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Long Beach's Forkin talks, plays a good game of lacrosse

Long Beach's James Forkin is seen on the

Long Beach's James Forkin is seen on the sideline against Wantagh. (May 7, 2013) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Who's the best scorer in Nassau high school lacrosse?

"I am," said Syracuse-bound J.T. Forkin while wearing an Orange hat sideways, days before his Long Beach Marines were to play a Class B semifinal against Garden City on Tuesday.

The senior midfielder known for a peerless lefthanded shot and fondness for trash-talking then paused, apparently scanning his mind for a name of a player whose skills surpass his own.

He never recalled one.

"Yeah, I am,'' Forkin concluded. "If you don't think you're the best, then you'll never amount to be the best. I play knowing, 'Hey, I'm better than you and I'm going to prove it.' I really think I am hated on the field. If you don't know me, you probably think I'm a jerk.''

Truth be told, he is teased by friends who believe he has an ego. A few pals manage a faux Forkin Twitter account. Its handle is @EgoJT, and one tweet from the parody social media account reads: "I guess I'm just that good that they have to pull me out of school for my interview.''

Yet there's nothing funny about what Forkin has accomplished. The Long Beach native is one of nine players on Long Island with at least 50 goals this season, but he's one of only two to do so without a teammate who has scored at least 25.

He is averaging more than four goals per game despite a nagging hamstring injury that has plagued him all season and forced him to miss two games.

And he led Long Beach to a 13-2 regular-season record -- which includes six wins over Conference A teams -- even though the Marines have a depleted roster because of several injuries.

"It's almost comical,'' coach Jim Kaspar said. "If James Forkin played at a bigger school, there'd be a statue outside and someone would be polishing it every day.''

Two things fuel Forkin's motivation: his own success and people who doubt him.

Kaspar once challenged the four-year varsity starter as an underclassman. Forkin said his coach told him he'd be nothing more than a defensive midfielder after his freshman season. After all, Forkin was merely a role player at that point.

But Forkin entered his sophomore season bigger, stronger and faster, and discovered "kids just couldn't keep up with me after that,'' he said.

He quickly established himself as Long Beach's top scoring option and was before the season was named one of ESPN's top-50 high school midfielders in the country.

"He probably is the best offensive player in the county,'' said Garden City's star defender, Ed Blatz, who has guarded Forkin several times.

"Even when I wasn't the best, I'd still talk like I was the best,'' Forkin said. "Some people say I have a big ego I just take it as the type of person I am. I get being humble, but I'll be humble when I need to be and I'll be cocky when I need to be."

This year, Forkin, who is also a hockey player and the school's starting running back, has even more reasons to boast.

His hamstring has been the target of stick checks from opposing team's defensemen and his lacrosse stick has been subject for inspection by officials and opposing coaches.

It's customary for players to have sticks checked for legality purposes before the start of a lacrosse game. The pocket can't be strung too deeply; otherwise defenders wouldn't be able to dislodge the ball. During this ritual, referees will hold the lacrosse shaft parallel to the ground, face down, and then push the pocket through to create a reverse of the pocket. With the ball in the deepest part of the reverse pocket, it must come out when turned 180 degrees.

The player who gets his stick inspected is supposed to be selected at random. Yet Forkin said he couldn't recall a game in the past three years where he hasn't had to show his stick, which has never been deemed illegal.

"Coaches just can't believe that he can slice through four defenders and break triple-teams without losing the ball,'' Kaspar said.

In Long Beach's 13-12 win in overtime against Massapequa on April 23, Chiefs coach Tim Radomski requested that Forkin's stick be checked before the start of the fourth quarter. Forkin had three goals and five assists at that point. Coaches are allowed one such request per game. Again, officials said there was nothing illegal about it.

Exactly one week after that game, Long Beach's 11-game winning streak to begin the season was snapped by a familiar foe, Garden City. The defending Class B state champions ended Long Beach's season in the 2012 playoffs.

It's something Forkin is reminded of through text messages he receives from former Long Beach players like Eddie Collins (who is now Hofstra's goalie). The messages are usually similar and often read: "Win for us.''

The "us'' is now a Long Beach community still getting over the effects of last fall's superstorm Sandy. According to some of Forkin's neighbors, a potential county championship would hold a little more meaning this year.

The ever-confident Forkin is well aware of that, too.

"If we can bring a county championship to Long Beach, this place would get out of control,'' he said. "We're coming back with a vengeance against Garden City. We saw their best and they haven't seen me at 100 percent. They're not going to get lucky and beat us by three goals this time. I'll get six instead of three."

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