CJ LaBreck’s athletic calendar had always seamlessly flowed from one sport to the next. At Thornton Academy it had been football to basketball to lacrosse, contributing in each in significant ways.

Until just before his senior year. That’s when the 2018 Varsity Maine boys’ lacrosse Player of the Year had to make a decision about his injured left shoulder.

“I could have definitely played through or waited. I know it was my last year of football and basketball but I looked at the bigger picture,” he said.

LaBreck considered the importance of his favorite sport – he will play Division I college lacrosse at Monmouth University – and opted for surgery in August to repair a torn labrum.

That meant the all-Class A South wide receiver/defensive back was recovering as his former teammates rolled to an undefeated Class A championship in football.

“It was great to see the football team win a championship but it was also sad, knowing that I could have helped just a little bit,” LaBreck said. “It was difficult. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to watch a team play without me. But it was a great experience because it did teach me how to deal with things because they come randomly and you just have to deal with it, just like life.”

In the winter, LaBreck was cleared to run so he opted for indoor track but he would have preferred to play basketball. As a junior, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound LaBreck was second on the team in rebounding and assists and chipped in 5.3 points per game. This winter, Thornton’s hoop team lost in the AA South regional final to Bonny Eagle by four points.

“Who knows what he could have done to help them in that game?” said Thornton lacrosse coach Ryan Hersey.

What Hersey does know is LaBreck has spent the lacrosse preseason playing like a young man making up for lost opportunities. In a recent scrimmage against Exeter High, one of the top programs in New Hampshire, LaBreck “took over the game,” Hersey said, scoring three goals against Exeter’s all-state junior goalie Henry Vogt.

“He played angry, like he had something to prove,” Hersey said. “He played with a lot of fire and I think it’s just the fact that he knows he had to sit out a state championship football team and a semifinal basketball team.”

Last season, LaBreck scored 44 goals with 34 assists to lead Thornton to a 15-0 record and its first lacrosse championship. A two-way midfielder, LaBreck was nearly unstoppable while clearing the ball from defense to offense.

“He’s a match-up problem for every team that faces him,” said Cape Elizabeth Coach Ben Raymond.

Thornton’s title came in the first season where Class A included long-established powers Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth.

“When Cape and Falmouth came up (to Class A) it was like, oh, Cape and Falmouth, that’s who’s going to be in the state game,” said Ean Patry, Thornton’s senior goalie. “So we were just kind of working under the radar.”

In the regular season, Thornton snuck by Cape in overtime. With his team trailing 8-5 in the fourth quarter, LaBreck scored four straight goals. In the 14-12 state championship game victory over Falmouth, LaBreck scored six goals, including three straight after Falmouth had a one-goal lead in the final quarter.

“He’s the kid we really look to for those big-game big plays,” Patry said. “He’s a just one of those kids with the ability to flip a switch on how the game’s going.”

Thornton expects it will again have to rise to the occasion in tough games.

“Last year was a proving year and I think this year is the same thing, proving that we’re not a one-and-done team,” said senior defender Eli Arsenault.

Hersey says it’s like an old-fashioned game of King of the Hill.

“It’s easy to catch somebody off balance at the top. It’s much harder to stay on top with everybody gunning for you.”

For his part, LaBreck is intent on ignoring the past. He’s waited his whole senior year for the present.

“We don’t really care what happened last year,” LaBreck said. “We want to write our own story again this year. The only way to do that is to move forward every single day.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

 

filed under: