SSN Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year: Manasquan’s Jarrett Birch
For all the talent on Manasquan's roster if an opposing coach was given the chance to take one player out of the equation if would most certainly be No. 4.
One of the state's elite goal scorers, senior attackman Jarrett Birch keyed Manasquan's rise to power not only in the Shore Conference but on the state level as well. In 2017 Birch was nearly unstoppable, leading New Jersey with 86 goals while adding 19 assists to finish with 105 points. His play over the course of the season helped Manasquan accomplish several goals, including winning the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time in program history. For his impressive statistics, ability to come through in clutch moments and importance to the Warriors' program, Birch has been selected as the 2017 Shore Sports Network Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.
"His conditioning, his speed, the intangibles -- he's determinations everything you want from a complete attackman," said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham. "He's the kind of kid that brings it to a different level come game time. He's a skilled shooter and a pure scorer in that sense. I keep coming back to the phrase, 'he has a motor', because it's true. The kid goes all game and never stops."
The Class B South Player of the Year as well as a first-team All-Shore selection by the Shore Conference Lacrosse Coaches Association, Birch was a major reason why the Warriors finished 21-2 and claimed their third straight division title, won the SCT for the first time and reached the South Jersey Group II final for the second year in a row. He scored at least three goals in 19 of 23 games and had multiple points in 21 of 23 games. Birch had seven games scoring five or more goals, including a nine-goal, three-assist performance in a win over Lacey. He scored seven goals in wins over St. John Vianney and Wall, tallied six times against Seneca in the state tournament and had five goals in wins over Ridge, Jackson Liberty and Holmdel.
What makes Birch's totals even more impressive is that he did it on a team with multiple scoring options, including his sophomore brother Canyon, who scored 77 goals and led Manasquan with 106 points. It helped that teams couldn't focus all of their attention on Jarrett Birch because of the Warriors' balance, but Birch was unquestionably the go-to threat for Manasquan.
Birch's career numbers put him among the elite offensive players in Shore Conference history. His 266 career goals are second all time in the Shore behind Southern's Dylan Jinks (272) and his 351 career points are third behind CBA legend Tommy Duerr (431) and Jinks (421). His 266 goals are also third in state history according to LaxRecords.com.
Birch's leadership ability was also crucial to Manasquan's success. Birch was just a sophomore and not an official captain during Cunningham's first year in 2015, but quickly became a player his teammates turned to.
"That year we decided to start a bunch of talented sophomores and see what happened and he was one of the only known quantities coming back," Cunningham said. "So even back then he was looked at as a leader. Since then he's been a two-year captain and a big presence for us."
Manasquan is the oldest lacrosse program in the Shore and has experienced a great resurgence in the last three seasons, winning an SCT title and a state sectional title. Birch and the rest of this year's senior class has led the way, and an exciting group of sophomores helped buoy the program as they ascended to a top 10 team in New Jersey. Manasquan didn't reach the level it is at today because of one player, but Birch is indeed the face of the franchise.
"His impact is considerable," Cunningham said. "I'm a big proponent of the program being the biggest thing, but you have to take time to appreciate individuals, especially when they set records like this. He's the first, first-team all-state player from Manasquan, he has the most goals in a season, the most career goals, most career points. That in and of itself is very important. Kids look up to him and say I want to be like No. 4, I want to be part of that program. It's always nice to have an individual to put up there and be the face of a program. There are so many important factors in the success of this program but having a prolific attackman definitely creates interest and energy."
A two-time first-team All-Shore selection by both the SCLCA and Shore Sports Network and a two-time Class B South Player of the Year, Birch will continue his career at Division I Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.