Earlier this month, Buffalo Bandits players Ian MacKay and Brad McCulley spent time with the Hamburg boys’ varsity lacrosse team.
MacKay and McCulley assisted Hamburg head coach James Maxwell at a practice in preparation for their final regular season game against Frontier. Hamburg has an 11-4 record, a perfect 7-0 record in divisional play, and already has locked up the top seed heading into the postseason.
Hamburg is a Western New York powerhouse lacrosse program, winning 13 of the last 15 Section VI Class B sectional titles.
Maxwell has been the head coach since the COVID-shortened 2020 season, was a 2010 Hamburg graduate, and was a four-year starting goaltender for the Bulldogs before playing at Army West Point and UMBC.
Hamburg’s head coach recognizes the importance of having MacKay and McCulley at their practice not just because it’s a memory they will never forget but also for the benefits it can have for their chase for a state championship.
“Having them there gives the kids a chance to hear from someone else on their coaches that they hear from all the time,” Maxwell said. “It’s so exciting to have them out here because so many of our players go to their games and idolize them, but their knowledge will make us better off in the long run.”
Maxwell credits the success of Hamburg to their feeder program that has players develop starting in kindergarten to prepare them once they can start playing for the school. When Maxwell was still in college, he would assist youth practices throughout the summer, and some of those players he’s now coaching on varsity.
Players like Dylan and Devin Collins, Brady Kustra, and Carson Kummer have been recognized as some of the top talents in the region during their Bulldog careers. The Collins twins committed to nearby Canisius College. Kustra will attend Robert Morris University, and Carson Kummer will go to Roberts Wesleyan in Rochester.
This Hamburg team is loaded with seniors who have been on varsity since their freshman and sophomore years, resulting in Maxwell wanting to get as hard of a schedule as possible for the sectional and state playoff run.
The majority of the Bulldogs’ losses this season have come from Rochester schools that are sometimes double the size of Hamburg. The Bulldogs lost to Webster 8-5, Pittsford 5-3, and Fairport 12-4 after beating Brighton 7-5 earlier in the spring.
MacKay and McCulley started the practice by introducing themselves and talking to the players about their lacrosse journey.
To help grow the game in the greater Buffalo area, Bandits players have been attending practices of local teams, and the featured school received discounted ticket prices to attend a Bandits game this season. The program is presented by Intense Milk.
After getting into drills, MacKay and McCulley quickly realized why Hamburg is favored to win their 14th sectional title.
Hamburg players are no stranger to Bandits players, as Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith, and Chris Cloutier have lived in Hamburg in previous years.
“There have been times in the summer where we’ve had them come on to practice over the past couple of years, where they ran around with the kids and played catch with them,” Maxwell said.