James Pratt isn’t one to brag.
But, after he won the big game last Saturday, he made an exception.
“It felt awesome,” the senior attackman on the Wappingers boys lacrosse team said. “I pulled out the victory.”
Of course, the game he meant was the final contest of a friendly “NHL 15” tournament among a dozen teammates on the Xbox 360 in his basement. He beat Warriors goalie Justin Squeo in the finals.
Pratt is aiming to bring the same winning attitude Tuesday, when he and the Warriors open their season against Rondout Valley.
“Everything’s clicking,” Pratt added. “We’re having good, upbeat practices. Everything is working out nicely.”
The Warriors, who combine players from John Jay and Roy C. Ketcham high schools, are coming off an appearance in the Section 1 Class A quarterfinals last year. The hope this year is to win a section title, as Wappingers has been building its program over time.
“All the guys believe we can,” Pratt said of the team goal.
Although it lost key players in Jack Decker and Travis Ventura to graduation, Wappingers returns its entire defense. Pratt and fellow returning attackman Jake Shaw are expected to carry the load, and help lead some key up-and-coming talent in the midfield.
And of course, there is coach Brian Kuczma, in his third year at the helm of the team. Before arriving in Dutchess County, he led Putnam Valley to three Section 1 Class C championships in 2004, 2009 and 2010.
In his first year as head coach, Kuczma led the Warriors to the section quarterfinals, where they were beaten by crosstown rival Arlington. Wappingers was coming off a season in which it finished 6-10 and lost to Clarkstown North in the first round.
In 2016, the Warriors made even more improvements, finishing 13-5 to earn the sixth seed Section 1 tournament. The Warriors were ousted in the quarterfinals by third-seeded Mamaroneck, 10-6.
Like his players, Kuczma has a good feeling about this season.
“The preseason has generally been positive,” Kuczma said. “Based on what we have returning, the main strength is on the defensive end of the field. Our big strength is our defense and hopefully we score some goals.”
Kuczma pointed to Jack Ninos, Christian Gallaher, Tom Schmitt and Dan Schmitt as the top younger players to keep an eye on — and added that he expects a lot from them.
Wappingers is set to commence the season anew at John Jay on Tuesday, although Kuczma said his team may need to find another location because of the lingering snow.
The Warriors will play in Wiccopee until April 24, when construction on the athletic facility will uproot the team to Wappingers Junior High School for the stretch run.
“The kids are excited to play,” Kuczma added. “Our attitude is, whatever we can’t control, we’re not going to let it affect us. We’re taking that attitude and going in every day trying to get better.”
A.J. Martelli: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports