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Jeremy Papasso / Daily Camera
Fairview senior Sean LaVine, an Air Force recruit, is the leader of the Knights’ hard-nosed defense

Like the plant that makes up his surname, Sean LaVine has been climbing up the lacrosse recruiting rankings for the past few years as a stifling defender still eager to learn all there is to know about the game.

Luckily for the Fairview Knights in 2014, LaVine is well past being recruited. Before checking into the Air Force Academy at the start of the coming summer, LaVine is looking to make the most of the current campaign not for himself, but for the fun of playing with some longtime friends that make up the defensive corps for FHS.

So far, the memories have been fond, namely for beating Boulder and Monarch and already equaling the win total (five) from all of last year.

“This team is special, like nothing I’ve ever been a part of,” said LaVine. “We are such a tight group. We all work so hard, and it’s not about getting goals. It’s about doing everything for the team, and that’s part of why we’ve been successful so far.”

A lot of LaVine’s personal success has come from his passion for the game, which started in third grade and has not regressed. Part of a generation of Colorado kids who have swarmed to the sport thanks to the exposure of the pro and college game, LaVine has always enjoyed the nuances of playing the shut-down role rather than the flashy attackman.

And a player really has to enjoy the sport to play defense, where there is often no glory and you can be caught spectating for minutes at a time relegated to one side of the field.

For LaVine, getting engaged in the play once the ball gets to his end has always been part of the challenge. He’s developed through both high school and club participation, playing pretty much year-round.

“It’s something I love, actually,” he said. “It adds a challenge to the whole game, when you have to stay organized with a certain number of people on each side. I think it also keeps it going fast, keeps it going perfect.”

Most would agree, LaVine is one of the best in the state and tends to get squared up for anyone looking to deke and dunk their way in on net. More importantly for coach Michael Flood, LaVine has lacrosse on the brain.

“His lacrosse IQ is pretty high, and he works on footwork, positioning and throwing different types of checks all the time,” Flood said. “He’s studied the game, and he’s had some great experiences with the lacrosse community across the state.

“He’s worked with the (Denver) Outlaws and (DU) Pioneers … he’s hungry for knowledge. He and I chat a lot about college games after we see them, and he is always watching.”

Hard work has given LaVine several open doors to continue at the next level, and his family’s military roots directed him toward Air Force or West Point, the latter being the alma mater of his dad, Nils.

He chose the Falcons as part of a solid contingency of in-state seniors, officially signing well before the start of the FHS season.

LaVine knows this is his last hurrah with the Knights, and the senior-laden defensive group is the backbone of this year’s team. Prior to Monday’s loss against Dakota Ridge, the Knights had gone five straight games allowing eight or fewer goals.

Flood said the experience and chemistry on that end of the field has shown up time and time again. For LaVine, the process of developing the cohesiveness has been years in the making. They both hope it pays off in the postseason.

“There are a bunch of smart kids that are natural leaders, and they’re humble, too,” Flood said, his team 5-4 before Wednesday’s game against Prairie View. “They’re pushing each other to become better, and I think that’s why our team defense has been our staple.”

“We’ve been playing together three years now, and I’ve been playing with kids on this defense since sixth or seventh grade,” added LaVine. “Instead of a bunch of individuals, we just act as a unit. I think we do a good job of taking away an offense’s ability individual and make them have to work as a team.”

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