St. Thomas Aquinas senior Joey Dorn ran through the Sun Life Stadium tunnel with his teammates last August, minutes away from kickoff against Miami Columbus in the football season opener.
Dorn will relive that experience on March 1 when the Raiders face the Pine Crest Panthers in the Orange Bowl Lacrosse Classic. The 6-0, 210-pound linebacker is also a face-off specialist and captain of the school’s lacrosse team.
“It shows how big lacrosse has grown where it’s taken seriously,” said Dorn, who will play for Providence College. “If you had told a few guys from the team four years ago they would laugh and say you’d never play at [Sun Life Stadium] for the next 10 to 15 years. It’s been so fast.”
Several athletic programs in Broward County are building toward a movement that would further popularize the sport. Football players that generally gravitated towards track, basketball and wrestling have started to pick up lacrosse over the offseason.
Junior quarterback R.J. Curtain joins Dorn as the other member of the Aquinas team. Three American Heritage football players participate in lacrosse. Pine Crest also has three, including senior Kyle Diener, who will play both sports at Colgate. Cypress Bay’s top scorer, junior Dylan Rupert, is a running back.
Fourth-year Raiders lacrosse coach Terry Crowley believes this trend correlates with a better understanding of the game. Lacrosse players also tend to look like their gridiron brothers since they wear helmets and shoulder pads.
“We’re giving players the second week of May and they’re banging already, getting contact and up and down the field in better shape,” Crowley said. “When spring football comes, it has a positive effect.”
Recent alumni include Ben Young, an offensive lineman for two Class 5A state titles, who plays lacrosse for the University of Albany. His team upset No. 13 Syracuse four days ago. His older brother, Sam, is a member of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Defensive back Cole Champion earned the Charles Loftus Award as the top Yale freshman.
Football coach Rocco Casullo recommends his players join the lacrosse team, but he said not as many have taken his advice as he would like.
Casullo grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., which he calls the capital of the sport. According to him, wide receivers and defensive backs would benefit from the footwork, agility, conditioning and field awareness.
“When I grew up watching high school lacrosse in central New York it was like watching a bunch of linebackers and wide receivers running around with sticks in their hands,” Casullo said. “They’re extremely big, extremely athletic and no question it’s great for hand-eye coordination, agility and change of direction.”
Aside from the athletic benefits, Casullo acknowledges the scholarship opportunities for Division I, II and III schools, offering chances at a free education.
Pine Crest senior Harris Stolzenberg will attend MIT. His teammates, Michael Diener and Sam Talkow, will play lacrosse for Hofstra and Boston, respectively.
“A lot of kids have seen Joey [and it’s] made lacrosse more popular because of Division I scholarships and good football players,” Casullo said.
“Over the next couple of years we’re going to see more.”