BOYS LACROSSE: Detroit Southeastern makes history, becoming the first PSL team to field a team
DETROIT - Today is April 1, but when Detroit Southeastern lined up to take on West Bloomfield in lacrosse, there wasn't a joke being played. Lacrosse has been around for ages and is played in high schools all around the metro Detroit area, but never in the Detroit Public School League (PSL).
The Jungaleers made history by becoming the first PSL team to do so, despite falling to the Lakers junior varsity team, 5-2. The game was even held at Southeastern, on their football field, in front on a supportive crowd.
"It's exciting to have these kids have an opportunity to play a sport that is so foreign to the community," said coach Brent Petrone. "Two months ago they had no idea what this sport was and now they're doing well."
Basketball, football and baseball dominates the sports in the PSL and understandably so. Athletes in the city haven't been introduced to new sports such as lacrosse, which is similar to both football and basketball in some ways.
"I am excited to be able to bring this to the kids," Petrone said. "It's good for them to get to know a sport that is not known to be played by people from their community.
"It also allows allows for people outside of the community to as well, in the Oakland and Washtenaw County areas, to be able to come to Detroit and see what these kids are doing."
Southeastern applied for a development grant for lacrosse last year and became one of 125 teams nationwide to be awarded one. According to the national USL initiative, the program is designed to deliver comprehensive resources, including equipment, US Lacrosse membership, and coaches training, to awarded teams. The program is geared for new and developing youth and high school lacrosse teams nationwide.
The First Sticks primary goals is to help break down the barriers to participation by providing free and/or discounted resources to new teams.
"We don't have many athletic opportunities here for the kids here," Petrone added. "So I thought that lacrosse would be a great idea and we were one of the lucky ones to get the grant."
The grant is good for two years and allows for teams to have their entire equipment funded, as well as insurance for all players.
Most of the players on the lacrosse team double as football players, which is evident on the field with their physical play. Most of them had never heard of the sport, but Petrone has 17 players on his team and they all enjoy playing something that is so new to them.
"I wanted to try something different," said senior Kenny Stokes. "Our first game was nice, but I think we could have done better. We just need to work on our defense, minor mistakes, and work together as a team."
Stokes' name will be remembered as the first player to score a lacrosse goal in Southeastern and PSL history. It came just before the horn sounded at halftime, to give the Jungaleers the 1-0 lead.
"It was nice and definitely a good feeling," he said. "Everything was feeling so good at the moment and my adrenaline was rushing."
Southeastern also got a goal from junior Charles Butler late in the fourth, a player who shows some promise on the field. Their is an abundance of talented kids in the PSL and Petrone hopes that college scholarships are the next big step for the players.
"A lot of individuals are coming out to our practices to try and helps the kids," he said. "Having them take these learning experiences in, learning from the best, and getting exposure is important. Practice makes perfect, so we just have to keep at it.
"These are some of the most athletic kids in the state I think, so I think they will do very well if they keep at it."
Attendance in school, personal problems, and maturity are just some of the issues that Petrone faces, but he is more than willing to helps his players, along with athletic director and head football coach Terrance Wilson, someone who is able to relate to the kids a little more if he can't.
"He has been great and helping out the team a lot," he said. "He gets things organized for us and makes sure we have everything ready to go for the games.
"He also helps my getting in players faces if they aren't getting stuff done and keeping them on task."
Southeastern maybe 0-1 on the season, but they are still winners. Paving the way for the other PSL schools to possibly gain their own programs and form a league amongst themselves.
"We're the only team this year with lacrosse obviously," said Petrone. "I know a lot of people in the surrounding areas know about us, but not many people in the city, so hopefully that can break out to people in the city.
"These kids in the city can be really great at this sport, so hopefully we can get one or two more teams to get a team."
Southeastern is an EAA school (Education Achievement Authority), along with Pershing, Denby and Mumford, so their foreseeable future with the other DPS (Detroit Public Schools) might be in question.
Their next game is will be Thursday against Rochester's junior varsity team at home, at 5 pm.