The Bellingham Warriors pulled off a huge 15-14 win over Stanwood during its undefeated run through the Wesco/Northwest Division I conference of Washington High School Boys’ Lacrosse. That May 1 game could have been just one of 10 conference wins in the season for the Warriors, but the play of Nathaniel Heritage made it stand out.
Of the 15 goals Bellingham scored, nine came from Heritage. That one game pretty much summed up Heritage’s season, as he ended up leading the state in goals with 53, and was third in points with 63.
That game also displayed some of the many ways Heritage can get the ball in the back of the net.
“It’s the consistency, and it’s how varied they are,” Bellingham coach Tyler Farrar said in a phone interview. “He gets them from dodges and from assists. (Stanwood) put their best defender on him and he torched him in every different way.”
Woodinville will attempt to slow Heritage up at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, at Civic Stadium, when it takes on the Warriors in the round of 16 in the Division I Washington Lacrosse Boys State Championship Tournament.
Defenses have tried to adjust to Heritage, with some even double teaming him. But when they double him, Heritage is able to find a teammate to pass the ball off to almost immediately, avoiding defenders in the process
“We move him around in the offensive set to make teams have to work to cover him,” Farrar said. “He’s good at picking up the double... He knows they will be after him, so he’s been able to use that to his advantage.”
The rest of the Warriors have benefited from Heritage’s accomplishments, as they were third in the state in scoring. Farrar estimated Heritage only accounted for about 20 to 25 percent of the goals.
“We can put six guys out who can go to goal at any point,” he said. “So when teams double him, we move and score from other areas, too. The balance of our team affects how they play him, because they can’t double him or we score elsewhere. They have to choose to go after him, or just play defense.”
Heritage was brought up on lacrosse from a young age. His father played NCAA Division I lacrosse for Maryland, and Nathaniel said he started playing in third or fourth grade. He was among the leaders in goals last year, too, but really stepped up his effort last summer.
He also plays for the Steelhead Select team during the Warriors off season, and traveled with the team to tournaments in Oregon, California and Colorado last summer.
“I was just trying to practice more precisely,” Heritage said in a phone interview.
Heritage describes himself as strong in working the crease and possesses a knowledge of where to be at the right time. His coach concurred.
“Unlike players who work better one-on-one, he gets goals in other ways,” Farrar said. “The majority of his goals are assisted by his teammates. He’s very aware of the situation on the field and knows when to possess versus when to push or be aggressive. Last year he did well in that area, but this offseason he got stronger and got better at taking one-on-one himself.”
Heritage is happy to have the honor of top goal scorer in the state, but noted that his preseason goals were more team oriented. He had hoped the Warriors would go undefeated (they did in conference play) and go on a deep run in the playoffs. The goals were just a perk that came along with the team’s success, he said.
The success of the entire team contributed to Heritage’s personal success, but he has found ways to keep opponents on their heels and help his teammates when defenses key in on him.
“We played a team early on in the season that went out and tried to cover our best guy, to stop him,” Farrar said. “They had to pause because they didn’t know which guy that was.”