Prince George’s County recently introduced high school level lacrosse in several schools as an opportunity to create a culture of African-American involvement in a sport that traditionally does not have the highest levels of participation by Blacks.
Sure, Eleanor Roosevelt High School and Bowie High School have both had club teams that traditionally consist of children who have played the game before and have enjoyed success over the years. Nevertheless, the rest of the county did not have an avenue to compete against their rivals and for some, never played the game before at all.
The Charles H. Flowers High School boys’ lacrosse squad, on the other hand, has found early success with an undefeated record to start the season. Most of the team consists of players who have never donned the equipment that most children who compete at this level wear at the youth level and learn the game from the ground up.
It is uncharted territory for some of the players and coaches alike, but the unbridled aggressiveness and love for the game was evident after the boys’ team defeated DuVal High School 5-3 in a scrimmage on March 29 leading up to their match against High Point High School on Monday.
Both teams at times made mistakes and seemed confused about how to engage their fundamentals and growing pains are likely to continue. However, Head Coach Carlos Pettigrew believes that it is all a part of the process.
“We’re all growing together, and I’ve been coaching for 34 years, so we are all trying to get this program together,” Pettigrew, who has taught club level lacrosse for PG Pride over the last few years, told the AFRO. “I’ve seen them grow as far as the knowledge of the sport and the skill to pick it up and love the game.”
Despite the lack of previous playing experience, the level of athleticism and determination to win and lift their teammates to victory shined. As each minute drained off of the clock, the more confident and proficient the players appeared to be down the stretch.
“I have one kid who played football come up and tell me that he likes to play lacrosse more than football,” said Pettigrew. “Once he had the experience of playing lacrosse, he knew that this was the sport for him and if he had an opportunity to play a little earlier, he would have been all in.”
Last year the Eleanor Roosevelt and Bowie boys’ and girls’ squads played against each other in the Prince George’s County Championship. However, this season opens up the first year that County teams will have a chance to compete for a state title.
Bowie reigned supreme and won in both formats, but Flowers believes that they have the potential to challenge two powerhouse programs who have more experience and stature to win it all.
“I’m a senior, so this is my first year touching a stick,” said Devin Pinn who received the game ball for his performance. “A friend came to me and told me that they were going to have a lacrosse team, so I came out, liked it, and stuck with it.”
“We can hang with them [Bowie and Eleanor Roosevelt]. I haven’t played as much as the other team’s players, but we are gonna give it our all and hopefully we can get it going.”
Hall of Fame football great Jim Brown loved the game of lacrosse and broke barriers as the first African-American star for Syracuse University to excel in lacrosse. As a senior, Brown was second in the nation in goals scored (43) as a First-Team All-America selection. He is in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame as well. Brown has thoroughly supported lacrosse and HBCU involvement with the sport.
If more support and awareness can be garnered from Prince George’s lacrosse, it could change the perception of the sport and create athletes that transcend the game like the Williams sisters in tennis and Tiger Woods in golf.
“Practice by practice you can see them get better,” said Flowers Assistant Coach and former DeMatha lacrosse student-athlete Michael Fazio.
“People think of lacrosse as that White and preppy sport, but it is building. The reason why I’m so excited and passionate about Prince George’s lacrosse is that I’m a product of Prince George’s County. In the next five years, we are going to be on the map; I think it is gonna be big.”