Millbrook lacrosse players preparing for Indigenous Games

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TRURO - Whatever expectations Nova Scotia's Indigenous Games boys team had went out the window with the first body check from a Team Nova Scotia girl.

Millbrook First Nation will represent a large portion of the Nova Scotia lacrosse team headed to the North American Indigenous Games this year in Saskatchewan. In total, 10 players from Millbrook will attend to the tri-annual tournament. They include James Brooks, left, Blade Knockwood, Billie Julian, Quinten Gloade, Stephen Johnson, Julien Hepworth, Charlie Dewilde, Reed Knockwood and Dakota Paul.

The two provincial junior squads battled it out on Saturday evening in an exhibition game, as both teams prepare for upcoming tournaments.

The girls team, which features six Truro natives, will be heading to nationals in Whitby, Ont., in August. The boys team, featuring 10 Millbrook players, will be off to Regina for the tri-annual aboriginal tournament July 20 to 27.

Coming out on top at the end of the game were the NAIG boys, handing the girls a 13-6 loss. The final score was hardly an indication of the early stages of the game, however, as the boys led 5-4 at one point.

"They did well," said Millbrook's Julien Hepworth. "Their passing was on, and they had more heart and cardio than us tonight. We had to pull up our socks in the third."

The boys turned it on late in the game, piling up goals to put the game out of reach.

In its first exhibition game, the NAIG team put together six months of tryouts and practices to start off what they hope will be a successful summer.

"We're just a bunch of guys from different reserves from around Nova Scotia, thrown together," said Stephen Johnson, another Millbrook resident. "We're pumped. Whether we win or lose, it's going to be a great experience."

Johnson and Hepworth have been playing lacrosse for six years. Whether field or box lacrosse, Bearcats or provincial, they've taken every opportunity to play the game they love.

"Any opportunity we've gotten over the years, we follow through on it," Hepworth said. "We love playing this game."

Now with a chance to showcase that love for the game at a higher level, they couldn't be more anxious. They'll be facing off against teams from all over Canada, as well as the United States.

"When you travel to play lacrosse, it's totally different," Johnson said. "When you get up there at those higher tournaments, there's a lot of aggression, and that's when we play the best."

The boys know they'll be up against tough opposition with the bigger provinces like B.C. and Ontario, but their goal is simple.

"To try our best and not give up," Johnson said. "We know there's going to be really skilled teams, so we want to go out there and hold our own."

An offensive team, they hope to stick to their guns and incorporate everything they've learned in practice. They're a mix and match group of players, but they all have a common goal, Hepworth said.

"A lot of us have had different opportunities," he said. "We come from all over the province and we've been different places, but now it's time to go to Saskatchewan."

Geographic location: Millbrook, Whitby, Regina Nova Scotia Canada United States B.C. Ontario Saskatchewan

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