Caesar Rodney Riders (1-0)

Caesar Rodney opened their season last week with a dominating 21-1 win over Sussex Central in a matchup that saw nine Riders find the back of the cage.

The Riders were led by freshman James Cava and senior Jacob Pangle who combined to score nearly half of CR’s goals; Cava finished with five tallies, while Pangle ended the game with four goals.

The CR boys lacrosse program has become a playoff staple yearly. However, despite a long streak of consecutive playoff appearances, a state title has eluded them.

Caesar Rodney once again qualified for the state tournament in 2016, earning the No. 7 overall seed after a 9-6 regular season. After defeating 2015’s state runner-up and No. 10 seed Cape Henlopen in the opening round, CR fell to No. 2 Tower Hill in the quarterfinals.

“Losing to Tower Hill in the playoffs last May was tough for our team - it was in that moment that our 2017 season began,” said Head Coach Matt Faircloth. “The young men on this year’s team have worked hard and put in a great deal of effort to grow not only as individuals, but more importantly, as a team.”

Heading into the 2017 campaign, the Riders parted ways with several standout graduates including Nolan Aloe, Pat Matsko, Second Team All-State on Attack Luke Rankin and First Team All-State midfielder Brinen LeFevre.

As always, the Riders have some talent coming back to help fill the void at several positions. Back for CR are Second Team All-Henlopen Conference players Jacob Prangle and Jacob Mollohan, along with Nolan Brockmeyer (All-State Honorable Mention) and Demetrius Stevenson (Third Team All-State) who were both named to the All-Henlopen Conference First Team a season ago.

“It’s always tough losing players that are integral parts, but it’s equally gratifying to see younger or inexperienced players set-up and take on vacated roles,” said Faircloth. “We do have our entire defense returning along with some key components on offense yet voids still exist. We have some newcomers that recognize the opportunities in front of them and they’re being asked to grow up pretty fast. It’s been amazing to see our returners interact with the newcomers to make sure this team can reach it’s highest level possible.”

The Riders are in action three times this week, starting with two straight road games Monday at Wilmington Charter (3:45 p.m.) and Wednesday at Polytech (7 p.m.), before closing out the week at home Friday night against Wilmington Friends (7 p.m.)

Dover Senators (1-1)

Dover opened the season splitting their first two matchups, falling to Cape Henlopen 16-6 before earning their first victory of the season over the weekend against Joppatown (Md.), 19-7.

The Senators made the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2016, going 8-7 overall and earning the final seed in the state tournament.

Drawing the No. 16 seed meant a first round matchup with defending champion and No. 1 seed Salesianum, which the Senators lost, 18-3.

“Last year’s experience with Sallies in the postseason really showed our players the level of skill needed to win a state championship,” said Dover Head Coach Michael Denman. “Being able to play the state champions in the first round game our team the opportunity to match feet with some of the best players in the state.”

Despite the outcome, Dover took another step forward in their growth once they took the field against Salesianum.

“The players never gave up and kept their composure,” Denman said. “They grew as a team, kept their heads in the game and stayed after the ball all four quarters. They ended the season with their heads held high and hungry to start working in the offseason.”

While Dover will be without eight seniors from last year, including Second Team All-Henlopen Conference midfielder Connor Ashoka Garrett, they have a solid group of returnees coming back with experience.

Will Niebrzydowski (Second Team All-State, First Team All-Henlopen Conference), Cole Palmer (Second Team All-Conference) and Kyle Potter (Henlopen Conference Honorable Mention) lead a list of 11 returning players for the Senators this season, including five seniors and six juniors.

“Last season we had three sophomores and a junior goalie who played big roles on the defensive side,” said Denman. “This year, they’re starting with more experience and more team chemistry. We lost a few key midfielders but have had some young guys step up to fill those spots.”

The Senators will play two games on the road this week, starting Wednesday at Smyrna (4 p.m.) before ending the week Friday afternoon at Middletown (4 p.m.).

Lake Forest Spartans (0-1)

Last season was a banner year for the Spartans, who went 11-4 overall and earned the No. 8 overall seed in the state tournament led by five conference players and the Henlopen Conference Head Coach of the Year, Brandon Savage.

Unfortunately, Lake Forest’s run in the tournament was a short one as they fell to No. 9 Sussex Tech in the opening round.

If the Spartans hope to have more success in 2017, they’ll have to do so without four of their five all-conference players, including Dom Sabino, Jamier Brown, Ben Moore, and Austin Aguilar who was also named Third Team All-State at attack.

The Spartans opened their season last week, falling to Milford, 18-4.

Lake Forest is in action for just one game this week, traveling north of the canal to take on Red Lion Friday (4 p.m.).

Polytech Panthers (1-1)

Polytech opened the season splitting their first two matchups, knocking off Hodgson 9-1 before suffering an 18-7 loss to Archmere Academy over the weekend.

Last season was a tough one for the Panthers, who missed out on the state tournament finishing with a 5-10 mark.

A new season brings a fresh start and also some open positions for Polytech who will be without nine seniors, including all two of their all-conference players in Jon Gordy and Nate Fairbanks.

“Our guys were definitely disappointed in how the season went last year, but it was a great opportunity for all us to learn,” said Head Coach Bob Gilmore. “They began to focus on this season as soon as last season ended. Kids got in the weight room, joined fall leagues, winter leagues and worked extremely hard to get better.”

While the Panthers will be without some key players, they have a lot of young talent coming back led by senior Jake Davis who earned Second Team All-Henlopen Conference honors last season.

“We’re very excited about the guys we have back this year and some new additions,” Gilmore said. “I think we’re working harder and are more focused than we were last year. Those were areas that we really needed to improve - this group is very passionate, they are really working to improve upon last year.”

The Panthers will see the field three times this week, Monday at Middletown (4 p.m.), hosting Caesar Rodney Wednesday (7 p.m.) before ending the week on the road Saturday afternoon at St. Mark’s (2 p.m.).