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Kiski School's Tackett changes colors, but not sport

| Saturday, June 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Senior midfielder Ben Tackett has excelled in lacrosse since tranferring from Knoch to the Kiski School.

He starred in two sports at Knoch High School. He had a deep, strong social network there. He led a life most classmates would envy.

So when Ben Tackett told friends he planned to transfer to the Kiski School, a preparatory academy in Saltsburg, during the middle of his senior year, he heard more than a few ask why.

His answer: To have a shot at playing high-level lacrosse in college, he needed to enhance his understanding of the sport, and few people from Knoch knew enough to help.

Away from friends and family at a boarding school since January, Tackett has bolstered his knowledge of a game that's steadily growing in Western Pennsylvania and throughout the country. He sacrificed stardom when he transferred. But he has no regrets and plenty of high hopes, particularly because he'll add more experience next season at the Kiski School, which offers a college prep year on top of the traditional four-year education.

“There were a lot of questions asked, because it was kind of an unheard-of thing,” Tackett said of his mid-year transfer. “Luckily, mostly everybody, especially my big group of friends, they were really supportive.”

Tackett started playing lacrosse in sixth grade.

“I was kind of getting tired of baseball, so I figured why not give it a shot,” he said. “Once I started, I just loved it.”

His father, Jerry, also fell for the sport immediately. And aware that Knoch did not offer the sport at the high school level, he started his plan to create a program.

With Tackett in eighth grade, his father, working with the Signorino family, succeeded in establishing a Knoch club team.

“That team was coached mainly by the players,” said Jerry Tackett, who officially served as coach. “We maintained and babysat basically.”

During the following three seasons, Knoch grew more legitimate. But it remained a club sport that did not compete in the WPIAL. Tackett's father, with no lacrosse playing experience, remained coach.

Tackett took the sport too seriously to shrug at his situation.

Just before the start of the 2012-13 school year, Tackett and his family made a decision: He would attend the Kiski School after he finished football, in which, at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, he shined as a running back and defensive back for Knoch.

Kiski School, ranked in the top 70 nationally, provided what the Tacketts sought.

Tackett gladly gave up the do-it-all role he had at Knoch and began to learn the finer points of his position.

“At Knoch, there were a lot of times where I just tried to do too much,” Tackett said. “I don't want to say that I had to, but there was a lot put on my shoulders, I felt — at least I saw it that way. So I tried to make a lot happen.”

Tackett finished his first season as a Kiski School Cougar with the fifth-best points per game average (2.7) on the team. He scored 41 goals and had 23 assists in 25 games. He also averaged 3.6 ground balls per game, which tied for fourth among the Cougars. Few midfielders meant more to the team in terms of on-field productivity.

“When I played within myself, I thought I played better,” Tackett said. “The big thing was just letting my lacrosse IQ just take off. That was a big reason I came here. ”

Tackett is torn about what sport to play in college. Coaches have indicated he could possibly play both football and lacrosse at the Division II or III level. But he might also possess the abilities to go to a D-I program.

One thing Tackett remains certain about is his allegiance to Knoch.

“I'm still a Knoch Knight at heart,” he said. “But my heart is big enough to have enough room to bleed blue and gold and black and white.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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