A year ago, the South County Outlaws lacrosse program had two teams. This season, it has doubled that number. With 67 kids on one of the four rosters of their 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U teams, the Morgan Hill-based Outlaws are experiencing growth, which is only appropriate since they play the sport that has seen greater youth participation increases than any other sport in California in the last several years.
In July 2017, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the governing body of California high school athletics, issued a report revealing that from 2016 to 2017 participation in lacrosse continued its steady climb, as there was a 7.4 percent increase combining boys and girls participation. The sustained growth of lacrosse meant it was only a matter of time before the sport would land at some of the high schools in Morgan Hill, and that time seems imminent.
Brad Ledwith, who is the club director and one of the founders of the Outlaws, has been working behind the scenes to help Live Oak High and Sobrato High launch lacrosse programs for both boys and girls. In the South Valley, Christopher High and San Benito High have lacrosse programs, though they only field boys teams. Ledwith, along with Live Oak High Athletic Director Mike Gemo and Sobrato High Athletic Director Lawrence Crawford, should receive plaudits whenever the Acorns and Bulldogs start their inaugural seasons (both schools are working on starting play in spring 2020, but nothing is set in stone yet).
“We’ve led the charge to get lacrosse at Sobrato and Live Oak, both boys and girls teams,” Ledwith said. “The fundraising has been done and it looks like it’s going to happen (for spring 2020). All of the administration is on board for both schools, and this is something we’ve been working on for five years.”
The Outlaws, who are part of the Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association, hosted a jamboree last Sunday at the Morgan Hill Sports Complex. They had other youth lacrosse programs in attendance, including the Morgan Hill Clovers, who field a girls 12U and 14U team. The Hollister Hawgs, a first-year program, had their 8-and-under team playing at the jamboree.
Parker Cuzner, whom Ledwith described as “a beast,” plays on the Outlaws 8U team since there is no girls team in that age group she can play on. Hudson Ledwith, Jake Richey, Sammy Azar and Zach Forbis are some of the top standouts on the squad. Some of the standouts on the 10U team include Brad Ledwith, Zack Forbis, Reese Correia, Hudson Ledwith, Noah Cuzner, Ari Coleman, Zach Elia, Mason Binder and Matt Bronson.
For the 12U team, some of the top players include Tyler Lang, Aidan Cote, Bennett Nishikawa, Dylan Fisher, Kevin Oselinsky, Gary Rosyski, Zach Binder, Sam Ellingson and Brad Ledwith. For the 14U team, some of the standouts include Bryan Carrol, Colby Allen, Dylan Henry, Ryan McDonald, Max Reid, Tanya Carrol, Matt DeSilva, Luke Richey and Mateo Norman (some of the names are on both teams as sometimes players compete in a higher age group).
For Luke Richey, playing lacrosse has become his No. 1 love. He started playing the game three or four years ago after one of his best friends, Ben Ledwith, and Ben’s brother, Nolan, expressed interest in it. Now it’s something the boys do year-round, rarely going more than a couple of days without at least cradling or passing the ball at a neighborhood park.
“I was really excited to try out the sport with my friends,” Richey said. “I think my dad also told me to try it out, and it seemed exciting.’
Richey plays for the Outlaws and the Cali-Lax All-Star team that is headed to Canada this summer to play in a box lacrosse tournament (look for a future article on that as the start of the tournament gets closer). Richey has been enjoying his time on the Outlaws, citing a couple of reasons, starting with having a good rapport with his teammates, especially Ben Ledwith. The friends play as attackers and midfielders.
“We work together really well and he’ll bring down the ball and we’ll assist each other and get a lot of goals,” Richey said. “I really love the sport and how fast it is and the team effort that has to go into it for it to do well.”
Richey took up lacrosse at age 9 or 10, representing a picture of youth starting the game at an earlier age. Whereas before players in California would only start playing once they got to high school—since it was still building ground here on the West Coast—the change in attitudes about the game have resulted in the sport flourishing and giving more kids a chance to play at all levels and every age group.