The start of the boys high-school lacrosse season is months away. Yet, the Wakefield Warriors and new head coach Antonio Francis want all to know the squad is already eagerly preparing for that 2021 campaign, both mentally and as much as they are allowed, physically with some offseason workouts beginning this month.
The spring season – if it occurs – will be unique for Francis and Wakefield because this past spring’s campaign was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Francis was especially disappointed the Warriors couldn’t play, as he believed they were prepared to show much improvement compared to the program’s recent struggles.
Wakefield did manage two spring scrimmage matches, which included a victory and one-goal loss, before the plug was pulled on the 2020 season. The win was a 6-3 triumph over Gar-Field. Francis received a text during halftime of that contest informing him the season would be canceled after the conclusion of that scrimmage.
“I waited to tell the players until after the game, and that was tough,” Francis said. “There were a lot of hung heads, because our hopes and mindsets were high for the season. We want to change the lacrosse scene in South Arlington.”
Francis was hired in September of 2019. With a lofty number of 52 players in the program, Francis was confident he had the team well prepared physically and mentally with a fresh outlook and attitude for a new and successful beginning.
Then the season was canceled.
“We had a new attitude and identity, new uniforms, we were just getting started and thought we had something new and improved,” Francis said. “They were so ready to go. Then nothing. We didn’t have that season to get better and develop skills. That was especially tough because our players need all the exposure to the game as they can get.”
Francis, 27, wants his players to learn that in order to keep improving they need to be involved in the sport more than just during the high-school season. He suggests they play travel lacrosse in one of the various leagues in Northern Virginia, or for the Arlington Youth Lacrosse Club.
“The big thing we want to do at Wakefield during the season and offseason is to bring awareness about the sport to players in South Arlington and let players know about the different opportunities to play,” Francis said. “The players at Wakefield want to get better by continuing the positive push of lacrosse. We are trying to keep the momentum up.”
Francis played high-school lacrosse in Arlington for four years for the Yorktown Patriots under current head coach Greg Beer.
“Greg and I stay in touch and he has given me tips about how to start and run a lacrosse program,” Francis said.
As a member of Wakefield’s faculty, Francis also is an assistant football coach at the school, coaching the defensive line.
He also played football for Yorktown during high school, then did the same for one year when he attended Ferrum College.