problems in transition.