By Dunn Neugebauer, Sports Information Director
Our Elite 8 boys lacrosse game on Friday, May 7, was an evening that those in attendance will carry with them—in their hearts and minds—for a very long time, perhaps forever. It was an evening for every emotion. The smiles and the tears.
This is Coach Mike Thornton's team—it’s his program. He's nurtured it, developed it, brought it from its inception, and this year's squad, with him often unable to be on the sideline, battled to bring him the winningest season in boys lax history with also the furthest advancement in the state playoffs.
Coach Thornton obviously wanted and needed to be at that game Friday night. And the team obviously wanted him at that game Friday night. And the whole lax community wanted him at that game Friday night.
So it came to pass that Coach Marshall Gaines went and got him from his home, Pace Academy officials were there upon arrival with a golf cart, and voila – our former lawyer turned educator and coach, Mike Thornton, was there, on the sideline.
In moving on, it was halftime. … Our Bears were huddled around E.J. Thurmond, who was quickly launched into the role of Interim Head during all this. Our Bears—losing in the game but showing their class in life—didn’t return immediately to the field after the intermission.
Instead—one-by-one—they all ran and got a fist pump from Coach Thornton. There were tears in the stands, it's kind of hard to hear this tale and not get that way, and our Bears—though they didn't come from behind to win the game—fought hard as they did all year in going down in defeat.
The Laxers battled because that's what kids do. They battled because of their pride, they battled because they've been trained, they battled because they are competitive souls.
But in what was perhaps the best reason of all, they battled for their coach, and they went down hustling while the More-than-Honorable Mike Thornton sat and watched in a golf cart on the sideline—no doubt, with his heart full of pride and love.
Sometimes people and places and things bring you smiles underneath the tears, and you have no choice but to walk away with the presence of every emotion, not just one or two. Thanks Coach Mike, for bringing that out every emotion in all of us—the smiles and the tears—not just in your team, but in this community.