Athletic diversity an asset for Columbus lacrosse team

02/20/2014 12:01 AM

09/08/2014 7:05 PM

Cody Brais, a 6-0, 185-pound senior midfielder at Columbus, had been a wrestler, football player and a track standout — until he found lacrosse.

Brais said his fastest time in the 800 meters was sixth-best in the nation among his freshman class. He also said he was a starting outside linebacker on the freshman team and a pretty fair wrestler, too.

But that was all before he met Columbus lacrosse coach Jim DeLang, who had heard about Brais’ track exploits.

“Why,” the coach wanted to know, “don’t you stop running in circles and put that speed to good use?”

Brais took DeLang up on his offer and in two years has gone from having no background in the sport to becoming one of the best players on the top lacrosse team in Miami-Dade County.

Columbus went 19-3 last season, advancing to the state quarterfinals — further than any other team in Dade or Broward.

The Explorers lost 16-11 to eventual state finalist Boca Raton St. Andrew’s, which has won four championships in the six years since lacrosse became sanctioned by the FHSAA.

“We gave them a good fight,” said Columbus senior midfielder Sebastian Cantio, a converted soccer player. “We were up at halftime, but our defense got pretty tired because we weren’t winning face-offs. St. Andrew’s had most of the possession time.”

So far, only St. Andrew’s and Orlando’s Lake Highland Prep (2011 and 2013) have been able to win boys’ lacrosse state titles.

Columbus is hoping to make a breakthrough and the inspiration could come from the Explorers’ soccer team.

Before this season, Columbus hadn’t been past the regional semifinals in soccer. But Columbus rode its skills and some good fortune to the state title, winning three consecutive elimination games in overtime and taking the championship on penalty kicks.

In lacrosse, Columbus faces equally long odds against some of the more-established state powers, but the Explorers have 18 seniors at DeLang’s disposal.

Leading the way is senior attacker Michael Bulnes.

“Bulnes. is a big kid with good stick skills,” DeLang said, “and a knack for scoring goals.”

Columbus also has a face-offs expert in Jimmy Perry and two solid goalies in senior Jeffrey Eskra and junior Jon Nickas.

DeLang said Columbus hasn’t lost to a fellow Dade team in “three or four years.”

Players such as Cantio, however, want to be more than just dominant in Dade.

“Hopefully we can do the same thing as the soccer team,” Cantio said. “We have the athletes. With so many seniors, if it’s going to be any year, it’s going to be this year.”

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