Throughout the years the Jack Grinold Eastern Massachusetts Chapter of the National Football Foundation has selected the best and brightest players from the Boston area. It takes more than a health pandemic to stop that recognition.
The chapter announced its 13 winners of the 2020-21 Scholar-Athlete Award Thursday. It includes two from Dexter Southfield and two from St. John’s Prep.
The football season, as most fans know, has been anything but normal this year. The fall season was canceled by the MIAA and moved to what was called Fall II. That season, held in April and May, didn’t lead to Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium. But it did lead to opportunities for some outstanding student-athletes.
The Scholar-Athlete awards started in 1976 with the selection of 11 winners. The number has grown to 33 winners in recent years and after this abbreviated season it will return to that number again next year.
The 2021 winners with their college choices are: John Iannuzzi(Columbia) and Marcus Parara (Tufts) of Dexter Southfield; Attleboro High’s Michael Strachan (URI); St. John’s Prep’s Peter Wiehe (Tufts) and Collin Taylor (Princeton); Medfield High’s Ryan Murray (Bentley); Lin, Lincoln-Sudbury’s Gordon Gozdeck (Bowdoin); Apponequet’s Kevin Hughes (RPI); Reading’s Daniel DiMare (Bentley); Xaverian’s Michael Berluti (Tufts); Triton’s Kyle Odoy (US Naval Academy); Bishop Stang’s Benjamin Gowell (University of New England); and Bridgewater-Raynham’s Anthony Morrison (Williams).
The Scholar-Athletes winners were selected by a team of coaches, journalists, and educators. The 2020-21 winners will receive a plaque and their names will be sent to the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Bezanson nets Gatorade honor
Danvers star midfielder Arianna Bezanson is the 2020-21 Gatorade Massachusetts Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year.
The junior guided the Falcons to a perfect 11-0 season in the Northeastern Conference during the abbreviated Fall I season, recording 22 goals and six assists and scoring at least one goal in every match but one.
The award marks another lofty recognition for the 5-foot-4 Bezanson. The Colgate commit is a two-time Globe All-Scholastic and All-New England selection and became the second Danvers player in program history to earn All-American honors in December.
“Arianna is a phenomenal player—she has an absolutely lethal combination of technical skill, power and intelligence,” said Beverly coach Samantha Charest. “She’s relentless on the field and it seems every game it wasn’t a matter of if Arianna would score, but more when and in what fashion.”
In the classroom, Bezanson has maintained an unweighted 4.01 GPA and is the secretary of her class. She has posted 64 goals and 24 assists through her junior season for the Falcons.
For the second year, the MIAA awarded a pair of $1,500 scholarships to Massachusetts student-athletes in partnership with the Agganis family.
The recipients, Methuen senior Annabella Keaney and Shepherd Hill senior Henry Weiland, were selected from a field of 2020-21 MIAA Student-Athletes of the Month.
Greg Agganis, the great nephew of Harry Agganis, the former Boston University star and Red Sox first baseman, helped affirm the choices. The honorees were presented with their scholarships during events at their respective schools in early June.
Keaney is a three-sport star in soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, and was able to run track this year during the Fall II season. The 2021 Class President, she organized and coordinated a fundraiser during soccer and basketball season for Coaches vs. Cancer.
“Bella is one of the most well rounded student-athletes I have come across in my time as Athletic Director,” said Methuen AD Matt Curran. “She leads by example, is a four-sport captain and displays, on a daily basis, the traits necessary to be an effective team leader.”
Weiland is a standout on the cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track teams for Shepherd Hill. He is a founding member and Co-President of “A Better Hill,” a student-run organization focused on embracing diversity.
“Henry’s commitment to excellence and embodiment of the guiding principles upon which educational athletics are built are never more evident than in the work he does both on and off the track,” said Shepherd Hill AD Jim Scanlon. “He is an exemplar of humble success and relentless perseverance.”
John Florence is the new football coach at Austin Prep, relieving interim coach Mike Foley, who stepped in during the Fall II season when head coach Billy Tucker was unable to coach due to his commitments as the Director of Under Armour Grassroots Football. Tucker officially stepped down this offseason.
Florence, who served as head coach at Lowell from 2011 to 2019, was the defensive coordinator for Austin Prep last spring. Florence led Lowell to the D1 North semifinals in 2013 and earned a share of the Merrimack Valley Conference title in 2012 with a 9-2 record.
“It was important to find the right fit for our football program and school community,” said Austin Prep AD Pat Driscoll. “Coach Florence is just that. He truly cares about the well-being of our student-athletes and over the past year, he has done exceptional work in building relationships with the team.”
Craig Larson and Nate Weitzer also contributed to this story.