Calexico kids learn ancient Indian game of ball and net

January 25, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Holding his blue lacrosse stick aloft, Edward Velasquez weaved through a swarm of defenders to fire a ball toward a 5-foot wide goal marked by little plastic cones.

The foreboding 13-year-old goalie for the red team, Steven Espinoza, tried to stop the shot.

Edward scored.

It wasn't the winning goal of a National Lacrosse League game or of a storied Ivy League match.

No matter.

Edward raised his arms in the air with his lacrosse stick held high and ran away sporting a broad grin. Arms still raised, the 12-year-old started backpedaling.

His foot hit a clump of dirt and he landed on his wallet — triumphantly.

"Put in that I fell," Edward said, still sporting a grin.

For three weeks seventh-graders at De Anza Junior High here have been playing lacrosse.

While they might not have their celebratory footwork mastered, they are definitely having fun.


Physical education instructor Robert Davila said boys and girls separate into teams of five players during their P.E. periods so that "even the kids that don't want to move around have to."

When De Anza's seventh-graders started playing lacrosse, few knew anything about the history of the sport or the rules.

"Ninety-five percent hadn't heard anything about it," Davila said.

Having taught the kids the basic rules, De Anza teachers will start teaching them the history of the sport next week.

The teachers might note lacrosse was originally called baggataway by Iroquois tribes. It was named lacrosse by French men who happened upon a game.

Native American cultures played baggataway for vastly different reasons. Some considered it religious ritual, others used it as training for warriors and some played to settle inter-tribal disputes.

A few probably just played it because it's fun.

Often the games were played without any boundaries, with goals separated by many miles.

It was not unusual to have players injured or killed during baggataway contests, according to an encyclopedia entry.

During Thursday's P.E. period, Alvin Valle, 12, wasn't worried about getting killed or even getting a bruise.

In the version of lacrosse played at De Anza, there is no hitting.

"But you can hit the other guy's stick, though," Alvin said.

The kids did.

During one fierce exchange, blue teamers Jose Luis Gerardo III, 12, and Ruben Fuentes, 12, were mixing it up in a big mid-field scrum.

The two were hustling after the ball, sweating up a storm, but they couldn't get control of the ball because the other kids kept hacking at their sticks.

Meanwhile, red team stars Jesus Vasquez, 12, and Mauricio Lucero, 12, had no problem scooping up the ball, passing back and forth on the break and racing toward the goal. Between the two they scored more than 10 goals.

While it wasn't his fault to be sure, Joshua Ferrel, 12, minded the blue goal for a good while.

A couple times he got off some impressive saves but the teen just couldn't handle the Big Red Machine.

Meanwhile, 13-year-old Rigoberto Marquez stood out for the blue squad. He scored three goals using a wide array of spins and jukes.

On the girl's side of the field, Mariana Silva was having a good day. She scored two goals.

After the period bell sounded, Mariana was asked what her favorite aspect of lacrosse is.

She said she likes the "hitting each other part. Yeah — that's it."

After conferring with Davila, Mariana said she also likes "to score a lot."

In the non-combative version of lacrosse, girls and boys were playing, Montree Tsang stood out. The 13-year-old scored three goals. Mariana said, "She's the best runner."

In some Native American tribes, women were not allowed to play lacrosse.

Jessica Silva, 12, and Krystal Burgos, 12, said they are both glad they got the chance.

For those scoring at home, Jessica scored two goals and Krystal notched one.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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