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Lacrosse outlook: Orchard Park, Hamburg, Akron look strong again

2015 Section VI champions: Orchard Park (A), Hamburg (B), and Akron (C).

Who’s good: The favorites have a familiar look to them.

The general rule in Class A has been: the road to glory always goes through Orchard Park. That’s true this year, in spite of the change at the top of the coaching staff. Lancaster could be in the mix somewhere. The division only has five schools.

In Class B, Hamburg remains the class of the 13-school bracket. The Bulldogs have ridden a nice wave the past five years or so.

They suffered some graduation losses, but have enough top players at key positions to be a force. Williamsville North has some good seniors, and Williamsville East and Niagara-Wheatfield are in the picture.

Class C appears to be wide-open. Akron suffered some graduation losses, but still has enough firepower to make it three straight titles. Medina and Gowanda/Silver Creek are contenders.

In the Monsignor Martin Association, Canisius has a majority of the players back from the squad that won the title last season. Reid Martin, Will Smith and Billy Lafferty were All-Catholic in 2015. St. Joe’s and Bishop Timon/St. Jude look like contenders, while Nichols tries to reload after graduation losses.

New rules: A new “over and back” rule is designed to keep the ball in play in the offensive half of the field once possession has been established in the goal area. Players involved in faceoffs can take only one step while trying to gain possession, along the lines of what is done in college and the indoor professional ranks.

Two for one: Gowanda and Silver Creek have teamed up to form one squad for 2016. That’s a first for area lacrosse.

Coming attraction: The City of Buffalo has a modified team for the first time this year.

Dates to remember: The Section VI playoffs begin on May 20. The finals in all three classes are June 2 at All High Stadium. The Far West Regionals are June 4, also at All High Stadium. A senior all-star game is tentatively set for June 7 at West Seneca East. The state finals are on June 11 in Middletown.

How are we doing? One little known fact about boys lacrosse is that the top players in the area almost always go on to play in college. The success rate is better than that of several other sports. That’s in spite of the fact that few colleges offer full scholarships for lacrosse.

Coming soon: Three schools have added artificial turf this season, and three more fields are scheduled to arrive next season. Western New York will still be behind schools from the Rochester and Syracuse areas in this department - which can be a good-sized advantage in terms of practice time - when the new fields are ready, but it is catching up.

Also next year: New York State will go from three classifications to four in 2017. That will mean one more team will be a state champion, and more players will be recognized for their accomplishments.

Prep Talk athlete of the year? There were only two juniors on the 2015 All-Section VI team: Gates Abrams of Akron and Kevin McParlane of Orchard Park. They are among the favorites. Several players are back after earning All-Catholic honors, so they could be in the conversation too. They have a tough act to follow in Larson Sundown of Akron.