The spring sports season is on hold for at least a couple of weeks in South Carolina’s schools, but it ran long enough for at least one new sport to take root locally. Fox Creek High School is one of the first to play host to lacrosse.
“This is definitely brand new – first year,” said the Predators’ coach, David Wilkinson, who played lacrosse in high school and also for a while in college at the club level.
“I’m originally from an area of West Virginia that’s not far from Pittsburgh, so that’s where I started playing the sport, so I moved down here and I noticed right away, obviously, it’s not in this area … at all.”
He introduced the idea to Fox Creek’s administration, looking to provide a fresh challenge, and found immediate support. Team formation began in November, including fitness, and ramped up from there.
The squad’s first game was a home contest Feb. 26 versus Greenbrier’s junior-varsity squad. Plenty of traveling is involved in Fox Creek’s program, since there are no nearby teams.
“We try to structure the majority of our games to go into Columbia … and then Augusta has done a very good job at growing the sport there,” the coach said, citing such Georgia neighbors as Evans, Lakeside, Grovetown and Greenbrier.
South Carolina’s best lacrosse programs have represented such schools as Nations Ford, Lexington, Bishop England and Oceanside Collegiate, Wilkinson said.
Lacrosse, he said, might be compared to “basketball on a bigger field, only with more contact, and obviously you’re using a stick to throw the ball around.”
“I think the hardest part in learning the sport was definitely the communication needed to effectively play it,” said freshman Aiden Bass, who plays defense. Players have to be in constant contact to keep up with the movement of the ball and other players.
The constant action is a plus, as is the fact that “you can hit people,” he added. “It’s a very physical sport, so I think that would be my most favorite part of the sport.”
Endurance is a key, as players are running up and down the field – comparable to basketball, in that respect, in Bass’ assessment.
Caleb Trahan, a junior, plays offense and midfield. He made similar comments and noted that “throwing and catching” are huge elements in the game. He noted that Fox Creek’s squad has its home action on the same field that plays host to the Predators’ soccer games, and good news from the past few months included a grant, from U.S. Lacrosse, to help foot the bill for much of the team’s equipment in its inaugural season.
The squad is particularly loaded with Bass’ fellow freshmen: Tyler Prescott, Alex Bowen, Sam Kramer, Drew Posey, Cooper King, Dalton Peeler, Peyton Ruston and Bryson Fitter.
Comprising the sophomore corps are Aydin Hayzlett, Bryson Carroll and Caleb Baughman, and the juniors (along with Trahan) are Satchel O’Meara, Trey Butler, Noah Gilbert, Kelse Deas and Dawson Lewis. Vince Lagner is the sole senior.
Wilkinson’s background included playing in Wheeling Central Catholic High School, in Wheeling, West Virginia. He was on board as a junior, when his squad reached the state semifinals, and he stayed on board as a senior, as team captain, when his squad won the state title.
He had hoped to play in college and went to West Liberty University, also in Wheeling, but West Liberty’s plans to field an intercollegiate team fell through, although club play continued as an option.
Fox Creek’s season, if not for the trouble due to the health scare, would run from late February into May (allowing for playoffs). The team will compete next year at the AAAA level due to the scarcity of smaller schools with lacrosse programs.
“All our kids understand that we are the newest kid on the block. All the teams that we play have been around for quite a few years, and when you put that stick in your hands, to throw and catch a ball, it’s a whole new ball game …
“It takes a long time to get really good at it, so we only talk about what are our small victories each game. Did we pass the ball better? Are we getting better ground balls? Did we set up our offense better? Did we remain relaxed, composed? How did we handle our adverse situation? All that kind of stuff.”
Hundreds of colleges and university around the country have lacrosse programs. The most successful big-name teams in men’s action, over the past couple of decades, have represented such schools as Virginia, Yale, Princeton Duke, Ohio State, Virginia, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins and North Carolina. Among the top women’s programs of recent years have been Maryland, Boston College, James Madison, Maryland, North Carolina and Northwestern.