Hartland and Brighton made Livingston County history on the field as the area’s first two regional championship boys lacrosse teams.
They made it off the field, too, with a historic haul in all-state voting.
Until this year, Brighton’s Ben Finnegan was the only first-team all-stater from a Livingston County School, making it as a sophomore attack in 2013.
He has plenty of company after this year’s selections were made. Five county players made the Division 1 first team, three from state semifinalist Hartland and two from state quarterfinalist Brighton.
Hartland put sophomore attack Reece Potter, senior defenseman Jeff Putz and junior faceoff specialist Jake DeYoung on the first team. Brighton’s first-teamers are junior attack Drew Billig and junior midfielder Jack Johnson.
Billlig, Johnson, Potter and Brighton’s Jack Aigner, who had a season-ending injury in the second game, were among 20 Michigan players on the 298-member All-America team selected by U.S. Lacrosse. Aigner also made academic All-America.
“It’s huge,” Hartland coach Garnet Potter III said. “When you look at Brighton and Hartland and Northville in our league, it was competitive. We had three teams in our league in the top 10. It’s definitely getting better, that’s for sure.”
Putz joined Finnegan as the only county players honored on the all-state team four times. Putz progressed each year from honorable mention as a freshman, third team as a sophomore, second team as a junior and first team as a senior.
He chipped in five goals and four assists. His 94 ground balls ranked second on a team that went 21-1.
“He was the guy who always covered the best player on the other team,” Potter III said. “He was our captain of our defense. He was our best long pole on our team. It’s been that way for the last two or three years.”
Putz will play college lacrosse in Belmont, North Carolina, at Belmont Abbey, a top NCAA Division II program.
DeYoung’s ability to win faceoffs was crucial in getting Hartland extra possessions. Never was that more important than in the state semifinals against Detroit Catholic Central. He won four key draws late in the game, enabling Hartland to score twice in the final 1:40, get the final possession of the fourth quarter and the first possession of overtime. Hartland couldn’t cash in on the last two possessions in a 12-11 overtime loss.
He was 228-for-337 on faceoffs (68 percent), led the team with 98 ground balls, and scored two goals and three assists.
“The great thing this year for DeYoung was he actually put his focus and energy into becoming a better player after he won the faceoff,” Potter III said. “He’s always been good at faceoffs. Now he can carry the ball, he can shoot the ball, he can make passes.”
Reece Potter ranked second on Hartland with 48 goals, 32 assists and 80 points. He picked up 51 ground balls.
Opponents had to pick their poison on defense against the Eagles, often choosing to shadow Reece Potter. That helped older brother Garnet lead the team with 64 goals and 33 assists.
“Pretty much every team put their best defenseman on him and would lock him up in some cases,” Potter III said. “Obviously, he’s a dynamic player. He’s very athletic, so teams tried to key on him to try to shut him down. It helps out our whole team. It makes everyone around him better, because they’re focusing a lot of attention on him.”
Billig had a hand in 37 percent of Brighton’s goals, with team-high totals of 49 goals, 41 assists and 90 points in 21 games. He had 10 hat tricks and a nine-point game in a 16-11 victory over Midland, which lost to Hartland in the regional final.
He received honorable mention last season when he had 44 goals and 21 assists in 19 games.
“Drew is fundamentally one of the best players I’ve coached,” said Brighton coach Jim Carl, whose team lost to Rockford in the state quarterfinals. “He’s got great speed, great instincts. You can see in the stats he’s really an unselfish player and a great teammate.”
Johnson, who made second-team Division 2 all-state attack at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard last season, scored 46 goals and two assists in 19 games. He had seven hat tricks, with a season-high six goals in the Midland game.
“Jack’s got a great stick,” Carl said. “He does some pretty creative things. He plays a little looser than Billig. He does some behind-the-back stuff. He’s good at it. He practices it a lot. Some people think it’s hot-dogging, but it works. He works his tail off on some of that stuff.”
In all, 13 county players were honored on the all-state team.
Making the second team were Hartland’s Garnet Potter IV, Jake Gallaher and Andrew Spisz, along with Brighton’s Braydon Ebbeskote and Josh Luketic.
Brighton’s Shayne Miciek and Zac Taylor made the third team.
Howell goalie Jacob Steele received honorable mention.