For the 16 years that New Oxford High School has had a lacrosse program, it has constantly been evolving. From a 20-person inter-school lacrosse club made up of a lot of football players and wrestlers, to eventually becoming a varsity squad in District 3 of Pennsylvania 2A state competition, the Colonials kept making strides, but were never looked at as a threat by any of the powerhouses of York-Adams county, having never had a winning season in their school history.
In 2021, however, coming off of a season that was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, New Oxford blew their previous wins record out of the water, ending the regular season 12-3 and earning the school’s first spot in the 2A tournament as a 4 seed.
Coach Jason Cross, who founded the program over 16 years ago, said going into the season, “We knew we could be better, the players were invested in it and I was never satisfied as well.” Cross said he saw a change in the team immediately going into the season and that, for the first time, all the seniors and returning players were at every preseason meeting, which made practices ultra competitive and forced everybody to be committeCross said the players were always signaling that “This year was going to be different, we’re going to make districts and make it normal for kids to see New Oxford going to district.”
Though the results hadn’t necessarily been seen on the field, the buildup to this season had been happening for years. Cross said in his time at New Oxford, the youth program has grown from, “A couple of dads helping build the program from the youth programs, dads who were coaching kids when nobody really knew the game,” into a legitimate feeder program.
The defensive captain of this year’s team, Caleb Kelly, explained his introduction into the youth program saying “I started playing in 5th grade for New Oxford Youth when my friend Peyton Mathis invited me to play. I went on to play for some club teams, all-star teams, college showcases and I eventually committed to Shenandoah University for lacrosse.” His journey was like many others on the lacrosse team, and this year’s New Oxford senior class was emblematic of the progress the youth program has made in producing talent.
One of the few exceptions to this was offensive captain Braden Carver, who says that he was, “basically born with a lacrosse stick in hand” and played his off season lacrosse for club teams in Maryland. However, Carver still sees the close bond that the high school team has with the youth program. “We had half of our varsity team at a youth tournament helping coach and supporting. All of our games would have full youth teams coming to support us so we were able to fill the stands despite not having a successful history,” said Carver.
Because of the close ties with the team to the youth program, the 2021 season came with a sense of urgency for the team to make an impact on the New Oxford lacrosse program. Kelly expressed the sentiment as, “With last year being taken away from us due to COVID, we had a sense of urgency because, if we didn’t make an impact this year, we felt like we wouldn’t have anything to show for our careers.” Carver explained that, despite the repetition of Coach Cross saying that this season was for history, “This was the first step in changing the culture for New Oxford Lacrosse. The season didn’t end the way we wanted to (a 16-11 loss to Hershey in the 2A quarterfinals), but the prospect of making history motivated us to win some of the tough games throughout the season.
Kelly also gave an overview of the impact that this season has had on the culture and future surrounding New Oxford Lacrosse. “The team has changed from just here to play to let’s win, compete and make history. Our last game against Hershey we had over 600 people with a separate student section. That had never happened before. The whole attitude around the program has changed and the youth program respects what we have done and it is now more respected to play lacrosse in New Oxford.”