Thursday March 28, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Junior Luke Shafer, seen here in last year’s Class B championship game, will try to help Hamburg repeat last year’s title. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
Before leaving for a spring break trip to Virginia that promises to be touching, memorable and competitive, the Hamburg boys lacrosse team must first tend to some important business in the Western New York area.
The focus of the defending Class B champion Bulldogs will remain here until next week’s trip thanks to a Thursday, March 28 showdown looming against Niagara-Wheatfield, a rematch of the past two season’s Section VI championship game.
The game may present Hamburg’s biggest challenge of the Class B season in just its first week. Not being out on the field much in the past week or so also won’t help against what already should be a difficult opponent.
The Bulldogs will feature another large senior class with 17, including Division-I bound standout middie Max Maxwell, but they lost 12 from last season, many of whom played integral roles as starters. Meanwhile, 2011 sectional champion Wheatfield brings back three players with 80-plus points from last season.
“We’re kind of at a disadvantage not knowing their personnel,” said Hamburg head coach Jerry Severino, who’s led the program to five Section VI titles in the last six seasons. “In the middle or at the end of the year, I would have had them well scouted. We’ll just have to prepare for typical Wheatfield lacrosse and their tendencies. At this time of the year, we just need to make sure that we’re on track to play a real strong brand of lacrosse — Hamburg lacrosse. The guys have been working real hard in difficult weather conditions.”
After getting outside six to eight times, mostly early in March when the weather was more pleasant, the Bulldogs have mostly been inside the gym at Hamburg, as Severino said, “making the best use of small spaces.”
Severino expects mostly clear but cold weather around the high 30s when his team meets Wheatfield at 5 p.m. Due to poor field conditions at Wheatfield, the junior varsity game has also been moved to Hamburg and will be played right after at 7 p.m.
The weather should soon change when the team makes its annual trip to the Virginia area, which it will leave for on Wednesday, April 3. The Bulldogs will spend three days there, two for games (April 4 and 6) and the other, in between, to sightsee and pay homage to lost love ones, in addition to taking in a college lacrosse game.
In addition to playing Madison High School at Shenandoah University in the team’s first game and then taking on Virginia’s second-ranked Chantilly on Saturday, Hamburg’s players and coaches will have a busy and meaningful day on Thursday.
With the program and community “still in the throws of the loss of Ed Van Tine,” Severino said there was an interest to visit the final resting place of the man known as the Father of Hamburg and WNY Lacrosse, so the team will visit it at Arlington Cemetery. “It will be a very tender visit to his grave,” noted Severino, a good friend of the Van Tine family.
While there, the team will also visit the Pan Am Memorial, paying respect to among the many who died on that flight Colleen Brunner, a native of Hamburg and sister of Bill Brunner. The group will also see The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
That night in Annapolis, the team will get back to some lacrosse, attending the Navy and Maryland game. Severino said the group would have also tried to take a tour of the White House, but tours were halted a few months back.
“We’re making an effort to have a very special day,” said Severino, who credited the efforts of parents to fundraise as a integral part of this trip. “All three of these days should be real significant.”
On the field, Hamburg will leave where it’s staying in Leesburg, Va. for a rented facility where the team will conduct a morning practice before heading to Shenandoah to play Madison. The two teams played several seasons ago with Hamburg winning handily.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will meet Chantilly, one of the state’s top teams and perennial playoff power that resembles the strength of Langley, which lost a very close game to Hamburg last season during spring break.
“I think the two teams will give us some good competition,” Severino said. “No matter what, it’s always a great trip and the boys look forward to it.”
Also before the trip, Hamburg was scheduled to meet Class B semifinalist West Seneca East on Tuesday (March 26), but the game was postponed due to poor field conditions at East.