Brendan Dawson led his Haverford School team to the Inter-Ac League championship, two wins over Top 5 teams in the national rankings, and a share of the top spot in the final Phillylacrosse.com Rankings. Dan Ellis didn’t win any championships at Coatesville or claim victories over big-name teams, but he did take a third-year varsity program to its first District 1 tournament and a winning league record.
For that, Dawson and Ellis have been named the 2023 Phillylacrosse Boys’ Team Coaches of the Year.
Brendan Dawson, Haverford School
Haverford School senior midfielder and co-captain Colin Zeller says Brendan Dawson’s greatest asset as a coach is his ability to build team camaraderie.
“One of the biggest things that separates Coach Dawson is that he’s a super personal guy and is very connected with every single player on the team,” said Zeller. “Coach did a great job of bringing people together and doing things off the field that benefited us as a team.”
It all paid off for the Fords in 2023. Haverford ended a long drought of league championships by claiming its first Inter-Ac League crown since 2017 with a 10-0 mark. The Fords also earned wins – vs. St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) and Georgetown Prep (MD) – over teams that finished among the top 5 in the national rankings. Overall, Haverford School finished 17-3, was ranked among the top 15 teams in the national rankings. The Fords shared the No. 1 spot in the final Phillylacrosse.com Rankings.
“One thing that brought us together was the idea of playing your role on the team throughout the season,” said Zeller. “He brought up (former NBA player) Bill Cartwright and talked about how he played his singular role, but how it affected the (Chicago) Bulls championship team as a whole. All of us took that to heart and played with that mentality. We worked so well together.”
“Coach Dawson helps us adapt to different situations on the field,” added senior co-captain and midfielder Brendan Leary. “There were a lot of key moments in games when we were down, but were able to come back. Coach knew when to call a very timely timeout and he knew how to motivate us.”
The 16-15 win over St. Anthony’s was a highlight of the season. The Friars were ranked No. 1 in the country entering play in a much-anticipated contest. The game went back and forth, but the Fords’ resilience showed.
“We didn’t have much time to prepare, but Coach was always finding ways to get us better and prepared,” said Leary. “He always helps us adapt to different situations on the field.”
Unfortunately for Haverford School, the 2023 season ended with a loss when the Fords fell to Malvern Prep, 9-6, in the Inter-Ac Tournament finale. Many fans remember the final game as a bit of a season/league championship. The Fords were hoping to complete a sweep of the Friars. But the players refused to allow the loss to diminish what was achieved.
“Going 10-0 in the Inter-Ac and getting those wins over top-ranked teams made the season special,” said Leary. “We had many tough games in the second half of the Inter-Ac, and we had to come from behind against Penn Charter and EA. The consistency we saw from the sophomores and juniors and the trust in the seniors paid off.
“The camaraderie we began to develop in the off season stayed all year. Even after the loss to Malvern Prep, Coach Dawson found a way to be optimistic. As emotional as that final game was, coach brought the team together. Yes, it stunk to lose that game, but coach talked about how proud he was of the senior class and what we had built to create a new path for the underclassmen.”