Camas High School juniors Cassius Johnson, Oliver Stanchfield and Bryce Tabbut live for lacrosse.
“When we get up every day, this is the first thing on our minds. We can’t wait to get out here,” Stanchfield said. “Once you find something you love, you never want to stop doing it. I never realized how fun this sport could be until I started playing it all the time.”
Lacrosse coach Jim Avino has been attached to the sport his whole life. He played the game for State University New York, in Cortland, and at Colorado State. He then coached at Colorado State for five seasons, coached a club team in London and coached at North Rockland High School, in New York, where he went to school.
Avino moved to Camas in 2003. After coaching his son’s baseball teams for several years, Avino missed his lacrosse stick.
“It’s been 32 years since I graduated from college and I’m still into this game,” he said. “I grew up with a stick in my hands. Everybody from grandpa to the smallest kid on the block had a stick, and that’s both men and women.”
Seems like Avino and the Papermakers are a perfect fit. Now they just need to generate support from the Camas community during their first season in the Washington High School Boys Lacrosse Association. The Papermakers are going to be playing in a preseason tournament Saturday, at Hanford High School, in Richland, Wash.
“It feels great to be a part of the first Camas High School lacrosse team in school history,” Tabbut said. “This is just a great learning environment. We’ve been working on a lot of different things, I see the guys getting better every day, and that gets me excited.”
Tabbut said lacrosse combines the finesse, speed and physicality of football, soccer, hockey and basketball.
“There’s so many levels to this game. You’ve got to be physically strong as well as mentally tough,” he said. “There’s so many ways to get the ball down the field and into the net. That makes it the best sport to play, in my opinion.”
There’s been no shortage of Papermakers willing to give lacrosse a try. What started out as nine players grew to 27. Johnson, Stanchfield and Tabbut have been running practices since July. Avino and assistant coach Nick Ortiz joined the effort in February.
“I’m surprised by their talent,” Avino said. “I thought I inherited a group of kids who never touched a stick before, but they have been playing for a few years.”
Avino said the goal for this first season will be player development every day.
“If these kids are willing to work hard enough, they can get a lot out of this game,” he said. “You become part of this fraternity of brothers with people all over the world who have played this game. That’s what got me into college and took me all the way to London.”
There are total of 59 clubs in the WHSBLA. First-year teams like Camas and Union are starting out in the Division Two level. Established teams such as King’s Way Christian, of Vancouver, are competing at Division One.
Camas is in the South Central Conference with Union, Richland and Selah, which is near Yakima. Complete lists of the divisions, teams and their schedules are available at www.whsbla.org.
The first Camas home game is scheduled for Friday, March 15. Team Vice President Jeff Menor is still figuring out where the home games are going to be played.
The thought of facing so many savvy clubs their first time out gave the Papermakers incentive to practice throughout this cold and rainy winter. They hope the hard work pays off by the time the sun finally comes out.
“It’s a love for the sport and the love we all have for each other. That gives us a greater reason to get out here, even when it’s cold,” Stanchfield said. “There’s nothing for us to fall back on. We’re creating our own path.”
Johnson enjoys being around this group. Every day gets a little more intense and exciting. As the Papermakers work on their fundamentals, they build a solid foundation for the rest of this season and the years to come.
“I hope we have a strong first season, get a couple wins under our belt and let everybody know we’re here,” Johnson said. “Then get ready for the years to come.”
“Everything changes once the games start,” Stanchfield added.