Deemer Class was at M&T Bank Stadium in 2010 when Duke beat Notre Dame, 6-5, in overtime to capture the first men's lacrosse national title in school history.
Now he'll have a chance to win his own championship at the stadium where he grew up watching the Ravens. While the prospect of a second consecutive title — and the program's third in five years — is exhilarating in itself, Class has extra motivation for Duke's 1 p.m. semifinal matchup against Denver on Saturday.
He'll get to return to home and play in front of a large contingent of friends and family. After dominating at Loyola in high school, the sophomore midfielder will have a chance to complete a historic season in the hometown where his lacrosse career began.
"Just having that opportunity is incredible," said Class, who has 18 goals in Duke's last seven games, including five in a 15-7 win at Notre Dame on April 5, and is playing some of his best lacrosse of the season. His 60 points are second on the team and his 33 goals tie for second.
While his main focus is on winning Saturday's game, Class acknowledges that it will be nice to have family, friends, old teammates and coaches there in support. Despite the excitement, Class noted that he'll have to pay extra attention to staying calm and zeroed in on the game.
"He's going to have to be really focused and mature in terms of his approach," Duke coach John Danowski said. "It's not an easy thing to go home and play well."
Though Saturday will mark the first time Class has played lacrosse at M&T Bank Stadium, it won't be the first time he has competed there. He participated in the Turkey Bowl in high school, and the former wide receiver remembers marveling over the fact that he was playing in the same venue as some of his favorite players, like former linebacker Ray Lewis.
But this time the stage is even grander. There's even more of a buildup. And the stakes are certainly higher. Class was steady in his freshman season, with 12 goals, eight assists and a sparkling .414 shooting percentage, but this year he's emerged as one of the team's more reliable options.
"Anytime you reach that level of achievement," said Class' high school coach, Jack Crawford, "whether it's in lacrosse or any other sport, it's a vindication of not only what you've been doing, but the way you've been doing it."
Much of Class' success, Crawford said, can be attributed to his tireless work ethic. Class said playing for Danowski is somewhat similar to playing for Crawford and that both coaches have shaped him into the diligent midfielder he has become.
Playing against some of the country's best recruits at Loyola prepared him for some of the elite talent he'd go on to face at Duke. Class and the Blue Devils throttled Johns Hopkins, a team with 12 Maryland natives, in the quarterfinals Sunday afternoon, 19-11. Class said it was rewarding to beat some of the top talent he played against in high school, including members of the Calvert Hall team that destroyed his Loyola team, 17-3, in the championship his senior year.
Much of his recent success can also be attributed to his family, according to Crawford. Their passion for lacrosse has helped Class blossom into one of the country's most dynamic underclassmen.
And this weekend, his family isn't just attending the game Saturday and, potentially, the championship on Monday. They're doing something special between the two dates they've had circled on their calendar for months. The Classes are hosting a party Sunday commemorating Duke's season. Class expects more than 100 guests, including many of his teammates and their families.
"Oh, we're so excited," said Bill Class, Deemer's father. "We've been hoping for this weekend all year. We don't want to jinx anything for Monday, so Sunday we're celebrating the season."
But Class' main focus is Saturday, and making sure he gives all his fans a reason to cheer.
"It'll be fun, but it could also be distracting," Class said, "so I've just got to remember why I'm here."
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