Ameri-Can Lacrosse Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium: Standouts, More
This past weekend the first ever recruiting event to be held in an NFL stadium took place. The inaugural Ameri-Can Lacrosse Classic took place at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., home of the Buffalo Bills. The event was hosted by Champion Lacrosse, a club team out of Buffalo run by Joe Smith a veteran of the National Lacrosse League, Major League Lacrosse and U.S. Indoor national team. Saturday featured the middle school divisions and Sunday brought the JV and Varsity teams to the venue.
I traveled out to Orchard Park on Sunday to take in the games and had a chance to see each team that participated. The teams on hand were Champion Lacrosse, which had four teams playing (’19, ’18, ’17, ’16), FCA, Iroquois Western Door, St. Joseph’s, Hamburg, the Monsignor Martin All-Stars, and The Hill Academy, which had two teams split into even squads.
It was a great event that was well organized and run smoothly throughout the day. The players who were mostly from Western New York really seemed excited to be playing on the same field as their favorite football team. Despite some windy conditions at times, the play was great throughout the day and it was a great experience and I’d expect the event to grow and attract even more teams in the future.
Here's a look at just some of the players who stood out.
Graydon Hogg, Attack, The Hill Academy (Ont.), 2019
Hogg was the benefactor of some nice feeds and he didn’t disappoint. He finished off most of the chances he had. The lefty attackman scored at least two goals in the game I saw him. He also had a nice assist on a fast break goal that showed some unselfishness and the ability to move the ball to the open man.
Nate Braniff, Attack, The Hill Academy (Ont.), 2018
Brannif is a lefty attackman that found ways to get open all day. When he was fed the ball he was nearly automatic with it in close. In the two games I saw him he had four goals and two assists by my count. On one play he cut to the ball from the far wing and handled a pass that was far from perfect and was able to finished it off.
Lucas Snider, Midfield/FO, The Hill Academy (Ont.), 2018
Snider was great on face-offs in the two games I saw him. In a game against a talented Western Door team and another good FOGO, he was better than 50 percent on draws. On offense he was a very strong north-south dodger scoring a goal off of one. His overhand shot on the run is good and combined with his strength and ability to run by defenders makes him a dangerous player on offense and in transition.
Owen Hill, Midfield/FO, Akron High School (N.Y.)/Western Door, 2018
Hill was one of the best players on the field for any team on Sunday. The midfielder took the majority of the face-offs for his Western Door team and won a good amount including some clutch ones at the end of a tight game with one of The Hill Academy squads. He plays good defense and never seems to be beat though he can get himself in trouble with some “homerun” checks. With a short bench Hill was on the field a lot and never showed any signs of tiring. The lefty is fast and is a definite threat in transition. He put a big hit on a larger opponent that drew a flag but showed his willingness to put his body on the line and not shy away from contact.
Henry Follows, Attack, The Hill Academy (Ont.), 2018
Follows is a lefty attackman that was very effective in a number of ways for The Hill. He is a very crafty dodger that scored a nifty goal on a split dodge that saw him put his stick under his defender’s and finished a point blank shot on the goalie. Aside from his offensive skills he rides all the way to the midfield and directed his line mates on where to be on the ride. His was able to find seams in the defense getting open on a number of occasions, though the ball didn’t always come his way.
Jared Milley, Attack, Hamburg (N.Y.), 2018
In the one game I was able to watch Milley he scored at least four goals. The lefty attackman showed great composure while taking on a barrage of checks from his defender. He showed he was capable of dodging through his man or moving it on to an open teammate. He had two assists by my count in the game. He was a tough rider that capitalized on a blown clear by his opponent and scored a garbage goal. On one goal he dodged by three different defenders and then used an underhanded scoop shot to put it past the goalie.
Brett Naylor, Defense, Clarence (N.Y.)/Champion, 2017
Naylor was a tall player that looked about 6-foot-4. He created a bunch of turnovers for his team. His talk on the defensive end of the field was consistent in every game I saw him. On the clear he was more than capable with the ball and was fast enough to run by riding attackmen.
Jerry Staats, Defense, The Hill Academy (Ont.), 2016
Possibly the best player I saw all day, the senior left-handed defenseman was all over the field for his Hill Academy team. He was a big player that shut down whoever he was guarding and created a number of turnovers. Staats was very active on the clear and contributed by my count two assists in the games I saw him. He also played on the man up with his longpole and had a hard shot that drew a lot of attention to him.
Hoya John, Defense, Lake Shore (N.Y.)/Western Door, 2016
John is a big lefty defenseman that threw some very hard checks. He left a lot of attackmen rubbing their arms after passing the ball. He’s a strong player that maintained his positioning while dishing out poke and slap checks to his opponents. In addition to his defense, he had a good stick and helped out on a few clears as well.
Bryce Kelly, Goalie, Aquinas Institute (N.Y.)/FCA, 2016
Kelly was one of the more entertaining players to watch on Sunday. He was good in net making a number of saves for his FCA squad. His highlights came out of the goal crease though. He had a great stick and really pushed the ball up the field on the clear. Early in his first game against St. Joseph’s, he cleared the ball all the way up the field and scored a goal that somehow found a corner when it seemed he had run himself out of angle. He was reminiscent of a Brett Queener in the way he carried the ball up the field and into the offensive end of the field a number of times in the games I saw him play.
Ian Cook, Attackman, Horseheads (N.Y.)/FCA, 2016 - Binghamton
Cook was one of the most polished players at the event. He scored in a number of different ways. His most impressive goal was when he posted up his defender with his back to the goal and got a nice shot off that hit the pipe and he was able to catch the rebound and put it the goal before the goalie was able to set himself. When he was left alone on the right handed wing, he was more than capable of taking a big shot. He also showed that he can keep his teammates involved and had a few nice assists. The fact that he is the son of a coach really shows and his lacrosse IQ seemed very high.
AJ Hems, Attack/Midfield, Pal-Mac (N.Y.)/FCA, 2016
Hems was listed as a midfielder on the roster but played the left-handed attack spot for the majority of the day. He was the quarterback on the offense talking to his teammates in every situation. It seemed as if he was the player who decided to slow it down or push it on offense. The lefty was strong and dodged through checks whenever his defender didn’t play his body. His shot had a lot of velocity on it and he varied his release scoring overhand and with a three-quarter release. He had a nice goal from the left handed wing when his team was on the EMO.
Jordan Swilley, Midfield, Spencerport (N.Y.)/FCA, 2016
Swilley was a player whose game I liked a lot on Sunday. He’s not imposing physically but he did all the little things and played much bigger than he is. He scored a goal in each of the two games I saw him play. When he got a run at his defender he was very tough to slow down. One goal he scored was with a nice overhand shot on the run off of a dodge from up top. He played the wing on face-offs and was very aggressive when the ball was on the ground.
Others who impressed:
Cody McEvoy, Attack, St. Joseph’s (N.Y.)/Monsignor Martin All-Stars, 2019
Zachary Young, LSM/Defense, The Hill Academy (Ont.), 2018
Adam Ranger, Midfield, Hamburg (N.Y.), 2018
Joe Chiarmonte, Defense, Clarence (N.Y.), 2017
Joshua Plarr, Attack/Midfield, Eden (N.Y.)/Champion, 2017
Jack Lalley, Midfield, St. Joseph’s (N.Y.), 2016
Liam Hogan, Midfield, McQuaid Jesuit (N.Y.)/FCA, 2016
Brennan Mackey, Goalie, Victor (N.Y.)/FCA, 2016
Gates Abrams, Attack, Akron High School (N.Y.)/Western Door, 2016