The instant the net rippled, the season – my season – ended.
Interviews and a story followed, but Coleson Hanrahan’s goal that sent Longmeadow’s boys lacrosse team into celebration on June 21 put an end to the state’s first completed – start to finish – high school year of sports since 2018-19.
Masks and attendance restrictions still lent reminders of a COVID world. But from opening kickoffs in the fall to closing out sets in late spring, the whirlwind of ’21-’22 included banner/trophy celebrations, buzzer beaters and athletic feats worth a second look.
Two notebooks full of hieroglyphical scribbles make no sense. Flipping through endless pages of names, times and starred plays don’t capture that day’s work.
Let’s go to the video review. It’s all there. On my phone.
Scrolling back to September ….
The fall season started on a somber note, with Newton North’s Clinton Jacobs carrying an American flag as he led his Tiger football teammates onto the Dickinson Stadium turf on the exact 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Most current high school students were not alive when America was attacked, but no one wanted to forget. Newton North made the day additionally memorable with a 53-14 victory over Waltham to claim the “Doc” Cohn Memorial Trophy.
No state championships are decided in September, but one event holds reverence that is equal to the excitement and buildup: Concord-Carlisle’s Kicks for Cancer.
Nearly 20 schools participated in the 15th annual event, one year after Kicks went virtual, mostly in soccer, but field hockey, cross country and football joined in on the fundraising. The hill next to C-C’s varsity field was packed for the home team’s games that evening as usual.
Another crowd formed next to Newton North’s track on the final day of summer when North grad Evan Morse unveiled a sculpture he created in honor of former track and cross country coach Jim Blackburn, who died on March 19, 2019, at age 81 after battling pancreatic cancer. He coached at North for 30 years, part of what is believed to be a national-record 58-year career, after stops at Brookline, Newton South and Belmont high schools.
Nearly 60 admirers attended, including Blackburn’s former athletes, rival coaches, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and Blackburn’s widow, Charlotte. Carl Whitham, a 2013 grad and a New England champion shot putter, said Blackburn “didn’t produce great athletes, he produced great humans.”
Football charged back after being forced into a “wedge” season in 2021, and Amari Williams rumbled his way onto the highlight reel with a game-saving, long-distance sprint two nights before Halloween. The Concord-Carlisle senior intercepted an Acton-Boxborough pass near his goal line on a fourth-down play with 31 seconds remaining and returned it 99 yards to seal a 21-10 victory.
“I had a flashback of Malcolm Butler,” C-C coach Josh Reed said, comparing the play to a certain Super Bowl-saving pick.
November marked the return of both fall post-season play for the first time in two years as well as a new statewide format. The boys soccer teams from C-C and Needham played one of the most memorable games of the entire year when they met in the Div. 1 Round of 16.
After C-C scored two goals in the final five minutes in a 4-3 OT defeat of BC High, the Patriots played at Needham, which entered the game undefeated. The Rockets forced overtime when Marco Flano took a ball out of the air, and from 20 yards out, ripped it into the net with less than two minutes to play. C-C keeper Sam Wasserman handled the rest, stopping two shots in the shootout to ignite a wild celebration on Needham’s Memorial Field turf.
The soccer cellys continued at Lynn’s Manning Field when Newton North’s Tony Oliveira used a tap-to-himself goal in overtime to produce a 1-0 win over C-C and brought the Tigers a step away from their first state championship.
Three nights later, however, at the same field, Isaac Heffess scored a golden goal of his own in double OT to knock out North and win Brookline its own first title. Toby Prabhu-Schlosser’s 35-yard screamer pulled the Warriors even with under seven minutes remaining in regulation to cap a postseason in which ninth-seeded Brookline won all five of its playoff games by one goal – two in overtime.
While all of their postseason contests were played at night, two words sum up the run put in by Concord-Carlisle’s field hockey team: “Glory Days.”
The Bruce Springsteen classic followed the final whistle at Concord’s Memorial Field into mid-November during the Patriots’ flirtation with the program’s first state title. Only a 1-0 defeat to Walpole, the state’s premier team for decades, in the Final Four stopped the music.
The post-season ducked inside when the Acton-Boxborough girls swim team won the state championship as thunder rumbled outside the Boston Sports Institute in Wellesley. A-B’s winning 400 freestyle relay team of Sophie Juethner, Rachel Tsang, Claudia Huang and Isabela Teixeira put the finishing touches on an 86-point margin of victory over second-place Brookline.
Needham’s girls volleyball team also won a title in Wellesley, defeating Newton North to wrap a 22-1 season and win a second consecutive crown. North’s new athletic director, Mike Jackson, watched as his former school – where he served as assistant AD – won in five sets.
Football always closes the fall season, and November saw a return to Thanksgiving Day football and post-season play. Billerica reached the Final Four of the playoffs with a comeback 15-14 win over Hanover to improve to 9-1 on the season before falling the North Attleboro the following weekend.
But it was on Turkey Day where a long-lost rivalry was found. Lexington and Concord-Carlisle played on the fourth Thursday of November for the first time since 1972, when the teams stop playing each other due to league realignment.
The rivalry dates back to 1893 and the teams will meet for the 100th time overall in November. Last year, C-C improved its record in the series to 50-42-7 with a 35-6 win in Concord, a day punctuated by senior Tim Hays’ third-quarter score.
Hays hadn’t played all season and missed the previous two as well before running in a 6-yard touchdown and receiving countless hugs and he jogged back to the sideline.
The fall season also marked the end of two remarkable girls soccer coaching careers for Needham’s Carl Tarabelli and Belmont’s Paul Graham.
The winter brought sports back inside – mostly – for another wild ride. Concord-Carlisle’s girls cross country ski team won the season’s first state championship in mid-February, dancing across state lines to do so.
Behind senior Isabella Synnestvedt’s individual victory, the Patriots finished four points ahead of Lenox as Finn Feist and Sarah Kirincich each placed in the top 10.
A week later, both Newton North indoor track teams won states at the Reggie Lewis Center, with the girls capturing a 30th overall state title. Skye-Petrie Cameron (girls) and Max Klein (boys) both won shot put crowns for the Tigers.
Arlington’s girls hockey team made history by skating at TD Garden for the first time. The Spy Ponders won 22 games behind the offensive power of Maddie Krepelka and Gabby Russo, their only two losses coming to unbeaten Austin Prep early in the regular season and at the Garden.
The Arlington boys pulled off one of the year’s most improbable comebacks when Drew Fecteau scored with 1:13 remaining against Xaverian to cap a three-goal comeback in less than five minutes, erasing a 4-1 deficit. But Xaverian scored in the second overtime to end Arlington’s season.
Neighboring Belmont also had a memorable season, inviting players back from the 2019-20 season to raise a boys hockey state championship banner for a title game that was never played due to COVID-19. The Marauders finished 19-2-3, reaching the Elite Eight behind the scoring of Cam Fici and the netminding of Ryan Griffin.
Acton-Boxborough’s girls hockey team won 18 games, but their season was about quality more than anything. Senior Cailey Ryan earned her 100th career point on the same night coach Brian Fontas notched his 300th win.
In the playoffs, A-B won consecutive games in overtime – Allie Corrieri and Natalie Hodgson netting the game-winners – before falling to Austin Prep in the Final Four.
Newton North’s boys basketball team sent its backers on an emotional ride, despite playing in front of mostly empty gyms during the season. With fans restricted at North due to COVID, the Tigers started a petition – which eventually proved fruitless – to discontinue the limit on spectators.
North made an appearance at TD Garden on Feb. 5 for the Andrew James Lawton Invitational, a game twice postponed due to COVID-19 and a blizzard. The Tiger lost to Andover, and that same day, Newton resident Preston Settles collapsed on the court while playing for the Brooks School.
Settles, at age 15, died on Feb. 27 and the Tigers honored him at their March 4 playoff game against Wellesley, wearing his school’s colors (black and green) with “PS3” on their warmup T-shirts. Jose Padilla made a pregame speech and Jason Antonellis sank a buzzer-beater from beyond half court in a 65-51 win.
North defeated Andover on its way to the state championship game before losing to undefeated BC High in Lowell.
Billerica’s cheerleading team capped off the winter by winning the national championship by scoring a program-record 97.1 points out of a possible 100. They previously won their eighth state title earlier in March.
Spring brought familiarity. More Needham volleyball dominance and Newton North again swept track and field state titles.
North’s girls repeated as outdoor champs despite entering the final three relays in fourth place. Three second-place finishes lifted the Tigers to a two-point win over Westford Academy. The boys compiled 107.5 points to take their title.
Needham’s boys volleyball team, which didn’t lose a set the previous year, nearly matched that feat, losing just one set before capping another unbeaten season with a 3-0 win over Westford Academy in the title match in Danvers.
The Ghosts, who had won 21 matches in a row, made their first appearance in the championship, but Ohio State-bound Ben Putnam (21 kills) and Ethan McCarron’s match-clinching block sent the Rockets to another crown.
Concord-Carlisle and Acton-Boxborough both won boys tennis state championships on the same day, with A-B stopping Brookline’s 82-match win streak. Lucas Bikkesbakker clinched C-C’s third consecutive title with a comeback win at No. 1 singles on a brisk day at MIT.
The school year’s final day of work – filling the cardboard backing of my notebook because each page was already filled – involved the Billerica boys lacrosse team.
On the first night of summer at Worcester State University’s Coughlin Field, the team’s fans filled two-thirds of the bleachers and cheered every goal, save and defensive stop. The Indians lost to Longmeadow, 9-8, in double OT, silencing anyone wearing green and white.
But four days prior in Walpole, BMHS released decades of pent-up frustration by defeating Duxbury for the first time when Aidan Gibbons scored with one second left for a 10-9 win. The markings of Billerica’s comeback from three goals down populated the notebook’s final page.
But the images of the team and its coaches jumping, hugging and yelling “Let’s goooooo” is what I’ll remember the most.
The notebook will eventually find its way into the trash. The videos and pictures from a memorable ten months will be backed up to the cloud on my iPhone 12. Many of the athletes will remain on Cloud Nine.
Follow Tim Dumas on Twitter: @TimDumas.