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Jeff Weiner and his wife, Angie, could not bring their phones into the fancy restaurant. They were about to spend a lot of money on a Gordon Ramsey tasting menu at a hotel in Versailles, part of their long-planned trip to France five years ago. Under most circumstances, they would have gladly pitched their devices. But c’mon, this was the Great Pumpkin Shootout.

The couple politely declined, grabbed some crepes from a street vendor and fawned over their screens for updates on the Farzata’s performance in the annual Homegrown Lacrosse 7-on-7 tournament in Minnesota.

If Farzata sounds like a fictional town, that’s because it is. It’s a portmanteau of Fargo and Wayzata, the North Dakota city and Minneapolis suburb, respectively, whose boys’ lacrosse teams struck up an unlikely kinship in 2014 that continues today.

More than 230 miles separate the two municipalities. But when the Fargo-Moorhead based Red River Valley Lacrosse Association needed players for the tournament’s 12U bracket, the Wayzata Lacrosse Association became a brother league.

Hockey tryouts typically put the RRVLA and WLA out of commission in the fall. Between the two of them, however, they could cobble together enough participants to enter the Great Pumpkin  Shootout, which Homegrown Lacrosse bills as “our way of bringing together the expanding Upper Midwest lacrosse community.” The event follows US Lacrosse age eligibility guidelines and membership requirements.

“Give me 24 hours,” Weiner, the WLA president, told Homegrown’s Jesse Brown. “I’ll find some players.” 

The call came at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday. The players met on the field that Saturday morning, an hour before their first game of the tournament. There was an all-RRVLA attack, an all-WLA defense, a blended midfield and even a goalie from Wisconsin. 

They went 2-0-1 in pool play and beat a team from Manitoba (Canada) in the playoffs the next day before their Cinderella run ended with a two-goal loss to a team from Chicago.

A ragtag group with mismatched helmets and shorts that clashed, the legend of Farzata was born. It galvanized the boys who were complete strangers just 27 hours earlier.

“They built that relationship based on the Bad News Bears [reputation]. It was a passion to play,” said Matt Gilbertson, the former RRVLA coach who is now the president of the Moorhead Lacrosse Booster Club. “I don’t think you could pull that off in too many other sports.”

The Farzata bond continued online over Xbox and PlayStation games and group text messages. They vowed to play together again the next year and they did, taking second place in their age group while the Weiners followed their progress from the streets of Versailles and their hotel bed in Paris.

The friends became foes when they entered high school and Moorhead, the Northwest Minnesota hub located opposite Fargo on the banks of the Red River, established junior varsity and varsity boys’ lacrosse teams. When the 2017 Great Pumpkin Shootout was snowed out, Wayzata cleared its field for a scrimmage against Moorhead — a Farzata alumni game of sorts. In 2018, Moorhead defeated Wayzata en route to the JV division title.

They’re seniors now. Weiner and Gilbertson each have sons who played on the original team and graduated this spring. They wondered if the connection between their towns will continue. Neither of them intends to step away from the sport.

Weiner has a son who will be a senior at Wayzata next year and a daughter in middle school. Both are goalies, while the two brothers are junior officials whom he gladly deploys to Fargo-Moorhead when their friends up north need some stripes — a common inconvenience for Gilbertson and his colleagues.

Gilbertson had hoped to become more of a spectator after being a driving force in the campaign to get Moorhead Public Schools to sanction varsity lacrosse. But productive volunteers seldom detach that way.

“This too will pass,” Gilbertson lamented. “There’s a few kids that were involved with it that it will stick with them forever. But in four or five years, there won’t be anyone left that will remember how it started. The connection goes with the kids. Now it’s just brothers.”

“I would argue a bit differently,” Weiner countered, saying Wayzata would continue to offer field space, equipment and roster spots to out-of-towners visiting the Twin Cities to play lacrosse. “Fargo-Moorhead will always have our friendship. If they need players, there will be players.”

LOCALLY GROWN: Midwest

Indiana

The Indiana Girls Lacrosse Association produced a series of virtual coaching clinics, providing their coaches an opportunity to learn from coaches representing each division of the NCAA.

Michigan

The Cass Tech girls’ lacrosse team’s inaugural season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has not slowed its enthusiasm and growth. Seniors Lartishia Miller and Tee-Yana Harvey have even committed to play at the college level. Miller will play at Lawrence Tech and Harvey committed to Urbana before it closed and is being heavily recruited by other programs.

Ohio

Waynesville Lacrosse experienced 215-percent and 300-percent growth in 2019 and 2020, respectively. A US Lacrosse TryLax clinic in November 2019 drew 76 participants, with at least 60 signing up for league play.

Wisconsin

The Milwaukee Area Youth Lacrosse Association has partnered with the Missouri Institute for Positive Coaching.

Minnesota

The Minnesota School Girls Lacrosse Association is one of the largest US Lacrosse-member organizations in the country with more than 2,500 participants.