It was a hectic season for the Johnstown-Monroe High School boys lacrosse team, which got a late start as the school searched for a coach until late March.

It was a hectic season for the Johnstown-Monroe High School boys lacrosse team, which got a late start as the school searched for a coach until late March.

Given the circumstances, the Johnnies had a surprisingly solid start, winning two of their first four games, but they also had to endure a rough stretch in midseason, including a 16-0 loss at Wellington on April 22.

By season's end, they were playing some of their best lacrosse, but they didn't quite have the firepower to upend New Albany, last year's state runner-up, in the first round of the Division II tournament. Johnstown, which was missing all of its seniors for last Tuesday's first-round game because of a school trip, hung with New Albany early but couldn't get enough offense going to keep up as New Albany won comfortably 15-5.

Coach Brian Hoge acknowledged that there still is a substantial disparity in stick skills between the more established programs, like sixth-year New Albany, and Johnstown, which has been around only since 2006.

"It's fundamentals," Hoge said. "Most of those kids have been playing for a long time, and their stick work is just a step up above ours. But like I told the kids, they've got the athleticism to put together a good team. It's just a matter of keeping at it during the offseason."

The Johnnies finished 5-11 overall, which was slightly off of last season's 7-10 campaign. However, the Johnnies played a much tougher schedule. They had all five wins against varsity opposition, whereas only three of the seven wins last season were at the varsity level. The Johnnies also had a win over a Division II team for the first time, beating Bexley 11-9 on May 12.

Johnstown also beat Big Walnut (7-4 on April 3), Whitehouse Anthony Wayne (10-2 on April 5), Uniontown Lake (5-4 on April 12) and Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (13-8 on April 19).

Hoge said his team had consistently strong goalie play from sophomore Brad Couts, and it was effective shooting the ball all season. Next season, the Johnnies will need to run their offense more effectively to get more shooting opportunities, and they'll need to tighten up their defense to take some pressure off of Couts.

"Some of the things we need to work on are our speed and quickness on defense," Hoge said. "Offensively, it's just getting comfortable with the offense, that's the big thing. And just taking more shots. That will come from better fundamentals, better stick work. With that will come more fluid offense."

The Johnnies will have to deal with the loss of four seniors, most of whom contributed significantly throughout the year. Attacker Bradon Hill and defender Will Beacom were three-year letterwinners, and midfielder Tyler Jones and defender Dan Ulry lettered twice. Jones had five goals, which tied him for the fifth-most on the team.

Next season, the Johnnies should have their most experienced team to date, led by several juniors who have been on the team since its inception. Midfielders Zach Beacom, Josh McClellan and Kevin Stutz and attackers Levi Jacob and Bret Bohning have lettered three times, and all five played key roles this year. Bohning was second on the team in scoring with 15 goals and 11 assists and Jacob was third with 14 goals and eight assists. McClellan was next with 10 goals and 10 assists, and Beacom had two goals and five assists. Stutz had a goal against New Albany and finished the year with three.

Junior attacker Will Carter, a two-year letterwinner, should be the Johnnies' top offensive weapon next season after leading the team with 20 goals and 16 assists. In his second year in goal, Couts had one of the area's best save percentages at .668.

Junior Ben Tubbs and freshman Ben Schmidt are expected back from the defense, and juniors Andy Denny and Alex Hall, sophomore Drew Petrushka and freshmen Jacob Dassylva and Jordon McDaniel are all expected back from the midfield.

"The good things is we have a lot of young guys," Hoge said. "A couple freshmen can step into those roles (filled by seniors) next year. We have a lot of kids that are eager to play who didn't play this year but wanted to help out (against New Albany). That's a good sign. Kids are hearing about it, word's getting out."

At a glance

•Record: 5-11

•Seniors lost: Will Beacom, Brandon Hill, Tyler Jones and Dan Ulry

•Key returnees: Zach Beacom, Brett Bohning, Will Carter, Brad Couts, Mitch Hendren, Levi Jacob, Josh McClellan, Ben Schmidt and Kevin Stutz