Savannah Christian Senior Lacrosse Player's Mission Robbed by COVID-19

By Mike Vidan for The Prep Sports Report | May 9, 2020

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The COVID-19 pandemic robbed the Savannah Christian Preparatory School School Class of 2020 lacrosse team of more than just their prom, grad bash, senior skip day and a traditional graduation, it robbed them of completing a 5 year mission that started back on Derene Avenue in the Spring of 2015.  It all started when a kid from Michigan moved to Savannah and befriended by a group of boys at the now defunct Savannah Christian Derene Campus.  Niko Tosto was that that kid with a funny-looking stick with a net on the end of it who unknowingly changed the course of spring sports for these players for the next six years.

The boys started honing their skills at recess and in their backyards until they found Christian Harris of Low Country Lacrosse who was just starting his club league, The Golden Hares.  The boys began their development with this program but wanted to have their own school team like Blessed Sacrament and Benedictine.  One of the 8th grade dads approached the administration at the school about starting a middle school lacrosse team,  they were very supportive, allowing the use of the field on campus but he was told they could not provide a coach, Mike Vidan was this unsuspecting dad who was now the new Head Coach.  Fortunately, Ryan Price, an SCPS alumni and recent graduate of Piedmont College where he started for four years, had moved back to Savannah and volunteered to help coach.

After finishing their inaugural Middle School season with a winning record, it was time to move on to high school under the guidance of Head Coach Joe Redding.  Joe grew up playing in Baltimore starting in 1958 and has coached at the middle and high school level for over 25 years.   Before landing at SCPS five  years ago, Joe spent a year as an assistant coach at Benedictine.  Coach Redding planned to retire from coaching and move back to Virginia after the 2019 season but stayed to see the Class of 2020 finish out what they started.

Freshman year was a great learning experience and gave this group a better idea of what the next level of play looked like in the SCIL (South Carolina Independent Lacrosse League), a little faster, a little rougher but they stepped up to the challenge and had a 10-6 record.   Coach Redding had asked Vidan to come back to the team as an assistant coach and then Vidan asked Ryan Price to come back for the coming season.

Sophomore year was an amazing season for the team.  The only loss of the season was the first game, the team continued to march down the schedule crushing 17 teams and winning the SCIL State Championship against a powerful team from Charleston.  These were the most exciting games of these young athlete’s careers, but they yearned for more and wanted to join the GHSA.  This year a fresh addition of the Class of 2020 joined the team.  Alex Vierheilig transferred from Benedictine and had a big impact.  He and Mike Vidan III received Co-Offensive Players of the Year, while John Henry Hammond took home MVP honors.    While lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in America, there were few teams in the Raider’s region for GHSA lacrosse, which would require much more travel.  With the support of the new Director of Lacrosse, Derrick Fitzgerald, Headmaster Chris Harmon and Athletic Director Julie Jones, the team made the move to the GHSA for the 2019 season.  

Once again, the class of 2020 entered the GHSA as the underdog, facing a level of competition they had not seen before.  In typical fashion, they rose to the occasion and performed beyond everyone’s expectations.  The team was very lucky with the newest addition to the coaching staff,  Burnam Smith.  Smith, an SCPS grad and former goalie for the Raiders, had also coached the team for one season after graduating.  There were many trials this season, but they finished with a 12-7 record and an even more impressive 5-1 Region record, losing only to cross-town rival Benedictine.  The team awards went to Alex Veirheilig - Offensive Player of the Year,  Braden Davis (2019) Defensive Player of the Year, Coaches Award–John Henry Hammond and Mike Vidan III received the Most Valuable Player award.  Team Captains were Alex Veirheilig, John Henry Hammond, and Mike Vidan III.  Austin Trammel came out of nowhere this season, scoring the most points on the team.  Defensive standouts Walter McDonald and Jake Roberts helped lead the D-Unit this season.

The 2020 season should have been  “the year” for Savannah Christian lacrosse the best team in the school’s history, 10 seniors, a very strong 2021 class with a great group of athletes from 2022 to 2023 and a strong group of 8th graders coming up.  Sean Jollota, a West Point lacrosse player, joined the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball. The 10th senior joining the team this year was Chase Cowart, who instantly had a defensive impact on the field. Unfortunately, the season ended after 5 games with no region games played.  Another winning record of 4-1, scoring 60 goals with only 32 being scored on them thanks to Eli Haire, Walter McDonald and Jake Roberts in front of their new goalie Luke Boland.   While they abbreviated the season, the performance was measurable and awards were as follows Offensive Player of the Year, Mike Vidan III, Defensive Player of the Year Jake Roberts, the MVP award went to Alex Veirheilig. Team Captains were Vidan III, Veriheilig, Roberts and Hammond. was These athletes deserved a better senior year but like always, they will adapt and they will overcome.  When we can stop with the social distancing and quarantine,  Christian Harris of Lowcountry lacrosse has been working to put together a Rivalry Series with the show case game being Savannah Christian vs. Benedictine.  

This first middle school team which comprised 15 players, 8 from the class of 2020 - Mike Vidan, John Henry Hammond, Eli Haire, Walter McDonald, Jake Roberts, Brice Farmer, Austin Tramell and Niko Tosto.  Eight of the ten seniors were from that first middle school team joined by Cowart and Veirheilig to round out the ten 2020 Lacrosse Seniors.

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The "Coach" Karl DeMasi has been teaching and coaching for the past 35 years on all levels of academia and athletics. One of his hobbies has been writing, announcing and talking about sports. DeMasi has been involved in the Savannah Area sports scene since 1995, and he created the high school magazine "The Prep Sports Report" in 2000. In 2010, the "Coach" started broadcasting The Karl DeMasi Sports Report. He's still going strong, broadcasting on Facebook live and Twitter live every Saturday morning. You gotta love it!

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