(Photo Courtesy of Brother Martin High School, La.)
Like many other places in the South, lacrosse has been in Louisiana since the mid-2000s, but the game is still more of an emerging sport in the Pelican State.
One of the big changes to the sport in Louisiana was in 2008 when the Louisiana High School Lacrosse league came into existence, giving high school teams a league to play in as well as bringing structure to the game. Last season, the league featured 24 teams divided up into four districts and one independent team.
This past fall, the league announced major changes coming for the 2020 season as four new teams will join and thus see the league split into two divisions (DI and DII). “You are always looking to add teams in any developing sport,” said LHSLL Commissioner David Gold in an interview. The divisional split is aimed to give developing teams the ability to play against each other and be able to grow and develop without having to play some of the top-tier teams in the state.
“A developing team needs a very supportive environment. You don’t want kids going out there and losing 25 to nothing, especially if we can avoid it.”
While the league is based in and has mostly teams from Louisiana, there are teams from southern Mississippi and Alabama in the league, as well. “Ocean Spring (Miss.) was one of the early members of the league because there was nobody in Mississippi for them to play…The Louisiana contingent has certainly grown, but you still have a situation where there are maybe two or three teams in Mississippi and three or four teams in southern Alabama that don’t quite have enough teams to form a league of their own quite yet,” said Gold
Adding new teams and spiting into two divisions this upcoming season is a positive sign of growth for sure, but even with growth, Gold says that the league has yet to fully mature and is still in somewhat of its infancy, especially compared to some of the top-tier teams and more well developed areas in the South. “We are improving and I think we are on par with good teams in more developed areas around us. We have some teams that can compete very well with some top teams in Tennessee and the Birmingham, Alabama area…But the gap is certainly closing every day.”
This past season, there were multiple players from Louisiana that went on to play college lacrosse at the NCAA level. While the majority went to local Centenary College which is the only NCAA program in the state and competes in DIII, Caddo Parish Magnet’s Jack Howell and Cameron Strait signed with DII powers Rollins and Limestone. Also, there has been at least one player out of Louisiana make it to the DI level in the past.
Additionally, multiple multi-sport athletes have picked up a stick, as well, including Isidore Newman’s Jarmone Sutherland who is rated as a three-star football prospect by 247 Sports and has offers to play wide receiver from the likes Southern Miss, Tulane, UAB, and others.
Lacrosse in Louisiana and the surrounding region may still be in a slow-growth phase, but with the caliber of athletes they produce down there, like much of the South, there could be a very bright future for the sport in the region.