Taking Brien McMahon's Casagrande Field for a Class M state championship clash with New Canaan, Henry West knew that he would be doing so for the last time as a member of the Darien High School lacrosse team. And he knew he wanted to make it count.
The Cornell-bound senior closed out his standout high school lacrosse career by rushing the field and mobbing his teammates in celebration of a newly-won Class M lacrosse crown after an 11-5 Darien win over arguably its biggest rival.
To say that West had something to do with the outcome of the title game would be an understatement, as the midfielder tied with teammate Peter Lindley to score a game-high four goals to spark the Darien attack.
"To win the state championship after the way last year ended was great. There are a lot of guys we know and we're friends with on New Canaan," West said. "To beat them after competing with them since we were all eight years old is awesome."
After witnessing West and the rest of his seniors go out on top, Brameier has few doubts about West's ability to continue to play at a high level, even for an Ivy League Division-I program.
"Quite frankly, I think he's college-ready right now. He's going to be an impact player very quickly. He's got tremendous velocity on his shot, great accuracy, plenty of speed and athleticism and great size," Brameier said. "He's the prototypical college middie, and he can handle the physicality. One thing Cornell was lacking was offense from the midfield, so we're definitely going to see him get an opportunity to show his stuff."
The high school playing days didn't come without adversity for West. As a junior, he suffered a hairline fracture in his leg in the fifth game of the year. Although he returned late in the season, West admittedly wasn't the same player and was still somewhat hobbled by the injury.
With West not at 100 percent and teammate Case Matheis sidelined with an injury of his own, the Darien attack was stymied in the state semifinals, an 11-3 loss to eventual champion Wilton as Darien's six-year run as state champions came to a close.
"A kid just fell on my leg and it broke," West said. "I came back for the last few games, but missing the whole experience of winning FCIACs was pretty devastating. Having the season end abruptly (in states) was tough."
With only their senior season remaining, West and company entered 2012 determined to go out on top and recapture the state crown. Immediately following the 2011 season, West was voted by his teammates to be one of the three captains for the upcoming season, along with Matheis and Tony Britton.
That distinction meant a lot to West.
"It means everything to know that the kids you play with and you're friends with respect you enough to make you a captain," West said. "Knowing that the kids want to be led by you and have you represent the team gives you the confidence to kind of go ahead and take that initiative."
"In his senior year, I never had any doubts that he would be one of the focal points of the offense," Brameier said. "He also does a great job on ground balls and defense, so he really does it all as a middie."
West indicated that several factors went into his decision to pick Cornell, not the least of which was the opportunity to again play lacrosse with older brother Andrew, who will be entering his junior year as the team's goalie.
"Obviously, the first thing was academics. It's one of the best schools in the country and I'm happy to go to a school like that. But it's also one of the top lacrosse programs in the country," West said. "I'll have a chance to play with my brother for two years, and that's something that you can't really pass up. I had that opportunity at Darien, and it's awesome getting to share that experience with him."
As for school itself, West is planning on majoring in communications.
In the summer, West will continue his work with the Connecticut Chargers, where he serves as a coach along with Brameier for youth players.
"The Chargers are a middle school summer youth team. It's coach B's program," West said. "He started it up a couple years ago and I've gotten involved through him. Hopefully, I can help out some more this summer."