Scoop. Pass. Cradle. Score.

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Scoop. Pass. Cradle. Score.

Scoop. Pass. Cradle. Score.

It’s the sport you’ve probably heard of but know little to nothing about – lacrosse – and it’s growing here in Henry County.

Currently, there are four schools in the county fielding boys’ lacrosse teams: Ola High School, Union Grove High School, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, and Strong Rock Christian School. Numerous coaches and players from these teams began playing lacrosse on a Henry Youth Lacrosse (HYL) rec team.

“The first youth lacrosse offering in Henry County was part of a multi-sport sampler the YMCA offered in 2007,” recalls Jeremy Porter, head coach of the Union Grove High School boys’ lacrosse team. “I volunteered on the spot after seeing a sign on the side of the road that said ‘lacrosse.’

Porter, who played club lacrosse at Utica College in upstate New York, has been coaching youth lacrosse ever since. He currently is the director of Henry Youth Lacrosse and began coaching the Union Grove High School’s boy’s lacrosse team this year.

Henry Youth Lacrosse offers children in the area the opportunity to play on lacrosse teams during the spring and holds camps each summer to introduce the sport to children in kindergarten through 8th grade. HYL is the only local youth recreational lacrosse program in Henry County. For many of the high school students playing today, it’s where they learned to love the game.

“Lacrosse has been such a great pathway for me to create relationships and has been a huge part of my life,” says Owen McCarthy, Union Grove High School. “It’s important for people to help in growing the game.”

McCarthy began playing lacrosse on a Henry Youth Lacrosse rec team at the age of 10. The Spring 2023 lacrosse season was an incredible one for McCarthy, who plays as a goalie on the Union Grove High School lacrosse team. He broke every team record for goalie, including the most saves in a season.

Like McCarthy, Ben Miller got his start in lacrosse playing for a HYL rec team at the age of 9. Miller just wrapped up his senior season at Strong Rock Christian School, where he dominated on offense, setting single-game school records in goals, assists, and points, as well as setting numerous single-season records and career school records.

“Ben spends hours on his own improving his game,” says Scott Parrish, head coach for Strong Rock Christian School’s boy’s lacrosse team. “He can score from anywhere.”

Miller’s father, Joel Miller, volunteered as an assistant coach for Henry Youth Lacrosse when his son took an interest in the sport. The enjoyment the father and son found in the game of lacrosse, along with recognizing the need to grow and elevate the competition for the youth playing, Joel partnered with others to start the ATLSouth Lacrosse Club in 2019.

“We started ATLSouth as a way to give talented players a competitive club close to home,” explains Joel. “We now have players from all over the state and the country play with our club, but our focus on growing lacrosse in Henry County has not changed.”

As a way to recognize the young men who are paving the way for the sport of lacrosse in Henry County, the lacrosse coaches of Ola, Union Grove, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, and Strong Rock Christian School came together this year to name an All-County Lacrosse team for the first time.

“Lacrosse is growing south of Atlanta, and we thought it was definitely time to recognize these athletes,” says Joel. “Many of them are All-Area and All-State, but there has never been an All-County team.”

Earning the honor of being named to the first Henry County All-County Lacrosse team are:

            Jamie Gibson, Defense/Long Stick Midfielder, Strong Rock Christian School

            Luke Greer, Attack, Union Grove High School

            Jay Holcombe, Defense/Long Stick Midfielder, Union Grove High School

            Candler Irby, Attack, Strong Rock Christian School

            Bennett Jones, Midfielder, Strong Rock Christian School

            Devin Kelly, Midfield, Ola High School

            Owen McCarthy, Goalie, Union Grove High School

            Jackson Manley, Face-off, Union Grove High School

            Ben Miller, Attack, Strong Rock Christian School

            Luke Sanders, Midfield, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy

            Carson Schuerman, Defense/Long Stick Midfielder, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy

            Rhett Steele, Attack, Union Grove High School

            Isaiah Zovlonsky, Defense/Long Stick Midfielder, Union Grove High School

Each of these 13 young men brings an impressive skillset to the game and is considered a leader on the field. Among them, McCarthy was named All-County Defensive Player of the Year, and Miller was recognized as All-County Offensive Player of the Year. Several of the players will go on to play lacrosse in college on school teams or school club teams.

Ola High School boys’ lacrosse coach Richard Hudnut believes lacrosse will grow significantly in the area over the next few years. “With the four schools offering a boys’ program and more offering girls’ lacrosse, I would like to see all the high schools have both a girls’ and boys’ lacrosse team by 2026.”

With the growth of lacrosse comes the need for officials who know the game. Jackson Manley of Union Grove recognized there was a shortage of officials and has spent his time on the field, both playing lacrosse and officiating games.

Metro Atlanta is seeing lots of activity in recruiting lacrosse players for NCAA D1 schools, according to Porter. “It’s only a matter of time before lacrosse really takes off in Henry County, and the young players involved in our programs today will have both advantages and opportunities in the years to come,” says Porter.

By Michelle Nunnally