Although the matchup was intriguing, with No. 3 Spring Lake hosting No. 4 Forest Hills Eastern, the emotional epicenter of the night revolved around the players themselves.
Before the game started, the Lakers honored their 16-man senior class, a class that redefined lacrosse at Spring Lake, setting it up for a competitive future. Fans of the Spring Lake boys lacrosse program came out in droves to see this beloved group play one last home game.
It appeared a storybook ending was in the making, as Spring Lake scored the first goal less than two minutes into the game. Things quickly changed, however, as Forest Hills Eastern went on a 5-0 run. The Lakers entered halftime down 6-3 with spirits still raised, but Forest Hills Eastern proved too much to handle.
Forest Hills Eastern ultimately won the clash of heavyweights 15-5. Spring Lake senior Colby Brown led his team with two goals, while brothers Danton and Dominik Molotky scored one goal apiece and Jake Vinkemulder rounded out the Laker scoring.
Spring Lake did not win the game Wednesday night, but they won in so many other ways, starting with the honoring of a special senior class.
“They became hooked at a very early age, fell in love with the game and pushed everyone to be better,” said Spring Lake head coach Doug Sharp of the 16 seniors. “By eighth grade (their work had become) very relevant and they just continued to work harder and never quit. I could not be prouder about the people they have become, on the field and in the classroom.”
This year’s Spring Lake boys lacrosse senior class claimed many milestones, including earning the school its first conference title, and becoming the first Lakers boys lacrosse senior class to send student-athletes on to play Division I, II and III college athletics.
“They have worked so hard on and off the field,” Sharp said of his senior class. “(They helped produce) a very high team 3.9 GPA. They have broken, and continue to break, new ground in the classroom and on the lacrosse field.”
While lacrosse may not be the most popular sport at most high schools (most Michigan high schools don’t even have a lacrosse program at all), the Spring Lake community has latched on to the sport in a special way ever since Sharp introduced it to the town a decade ago. Wednesday night’s game did not go Spring Lake’s way, but this has been an incredible season from a special group of players.
Once the game ended, the Spring Lake and Forest Hills Eastern players and coaching staffs formed the number 22 on the field to honor Jarred Coleman, a four-year lacrosse player at Spring Lake who went on to play collegiately at Davenport University.
Coleman, at just 22 years old, was tragically killed in a car crash last summer along with his grandparents. He was a valued member of the Spring Lake community, and a special individual who constantly gave his time to help mentor young, aspiring lacrosse players.
The Lakers boys lacrosse team, in a way to honor Coleman’s memory, will pick one player each year to wear No. 22, which will serve as the program’s highest honor. This year, Dominik Molotky, an Ithaca commit, donned the No. 22 jersey, and Sharp could not have been more pleased with the way he represented the honor.
“Year 1, we could not have picked a greater guy to wear the No. 22,” Sharp said. “(Molotky) and Jarred were tight when Jarred was a senior. He would pick Dom up every day and take him aside to work on different techniques and mechanics.
“Very early on, Dom and Jarred had a close tie, so it was an easy decision who would wear No. 22 for us. Dom grew up under Jarred’s wing. He emulated everything he did.”
Coleman’s brother, Ethan Coleman, played for Forest Hills Eastern on Wednesday, adding to the emotional connection the two schools shared. Sharp, understandably very emotional after the ceremony, reflected on just how special Coleman was as a student-athlete, and what it meant to have his family at the game Wednesday night.
“Jarred was such an incredible young man in so many ways,” Sharp said. “Whether you are talking about coming back from injuries, or not being the most athletically gifted, but working his tail off to become a contributing player on a national championship team at Davenport. It’s just incredible.”
Spring Lake may not have won the game against Forest Hills Eastern, but the stadium was filled with winners honoring a tragic cause.