SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Lakeland/Panas has been one of the best lacrosse programs in Section 1 for as long anyone can remember. So, it’s easy to see why so many of the players from the Rebels’ program wind up playing in college.

That’s the case again this year, as five Lakeland/Panas seniors, all from Lakeland, signed to play at the next level. That includes two Division 1 players in Conor Hufnagel (Hofstra University) and Mark Cummins (Siena College).

“Playing Division 1 lacrosse has always been a goal of mine and to achieve that opportunity, especially at a Top 25 school like Hofstra, is fantastic,” said Hufnagel, whose brother John plays at Providence College. “Not many people get the chance to play D1 lacrosse, so I’m not going to squander it. I worked very hard and had many people support me including my family, coaches, teammates, and especially those who challenged me on the field.”

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Cummins said it means a lot to him to get the opportunity to play Division 1 lacrosse.

“Being able to go up against the best, week in and week out, is an honor and it drives me to continue to get better,” Cummins said. “It also keeps me motivated in times like now where we aren’t sure whether we’re having a lacrosse season in the spring again. Being a senior, a lot of people are losing motivation and drive because of COVID. It gives me something to work toward, especially after the cancellation of last season. It’s definitely something that I won’t take for granted.”

The other three Rebel college-signees will play at the Division 3 level. They are Reed Thompson (Muhlenberg College), Tyler Nocito (Hartwick College), and Joseph Jimenez (The College of Saint Rose).

Hufnagel and Thompson are midfielders. Cummins and Jimenez are defensemen, and Nocito plays attack.

For the program to produce five college-bound seniors, it says a lot about it, according to Rebel coach Jim Lindsay.

“As far as what it means to the program, it’s really a testament to the kids and their hard work and perseverance in the offseason,” Lindsay said. “They’ve put in a lot of time both in the weight room and on their own on the field to develop and hone their craft. It’s a nice example to show the younger kids.”

The fact that these five players worked hard on their own, in addition to their work with the team, is what enabled them to have the opportunity to play in college.

“These guys put themselves in position by working hard on their own and putting in the time outside of practice,” Lindsay said. “They wanted to be college-lacrosse players, and that requires a sacrifice of time both in the weight room and on the field behind the structured hours of practice.”

Besides the talent these five players have, it’s also a group of guys who stand out as people.

“The thing I like most about coaching these kids is that they’re all great people individually and have a great work ethic,” Lindsay said. “They want to get better and want the program to improve, their intrinsically motivated to do things on their own without having coaches supervise them. They’ve been resilient and dedicated, even through the pandemic.”

Before going to college, the Rebels’ college signees are hoping they get one more crack at playing high-school ball, COVID-19 permitting. If that’s the case, the above five seniors will be playing a very important role in determining how far Lakeland/Panas goes this spring.

“Because they’re all seniors, their roles will be extremely important,” Lindsay said. “They’ll all have a leadership role to play within the program, and obviously we’ll rely heavily on their play each game to give us a chance to win.”