Nils Burton-Johanson knows what a good mentor looks like.

A senior on the three-time defending Class C champ Waynflete boys’ lacrosse team, Burton-Johanson credits the team’s success to Harry Millspaugh, a senior on the 2021 squad.

Millspaugh, Burton-Johanson said, showed him what playing varsity lacrosse at Waynflete was about.

“I ended up starting freshman year on attack. He really taught me everything I know and turned me into the player I am today,” said Burton-Johnson, who now wears Millspaugh’s No. 23. “I couldn’t thank him more for that.”

A knee injury will sideline Burton-Johnson for at least half the season, leaving an already small team looking for other players to contribute. Waynflete considered forming a co-op boys’ lacrosse team with another school this year because of a lack of players.

“We’re low on numbers, so every single person matters so much,” said Jacob Woodman, a senior attack/midfield.


Waynflete went a combined 40-5 the last three seasons. After a 14-6 win over North Yarmouth Academy in the state championship game last spring, Coach Andrew Leach and Athletic Director Ross Burdick said they knew they’d needed to rebuild the roster after 13 players graduated.

They decided that fall would be an ideal time to convince prospective players to come out for the team. The goal was to get the roster to 18 players, Leach said. It’s currently at 22, although three players, including Burton-Johanson, are currently injured.

“It was something we wanted to get done in the fall, because we were nervous about coming into it. If we’re going to commit, we’ve got to have some numbers,” Leach said.

The Flyers opened the season last Friday with a 16-2 win over Lake Region, but they know the games are going to get tougher.

Waynflete boys’ lacrosse player Kirby Douglas, right, tries to scoop up the ball during a two-on-two drill at an April 13 practice in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Waynflete’s first game back from the spring break week will be against Wells on April 24. The Warriors have reached the Class C semifinals in each of the last three seasons.

The Flyers are also set to play Class B opponents Yarmouth, Marshwood and York, the defending champion. Down the schedule are games against rival North Yarmouth Academy, the runner-up to Waynflete each of the last two seasons, and Oak Hill, another Class C contender.


“For better or worse, we get everybody’s best effort, every single regular-season game. We love it. We embrace it,” Leach said. “We want to get out there and play against opponents who will play at a high level. We get everyone’s best shot, whether they’re Class A, B or C.”

Leach said he spent the bulk of preseason going over fundamentals, stick skills and lacrosse terminology. With so many newcomers to the sport, Leach relied on his background in basketball (he coaches the Waynflete girls’ program) to simplify things.

For example, Leach would use terminology from other sports to help a lacrosse newcomer acclimate.

“What does a slide even mean? OK, as a basketball player, he knows help-side defense, and he knows to be able to get over there and cover his man and help out his teammates,” he said. “Same concepts, just the language is different. We’re trying to make sense for them.”

Leach said his returning players are likely going to be asked to play multiple or new positions as their inexperienced teammates learn skills on the job. It helps that four returning Flyers earned all-Western Maine Conference honors last season: Nico Kirby and Woodman were second team all-conference at midfield; Fletcher Polsky was second team defense; and Spencer Kline was honorable mention midfield.

“Spencer, who’s played short stick all of high school, now this year is taking on the long pole. I feel like we’re versatile because we have a strong set of guys on defense and a strong set of guys on offense,” Kirby said.

Waynflete boys’ lacrosse goalie Francis von State prepares to catch a ball during an April 13 practice in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Flyers have completed a successful rebuild before, albeit not at this level. The 2022 team was short on experience and went 7-5 in the regular season before peaking in the playoffs and winning the state title as the No. 6 seed. This season’s seniors were sophomores on that team, and know not to concede anything this early in the season.

“The biggest thing we lost is our depth, but I think our top-level guys can still compete at the same level that we’ve been competing at for the last four years,” Burton-Johanson said. “These (new) guys are willing to learn. They’re willing to take risks, and they’re really good at taking constructive criticism.”

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