Danny Manausa and Shane Shively are the faces of Leon’s lacrosse program, a change for players of their namesake. Manausa’s father, Danny Sr., and Shively’s father, Brett, played football at Leon and are in the Lions’ Hall of Fame.
After 100 years of football, at a school where third- and fourth-generation students roam the halls looking at memorabilia of their grandparents, Manausa and Shively are in a new mold.
“It definitely comes with a sense of pride when it comes to playing for Leon,” Danny Manausa Jr. said. “It’s about tradition and family, following in the footsteps of people that played before you. It pushes you because you want to play as great as the people before you.”
After playing a year of football as a freshman, Manausa, now a senior, gave it up and played soccer and lacrosse via the rest of his time at Leon.
“I’d played football all my life,” Manausa said. “My older brother played lacrosse, and I really wanted to try out this new sport. Although my dad really wanted me to play football — we’ve had three Manausas in the hall of fame for Leon football — he respected my opinion. And he’s guided me through lacrosse to really work as hard as I can.”
Shively, by comparision, has played football in his first two seasons and added lacrosse, which he hopes becomes his route to a Division-I college scholarship. His father played football for Louisville.
“I got there as a freshman and I’d been talked up Leon football my whole life,” Shively said. “I’d met pretty much everybody there ever was, been to a bunch of the hall of fame banquets. I got there freshman year, played football, and then going into lacrosse it was a whole different thing.
“It wasn’t as established and with as much tradition, but I’m really excited to make my own part in the tradition.”
For the three public schools — Leon, Lincoln and Chiles — competing in a district with private school Maclay, it can be an attrition challenge. The Lions were 11-5 in 2012 under the leadership of All-Big Bend Player of the Year Grant Wallenfelsz, who went on to play at South Florida.
Since that point, Leon won five games in each of the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Last year was a 2-15 campaign as Marko White, who was a player of the year while at Vero Beach and who played club at Florida State, took over as coach.
This year’s Lions are 5-7, already an improvement with six games left. Manausa and Shively are huge reasons why. Manausa leads with 27 goals and 14 assists, double the output he had all of last season.
“We’re glad with the wins and now we’re focused on getting a district win,” Manausa said. “Getting the win total up was our first goal and our second was to establish ourselves in district. Hopefully we can beat Chiles on Friday. If not this year, then next year. These next few games are important and we really want to work hard.”
Shively moved from defender to midfield, and has added six goals and nine assists. He’s also used his football sense to take the majority of face-offs (61 of 93) while getting dirty to amass a whopping 101 ground balls following night’s game against Maclay.
“That’s really helped me a lot, the toughness factor from playing football since I was (young),” Shively said. “You don’t want to go off the field. You play tough, get the ground ball, and do what you can to score.”
Manausa described Leon as a team built on friendship, creating a bond that transcends the skill the team as a whole may or may not have.
“We might not have the best stick skills, but we have the best passion and we work the hardest,” Manausa said. “That’s why you see us getting better and better. And then you see our stick skills get better.
White has been impressed by his two leaders — Manausa’s hustle and Shively’s sacrifices — knowing there’s pressure that comes with having fathers prided on Leon athletics history, regardless of the sport played.
While Manausa won’t be around next year to be a part of the Leon resurrection, he’s working now to make sure the foundation is set for Shively and others.
“I think we’re going to be doing it for the guys who never got a district win while they were here,” Shively said. “We’re going to carry the torch on and see if we can bring Leon lacrosse back and get a district championship.”