The perfect complement
Haverford (Pa.) senior attackmen John Haldy and Kyle Wharton couldn't be more different.
On the lacrosse field, Haldy is the playmaker who uses his great athletic ability to set up teammates for goals. Wharton, meanwhile, is the sniper -- a pure scorer who boasts one of the hardest and most accurate shots in the country.
"They're totally different players," says Haverford coach John Nostrant. "Kyle is a shooter and Johnny's a creator."
Off the field, they're equally different. Haldy is the reserved and even-keeled one, while Wharton is outgoing and animated. But despite all their differences, Haldy and Wharton are best friends who are united by one common bond: They are two of the nation's top lacrosse players thanks to teamwork that has made them unstoppable.
"Every game, he's my No. 1 target," says Haldy, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder who's rated the nation's No. 36 player in the Class of 2007 by Inside Lacrosse. "I'm always trying to set him up."
"He knows where I'm going to be and I know exactly where he's going to be," says Wharton, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder who's rated No. 13 in the nation by Inside Lacrosse. "We've really helped each other reach this level."
With their skill sets complementing each other perfectly, Haldy and Wharton have become one of the best duos in the country. They've both signed to play at big-time schools next year -- Haldy has inked with defending NCAA champ Virginia and Wharton signed with 2005 champ Johns Hopkins. But before they head off to college, Haldy and Wharton have some unfinished business to attend to.
Last year, Haverford was considered a favorite to win the state title. The Fords won the crown in 2005 and carried a 22-game winning streak into the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association finals against Malvern Prep. A win would have put the Inter-Ac League champions back in the state title game, but Malvern scored with 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime to earn a 6-5 victory. It was a devastating loss for Haverford, which had plenty of chances to win the game, including a shot by Haldy that hit the post in overtime.
For the team, a long summer filled with intense practices followed, as Nostrant demanded the most from his senior leaders.
"I lit into Kyle a lot this summer," says Nostrant. "But we had a conversation about it, and I try to treat the guys like family. I think they understand that."
Those summer practices combined with the memory of the Malvern loss are all the motivation Haldy and Wharton need for their final high school season.
"After seeing the looks on the faces of the seniors last year, I couldn't deal with that this year," Wharton says. "The summer was hard with all the practices and camps, but it only made us stronger. Hopefully, we'll come out firing this year."
During the months that followed the loss to Malvern, Haldy and Wharton could always lean on each other. Just as they always made each other better on the field, they now picked each other up emotionally. It was an extension of what they've been doing since meeting as freshmen.
Wharton entered Haverford in ninth grade and immediately made the varsity. He quickly became friends with Haldy, who first played varsity in eighth grade, and counted on his friend's varsity experience to help him see Nostrant's demanding ways for what they're really about.
"Coach expects a lot out of John and myself," Wharton says. "He's hard on us and compliments don't come that often, but he wouldn't push us if he didn't think we had it in us."
"He's been on me every day since I got here, demanding my best," Haldy adds. "He never lets me slip or not try my hardest. I know it's only because he wants the best out of me."
There's no doubt Nostrant has gotten the best out of both players. Haldy, who has attended the pre-K through 12th grade Haverford since fifth grade, learned a lot while playing varsity in eighth grade.
"I was getting beaten up every day in practice, and the games weren't any better," says Haldy, who is also an All-Inter-Ac basketball player. "It's an experience that I look back on with a great deal of pride that I made it through and started most of the games."
Then last year, Haldy scored 35 goals while setting up a good portion of Wharton's 69 goals. Both players were selected as All-Americas.
Even before either player suited up for Haverford, Nostrant knew they both had the physical tools to be special. David Stilley, Haldy's stepbrother who now plays Major League Lacrosse, starred for Nostrant back in the early 1990s.
As a result, Nostrant has known about Haldy's athletic ability for a long time. Wharton, meanwhile, had been coming to Haverford lacrosse camps for a couple years by the time he enrolled in the high school, and his laser-like shot made an immediate impression on Nostrant.
"I'd never seen a 14-year-old shoot the ball like he shot it," says Nostrant, who's also an assistant on the U.S. Men's U-19 National Team. "And if there's a better high school shooter in the country now, I'd be hard-pressed to find him."
This year, Wharton plans to use that shot to try to lead the Fords to another state championship.
After winning it all as sophomores, Wharton, Haldy and the rest of the seniors want to go out on top. That way, Wharton can head to Johns Hopkins and Haldy can go to Virginia in style. But once they get to the next level and their teams square off, they admit it's going to be weird facing each other.
"It's going to be pretty funny," Haldy says. "We've spent so much time playing together, it's going to be kind of weird. But we're not gonna want to lose to each other. We may talk a little trash, but it will all be in good fun."