Jerry Severino realizes that his 2016 Hamburg boys lacrosse team was special. Really special.
“Without downplaying previous teams, there have been no teams I’ve coached that were better,” the Bulldogs coach said.
Now comes the tough part. He has to convince some of the players from previous excellent teams that the 2016 squad was so good.
“The kids that came before say to me, ‘Coach, you said that we were the best,’ ” Severino said. “And I say, ‘You were – as of that year.’ ”
The veteran coach led the Bulldogs to the Section VI championship. They joined Orchard Park and Akron in that distinction during the school year. None of the teams could get past Section V opponents in the Far West Regionals, but championship years remain memorable.
“What was perfect this year was that the personnel on the team has never been deeper,” Severino said. “We’ve never had a more talented group, a more coachable team, a more driven team. They wanted it so desperately.
“Everyone remained healthy. There were no issues, no problems with discipline or school work. Everyone was working toward the same goal. Their lacrosse IQ was as good as I’ve ever had.”
As could be expected with a team that went 18-1, it didn’t take long for things to come together for the Bulldogs.
“We went to Virginia in the spring, and we won two games against teams that beat us the previous year,” Severino said. “Then we came back to play Niagara Wheatfield for our annual rivalry, and beat them soundly.
“Then I just started watching a team develop into something special. When we got to 18-0, I wasn’t surprised, but I was amazed how well things went. … Those teams are rare.”
The year was capped with another win over Niagara Wheatfield in the Section VI championship game. It’s a year that will stick in Severino’s memory.
“When you have 14 seniors, it translates into good things,” he said. “I am completely the beneficiary of this.
“I can’t stop thinking of them. I miss them desperately. I still want to go to practice, because we didn’t have a bad day of practice. Sometimes I have wondered, ‘Why I am still doing this?’ But my 35th year was a very special year – one that everyone dreams about.”
Elsewhere, the beat went on for Orchard Park in Class A. The Quakers made it 24 sectional crowns in 26 years by beating Lancaster. It was the first title for Larry Catalano, who replaced Gene Tundo shortly before the start of the season. In Class C, Akron won a classic 15-14 game from Gowanda/Silver Creek for its third straight title.
The best postseason game of the season probably was for the Monsignor Martin Association championship. Jack Lalley scored 1:12 into overtime to give St. Joe’s a 10-9 win over arch-rival Canisius. It was the Marauders’ first-ever title.
In state rankings, Hamburg was ranked sixth among Class B schools, while Niagara Wheatfield was 23rd and Grand Island, Sweet Home and Williamsville North received honorable mention. Akron was ranked 10th in Class C while Gowanda/Silver Creek was 14th and East Aurora earned honorable mention. Orchard Park and Lancaster were given honorable mention status in Class A.
Best of the best
It was rather simple to pick out who would win the Borrelli Award as the best player in the area in 2016 – look for the guy with all the hardware.
That would be Evan Hollfelder of Hamburg.
“It’s a dream,” Severino said about his player. “He’s a two-time All-American. He won the Resetarits Award, which goes to Hamburg’s player of the year. He was The News’ Prep Talk Player of the Year, and he won the Borrelli Award. He swept it.
“Everyone in the know knew how good he was. He could do so many things, and he was so determined.”
Hollfelder had help at Hamburg. For example, Jason Chiodo, a junior, also was on the All-Western New York team.
“Without Evan, Jason would have been the guy,” Severino said. “He’s the next-best kid, another junior All-American. He’s one of the most athletically talented kids I’ve ever seen. He played like one of the All-Americans at Albany, who will turn you inside out and leave the other guy in the dust.”
Will Agate of the Bulldogs joined the other two on the first team.
Other championship teams were well represented on the All-WNY squad. Gates Abrams and Owen Hill were excellent for Akron, while Kevin McParlane, Ron Shul and Josh Dahl were standouts for Orchard Park. Lalley and Eric Deakin were picked from St. Joe’s.
Other selections were: Reid Martin and Billy Lafferty of Canisius, Evan Printup of Niagara Wheatfield and Tyler Manning of Bishop Timon-St. Jude.