Peter Hoffman has coached high school lacrosse for 19 years, mostly in the Pittsburgh area. The 42-year-old Buffalo native had never coached in Michigan until this season.
But that does not mean Birmingham Unified’s first-year boys lacrosse head coach is unfamiliar with Oakland County lacrosse. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Hoffman worked summer camps in the area over the years with Seaholm athletic director Aaron Frank. In addition, while coaching Pittsburgh-based Shady Side Academy, his team played the likes of Birmingham Unified, Brother Rice and Detroit Country Day in the highly competitive Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association.
So Hoffman is well aware of the area’s top boys lacrosse programs.
“I’m excited to be here and be involved with this program,” Hoffman said. “I coached against (Birmingham) and seen them in their heyday back when they won their state championship.
“This is a great area. I’ve had enough experience with the lacrosse out here to know that it is good. But I also love the sport and I love to work on developing players, developing programs.
“It’s something where the sport has always been good to me and given a lot back to me,” he added. “I love to give back to the sport, as well. To get an opportunity to come and work for Aaron (Frank) is exciting, as well.”
Birmingham Unified has split its first four games under Hoffman, including a big 12-3 OAA Red Division triumph over Rochester Adams. The Bulldogs also own a 13-3 win over Grosse Pointe South. They suffered losses to Catholic League foes Brother Rice (17-3) and University of Detroit-Jesuit (9-7).
While defense is Birmingham’s strength, Hoffman said the attack and the team’s overall athleticism are other positive traits.
Outside of the loss to perennial Division 1 state champion Brother Rice, in which they allowed 17 goals, the Bulldogs have given up just 15 goals in three games for a fine 5.0 goals-against average.
“We’re strong on defense and in goal, even though the Rice game may not show it,” Hoffman said. “We have a fairly athletic team and we have to figure out how to use that athleticism to our advantage.”
The key defenders are senior Jack Kelly, along with fellow starters Zachary Johnson, Jackson McElhenney and goalie Gary Cutler. Kelly, one of three captains, is a three-year player who takes charge of the back end.
“Jack is our quarterback on defense,” Hoffman said. “He does a lot of communicating and gets every one in the right position. He’s a smart player and he’s been a very good player for us so far.”
A building process
The midfield anchor is senior captain Emmett Green, a four-year veteran who tallied three goals and two assists in Wednesday’s win over Adams. The other starting midfielders include Theodore Stacy and Gideon Bush.
Offensively, Birmingham is led by third-year senior captain James Cook, who is a thorn in the side of opposing defenses. The other Bulldogs starters on attack include Greyson Giltner and Charles Schiefer. Cook and Schiefer combined for six goals and four assists against Adams.
“Emmett is our most athletic kid on the team, our most skilled offensive player and does a little bit of everything for us,” Hoffman said. “James Cook is a very dynamic dodger and he’s a good player because he gets the defenses sliding and moving around, which opens up other guys on the field.
“So far, I’ve been pretty happy with how the kids have accepted what we’re trying to do,” he added. “There has been a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement among the kids and they’re starting to show some good progress.”
Hoffman wants to build a program which can eventually compete with the likes of neighborhood powers Brother Rice, Country Day and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
“Coming in, our long-range goal is to be able to compete with a Brother Rice on a regular basis,” Hoffman said. “In the short term, we’re approaching at it as a building process.
“The kids and I have talked about how we’re implementing different systems, we’re implementing a lot of different things in terms of work ethic, attitude and those kinds of things. That takes time for that to become consistent.
“So we understand it’s a process. Our start has been a little slow, but that’s to be expected,” he added. “Our goal is in May and June to be really playing at our absolute best.”