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Lacrosse contenders eye division playoffs

By: Alex Zener

April 19, 2008   

It’s been said that history repeats itself. If that’s the case, then a fun method of helping kids develop strong, athletic bodies and think quickly on their feet is being reincarnated with the emergence of an age-old sport: lacrosse.

Played by Native Americans hundreds of years ago, lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing team sports in the United States and is starting to gain some well-deserved recognition as a fresh, new sport for Arizona’s kids.

It is estimated that 169,000 high school players nationally are involved in lacrosse—a number of which live in the Kyrene Corridor.

Altogether, 22 high school varsity teams, 22 high school JV teams and 22 junior high school teams compete in Arizona.

Although it’s been part of America’s sporting vernacular for a long time, what usually comes to the minds of most people in Arizona is Duke University, first, and second, it’s some sort of ball game played on the East Coast.

Originally developed to help Native American men prepare for war, lacrosse combines basketball, soccer and hockey skills into a fast-paced, exhilarating game involving long sprints up and down the field where abrupt starts and stops and precision passes and dodges are part of the strategy.

The Aztec Lacrosse Club, founded in 2002 by Cliff Prausa and Mark Burnside, has since followed the national growth trend by watching its membership numbers and competitive prowess grow to 45 players at the JV and varsity high school level in 2008.

The club first competed as a junior high school team in 2003 and started competing at the high school level as Corona Lacrosse in 2005 in the JV division. The team moved up in 2006 to Varsity Division II and currently competes in the Arizona Youth Lacrosse League at the Varsity Division I level coached by Craig Fertelmes.

Aztec Lacrosse is not high school-sanctioned but rather a club team that competes against 10 other division I club teams, mostly in the East Valley.

Corona Lacrosse, in its third varsity year, finished the regular season with an 8-5 record and in a four-way tie behind Brophy and Chandler Hamilton.  

One of the club’s most accomplished players takes pride in his Native American heritage.

“Playing lacrosse has been a long tradition in my family,” Jordy Patterson said.

“I have several relatives that have played at the college and professional level. As a Native American, I am proud to play a game that my ancestors invented.”

Patterson, who plays the midfield position, was introduced to lacrosse by his dad, and is one of the original Aztec Lacrosse Club players. He leads all Arizona Division I players this season in goals scored at 57, equaling 4.38 goals and 6.15 points a game. He also has 23 assists. Last week he scored seven goals in a 12-8 upset win over No. 2-ranked Chandler.

“One of the strengths of our team is that we have an excellent goalie, Zerric Butters, and experienced attackmen and midfielders in Will Allen and Dylan Dunlap to help control the game,” Patterson said.

Butters is ranked second in Division I goalie statistics. He has received 283 shots at the goal this season and saved 189, or about 67 percent, of them.

In a recent 7-4 upset win against Chaparral, Butters saved 17 shots on goal, drawing rave reviews from everyone watching the game, including Chaparral’s coach.

In Division I South, Corona’s Allen is No. 11 out of 64 ranked players with 19 goals; Spencer Nelms is No.12 with 17 goals.

What's more, Corona’s Cody Wagner, Dunlap and Matt Prausa are ranked in the top 30, with each scoring at least nine goals and nine points in addition to their defense duties.

The Arizona Lacrosse season runs from mid-January through mid-April. Corona entered the state tournament this week ranked sixth in all Division I teams and played against the No. 3-ranked Mountain Pointe Pride on April 15.

Earlier in the season Corona lost by only one goal to the Pride in a close game 8-9. The winner of this first-round state tournament game was scheduled to play No. 1 Brophy on April 19 at Chaparral High School in the semi-finals. The finals are scheduled April 26 at Chaparral High School, and the Aztec players have every intention of playing that night.

“Our chances look really good to me to make it to the finals,” Cliff Prausa said. “We have proven that we can play with any team in the league. Besides, I like being the underdog.”

Prausa is also expecting to see several of the Aztec players on the 2008 all-stars team because so many of them started playing as youngsters when the club was founded in 2002 and are now juniors and seniors. In 2007, Corona Lacrosse had seven players selected to the all-stars team, including Patterson, Allen, Spencer Nelms, Matt Prausa, Dunlap, Jarrod Wellman, Brock Ehrhart and Butters.

One reason to play lacrosse could be to receive an athletic scholarship because lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the NCAA.

For instance, Patterson is being recruited by several East Coast universities and will likely commit to a full-ride Division I scholarship to Syracuse University.

Lacrosse is open to all athletic abilities and sizes because kids don’t necessarily have to be big and strong to play.

It is also fun to watch and can be a credible alternative to other sports for many kids.

Those interested in playing a fast-paced, physical sport that requires quick thinking and good stick work are invited to contact Cliff Prausa at

The Aztec Lacrosse Club offers a fall clinic that focuses on fundamentals for both returning and new players. Although the Aztec Lacrosse Club is for boys, several girls clubs have been formed in Arizona.

“We do not turn any interested players away,” Cliff Prausa said.

More information about Arizona Lacrosse and the state tournament schedules can be found at the Arizona Youth Lacrosse League website at .


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