BRANFORD — None of them quite remembered how the idea came about, when it started, who first brought it up. But for three senior Branford football players, joining the lacrosse team this spring was one more chance to get on the field.
“It was something to play since football got canceled that was a full-time sport,” said Peyton Tracy, a linebacker/fullback/tight end turned defender/long-stick midfielder. “No mask, no restrictions really on the field.
“We were all looking for something to do in spring.”
They’re three of several Hornets football players who’ve joined up this spring, adding depth to an inexperienced lineup that’s got a shot to make the postseason.
Tracy’s classmates Dylan Pyle and Justin Osler had at least played lacrosse growing up. Osler had even thought about returning to the sport in his sophomore year but was injured.
“Then COVID happened,” he said, and that was that for junior year, with spring 2020 sports canceled amid the pandemic.
It also cost them their senior year of football, a year in which the Hornets had some high hopes. They played 7-on-7 and had linemen challenges, but that wasn’t what they were looking for. And even there, quarantine cost them two competitions.
All three wrestle, too, but that sport also fell victim to COVID-19 restrictions this winter.
“I think a lot of them just felt like they wanted a chance to compete at something,” Branford football coach John Limone said.
“They’re all great kids. We had a nice team. It was unfortunate we didn’t get to play, but they’re getting a little time here, so that’s awesome.”
The Hornets had formed a co-op with East Haven that was set to debut last spring, but even so, that only brought in a couple of players this year (including starting defender Ryan Sheldon, a junior). The team was short in numbers in March as tryouts approached. Coach Jim May put out feelers wherever he could around school.
Those three seniors weren’t the only football players who answered the call, nor was Tracy the only first-time lacrosse player to come out. They more than doubled the size of the team.
“They were champing at the bit to get some action,” May said.
Pyle, a football lineman, said getting back into lacrosse on attack was pretty easy for him.
“I got my skills down, basically,” Pyle said. “I didn’t lose it.”
Tracy, though, said he’d never played before.
“It was a big learning curve, for sure,” figuring out how to throw and catch, he said, “but after a couple of weeks, I got the hang of it.”
The three of them have contributed from the start of the season, May said.
“It was nice to be back on the field. I enjoyed it a lot,” said Osler, a fullback/defensive end in the fall who’s playing defense this spring. “I just wanted to go out and hit some people, to be honest.”
Branford is 4-8. With 15 games scheduled, six wins will be enough to get into the Class L tournament, and that was reachable, even with an inexperienced lineup.
“It’s one of my favorite years in 26 years of coaching,” May said, “because I don’t know what to expect.”
But he said they’ve worked hard, and Limone said he knew they would. The group has meshed well.
“After a year of not doing anything, it’s phenomenal,” Osler said. “I couldn’t have asked for better teammates or better coaches.”