Coached By: Rick Mercurio
Lacrosse programs like Sachem, Ward Melville and West Islip truly separate themselves with the quality of their youth programs. Will Campbell was playing highly competitive lacrosse when he was seven years old, so by the time he was a senior at Sachem, he was a fully functional and gifted lacrosse player.
Campbell traveled to play the game, visiting Canada, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, honing in on lacrosse and learning to grow as a player and person at an early age.
Like Justin O'Connell, who won the Enners Award in 1997, Campbell played at Sachem in its heyday during the mid-1990s. He padded his stats and passed the ball to many great Sachem scorers from his attack position. His teams only lost five total games from his freshman to senior years.
"We dominated a lot of schools," he says. "Other schools would always complain that we had a lot of kids we picked from. We played two really strong lines at midfield and our third line was strong, too."
Sachem's third line, for most of the 1990s, was just as good as many other first lines at opposing schools. The Flaming Arrows took to the road and traveled to Pennsylvania to play that season and beat that state's best team, then hosted Poway High School from California and beat that state's best team, 20-2. Sachem was clearly dominant.
During Campbell's junior season, Sachem lost to West Genesee in the New York State tournament in 1995 and then lost to Ward Melville in the final game of his high school career the following season.
Campbell set himself apart as a leader multiple times during his lacrosse career, but one specific moment sticks out, he says. During a practice in his senior season, Sachem coach Rick Mercurio yelled at a sophomore who flubbed a play, but Campbell stepped up and said it was his fault.
"Coach Mercurio said that's what he wanted to see in his leaders," Campbell recalls.
That aided in his winning the Enners Award in 1996, Sachem's first winner of the honor. Another strong tie was that Campbell's father Donald had been shot in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart. It was the same war that Ray Enners tragically died in, fighting for his country, protecting his fellow soldiers.
"The Army part of it really gets me," Campbell says. "I'm very honored that I was able to get the award."
Still, his lacrosse ability spoke for itself.
"He could shoot on the run, improvise on the field, direct," Mercurio says, "but that award is not just the best lacrosse player in the county. It has a lot to do with character. You have to respect them as players, but as people. When other coaches say, 'man I'd love to have that guy on my team' - it comes down to that."
At first, Campbell thought he was going to attend UMass and had deep talks with Minutemen head coach and Long Island native Greg Cannella, but he had trouble with his clearing house paperwork and stayed away from the Division I game. He opted for Division III Hartwick and started as a freshman in 1997.
Campbell, who led the team in goals and assists, helped Hartwick move from 16th to 6th in the nation by season's end, but he lasted just one season there before returning to the Island to play at Southampton College for former Sachem player Ralph Pepe, now the head coach at Westhampton Beach High School.
It was a more pleasing situation for Campbell, who was reunited with five other former Sachem players, but it was poor timing and the college folded after that season. So, Campbell went into the working world and was without college lacrosse for sometime. In 2005, he was ready to go back to school. Luckily, he knew C.W. Post Tom Postel because he played with his children in the Sachem youth leagues.
"He asked me if I was willing to play," Campbell recalls. "I didn't have scholarship money, but I walked on the team as a 26 year old."
Campbell played his final two years of eligibility at Post and was team captain in 2006.
Today, Campbell works for Henry Schein, a Fortune 500 company based on Long Island. He is located out of Chicago.