For the past couple of years, the Gold Country Stampede’s annual alumni lacrosse game has been a one-sided event in which the elders decimated the current varsity squad.
“The last two years we just crushed the varsity team,” said Nick Harris, former Stampede player and alumni game organizer, “the kind of game where you stop keeping track.”
Entering its third installment, the alumni game has been changed to make the contest more competitive and give it a little more purpose, Harris said.
Instead of an alumni team steamrolling the varsity squad, the two teams will be intertwined, with graduation years determining what side each current and former player is on. If alumni graduated in an even year, they will be teamed with other alumni and varsity players who graduated or will graduate in an even year. The other team will be comprised of odd-year graduates and future odd-year graduates.
“It should make the game much more competitive,” Harris said. “It will be a lot of fun.”
Harris is a 2011 Nevada Union graduate who has played on Stampede teams since he was in seventh grade, he said. Harris currently plays lacrosse for Division-III Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.
This year the alumni game is dedicated to longtime Stampede supporter Avery Blake Jr., who died in September, Harris said. From here on out, the game will be called the Avery Blake Memorial Alumni Game.
“He was everything to the Stampede,” Harris said. “He kept the sport going. He was always pestering us to help out with the program. He had so many good ideas. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if there would be a club.”
Nevada Union graduate and two-time Avery Blake Award winner for top male Stampede Player of the Year, Luke Agness said he’s very pleased to see Avery’s name attached to the alumni game.
“With Avery’s name attached, it will be infinitely better because of what he meant to everyone,” Agness said.
Blake was a mentor to many, including Agness, who said Blake wrote several letters to colleges on his behalf and was always there if he needed him.
“Nobody will forget Avery,” he said. “It is unanimous that he was the most important person to the Stampede. It feels right to have his name on it. His legacy will continue.”
Agness currently plays rugby at the University of Virginia but said he is very much looking forward to picking up the lacrosse stick and battling in Hooper Stadium as an alumnus for the first time.
Other notable Stampede alumni that will be participating in the game will be Alec Hamlin, who currently plays lacrosse for Adams State in Colorado, and Matt Montavon, who plays lacrosse at Concordia College.
The Avery Blake Memorial Alumni Game gets started at 6 p.m. tonight at Hooper Stadium on the Nevada Union campus. The public is welcome, and the event is free.
In the future, there may be a small charge for admission to raise funds for the Avery Blake Memorial Scholarship, which aims to put a stick in the hand of any kid who wants to play lacrosse, said Harris. Lacrosse is an expensive sport, and the scholarship is meant to defray costs for those who want to play but may not be financially able to.
Registration for the 2014 season is currently open for the Gold Country Stampede. Those interested in signing up or who want more information can visit http://www.gcstampede.com.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“With Avery’s name attached it will be infinitely better because of what he meant to everyone.”
— Luke Agness
Gold Country Stampede alumnus