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Landon's Kevin Miller.

Healthy Kevin Miller Part of Revitalized Landon (Md.) Program

April 11, 2024
Justin Feil
Landon (Md.) Athletics

Kevin Miller is back for Landon (Md.).

So are the Bears.

Miller, Landon’s senior attackman committed to Georgetown, missed last year after tearing his ACL during soccer season. He’s thrilled to be playing again, and even happier that he’s been able to help Landon to its most promising start since the Bears last won the Interstate Athletic Conference in 2018.

“I’ve been very thankful, especially that we’re out there winning now,” Miller said. “It’s been a long time since Landon’s been on the map, since we’ve been a team to be reckoned with.”

Landon is streaking into the final month of the season. The Bears (9-2) lost two of their first four games, falling by a goal to St. Paul’s (Md.) and in overtime to unbeaten Haverford School (Pa.). They have won seven straight coming into Friday’s IAC matchup at rival Georgetown Prep (Md.).

The Hoyas are defending IAC champions after finishing a perfect year in the conference with a 14-9 win over Landon in the 2023 title game. The Hoyas have been on the upswing, winning two straight since an overtime loss to Gonzaga (D.C.).

“We haven’t earned anything yet, so we’re the underdogs going into every game,” Miller said. “We’re coming out hungry, we’re coming out hard, and I think we hold that through to Prep. I’ve played Prep so many times, and I think I’ve beat them once. So, it’s not something you take lightly. We’re definitely hungry for this game.”

Landon lost all four meetings with Georgetown in Miller’s first year, split with Prep in 2022 on a pair of one-goal games, and lost both matchups last year. A win would be another step forward for Landon, which knocked off Bullis (Md.) 13-8 on April 4 for its biggest win of the year. The Bears’ streak has them in the USA Lacrosse Magazine High School Boys’ National Top 25.

“Ever since I’ve been at Landon, it’s sort of been the goal to get back to that level, to national recognition, to IAC championships, and that sort of deal,” Miller said. “And it’s been a rebuild in the locker room. It’s been a rebuild on the field. It’s been a big project everywhere.”

Miller was finishing up elementary school when Landon went 21-0 as national champions in 2017 under coach Rob Bordley. The legendary coach retired in 2018. The Bears haven’t won an IAC title since, but the program pines to return to its championship era.

“There’s no avoiding it when you get to Landon, how rich the history is in lacrosse,” Miller said. “You walk into the lacrosse office down there, and the walls are lined with pictures of guys at the next level, of teams who won national championships.”

Miller came to Landon in eighth grade. The Clarksburg, Md., resident started on the Bears’ varsity team as a freshman and posted the program’s fifth-best first-year numbers (16 goals, 11 assists) for coach Ian Healey, who took over for Bordley and coached Landon through the 2021 season. That’s when Will McGettigan, an assistant coach in the program since 2014, took over. He’s now in his third season at the helm.

“It has been a little bit since we’ve won a championship here,” McGettigan said. “I think most of it’s a function of the area of D.C. getting much better in lacrosse. I wouldn’t say Landon has been down. We’ve still been super competitive.”

Winning got tougher last spring without Miller, who was coming off a sophomore season in which he scored 40 goals and delivered 14 assists to pace the offense. He was stuck on the sidelines during a 12-7 season coaching the younger players, and imploring on his teammates as the zookeeper of Landon’s bench players affectionately known as “The Zoo” after tearing his ACL.

“Kevin’s freshman and sophomore year, he was kind of the quarterback of the offense,” McGettigan said. “He would mainly play on the wing and at X, and he was a great distributor of the ball and had a lightning quick first step, and I would say he was equal parts scorer and feeder. And so, when he wasn’t there last year, it forced everyone to kind of up their game. And having him back now, for me and for everybody else, it’s kind of like a security blanket.”

Miller’s injury was a cruel irony of a decision made with the best intentions. After playing football his first two years, he decided to switch to soccer so he would minimize his risk of being injured for the prime recruiting season.

On September 2, one day after college lacrosse’s recruiting period opened for juniors, Miller cut on the wet grass in a game against Gonzaga and felt his left knee buckle. Season over. Year over. ACL torn.

“It was tough, for sure, but looking back on it now, it was kind of a blessing in disguise,” Miller said. “Obviously I don’t want to have torn my ACL, but I matured because of it. I got to see the game of lacrosse from such a different angle. I think it helped me grow. I also got to appreciate everything else in my life other than lacrosse.”

Miller earned the role of class president, something he never figured he’d have time for. This year, while he’s back to lacrosse, he moved up to become Landon student council president. Miller was already a leader on the lacrosse team. He spreads the example of Landon alum George Boiardi, the tireless worker killed in a lacrosse game at Cornell in 2004 whose story captured in “The Hard Hat” by Jon Gordon has inspired so many.

“In my 10 years at Landon, I think he’s the only one we’ve had as a junior captain,” McGettigan said of Miller. “He unfortunately couldn’t play that year, but I think him being voted as a junior captain speaks volumes.”

Miller initially lost weight off his slight 5-foot-9 frame after surgery to repair his knee, dropping down to 138 pounds before rehabbing and bulking up to over 165 pounds. He returned last summer, playing his first tournament with his MadLax club team back at Landon.

A collective hush fell over the sidelines when the first big hit set him down in the second game of the tournament, but he popped right up with confidence that he was ready to resume full-time, and he’s been building back the explosive quickness and footwork that made him the No. 19-ranked Class of 2024 player in 2022.

Miller’s return has made the Bears offense that much tougher to stop. He sits third on the team with 16 goals and 12 assists behind Bucknell commits Anthony Panetti and Sean Murray.

In the Bears’ win over Bullis, it was long-stick middie Owen Davis who provided a spark with two goals. Murray had four goals and Panetti had two goals and an assist. Miller only had one assist, but most importantly to him, Landon won. There’s an unselfish attitude at the core of their offensive approach under coordinator Mike Kubik, a trust that might not have been there when they were younger.

“We’re playing for each other more,” Miller said. “A lot of times we used to rely on our star-studded guys. We don’t do that. We’ve become so much more coachable.”

Miller is one of three seniors who started for Landon as a freshman along with Panetti and Delaware-bound Nathan Furgeson. The Tufts-bound Davis and Utah-commit Chase Robertson are three-year starters. McGettigan points to the experience of the 14-strong senior class as the key to the turnaround, along with some good underclassmen pushing them and solid game planning by Kubik and defensive coordinator Conor Cassidy.

“It means so much to think as a senior class we’ve had the impact that we’ve had on this program,” Miller said. “Obviously, it’s not done yet, so not going say anything too crazy, but hopefully we end on a high note, and we can confidently say that we impacted this program and hopefully we started the comeback.”