MANASQUAN – Since he first stepped on the field as a member of Manasquan High School’s boys lacrosse team, Canyon Birch possessed the potential to be an all-time great.

He has accomplished a lot during his career, setting individual records and helping Manasquan to multiple team championships. And now, midway through his senior season, Birch is officially the most prolific scorer in New Jersey history.

With five goals and two assists in Saturday’s 13-2 win over Rumson-Fair Haven, Birch broke the state record for career points, surpassing the 17-year old record of 468 previously held by A.L. Johnson legend Matt Poskay. Birch’s second goal of the game midway through the first quarter established a new mark, and by the time the game was over Birch was up to 474 points and counting.

“It’s definitely an awesome feeling but it really hasn’t kicked in yet,” Birch said. “It’s something I’ve always focused on in my career and something that’s motivated me to play better every game.”

“He’s reached the summit,” said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham.

In 2002, Poskay finished his illustrious career with 362 goals and 106 assists for 468 points, setting a scoring standard that seemed unreachable. Poskay then went on to become a two-time NCAA All-American at the University of Virginia, helping the Cavaliers win the NCAA National Championship in both 2003 and 2006. Following college, Poskay starred at the professional level in Major League Lacrosse and was the league MVP in 2010. His entire body of work made it clear what kind of player was going to have to come along to break his high school records.

That player, it turns out, had yet to pick up a lacrosse stick when Poskay was setting New Jersey on fire at the turn of the century. And when Birch did finally start playing lacrosse he was actually a defenseman.

“I’ve been watching Canyon play since he started playing defense in the indoor leagues, and one season he just randomly tried playing attack and has basically been destroying everybody on the field since then,” said Manasquan senior goalie Mike LaPoint.

Click here for a photo gallery by Richard O'Donnell. 

No one has a better understanding of what makes Birch great than his own teammates. For LaPoint, he’s been trying to figure out how to keep Birch from scoring ever since they were kids.

“There are some shots even in practice where you know exactly where he’s going to put it and you just can’t get there,” LaPoint said. “I don’t know, it’s something I still can’t figure out.”

“Canyon has crazy natural instincts,” said Manasquan senior defenseman Jack Fabean. “He reads your body language while he’s dodging and has the ability to analyze what’s happening on the field. He’ll watch highlights of whoever he’s going against until he goes to bed. His passion for the game is insane. I’ve never met anyone like that, and that’s what makes him such a great player.”

Take in a Manasquan game or two and it’s easy to see why Birch has broken numerous records and is committed to Penn State University. He can pass and shoot with equal effectiveness both right- and left-handed and can score from anywhere in the offensive zone. He can beat defenders with a variety of moves and most times, a double team is not enough to slow him down. His shot is lethal. What most don’t see, however, is the work he puts in to make it all come together on game day.

“Very few people know how much time he spends outside of team activities, how much time he spends watching lacrosse, on analytics,” Fabean said. “It makes him such a fantastic player and that’s why he’s done what he has.”

During Birch’s first two seasons he was not the Warriors’ primary scoring option – that distinction went to his older brother, Jarrett, who is now a sophomore and the leading scoring for Furman University – but he still put up great numbers with 151 goals and 63 assists combined in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Then last season, Birch exploded for a Shore Conference single-season record 123 goals plus 52 assists for a state single-season record 175 points. From there, Shore Conference and state records were in play.

In the first game this season, Birch set the Shore Conference career goals record, netting his 275th to pass Southern’s Dylan Jinks. Four games later, Birch recorded seven goals and two assists to pass Christian Brothers Academy’s Tommy Duerr as the all-time leading point producer (432) in Shore Conference history.

The next record Birch is set to chase down is Poskay’s career goals record of 362. After Saturday’s win over Rumson, Birch is up to 331, leaving him 32 away from putting his name at the top of yet another New Jersey statistical category and becoming a top-five all-time career goal-scorer in national history. Just as it was with the Shore Conference goals and points record and the New Jersey points record, the question isn’t if he’ll break it, it’s simply when.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

 

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