SUWANEE — It’s growing faster than kudzu on a light pole. Lacrosse is taking over, and there’s no stopping it.
As the Lambert Longhorns clinched their second straight state championship with a 10-7 victory over Pope Saturday night at The Horn, a newer, larger generation of lacrosse players stormed the field to help the team celebrate.
“You see all these guys right here in the blue uniforms?” Lambert director of lacrosse Rich Wehman asked after the game.
“They’re the kids that are playing in our summer program ... and they’re all headed to Lambert when they get older.
“The kids love the game. They can sign up for summer programs as early as fourth grade, and some travel to Charlotte [North Carolina] and Baltimore [Maryland].”
According to the US Lacrosse website, more than 60,000 new players participated in organized teams in 2011. Lacrosse also saw an 11.3 percent increase in youth lacrosse participation.
The rapid growth is apparent in Forsyth County, where Lambert’s championship teams have helped serve as ambassadors for the sport.
“When these seniors were in the fifth grade, there were only 125 kids playing lacrosse in Forsyth County,” Wehman said.
“Now, there are over 1,000 kids playing lacrosse, and it’s growing. There was already some interest in the sport, so we took it and ran with it.”
The Dead Red Nation, a group of fans who tailgate before sporting events, has made its way on the lacrosse scene. The DRN, as the students call it, attends the majority of home lacrosse games.
Graham Stovall is one of several members in the group.
“We all showed up about two hours before the game to cook out and party,” Stovall said.
“We all know that the lacrosse team isn’t going to lose, so it makes it even more fun for us.
“We got hooked on the game about two years ago. It’s so fast and non-stop that you can’t help but watch.”
Drew Ferrer, athletic director at Lambert, credited the Forsyth community for the progression of lacrosse.
“The people have been great,” Ferrer said. “We have a good feeder program that teaches kids the game and allows them to be successful. Most of the kids playing [lacrosse] play other sports, too. It’s definitely a game that translates.”
Ferrer said the success of the boys lacrosse and soccer programs — both of which completed undefeated seasons over the weekend — raises the bar for the school’s athletics as a whole.
“One of the great things about our teams winning is that each team tries to push another team to win,” Ferrer said.
“I like to call it competitive greatness. All of the different teams try to outdo each other.
“If one team makes it to a championship, it’s understood that the other teams must make it to a championship.”