ON THE ATTACK — Lucas Shafer (1) is the team leader in points through the first six games, leading the Bulldogs to a 5-1 start. Stock Photo.
The Bulldogs are off to a usual fast start behind the leadership and scoring outbursts of one of their senior captains.
Senior midfielder Luke Schafer has begun the year as the high point man for Hamburg. He has done his job controlling traffic and keeping a high-powered first line flowing on the offensive end.
“It’s a small senior group but they’re good leaders,” said Hamburg head coach Jerry Severino. “Luke is not only a good leader but he’s usually a high point kid. Very accurate shooter.”
“He’s usually getting four, five, six, seven points a game,” he continued. “That’s what you expect out of your senior captain midfielder.”
Shafer has already notched two seven-point outings this season. His play has propelled the Bulldogs to a 5-1 record to the 2014 season, beginning the season with a five-game winning streak.
Perhaps the largest of those victories came on a trip to Virginia against the state runner-up, Madison. Shafer scored three goals and helped on three others in Hamburg’s 11-7 win over the Virginia powerhouse.
“We’re playing good but definitely could be a lot better,” Shafer said after his three-goal, one-assist performance in a win against West Seneca East. “There’s definitely room for improvement.”
Shafer is one of five captains on this year’s roster that is younger than it has been in recent years.
Severino and his coaching staff have seen a total of 29 players graduate the last two seasons. So used to having senior-laden squads to help the Bulldogs compete at the top of their section every year, Hamburg has more of a younger lineup this spring.
Eight other Bulldogs are playing in their final season as opposed to the 17 seniors that called Howe Field their home last year.
“We have a lot of younger guys that are a big group of friends,” Shafer said, admiring the talent of his younger teammates. “We lost a lot of seniors last year but mostly everyone here is friendly. Everyone likes each other, so we should be a pretty good team.”
Shafer was a part of the team last spring that made program history by becoming the second team to make it to the state finals. The last time the Bulldogs made it that far was in 2007.
With the mix of veteran and youthful talent assembled on this 2014 roster, Hamburg doesn’t expect to wait another seven years to venture that far into the postseason again.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we got that far again,” said Severino.
“I want to go as far as we can,” added Shafer. “Last year we made it to the state semifinals. I think we were the second team in Hamburg history to do that. I want to try to win the state championship and go out with a bang my last year.”
Hamburg’s first loss of the season came at the hands of Chantilly during the conclusion of its Virginia trip.
The Bulldogs watched a 6-1 halftime lead slip away as they fell to Virginia’s defending state champion, 9-7.
Shafer had two goals while junior Jim Duffy and sophomore Evan Hollfelder each tallied two goals and an assist. Sophomore Brendan Ryan picked up six ground balls on the defensive end in what was a tale of two halves for Hamburg.
“We just ran out of gas in the second half,” said Severino, whose club had a 13-8 advantage on face-offs. “Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to develop the depth to play at that high of a level yet.”
“That’s the goal over the next few weeks: make sure we have depth at midfield when we need it the most in the playoffs.”
Expect the second line Shawn Feuerstein, Evan Wright and Collin Mills to see ample time in the first half of game so Shafer, Hollfelder and Matt Borgese can help mentor the young group.
The Bulldogs will return back to the field on April 23 when they take a visit to Lake Shore.