Porter-Gaud lacrosse team plays for SCISA state championship

Senior Kole Burke leads Porter-Gaud in scoring with 57 goals and 24 assists this season. Photo by Russell Schaible

Four years after starting its lacrosse program, Porter-Gaud is playing for a state championship.

The Cyclones will host two-time defending state champion Hammond School of Columbia in the SCISA boys state championship match Tuesday at 6 p.m. Porter-Gaud seeks to cap the school’s first-ever winning season with the ultimate prize.

“To see how far we have come in such a short period of time is truly remarkable and a special credit to our players,” said coach David Scully, who started the program in 2012. “We started that first year with 17 freshmen, and now we have 11 seniors. They have endured a tough stretch as we worked to build and stabilize the program. For these seniors, this is a just reward and a great opportunity. They are the pioneers of the program.”

Porter-Gaud won two of 10 matches in that first season, improving to 4-10 in year two and 5-10 last season. Experience, however, has been a major strength this spring.

The Cyclones sport a 13-2 record, which includes two wins over Hammond during the regular season. Porter-Gaud is ranked ninth among all high school lacrosse teams — public and private — in South Carolina. One of the team’s losses this season came against top-ranked Wando, the SCHSL Class AAAA state champion.

“This team has been very competitive against a really good schedule,” Scully said. “It’s incredible to think this team has won more matches this season than we did in the previous three seasons combined.”

Offensively, the Cyclones have two of the state’s top scorers in seniors Kole Burke and Reid Kaplan. Burke has accounted for 57 goals and 24 assists, while Kaplan has netted 40 goals with 27 assists.

“Both are really solid players and great leaders,” said Scully. “Kaplan is sort of the field general. He can find the open man and he can distribute.”

Leaders in the midfield defense include seniors Mikell Hay, Dawes Caldwell and Hayes Fair, with Hay rating as one of the best in the state.

Senior Joe Stoppelbein is the anchor in goal, allowing only 6.1 goals per game.

“Without a good goalie, chances of winning are tough, and he has been rock-solid for us,” said Scully.

Despite two wins over Hammond this season, winning 8-3 and 18-4, Scully expects a tough game Tuesday. While his team has proven to be more talented overall, Scully said Hammond does have one major edge.

“They’ve been in this position as a program before and we haven’t, so how we handle the pressure will be important,” the coach said. “Being in the finals is a new experience for us. I told our players if we worry about us and play to our potential, we should have a great chance to win. But it won’t be easy. Hammond will be ready to play.”