CRYSTAL LAKE – The bleachers weren’t quite full at the Prairie Ridge stadium, but the lights were on, and that’s what mattered.
On a cold and rainy Thursday, Prairie Ridge faced off against Crystal Lake Central under the stadium lights in what was the first meeting between these two Fox Valley Conference foes as full-fledged IHSA members.
“It’s surreal,” Prairie Ridge senior Ethan Kirchberg said. “It’s so fun. We’re out here, it’s freezing, but we’re having a great time.”
Prairie Ridge defeated Central, 14-7, and Kirchberg led all scorers with six goals.
Temperatures were in the low 40s, the field was damp and muddy, but no one seemed to mind. The District 155 rivals squared off twice each year in past seasons as club teams, and once the clock started rolling, this game was no different than those contests – except that everything was different.
These programs have grown up. The Wolves moved their home games from Prairie Grove Elementary School to the Prairie Ridge football field. The significance of that move is not lost on these players, some of whom also are football players.
Prairie Ridge (2-0, 1-0 FVC) won its home opener Tuesday, 12-10, against Fremd at the stadium.
“The weather took a little bit out of the atmosphere tonight, but the other night it was electric,” Prairie Ridge coach Josh Cole said Thursday. “People were really excited. We had a lot of people in the crowd. Our kids were really amped up. The adrenaline raised our level of play. It’s a lot of fun, just being here on the stadium field.”
Central will play its home games on its football field, as well.
“It feels so much more legitimate,” Central coach Leo Zimmerman said. “Overall, it’s been awesome. The support from the athletic directors has been great. Everything has been real cool.”
Ken Bland led Central (1-2, 0-1) with three goals Thursday, and Gavin Plonczynski scored two. The Wolves led, 5-3, at the end of the first, then they outscored Central, 7-1, in the second quarter to extend a 12-4 lead by halftime.
Central has only one senior, and Zimmerman thought it showed. The second-year coach is a 2013 Central grad. He said the team is going to be fired up for its home opener against Cary-Grove on April 11.
“Seeing that come to fruition after my years [at Central] in the past, and being taken seriously, is pretty cool,” Zimmerman said.
In additon to Kirchberg’s six goals, Prairie Ridge’s Zach Clark scored three, and Ben Wheeland scored twice. Sam Ripple made a couple of quality saves in goal.
When he scored his fifth goal in the third quarter, Kirchberg was knocked to the ground, landing in a push-up position. As his teammates raised their arms in triumph, Kirchberg added a couple push-ups in the soggy grass for good measure.
“I thought, 'Why not?' ” Kirchberg said. “Just celebrate a little bit. I’m having fun out there.”
For lacrosse teams across the area, there is plenty to celebrate.
STAR OF THE GAME
Ethan Kirchberg, Prairie Ridge, sr., M
Kirchberg scored six times in Prairie Ridge’s 14-7 win over Crystal Lake Central on Thursday.
6: Six Wolves scored goals. Prairie Ridge outscored Central by six (7-1) in the second quarter to break the game open.
AND ANOTHER THING …
Central’s Nate McLean scored a slick behind-the-back goal in the first quarter.