Lax teams huddle for One Fund doubleheader Friday

Four Central Mass lacrosse programs will come together at Grafton High School this Friday night for a rivalry-fueled doubleheader, but more importantly to raise money for the Boston One Fund.

Varsity action will begin at 5 p.m. when the host Grafton Indians (14-2, 9-0 Mid Mass) face off with longtime rival Westborough (9-5, 7-3 Midland A). Northbridge (10-5, 4-5 Mid Mass) will follow with a game against familiar foe Blackstone Valley Tech (9-2). While the games are being played at Grafton High, this fundraising idea was the brainchild of Northbridge head coach Steve Falconer.

For the last two seasons, Falconer and his team have used a goal-a-thon to raise money for a local father riding in the Pan Mass Challenge for cancer research. With a culture of giving already built into his program, Falconer knew his guys would be excited about the chance to help the One Fund.

“What’s important to my kids is the chance to make a difference,” Falconer said. “They’ve seen that there have been over $28 million donated to the One Fund, but they’ve also seen how many people were affected, and how their lives will be changed forever. We know that $28 million isn’t going to cut it, and we want to be able to help … One-hundred percent of the money we collect will go straight to the fund, so we encourage people to come out and enjoy the games for a good cause.”

But Falconer and Northbridge athletic director Al Richards’ plans nearly fell apart when they found out that the grass at Northbridge’s Lasell Field was set to be resodded this week, and would not be available for the fundraiser. A chance encounter between Richards and former Grafton athletic director Jim Bergenholtz gave Northbridge the idea to call Grafton High.

“Our athletic directors spoke, and Grafton agreed to let us use their facilities for free, so I just called [Grafton coach Alan] Rotatori to say thank you,” Falconer said. “He called me back a little later, and thought it would be a great idea to do a double-header. They were playing at Westborough that night, and Westborough was gracious enough to give up their home-field advantage to help with the fundraiser.”

With Grafton High paying for the facilities and Northbridge paying the officials, there will be no overhead for the fundraiser. Falconer is hopeful that over 1,000 people will come to the event, raising at least $5,000 for the fund. There will also be no charge for entry, but donations of $5 to $10 are encouraged.

Aditionally, the schools’ junior varsity teams will also take part in a double-header. Then, during the halftimes of the varsity games, under-11 youth teams will play mini-games of their own.

“It’s going to be a full event, encompassing varsity, J.V. and U-11 games,” Falconer said. “We want everyone in Central Mass to come out and know this is a night to help Boston. It’s about four great programs and four great communities all coming together for something good.”

As for the games themselves, Grafton’s matchup with Westborough is an unexpectedly anticipated meeting. The Indians are coming off a statement win over reigning Central Mass champion Algonquin, while Westborough has recovered from a slow start to become one of the best defensive teams in the region. The matchup will feature Central Mass’ leading scorer Tyler Reilly (37G, 41A) for the Indians, and perhaps the region’s hottest goalie in Westborough’s Dan Terry (4.1 GAA).

But, the individual matchup that could decide the game might be Grafton’s Bryan Rotatori against Westborough’s Tom Lawton in the midfield. The two seniors are considered the region’s best face-off specialists, and each team has benefitted from an abundance of extra possession time this season.

The night game will feature Blackstone Valley Tech looking for its first win over Northbridge since 2007. The Beavers have dropped their last three to the Rams by a combined three goals, but are coming off the first postseason win in program history last year.

Ryan Manz leads a potent and motivated BVT attack, but the Beavers just lost their first game in over a month, falling to Nipmuc, 11-6, earlier this week.

Northbridge, meanwhile, is looking for a strong finish to its season against BVT and fellow rival Shepherd Hill next Tuesday. The Rams will lean on the high-scoring duo of Nick Clark and Cam Velasquez to win yet another night game against the rival Beavers.

“With BVT, it’s definitely a rivalry and a familiarity,” Falconer said. “This actually would have been the first year that we wouldn’t have played them under the lights in a while, so setting up this event preserved our night game against them. Our guys are excited for it, and I know they have some Northbridge kids on that team.”

Festivities begin with a pair of J.V. games immediately after school lets out. Grafton will then host Westboro at 5 p.m. and Blackstone Valley Tech will face Northbridge in the night game around 7 p.m.