The Olentangy Orange High School boys lacrosse program not only lost its leader March 5 when coach Pat Boyce died unexpectedly, it lost a family member.

Senior midfielder Mitchell Gifford said Boyce was much more than a coach.

“He’s been my coach since I started playing in the first grade, and he coached me every year except for middle school,” said Gifford, whose team is scheduled to open the season Tuesday, March 19, at home against Delaware. “He was like a second dad to me.

“We had a quick practice (March 6), and it was weird not having him there. He meant so much to so many different people.”

Boyce’s death was announced March 5 on the team’s Twitter account, @OOHSLacrosse.

The post read: “It’s with great sadness that we announce the passing of our Head Coach, Pat Boyce, today. Pat was a great leader and mentor to the entire @OOHSLacrosse community, OYAA, Haymakers and Old Dogs among others. Please keep his family in your prayers during this difficult time.”

Orange athletics director Buck Weaver said he couldn’t have been more surprised when he received the phone call.

“The only thing I have been told is that (Boyce) passed away unexpectedly,” Weaver said. “I would have never expected it.”

Boyce, 49, was entering his third season leading the Pioneers. He was an assistant coach for the previous four seasons.

“(Boyce) was a really good coach, but that was secondary to how good of a person he was,” Weaver said. “So many people called him their best friend. He had a good relationship with kids. It will take a while to bounce back from this but not because of lacrosse. It’s because of the kind of person he was.”

Boyce is survived by his wife, Cheryl, daughter Megan, son Zach and daughter Hailey. Megan is a 2016 Orange graduate, Zach is a senior at Orange and Hailey is a sixth-grader at Berkshire Middle School.

His services were March 9 at Hill Funeral Home in Westerville.

After the team announced Boyce’s death, many tweeted condolences and memories in response.

“Thoughts and prayers are with Coach Boyce’s family, along with OOHS Lacrosse, staff and students. We are one Olentangy and we support you from Olentangy Berlin,” read a post from @BerlinBearsGolf, the Berlin boys golf team.

“Rest In Peace, to the best coach I’ve ever had. Thank you for being a mentor, not only in lacrosse, but in life. I’ll miss that Long Island accent telling me to take a lap. Fly high PB,” tweeted Cooper Durst, a 2018 Orange graduate.

Rest In Peace, to the best coach I’ve ever had. Thank you for being a mentor, not only in lacrosse, but in life. I’ll miss that Long Island accent telling me to take a lap. Fly high PBpic.twitter.com/4gjBSh2COR

— coop (@cdur14)March 6, 2019

“It’s insane how much people have come together,” Gifford said. “It goes to show how much he meant to everyone, and how much of an impact he had on kids’ lives.”

Last season, Orange went 10-10 overall and finished fourth (4-3) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind champion Olentangy (7-0). In 2017, the Pioneers were 13-6 overall and tied New Albany and Olentangy for second (5-2) in the league behind Olentangy Liberty (7-0).

Weaver said Zach Peterson was named interim coach March 11. Peterson coached Olentangy from 2013-17 before leaving that post to become an assistant principal at Liberty.

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