HOWELL – There weren’t any graybeards or pot bellies on the field when Howell hosted its first alumni lacrosse game on Saturday.
The Highlanders have only fielded a team since 2005, so the oldest alumni of the program are 27 years old – the prime of life for an athlete.
Unless, of course, an athlete hasn’t picked up a lacrosse stick or done much running since graduating from high school. In that case, guys in their mid-20s can come away feeling older than their birth certificates indicate after playing a game against teenagers who are still actively training in the sport.
“It was a lot of fun, but you definitely get winded real quick,” said 2009 Howell graduate Danny Frenger. “Cutting and everything you usually do just isn’t there.”
Even a relatively young man like Anthony Rae, class of 2011, felt overmatched against the high school kids.
“It’s ridiculous,” Rae said. “I feel like I haven’t run that much in way too long. I went to try to get someone and the next thing I knew I was 20 feet behind him.”
Predictably, the alumni took its best shot early in the game before wearing down and losing 12-7 to the current Howell team at Parker Middle School.
Unlike old-timers in some sports, nobody from the alumni team talked about how much better their sport was in the “good ol’ days.” When lacrosse started in Howell, many of the players on those early teams had never played the sport. Now, players enter high school having competed for at least a few years.
“It was fresh when I played,” said Ryan DeCamp, 25, a 2007 graduate who played on Howell’s first team and currently coaches the junior varsity team. “It was the first time I played when we first started out. The kids are coming into the program with experience now. It’s cool to see how talented these kids are compared to how we were when we first started out.”
The Howell program has certainly grown since DeCamp and his teammates helped get it off the ground.
The Highlanders and had losing records in six of their first seven seasons, but had back-to-back 8-8 campaigns before setting a school record for victories by going 12-5 last spring.
“We had at least one person from every team, so that was really cool,” said Howell varsity coach Scott LaRente, who played for the current team. “They got to see what the program is now that they helped build. They had a lot of good things to say to the players about what they did last season and where we’re going. It was really nice to see.”
The alumni game gave a current Howell player, senior Nick Pratt, a chance to play against his brother, 2010 graduate Mike Pratt, for the first time.
“It was a pretty good rivalry,” Nick Pratt said. “I never got a chance to play with him. I was an eighth-grader when he was a senior.
“At the start, it was pretty serious, I thought. After it kept going, it turned out to be more fun than anything. It was a nice time out there with the guys.”
The alumni needed only 17 seconds to score the game’s first goal, as Blair Bowman (2008) scored after DeCamp won the opening draw. It was a 4-4 game after one quarter. The current team took the lead for good by scoring the first three goals of the second quarter and riding the strong goaltending of senior Alex Moyer to an 8-5 lead at halftime.
The alumni never got closer than two goals the rest of the way.
Nick Pratt and Bailey Knight had hat tricks for the high school team. Jacob Swift and Kyler Pearson scored two goals each. Dylan Salyer had a goal and three assists. Forrest Baker also scored.
Bowman, DeCamp, Rae, Frenger, Matt James (2010), Pat DeLeon (2014) and E.J. Byrd (2010) scored the alumni’s goals.
“It would be nice to have an alumni versus alumni game some year and have that much participation,” LaRente said. “This is a cool challenge; they all liked it. It’s nice to see guys you haven’t seen in years.”
LaRente plans to hold an alumni game on the second Saturday in August every year.
“It was absolutely awesome,” DeCamp said. “I can’t wait until next year already. It was really cool.”