Published: March 29, 2014
Senior captain Erik Smith may not lead Air Force in goals or assists, but the Falcons probably would not be riding a four-game win streak without him.
Smith scored an insurance goal and won enough face-offs to help Air Force hold off Michigan 15-12 on Saturday in men's lacrosse.
His multi-faceted performance showed why he is the first Falcon drafted by Major League Lacrosse after the Boston Cannons chose him with the 37th pick in 2014.
"He does everything for us," Air Force coach Eric Seremet said of the midfielder, who also handles most of the face-offs, typically a specialist's role. "He plays offense, defense and handles face-offs. He is the type of player who can just go, go, go. He is the best player we have had in my time (six seasons) here."
The 5-foot, 185-pounder from Golden proved instrumental in last week's 10-8 road win over Binghamton (N.Y.) by winning back-to-back face offs that set up the decisive final two goals for the Falcons. He won the opening draw Saturday at Falcon Stadium to stake Air Force to a lead it would never surrender.
Smith almost didn't play college lacrosse.
The Mullen High School product was considering football at Colorado or Colorado State when he chose the academy.
Little did he know that would include a chance to play pro lacrosse while serving as an acquisitions officer at a Massachusetts base.
"It was pretty exciting to see my name drawn," he said about the draft. "But now we are focusing on this season, keeping this win streak going, winning a couple games at the ECAC Tournament and making the NCAAs."
If the Falcons do, it will not be just because of Smith, who is part of a strong group of seniors for Air Force (6-3, 2-0 ECAC).
Tommy McKee recorded his 30th-straight game with a goal, best in Division I while Mike Crampton scored four goals including three of the first four to put AFA ahead 4-1 early.
"When we're clicking early, we are in really good shape," said Crampton, who added three assists. "We have a lot of good chemistry on our top line."
His fourth goal with 1:02 left in the third quarter proved to be the eventual game-winner. That score moved Crampton into a tie for 10th in career goals (101) with Tom Sexton (1985-88). The senior is the first Falcon to score 100 goals since 1994.
While Crampton had a big day, it was once again Smith who made a key play. His goal with 12:47 remaining slowed Michigan's momentum and made it 14-9. He won the next faceoff which helped keep UM off the scoreboard for the next seven minutes to fend off the Wolverines (4-7, 1-1 ECAC).