Winchester High grad a Player of the Year
His senior season and college football-playing career ended Nov. 9, when Bowdoin bounced NESCAC rival Colby, 32-22, in Brunswick.
Joey Cleary (left) had capped his stellar campaign that afternoon with 14 tackles for the host Polar Bears.
More than a week later, the Winchester High School graduate was sitting in class, perusing Facebook, when a friend alerted him to a news item: The NESCAC coaches had voted the 6-foot-1, 207-pound linebacker the Defensive Player of the Year.
Cleary is the first Bowdoin player to garner the honor in the conference’s 14-year history.
“To be honest with you, I was pretty surprised,” said Cleary, explaining that the top awards usually go to players on the league’s best teams. Bowdoin finished 3-5.
That the coaches voted for him “is probably the best part, makes me really proud to earn it — those are the guys that study the film, see everyone play. They’re the most knowledgeable guys around.”
The honor certainly did not come without merit. Cleary’s senior season featured a league-high 99 tackles — more than double his total of 49 a year prior — along with a pair of fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
He finished his four-year stint at Bowdoin with 255 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and six interceptions.
So what allowed Cleary to make the jump from a solid player to the league’s best on that side of the ball?
According to Bowdoin coach David Caputi, it was as simple as comfort.
The “incredibly versatile” Cleary, as Caputi put it, played safety as a freshman in 2010, then saw time at a number of other positions before finally settling into a short-side inside linebacker spot heading into his final campaign.
Knowing that he was a bit on the small side, Cleary used last offseason to put on some weight and study film, two hallmarks preceding career years.The extra training paid off immensely.
Once he settled into one position, “the comfort level he had at that position helped him play at a higher level,” Caputi said.
“If you put him in a game, if he’s chasing someone who has the ball, he makes plays. Sometimes he makes unorthodox plays, plays you don’t expect him to make.
“He’s not a prototypical linebacker, but when plugged in he developed good instincts.”
Bowdoin was 2-2 when the Polar Bear defense took a big hit in mid-October. Linebacker Griffin Cardew, a senior captain from Ipswich via St. John’s Prep, went down with an ACL tear. The team’s leading tackler in 2012 was done for the year, and Cleary had to shoulder the load even more.
“That was huge,” Cleary said. “He’s a huge leader on defense. You could tell by the stats, but it was more than that. It was tough. I went from having one of the best players in the league next to me to still a great player, but not Griffin.”
The Polar Bears lost two of their final three games to finish seventh in the league, one game behind Maine rivals Bates and Colby.
And now, it’s all over.
“My Saturdays are never going to be the same,” Cleary said. “I can’t say it’s hit me fully yet, but each Saturday that comes around that I’m not playing and football’s on TV, I realize it more and more.”
Cleary, a history major, does not have an answer to the all-too-common “So what are you doing after college?” question yet. But his coach, who suggested Cleary may wind up back in the game as a coach at some point, isn’t too worried.
“If he brings the same passion he has for football to the workforce,” Caputi said, “he’ll be very successful.”
D’Agostino earns cross-country title
There was never any doubt that Dartmouth College senior Abbey D’Agostino was the best cross-country runner in the nation.
But on Tuesday, the Masconomet Regional graduate was officially bestowed with the honor: the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named her the 2013 Women’s National Cross Country Athlete of the year.
It was a fitting ending to a dominant senior season — one that culminated with a NCAA Division 1 title last Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.
It was the only title that had eluded D’Agostino in her illustrious career, in which she has won five national championships.
In the last two years, D’Agostino had finished second and third, respectively, at the NCAA championships, by a total time of 2.4 seconds. But this year, she was able to run alongside her teammates, as the Big Green earned a team berth as well.
“It’s incredible, and I know I couldn’t have done it without my team here,” D’Agostino said. “That was the one missing piece when I’ve been here the last couple of years. To have those girls right there on the line, there’s nothing to worry about. I was ready.”
Don MacLeod hailed
For 11 seasons, Don MacLeod guided the Northeastern women’s hockey program through the most dominant period in school history.
Taking charge of the second-year program for the 1981-82 season, he amassed 210 wins, eight consecutive Beanpot championships, a pair of ECAC titles, a 42-game unbeaten streak, and the program’s only undefeated season — a 26-0-1 record in the 1987-88 season. He finished 210-59-8 overall.
The 77-year-old Melrose native said he never felt more accomplished than when he was inducted into the Northeastern University Varsity Club Hall of Fame on Nov. 16.
“To me, I never felt so good in my life, never felt so of value,” MacLeod said. “Not everybody does everything right, but I found something I was good at and it just happened. At the Hall of Fame, I felt like a king. I got treated so well.”
Approximately 20 of his former players were present for the ceremony .
“Some came from as far as Ontario, which I didn’t expect,” said MacLeod, who now resides in Winthrop. “What I remember is we won a lot of games, which is why we were all together and working hard.”
“But the color that came out of those [road] trips, when I saw each player, I think of those rather than the games we played.”
Rookie of the Week
Wilmington High School grad Michelle Woods is off to a great start on the court at Wheelock College.
The 5-8 forward has earned back-to-back Rookie of the Week honors from the New England Collegiate Conference.
In her first four games, Woods is averaging 21.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. She had a career-high 17 rebounds against Pine Manor and a career-best 24 points against Simmons.