Charlene Larracey found herself struggling to hold back the tears with each word she spoke. A year after tragedy struck the community of Holliston with the sudden passing of her son Joey, the outpouring of support she and her husband Jim receive to this day has yet to slow.
Tonight, it continued with what was being dubbed the First Annual Joey Larracey Bowl, a scrimmage between the Holliston High Panthers and Brookline High Warriors that, for all intents and purposes, was an exhibition merely by name. At this time last year, Joey collapsed suddenly during a scrimmage against Apponequet Regional, and was later pronounced dead. Forty-eight hours after Joey's death, eight-year-old honorary captain Tim O'Connell succumbed to leukemia.
A capacity crowd watched as Jim and Charlene Larracey were presented with a red home jersey bearing his number 73 at the 50-yard line. During the coin toss, Brookline captains Irvin Scott and Arthur Azatyats held up their team's white 73 jersey.
"I'm absolutely overwhelmed. I'm just incredibly proud to be here right now," Charlene said softly from the sidelines, choking up with each word. "I think Joey would be very honored to have this happen to him."
Added Jim, "Holliston is a very special community, and they've been very supportive throughout. You couldn't write enough good things about this team."
And that was just the start.
The emotionally-charged Panthers won the game scrimmage, 30-7, and the student section ran onto the field following the post-game handshake to embrace the team. Charlene then choked up again as she addressed the team and fans, thanking them for their continued support.
"You saw it, the community, the student body, this was a playoff atmosphere here tonight," Holliston head coach Todd Kiley said. "It goes to show you what type of community we live in."
As for the game itself...
-- Irvin Scott, Brookline's all-everything athlete, figures to be a conversation starter this year, thanks to this highlight reel. Tonight, he showed flashes of why he's getting the hype. On the first drive, he hit Shaquille Brummitt with a 25-yard sideline pass, and followed up the next play with a six-yard touchdown strike to Brummitt over the middle. The next series, Scott showed off his 4.5 speed when he got pursuit on the front side from Dan Oteri and simply rolled right for a 25-yard scamper.
In all, Scott played six different positions tonight -- quarterback, running back, wideout, safety, kicker, punter. He should be one of the more exciting players to watch this season. No further update on his recruiting -- he still has one offer from Northeastern -- but the picture should be clearer once he takes his official visits later this year (Rutgers, UConn, Pitt and Syracuse have all inquired about him, along with a slew of 1-AA schools).
-- The thing that most impressed me tonight about the Panthers was their execution. Not only were they quicker off the ball, running the no-huddle, but quarterback Sean Mayo sold fakes almost flawlessly. The most impressive fake might have been his second touchdown, when he faked a belly option handoff to Kevin Curry, drawing virtually the entire defense to the near side of the field, and took off for a 25-yard score unscathed.
-- The Warriors' offense seemed to sputter with the loss of their quarterback, Azatyats, in the first series. Azatyats injured his shoulder on a collision fighting for the first-down marker; the extent of his injury is unknown at this time.
-- Holliston will get the majority of its production this year from its junior class. A year ago, Kiley started 10 sophomores and a freshman, Jake Frechette (who sat out tonight with a hip injury), as the Panthers went 4-6. Now, with a year under everyone's belts, they have grown -- both physically and mentally. Leading the charges in this strong junior class will be Mayo, along with 6-foot-5, 215-pound tight end/defensive end Ryan Barrett (the younger brother of Bryant freshman tight end Andrew Barrett). Ryan LaMarcque and Ethan Rayner lead a physical interior line as well.
-- Got to appreciate a creative student section when you see one. Holliston students' reaction to a bad call? "Hog Wash!"
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.