By Matt Taylor, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – The Algonquin Regional High School boys lacrosse team has high hopes for the 2012 season. Last year they made it all the way to the Division II State Final before losing to Medfield. This year the Tomahawks are hoping to take that extra step, and, with a 6-0 start, they are well on their way. This year is different however, because the team is also playing to honor the memory of a young Southborough student who passed away in January.
Eric Green, a 12-year-old who played lacrosse in Southborough’s youth program and for the Massachusetts Vikings Select Boys Lacrosse, died suddenly from complications due to a seizure condition.
This year the Algonquin boys lacrosse team will honor Green’s memory by playing the first 13 seconds of the game with a lone wingman at each home game. Green would have turned 13 this year. In essence, play stops for 13 seconds once Algonquin retains possession of the ball. This tribute requires cooperation from the opposing team and from the officials. Head Coach Rich Luongo said that their opponents have honored this request.
“Our opponents generally respect what we’re doing,” Luongo said. “We work closely with the youth program that Eric played in. Players in this program are like family, and when tragedy strikes, we like to reach out.”
The idea for this tribute originated from one of Algonquin’s chief rivals in western Massachusetts. The lacrosse team from Longmeadow High School honored a player who passed away by playing for 30 seconds with a lone wingman. Captains David McGovern and Patrick Murphy approached Luongo about the idea, and it was decided the team would play the first 13 seconds of all home games with a lone wingman.
“I couldn’t have better captains,” Luongo said. “They are both smart kids who set the tempo and are a great example for the rest of the team.”
Longmeadow High School and Algonquin’s rivalry goes back a few years with some epic games in the state tournament. The Lancers beat Algonquin four straight times before the Tomahawks knocked Longmeadow out of the 2011 state tournament with a thrilling 9-8 victory in overtime on a goal by Dave McGovern. But even though these two schools have had hard fought battles on the field, the respect between the two programs is evident.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach John Rauseo and the Longmeadow program,” Luongo said. “He has great players and coaches and runs a first-class program. They always give us great competition.”
Another of Algonquin’s chief rivals is Minnechaug High School. The two teams played recently and both ran their initial possessions with a lone wingman in honor of Green. They also wore green laces and chin straps, and ran programs to raise money for the HEADstrong Foundation to fight blood cancer. The foundation was created in honor of lacrosse player Nick Colleluori who passed away in 2006 from the disease. Algonquin won the game 11-5 with five goals from Conor Healey, and remained undefeated at 6-0.
“It was a great day for some great causes,” Luongo said.
The Tomahawks will continue to honor both Green and Colleluori throughout the season. Luongo said they might even try the lone wingman tribute in the state tournament. Luongo and his team are building a culture of winning, and they’re doing it with respect for opponents, teammates and those touched by tragedy.