By Liam Fox
Ottawa’s own Sam Firth has been a rising force in Ontario junior lacrosse over the past few years. Now with the challenge of a new season underway, Sam and his Nepean Knights teammates will look to continue their ascendance from bottom of the table to championship contention.
Twenty-year-old Sam is a forward for the Knights in the Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League (OJBLL). Through his own individual improvement and that of those around him, the Knights are hoping to springboard off last year’s playoff appearance to new heights this season, with the ultimate goal of winning the OJBLL’s top prize.
“I would love to win a Founders’ Cup,” says Sam. “I was able to accomplish some pretty cool personal goals last year, so I think the focus of everyone on the team this year is to go all the way and win the Founders’ championship.”
Sam’s 2018 campaign, his third with Nepean, was a breakthrough year. While anchoring the team en route to their first playoff appearance in years, he led the OJBLL eastern conference in scoring and was named his conference’s most valuable player in the process.
By increasing mental and physical maturity over his time in junior lacrosse, Sam has found a way to improve markedly from season to season. He scored 23 goals in year one, 31 in year two and 50 in year three.
Also aiding Sam’s development is his family’s deeply entrenched sense of lacrosse tradition. His mother was a team president for several years and his younger brother plays the game as well, but perhaps most important to Sam is the contribution of his father, Matt Firth. Matt, who is a former lacrosse player himself, has been Nepean’s head coach and general manager since Sam’s second season with Knights.
“It’s a big part of our (family’s) identity and it means a lot to him for sure,” Matt said.
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Matt has seen firsthand the strides that Sam has taken in his Knights career and, along with his son, he has been a driving force in bringing the program from the depths of their division in 2016 and 2017, to turning the program around, demonstrated by their playoff-worthy season last year.
“A big part of that is my Dad and [assistant coach] Kirk Kealey took over the team after that first year. They put a lot of time and effort into turning the team around, turning the program around and creating a new team culture,” says Sam.
The Knights established an environment of accountability that Matt says includes the team’s players, coaches and volunteers. As that culture has taken shape off the court, so has the progression on it.
Based on his performance in Nepean at the B level, Sam has gotten the opportunity over the last couple years to grab a spot with the Orangeville Northmen at the A level as well.
He joined the Northmen for their playoff run last season and was their second-leading scorer as they battled all the way to the provincial finals. Sam scored 14 goals in 13 playoff appearances in 2018 and has already seen time this season with Orangeville in addition to his role with Nepean.
After his junior career wraps up next year, Sam says he wants a shot at the National Lacrosse League (NLL), the preeminent professional league in North America.
The Knights’ regular season slate will finish in mid-June, when they hope what they have built over the last few years will push them towards a deep postseason run.