Ruffcorn a cornerstone for Peachtree Ridge lacrosse

SUWANEE -- In its brief history as a varsity program, the Peachtree Ridge boys lacrosse team has had its share of memorable players.

Players like Nick Lombardo, Cory Hall, Tanner Botts, Tyler Botts and Gary Heusel were some of the building blocks that helped establish the Lions as one of the county's fastest-growing programs.

As the last remaining one of those original building blocks, it is fair to consider Michael Ruffcorn the program's main cornerstone.

The now senior attack has had an impact on the Lions since even before he came to Peachtree Ridge.

"He was an eighth-grader the first time I saw him," Peachtree Ridge boys coach Bob Basher recalled. "He showed up to one of the throwarounds with some of the Peachtree Ridge kids (when the program played on the club level). I saw him and said to myself, 'That kid's going to be pretty good.'"

Ruffcorn has turned out to be more than pretty good.

He has not only become the first four-year starter in the program's brief history, he enters his senior season as No. 2 on the Lions' all-time list in career goals (105), assists (58) and total points (163), and is also No. 2 in single-game goals (6).

It's a long way from where Ruffcorn imagined he'd be that first day he accepted an invitation from Hall to join him and several of the Lions at that informal throwaround his eighth-grade year.

"I played with (a lot of the Peachtree Ridge players at the time) in rec league," Ruffcorn recalled. "We kind of grew together. ... At the time, (lacrosse) wasn't a varsity sport (at Peachtree Ridge), so it wasn't like I was intruding or anything. It was just fun.

"I had no clue (he'd made such an impression on Basher). I didn't even know he was there. He talked to my parents one day and told them he liked what I was bringing to the table. I told him I appreciated that."

The timing of Ruffcorn's arrival at Peachtree Ridge couldn't have been any better.

Though his family lives just over the border in the Duluth district, his parents had already made the decision to enroll him at Peachtree Ridge to take advantage of block scheduling there his freshman year.

That was also the year the Lions' program had made the jump from club to varsity status, and Ruffcorn was able to step right in and contribute.

Still, his contributions were more of a support role with the Lions having several more veteran players.

But this year, Basher says he's depending on Ruffcorn to play a more active role, and he believes his senior is ready to accept that mantle of leadership.

"He's always been kind of the third guy with guys like Nick Lombardo and Cory Hall around," Basher said.

"So, he really got no credit. Now, he's finally going to be the guy."

Ruffcorn agrees that he's ready for that kind of responsibility thanks to everything he learned from those who came before him, especially Hall.

And he hopes to use that leadership to help the Lions -- who posted their first-ever Class AAAAA state playoff victory last year -- climb even higher.

"I would not be the same lacrosse player without (learning from) Cory Hall," Ruffcorn said.

"Most of the upper-level lacrosse things that I've learned and do in games -- I've learned from Cory. He's a fantastic player, and he really took me under his wing and taught me a lot. I think it's helped me out a ton."

While Ruffcorn hopes to put his final, lasting stamp on the Peachtree Ridge program before he heads off to the University of Georgia next fall, where he plans on playing for the school's club-level lacrosse program, Basher believes he has already left an indelible mark on the Lions.

"I think he's probably the only pure four-year starter we've had who's started from Day One," Basher said of Ruffcorn. "It is going to be a little weird without him around next year."