From the commissioner of the Oregon High School Lacrosse Association to the Roseburg High scorekeeper, their message was the same at U.S. Cellular Community Park on Tuesday: Spread the word.
The St. Mary’s and Roseburg boys played in the first-ever high school lacrosse match in Southern Oregon, with the Indians’ junior varsity squad beating the newly formed and independent Crusaders, 8-3.
Ethan Stoner netted the first goal with 10:35 left in the opening 12-minute quarter for the Indians, and Alex Finch recorded St. Mary’s first score with 5:06 to go in the first period.
“It is probably the greatest feeling in the world,” said Finch, a junior midfielder who finished with two goals, both in the opening 12 minutes. “I am so excited. It’s probably the high point in my life right now.”
Before, during and afterward, lacrosse supporters buzzed about raising awareness of the stick sport, which caught on quickly at St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s maintenance supervisor Tom O’Neill, who is the Crusaders’ head coach, and teacher Kevin Keating, an assistant coach, came up with the idea of forming a club last spring during a weeklong curriculum change-up. Students were given the chance to study areas of interest, and lacrosse came up.
Those two, along with athletic director and assistant coach Adam Peterson, immersed themselves in the process of building a program. The end result is the area’s first lacrosse team, with the Indians being the next closest program. The other clubs reside in or around Portland, Eugene, Bend and Salem, Peterson said. The Crusaders, who can field students from other surrounding schools, and Oregon Episcopal are also the only Class 3A programs in the state, he added.
“I told Tom and Kevin if they could get 13 kids together, we’ll make it happen,” Peterson said. “We came up with the coaches and the funding, and the rest is history.”
The match on Tuesday was sanctioned by the nonprofit OHSLA, the governing body for prep lacrosse in Oregon. Commissioner Dan Badders of Portland made the trip to watch and speak to the players. He, and many others within the state’s lacrosse community, would like the sport to be sanctioned by the Oregon School Activities Association.
There are 51 Oregon high schools fielding programs, with 50 varsity teams and 62 JV teams, Badders said. But more clubs are needed in order to become sanctioned by the OSAA, he said.
“On the boys side, we’ve reached the minimum to be considered by the OSAA,” Badders said. “The problem is on the girls side, there are around 40. Until the girls have at least 50, we can’t be sanctioned. We may be five to seven years away. … We’re hoping more schools in the area field lacrosse teams. We are growing, and the OSAA is very aware of us.”
St. Mary’s will operate as an independent as it awaits eventual entry into the OHSLA’s Southwest Conference, joining Roseburg and six Eugene-area squads. Tuesday’s match was the Crusaders’ only home contest, with four road games and two away jamborees scheduled. Bringing teams and referees here had its challenges, and the road approach worked best for Year 1, Peterson said.
Ultimately, they would all like to be part of the OSAA.
“Hopefully we see this spread,” O’Neill said. “I want to see our big schools in the valley have lacrosse teams. If a small private Catholic school with a student body of roughly a little over 500 or 600 can do this, any school can. I want to see lacrosse in the valley.”
For match No. 1, O’Neill was pleased with the results. His team trailed 5-2 after the first period and by as much as 8-2 in the second before Kaleb Webster-Wharton tallied for the Crusaders (who had 13 available players, with 10 players always on the field) before halftime.
Neither team scored in the second half.
“Amazing,” O’Neill said. “I am so impressed. If we can play every game like this we are guaranteed to have one in the books.”
Throughout the game, the referees who traveled from Portland and Eugene attempted to offer up educational moments as they officiated.
“They were giving a lot of tips and showing us how to face off, what the new rules are and things like that,” said Finch, who is a team captain along with Cade Thomas. “It was good.”
Stoner finished with five goals and Ben Mashat had two goals and one assist for Roseburg’s JV squad.
Goalkeeper Daniel Wilhite made six saves for St. Mary’s.
Story Originally Appeared in Mail Tribune (http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20160316/VARSITY/160319757/-1/rss777)