Harlem might not be a lacrosse hotbed, but it is now home to a city champion as the Frederick Douglass Academy defeated Curtis, 8-7, to claim the PSAL Bowl Division title Sunday at the Aviator Sports Complex.
“We wanted this bad,” junior Kelvin Sparks said. “Honestly it’s been on our mind since Day One. We wanted to win the championship, nothing less. Just being here, I feel like I’m going to Disneyland. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Sparks, who was named the game’s MVP, scored a goal to help the Lions win a first lacrosse championship in school history.
“It shows we actually did something,” Sparks said. “For the rest of my life I can always say in 2013 I was on the first FDA lacrosse championship team. It feels amazing. I feel like I’m dreaming.”
The impetus for the championship run actually started at the end of the 2012 season when FDA fell to Lehman, 8-7, in the opening round of the playoffs. The Lions beat Lehman three times during the season, but were upset in the postseason.
“We were last year in the playoffs and we lost, but we just came back this year and took it,” junior Raheem King said. “I just feel like it was meant to happen.”
King was instrumental in the victory, scoring a game-high four goals, including a pivotal goal late in the third quarter. Top-seeded Curtis (13-3) rallied from a 5-1 deficit to tie the score at 6 on goals by Dylan Hunold and Eamon Murtha nine seconds apart.
But King won the ensuing face-off, raced down field and scored the go-ahead goal five seconds later to give FDA a 7-6 advantage.
“We call Raheem ‘buckets,’” Sparks said. “We say its bucket season whenever we get on the field.”
FDA’s championship run wasn’t without adversity. In late April, the Lions were forced to forfeit back-to-back games and lost Kenneth Davis, one of the city’s leading scorers, for the remainder of the season because of an on-field violation. Davis had 19 goals and 32 assists.
“That was something that could have killed us, could have sunk the ship, but the kids turned me around,” said FDA assistant Richardson Louis, a Fordham law school student who played at Midwood.
Instead, the Lions rallied to win their final seven games, including Sunday’s championship.
“I’d say that was the turning point of the season,” said coach Jacqueline June Ronchetti. “He was one of the leading scorers in the entire city. Although he was sorely missed, the kids moved right in and filled the gap.”
Hunold and Murtha led Curtis, which finished atop the Bowl Division in the regular season, with three goals apiece.
“We’re happy with the season,” Curtis coach Paul Barrett said. “You always have to be happy getting to this game. Obviously we would like the outcome to be different, but we’ve had a coupe of games where we’ve come back at the end of the season and fought through adversity and that says a lot about the team.”
Leading 7-6 entering the fourth quarter, Ali Danioko gave second-seeded FDA (13-3) an 8-6 lead with 4:59 remaining. The Warriors attempted to rally late, but Kamau Hargraves won a huge groundball with less than two minutes left, helping clinch a historic FDA win.
“I can’t describe it,” King said. “Now, I just started getting the feeling for being a champ. I’ve never been a champ before.”
Follow Dylan Butler on Twitter @Dylan_Butler