It’s a well-earned reputation, one that follows Reid Gills into every game that the skilled Crabs 2024 faceoff midfielder plays.
The Severn (Md.) sophomore has established himself as one of the top faceoff guys in the ’24 class. Depending on who you ask, he’s the guy at the stripe in the class. What you can’t argue, however, is that the Crabs’ success and Gills’ hot performance at the stripe go hand in hand.
A tall athlete with an array of moves in his arsenal, Gills started as a freshman for Severn, winning nearly 70 percent of his battles against a rigorous MIAA A schedule. When you can do that in arguably the toughest league in the country, you’re going to carve out that reputation as one of the country’s elite.
At the NLF Fall Invitational, Gills bolstered that résumé even further. Locked in a tight battle with another high-level ’24 prospect in Laxachusetts‘ Jackson Henehan (Thayer, Mass.), Gills was flat-out dominant in the second half to help the Crabs pull away with an 11-5 win in a battle of two of the NLF’s founding members.
Battle of the Elite
Henehan had the upper hand in the first half, pulling away five of the eight battles. The two have gone up against each other a handful of times, and that familiarity helped Gills establish a second-half plan to counter what Henehan brought to the table. The end result? A torrid 8-for-10 run that coincided with the Crabs outscoring Laxachusetts, 8-2, in the second half.
“I went against him in the summer and I just changed from going to a plunger clamp and kind of rotating down over the ball and going to a quick clamp, then getting the ball and exiting there,” Gills said. “I think winning (the faceoffs) and getting the ball to my wings helped the rhythm of the game. If I popped it out to myself, (Henehan) was doing a good job of getting on my hands, so the wings helped a lot.”
It wasn’t enough that Gills was playing make it, take it for the Crabs. An extremely well-balanced offense, paced by three goals and three assists by Spencer Ford (Boys’ Latin, Md.) and two goals and two assists from fellow BL product Connor Sydnor, started humming along after a sluggish first half.
Cody Collier (Calvert Hall, Md.) and Clayton Baddley (Gilman, Md.) each tallied twice, while Chase Hallam (Severn, Md.) tacked on a goal and an assist and Charlie Hall (Severn, Md.) supplied a pair of assists to round out the Crabs’ multi-point scorers.
Like Father, Like Son
At the heart of it all, though, was Ford. The tall righty made the Lakers’ MIAA-champion varsity as a freshman before getting hit by the injury bug. The son of the former pro all-star Spencer Ford, the younger Ford has a coach’s son’s IQ, but he also has excellent vision to go with poise with the ball in his stick and a silky set of mitts that allow him to make plays in tight.
With Laxachusetts up 2-1 on the strength of goals from the St. Sebastian’s (Mass.) pair of Michael Quinn and Max Proia, Ford got to work. He shook off some early mishandles by burying a gem of a backhand goal, then set up Sydnor on a broken play for a dunk. Later, Ford finished off a pretty inside roll and dished out a helper to set up a Baddley high-to-high rocket.
Just a casual six-point game for Ford, whose playing style shares some similarities to NLF No. 10 ’23 Colin Burns (Georgetown Prep, Md. / MadLax DC Dogs / Princeton). Ford has the ability to play a multitude of roles. Even though he’s very comfortable at running the show from X, his hands are so good that he could be an inside guy, making him a very tough cover for defenses.
“It was mostly ball movement,” Ford said of the second-half explosion. “We got our picks moving and working really well. Off-ball was much better in the second half. It’s unbelievable how good this team is and how we can be. I think we could get to No. 1, but we just have to keep working hard and stay with it.”
Another Monster Laxachusetts LSM
On the other side, Henehan still acquitted himself very well, further proving his status as another high-end faceoff man in the class. His faceoff wing running mate Jimmy Kenney might have been Laxachusetts’ best player. The 6-2, 180-pound lefty LSM rebuffed just about every Boston-area private school to stay home for Needham (Mass.), and it’s not hard to see why he was in such high demand. Straight out of Laxachusetts LSM central casting, he’s mean, aggressive and very impactful in the middle of the field. Kenney did a great job off the ground, too, and showed some offensive pop with a high-to-low transition rip.
Nate Austin-Johnstone (Thayer, Mass.) also tallied once and dished out an assist to set up one of Quinn’s two goals.
Those tasked with defending Collier, who made the Cardinals’ varsity as a freshman, should purchase stock in ankle tape companies. Having to guard him has to be a miserable experience with his ability to stop and turn on a dime. He can make you miss in a phone booth, but he’s also pretty savvy off-ball. Collier got his first of two goals on a nice slip before burying an Andrew Kasten (McDonogh, Md.) feed, then later pocketed a Sydnor pass. His shake and change-of-direction made him an early slide candidate and opened things up on the backside for the Crabs.
It’s great to merely see Laake on the field after he went into cardiac arrest after blocking a shot this spring. A starter as a freshman for the Dons – seems pretty good! – Laake showed a very strong base and ability to steer attackmen to where he wants them to go. There were a couple of attempts to post him up that went absolutely nowhere. He also communicated well with his defensive mates to help keep Laxachusetts to two second-half goals.
Quinn, who earned his way onto the ISL powerhouse Arrows’ varsity this spring, has the look of a big-time scorer. A tall lefty who’s at home as a wing dodger, he also showed that he’s comfortable around the cage. Quinn pocketed Boston’s first goal with a rebound on the crease and later showed some good IQ and off-ball movement by sneaking up and finishing an Austin-Johnstone feed.
Crabs 11, Laxachusetts 5
Laxachusetts 2 1 0 2 – 5
Crabs 1 2 5 3 – 11
Michael Quinn (St. Sebastian’s, Mass.) 2 goals
Nate Austin-Johnstone (Thayer, Mass.) 1 goal, 1 assist
Max Proia (St. Sebastian’s, Mass.) 1 goal
Jimmy Kenney (Needham, Mass.) 1 goal
Jackson Henehan (Thayer, Mass.) 7-for-18 faceoffs
Sean Walsh (Hull, Mass.) 5 saves
James Mullowney (Belmont Hill, Mass.) 4 saves
Spencer Ford (Boys’ Latin, Md.) 3 goals, 3 assists
Connor Sydnor (Boys’ Latin, Md.) 2 goals, 2 assists
Cody Collier (Calvert Hall, Md.) 2 goals
Clayton Baddley (Gilman, Md.) 2 goals
Chase Hallam (Severn, Md.) 1 goal, 1 assist
Justin Brown (St. Paul’s, Md.) 1 goal
Charlie Hall (Severn, Md.) 2 assists
Andrew Kasten (McDonogh, Md.) 1 assist
Reid Gills (Severn, Md.) 11-for-18 faceoffs
John Fisher (Battlefield, Va.) 5 saves
Gordon Smith (St. Paul’s, Md.) 1 save