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Thanksgiving high school notebook

LaSpada an inspiration

Globe Correspondents / November 25, 2011
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Billerica senior captain Nick LaSpada, who has been sidelined with heart and lung issues the last three weeks, led his team in warm-ups and received a nice hand from the crowd.

“The support over this whole thing has been unbelievable,’’ LaSpada said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else for my team and for myself. I just want to thank everyone.’’

He also gave an update on his condition. “Health-wise everything’s good,’’ he said. “It’s going to be about six months until the medicine kicks in, and then from there on out we’re going to play it day by day and see what happens.

“The biggest thing right now is getting healthy. I’m going to do what the doctors tell me so that in six months I can get back out there on the field.’’

LaSpada was diagnosed with a hole in his heart and a blood clot in his lungs following a 44-28 loss to Andover Nov. 4. The 2009 Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year was having another fine season for the Indians with 13 touchdown passes, boosting his career total to 71.

Watching his teammates give their all on the field against Chelmsford and being unable to join them clearly weighed on the senior in Billerica’s final game of the season.

“[Not being out there] is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, watching my best friends go out there and give their all. They left it all out there on the field, 21-7; it’s not a pretty score, but they gave it their all and I know it was for me.’’

Despite being sidelined, LaSpada has been contributing to the team, taking sophomore quarterback Jordan Bolarinho under his wing.

“I’m just trying to be a coach and go out there and help the sophomore, Jordan [Bolarinho] as much as I can,’’ he said.

SETH LAKSO

Fighting spirit

Lieutenant Jake Murphy performed the coin toss before the Needham-Wellesley game. Murphy graduated from Wellesley in 2005 and was a football and lacrosse captain for the Raiders. In July, he lost both legs because of injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan. Murphy, a 2009 graduate of West Point, was surrounded by seniors from both teams during the pregame ceremony. Wellesley won the toss.

PHILLIP PERRY

Kitchen honored

Even though this year’s Thanksgiving Day game between Mansfield and Foxboro was held at the Warriors’ field, the home team held a moment of silence for Nancy Kitchen, the longtime secretary for the Mansfield athletic department, who succumbed to cancer on Tuesday.

“Nancy’s dedication to the student-athletes at Mansfield High School will forever be remembered,’’ Foxboro PA announcer Al Sozio said in part of the venerable secretary, who retired last summer after 20 years. “Please keep Nancy and her family in your thoughts and prayers.’’

Mansfield PA announcer Tom Faria, who’s held that position for 21 years, was quick to say this would be a bittersweet day for the Hornets and their fans.

“I can assure you that the Mansfield kids will play with heavy hearts today,’’ Faria said. “She was beloved in the school. She basically ran the athletic department.

“She was the right-hand man for the former athletic director, Margaret Conaty [who’s now at Hingham]. Nancy basically ran the athletic department.

“‘She was a beloved figure at Mansfield High School.’’

MIKE SCANDURA

Bald is beautiful

Walpole entered its game against Weymouth bald as can be. The Rebels raised more than $13,000 and pledged to shave their heads for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a foundation to help children fight cancer. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation was present collecting donations.

JUAN RIVERA

Rivals are driven

Although they’re bitter rivals on the field, Newburyport and Amesbury are allies in the war on hunger. Both schools collaborated in a food drive, with yesterday’s game at World War II Memorial Stadium serving as the drop-off point. Donations will go to support food pantries serving both towns, as well as surrounding communities. The schools began collecting food items for the needy at last year’s game.

DAN HICKLING

Holliston police toy drive

The Holliston Police Department teamed up with Holliston High and the Holliston Lions Club to bring holiday cheer to local children. At yesterday’s Westwood-Holliston game, fans brought new toys for children ages 8-15 as part of the Toys for Tots campaign. There are also drop boxes at the police station, post office, and other town locations.

PATRICK McHUGH

McKenna has company

Brother Joseph G. McKenna has some company on the Catholic Memorial football field. The school named the football stadium after James R. O’Connor during the halftime of CM’s game against BC High. The Knights’ turf is now known as Brother Joseph G. McKenna Field at James R. O’Connor Stadium.

ANTHONY GULIZIA

Duxbury remembers

Green, white, and black have long been the colors synonymous with Duxbury High, but one football shirt at the souvenir stand sticks out because of its red, white, and blue lettering.

The words “Strength, Honor, and Liberty’’ are written on the back as homage to Lieutenant Timothy Steele, a Duxbury High grad (Class of ’04) and two-sport captain, who died in Afghanistan in August. The Dragons, who attended Steele’s funeral as a team, dedicated their season to him. A sticker with the word “Liberty’’ - which also is the name of Steele’s infant daughter - is on every player’s helmet, and the name Steele is stenciled into the grass on a hill at Chandler Field.

A moment of silence was observed in Steele’s memory before the start of the fourth quarter yesterday.

“The team has done an unbelievable job all season in raising money and keeping Tim’s family in our thoughts and prayers. It means a lot to these kids and we feel like he’s looking down on us,’’ said Duxbury coach Dave Maimaron. “We’re trying to make their lives a little easier because we know it’s going to be so difficult for Liberty to grow up without a father.’’

NICK FRENCH

Everett heroes

At halftime of Everett’s game against Cambridge at Everett Memorial Stadium, Tide seniors Paul Marckini and Ralph Jonathas were presented with the Unsung Hero award, presented by Everett Superintendent of Schools Frederick Foresteire. Marckini won for offense and Jonathas for defense. Both have been members of the team for four years. Also, injured captain Buck McCarthy joined his teammates at midfield for the pregame coin toss.

ERIC RUSSO

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