Nighthawk Laxmen Have New Look, High Hopes As Season Begins
Having lost 17 players to graduation, about half of whom were starters or regulars in the lineup, along with the head coach, Newtown High School's boys' lacrosse team has a much different look than it did a year ago.
But don't expect this to be a prototypical school team rebuilding year.
Scott Bulkley takes over for Glenn Adams, who stepped down because of a job change, and Bulkley has high hopes for a successful campaign.
Bulkley is no stranger to winning ways. He spent six seasons as head coach at Greenwich High, helping the program to its first state title in his first campaign (2010). For the six years before that, Bulkley was the associate head coach for Darien High, a stretch during which Darien won five FCIAC and five state championships.
With the makeup of Newtown's squad, which - despite its mostly revamped roster - has an experienced defensive group as well as faceoff prowess, the coach anticipates his Nighthawks getting back into the South-West Conference and state playoff mix this spring.
"I'm a firm believer that defense wins championships," Bulkley said.
The team is led by captains and defensive standouts Charlie Fletcher and Gordon Walsh, faceoff specialist and defensive middie Mark Urso, and attack player Jared Pearson.
In addition to Urso, the Hawks possess another strong faceoff man in sophomore Layton Harrell.
Winning draws is key in lacrosse.
"It's a unique sport where you can score a goal and get the ball right back," Bulkley said. "You're never really out of a game."
The Nighthawks proved that in last year's SWC championship game when they erased an 11-4 deficit to force overtime before falling 12-11.
Newtown, which had a regular-season record of 11-5, lost to SWC foe New Milford in the first round of the Class L state tournament.
Bulkley looks forward to trying to lead the Hawks back into both playoff brackets. Bulkley, who moved to Newtown three years ago, said he always felt he would jump at the opportunity to coach his hometown school squad if the opportunity ever presented itself, so he's thrilled for the chance.
The coach's son, Jake, is a sixth-grader, and Bulkley has worked in the town's youth lacrosse program since moving here, so he's gotten to know some of the high school players who have younger siblings in the sport.
"I'm pretty excited - great group of kids. They work hard," Bulkley said.
The Nighthawks have a mix of older and younger players, and Bulkley notes that the younger players, including a trio of freshmen, are on the roster for a reason.
Among the young players are freshmen Tucker Garrity, Matt DuBois, and Jake Meyer, and sophomores Evan Eggleston, and Cayden Dunn.
"These young guys are going to play," he said. "We have a group of young kids that are going to surprise people."
Juniors whom Bulkley will look to for contributions are Sean Wallace, Riley Rising, Colin McCafferty, and Scott Bauer. Seniors Nick Genovese, Davie Anderson, and Tommy Elliot also bring experience to the field. Anderson and Elliot were battling for the top goaltending spot in preseason.
Tough teams in the SWC will likely will include perennially strong Barlow and New Fairfield. The Hawks have some tough out-of-conference games on the slate, including a season-opening visit to Fairfield Prep (Saturday, April 2, at 5 pm).
The players are excited about the prospects for a successful campaign.
"It's really awesome. We have a lot of intensity every single day," Urso said of the way preseason was unfolding this past week.
"I'm really excited. I think we're going to be very successful," Fletcher added.
Bulkley has received many coaching accolades throughout the years, and was named the FCIAC, Connecticut Class L, and US Lacrosse Connecticut Coach of the Year last spring.
Having played high school lacrosse at Darien High, he became the program's first player to be named All-American. Bulkley went on to become the captain of the University of North Carolina team in 1995 and was a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion. He went to NCAA Lacrosse Final Four twice and upon graduation played professional box lacrosse for Major League Indoor Lacrosse on the Charlotte Cobras.