Fast feet. Quick hands. Strong stick. Peripheral vision. A rapidly-processing mind. A flawless decision-maker. An unrelenting worker. A giving nature.
And a nose for the net.
Given Evan Downey’s considerable skill set, it’s not difficult to see why he’s so prolific and proficient. And not only is he not afraid to use his skills, he’s very adept at it.
Downey is quite simply the most productive lacrosse scorer that these parts have ever produced.
He is the Palmyra boys’ lacrosse program’s all-time leading scorer, as well as Lebanon County’s career scoring leader. Downey also just completed a senior season in which he was the Mid-Penn Conference’s leading scorer – for the second year in-a-row.
“It’s probably because I’ve been playing a really long time,” said Downey, during an exclusive interview with Lebanon Sports Buzz. “Specifically, the key to my game and my offense is ball movement. I don’t enjoy standing still. I don’t see the point to it.”
“I’d say my role changes,” Downey added. “Most games I’m either going to be a scoring threat, or act as a scoring threat, get other kids goals and get the assists.”
“He’s fast,” said Palmyra head coach Jeff Gatano of his star player. “He has good ball skills, and good stick skills. When he gets the ball, he hangs on to it.”
“I think there’s a lot of guys on our team who can learn from Evan,” added Gatano. “He’s shown a lot of leadership over the last few years. He’s been a pretty good model for success.”
For the record, Downey tallied 58 goals and 39 assists in 18 games this spring, which calculates to an average of more than 4.5 points per outing. Over the past two seasons, Downey recorded 101 goals and 73 assists, to surpass former standout Will Haus on the Cougars’ all-time scoring list.
While those numerals mean something to him, the numbers that are even more important to Downey are wins and losses. After going 7-11 in 2012, the Cougars went 11-7 this year.
The prolific Downey is always thinking ‘more’.
“It means I’m somewhere near as good as him, as good as a Division One kid,” said Downey, referring to Haus. “And he’s doing pretty well at Duke. It (his scoring) was steady at the beginning (of the season). Then it went down for two or three games. And then I went back up.”
“That’s (being the Mid-Penn’s leading scorer) really important to me because I’m trying to get All-American (status),” Downey added. “I need the stats to back up my play. And I did better than I did last year.”
“He played varsity his freshman year,” said Gatano. “He’s worked hard, all years and in every way. He’s played (lacrosse) every summer and went to camps.”
“He’s a good kid,” Gatano continued. “He’s playing other sports. He does well in school. His parents keep him grounded.”
Downey also accomplished what he accomplished this spring despite being the main focus of the the opposition’s defense. A few of the Cougars’ opponents event went as far as attempting to ‘lock him off’, assigning their best defender the task of denying Downey the ball – lacrosse’s version of the basketball defense ‘box and one’.
“It’s called ‘locked off’,” explained Downey. “A defender will stay completely on you and not let you get the ball. It didn’t happen that often. Northern York tried to do it and Cedar Crest tried to do it. If teams didn’t lock me off, they put their best defender on me. Yeah, it was frustrating, especially in games we needed to win. I wanted to help, but I couldn’t get this guy off me.”
“Obviously the ball went through me.” Downey added. “But if you take out the source, no one else really knows what they’re going to do. What you do is either off-ball picks or V cuts. Those are the two best options.”
“Every team, when they played us, the first thought was about how to stop Evan,” said Gatano. “And that really helped open things up for other guys.”
“We wanted to make sure other kids were moving off the ball and not standing around watching Evan,” added Gatano. “Off-the-ball movement, off-the-ball picks, which ultimately will open things back up for Evan.”
Downey began playing lacrosse at the age of nine, about the same time the sport was being introduced to the Palmyra community. Downey also competes in soccer and swimming for the Cougars.
“Oh yeah, lacrosse is my favorite sport,” said Downey. “I don’t enjoy the others as much. Lacrosse is flat out fun.”
“It (the lacrosse season) went pretty well,” Downey continued. “We played a couple of games we should’ve won and ended up losing. It was better than last year, but probably not as good as I wanted it to be.”
“It was tough,” said Gatano. “If we would’ve gotten one more win, we would’ve gotten into districts. We were ranked 18th and the top 16 get in. But when I look at our season, we had success.”
While Downey is still processing the things he achieved during his scholastic career, he can take some consolation from the fact that his playing days aren’t through. He will be taking his considerable lacrosse talents to Division Three Cabrini College in Radnor.
“I think of it as I’m not done playing,” said Downey. “I can continue to get better. There’s no stopping at high school.”