A new area men's lacrosse program was born as the Sussex County Community College Skylanders played their first home game on Sunday afternoon at Newton High School.
SCCC challenged itself against some top notch competition in welcoming Herkimer College, which has won nine national championships in program history. The Skylanders took their lumps in a 16-2 loss on Sunday afternoon, but were excited to get the program started.
"It's terrific," SCCC head coach Steve Manitta said. "We're real lucky to have Newton involved. With us being in Newton, it's a bonus for us to get on this field. The college has done a really good job of supporting what we're doing and it's a nice little turnout here.
"It's just important for people in the area to understand we do have a program now. The more people that know means more kids are going to want to come to school here and play. I think that's the start of it all. I couldn't be happier with the effort by the kids today. Playing on the same field as Herkimer really means something. To play against a team like this in our first home game was a really good situation for us."
Zachary St. Hilaire led the way for Herkimer College with six goals, while Deondre Boyer was right behind with five goals. Dylan Utter recorded four assists.
The defense was strong early for the Skylanders as they held Herkimer to just one goal in the first 11 minutes of the game. That is when Herkimer got hot with three more goals before the end of the first quarter.
St. Hilaire made it 2-0 before two goals from Jace Babka -- one on a drive to the cage and another from a shot about 13 yards out -- doubled that up to 4-0. The SCCC defense settled down again in the second quarter and gave its offense a chance to get back in the game.
Trailing 6-0 with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter, Ronan Smarth scored for the Skylanders followed by a goal from Brandon Zmich off a pass from Cam Lake that cut their deficit to 6-2. However, a goal by St. Hilaire with just two seconds remaining before halftime took that momentum away.
SCCC's lack of depth hurt the Skylanders in the second half as Herkimer put the game away in the second and third quarters.
"Some of the kids on this team are limited in experience, but they go 100 percent," Manitta said. "That's all you can ask as a coach. Chris Santamaria is an outstanding goalie for us. I think he will keep us in a lot of games. Don't let the score fool you. I think we got gassed, and when you're not very deep and you don't have a lot of experience things can spiral out of control pretty quickly."
In Manitta, the Skylanders have an experienced and accomplished coach to try to get this thing off the ground. He was Roxbury's first high school lacrosse coach back in 1993. By his third season, he had the Gaels in the state tournament.
Manitta moved on to accept the head coaching job at state power Chatham in 2001 and achieved a 115-47 record over nine seasons. He was named Star-Ledger Coach of the Year in 2002.
Moving on to the college ranks, Manitta eventually became head coach of the Division I Manhattan Jaspers in 2013. This was after three seasons as the head coach of Mercy College.
SCCC is currently a lacrosse club team. The roster is filled with local players with 13 of 17 players from area high schools.
"We just want to get more depth," Manitta said. "The well for lacrosse is pretty deep here in Sussex County. I think that we're going to get kids who want to come to school, get some credits and put themselves in a good situation moving forward to a four-year college.
Article courtesy of the New Jersey Herald. Read the full article HERE.