High school lacrosse players Jack Brocato and Michael Ubriaco are lifelong friends on opposite sides of a deep-rooted lacrosse rivalry that began long before they were born.
On May 16, Brocato and his St. Paul's team will look to contain Ubriaco and Boys' Latin in the 100th game between the illustrious programs. The St. Paul's-Boys' Latin game brings together generations of families and friends, sometimes even pitting brother against brother or forcing a parent to share allegiances.
"Playing on opposing teams has always been a part of our friendship," said Brocato, a junior attackman. "Either playing against each other during the school year or even playing against each other in summer ball. Michael and I have been on many different teams, but it was very different from the St. Paul's-Boys' Latin rivalry. I believe we both take this rivalry very seriously, respecting the tradition of it, and we're always hoping our team comes out with the win."
The Boys' Latin Lakers lead the all-time series 51-47-1, according to research by Mac Kennedy, director of alumni relations at Boys' Latin and official historian of Lakers lacrosse. The teams have met in a conference championship game four times, with the St. Paul's Crusaders winning three of those matchups -- twice by a single goal.
When this year's game is complete, players on both sides will inevitably remember the game for the rest of their lives. However, the competition won't affect the friendships.
"Jack and I have been playing on rival club teams basically for our entire lives," said Ubriaco, a junior long-stick midfielder. "Whether it's during the MIAA season or during the club season. However, playing on rival teams has not once affected our friendship. We have always made time to talk after our games, but our conversations are usually never about the game we had just played in."
That tight bond among the players is what makes the rivalry between St. Paul's and Boys' Latin so special.
St. Paul's head coach Rick Brocato, who will be coaching his son Jack in the 100th renewal of the Crusader-Lakers series, has seen the rivalry from both sides.
"These guys are all great friends," Rick Brocato said. "They've done things together in rec ball, club ball and other sports. They've gone to the pool together. They've rode bikes together. They've been buddies off the field first. Now, when they suit up against one another between those lines, they're rivals. They get after it. But when the game ends, they're calling each other up and hanging around and goofing around with each other. I think that's what makes it special."
This year's matchup is especially poignant for Rick Brocato, who announced prior to the season that he was stepping down from that job. He was once an assistant to the legendary Bob Shriver at Boys' Latin, and on April 8, Brocato became the program's all-time wins leader (233) when St. Paul's upended Broxville, N.Y., 8-6..
Shriver, who retired in 2015, was a central figure in the rivalry. Both teams seemed to feed off his energy. Shriver relishes the game between the two programs, which have produced some of the greatest lacrosse players in the country.
"My favorite game would probably be any one we win," said Shriver, who went 507-140 during 36 years with six league championships. "We've only played St. Paul's, to the best of my knowledge, four times in the title game since moving to Lake Avenue, and lost in 1979, 1992 and 2010. We won in 2014, and that was certainly a memorable game because we finished undefeated that year and were the consensus best team in the U.S."
Don Zimmerman was a star midfielder at St. Paul's before he later took over the lacrosse programs at Johns Hopkins and UMBC. He went 3-0 against the Lakers from 1969-1971. Zimmerman's son, Jake, was later a captain for Boys' Latin.
"A lot of guys played three sports, so not only did you see the guys on the lacrosse field, you saw them on the basketball court, the soccer field or the football field," said Zimmerman, who began his collegiate career at Randolph-Macon before transferring to Johns Hopkins. "We all hung out together. Everyone kind of knew everyone, so that made the rivalry more intense. But there was always total respect among the teams."
Mitch Whiteley, who coached St. Paul's prior to Brocato and now serves as his assistant, had some epic battles with the Lakers. He said the friendships between the players off the field make the rivalry so special. Whiteley's son, Tim, was a two-time high school All-American for the Crusaders and later starred at Virginia.
"There were often times we ended up in the playoffs against each other, or the final game of the year would determine seedings for the playoffs," Whiteley said. "It's just that natural rivalry that we've had for a long time. Certainly, with Bob Shriver getting all fired up, he would motivate everybody."
Michael Watson, a former attackman for St. Paul's, was widely regarded as one of the best lacrosse players in the United States throughout his career. He led the Crusaders to a pair of conference crowns and played on five championship teams at St. Paul's on four different varsity sports.
After graduating from St. Paul's, Watson was a four-time All-American at Virginia and was named one of the 50 greatest lacrosse players in ACC history. He later played professionally in Major League Lacrosse.
"I think the schools are similar in size and tradition," Watson said. "We had lots of friends at BL in our social group, and there was a healthy mutual respect."
Boys' Latin head coach Brian Farrell was also part of the rivalry as a player for the Lakers. Rick Brocato was an assistant at Boys' Latin when Farrell was a star defenseman. The game will be bittersweet with Brocato stepping down.
"Coach Brocato is a great mentor and great teacher of the game," said Farrell, who played collegiately at Maryland where he was a two-time captain. "He is one of the kindest men you will ever be around. He has coached so many great kids and done such a great job with that program. You always have such great respect for their preparation every game. Rick is truly a great coach."
Gene Ubriaco, who is Michael's father, had some of his biggest games against St. Paul's and was a high school All-American in 1989. It's a tradition he has always valued.
"The significance of the game and what it represents to the BL community is really what stands out every year," Gene Ubriaco said. "The hype leading up to the game, the defining moments that become part of the BL lore for years to come, the players who had their moments of glory in the BL-SP game always come to mind."
Video: St. Paul's lacrosse coach Rick Brocato discusses his final season, the rivalry with Boys' Latin and more:
Boys' Latin lacrosse coach Brian Farrell discusses the rivalry with St. Paul's and more:
Issue 232: April 2017