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How Oak Hall School's lacrosse team has become one of the region's best

Jonathan Montes coaches his team during a timeout in a playoff game against Episcopal High School on Thursday. This is Montes' ninth year as head coach at Oak Hall. (Bennett Solomon/WUFT News)
Jonathan Montes coaches his team during a timeout in a playoff game against Episcopal High School on Thursday. This is Montes' ninth year as head coach at Oak Hall. (Bennett Solomon/WUFT News)

As the program marches through the state tournament, the story of how Oak Hall has been elevated under coach Jonathan Montes is detailed below.

Growing up, Jaxson Lamb wanted to be the next Wes Welker, a former New England Patriots wide receiver. He played all sorts of sports growing up, but he was never the biggest person on the field or on the court.

In sixth grade, Lamb was introduced to lacrosse through a neighbor and decided to try out for a travel team called the Florida Generals. He eventually made the team and later met Jonathan Montes at one of the practices.

Montes told him that he was impressed with his athletic ability and thought he could play Division I lacrosse.

“Those words resonated with me,” Lamb said. “He was the catalyst that added this new passion of mine.”

Lamb is now playing Division I lacrosse at High Point University, and he’s currently a graduate student. Lamb said he owes a big part of his lacrosse success to Montes for helping motivate him throughout this career playing the sport.

Originally from Owings, Maryland, Montes played college lacrosse at Ohio State University. Despite injuries that hindered his playing time on the field, he decided to get into coaching after he stopped playing for the Buckeyes.

After graduation and a brief stint with Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia, he became the head coach at The Calverton School in Huntingtown, Maryland. The Calverton School is a very small private school and at the time, the upper school only had 62 boys, according to Montes.

The lacrosse team only had one win in two years before Montes took over the program, and he transformed the team into a national powerhouse. When he moved on from Calverton in 2012, the team was ranked No. 40 in the nation at the time.

Montes said one of his favorite memories was watching his team defeat the Landon School right before he moved down to Gainesville. Landon was ranked No. 4 by ESPN coming into that season in 2012.

“I was not on the sidelines because I had to step down,” he said. “I was in the stands. And I watched the team that I had built and created from little boys beat one of the top teams in the nation. I was super proud of them.”Three days later, Montes moved down to Gainesville after buying Audrey Rogers Insurance Agency, Inc. He still runs the business today, and he’s helped grow the sport of lacrosse in the area since.

He joined the Oak Hall coaching staff in 2013, and in 2015, he became the head coach of the program. He also coaches multiple summer and travel lacrosse teams in the state including the Florida Crabs and the Florida 2025 Nike National team. In addition to coaching, he’s the founder of the Florida Generals, a local select program, and the Gainesville Redhawks. The Redhawks is the only youth lacrosse program in Gainesville, according to Montes.

Kyle Cox started playing lacrosse in fourth grade and had Montes as a coach throughout middle school and high school. He was a four-year varsity player for the Oak Hall team before going on to play Division I lacrosse at Mercer College.

Cox said he’ll always be grateful for Montes as a coach and person. He said Montes paid a lot of attention to detail and was always prepared for a game. Although Montes was hard on Cox, he said he’s thankful for the added pressure and said it allowed him to make it to the next level.

In 2018, when his final game came to an end in the playoffs, Cox remembers giving Montes a big hug, thanking him for everything he had done for him during his time with the Generals and Oak Hall.

“I take great pride in every young man that’s worn an Oak Hall jersey,” Montes said. “I’m fortunate that I have such great relationships with our alums and guys that have come through this program. Lacrosse is not easy. There’s a real struggle that goes into playing this game that every young man that has worn this uniform understands at a very intimate level.”

Montes has never had a losing season at Oak Hall, and the Eagles are 19-1 this season. They’re currently in the state playoffs and are led by senior Luke Stabb and Montes’ son Pierce, who’s a sophomore. Stabb has recorded 72 goals on the year while Pierce has 64, according to MaxPreps.

Although the team may not have the most talent, Montes said this team is one of the closest he’s coached on the field.

“A lot of these guys have been playing together since some of them were 5 or 7 years old,” he said. “If you want to talk about chemistry and how a team comes together, that’s what is on this team in many cases. Chemistry is what makes the difference and that’s what this team is all about.”

After the season ends, Montes will continue coaching his travel teams over the summer. And for the first time, he’ll get to coach his daughter with the Redhawks.

Montes has a wife, Heather, and three kids, Pierce, Isla and Ivana. All three kids play lacrosse and Montes said balancing family and lacrosse is not easy, but the family is all in on the sport.

“Our family is all in on lacrosse,” he said. “They enjoy the sport immensely and it's been a wonderful experience for me to have these programs grow and develop here in Gainesville. I’m super appreciative of all the parents and all the players that gave lacrosse a chance that wound up truly loving the sport.”

The Eagles play Bolles on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Jacksonville. If they win, they'll advance to the state semifinal.

Bennett is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.