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Spartans part of Southern lacrosse boom

Posted: April 28, 2011 3:38 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The world of sports is dominated in the South by high school and collegiate athletics, and it always has been.

Despite the existence of some fairly successful professional franchises, such as the Atlanta Braves, the South remains enamored with amateur athletics. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that fans have the Southeastern Conference to watch in football and the Atlantic Coast Conference in basketball. All Southern sport fans have their roots in high school athletics, and although lacrosse is a relatively new sport to the Southern fan, it is rapidly catching the interest of fans.

The Camden Military Academy Spartans are looking to be the alpha male in the jungle that is lacrosse.

Lacrosse possesses the ability to enter the hearts and minds of Southern fans because of the lightning-quick pace, accompanied with skills that span over several of our most beloved sports. A lacrosse player must have the quickness, agility and speed of a wide receiver, running back or centerfielder and needs to be able to have the toughness of a linebacker.

A very good player requires the strength and endurance of a midfielder and impeccable hand eye coordination. "Lacrosse is the fastest game on two feet," said Ned Prezioso, the leading scorer for the Spartans.

The sheer athleticism of a lacrosse player is enough to garner the respect and interest of most any fan.

Due to the pace and athletic ability demanded by game, it is slowly but surely beginning to grow in the South, and the Spartans want to be on the top in its earliest stages and remain there for years to come.

The Spartans got a huge win on Thursday against Lakeside Evans High, 13-12. Lakeside beat the Spartans last year 29-5, but the Spartans have finally gelled together and are playing with championship caliber.

"Our team is a result of the growing popularity of the sport," said first-year CMA head coach Dan DuPree. "The team has an eclectic mix of players from around the United States that have good skills sets; and their ability to come together has given us a shot at the one seed in the SCILL (South Carolina Independent Lacrosse League.)"

Lakeside has a very strong lacrosse team in Georgia, and they managed to go up, 9-6, on the Spartans entering halftime.

The Spartans roared into the third quarter scoring several goals in a row, many by Prezioso, to take a 10-9 lead. The game continued to favor Camden, which built a 13-10 lead with just under six minutes to go. Lakeside refused to quit scoring, and consecutive goals cut the Spartans lead to one with two minutes remaining.

The Spartans managed to hold tight defensively as Nick White, senior captain and defenseman, combined with Kern, senior goalie, to prevent a last second Lakeside comeback.

The Spartans left the field beaming with confidence. Despite beginning the season 0-3, they were just hitting their stride, winning their fourth straight game. The players were all eager to offer their thoughts.

"Last year, they put 20 goals on me in the first half, and today we managed to keep their offense in check," said Nathan Kern, CMA’s senior goalie who hails from Michigan. "It was amazing to watch our team overcome adversity and a significant deficit to get an enormous win."

Chris Gratton, a senior from Vermont, plays a big role in the Spartan offense both as an assist man and a goal scorer. Smiling from ear to ear, he noted, "What a huge win. This win will energize the team for the rest of the year. It’s amazing to see how much we have bonded as a team as the year has progressed. I really think we are on the verge of something special."

As lacrosse grows in popularity in the South, the fan base will become more and more a driving force across the state of South Carolina. And based on the performance of the Spartans down the stretch, they will be on the forefront of the dominant teams.

DuPree and his band of lacrosse boys from all across the United States have the ability not only to have a memorable season but to establish Camden Military Academy as a program to be reckoned with for years to come.

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