By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/29/11
The stars have never been aligned so perfectly.
Just imagine Philly boasting the two top-ranked boys’ lacrosse teams in the nation, both undefeated and both rivals from down the street. And they get to play each other in the greatest of settings?
That’s what is occurring Saturday at 1:30 p.m. when Haverford School faces off with Conestoga (football field) in the feature game of the 11th annual Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival.
The Festival is recognized as the largest single-day high school tournament/invitational in the country with 27 boys’ and girls’ games going on six fields. The event benefits the Katie Samson Foundation and its drive to raise funds and awareness for spinal cord research and development in honor of Radnor alum and former Middlebury College (Conn.) standout Katie Samson – who suffered a serious spinal cord injury 11 years ago but continues to be a role model and a leader in advocacy for people with disabilities.
The Katie Samson Foundation has raised over $1 million for numerous organizations (see accompanying story). It continues to grow in its support for promising research and rehabilitation treatment to improve function, provide independence and quality of life for those with spinal cord injuries.
But, of course, there is also some great lacrosse at the Katie Samson Festival.
Among the 14 girls’ games 13 boys’ games are numerous battles between ranked teams from the Philly region as well as several top teams from outside the region.
The biggest is the matchup between the Haverford School Fords (15-0) and the defending PIAA champion Conestoga Pioneers (12-0). The Fords are ranked No. 1 in the nation by Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse, ESPN RISE and MaxPreps. The Pioneers are No. 2 in each poll.
Never has Philly had the excitement of boasting the top two teams in the country – and now they get to play before an expected crowd of several thousand people. In all, at least 10,000 are expected for the event.
What’s more, the two schools are closely joined. Many of the Haverford School and Conestoga players know each other from club lacrosse, especially from the Mesa Fresh squad – which features many of the top players from these teams – as well as the Duke’s Lacrosse Club.
Last year these two teams met in a classic battle for supremacy in Pennsylvania and Haverford School rallied for a dramatic 8-7 victory. This game basically serves as a mid-year state championship game as well as a mid-year national title game.
The game has even more meaning to Conestoga coach Brian Samson, Katie’s brother.
“First and foremost, we are really excited to be a part of a marquee matchup for this event,” he said. “I think a lot of people will come out for this game so that’s money that can be raised. It’s a great cause and for the kids to be a part of that is special for me.
“Our kids are just excited. I wish it could start (today). Some of the guys were out on he field last year when things didn’t go our way and we’re looking forward at another shot at Haverford.
“We know it’s a tall order and we know they are really good. But our kids will go in with confidence. I guess it’s the last chance for the PIAA to beat Haverford School.”
Also Saturday, there are numerous other boys’ games involving teams ranked in Pennsylvania.
PA’s No 3 team, Germantown Academy, plays Hatboro-Horsham (9:30 AM on Prevost Field), No. 7 La Salle meet Abington (11:30 AM on Creek Field), No. 8 St. Joseph’s Prep takes on Emmaus (11:30 AM on Prevost Field) and No. 9 Garnet Valley plays No. 10 Malvern Prep (9:30 AM on Creek Field).