Talented DeBole grows to love challenging position
by Chris Goltermann
Brian DeBole is not unlike the adjective used most when describing a goalie in men’s lacrosse. His friends think it, his dad even admits it.
“He’s nuts,” said DeBole’s dad, Tom, who’s been around the sport well prior to Brian’s birth.
Heck, anyone watching someone attempting to stop a solid rubber ball going 70-plus miles per hour with just little more than an oversized stickhead smaller than a butterfly net, a pair of gloves and a chest protector would be in agreement.
It’s yet another difference between boys lacrosse and girls, whose goalies have additional padding for their legs. Professional indoor leagues for men also wear enough gear to feel cozy in a snowstorm.
Even baseball catchers have shin guards — and they have an idea where a pitcher is aiming since they’re calling the shots. In lacrosse, they come from all angles, much like they did for the East Coweta junior during a shootout with Northgate in Thursday’s Coweta Cup game.
For Brian, however, it’s become second nature.
“It’s the best sport. Nothing else is like it,” he said. “My friends, they all tell me I’m crazy to play goalie. But I love it.”
DeBole, like his older brother Jay, a sophomore player at Mercer and one of three former Coweta players on the Tigers roster, has earned the looks of more than a handful of colleges so far despite playing further south than some of the country’s better-known areas for the sport.
Among them is Division III Lynchburg (Va.) College, a conference champion in 2012 that is currently ranked 10th in the nation and Division I program in High Point, N.C., which like Mercer is an Independent.
Georgia’s lacrosse offerings in college have now grown to include an NCAA Division I program (Mercer), two in Division II and four in Division III.
The DeBole brothers, though, may have had as much a part in improving each others skills. A two-time All-County selection, Jay, would spend hours in firing shots on a backyard goal as fast as 90 mph on his little brother.
Brian remembers picking up his first stick when he was around 5 or 6 before finding a home full-time in goal around fourth or fifth grade.
“Every day, after school,” said Brian, a starter since his freshman year. As a sophomore in 2012, he finished with an 8-5 record to go with a shutout and a 9.75 goals against average in a sport where double-digit totals are the norm.
Last spring, DeBole and former Newnan standout Adam Lanyi put together an impressive display between goalies in a 13-11 Indians victory that decided last year’s county crown.
Despite defending a 6-by-6 foot goal much smaller than a soccer net, the position can be far more humbling. Scores can change in less than a minute, sometimes more than once or twice in a 60-second span.
At its best, the sport blends the endurance of soccer, the physicality of football and hockey and the strategies of basketball together in four quarters that can be action packed.
They were on Thursday in a 21-16 victory by the Indians to capture this year’s Coweta Cup trophy. By his own actions, Brian even lost track, glancing up at the Garland Shoemake Stadium scoreboard after emerging from the locker-room to his own astonishment.
“That’s crazy,” he said, gazing at the board. “It had to be the most intense game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Three of the first four goals DeBole surrendered on Thursday came while shorthanded on East Coweta penalties. He battled back to make two big saves in the second quarter and two more in the third before arguably making his best on Viking standout midfielder Jake Smerka, who scored seven of Northgate’s 16 goals, on a shot to his left.
He then made a save from his knees in the closing minutes, before later chasing a shot behind the goal to gain possession for the Indians in a tight game by being closest to the end line when the ball went out of bounds.
Most lacrosse goalies wear bruises as badges of honor. “I get them all over,” said Brian, searching for a potential addition. There’s nothing below the waist outside of a protective cup.
It’s ironically what got DeBole between the pipes in the first place.
“We were at a tournament and we didn’t have a goalie,” Brian said. “I was the only one wearing a cup, so I played. I did pretty good, so I kept playing it.”
Tom DeBole, who runs the Coweta Copperhead program locally, sees the key to overcoming any fears toward the position — and the lack of protection — similar to taking your first hit in football.
“The big thing is that first time you get hit,” he said. “Once you get past getting hit with a shot, you know what you’re dealing with.”