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Caden Harshbarger is the repeat recipient of South Boys' Player of the Year honors.

Caden Harshbarger Named South Boys' Player of the Year

June 19, 2024
Justin Boggs
Karen Shannon Photography

When Caden Harshbarger ended the season as the USA Lacrosse High School Boys’ South Player of the Year in 2023, it was hard to picture him being even more dominant as a senior.

But when you watch him in 2024, you can clearly see he is a bigger, stronger and faster player.

Harshbarger, who is one of the top recruits in the class of 2024, pieced together an even better season for Lake Mary (Fla.) in 2024 and earned the USA Lacrosse South Player of the Year honor for a second straight year. USA Lacrosse writers select the regional and national players of the year with input from coaches in their respective regions of coverage.

Harshbarger nearly led Lake Mary to another perfect record. The only blemish was a one-goal loss to perennial statewide power St. Andrew’s (Fla.).

While Harshbarger earned his stripes on the defensive side a year ago, he looked the part of a more well-rounded offensive player in 2024. He had a team-leading 52 goals to go with 28 assists and 23 ground balls.

Harshbarger revealed that he added 15 pounds prior to the season, which he said helped him when facing opposing defenses.

“I didn’t feel pushed around at all,” he said. “I felt like I held my ground a lot better this season than I did in previous seasons.”

If anything, coach Gary Robinson had to rein in his senior star.

“I had to kind of bring him in a little bit,” he said. “They would work out. We practice in the evenings. So, they would go lift before practice, which is a good thing, but once you’re in season, you want to scale that back. He was on a constant weight routine throughout the season.”

Not only did he change physically, but mentally as well. He conceded that he wanted to be more aggressive, especially offensively, to help his team to victory. Both Robinson and Harshbarger said not only was the schedule more challenging this year, but their opponents raised their competition level when facing Lake Mary.

“If I have to be aggressive and make a couple aggressive plays on the offensive side, I’m going to do that to get our team going and give us a win,” Harshbarger said. “So, it’s really just stepping up into my role and doing what I can to be great and lead this team.”

Caden Harshbarger.
Caden Harshbarger had 52 goals, 28 assists and 23 ground balls in 2024.
Karen Shannon Photography

Caden Harshbarger

School: Lake Mary (Fla.)
Year: Senior
Position: Midfielder
2024 statistics: 52 goals, 28 assists, 23 ground balls

Also considered: Sean Browne, Episcopal School of Dallas (Texas); Zach Chari, McCallie (Tenn.); Daylin John-Hill, Bolles (Fla.); Jack Kelleher, Benjamin (Fla.); Colton Silverstein, Kinkaid (Texas); Nick Testa, St. Andrew’s (Fla.)

He put his stronger body to good use in 2024, as Lake Mary won three one-goal games, including an 11-10 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) in the state semifinal. The state semifinal was a case of “letting the foot off the gas,” according to Harshbarger.

“I think our schedule – because our schedule was much tougher, that got his attention to a more keen degree,” Robinson said. “And he’s a competitor. If we could play Boys’ Latin 15 times, he would be all for it. And I think the enhanced schedule brought the best out of him.”

The state championship game was much different than the semifinals. Harshbarger’s Rams easily defeated Plant (Fla.) 15-4. He had a hat trick.

Regardless of the outcome, the game was going to be his last for Lake Mary. Fortunately, it ended on a positive note.

“We’ve played with each other since third grade, so we’re all best friends,” Harshbarger said. “We’re all brothers. And so, it was super emotional. There’s a lot of crying after, but, you know, it’s fun. We didn’t take it for granted. We just really lived in the moment and really made memories and played our hearts out. And we got the dub, which was the best part.”

But going into college with a bigger, stronger frame should be beneficial for Harshbarger. He is committed to joining the University of North Carolina next season.

Harshbarger hopes to turn around what once was a blue blood lacrosse program that hasn’t seen much success since its final four run in 2021.

“We’re just all excited. We’re ready to grind and hopefully win a natty there,” he said. “I feel a little bit like there’s an opportunity there. We have a great couple of classes coming in. And we’re all ready to work and grind for the ultimate goal. I think we’re ready.”

Caden Harshbarger.
Lake Mary (Fla.) won a state title and earned the top spot in the South Region Top 10.
Karen Shannon Photography

Final South Region Top 10

1. Lake Mary (Fla.), 24-1
2. Benjamin (Fla.), 21-1
3. Roswell (Ga.), 21-2
4. Episcopal School of Dallas (Texas), 21-5
5. St. Andrew’s (Fla.), 22-2
6. Highland Park (Texas), 16-4
7. Westlake (Texas), 18-2
8. Green Level (N.C.), 22-2
9. Charlotte Catholic (N.C.), 23-1
10. Buford (Ga.), 21-1