The captains on the Acton-Boxborough boys’ lacrosse team are used to quick transitions.
Graham Brady, Jed Hoggard, and Sean Kelly captained other sports during the winter and Fall II seasons this year, and all three played integral roles during a successful season for the A-B football program.
With the football season wrapping up in late April, they couldn’t lead workouts with teammates, but cross-training in a different sport kept them in great shape, and they hit the ground running with a 13-5 win (through three quarters) in a scrimmage against Concord-Carlisle Saturday — a final tune-up ahead of their opener Thursday against Weston.
“We like our guys to play other sports and I really respect what the [football players] did this spring,” said A-B coach Pat Ammendolia. “I knew they were going to have a good preseason [by playing football] and be in shape, and sure enough, they’re our three fastest kids.”
Over the past six weeks, A-B players who weren’t occupied with another sport ramped up their conditioning with remote workouts provided by alumnus Joe Otero (’10).
Otero’s younger brother, Victor, helped set an example of how to captain multiple sports along with three-sport standout and six-time captain Finn Murray prior to their graduation in 2019.
Without a 2020 season to build upon, A-B’s new captains are leaning on their experiences as sophomores learning from Otero and Murray, as well as the experience Hoggard and Kelly gained from watching their older brothers captain A-B lacrosse in the 2015 season.
“My brother [J.T.] has definitely been a big role model to me,” said Kelly, who will play middie and attack this season.
“And we definitely learned a lot from that 2019 class. We’re trying to bring those lessons to the younger guys because we have a young team and want to keep A-B lacrosse strong.”
Hoggard was elected captain ahead of the 2020 season, which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, he served as a captain for the basketball team, which was forced to cancel six games due to protocols and contract tracing.
Brady, committed to Ithaca, will letter in four sports this year after playing golf last fall, starring on the football field, and captaining the hockey team, which also had to shut down a week before the Dual County League playoffs due to protocols.
The past year has been a whirlwind for many student-athletes, and most are reacting with gratitude for every opportunity to play the sports they love.
“Last spring we were playing catch with stick in hand, and then one day we just couldn’t,” said Hoggard, a 6-foot-2 pole who will play lacrosse and football at Bowdoin.
“This year we’re playing football one day and the next day you look up and we have a lacrosse scrimmage. It’s nuts. My body is still getting used to the different twists and turns and I’m still shaking the rust off, but it’s been great.”
After three seasons that felt rather alien to the usual high school sports experience, the spring is bringing a modicum of normalcy for multi-sport athletes and coaches alike.
Kelly said that aside from the mask requirements, Saturday’s scrimmage against Concord-Carlisle felt like a normal tune-up prior to the regular season, even if it occurred a little later in the calendar — a point seconded by C-C coach Tom Dalicandro.
“Football was different with the modifications, and the time of year, but this week has felt like it used to feel,” said Dalicandro, who is also an assistant for C-C football.
“Maybe it’s because people are getting vaccinated, and the weather is nice, and cases are going down. It just feels like we’re back to getting what it used to be like. And the best part of it is competing against another great program and watching the kids go at it.”
Almost every program is on a similar timeline in terms of evaluating and training juniors and seniors with limited varsity experience due to the cancelled 2020 season.
But in towns like Acton and Boxborough, kids didn’t necessarily stop playing lacrosse last summer.
With some members of the Class of 2020 included, A-B put together a team in the Beantown Lacrosse league, which moved up to southern New Hampshire last July. The A-B team won the league title over four teams with mixed rosters from various schools, and will look to build on that momentum while playing for a DCL title and a shot at a state title this spring.
“Our [captains] had to kind of grow up without a year of lacrosse,” said Ammendolia. “But [the Beantown league] was a good way for the guys to stay together and it will help us with a little bit of continuity.”
▪ In many ways, Marcus Craigwell said he feels as though he’s starting over once again as head coach at BC High.
Hired in 2019, Craigwell is prepping for his second year in charge with a roster full of many players who weren’t even at the school two years ago. But BC High also boasts a strong senior class to counter its youth, including a Syracuse recruit in midfielder Carter Rice, whom Craigwell described as “un-guardable.”
“He’s an impact player,” Craigwell said. “He has a very unique skill set. He pretty much initiates our offense. We’re so lucky to have him.”
Though the Eagles lost their final game two years ago, 10-9, to Hingham in the Division 1 South semifinals, Craigwell said the setback on June 10, 2019 is still a result the team can build off of.
“Our best game was the last game, which is always how you want to finish the season,” he said. “Although we didn’t win a championship, our last game left a great taste in our mouth. I feel like the boys are as motivated now as we were then.”
BC High opens up against Xaverian, which will debut first-year head coach Daggett Morse, next Tuesday in Catholic Conference play.
▪ While the MIAA opens on May 5, the Independent School League has been underway for well over a week. Belmont Hill (6-1) and Nobles (6-0) are among the leaders in the ISL and the rivals will face off on May 7.
▪ Lincoln-Sudbury opens the season as the No. 1 team in the Globe rankings, followed by Hingham and Medfield. L-S ran past Hingham, 16-7, for a D1 state title in 2019, the Warriors’ fourth championship over the past five seasons.
Jake Levin also contributed to this story.