You know you’ve achieved something akin to legendary hero status when people want to name their first-born son after you.
Zed Williams, from Cattaraugus, a junior at Silver Creek did just that last Saturday as he took the title of New York state record holder in lacrosse as the all-time points leader, sinking an incredible 554 points in his career. The thing is, he still has another year to lob that lax ball, so it is highly likely he will hold that title for some time to come. (Casey Powell, who went on to play for Syracuse, held the record for 18 years with 553 career goals.)
On Saturday, June 2, some 2000 people filled the stands at Hamburg High School to cheer their lacrosse squads on in the New York State Far West Regional playoff game. The Silver Creek Black Knights, were back on the field in a rematch against the recurring strength of Penn Yan, whom they lost to last year. This year the Black Knights, led by a string of Seneca players, wanted vengeance, they wanted blood. But mostly, they wanted the win and the state title.
The stands were flanked with family, friends and fans from the Seneca Nation. The wind was brisk and gusty, and seemed to blow off the thick, dark, ominous clouds that threatened rain earlier in the day. Patches of brilliant blue sky emerged and the sun could have encouraged the dourest cynic to feel positive about the outcome of the day’s game.
The game was better than the movies, better than the recently released Crooked Arrows lacrosse movie. This game was real life with a roster replete with its own star players pumped with heart, soul, grit and enthusiasm. Zed Williams, Brandon Brooks, Frank Brown, Jon Jimerson, Marvin Curry, and Sherm Williams, all from the Seneca Nation have been instrumental in making the Silver Creek squad a team to be reckoned with.
The game started with Silver Creek sinking the first goal, and Penn Yan answered faithfully. But Penn Yan shot ahead and led at one point by as many as six; at the half, the Penn Yan team was up, 10-6. Silver Creek shook things up by dropping a few players with hard hits, including rocking the goalie off his feet.
In the second half, Silver Creek got its game back, and with 3:19 left in the fourth quarter, Zed trained one in the net to tie the game at 13-13, and in the process blew the Casey Powell record off the books. The crowd stood on their feet, pounded the steel benches and roared. The energy in the air was palpable.
The clock ticked down and Penn Yan scored once more and then tried hard to hold onto possession and run the clock out, but Silver Creek pressured. Silver Creek got possession in the last seconds and ran down the field; Zed took that final shot, the one that in those final seconds seemed to sail through the air in super slow-mo and captivated everyone’s breath. In the end, Penn Yan made the critical save and won out 14-13 in what can only be described as a season-ending heartbreaker.
Those boys played hard and that win must have felt like it was surely in their grasp, but it was as if the wind licked up a leaf from the grass and carried it off in an invisible swirl; the state championship game too slipped away to the prospect of another season. To call the defeat a tough loss would be a gross understatement.
I asked Zed what he had to say to all the people who have made the proverbial “There’s always next year” statements in the intervening days.
His eyes swept the floor and he managed a broad, but shy kind of smile. “Never give up,” said Zed. “We wanted that game and I wish I could have won it for the seniors and for my family.”
He shrugged. Clearly, he is not the boastful, chest-thumping, in-your-face kind of newly-crowned lacrosse god, but one more of quiet determination. “Next year it’s not going to be the same team, so it’s hard to say what might happen next year, but we’ll be back.”
Zed is quick to share that he never would have racked up all those points were it not for his older brother Zach, who ably fed him the ball. Zach graduated last year and left a gaping leadership hole on the team, one Zed reluctantly stepped up to fill.
Lacrosse recruiters from big-deal college teams like Syracuse, UVa, Ohio State and others have been sniffing around Zed since he was a sophomore. Zed just took the SATs, the college entrance exams yesterday; he still has his senior year to generate another hundred or-so points and consider his options.
Zed and his family live just a few doors down from me on a quiet dead-end road on the Cattaraugus territory. I see Zed, and his brothers Zach and Sherm, in the fields year round, suited up in their sweats and hoodies, running the hills with weights and pushing loaded wheelbarrows like Rocky Balboa, building up and conditioning for the season. I point them out to my son and tell him, that is just the kind of dedication it takes to develop strength and succeed.
This summer Zed and his brother Zach are playing for the Rebels in the Six Nations Junior B league in Canada. He will also travel to Denver, Colorado in July to play on the Warrior 40 team, a select team of the best high school lacrosse players from across the country. And, he is slated to defend the Founder’s Cup in August with the Iroquois Nationals.
I see a warm beam spread across the faces of Zed’s parents as they chime in about the game, Zed’s future, and talk about each and every one of their four son’s lacrosse abilities and distinctions. They exude a solemn, humble pride when they speak of Zed’s accomplishments. “I’ve always pushed him to work hard and be the best he can be,” said Danny Williams, Zed’s father. “Now, all that hard work is paying off.”
There is a new New York State lacrosse points leader on the record books –and he is Seneca. His name is Zed Williams.
With a light in her eye reserved for Disney-World-excitement, my daughter has proclaimed that she is going to name her first-born son Zeddie. I like the sound of that.
We should all be so proud.