SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Scarborough boys lacrosse head coach Joe Hezlep has made it an annual tradition for his Red Storm to devote one game to a specific cause every year. This season's focus on autism awareness is the most personal yet.
The Red Storm will face Cape Elizabeth on Saturday May 10 in a matchup of the reigning Class 'A' & 'B' champs in boys lacrosse, but also use it as a means to increase awarness and donate funds to autism.
In years past they've held games for such charitable initiatives as the Wounded Warrior Project. Hezlep, who works with autistic children at Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, has two autistic players on his team: senior defender Ted Prosack and sophomore attacker Austin Peitras.
"They're just one of the guys and you can see how much that means to them. To come out and have no special limitations or expectations put on them just knowing that they're out here to be part of the group and play and have fun just like everyone else," Hezlep said.
Prosack, who's been playing since the 8th grade, experienced his growing pains.
"It can be tough sometimes. There's always some tough moments, but everyone moves on. We move on and carry on from there," he said.
It's something Peitras has tackled with a lot of people about trying to disprove stigmas about the autistic prior to picking up a lacrosse stick last year as a freshman.
"They don't hear that well. They can't speak," he said. "It's not a big deal."
Having learned from his previous upperclassmen, Prosack is now one of the vocal leaders of the Red Storm, and has taken Peitras under his wing.
"He really takes the lead now. He gets in front of the lines during all the drills and really yells at everybody to make sure they keep going," said his classmate and fellow defender Luke Bernard.
Hezlep's Zac Barrett, who's a special education teacher, recognizes the importance a team sport plays in the personal growth of any student. It especially provides a chance for those with special needs to get that support from peers and classmates.
"I believe that this has a lot to do with their development," said Barrett.
But the biggest thing that Prosack and Peitras take from their experience is the personal positivity that comes with being with their "band of brothers."
""I'm playing with my best friends. We're all in here as a big happy family," Prosack said.