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ROCKFORD LACROSSE

2017 / 18 / 19 Regional Champions - 2017 / 2019 Semi Finalists

History of Rockford Boys Lacrosse

1998 - The Inaugural Year

LAX may be the oldest game in North America and the first team sport to be played in Michigan, but it officially arrived here in Rockford late in the Winter of 1998. It's uncertain as to who actually contacted whom, but one snowy day, several of our sons came home and announced that they were starting a "Lacrosse Club" at school. Little did we know that this was not just another recreational program that would meet occasionally after school. Not hardly--for these guys it became a full-blown passion. But exactly what was lacrosse and what were they doing every day after school? We weren't sure. Even the assistant principal questioned why these guys were running around the halls of RHS waving sticks and yelling! They were conditioning, of course!

Our first clue as parents that it was a real sport came when we began writing checks for equipment. It seemed that every day, something else was needed--sticks, gloves, helmet, pads--but were they ever going to actually play a game? We finally got our answer in early May when the Rockford Lacrosse Club (also known as Andy's Gang, for Coach Andy Sharp) received its initiation with a 12-0 defeat at the hands of the East Grand Rapids Freshman squad. Not knowing the first thing about LAX, we weren't sure what to cheer for or cheer against, or even what the rules were. But cheer we did, with a great roar going out when our guys finally scored a goal in their third game (we were beginning to wonder if it would ever happen). The team went on to play a total of four games, being outscored 42-3 for the season.

It was from these humble beginnings, and with the guidance of our volunteer coach and the dedication of 18 players, that Rockford's proud LAX tradition was born.

Six seniors from the class of 2001 were part of that original group and are now Charter Member Four Year Rockford LAX Players. They are Geoff Baker, Ted Cherry, Tony Greenland, Bill Pitsch, Joe VanderMeulen, and Rick Wynbeek.

1999 - The Pivotal Year

A parent board was formed under the able leadership of Mike and Holly Pitsch--because we just had to get organized! As we all know, in a clubsport EVERYTHING is done by parent volunteers. Without the hard work of the Board and its committees, we would not be where we are today.

Undaunted by their 1998 record, the team came back in 1999 with even more enthusiasm and grew to 27 players. Word was getting around Rockford High School about Lacrosse. Playing a full schedule and traveling throughout the state, the Rams recorded a 5 Win - 14 Loss season, and got their first shutout win against East Kentwood. Several players were recognized with All-Conference honors, and it was evident that LAX in Rockford was here to stay! There was even enough money left at the end of the season to pay the Coach!

2000 - The Expansion Year

The season featured a 30-player roster, including a new JV squad. All of the hard work of the last two years was paying off as the Varsity went 15-10 overall against many higher-rated schools. Rockford became a force in its conference with a 12-1 record, proving that they could not only play, but also knew how to win. In just their third year, the Rams went to the Class C State Finals, only to come up short. In so doing, however, Rockford placed three players on the First Team - All Conference Squad, three on Second Team, and four earned Honorable Mention.

2001- The Championship Season

The year began with great anticipation and the memory of last year's near miss in the state finals. An early season loss to defending champion Huron Valley only proved to motivate the senior-laden Rams. They went on to a 20 Win - 5 Loss season, enduring a grueling schedule which pitted them against many higher division teams. The JV squad grew to 26 players and played a full schedule, going 5-9-1. Rockford's Varsity finished the regular season as the top team in the Michigan State Lacrosse Association Power Ratings, and had a 15-1 conference record.

In the State Tournament, the Rams rolled over their opponents and into the finals, once again meeting up with rival Huron Valley. This time it was Rockford turning the tables and prevailing with an 11-8 win. The highlight of the year however, was not just this single championship game, but the whole championship season. This was a year in which there was truly no single hero, but a team of contributors, each doing his job and rising to the occasion each time the situation demanded it.

Congratulations to each player and to Coach of The Year, Andy Sharp!

Also during the championship season, Mr. Mike Malloy, a recent Rockford graduate and former lacrosse player, initiated a middle school program. Two teams were formed from students of both middle schools, grades 6 - 8. A separate middle school parent board was formed and the future of Rockford lacrosse was born.

2002: Re-Building

In 2002, our head coach resigned and parents began coaching both the Varsity and JV teams. 50 players strong in the high school program with another successful season. The team was moved up two divisions and went .500 for the year. The Rams were defeated in the first round of the state finals by former state champions, Lansing Waverly.

Additionally, a third team was added to the middle school program with nearly seventy participants.

2003 - Continuing to Grow

In 2003, a second team was born when the club went over 60 players. More games were played at all levels. Combined with the middle school programs, Rockford Lacrosse fielded six lacrosse teams.

The Varsity program struggled and notched only four wins.

2004 - Going to the Next Level

The middle school program grew to 70 players and had to turn away others because of the lack of coaching and a lack of practice fields.

A girls program was also organized the year. Under the coaching guidance of Ms. Kim Caulkins, 40 girls are currently practicing at Rockford Christian School. 22 high school girls and 18 middle school girls are currently making their mark on Rockford Lacrosse. A separate board was formed for the girls program and is headed up by Mr. Todd Canniff, Ms. Debbie Shepard, and Mr. Dan Mills.

The Varsity team brought on a new head coach, Mr. Dietrich Blumer. Mr. Blumer played for UMASS and for San Diego State. Also brought on were new JV coaches Don Murphy, Chris Conflitti, and former Rockford players, Ted Cherry (V) and Sean Mapes (JV).

The board also approved the use of charter buses for away games, modified the concession stand operation, and managed through an annual budget of over $20,000.

A special thanks goes out to Mr. Buzz Wynbeek and Mr. Dan Mills for their efforts in capturing the history of Rockford Lacrosse over the past seven years.

2006:

It's great to see that you have the Rockford LAX history piece on the web!  (lest we forgety its humble beginnings) Just a little background I wrote the first four years summary (1998-2001) As a presentations for the 2001 banquet after we wond the State Championship to show how fast and far the program had developed.  Also to give credit to teh "Pioneers" of the team.  Dan Mills then continued the narrative from 2002-2004.  Hopefully someone else will pick up the next chapter.

I have noticed that it has been quoted elsewhere as well, and to be clear, it should be referenced as:
"written by Buzz Wynbeek (1998-2001) and Dan Mills (2002-2004)."

2007

The Rockford Lacrosse program took a big step by officially becoming recognized as a school sport under the direction of first-year coach Tim Murray. The team would finish an impressive 12-6 with a loss in the Regional Semi-finals to Ann Arbor Pioneer. Of their 6 losses, 5 came at the hands of Forest Hill Central and East Grand Rapids, with the largest margin of defeat being only 4 goals.

2008

After a strong campaign the year before, the '08 season would struggle in the regular season, finishing under .500 for the first time since the MHSAA sanctioned lacrosse. However, the team would turn it on in the playoffs by beating Grand Haven and Lansing Waverly to advance to the teams first ever MHSAA Regional Final against Brother Rice.

Rockford would jump out to a 1-0 lead early against the Warriors and even lead 2-1 in the 1st quarter, but Brother Rice was too much for Rockford. The Rams ended up losing 16-5 and Brother Rice ended up becoming National Champions. With an 11 goal deficit, Rockford become one of two schools in the State of Michigan to NOT be running clocked (12 goal loss) by Brother Rice that season. The other team being State runner up University of Detroit Jesuit. Not bad company to be in!

2009

Led by 17 seniors, the '09 squad was Rockford's biggest Varsity team to date with 40 players. This was also the first year the Rams proved they not only could play with the big boys, but they could beat them too!

The Rams traveled to Detroit the second game of the season to face The University of Detroit Jesuit. After trailing 5-2, the Rams would storm back and win by a score of 15-14. The team knew it had the talent, now it had a big statement victory.

Until 2009, the Rams had never beaten Forest Hills Central or East Grand Rapids. On May 2nd, the first 'Lax v. Cancer' game at Forest Hills Central, Rockford would explode out to a 8-1 halftime lead. The Rangers would power back and give Rockford a scare, but it wasn't enough as the Rams held on for an 11-10 victory and never trailed the entire game.

Three days later, Rockford would host East Grand Rapids. Again the Rams got off to a hot start, leading 7-1 in the first half. The Pioneers would mount a comeback and make things interesting in the end, but Rockford held on for a 12-11 win. In a three day span, Rockford beat both rivals for the first time in program history and never trailed in the process.

Rockford would end the season with a heartbreaking one-goal Regional Semi-final loss to Forest Hills NorthEastern.

The 2009 team defeated the D1 runner up (UDJ), the three-peat D2 champion (EGR), and a D2 final four team that was an overtime goal away from the State Championship Game (FHC). The '09 Season also marked a first in regards to individual player accomplishments with LSM DJ Lubs becoming the program's first All American.

2017 - Regional Champions

If you have more to add to our story email [email protected] 




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