The Bulldogs went 4-0 at the Sackets Harbor 1812 Shootout tournament after a perfect 12-0 spring season.
Hamburg’s boys modified lacrosse team went 12-0 this past spring despite losing four players to the junior varsity roster. The modified program continues to play with each other throughout the summer, but the eighth graders moved up to the next age bracket while the seventh graders gained seniority.
However, one particular tournament let the original modified team that played together during the 2014 season, including the JV pull-ups, which foreshadowed positive results almost instantaneously.
Coaches Erik Johnson, Bill Lavelle and Rick Demarco took their Hamburg team to Watertown, New York as they went 4-0 to capture the championship of the prestigious Sackets Harbor 1812 Shootout tournament on July 12.
“The boys were ready to win,” said Johnson. “We have a really talented crew. Getting those four back, we realized we had a really strong nucleus.”
This is Johnson’s second summer with this group of boys, but he says that Hamburg takes its team to Watertown every summer and never have come back home with results quite like this.
“Hamburg teams have done well at this tournament in the past, but not a lot of them,” Johnson noted. “This is a big for this team. They did a great job.”
The 1812 Shootout, home of old military barracks during the War of 1812 was a fast-paced, one-day tournament.
All games were one 25-minute period with a running clock, and games were scheduled to be played an hour and a half apart.
“The playing field is sort of leveled because it is the same format for everyone, but if you speed you’re in solid shape, including solid defense,” said Johnson. “They’re just a really solid team this year. We had everything it took to win it. We were confident as long as the boys played the way we knew they could play, we’d do well. And they did.”
Hamburg’s first opponent was Vestal, jumping out to a 7-3 lead before winning the contest, 7-5.
“We had more speed and we buried the ball when we had to. That was key,” Johnson said.
“If you don’t score often and early it’s almost impossible to come back, which is why you have to come out strong and pay strong the whole game.”
Bath was Hamburg’s next game, where the Bulldogs continued their fast starts and got up 5-2 to win the game, 5-4.
“They had a real solid faceoff guy and aggressive team. Very football-minded as a team, but that’s where we had our best defensive game as a team,” said Johnson. “We really tightened up and played a great 3-3 defense and did what we had to do.”
Going up against a rough opponent like Bath and the way his Bulldogs responded that early in the tourney was when Johnson knew his boys were not going to be denied a championship.
“It was in that game where I could tell that the boys really wanted it. We knew that if we lost that the best we could’ve placed was fifth, and those guys knew they didn’t deserve fifth place. That game really brought out the character in our team.”
Hamburg met The Edge from Southern Ontario in the semifinals, getting into his team’s heads before the game to turn a 6-0 advantage into a 13-2 triumph.
“If we can get into their heads we can really take it to them,” Johnson said about his conversation with his coaching staff before the game. “I think we really got into their heads and we rolled them. That game was our best offensive game.”
By the time the championship game began, the Bulldogs were already accustomed to beginning the game on a hot streak, defeating the Rochester-based squad, 7-3 for the 1812 Shootout title.
“We came out on fire,” said Johnson. “We were all over them, but we missed three or four early shots. Then all of a sudden we started burying shots.
“Rochester had a strong team, but I could tell when we made it to the championship game that it was in their eyes. They were going to take this thing. They came with it. They weren’t going to be denied at this point.”
Winning the 1812 Shootout is a great highlight for Hamburg’s modified lacrosse team. Most of the team has been playing with each other since Kindergarten, so Johnson and his coaching staff can only believe that better things are yet to come for this group.
“The talent is there, their lacrosse IQ is really high and they’re tenacious,” noted Johnson. “Most of them have played together since Kindergarten and first grade. They’ve never been broken up, they love playing together and they’re very selfless. They just play fantastic as a team. They don’t come up with excuses, they just come out and win.”