Tonight, Burns and his Buccaneers’’ teammates have a chance to give their beloved sport a big-time boost when they play at Rockford in the Division 1 regional quarterfinals. The Bucs are heavy underdogs against the Rams, who are ranked No. 15 overall in the state and No. 10 in Division 1. Grand Haven lost to Rockford earlier this spring, 17-7.
“We’re trying to get really excited, to show that we can play with the better teams in Michigan,” said Burns, the Bucs’ leading scorer this spring. “It would be a huge win because then we’d be pretty far into the playoffs. We usually get beat up by the bigger programs. If we could win, it would put us on the map.”
The Bucs’ lacrosse program is slowly working its way into the upper-echelon of teams in the state. It helps that youth and middle school programs are getting players involved in the sport at an earlier age. Burns noted that it’s not a sport you can just pick up overnight.
“There are a lot of football players we’d love to have on the team, but it’s a really skilled sport. It takes a lot of practice to get used to the stick work,” said Burns, who played football in eighth grade before devoting himself to lacrosse full-time.
Now the Buccaneer junior plays for his high school team in the spring, then transitions to a travel team, True Lacrosse Michigan out of Grand Rapids. The team has already had a few scrimmages against college teams and defeated Western Michigan University’s club team.
“We’ll travel to tournaments all over the east coast,” Burns said. “We’re hoping to get a good reputation for Michigan lacrosse this summer.”
Burns has honed his skills at a variety of camps, including one held at Notre Dame, another at Johns Hopkins University, and a recruiting camp at the University of Colorado. College coaches don’t regularly make it to high school games, so to get noticed, you need to play in front of the coaches at summer camps, Burns explained.
“It’s hard to get a bigger school to come out here and watch us,” he said.
The Bucs have also found it difficult to sell the sport to their classmates. Burns said he and his teammates hope one day the sport will grow enough in popularity that students and parents alike pack the stands to watch games.
“We’re getting a little more fans, but we still don’t get as many as football, obviously,” Burns said. “We’re trying to get our program up there with the swim team, cross country and track.”
Those who do make it out to lacrosse games are treated to a high-intensity, fast-paced game that certainly isn’t for the feint of heart. Participants are constantly getting new bumps and bruises, along with a few broken bones. Playing with broken fingers, sprained ankles, various dislocations and other maladies are commonplace.
“I’ve been pretty good this year, but you’re always getting hit with a stick, getting banged down, stepped on, cleated,” Burns said.
The Bucs hope they’re the ones doing the beating, not taking a beating, tonight at Rockford.
“We’re counting on being better as the season progresses. We hope we can surprise them, come out harder and faster than last time,” Burns said. “We’re usually the underdogs against Rockford. We’re trying to upset them.”