South River’s Lavon Chaney translates football skills to lacrosse field


South River is shown celebrating a double-overtime victory in last spring’s 4A/3A state semifinals. (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

With the ball in his lacrosse stick, South River senior Lavon Chaney burst toward the net on Tuesday night at Severna Park. All it took was one well-timed cut to send a Falcon long pole skidding helplessly across the slick turf.

Within seconds, Chaney’s brilliant individual move turned into an easy second-quarter goal for junior teammate Brandon Senft, the first of his two assists in a comfortable 10-5 victory that kept the sixth-ranked Seahawks unbeaten in Anne Arundel County play.

Chaney spends the fall season shirking defenders as a running back on the football team. After accumulating more than 2,200 yards of total offense and 18 touchdowns as a senior, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound back was awarded the Jim Rhodes Memorial Trophy by the Touchdown Club of Annapolis as the county’s top player. The second-team All-Met has signed to continue his career at Monmouth (N.J.) in the Football Championship Subdivision.

As Chaney showed Tuesday night, opposing players struggle to keep up with the short-stick defensive midfielder on the lacrosse field, too.

“He’s hard to cover,” South River Coach Paul Noone said, giving a scouting report that seems applicable to both sports. “I’m not saying it’s impossible, but when he’s on, it’s darn tough. . . . Body-wise, he’s rock-solid. He’s not a sprinter, but he’s not the slowest guy out there, either.”

For all the scoring he does on the football field, Chaney actually prefers to stay down on the defensive end in his spring sport. When he gave up baseball and picked up lacrosse in eighth-grade, he started on defense before finding his niche as a hard-nosed midfielder.

Around his own goal, Chaney’s low center of gravity and quickness make him hard to get past, and he’s tough enough to regularly scoop ground balls in traffic. He’s also a weapon in transition, capable of clearing the ball himself in almost any situation.

Some of the same moves that make him so dangerous with the football in the open field come out on these plays. Late in the second quarter on Tuesday, Chaney squirted between three Severna Park players near the sideline to complete a successful clear.

On another play, he swiped a ground ball on the run and raced down on cage. After completing a give-and-go with All-Met Ben Chisolm, he took a hit from a defender as he found Senft for another easy score.

Chisolm, who will play lacrosse at Maryland, praised his classmate’s relentlessness and wondered how he can do so much on both ends without tiring: “He’s an animal.”

“They’re sort of the same, but I picture lacrosse as a little bit easier [than football],” Chaney  said. “You know, people aren’t trying to tackle me.”

At the Edgewater public school, Chaney has experienced success with both teams.

In the fall, he averaged better than nine yards per carry to spark the football team to eight wins and its second straight Maryland 4A East playoff appearance. The Seahawks hadn’t made back-to-back postseason appearances since 1985-86.

Chaney joined the varsity lacrosse team midway through his freshman season and has been an important defensive presence ever since. The team has won two straight Maryland 4A/3A East titles and last spring went undefeated en route to the state title.

Chaney considers football, a sport he’s played for as long as he can remember, his passion but said he’ll miss lacrosse when his focus turns to the gridiron full-time. He has even considered asking his coaches at Monmouth if he can try out for the lacrosse team there. The Hawks will begin playing Division I men’s lacrosse for the first time next spring.

Noone marvels at Chaney’s progress on the lacrosse field in a short time, showcasing a knack for the game that belies his experience.

“He was a little rough around the edges [at the beginning of his career], but he’s just polished his game so much,” Noone said. “He plays with his head up. . . . He plays defense the right way. He’ll tell you that he doesn’t like offense, but he’s down there right in the thick of it all the time. I’m glad he’s on my team. I’ll tell you that.”

South River girls, boys sweep Severna Park

Rankings: The Post Top 10

Notebook: Prep’s Giblin records win No. 400

Schedule: Wednesday’s games

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Preston Williams · May 1, 2013