If the fall is the start of a year-long marathon, we’re off to a great start. As the winter season begins, schools such as Everett, Barnstable, and Bishop Feehan have an early lead thanks to teams that brought home state championships in football, volleyball, and cross-country.
But now it’s time to hand off the baton. Coaches understand there’s work to be done. They teach and encourage, prod and push, trying to turn teenagers into champions.
For some, such as the Andover swim team and the Peabody soccer team, the payoff is huge. Nothing can match the celebration enjoyed by a handful of teams and individuals this fall.
Selecting 10 worthy success stories from a season filled with candidates isn’t easy. Here, in no particular order, are 10 we thought stood out.
Three cheers for Sarah Broderick:
The thought of a boy standing atop the winner’s platform at the girls’ state swimming championships was a curiosity to some, and outrage to others. But even with the knowledge that Andover’s Rachel Moore wasn’t going to swim the 50 free after winning the event at North Sectionals, no one seemed overly concerned. That’s because Haverhill’s talented junior sprinter, Sarah Broderick, was on the case. And when Broderick touched first in 23.85 to win the event and the Division 1 title, the cheers were a little louder than normal. The boys? They finished second and third.
Rocha on an impressive run:
We really don’t need to know how Peabody’s Catarina Rocha did yesterday in the National Cross-Country championships in San Diego to say her fall has been brilliant. We’re not able to overcome pesky print deadlines, but this much we know: no individual performer in any sport had a better fall than the Tanners’ junior. She won the EMass Division 1 title, the All-State Division 1 title, then finished third at the Northeast Regionals in New York, earning her a spot in the national finals for the second straight year. A run through Balboa Park was a fitting reward for a great season.
Barnstable works for title No. 14:
Winning as many titles as the Barnstable volleyball team has creates problems. When you win your 14th championship, you need extra fingers, you need help. So when the Red Raiders beat Central Catholic, 3-0, senior Kayla Crook enlisted the help of coach Tom Turco to hold up 14 fingers. Problem solved. ‘‘It’s a tradition of winning, but winning isn’t who they are,’’ said Turco. ‘‘Who they are is a hardworking group of gutsy players.’’ And don’t forget talented, too. Kaylee Deluga is arguably the best player in the state and along with Crook sparked a team that finished 23-0. Might need a few extra fingers for that record.
DiBiaso finishes a historic run:
Touchdown passes aren’t the only way to judge a quarterback. But pick whatever number you wish and Everett’s Jonathan DiBiaso looks pretty good. Back-to-back record-breaking seasons that included 25 straight wins, 43 then 44 touchdown passes, a career total of 103 touchdown passes, and most importantly two straight Super Bowl titles. You might say the combination of coach/dad John DiBiaso and his son Jonathan has worked ... and then some. ‘‘I couldn’t be prouder and I couldn’t be happier for a group of kids than I am of these kids,’’ said coach DiBiaso. Especially the kid under his own roof.
Watertown hits a trifecta:
Can you remember the last time Watertown lost a field hockey game? Neither could we. For the record it was Nov. 12, 2008, in the state semifinals. Since then, Watertown has won three straight state titles and put together a 69-game unbeaten streak. The latest title came in a 3-1 win over Oakmont and was keyed by two goals from All-Scholastic forward Erika Kelly. ‘‘It’s been a long journey for us this year,’’ said coach Eileen Donahue. ‘‘We replaced a lot of people, they fought for it all years, and I’m very proud of them.’’ And her players are proud of her. In an October win over Melrose, Donahue won her 500th game.
Two in a row isn’t bad either:
Andover won its second straight Division 1 state field hockey title, finishing the season 22-0-2. The Golden Warriors title came with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Longmeadow in which the game’s only goal was scored in the second half by sophomore Julia LeBlanc. Prior to the goal, Andover coach Maureen Noone called a time-out to settle her team. ‘‘After the timeout they realized they had to play with more urgency and step up,’’ said Noone. LeBlanc broke the ice with 14:58 to play. Then it was hold-on-tight time, and soon enough, celebration time.
Andover girls order up a dozen:
The nice thing about winning your 12th state swimming title on the same day your field hockey team wins its second straight, is that you have some company for the celebration. Led by All-American and Virginia-bound Rachel Moore, Andover destroyed the competition, showing off speed and depth no swim program in the state can match. And this one was particularly emotional for coach Marilyn Fitzgerald. In early November her father passed away and the entire team rallied around her. ‘‘I don’t know if one is any more special than another, but this sure heals a lot of the problems of the last month,’’ she said.
Matt Owens and a game-changing call:
Should it have been a penalty? And if no, where do you draw the line? What’s acceptable? Owens, Cathedral’s quarterback, was running for what would have been the game-winning touchdown against Blue Hills in the Division 4A Super Bowl when he gave a single-fist pump in the air. Out came the flag, away went the touchdown, and with it the title. Blue Hills held on to win, 16-14. Captains from both teams were warned about sportsmanship before the game, and as they say, rules are rules. But if you were the official, running along Owens in his dream-come-true moment, would have you reached for the flag?
Under one roof, two All-Americans:
What do you think Mrs. O’Brien served for breakfast all these years? Was there some secret ingredient in the pancakes? Or is there more to Cheerios than we think? Whatever it was, Concord-Carlisle’s dynamic brother-sister combination of Mikey and Andrea O’Brien not only earned All-Scholastic honors, they were also each named soccer All-Americans. Two All-Americans under one roof. After a slow start, the Patriot boys won 12 of 14 and made it to the state title game. The girls finished 14-5 and fell to powerhouse Peabody in the North. MIAA titles were about the only thing missing from the breakfast table.
Can you pick the next Keegan Bradley?
Admit it, you’re looking at the guys on the golf page a little closer this morning. It was just eight years ago that Hopkinton’s Keegan Bradley was on that page, sporting an All-Scholastic smile as our Division 2 Player of the Year. Could it be Jason Steele, this year’s Division 2 Player of the Year? Bradley shot a 69 at the Division 2 state championship that year, Steele recorded a 68 at the same competition this fall. Or how about St. John’s Nick Pandelena, who took first place with a round of 71 in the Division 1 state championship. Tomorrow’s star could be just a page away.