In a world dominated by Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, North Yarmouth Academy, Scarborough and neighboring Lewiston, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.

“I started in elementary school. It’s nice to see our program coming together, guys actually coming to practice,” senior captain Ben Steele said. “Dedication was a big thing in the past. I think we have a good crew here.”

At a school where football, hockey and baseball have hung state championship banners and the basketball programs put up a fight for that honor each year, lacrosse, an ancient game that has gained new life this century, may be viewed as an afterthought.

The arrival of an enthusiastic, young coach and a shiny, new indoor practice facility have a way of changing perception in a hurry.

Dave Barton, a native of Hanover, Mass., who played the game at Boston College High School and the University of Vermont, takes over as EL’s third different coach in as many seasons and fourth in the past six.

A sixth-grade teacher at nearby Fairview School, Barton intends to stay a while. He has already devised a plan to expand Auburn youth lacrosse, which now starts in third grade, to include a K-2 “learn to lax” program.

“Our goal is for it to mean something to play lacrosse in this city,” Barton said. “It means something to play hockey, football, baseball. We’re well on our way.”

EL lacrosse has bounced around town over the years, playing home games both at Central Maine Community College and Walton Field. This year they’ll put down stakes on the football practice field adjacent to the high school.

It has never been easy to develop skills while waiting for snow to melt, either. Late-night practices in the gym and playing toss in the parking lot were the norm.

This spring, for the first time, the Red Eddies are in a normal afterschool rhythm inside Ingersoll Turf Facility. Where there were once sheets of ice and hockey boards, lacrosse players now have a resource to rival the affluent powerhouse programs.

“It’s almost like starting new. New coach, new place to practice, a lot of new players,” senior captain Matt Verrill said. “Our goal is definitely make the playoffs, make a run at it, and to set the incentive for this program and really get this program kicked off.”

Junior Ganan Mancini also is a captain for EL, which has attracted a roster of 40, more than half of which are freshmen and sophomores.

The Eddies will field full varsity and junior varsity teams, with six “swing” players suiting up for both.

“We want to be building up the sport in the city and not turning guys away. We’ve been telling guys if you’re in good standing in the community, there’s a spot for you,” Barton said. “I went to all the home games last year, so I knew what I was getting myself into, and I was excited about it. What these guys need is continuity.”

The players see it so far in their new leader.

“He’s kind of preaching to us that it’s not about one person. He’s trying to extend our knowledge,” Verrill said. “He’s changed the atmosphere of the team. Not a lot of us were proud to wear our jackets before the season. Now it’s like a family environment.”

“We’re all excited. He’s bringing a new perspective on the game and implementing some new stuff,” Steele said. “In the past few years it’s been hard to set something in stone. This year when the new coach came in, he’s got a positive attitude, and I think it’s the direction we need to head in.”

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