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Bramblett, Bulldogs dominant on defense

Photo: Brian Kamer North Gwinnett's Tyler Bramblett is a key senior on the Bulldogs' lacrosse team.

Photo: Brian Kamer North Gwinnett's Tyler Bramblett is a key senior on the Bulldogs' lacrosse team.

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Photo: Brian Kamer North Gwinnett's Tyler Bramblett brings the ball up field as a North Forsyth player goes after him during a game earlier this season.

There's a lacrosse goal in the backyard and there may or may not be a few dents in the wall of Tyler Bramblett's room at home.

That's how a kid who first picked up a stick three years ago ends up getting an offer to help start the lacrosse program at Young Harris College.

Like half the North Gwinnett boys team, Bramblett started playing as a sophomore. The school created a club team, which did pretty well at that level.

The jump to varsity was quick and somewhat painful.

But this year, the Bulldogs are 13-2 and Bramblett is part of the best defense in the state.

"I was hooked from the beginning," the lanky senior said. "I was hanging out with a few friends who were on the lacrosse team and they told me I should come out.

"I said I'd try it. And I just loved it. I love how fast it is. I love the pace of the game and just the atmosphere."

That doesn't mean he was good at it from the beginning.

"Sophomore year, honestly, I was pretty awful," Bramblett said. "I was playing middy and it was not going well."

He certainly wasn't thinking it would be something he'd do at the collegiate level.

"It was honestly something to be involved in in high school," said Bramblett, who really hadn't played any sport seriously before getting into lacrosse. "I never would have though never, that it would have gotten to this."

Switching to defense and getting on a travel team that summer made all the difference.

"Probably junior year, after the sophomore summer season, I thought. 'If I put in some hard work and time into this, I think I could get something out of it,'" Bramblett said.

That meant walking around the house with the stick, throwing the ball against a wall in the backyard. It also meant a goal in the backyard and maybe some dented drywall.

Matt Palmer, who got Bramblett to join the team and is one of North's top scorers, does one-on-one drills with him outside of regular practices.

Bramblett works on the skills that are particular to his position. Marking the other teams' top shooters and being aggressive on defense appeals to him.

"It's what I prefer," Bramblett said. "I play long stick middy and I only get in when we're on defense usually. I'll come out and go one-on-one defense."

Even though there isn't much glory in the job, nothing on the scoreboard to reflect a good game, Bramblett wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'll go to school and people are like, 'Did you score any?'" he said with a chuckle. "I mean, I usually don't score. But I wouldn't want to play any other position. I enjoy where I'm at.

"I'm usually the smallest one of the field, so I use my speed. I try to get the turnover check as much as I can and just aggravate the crap out of the other team's attackers, get in his head a lot."

The physical nature of causing turnovers and picking up groundballs also suits Bramblett. He tries to walk the line between playing shut-down defense and getting called for infractions.

"I'll get a few penalties here and there from checking the helmet or whatever -- on accident," Bramblett said with a grin.

The Bulldogs have only lost to Grayson this season, a physical game the Rams won 8-7. They played the regular-season finale against Collins Hill on Friday night.

"We've just gotten so much better," Bramblett said of the team's three-year progression. "We're the 28th best defense in the nation and No. 1 in Class AAAAA.

"So it's pretty special and to see how much we've all improved."

Because of his own improvement, Bramblett is headed to Young Harris in the fall.

"It's a small school and I kind of like that," he said. "It's going to be a new program. Their first season is going to be my freshman year there, so I was interested in being a part of their inaugural team."