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Globe North Sports notebook

Brooks’ Morahan hangs up his cleats

Brooks School soccer coach Bob Morahan, with assistant coach and former star player Jaime Gilbert, received a ball signed by the girls on his team. Brooks School soccer coach Bob Morahan, with assistant coach and former star player Jaime Gilbert, received a ball signed by the girls on his team.
By John Vellante
December 5, 2010

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Bob Morahan figured he’d coach girls’ soccer at the Brooks School in North Andover “a minimum of 10 years’’ but admits he looked elsewhere in the early 1990s. There was nothing, he said, that was better than the situation he had. So he stayed.

Now, after 30 years — and 317 wins, and eight Independent School League, five New England Class B and one New England Class A championships — Morahan is retiring. There will be no more hour-long commutes from his home in Cape Neddick, Maine, to Brooks and back. He leaves behind a treasure trove of memories.

All this from a man who never played soccer and who, as Brooks’ athletic director, appointed himself coach of the girls’ team in 1981 when the program was in just its second year of varsity status. Morahan won four games his first year, and that was four more than the year before.

“It was so different back then,’’ said Morahan, who also taught mathematics at the school.

“Soccer at that point was in its infancy and you basically had to teach the kids how to play. Now, kids coming into the ninth grade have been playing for years in different venues and different programs and have been exposed to a high level of competition. Now you don’t have to teach the fundamentals as you did then.

“When I arrived at Brooks in 1979, the school had just enrolled its first girls class. They started playing a junior varsity schedule and a year later went varsity. The coach left to pursue another line of work and the position opened up. I was the AD at the time, so I appointed myself.’’

It was, by all accounts, a brilliant appointment, as all the championship banners and a 317-112-60 record will attest. Along the way, he says, he coached many great players, some who went on to brilliant college careers. He wasn’t shy about naming his greatest.

Jaime Gilbert was the best,’’ he declares, “and Amy Broadhead the second best.’’

Gilbert, a North Andover native and class of 2004 grad at Brooks who served this fall as Morahan’s assistant coach, had 92 career goals and won an NCAA championship at North Carolina, while Broadhead, from North Andover and the class of ’94, earned All-America status and was captain at Brown University.

Morahan said his most satisfying season was in 2002, when Brooks went 17-0 and won the ISL and New England Class A championships after being elevated from Class B, which it dominated the year before, as well as in 1992, 1993, 1995, and 1996.

Disappointments? “Haven’t had a lot of them,’’ he said. “It’s been very satisfying for a lot of years.’’

Morahan’s last team went 8-8-1 and, after losing three straight, won its final game of the season, 2-0, against St. Paul’s, to send the retiring coach out on a high note.

He said he’ll always remember the finale not for the win, but for the goal that senior Carter Makin of Wenham scored in the second half to snap a scoreless tie. It was the first — and only — goal of Makin’s career.

“She’s a defensive player, so she does not get too many opportunities to score,’’ said Morahan. “The goal was very special not only for her, but to me as well.’’

Makin said playing for Morahan was an experience she’ll never forget. “He taught me determination and how to have confidence in myself,’’ she said. “I became a better player because he believed in me.’’

The other cocaptain, senior Amelia Hammerl of Wenham, said being a part of Morahan’s last team was something “very special because he has a passion not only for the sport, but for the whole team.’’

Morahan makes no bones about who he’d like to succeed him, saying he’s pushing for Gilbert. Athletics director Lori Charpentier said Gilbert “would be in the mix.’’

Campus corner
Former Wheaton College All-American runner Merzudin Ibric of Revere has been honored by the NCAA with its 2011 Inspiration Award. The Bosnia refugee fled his war-torn country in 1998 and the NCAA recognized him as an inspiring lesson in courage, perseverance, and unending hope. He will receive the award next month at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio. Ibric was a two-year team captain at Wheaton, two-time national champion, five-time All-American, and holds four school records. He majored in international relations with a minor in Russian. He now works for the US government. . . Amherst sophomore Ali Simeone of Stoneham finished 12th to earn All-America status in the NCAA Division 3 Cross-Country Championships in Waverly, Iowa. Simeone was clocked over the 6K course in 21:28.7. . . Williams College wide receiver Darren Hartwell of North Reading appeared in the Faces in the Crowd section of the Nov. 29 issue of Sports Illustrated. Hartwell tied one Williams record and set another this fall. He twice tied the school mark for TD catches in a game with three against Trinity and Middlebury and set the school record for TD receptions when he caught his 10th against Amherst.

Around and about
Haverhill High will field a wrestling team after all. The Hillies have teamed up with Whittier Tech and Amesbury and will compete on a co-op basis. Last month, the team was dropped due to a lack of wrestlers. Haverhill is expected to add about 10 wrestlers to the co-op team, which will be coached by Whittier’s Rick Durkin. . . Alex Carpenter of North Reading, Kate Leary of Seabrook, N.H., and Reed Kennedy of Marblehead, all seniors at the Governor’s Academy, have signed letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at the college level. Carpenter and Leary will play hockey for the women’s team at Boston College, and Kennedy, an All-ISL lacrosse player, will play at Penn State. . . North Reading Youth Football League standout Robert Needham has been chosen to play in the Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl on Jan. 9 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Needham will play center for the East squad in the 8th-grade weight limit game.

Send ideas or information to JohnPVel@aol.com.