The Mainland Regional High School boys lacrosse team will play for more than just a win Friday.
The Mustangs also will be playing for a cause when they host Oakcrest in the HEADstrong charity game at 7 p.m. on the football field.
The HEADstrong Foundation was created by Nicholas Colleluori of Holmes, Pa. Colleluori played lacrosse at Ridley High School and Hofstra University. After starting in all 16 games his freshman year at Hofstra, Colleluori was diagnosed with blood cancer.
He battled cancer for 14 months and passed away in November 2006.
During his fight, Colleluori created the foundation to raise awareness and help others battling the disease.
The Mustangs were looking for a way to give back this season and sophomore Brendan Hoelker's mother, Tiffany Hoelker, heard about the foundation from summer tournaments in which her son participated.
"We looked at some different options, but because of the lacrosse background it was a no-brainer for us," Tiffany, the game's organizer, said in a phone interview Sunday. "It was a perfect fit and a great way to help others."
No admission will be charged, but donations will be accepted and all proceeds from concession sales will be donated to HEADstrong.
Mainland (1-3) went 12-5 in 2012 but is looking to rebuild and fill the holes of the eight starters who were lost to graduation.
Coach Rich Farr, who has returned to Mainland after a year at Ocean City, says he already sees promise in his many newcomers.
"We're a fairly young team, but they're all rising to the challenge," Farr said in a phone interview Sunday night. "There's just an experience gap. Their field sense and lacrosse IQ is still being acquired, but we should progress as the year goes on."
The lone returning starter, Ryan Bralski, is off to a great start. He has 12 goals in four games this season and already broke his personal record of six goals from last year when he scored seven against Winslow Township.
"He is our leader on the offense," Farr said. "He's very solid, but we don't have the supporting cast we had last year. We are acquiring the skills to support him, it's just a growing thing and it takes time."
The Mustangs' developing supporting cast this season includes Chris Sheldon, Ryan Swenson and Brad Meister. The Mustangs also have a tight defense, and junior Daulton Sykora has replaced his graduated brother, Ricky, at goaltender.
Daulton is new to varsity this year, but Farr said he is doing a solid job.
Mainland will face an Oakcrest team (4-1) that is stronger and more disciplined than it was last season, according to new Falcons coach Brett Hoffecker.
Hoffecker previously coached Egg Harbor Township and was named the Press Coach of the Year last season after leading the Eagles to the Cape-Atlantic League title.
"We approach most games pretty much the same way," Farr said. "Oakcrest is pretty strong, so it will be a challenging game, but (the Mustangs) know that they're coming together as a young team and that they're capable of being in all of the games we play."
Mainland hopes that the HEADstrong cause, its youth and drive will help lead it to victory on the special night.
"It's going to be a fun night. It's always fun to watch the boys play under the lights," Tiffany Hoelker, the game's organizer, said.
"I think the team is very interested in playing for the cause, and they obviously enjoy playing under the lights and on the main field," Farr said. "They love this kind of thing."
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