The biggest challenge for Pat Cherubini when introducing lacrosse at Licking Valley was de-programming the football players.
“A lot of people were super aggressive because Valley has a football mentality,” senior defender Dylan Walpole said. “We kind of brought that onto the lacrosse field. It had its ups and downs.
“We had a lot of penalties,” said sophomore Chase Cherubini, Pat’s son.
It, however, did not take long before male students flocked to the sport. Legend Lacrosse impressively had a winning first season, and the team is starting to become a full-fledged program.
Legend has several returning players, and Cherubini is coaching the middle school in its first season. It only took one informal skills clinic to draw players to the sport.
“Once we started practicing, getting the sticks in our hands, we kind of got hooked,” Butler said. “You always pick up stuff, watching the college level. You can pick up cool new dodges or how the defense reacts.”
Legend draws all of its players from Valley with the exception of two. Practices are behind Valley’s Primary and Intermediate schools, and a small home schedule is played at the Licking County Family YMCA.
Chase Cherubini played two seasons with the Granville middle school program, and that is where Pat Cherubini began recruiting coaches. Four Denison students coached the team in 2012, and Flinn Fowler has stayed with the program to become the high school head coach this season.
Admittedly, Fowler had low expectations in 2012.
“We are a little bit of an odd mash-up of helmets, cleats, hiking boots. We went 7-6, and I thought that was amazing coming into the season,” Fowler said.
“I thought we might not win a game. I thought we might not score a goal. I think it surprised us as coaches and of course the teams that we played.”
Legend opens the season at 5:30 p.m. April 5 at Columbus Academy. The first home match is at 5:30 p.m. April 15 against the Columbus Terrapins, a team made up primarily of Columbus Public School districts.
Legend, however, improved by leaps and bounds and had a signature win against the Granville reserves. Walpole was named to the honorable mention list for the Ohio High School Lacrosse Association’s Club North Region.
“After the first couple weeks, we got some skills down like throwing and catching, and after that, it was just a matter of understanding the game,” Butler said.
Fowler continues to teach his players nuances of the game, and players are encouraged to watch the sport whenever possible. Pat Cherubini called it a mix of basketball and hockey.
Legend’s players still are trying to learn when finesse is needed.
“I went to a rules meeting this season, and the emphasis is now on hits to the head and vicious body checks,” Fowler said. “That is a little intimidating for us as a team because that is an M.O. I am not going to hold the kids back. They are big, tough kids. I don’t mind rough play as long we keep it under control and it doesn’t cost us games.”
They, however, will keep at it, and they will continue to turn heads.
“We play a different style of game,” Walpole said. “I wouldn’t say we are traditional, but it works.”