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Eight seniors lead Falcons in youth movement season
By David Yarger
Over the years, the Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons boys lacrosse team has made deep postseason runs and been in the running for Section VI titles.
In 2018, the Falcons had one of its toughest seasons, enduring a losing record and first-round playoff exit.
For 2019, the team comes in young, but with eight seniors – Nick Stott, Jordan Smith II, Devin Napoleon, Eli Dowdy, Reilly Krupa, Jaren Dixon, Wile Chapman and Noah Bennett – leading the charge. Along with the eight seniors, coach Vince Schiffert’s squad consists of 19 juniors, two sophomores and one freshman.
Schiffert admitted that 2018 brought along some tough circumstances, but looked forward to what 2019’s season could bring.
“Yeah, that was a rough season with Mikey Ziegler (passing away), his good friends on the team and, yeah, that was a rough one,” Schiffert said. “Even beyond that, we had so many injuries. I’ve never had a season with that many injuries also. It was hard; by the end of the year, we had a couple guys who were seniors who never played lacrosse in their life. One guy was from Switzerland and they’re out there playing regular shifts – that’s how low we were on guys.
“It was hard mentally and emotionally for the team, but the guys came back this year, especially the old guys – they’re the vets. They got together in the offseason, played a lot of box (lacrosse – style the Buffalo Bandits play), a lot of offseason tournaments and they’re going to be the leaders of the team.”
In two games to start the year, the Falcons are 1-1, with a 19-7 win over Kenmore East and a 15-13 loss versus Williamsville East.
In the game versus Williamsville East, Napoleon (11 ground balls) and Chase Chapman had three goals and two goals, respectively. Dixon also had three points with a goal and an assist. Other notable scorers included junior Tyler Belter, Smith II, junior Joseph Hoover II, junior Zach Lloyd, junior J.T. Hamby and Dowdy. Additionally, in net, Bennett made 15 saves.
Versus Kenmore East, Dowdy led the way with six goals and an assist, while Chapman added three goals and three assists.
Despite the loss to the Flames, Schiffert said he liked how his defense tightened up in the second half, giving up only four goals.
Just in the first two games, seniors have played a key role guiding the team.
“(They’re going to be) huge. Our seniors are really keys here. … These guys are really gonna have to lead this year,” Schiffert said.
He then praised the senior goalie Bennett who is “having a heck of a year,” adding that in all the scrimmages and games, “he’s making a ton of saves.”
Going forward, with all the youth on the roster, Schiffert said the team will have to figure things out defensively, but he’s excited to see what the team can do offensively. On the defensive side, the team was faced with replacing current St. Bonaventure defender/long stick midfielder Zack Belter. Belter was a First Team All-Class B, First Team All-Section VI and U.S. Lacrosse All-American selection and topped Class B with 138 ground balls for the Falcons boys lacrosse team in 2018.
“Our offense is pretty solid. A lot of that is (we have) a lot of box players. Once we got rolling, our shooters were doing OK. … Defense, though, that’s where a lot of the youth is. Most of them are JV guys up for the first time. Especially in that first half (versus Will. East) they’re just used to JV speed and in JV you’re on somebody, but not really on them, where varsity it ends up a goal. It was a good learning experience today, and they did a lot better that third quarter. We shut them out, so they played much better. But it’s going to be a big learning curve for the D this year.”
The Falcons will look to rebound from the loss versus the Flames at 5 p.m. today at Frontier High School.
N-W junior Tyler Belter rushes the net while defended by East’s Colson Skorka.
Niagara-Wheatfield senior Jordan Smith II, left, tries to drive on net as he’s defended by Williamsville East’s Henri Tetrault.