Rams boys lacrosse grads Stanton, Turpin head to play at Wesleyan
Harry Stanton can't see the pass yet, but he knows it's coming.
It's always come, at one time or another, in every game of the last two lacrosse seasons, when he's started alongside best friend Cole Turpin for New Canaan's varsity squad.
Yet perhaps it won't arrive. After all, the clock is ticking and this game continues to play out as no other contest before it.
After going up 1-0 in a matter of a minute, the Rams and their new game plan suddenly were spurned by misfortune and a sturdy defense. Then, New Canaan's normally effective in-game adjustments have proved to be almost equally fruitless through the end of this fourth quarter.
Oh, and also, it's the 2014 state championship against rival Darien, which currently boasts a commanding four-goal lead.
Finally, with barely a glance from Turpin, the pass is here and on target, exactly as Stanton expects. Hurriedly, he aims, fires the ball into the back of the net and jolts his hands skyward in a brief rejoice.
Only down three.
The efforts of the two seniors are then recognized with a goal and assist tally in the score book, the last such marks they earn in their high school careers. For the Rams eventually will fail to beat the clock and, therefore, the Blue Wave, which completes a perfect season on top of their season's ruins.
However, as devastating as a career-ending loss can be, less than two days later, neither Stanton nor Turpin is downtrodden. Neither is at all defeated. Neither is anything but comfortable on a brilliant, sunny afternoon at New Canaan's Waveny House, following a senior awards banquet meant to honor graduating student-athletes.
And this relaxedness does not stem from the honors they'd just received in front of applauding friends and family. Nor the fact each was named to the 2014 All-State team. Stanton and Turpin are content because of the many enduring friendships that lacrosse has given them, in particular their own connection, which will carry the duo to Wesleyan University in the fall as parts of one of the top freshman classes in Cardinals men's lacrosse history.
"After we lost the state championship, it wasn't crunching. It wasn't crippling," Turpin said. "I was happy with the season we had and I still had all my brothers that I played with. We all hung out that night and reminisced ... It's definitely the times you have with your teammates during the season that makes the season."
Their bond began eight years ago, as they'll tell you, "at first pass." Turpin joined Stanton on the field in the fourth grade, once his family settled down after moves to California and then England.
Though, had their initial interactions involved a wager or two, a younger Turpin may never have struck up another conversation with his future pal ever again.
"Harry is the most clutch person I've ever met," Turpin said. "If we ever have a small bet, even shooting hoops in the backyard, I'll be up by three and he'll always sink the next four to win it ... When the game's on the line, he's his most focused."
Stanton's "clutch gene" is one of the many reasons he also earned All-American status this spring, adding to his All-State honor in hockey and All-FCIAC distinction for his soccer talents last fall. While the three-sport star was competing on the pitch, Turpin took the football field where he hauled in passes as an All-State wide receiver.
Of course, most outsiders never would bother to assume either was such a decorated athlete for the simple, obvious fact of their shorter statures.
It's a perceived disadvantage that Stanton has written school papers about and Turpin has used to connect with young New Canaan athletes who have asked him about how he competes so successfully. In any instance, having to always fight an uphill battle, as it were, never is far from their minds.
"It fuels me, especially in hockey when they're out there chirping me," Stanton said. "And then I'll go out there and score a goal and that's a better feeling. Being able to be like, `Ya, I might be smaller than you, but I scored three goals on you.'"
"It's definitely something that's on my mind all the time, especially with football," Turpin said. "That fuels me to be in the weight room and go work harder than they would be working. And the amount of working you do shows."
The work each of them poured into the lacrosse field put Stanton in the starting lineup early in his sophomore campaign and Turpin less than one year later. New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo admits to first noticing the pair for their superb quickness and athleticism, but says today those aspects are far outweighed by the intangibles they brought to his program.
"Their improvement was unbelievable. Their stick handling, their IQ and their shooting ability, both over 90 miles per hour," Buzzeo said. "When it comes down to it, they're extremely good people. They care about their teammates equally and are always putting them first ... They have a legacy of, `if you work hard, good things will come.' They put a lot into becoming the players they are, and I hope they're proud. I believe they've help set a new standard for this program."
After contributing to consecutive FCIAC titles in their high school careers, Stanton and Turpin have designs on continuing to push program standards at the collegiate level. They share a common goal of getting elected captains their senior year, which would place them in esteemed company of former team leaders Bill Belichick and Stanton's older brother, Sam.
While Wesleyan competes in the lesser-publicized Division III, both future Cardinals received interest from other schools at higher competitive levels during their recruitment. Ultimately, Stanton's decision came down to a combination of academics, opportunity, the coaching staff and getting to enjoy lacrosse as opposed to treating it like a job, a la like a Division-I athlete.
As soon as his mind was made up, the only matter at hand became how to get Turpin on board, too. Then, a short time and talk later, a once-believed fantasy transformed into reality.
"It was kind of a farfetched idea to start," Turpin said. "We never actually thought it would come to that. Then, as it got closer, we both started to hone in on Wesleyan, we both said, `Wow, this is going to happen.'"
Of course, the two will experience much together in the beginning stages of their college experience. But there are a few things each feels people should know about his respective best friend as an individual.
"He's not really a good singer," Turpin jokes of Stanton . "I don't think anyone doesn't like Harry. He's a clutch human being, and when anything's on the line you can always go to Harry on the field and off. He's an awesome athlete, and he has a Division-I mentality."
"He's a great kid," Stanton says in return about Turpin. "And he's a fierce competitor. I think he's a great leader, we're trying to come into Wesleyan to lead by example from freshman year and we're going to have a great time."