David Burr's first memory of lacrosse was when his father took him and his brother, Andrew, to a Philadelphia Wings game when he was in second grade.
He remembers the atmosphere, the intensity of the game. And he remembers a fight breaking out on the field.
"That's when I was hooked. I just remember watching that fight," he said with a smile. "And I was like, 'I want to do that.'"
Burr grew up in Glassboro, not exactly a hotbed for lacrosse. In fact, he couldn't recall any friend in his town who played the sport when they were growing up.
So it was something of a happy accident that he stumbled onto lacrosse and that he is now a hulking 6-foot-2 leading scorer — as a sophomore — for St. Augustine Prep.
St. Augustine, once again, is arguably South Jersey's best team this season. It is an argument that was made stronger last week when the Hermits knocked off Moorestown and Lenape in consecutive games. Lenape wasn't just the top-ranked team in the area, it was ranked No. 7 in the state at the time.
"When you come into this program, you realize just how big some of these South Jersey rivalries are. So many of the kids on our team are friends with kids on teams like Shawnee and Lenape and Moorestown," Burr said. "So we know how intense those games are going to be. That's one of the things I've always loved about the sport."
Because his town didn't have a team, Burr's lacrosse career began in Clearview's youth program shortly after that first Wings game. That's when he became hooked on the finer points of the game that didn't have to do with brawls.
It didn't take him long to find his way to South Shore Lacrosse, the elite club run by Hermits head coach JC Valore.
"Dave has come a long way, but Dave is one of those kids who has been comfortable in almost every situation I've put him in since I've known him," Valore said.
It's why Valore felt comfortable placing Burr in the spotlight in his freshman season, when he generated 13 goals and 12 assists as an attack.
Burr has since developed into one of the area's premier catch-and-shoot scorers and has remained the anchor on the back end of the Hermits offense — recording 29 goals for the 9-6 team — even as the players around him have looked increasingly dynamic.
"We've just been practicing really hard," Burr said, "every day just coming out and grinding, and it's making a difference in games."
This season, the Hermits have notched several marquee wins — including against Pingry, Moorestown and Lenape. But they have also suffered several losses they would like to have back, including an overtime defeat to an up-and-coming Ocean City team on April 26. That marked the first time St. Augustine had ever lost to a Cape-Atlantic League opponent.
"Some of those midseason losses were devastating at the time. But it's apparent now that they were necessary," said Valore. "We have a group of young guys and a group of seniors who are getting their first real experience under their legs. When you mix those two together, it takes time sometimes. The underclassmen are starting to step up, and the seniors are starting to feel that real element of leadership that's needed. And it's clicking at the right time."
For Burr, the losses were learning experiences. It's no coincidence that some of the Hermits' most impressive wins have come late in the season.
With the regular season winding down, St. Augustine is gearing up, yet again, for a postseason in which, despite being a top team in the state, it will not be among the favorites in Non-Public A — a group that annually features some of the top high school lacrosse programs in the nation.
But having to struggle so hard even for a sniff at sectional hardware is a sacrifice every player is happy to make. The goal right now is to keep building, to bring the program closer to its ultimate goal.