It was not out of the ordinary to watch two nationally-ranked college lacrosse teams do battle on a Saturday afternoon.
It was also not out of the ordinary for such a game to live up to the hype with a huge crowd and a dramatic finish.
And it was without question not anything out of the ordinary for a game like that to take place on Long Island, one of the great hotbeds for lacrosse in all of North America.
But when you look back at this past Saturday’s game between #7 Duke and #11 Penn, that’s where the ordinary ends and the not so ordinary begins.
Or should I say extraordinary?
If the neutral-site game had taken place at Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University or LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook nobody would have blinked an eye because a game of that magnitude was made for a very special atmosphere and venue.
And special it was.
Jack Schultz scored with 25 seconds left in overtime to give Penn a 14-13 win over Duke in the inaugural “Long Island Metro Cup” at MacArthur High School in Levittown in front of an overflow sellout crowd of 3,500 fans.
Duke vs Penn at MacArthur High School?
Where the families in the community watch their children play high school, middle school and youth lacrosse games?
Are you kidding me?
It was no joke and the game was played under a backdrop that brought the game of lacrosse back to its roots for the players and coaches of both teams, especially those who are from Long Island like Duke Head Coach and Long Island native John Danowski. The former Hofstra coach, who has won three national championships with Duke, has brought the Blue Devils to Long Island a number of times in the past to play games at other high schools including Bethpage and Manhasset. After COVID prevented the game from happening in 2020 and 2021, Danowski wanted to bring the event back this year.
He found an opponent with Penn and a venue at MacArthur High School and with that came an afternoon that so that many people will never forget.
This game meant so much to the Levittown community and the outcome of the contest wasn’t really the story here. You’ll be hard-pressed to drive down any street in Levittown, neighboring towns like Wantagh and Seaford or any town all over Long Island and not see a lacrosse net in front of a home or young boys and girls with a lacrosse stick in hand.
I’ve got a couple of holes in the fence in front of my house to prove that.
With the game set for a noon opening faceoff, the crowd started to file in around 11am. By 1145, the stands on both sides were just about full and there were already some people who chose to just stand behind a fence that circles the field. When the game started, anyone who was a late arrival or those who had been at either the Duke or Penn pre-game tailgate parties had no choice but to stand.
Every seat was filled and there were fans all around the fence standing with some areas three or four deep with people. Some of those fans watched Duke emerge from the locker room at MacArthur High School and Penn make their way to the field from the locker room at Jonas Salk Middle School across the parking lot from MacArthur.
For the players from both Duke and Penn who are from Long Island, the game was an opportunity play in front of family and friends in a venue that they are accustomed to having cut their teeth in the sport growing up in either Nassau or Suffolk County. There may have even been some players who have previously played games at MacArthur either in high school or perhaps for their youth or club teams.
So, how does a high school pull off a college lacrosse game of that magnitude?
As much as the day was about the two teams on the field, it would not have been possible without the many parents, administrators, coaches and players from the MacArthur High School family who served as volunteers along with the great people from Long Island Metro Lacrosse, a regional chapter of USA Lacrosse which is the governing body of the sport. It took an army from “Generals Nation” to help set up for the event, work the concession stands, scan tickets, work security and parking, sell t-shirts and raffle tickets, run game operations, and break everything down after the game along with so many other elements else that made this a day to remember.
Including a youth lacrosse game on the field at halftime.
Duke vs Penn could have been played at either of the school’s campuses or potentially could be a matchup in the NCAA Tournament. But this past Saturday, the game was played at MacArthur High School on Long Island with the backdrop of 3,500 fans jammed into the bleachers, cars going up and down Wantagh Avenue and a shopping center with a Subway visible across the street.
And the game itself? A delicious treat for a community that loves lacrosse and is already looking forward to hosting a game like this again next season.
But first things first…good luck this season to the MacArthur Generals lacrosse teams who call that field home on a regular basis!