"Family" is how the Yorktown community described itself. That's why two teams made up of Yorktown High School alumni played lacrosse to honor a Yorktown graduate, who passed away in 2000, during their 10th annual Matt Kull Alumni game Saturday afternoon.
Kull, a 1997 Yorktown graduate who passed away in 2000, was an All-American player for the Corn Huskers and went onto become a starting defenseman at North Carolina. But he had to sit out six games into his freshman season after he contracted Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Adam Lodewick, a '95 YHS graduate, played in two NCAA championship games at the University of Maryland and is now a physical education teacher at Yorktown.
He explained why having the alumni game in Kull's memory is so important.
"Yorktown lacrosse is family," Lodewick said. "When someone passes away it's like losing someone in your family. So whenever you can get out and honor them in any way we can, everyone is happy to do it and it's something that we cherish. It's just another reason why this day is so special and people have so much fun, you are honoring your own."
Further emphasizing how much the alumni game means to those at Yorktown is the story of co-captain Chip Wilson, '99 graduate. He took a 10-day leave of absence from the Cherry Point Marine Corp Air Station in North Carolina to come up for the weekend to see his family and take part in the alumni game.
"I like to see everybody that I played with," Wilson said. "You don't get that many chances to play when you get older. You can play on club teams and things like that, but it's not the same."
Wilson's first true experience playing lacrosse wasn't until his freshman year of high school, unlike so many in Yorktown who start much earlier.
"I came here Saturday mornings for five hours so I could catch up to everyone else," he said.
Participants in the alumni game were only those who once played on the high school team. Andy Walsh didn't play for the Huskers, but he is a proud '80 Yorktown graduate who was one of the officials at the alumni game.
Walsh coached the JV and freshman teams at Yorktown for 15 years, and has been a referee for 10 years.
"I like seeing some of the guys back when I was in school and a lot of the kids I did coach that come back and play too," Walsh said. "I get to see kids I haven't seen in a while."
Warren Forbes, '84 graduate, was an equipment manager for the famed '84 squad that brought home the school's first state championship after a victory over West Genesse, a team with a 91-game winning streak.
"We had lost to West Genesse in '81, '82 and '83 and we lost to Henninger in '80," Forbes said. "Four straight times we lost in the state finals and it was a really great feeling and satisfying for everyone on the team to win a state championship."
Of course, an alumni day at Yorktown wouldn't be complete without talking about Murphy. The Murphy Tournament was named in honor of the founder of Yorktown lacrosse Charlie Murphy.
"I think everybody has the same memory about going to his house, him offering you cherry cokes and pretzels and bubblelicious bubble gum," Lodewick said. "Everyone is shooting the ball out back. Just like today, people graduating 30 years apart, that's what it was like at his house. You would have guys in college helping out the kids in third and fourth grade shoot and if you did something fundamentally wrong, you would hear Mr. Murphy yelling out the window the right way to do it. I think everyone can share those same stories and it's great.
The players who joined Lodewick and Wilson in this year's alumni game were: Justin Vercruysse (class of '09), Kyle Vercruysse ('06), Mitch Lieberman ('77), Jake Delillo ('06), Michael Welsch ('05), Dan Kiser ('83), Colin Houlihan ('07), Billy Kelsey ('07), John O'Sullivan ('02), Warren Dill ('07), Rocky Bonitatibus ('08), Michael Bonitatibus ('09), Ethan Fox ('09), Jack Farrell ('08), Chuck Cartelli ('05), Dave Liu ('08), Mike Nicolosi ('94), Joe Borges ('88) and John Fennessy ('09).
One of the youngsters hoping to join the above list is 10-year-old Blake Fahey, who participated in the Murphy Tournament.
"I just love sports and it's a privilege to play lacrosse here," Fahey said. "It's a lot of fun. It gets intense sometimes. There are a lot of good teams. My team isn't the best, but we are still trying as hard as we can."
Fahey hopes to emulate his brother, who is a junior on the Yorktown's Varsity team.
"My brother Tyler is a defenseman and so am I," Fahey said. "He is the one who brought me to lacrosse. It's definitely my goal to be on the Varsity team someday just like him. I just want to be like my brother."