Ben LaRock scored one goal for Lisbon Central in the 2021 boys soccer season.
But in that split-second, a direct kick from just inside midfield showcased the multiple dimensions of his presence at sweeper for the 14-2-2 Golden Knights who repeated as NAC West Division champions and advanced into the state tournament after winning a shootout over an inspired Morristown effort in a tied Section 10 Class D Championship game.
The Knights’ run ended in a 1-0 decision to Chazy in the state quarterfinals for a second straight complete season. No postseason was held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was wet and I knew that the only chance I had was to skip the shot along the ground,” said LaRock of the second goal of Lisbon’s 2-0 home win over Harrisville.
“That shot was just a bomb,” said Lisbon coach Dickie Marcellus after the game where the Knights’ senior NAC West Division Defensive MVP showed that he could have played at an elite level at any position on the field. The shot rocketed at eye level with the emphasis of the hundreds of towering clears by LaRock that have snuffed impending threats by opponents over the years.
It also showed why the five-year varsity performer has been honored as the Northern Athletic Conference MVP of the 2021 Watertown Daily Times All-North Team.
“We have had a lot of great sweepers at Lisbon and Ben LaRock is as good a defensive player that I have seen,” said Marcellus, who was an all-star caliber stopper in his playing days at Lisbon.
“This year our team played college-level possession soccer and Ben was perfect for it at sweeper,” Marcellus said. “He has next-level speed and skills and allows us to advance our stopper into the offense because he can cover so much of the field.”
He added: “His job is to not let anyone get behind our defense and he just doesn’t lose a one-on-one open field run.”
LaRock relishes the challenge of his position and the collaboration between the sweeper and stopper in the Lisbon system.
“Playing sweeper to me is so much fun because I love to work hard and I love the pressure of being out there one and one against an attacker,” LaRock said.
“And I really enjoy working with the great stoppers and halfbacks we have had at Lisbon. We don’t even have to talk much, we just know where each other is going to be. My cousin Isaac LaRock did a great job this year at stopper. I would just play the ball into space and he was always there.”
The Lisbon system, which was carried out so well by LaRock and fellow senior All-NAC West selections Miles Gendebien, Griffin Walker and Chase Jacobs (first team) and Storm Walker (second team). Isaac LaRock made first team as a junior.
In their careers the seniors were part of a 41-3-3 record, 30 shutouts and a 46-19 advantage in goal scored and allowed. Two of the losses came in 1-0 decisions to Chazy in the 2019 and 2021 state tournament.
“We played on different teams growing up in youth soccer and once we got together at modified we just played great together,” said LaRock of the team’s senior leaders.
Once the five senior all-stars became Lisbon Central teammates at the modified level they, had to settle into positions. LaRock’s move to sweeper came through the combination of a bit of bad luck and a touch of good fortune.
“I was a striker growing up but one of our defenders got hurt so I moved to sweeper,” LaRock said.
And there he stayed, thriving under the pressure of being in the command post of outstanding defenses that took great pride in posting zeroes on the scoreboard.
He gravitated to a similar situation in baseball where he pitches and plays shortstop, hits cleanup and is a terror on the bases. He helped lead Lisbon to the New York State Final Four as a sophomore and a Section 10 Class C title last spring.
LaRock says that this year’s soccer team entered the season with the goal of reaching the Final Four while fully aware of the size of the challenge of winning the Section 10 title.
“Beating Chazy was our goal and we just came up one shot short,” LaRock said.
“But we worked very hard and we have great coaches. I really want to thank Coach Dickie Marcellus and Coach Kelley Geary for all they did for me and the team. We had guys that really improved. Storm Walker grew so much as a defensive player and had an outstanding year.”
Coach Marcellus believes the dedication to soccer and to each other will earn this year’s seniors dividends in the near- and long-term future.
“Our seniors have drawn interest from college coaches and they have made visits to colleges. I am very proud of what they have done,” Marcellus said. “They have been a joy to coach.”
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