MILFORD >> Brian Adkins loves a good challenge, evidenced by the fact he is in the midst of starting a high school boys lacrosse program for the second time in his career. The Foran boys program enters its second season on the varsity level.
If history does repeat itself, then the Lions should expect some fun and excitement sooner rather than later when it comes to the postseason. Adkins started the Branford boys program in 1999 and by 2003, the Hornets won the CIAC Division II championship.
Last season, the Lions went 6-10 and missed the Class M tournament by one win. This season, the Lions have something unique in place for a second-year varsity program that has Adkins believing the Lions can make an impact statewide now: a combination of experience (14 seniors), including all its starters from last season, and a team loaded with two-sport and three-sport athletes.
“What we have is unusual for a second-year varsity lacrosse program and I do expect our team to make an impact this season,” said Adkins, who actually started his coaching career as the West Haven boys lacrosse coach from 1996-98. “After missing it by one win last year, our goal is to make the state tournament. We also expect to be competitive in the SCC (Southern Connecticut Conference).”
Adkins can see similarities with Foran that also led to Branford’s quick success. Foran debuted as a junior varsity program in 2012.
“At Branford, when the football and hockey teams had good seasons, we usually had good seasons in lacrosse,” Adkins said. “We have an advantage here at Foran that we also had at Branford with many of our players being outstanding athletes who play football or hockey or both. This past season, our football and hockey teams had a lot of success.
“Another big reason we had quick success at Branford is the town has a very good youth lacrosse program that served as a great feeder system for us. We have the same thing here in Milford but the difference is the youth hockey program feeds us, Law and Notre Dame (of Fairfield). The bottom line is it still helps us because we are starting to get freshmen from the youth program with experience and who already know the fundamentals.”
One of the outstanding athletes on the team is senior midfielder Zach White, a wide receiver for the football team and a forward on the hockey team.
Last season, the lacrosse team needed a goalie and White stepped in. Josh Teller, the original starting goalie, started the first two games of the season and then went on a family vacation. He missed five games. White, who played goalie at times in his youth hockey days, filled in.
When he made an impressive 28 saves in an 11-8 loss to Branford, the Foran coaches decided to keep White in goal the rest of the season.
This season, Teller is the starter in goal and Adkins can use the speedy White where he is more comfortable — as a top playmaker. He is also a goal scorer and leader in getting ground balls for the Lions.
“We know everything about Coach Adkins, how he took Branford to the state championship in only its fourth season as a varsity team,” White said. “We all respect him and listen to everything he says. He pushes us to our limits and always has us focused and ready to play.
“We expect to make the playoffs this season, that’s the big thing for us. The thing is, people are going to take us for granted and a lot of people don’t think we’re going to be a good team. That’s okay, we want teams to look past us and take us for granted.”
Offense is the strength of the Lions led by attackmen Drew Perani, Alex Eager and Jon DePascale. Will Vitelli, White and Paul Mirmina are among the top midfielders while defenders Andrew Jones and Andy Khon and midfielder David McLenithan lead the defense.
“We have only one year of varsity experience under our belt but that season we had last year really built up our confidence,” Jones said. “The combination of athletes and experience is what will drive us this season. The past few years guys like me recruited top athletes from other sports. I recruited guys to help on defense like Andrew Melendez (football linebacker), Anthony Kopatck (linebacker) and Andy Kohn (tailback) and they all contribute.
“Coach has this thing about being tenacious, he loves tenacity and that has definitely rubbed off on all of us. We are all looking forward to this season, it should be a lot of fun.”
Adkins, who recently took over for Frank Barron as Connecticut liaison to United States Lacrosse, is realistic about Foran.
“We’ve had scrimmages with Guilford and Notre Dame (West Haven), lost both games but I was impressed with how high our intensity was against that kind of competition,” Adkins said. “But we still have a long way to go, we still have a lot of work to do. The emotion and excitement of starting our second varsity season and motivation of qualifying for the state playoffs can only take you so far.
“We have some of the best athletes in the school on our team. We have experience and depth and we have talent at every position. We just need to produce on the field and make sure we continue to be on the same page when the real games start. The key is to qualify for the state tournament. Once you’re there, anything can happen.”
Adkins certainly knows because he’s been there, done that.