LOWER POTTSGROVE — Pioneer Athletic Conference sports have certainly taken their share of small and sometimes humbling steps since the league’s inaugural run 27 years ago.
Boys lacrosse has been no exception, either.
But a very knowledgeable as well energetic group of coaches are determined to change the course, or pick up the pace … much like others have done in baseball, basketball, cross country, field hockey, football, track and wrestling — seven particular Pioneer Athletic Conference sports that have shared the district and state spotlight.
And their intentions were quite clear Tuesday night when they staged the first PAC-10 Boys Lacrosse Senior Bowl at Pottsgrove High School.
“If you look at the history of our league, it’s taken a while to get established in all sports,” said Gary DeRenzo, the athletic director at Pottsgrove and host of the fun-for-all event Tuesday. “But through the years, across the board, we’ve become more competitive throughout the district and around the state.
“(Boys lacrosse) is a relatively new sport in our league, and the only way to make it grow, to make it become a stronger sport, is to get it more exposure. I think what the coaches have done here, getting the seniors together for this game, is a great example of that.”
For the record, boys lacrosse just finished up its seventh season. Spring-Ford has won four of the titles, Owen J. Roberts the other three. But Boyertown, Methacton and Perkiomen Valley have added some excitement to the chase in recent years, and Phoenixville, Pope John Paul II and Pottsgrove are all improved programs as well.
“I think you’ll find every one of the coaches in our league pulling for one another,” DeRenzo added. “They feel they have a competitive league, but they want to be able to take that next step in districts and, hopefully, at the state level.”
The Senior Bowl, which ended with Team Evolution scoring five unanswered goals over the final 6:49 to defeat Team Maverick, 16-12, is just one way to expose more and more youngsters to the game.
Ironically, it was the brainchild of Pottsgrove head coach Fred Michaels — who knows a little about taking those first steps.
“I kind of thought about this in the middle of season,” said Michaels, whose Falcons were winless in 14 league games this spring. “It took a while to get it together because there were so many distractions (postseason playoffs). But everyone was so enthusiastic about it, and piece by piece it came together.
“(Boys lacrosse) is getting more popular. This is our way of getting (the sport) out there, exposed. Lacrosse is starting to make its mark.”
And it appeared as though every one of the coaches — as well as all the seniors — were happy to contribute in the inaugural Senior Bowl.
“There’s been a lot of growth just in my four years (at Boyertown),” said Tyler Fuhrman, who kept Team Evolution within range throughout the first half before all but clinching the outcome with the final two goals of the night to finish with a game-high six. “More and more kids are playing, and we’re getting better players.
“The more exposure the better (for lacrosse), too. This game certainly helps. It was fun to play in. We’re all competitors. No one wanted to lose, but it was all in fun.”
Perhaps no more fun for anyone than Ron Livers, who endured the winless season at Pottsgrove this past spring. Livers’ second goal of the game put Evolution ahead to stay, 13-12, with 5:07 remaining.
“This was definitely special for me,” Livers said. “We didn’t win this year, but being here means being recognized, and it was a privilege to help our team.
“A game like this helps our sport. Anytime you have a new event like this it adds a special aspect to the sport. It’s great they did this. It’s the little things that can turn into big things.”
If anyone has noticed that in his high school career it would be Spring-Ford’s Paul Major, considered by many the PAC-10’s premier talent as a high school All-American.
“Since my freshman year the competition in our league has gotten better and better,” said Major, who led Team Maverick with five goals. “And it isn’t just a couple of teams anymore, either. All the teams have become more competitive.”
So one final chance to suit up with and against many of the PAC-10’s best was something Major intended to do from the get-go.
“Definitely, I wanted to play one last game,” Major said. “To be out here with all the guys I played with (at Spring-Ford) and against (in the PAC-10)… that was definitely cool.”
Major had the hat trick by intermission. Combined with single goals by Boyertown’s Chris Lee and Owen J. Roberts’ Will Snelling was enough to offset two by Fuhrman and one by Pope John Paul’s Tyler Eads and give Maverick a 5-3 advantage. Team Evolution got two more goals from Fuhrman, a tracer from Spring-Ford’s D.J. Young and one goal from Spring-Ford’s Kevin Honaman in the third period. However, Snelling, Phoenixville’s Brian Madden and Boyertown’s Ben Manning goals were enough to keep Team Maverick in front, 8-7, going into the final 12 minutes.
Livers, off an assist from Fuhrman, tied it at 8-8 — the first time Team Evolution was on even terms since midway through the first period. Spring-Ford’s Casey Pettine put Evolution up 9-8 before a Maverick three-goal flurry by Pope John Paul’s Josh Bildstein, Major and Lee made it 11-9.
But after Young and Perkiomen Valley’s Paul Edwards got it back to even, it was basically all Evolution.
“In the early days there was always a lot of banging, a lot of hitting,” Michaels said. “Now, it’s so much more finesse. When it’s done right it’s like poetry. I think we saw some of that tonight.
“But this is just the first (Senior Bowl). We’re learning from it, and we’re looking to continue with it. We had a lot of players out here watching this. We hope they’ll want to be part of this, too.”
Phoenixville’s Nick Lolli (Evolution) and Boyertown’s Austin Mutter (Maverick) both played well in goal for their respective teams. ... Livers, Pettine and Young all had two goals behind Fuhrman’s six. Eads, Perkiomen Valley’s Zach Port and Edwards single goals rounded out the Evolution scoring. … For Maverick, Major’s five was backed up by two-goal showings from Snelling and Lee, while Manning, Bildstein and Madden added one apiece. … Spring-Ford’s Kevin Donnelly and Perkiomen Valley’s Bryan Churchey coached the Evolution, while Michaels, Boyertown’s Geoff Davidson and PJP’s Matt McMillen guided Maverick. … Officials Jim Sellman, Joe McMonagle and Phil Lock worked the game for free.