Carlisle High School Boy's Lacrosse: History

The Carlisle Program
Jim Thorpe(s)
Olympic hero Jim Thorpe played lacrosse at Carlisle
With the close of the Carlisle Indian School in 1918, the clash of lacrosse sticks remained conspicuously absent from the in Carlisle community until Coach David Breschi resurrected the oldest sport in North America at Carlisle High School in 1996. This resurrection brought with it a fever and passion for lacrosse enjoyed by boys and girls alike throughout the entire Carlisle and Central Pennsylvania area.

2005 marks the 9th year of Carlisle High School Boys Lacrosse and the 6th year of full varsity recognition from the school district. The Carlisle High School squad has been a perennial playoff team in the Mid-Penn and District III. Boasting five Mid-Penn and three District III Championships in six years of varsity competition, the Carlisle program has also produced two High School All-Americans, one High School Academic All-American, 25 players as All-Conference and one First Team All State. Graduates of the Carlisle Boys Lacrosse program have participated at the college level with Division I Ohio State, Army and Mt. Saint Mary’s and Division III Dickinson and Messiah. Traveling to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Maryland and Ohio, the Carlisle Team has consistently set a high bar with a challenging schedule outside of its Mid-Penn and District III competition.

Each spring, about 60 Carlisle High School boys don their helmets and shoulder pads and grab their lacrosse sticks with an eagerness to participate in a positive athletic program designed to reward the ethics of hard work, sacrifice and team work.

Carlisle Lacrosse: A Look Back
1912 Team (small)
Carlisle Indian School - Circa 1912
In 1910, Glenn “Pop” Warner, Athletic Director at the Carlisle Indian School, replaced baseball with lacrosse as the school’s Spring sport. Because of the “evils of professional baseball” and the fact that many Carlisle Indian School students had been lured away from school into “temptations and bad company by professional baseball offers,” Warner thought it best not to develop an ambition in the students to become professional players. “Athletics at Carlisle” said Mr. Warner, “are here for the students, not the students here for the athletics.”

Warner imported William T. O’Neil of Cornwall, Ontario as coach for the Carlisle Indians. O’Neil was known as one of the best lacrosse coaches to be found in Canada, where the sport is the national game. Like present-day Carlisle High School, the Carlisle Indian School engaged in a challenging schedule, which included powerhouses such as the University of Maryland, Cornell and Harvard.

Since lacrosse is an Indian game, Warner expected that the natural ability of the Carlisle Indian School students would enable the team to make a credible showing in their first year. In their inaugural campaign, the inexperienced LAX team shook off early losses and finished the year with wins over Baltimore City College, Mount Washington Club of Baltimore and a thrilling 3-2 victory over Navy in their final game.

The popularity of lacrosse was demonstrated by the crowd of 10,000 fans who saw Carlisle’s 5-1 victory over Stevens Institute at Hoboken. Although 25 years its superior in lacrosse experience, Johns Hopkins fell to Carlisle in 1912, with Baltimore newspapers reporting that the Carlisle players were “far superior…much heavier than the local players and seemed to have unlimited endurance.”

The tactics and tricks used by the visitors (Carlisle) were cunning and beautiful to watch. Their wily body-checking and accurate wary passing was excellent. They dodged frequently and had Hopkins guessing. Their attack and defense both followed the ball and on some occasions they had as many as six men on the ball. This playing in bunches, perhaps, won the game for them. The endurance of Carlisle made it possible for both attack and defense to follow the ball.

O’Neil’s team started off 1913 with four straight wins including a 4-3 victory over Cornell. Jim Thorpe joined his fellow Indian School students on the lacrosse field, and Carlisle Lacrosse remained on the map until the close of the Indian School.

Coach Breschi
Breschi cropped
Carlisle High School’s inaugural 1997 Varsity squad was 0-10, but it did not take long for Breschi to instill his strong work ethic, love for the game and the spirit of their native American predecessors within the Carlisle players. His 1998 squad finished 13-5 as Mid-Penn and District III Champions. Teams in 1999 and 2000 had records of 9-4 and 8-7 respectively, with Carlisle Lacrosse gaining preeminence in 2001 and 2002 with records of 18-2 and 21-2, again claiming Mid-Penn and District III Championships each year. A thrilling overtime victory over LaSalle Academy of Philadelphia in the State Playoffs solidified Carlisle as a program enjoying statewide respect.

Like O’Neil, Breschi is well respected by his peers and gained Co-Coach of the Year from the Pennsylvania State Lacrosse Association in 2002. Similar to Pop Warner, Breschi embraces the philosophy that his players are students first and that the athletic competition of lacrosse will complement a strong education that is needed for a successful future. A product of Loyola High School Lacrosse in Maryland and a graduate of Denison University as a team captain and Division III All American in lacrosse, Dave started his coaching career as an assistant football and lacrosse coach at Swarthmore. While attending the Dickinson School of Law, Dave served as an assistant lacrosse coach and interim head lacrosse coach at Dickinson College. Prior to graduating from law school, Dave also enjoyed two years as assistant football coach at the college.

Breschi’s program has produced an overall 96-45 record and has spread beyond the boys’ high school level. Currently there are 45 middle school boys playing lacrosse. Carlisle High School girls field a team of 40, with the middle school girls fielding 50.

Carlisle Indian School laid the foundation for a tradition of quality lacrosse in Carlisle, and the Thundering Herd of Carlisle High School proudly continues the tradition.

Huddle cropped

The Need for Funds
Although the Carlisle School District provides its fair share of contribution to the boys’ lacrosse program, funds must be raised to supplement the program and equipment costs in order to maintain the high level of competition that the high school boys have enjoyed. The program must pay for rental of indoor facilities during the off-season to ensure the players have the opportunity to maintain a high level of stick skills. Off-season tournaments, leagues and training also generate additional pressures for funds. Although players and their families engage in some fund raising, and assessments are levied for participation, scholarships are routinely provided to students who are unable to meet the financial requirements.

Financial contributions from benevolent members and businesses of the Carlisle community are a necessary ingredient to ensure continued success of the Carlisle High School Boys Lacrosse Program and to maintain the positive influence lacrosse has had on the 60 plus boys participating in the program

The Last Few Years
        Although the program is still very young, it is very rapidly acquiring ...

Origins of the Game
With a history that spans centuries, lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America. Rooted in Native American religion, ...