I know, I know. We're geared up already. Blah, blah, blah.What you need to know is that in the midst of all this we put together our first list of the Globe Top 20 and the Boston.com 100. Is it any surprise which team is on top?
Everett opens the year as they closed it last season as the No. 1 team in our poll. The Crimson Tide are more than deserving. Our capsule notes, "Everett returns a boatload of talent all over the field including Division 1 Player of the Year quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, a sizable line featuring the coveted John Montelus and a linebacking corps showcasing Vondell Langston and Chris McCarthy." All of whom are exceptional talents that will likely be playing regularly on Saturdays.
But it's not all for naught in Eastern Mass. There's reason to believe that perennial power Brockton should be at the mountain top. The Boxers also boast a stable of returnees and expect running back Josh Brewster to be nothing short of amazing, which we readily agree. Coach Peter Colombo said "[Brewster's] a big time running back who can get tough yards inside and break it big." But Brockton's No. 5 on our list. That's right, the Boxers fall behind Everett, No. 2 Duxbury, No. 3 BC High and No. 4 Catholic Memorial. And for good reason. The top teams are stacked. (Four players from Catholic Memorial have committed to Division 1 schools in 2012.)
We haven't even mentioned Gloucester yet -- winners of 26 games in a row -- or the other five winners of EMass Super Bowls. (Mansfield, Beverly, Holliston, Shawsheen, and Northeast Regional.) All of which are fighting for respect out of the gates.
(While we're on Gloucester, they dropped all the way to No. 17 in our poll after finishing at No. 2 last year. It should have been expected. They lost 22 seniors. The type of success they've had in the past two years will be hard to replicate.)
In the coming weeks, we expect this list to get shaken up. It's the nature of things. And it's also good for the game. With some programs on the rise, regular powerhouses on the outside, and the Catholic Conference holding a death grip on some of the top positions, we're bound to see some early upsets. Everett has 99 teams gunning for them. Do all 99 teams have a chance to sit at the mountaintop? No, that's just unrealistic. But any one of them can blow it up. And that's something to be pumped about.
"Typical high schoolers," I keep hearing. "They’re just teenagers," is another. Or, "they did no real harm to themselves or others."
True, true and true again. But rules have been broken and there’s no denying that.
On Tuesday, when it was reported that five players on the girls’ soccer team at Needham high school were being suspended amid allegations of hazing, there were ready-made acknowledgments of wrongdoing -- and full-blown denials of malice. But lost in the hoopla of all this Needham acrimony is the standard response of the parents of these wrongdoers. (And in some cases, their grandparents.)
When Todd D. White, a lawyer and parent of one of the girls on the soccer team, filed a restraining order with Norfolk Superior Court against Jonathan D. Pizzi, Needham High’s principal, and Micah Hauben, athletic director at the school, it struck me that these type of situations fall in very simple patterns.
In 2008, there was an incident in which a high school girls' basketball team in Grass Valley, Calif., had its season curtailed after 10 of its 11 members were at an off-campus party in which underage drinking had occurred. Parents of the players argued that the students shouldn’t be punished because it was off campus. They argued that 30 days, which was the duration for suspensions for alcohol-related incidents, was too severe. The parents didn’t want to have any punishment kill their kids’ season.
No one denied wrongdoing. And no one denied their presence at the party, save for the lone soul who couldn’t go. But lo and behold, despite an athletic contract that forbade alcohol consumption in season and first-hand accounts (MySpace pictures, no less) of the activity, the parents of the players banded together to “save their season.” A petition was filed with the school district’s superintendent. A lawsuit was also discussed.
These things usually aren’t so cut and dried. There are parents that are for the punishment, in this case suspensions, and there are parents that are wholly against it. I see no reason to besmirch that kind of disagreement. But in every case that I’ve encountered while researching the issue, there is never any acceptance of punishment without petition. And it’s always the doings of the parents who claim they’re going to bat for their children.
There is no athletic director or power-crazy principal in the world, let alone in sports-crazed Massachusetts, that is out to ruin the lives of these children. As these things typically go, the athletic director does everything in his or her power to make sure the students are getting a fair shake. One can only imagine the choices Hauben and Pizzi were given after the evidence of alleged hazing, true or not, was provided to them. In that sense, there’s no denying that action needed to be taken either.
For the parents, this is more of an issue of singling out their children while watching third-party parenting get meted out. It’s not comfortable. But it’s something that should be accepted for the benefit of the kids.
As parochial as it may sound, lessons need to be learned and statements need to be made. Having a freshman soccer player blindfolded and walk around in a dog leash isn’t practice for adulthood. Trying to explain its usefulness isn’t very adult-like either.
Trying to defend it, whether on the basis of its actual punishment or the act in itself as some parents have done, is not above reproach. As sample, unscientific poll on Boston.com has shown readers overwhelmingly agree that the punishment these Needham girls received was appropriate.
One administrator said it best when speaking to the Globe yesterday.
"These events have to be handled firmly and directly,’’ said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. “It’s not just the students directly involved; it’s the whole culture of the school. Everyone is watching how the adults are going to respond, and if the adults don’t send a message with some degree of severity, it’s as if they’re condoning it.’’
One could argue that these student-athletes would more likely, or more easily, understand the basis of the rules against hazing, and any derivative thereof, if both parents and administrators could agree upon them. But I’m hard-pressed to believe that the parents in Needham and the student-athletes weren’t made aware of any rules or regulations as far as personal conduct prior to the season. Surely they were given a rule book? A waiver to sign?
As far as I know, the rules have never changed mid-game. And neither have the punishments. Even if they’re typical high schoolers. Or typical parents.
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com 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
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.