After opening up the season with five straight road games, BC High will finally get around to playing its home opener this Friday when No. 1 Everett travels to Viola Stadium. You can understand though if junior quarterback Bartley Regan has mixed emotions. The game will mark the first time the Eagles will be taking the field since his grandfather, legendary coach and athletic director Jim Cotter, died of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis last summer.
"He's a legend here," said Regan. "I mean, the field we play on is named after him."
Indeed, BC High held a ceremony during the 2006 season to name the field in Cotter's honor. Just weeks later, Cotter was diagnosed with ALS. That would not prevent him from attending home games for the next three years though. Just before kickoff of each home game, a medical van transporting Cotter would appear behind the end zone. Shortly thereafter, a line would begin to form, as former players and friends sought Cotter out to wish him well.
"He definitely liked seeing all those people," said Regan. "But he really just wanted to be able to see the game and root us on."
Sadly, there will be no van on Friday night.
"It's going to be bittersweet, looking over and not seeing the van," said Grace Regan, Bartley's mother and Cotter's daughter. "We called it the coachmobile. He had his former coaches coming with him. We referred to them as the space cowboys," she adds with a laugh.
The season has already has had its share of emotional moments. The week of the season-opener, the players had to report to the locker room to pick up their equipment. Coach Jon Bartlett handed Regan his helmet, with the initials "JC" on it.
"I just looked at it," said Regan. "Then I looked at Coach Bartlett, and that's when he told me my grandfather's initials would be on our helmets."
It was news that had eluded Grace until right before kickoff.
"We were in Brockton for the first game," she said. "It was such an emotional moment. None of us had seen the helmets until they were on the sidelines, ready to play."
It was affirmation that Cotter's legacy would live on, even as BC High, and Bartlett in particular, try to move on. Bartlett played for Cotter before graduation from BC High in 1987. After finishing college, Bartlett came back to Morrisey Boulevard and served as an assistant coach. In the summer, he would help run Cotter's football camp.
"I've known Jon for years," said Grace. "His mother actually taught me in high school. He's known my kids since they were babies. They would be at camp every summer. He's seen them grow up."
Regan always knew he wanted to go to BC High, but nothing would be handed to him. He played quarterback for the freshman team and the junior varsity his first two years before landing the starting role this year. Grace is grateful that her son will be able to play for Bartlett.
"He played for my father," she said. "It had been a dream of mine to have one of my sons play for BC High. Even though my father won't be around to see it, it's nice to watch Jon coaching the team and building his own legacy."
That process continues this week. Brockton handed BC High a loss the first game of the season, but the Eagles have bounced back to win three out of their next four heading into Friday's game. Regan was admittedly a bit jumpy for the opener, but has since settled down and feels more comfortable with each passing week. He is quick to credit his offensive line, as well as the receivers and running backs, for the team's success.
Win or lose Friday night, the Eagles will certainly be ready to embark on their league schedule, a four-game stretch that begins the following week against Malden Catholic. It should be an interesting month with Catholic Memorial, St. John's Prep, and Xaverian all in the hunt with the Eagles.
Speaking of Brockton, you could understand if the Boxers felt as if they were snake-bitten after their hard-luck loss to Xaverian in Week 3, 23-20 in overtime. But the Boxers found themselves on the other end of the spectrum the next week, as they squeaked out a 17-14 win at home over St. John's Prep.
The Xaverian game was played on the road in front of a packed stadium, and the Boxers had the ball, leading by a touchdown late in the contest. The Hawks recovered a fumble with just over a minute remaining though, and were able to force overtime when they scored in the waning moments of regulation. A field goal in second overtime would prove to be the difference.
One week later, the Brockton-St. John's Prep game was postponed one day due to weather. This led to a sparse crowd, but the game would prove to be just as thrilling as the week before. Trailing 17-14, the Eagles marched all they way down to the Brockton 3-yard line with just over a minute remaining, where they faced first and goal. That was as close as they would get though, as the Boxers defense forced a turnover on downs to hold on for the win.
Now Brockton can turn its attention to Durfee and New Bedford in a quest to capture the Big Three crown and advance to the playoffs.
There will be more room on the undefeated bus after this weekend, as two games feature a pair of unbeatens playing for what will in all likelihood will be playoff spots.
In the South Shore, Rockland travels across the border to Abington for a game that both towns have been waiting for all season. The neighboring towns have long been rivals, but in recent decades have been playing in separate leagues, leading only to an occasional non-league matchup. This year marked the return of Rockland to the South Shore League, and both teams are 6-0. Fans hoping to see this one better arrive in Abington early.
Meanwhile, Ron St. George's reclamation project at Cardinal Spellman appears to be well on its way. The Cardinals have jumped out to a 6-0 record, thanks to a stingy defense and a potent offensive attack led by running back Blaise Branch, who leads all scorers in Division 3A.
"Spellman's been down for quite a few years," said St. George, who racked up his 200th win earlier this season. "But the kids have really been working hard. We're coming along. I've coached some great defenses, and this one ranks right up there."
On Saturday, Spellman hits the road, making the trek from Brockton to Lynn to face St. Mary's, which is also 6-0. The Spartans are paced by running back Nick Day, who is second only to Branch in scoring in the division. The winner of this game will have the inside track to the Catholic Central (Large) title.
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 winter correspondents:
- Emily McCarthy | @EmilyMcCahthy | BPS correspondent
- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
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