By EDWARD KENSIK
For Montclair Local
This will be the end of an era and the beginning of an era for the Montclair Kimberley Academy boys lacrosse program.
Paul Edwards will hang up his coaching reins at the end of the 2021 season after 19 years at the helm.
Edwards will be co-coach this year with Dave Giarrusso, a former successful coach at Seton Hall Prep, who will take over sole control in the spring of 2022.
The veteran MKA coach said that he always planned to retire, and the arrival of Giarrusso a few years ago was the clincher.
“The catalyst was really when we hired Dave a couple of summers ago,” said Edwards, who added that the two are on the same wavelength. “His approach to the game is the same as it is to me … I think the program will be left in capable hands, and he will be able to take it to a whole new level.”
Edwards is looking to add to his resume this season after winning a state title in 2012, four state Prep B championships and three league titles.
For Giarrusso, MKA was a great fit after his long, successful tenure at Seton Hall Prep, including nine Essex County Tournament championships and six league titles. He also won state high school championships in California.
“Our philosophies are very similar, and the staff and I have been hard at work getting the kids prepared for the 2021 season,” Giarrusso said. “It was easy to join a great staff, and having MKA alumni on the staff keeps our program connected to what MKA athletics are all about.”
He added that it has been a great experience collaborating with Edwards. “Rarely do you as a coach have the opportunity in the middle of your career to work alongside someone you consider as a mentor,” Giarrusso said. “Coach and I have done a good job of preparing for our specific roles this season, and it is great to be able to throw ideas and decisions off [him], sometimes two heads are better than one.”
The plan was for the transition to take place last season, but COVID reared its ugly head and the spring season was canceled, so the plans for the transfer were put on pause to this season.
Edwards will have control over the entire workings of the program, but Giarrusso will be in on the program’s operations.
Edwards recalls when he was thrust into the head coaching job. In 2003 Edwards, who was an assistant coach at MKA, became head coach after then-head coach Noll Klank tragically died because of a heart attack on the opening day of the season.
At the time Edwards worked on Wall Street, from which he has since retired. “It’s always been a second career,” he said about coaching. “I have been taking it year-to-year.”
The long-time head coach, who has a 184-136 mark heading into this spring, gave a lot of credit to MKA Athletics Director Todd Smith and the school for helping him out all these years.
Edwards and Giarrusso have a team that can bring home some hardware.
The big reason for the optimism is the 11 members of the senior class on the team this season, led by the four co-captains, Jake Waldman, Dan D’Angelo, Owen “O.B.” Sedransk and Rollins Heath. All four are going to play on the next level: Waldman and D’Angelo are heading to Georgetown and Connecticut College, respectively, while Heath heads west to Kenyon College and Sedransk will be a preferred walk-on at Tufts University.
The seniors had been waiting two years to get back on the field with the opener April 20 against Arthur L. Johnson high school — which MKA won, 18-3.
“The kids are really excited,” Edwards said.
The coach said the senior leadership has been instrumental in keeping the players in line with COVID protocols.
“The senior leadership really wants to get the season in,” he said. “And they are very outspoken with the rest of the team.”
While the spring sports were canceled last season, there is expected to be an Essex County, Prep B state and state tournaments this season. Many of the other sports have not had a county tournament.
“We have a lot to play for,” said Edwards, whose team plays in two leagues, the Super Essex Conference and the New Jersey Interscholastic Lacrosse League Kimber Division.
Leading the way this spring will be the goalie play and the offense. Junior Jake Pryor started as a freshman and averaged almost nine saves a game.
The four co-captains are expected to lead the team’s offense. Heath had 37 goals in 2019, second on the team that season. He also added 16 assists. Sedransk had 28 goals, third-most on the team for the 2019 season.
In terms of defense, MKA lost its top player to graduation in Parker Santo Domingo. For this season the defense is led by senior Clay Morris. The rest of the top defenders include senior pole Noah Wolk, pole Dom Greendale and junior Connor Murphy, sophomore Tyler Eng and junior Dylan Sachs.
In addition to the SEC and Kimber Division matches, MKA will be hosting Mt. Olive on April 22 and will honor former assistant coach Ernest Mosca. Mosca passed away last summer.
The other seniors include midfielder Dylan Andrews, attack Matthew McCann, attack/midfield Colin Kearns and midfield/defense Jeremiah Drunkenmiller.