Ben Gifford knew his place for the Thomas Worthington High School boys lacrosse team's attack last year was behind the goal, positioning himself to set up cutters for goals.

Ben Gifford knew his place for the Thomas Worthington High School boys lacrosse team's attack last year was behind the goal, positioning himself to set up cutters for goals.

This season, he has made a niche for himself in front of the net, totaling 29 goals and 15 assists through nine games. The senior had seven goals and four assists -- a career-best 11 points -- in an 18-5 win over Detroit Jesuit last Saturday and had six goals and an assist in a 19-6 victory over Hilliard Darby on April 16.

"I had a couple of four-goal games as a junior, but I was mostly a feeder," said Gifford, who also had seven goals and an assist in a 14-2 win over Wooster on March 31. "Most of my goals came off fast breaks. We have some incredible attackers, and we've been getting the ball up the field quickly for some 4-on-3 opportunities."

Coach Steve Kraus said what has helped Gifford was that as a freshman he displayed advanced stick skills that earned him some playing time.

"It has been fun to see him grow," Kraus said. "It's hard to believe it has been four years. Ben has been extremely consistent. If the opportunity is there, he will take it and score. If it isn't, he'll look for the assist. That's what you look for in an attacker."

The Cardinals, who through nine games were outscoring the opposition an average of 10.1-5.6, will play host to defending state champion Upper Arlington on Friday. UA, which was outscoring the opposition an average of 14.1-7 through seven games, had a 21-game winning streak snapped with a 14-13 loss to Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice last Saturday, but bounced back to beat Jesuit 11-4 last Sunday to improve to 6-1.

Kraus said the Michigan road trip last weekend was a good tuneup for what lies ahead. The Cardinals were tied with Rice at 4 with eight minutes remaining last Sunday before the Warriors went on a 5-1 run to close the game and win 9-5.

"We're making some progress," Kraus said. "That was our goal at the beginning of the season. We want to look better every game.

"We don't have any let up because we have games at (Dublin Jerome on May 7) and home against (Kilbourne on May 14). The players are in good enough shape and are young enough where they can handle the physical demands of the schedule. The mental aspect can be the toughest obstacle to overcome. If you have a setback, you need to be able to bounce back. If you're successful, you can't let them become too satisfied."

Thomas has not defeated the Bears since a 12-7 decision in the Division I state championship in 1996. Last year, UA won 9-5 in the regular season and 15-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

Gifford move to the area from Pennsylvania in 1998 and wasn't around the last time Thomas beat UA.

"We are two of the most storied programs in the state," he said. "UA has won the last four state titles, but we are not letting that intimidate us. We know a lot of their guys and they know us.

"I know a lot of the guys who were on that team from playing watching the alumni games. There is such a love within this program. The guys I played with when I was a freshman or sophomore told me they'd give anything to come back and put that jersey on again."

Thomas' Ben Gifford (left) is congratulated by Eric Hawkins after scoring a goal April 17 during a 19-6 victory over Hilliard Darby. Through nine games, Gifford had 29 goals and 15 assists.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Thomas boys lacrosse team:

*April 16 -- Def. Hilliard Darby 19-6. Brian Gifford had six goals and an assist and Eric Garris had three goals and an assist.

Last Saturday -- Def. Detroit Jesuit 18-5. Gifford had seven goals and four assists, Wes Williams had three goals and two assists and Eric Hawkins had three goals and an assist.

Last Sunday -- Lost to Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice 9-5. Williams had two goals and Gifford had a goal and an assist. Spencer Baker had 18 saves.

*Last Wednesday -- Played Dublin Coffman

*Friday -- Home vs. UA. The Bears lost to Rice 14-13 last Saturday to end a 21-game winning streak, but beat Detroit Jesuit 11-4 last Sunday to improve to 6-1.

*Wednesday -- At Davidson. The Wildcats are 3-6 after losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius 10-4 last Saturday.

Of note: The Cardinals were 6-3 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Buckeye game

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Kilbourne boys lacrosse team:

*April 16 -- Defeated Dublin Scioto 17-5. Nick Beattie and Jimmy Luckino scored four goals and Kevin Mack had three.

Last Friday -- Def. Westerville South 18-4. Beattie scored four goals and Andrew Wilfong and Jimmy Luckino had three.

*Last Wednesday -- Played Hilliard Davidson

Friday -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty. The Patriots were 1-5 after losing to Indianapolis Cathedral 10-7 last Saturday.

Saturday -- Home vs. Cincinnati St. Xavier. The Bombers were 6-2 after defeating Pittsburgh Mount Lebanon 8-5 last Sunday.

*Wednesday -- Home vs. Upper Arlington. The Wolves lost 11-3 last year and never have beaten UA.

Of note: The Wolves were 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Buckeye game