The Six Nations Rebels began the 2012 Founders Cup on Tuesday night, riding high after sweeping the best-of-five Ontario Junior B lacrosse finals against the Eastern Conference champion Akwesasne Indians in three straight games.
But the thrilling victory after a seesaw battle last Friday was bittersweet, as the team is still mourning the sudden death of player Carney Elijah Johnson.
Johnson, 19, a third year veteran called “the heart and soul” of the 2012 team, died suddenly on Aug. 6, the day after scoring against the Indians during Game 2 of the finals.
The next game, his teammates rallied with 72 seconds remaining to come from behind and sweep the Indians with an 11-10 win before 800 energized fans at the A’nowara’ko:wa Arena.
The Rebels look to defend their 2011 title and win their fifth national championship when they host ten divisional championship teams from across the country at the Founders Cup from Aug. 14 to Aug. 19 at Iroquois Lacrosse Arena on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.
The team got off on the right foot with a convincing 18-6 win over the Kamloops Venom on Tuesday night. Kevin Davey and Dallas John led the Rebels’ attack with four goals each, with Ian Martin, Brine Rice and Quinn Smith each adding a pair.
During an opening ceremony that saw Six Nations artists blend blues and rock music with traditional dance and song to tell the Ongwehon:we creation story, Chief William Montour welcomed all those gathered to play “the Creator’s game.” Montour called the players “ambassadors of their communities and their people.”
The ceremony also featured a moment of silence to honour Johnson’s passing.
“The Six Nations Rebels Lacrosse Association is thrilled to be hosting the 2012 Founders Cup and we look forward to welcoming the Junior B lacrosse community from across Canada, who will enjoy a firsthand glimpse of the remarkable beauty and fabled history of Six Nations,” said Six Nations Rebels president Scott Maracle.
“You will not be disappointed as you watch the best of the best compete for the national championship.”
First awarded by the Canadian Lacrosse Association in 1972, the Founders Trophy marks its 40th anniversary this year. The trophy pays tribute to the founders of organized lacrosse, especially George W. Beers, a Montrealer who wrote the first rulebook and spearheaded the National Lacrosse Association, precursor to the CLA.