POWHATAN - Assembling a chain of passes with 2:22 remaining, Powhatan’s 7th/8th grade lacrosse players worked together to send the ball flying downfield.
Their teamwork was rewarded. Luca Blevins finished off their collective efforts by flinging the ball against the netting for his team’s 10th goal in Game 1 of 2 versus opponents from the Chesterfield Youth League.
Several of those players – now around 14 years of age - have been playing together under head coach Matt Leynes since they were 8 and 9 years old.
“They’re a family, they stick with each other and they play as a team and they operate as a team,” Leynes said.
Together, those players delivered a dominant pair of showings for Powhatan on Saturday, routing two different CYL teams, 10-3 and 12-4, to cap the final games of the program’s fall lacrosse season at the Administration Building Field in Powhatan.
“It was a good day for Powhatan Lacrosse…the young men of Powhatan Lacrosse played hard today – they also delivered results, played through adversity, played several different positions and played through pain a lot of times,” Leynes said. “But the young men, when they struggled at times…when it was time to play the game, they finished, and the second half of the second game showed our resilience and the talent of our team.”
Powhatan’s 3rd/4th grade and 5th/6th grade teams also played against CYL teams on Saturday, with Powhatan’s 5th/6th graders also taking on two different teams in back-to-back contests.
While the results of the day featuring the younger teams favored the CYL groups, a team’s success can also be measured by how much growth and progress the coaches see from their players over the course of the season. And since Day 1, head 5th/6th grade team coach Kent Carson has seen “100 percent growth” from his players – whether it’s getting ground balls, passing and catching, or trying to play offense and defense – and head 3th/4th grade team coach James Lane said his players “have grown a ton.”
“This is the great age to bring kids in…give them the experience, let ‘em fall in love with the game and teach them the fundamentals so they contribute in the older age groups,” Coach Lane said. Of his unit – which also includes some 1st graders who play on the team as there is a 1st/2nd age group but not a 1st/2nd grade team – Lane added: “They’re great. We’ve got tough kids. Most of our kids – over half of them, I’d say – have never played lacrosse before, so they’re picking up the sport, they’re learning the fundamentals, they’re working hard. It’s a great group of kids to work with.”
They’re starting to compete, Lane said, noting how they’ve won about half of their games.
“It’s good to play those kids that have played lacrosse longer – a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger,” Lane added of teams like the ones from the CYL – “because it gives our kids a sense of what really good lacrosse looks like…something for us to aspire to.”
Coach Carson’s 16-player 5th/6th grade team this season has featured 13 5th graders – in their first year of playing full-field with a little more contact – and three returning 6th graders.
“We have a lot of new kids that are trying to get used to running and passing and playing both sides of the field, substitutions, try and set up some plays for them…and teach them that…it’s more of a passing game, and that way you can set up your offense or your defense.”
With the returners and players who have been in the program, Carson said they try and get them to be leaders, as well as remind them that it’s a team effort.
“We share the ball every time – I remind them constantly we share the ball,” Carson said, “and then try and teach the new kids: Hey, this is the correct way we either pick up a ground ball, pass – or what we do on a certain set, or how we pick players.”
On the upper-end, Leynes’ 7th and 8th graders, who improved to a 5-1 record after Saturday, are experienced in the game overall. They play on travel teams, they practice at home and most of the team has even practiced at Coach Leynes’ house. They practice multiple times a week with the recreational team and then have practice with their respective travel teams. About half of the team has advanced to the next level of travel lacrosse.
“It’s been a good thing,” Leynes said. “It’s been a really good thing from the start.”
The future is bright, he added.
“We’ve got some athletes on this team that can flat-out play the game,” Leynes said. “I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
The youth teams are the foundation of a collective lacrosse program that’s on the rise in Powhatan, as the high school boys and girls varsity teams just this past spring enjoyed their best seasons to date with nine wins each.
“If we don’t have the youth playing the game, then we’re not going to have the program at the high school, and we want to see it continue to grow,” said Carson. “This is by far the biggest team I’ve ever coached personally – I’ve started with my son at 3/4, we’ve worked up to 5/6 and again we’re seeing the fruits of our labor, which is most important.
“It’s just been fun,” Carson said, “and I’d love to see more kids come out and play.”