Joint forces: Two squads form Team 21

Team 21 coach Dando Speers (front) shows players some techniques during an indoor practice. The schools merged their teams last season. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Team 21 coach Dando Speers (front) shows players some techniques during an indoor practice. The schools merged their teams last season. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Posted: March 30, 2014

If a bus carrying 12 lacrosse players leaves Devon Prep on a weekday afternoon and, at the same time, a bus carrying 12 lacrosse players leaves Delco Christian, what do you call the team that meets in the middle?

That was just one of the questions that needed to be addressed last year, after the PIAA granted the two private schools permission to join together as one boys' lacrosse team.

Ultimately, the name was a simple decision. They were two schools combining into one team. So they called themselves "Team 21."

Team 21 wears black and white jerseys, because they wanted neutral colors. Its logo is a neon green, old English "D." It could stand for Devon or Delco, but it's familiar for another reason.

"It's actually the Detroit Tigers," said Dando Speers, Team 21's current head coach, who assisted Greg Porter in the inaugural season. "We felt pretty safe with that."

The next step was taking helmets from the two schools and spray-painting them black. As the season wore on, that paint job predictably cracked.

"Boy, that looked ugly," said Porter, who is now starting up a middle-school team at Delco Christian that will feed into the program. "But the kids think it looks cool. Makes it look like they are battle-hardened warriors."

Which, in a way, these players were.

Devon Prep had a team in 2012, but had just 12 players and struggled through an exhausting 3-9 season without substitutions. Delco Christian lacked the numbers even to field a team. Speers coached the tennis squad instead. It wasn't the same.

By the time the next school year began, through the efforts of administrators at both schools, the programs knew they would combine. The PIAA's deal lasts three years, and Speers said they plan to extend it. Funding for the team and uniforms came from both athletic departments, with money for practice pinnies coming from both booster clubs.

Team 21 finished 4-8 last season. On Thursday, behind five goals from Mike Knaus, it defeated Del-Val Friends, 11-5, for its first win of the season.

The team practices at Delco Christian's elementary school, which is actually in Devon - nearly equidistant from the two high schools. It competes as an independent, though both schools are members of the Bicentennial Athletic League and are rivals in most every other sport.

That included lacrosse. Knaus took a year off to study in Germany and is a senior at Devon Prep, so he remembers what those games were like. He was laid out while going for a ground ball and missed a month with a concussion after playing Delco Christian as a freshman.

"It was a clean hit," Knaus said. "I would have taken it if I had the chance."

It was also a merger of two different cultures. Devon Prep is an all-boys Catholic School. Delco Christian is coed, and nondenominational Protestant.

"With me being Protestant, they easily could have looked at me with suspicion," said Porter, whose son, Ryan, played on Team 21 and graduated from Delco Christian last year. "But the parents have been wonderful and very supportive."

Porter brought in a Catholic chaplain to speak with the team and made certain both groups felt included in the sermons. With the merger of two different faith-based institutions, Porter said he wanted their faith to be distinctive.

At first, it was difficult, as the players from each school prayed in different ways. The Delco Christian players tend to be a little more openly religious, but it never affects anything on the field.

"Lacrosse is a universal sport," said captain P.J. Schaefer, a senior from Delco Christian.

They might pray differently, but they don't play any differently.


mmacyk@phillynews.com

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