When it became clear the Huntington High School boys’ lacrosse team would not be taking the field this year it hit the Blue Devils hard. While they understand the COVID-19 pandemic is serious and only a few miles away people are fighting for their lives, the players and coaches were hoping for a miracle to allow for a shortened season, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The Blue Devil seniors were especially excited about playing one final season for Huntington. The group includes Billy Burton, Jon Koumas, Aedan McDonald, Nick Mattio, Charlie O’Rourke, Cole Pillion and Michael Wright.
“Playing lacrosse at Huntington has not only shaped who I’ve become as a player, but it has also turned me into the person I am,” Koumas said. “Learning to play with a team and becoming a leader on the field has built character and discipline that helps me achieve my goals every day. Beginning at the high school level I looked up to all the seniors and they were my role models. Not being able to play my senior year is heartbreaking, but this program has already done so much for me that I can’t even describe it. My coaches and teammates are a family to me and I am thankful for each and every one of them.”
Last spring Huntington compiled a 9-6 record in Suffolk Division I play and went 10-7 overall under head coach Julian Watts and assistant coaches Andy Gutierrez and Patrick Reilly. The team reached the Section XI playoffs, but everyone wanted to accomplish even more this year.
“Playing for Huntington lacrosse has not only shaped me as a player, but as a person as well,” Wright said. “My teammates and coaches have taught me valuable lessons that I will hold me with me for the rest of my life. It has been a great experience playing for such a successful program. Coach Watts is doing a great job turning the culture around for Huntington lacrosse.”
Burton is headed to Arcadia University in Pennsylvania while Koumas will be attending Ithaca College. McDonald plans to attend Utica College with Mattio intending to study at the University of Alabama. O’Rourke is headed to Indiana University with Pillion attending Oberlin College in Ohio. Wright plans to attend SUNY Geneseo.
“Playing lacrosse for Huntington was the best experience that I could have asked for,” Burton said. “I’m sad to see it end this way, but there are more important things going on in the world right now that need to be addressed before lacrosse. Huntington made me who I am and the bond of our lacrosse community was something else that I had never experienced before. I just can’t believe that 12 years playing with my best friends is over and I won’t even have a senior season to show for it.”
Huntington had practiced for less than a week before officials put the brakes on the season. Section XI officially cancelled spring play last week.
“Being able to represent Huntington and play with Blue Devils on my chest for 12 years have meant a great deal to me,” O’Rourke said. “From building unbreakable connections with my teammates and coaches to having the chance to play the game I love, I am grateful for everything that came with playing lacrosse at Huntington. Huntington lacrosse has taught me invaluable lessons about life and hard work. It is truly unfortunate the boys will not be able to see the culmination of playing together for 12 years in our senior season.”
Huntington believed it had a very competitive team this spring and it was hoping to prove it to their Suffolk opponents. The Blue Devils had trained throughout the off-season with the ultimate goal of reaching deep into the Section XI playoffs.
“Playing for Huntington has meant a lot to me and I am going to miss it,” said McDonald, who recorded 110 saves in goal as a junior. “From the players to the coaches there was never a bad moment; only good memories.”
The seniors hope there will be an opportunity to gather with their teammates this spring if the pandemic passes and physical distancing rules are lifted. In the meantime, they communicate remotely with their each other and their teammates and coaches.
“Playing for Huntington has meant the world to me,” Mattio said. “It has completely shaped me into who I am today. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without my teammates and coaches. I have never been exposed to so much adversity and yet so much love in my life.”
Watts and his staff hoped the season would resume at some point, but as the weeks passed it became clear that wouldn’t be the case. When Section XI announced the official cancellation of spring sports, no one was really surprised, but the seniors were hit especially hard by the decision.
None of the seniors will ever forget their time in a Blue Devil uniform. They all wish it could last just a little bit longer, but they are also all excited to begin the next phase of their lives in college.
“Playing lacrosse for Huntington has been one of the most important facets of my academic career and it has provided me with a steppingstone to the next chapter of my life; the ability to attend a terrific college that I love and also to play lacrosse there,” Pillion said. “Huntington lacrosse gave me the opportunity to play a sport I love with my best friends for the last 12 years under the direction of our committed and caring coaches. It has truly been a pleasure and honor to be a Blue Devil.”