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Walton-Verona boys lacrosse team enters state playoffs with winning record in first season

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

In its first year of high school competition, the Walton-Verona boys lacrosse team finished the regular season with a 12-7 record and received a first-round bye in the state playoffs that begin this week. 

But many of the players on the Bearcats’ roster are not newcomers to the sport. They grew up playing on club teams that have provided a feeder system for local high schools to create lacrosse programs.

Patrick Slagle, right, of Walton-Verona attempts a takeaway in a match against CovCath. (Photo provided)

Walton-Verona’s starting lineup includes several members of the Northern Kentucky Bulldogs club team that made it to the semifinals of the Commonwealth Lacrosse League (CLL) state playoffs last year.

“Our veterans are very strong players, so really we knew coming in that we could be successful,” said Walton-Verona coach Tony Grizovic.

“Actually, to be honest with you, we didn’t do exactly what we thought we would,” he added. “We thought we’d be little a bit better than what our record is.”

There are 23 teams in this year’s CLL state playoff bracket, including Walton-Verona, Covington Catholic, Ryle, St. Henry, Dixie Heights and the Northern Kentucky Bulldogs, which consists of players from local high schools that do not have lacrosse.

Grizovic coached the Northern Kentucky Bulldogs state semifinal team last year before leaving the club to help start Walton-Verona’s lacrosse program.

“We kind of nurtured this thing along,” he said. “I started coaching several of the our kids when they were in the fifth and sixth grade and I’ve been coaching them ever since up through the club teams.”

Grizovic had no background in lacrosse when he started coaching. He was a high school and college football official when his son started playing lacrosse while he was in the fourth grade.

Walton-Verona junior Carson Grizovic is one of the state’s leading scorers this season. (Photo provided)

One year later, Grizovic said he was one of the fathers who “got suckered in to coaching” and he fell in love with the sport that was first played by Native Americans and got its name from French missionaries in the 1600s.

“It’s a very addictive sport,” Grizovic said. “When you first see the game, it’s great. There’s just non-stop action up and down the field.”

The Bearcats finished the regular season with the coach’s son, Carson Grizovic, and Noah Moreland among the state’s 10 top scorers.

The team’s defensive players include Will Fulk, Logan Ryan and Patrick Slagle, one of the state leaders in takeaways.

All of them are juniors who played together on club teams for several years before leading the Bearcats to No. 12 in the state rankings going into their state tournament debut this week.

“That’s been kind of the foundation that we’ve built a lot of stuff on,” coach Grizovic said of the junior class. “Those boys have formed a friendship when it come to this (sport) that’s almost unbreakable.”

The highest ranked local team is CovCath at No. 9. The Colonels finished the regular season with a perfect 18-0 record that included a 10-9 win in overtime against Walton-Verona.

Those two teams will meet again if they both win two matches and make it to the semifinals of the state playoffs. In the round of 16 on Friday, CovCath will play the winner of the Bluegrass Bulldogs vs. Madison County match and Walton-Verona’s opponent will be the winner of the Lexington Sayre vs. St. Henry match.

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