The eighth graders on the South Jersey Lacrosse Club team in 2005 didn't represent the core of a future state finalist.
They represented the cores of two future state finalists.
Shawnee and Cherokee are two of five South Jersey lacrosse teams that will compete for state titles this weekend. The Washington Township girls and the Moorestown boys and girls also will vie for state crowns.
The connection between the Shawnee and Cherokee boys' programs is unique. Both have key players who were Black Storm teammates as middle-school athletes.
"These two programs have had the benefit of an outstanding youth program in South Jersey Black Storm lacrosse," Shawnee coach Tim Gushue said. "Their coaches did a great job in teaching the fundamentals of the game to them at a young age."
Shawnee, which will play Ridgewood in the Group 3 final today at 3 p.m. at Ridge High, has 13 seniors on the roster. Nine played for the Black Storm, with most starting when they were in fourth or fifth grade.
Cherokee, which will play Bridgewater-Raritan in the Group 4 final today at 5 p.m. at Watchung Hills, features four key seniors who were Black Storm players.
"It's been interesting watching as they've grown into young men," said Ira Peezick, who coached the players with the Black Storm for several years.
Peezick is the father of Shawnee senior Max Peezick. Other Shawnee seniors who played for the Black Storm are Chris LaPierre, J.D. Flanagan, Braden Demmerly, Kody Smith, Jon-Jon Jackopin, Justin Miller, Steve Scheffler and Matt Munger.
Cherokee seniors who played on the team are Bobby Thorp, Deven Thomas, Lenny Fox and Ryan Olson.
"I'm very proud of them, No. 1," Peezick said.
"We were a real tight-knit group," said Thomas, a midfielder. "We were one of the best club teams in the state, so it's not surprising we've done this well as seniors. But it's pretty cool how we split and now we're both leading our teams into the state finals."
The Black Storm competed against many top teams in their age bracket in Central and North Jersey as well as in Southeastern Pennsylvania, according to Peezick. They also regularly played in top tournaments.
"I saw these boys play in tournaments coached by Ira Peezick on many occasions," Gushue said.
Peezick said the fact that both teams made the state finals in the seniors' final season is special for everyone who was involved with the players with the Black Storm.
"They really did all come up together," Peezick said. "It's the end of an era."