For every team boasting an unbeaten season, there is a winless team a few towns away. For each All-Scholastic athlete, there are a dozen athletes, perhaps not equally talented, but working toward the same goal. Coaches teach and encourage, prod and push, trying to turn children into champions. For some, like the BC High football team and the Chelmsford girls' swim team, the payoff is huge. Nothing can match the satisfaction enjoyed by a handful of teams and individuals this fall. Selecting 10 worthy success stories from a season filled with hundreds of candidates isn't easy. Here, in no particular order, are 10 we thought stood out.
1. Who says cats don't like water?
After nine state swim titles in a row, isn't this the spot where we pay tribute to Andover's 10th? Not this year. Chelmsford ended Andover's streak, winning both the Merrimack Valley Conference title and the Division 1 state title. The Lions did it with depth and a surprise first-place finish to start the state meet by the 200 medley relay team. "Winning the medley relay was huge," said Chelmsford coach Harriet Kinnett. "I don't think anyone expected that except us." Chelmsford didn't win an individual event but the race results were filled with the names of Chelmsford swimmers. That depth brough home the program's first state title in 30 years.
2.Fumble leads to unhappy ending
Lawrence's Anthony DeJesus and Mansfield's Andrew Rapp didn't mean to become a headline. All they wanted was to play a little football. But in the last month both seniors were the reason their teams forfeited games. The fumbling of paperwork, a waiver application that was never filed, was the culprit as Lawrence forfeited four games and Mansfield two. The Mansfield case is still playing out as the Hornets learned as much about how the court system works as they did about Bishop Feehan and Walpole, their two post-season opponents. Football was a positive influence in both players lives. Unfortunately, the dream became a disappointment.
3. Barnstable volleyball makes it 6 straight
As inevitable as death and taxes, come the second week of November, the Barnstable girls' volleyball team hoists the MIAA Division 1 state championship trophy. That's what the stories said after the Red Raiders, for the sixth consecutive season and for the 12th time in 16 years, asserted themselves as the Bay State's premier volleyball program. Lincoln-Sudbury put up a fight in the state final but like most Barnstable volleyball games, the Red Raiders came out on top. "Obviously, this is the end goal - winning championships," said coach Tom Turco, who has amassed 465 wins since taking the helm in 1988. "These girls really amaze me."
4.Ryan Izzo's days are numbered
You mean this kid has another year to go? Walpole's "junior" running back Ryan Izzo is within 177 points of breaking the state's all-time career scoring record and at the rate he crosses the goal line, the record should be his well before Thanksgiving. Izzo, who ran for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the Rebels' 41-21 win over Mansfield in the Division 2 Super Bowl, is now a two-time Player of the Year after scoring 278 points this fall and leading Walpole to a 13-0 record. While the Super Bowl win was a team effort, as coach Danny Villa explained after, "We know who our bread and butter is."
5.CSI Soccer Stars: A sign of the times
Where did they go? Wasn't this the MIAA soccer postseason that would end with Acton-Boxboro's national star competing against Whitman-Hanson's national-caliber players? No, because these days high school competition takes a back seat to so many different AAU, U-17, U-Fill-In-The-Blank competitions. This fall the U-17 World Soccer Cup in New Zealand took away A-B's Hayley Brock and Whitman-Hanson's Kristie and Samantha Mewis. We still got to watch Whitman-Hanson's Devin Petta in action, but the dream matchup never occured. Despite missing Brock for much of the year, A-B had a successful season, winning the EMass title and finishing 22-1-1.
6. Cape Ann home to great soccer
When the Masconomet and Hamilton-Wenham boys, along with the Newburyport girls, won EMass titles the night of Nov. 18 even a casual observer could figure out what many already knew: Cape Ann League schools and soccer go hand-in-hand. Newburyport would go on to win their second straight Division 3 state title while Masco and Hamilton-Wenham came up short in their title games. "It's unreal," said Newburport senior Micaela Hogan. "Two state championships in a row. Who can say they've done that?" Three might be tough. Along with Hogan, the Clippers lose the program's all-time leading scorer, Jillian Kinter.
7. Nice debut for Charlestown pair
Let's get the confusing part out of the way first. Omar Aden changed his legal name to Omar Abdi this year. And Abdi and his teammate Ahmed Ali, don't attend Latin Academy, or Boston Latin, or even like latin. Since Charlestown doesn't officially have a team, they ran under the Latin Academy name. Therefore the confusing results from week to week. But what isn't confusing is their talent. At the All-State meet the pair crossed the finish line of the mud-soaked Division 1 race together, Ali officially getting the win. It's the first year either has run cross-country. Amazing, yes. Confusing, not any longer.
8.DCL girls on a nice run
Is there any better way to prepare for the state championship than a regular season competition in the Dual County League? Division 1 state champion Newton South and runner-up Lincoln-Sudbury have been friendly rivals for years and this fall was no exception. Sure, there were other participants at the state meet but it really came down to L-S vs. Newton South. And when the race was over, it was time to add up the numbers. "I had a pretty strong feeling we had won it because I could easily do the math," said Newton South coach Steve McChesney, whose team had finished second six times before. "You dream of a season like this."
9.DCL boys keep it in the fairway
Is there any better way to prepare for the state championship than a regular season competition in the Dual County League? Didn't we say this already? But it's true in golf, just as in cross-country. Weston won the Division 3 state title. Concord-Carlisle took Division 2. And Newton South tied for first in Division 1 North and finished fourth at the state meet the next week. "Our motto coming into [the state final] is just to do what we've done all year," said Concord-Carlisle coach Phil Gibson. "And that's what they did today, they performed." He could have been talking for all the Dual County teams.
10. Field hockey a family affair
Joan Bannon, like most moms, enjoyed standing on the sidelines watching her kids play sports. And when the kids, in this case Keelin and Mallory, brought her a little present after the final game of the fall, that made it even better. The gift was the MIAA Division 2 state championship trophy, presented to mom, otherwise known as the head coach of the Hopkinton field hockey team. Hopkinton was the ninth seed in the tournament but caught fire in the postseason and beat Mohawk Trail in the final. It was a good day for EMass. Weston beat Notre Dame, 3-0, for the Division 1 title.