May 24, 2023

Bucchere’s Athleticism, Intensity Spark Hun Boys’ Lax As Raiders Win MCT Title in Stagnitta’s Swan Song

ON A ROLL: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Dillon Bucchere heads upfield in the Mercer County Tournament final at Hopewell Valley High last Thursday evening. Junior midfield Bucchere chipped in an assist and some strong play on the defensive end to help top-seeded Hun edge sixth-seeded Allentown 5-3. The win gave the Raiders a final record of 12-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Last fall, Dillon Bucchere helped shore up the defense for the undefeated Hun School football team as a star cornerback.

This spring, Bucchere has emerged as a force on the defensive unit for the Hun boys’ lacrosse team as a rugged midfielder.

While Bucchere has focused on gridiron success, he has made a lot of progress on the lax field.

“I feel like, from last year, my confidence has gotten a ton better. That is a big thing for me,” said Bucchere. “The whole team is just playing so well together, it is really starting to click later in the season now.”

Last Thursday, Bucchere played really well as the top-seeded  Raiders edged sixth-seeded Allentown 5-3 in the Mercer County Tournament final to win the program’s second straight county crown.

Bucchere was all over the field, making checks, gobbling up ground balls, and racing upfield to help trigger the Hun attack as the Raiders posted their eighth straight win to end the spring at 12-4.

In reflecting on the performance in the final, Bucchere said that the Raiders brought some momentum into the final in the wake of a 13-4 win over fourth-seeded Princeton High in the MCT semis.

“We were definitely fired up coming off of Tuesday’s win,” said Bucchere. “It was all around, everyone was just doing their job.”

Hun faced a tough job in overcoming Allentown. “They came in with a ton of energy,” said Bucchere off the Redbirds who had topped third-seeded Hopewell Valley and second-seeded Princeton Day School on their way to the final. “Our focus was just match the energy and put in all of our effort on every ground ball, every defensive possession. We had to give it our all on every play.”

The Raiders blunted that energy with a stifling zone defense that repeatedly thwarted Allentown.

“The defensemen, the d-middies, the goalie, it all really came together,” said Bucchere. “We were playing a zone really well. It was just a great team effort defensively; everyone getting the stops. It is the goalie (Cutter Swanson) making the saves and everyone clearing it.”

Bucchere made a number of one-man clears in the win, racing through and past Allentown players.

“When I get the ball, it is do my best to get it up the field as fast as I can,” said Bucchere. “I am just thinking how can I get to other side of the field as fast as I can. If it means taking a check, I am willing to do that.”

Midway through the second quarter, Bucchere raced up the field and flung the ball to junior star Danny Cano who fired the ball in the back of the cage to give Hun a 3-0 lead.

“I was just coming down the field, it was on a man-up and I saw Cano and I trust him a ton to always make the shot,” said Bucchere of Cano, who ended up scoring three goals in the win with Brett Stelmach tallying the other two goals for the Raiders. “I knew as soon as I passed it to him, he would score that.”

For Bucchere, seeing Hun come together down the stretch to win a title was special.

“This win was a culmination of everything we have done this spring so it was really awesome to get this,” said Bucchere. “We had our ups and downs and thankfully we hit an up at the end of the season and got it done.”

Hun head coach Jim Stagnitta pointed to the defense as the key factor in his team’s championship win.

“It was our season in a nutshell, we played great defense but we are not particularly disciplined on offense,” said Stagnitta. “We had our moments. I can count on a couple of guys to really step up and do what I needed them to do.”

Utilizing the experience Stagnitta has gained from a long college and pro coaching career that has included stops at Penn, Washington and Lee, and Rutgers along with guiding the Whipsnakes to Premier Lacrosse League titles, he made a key tactical adjustment at the defensive end.

“We went and committed to the zone, we got better and better they took a lot of pride in it and it made a difference,” said Stagnitta, whose defensive unit includes Ryan Donahue, Cameron Donovan, Jackson O’Brien, Ridge Peabody, Luke Donahue, and goalie Swanson. “We are a defensive team and Cutter really stepped up in goal. I think it baffled people, the zone is not easy to play against.”

Bucchere certainly made a big difference for the Raiders. “We don’t win this without him, to me, he was the best player on the field in both games this week,” said Stagnitta. “He was the most athletic, he played the whole game and never got tired. He has his mind set on football because he was starting on that Hun team that beats everyone 50-0. I told him a couple of weeks ago that he is a Division I lacrosse player, athletically, physically. I did that for 28 years and I would take Dillon Bucchere on any of my teams, at any level, at any time. I think he is going to consider it now, particularly after this weekend.”

In the wake of the triumph, Stagnitta acknowledged that his time at Hun was coming to an end.

“This is it for me, I am done; I had committed to three years with the idea of hopefully getting it back to respectability,” said Stagnitta. “I have enjoyed it, I think the program is in good shape. Our JV team is excellent, our eighth grade team is good. The assistants are great. It is a good way to go out.”

Bucchere, for his part, enjoyed going out this spring with a title.

“It is awesome, there is no feeling like it, winning a big game like this,” said Bucchere. “Even playing in a game like this, the energy is unmatched, it is amazing.”