The high school winter sports scene kicked into high gear this week, with boys and girls basketball teams across the state opening up Tuesday and boys hockey teams skating into the 2011-12 season last night (Wednesday). Many of the girls hockey teams across the region got a head start on the 2011-12 campaign with contests this past Saturday.
The WHS boys basketball team, coming off a Division 4 state championship, hopes once again to challenge for a Northeastern Conference South Division title as well as to make some noise in the state tournament. Typically, this would be a rebuilding year for most programs after winning a state title, but Coach Dave Brown has been able to reload his Vikings more successfully than any other coach in the NEC South. Winthrop has been at the top of the NEC South for quite a run despite losing his star players year after year, a tribute not only to Daveâ€™s coaching ability, but also to his commitment to building a true program in every sense of the word in Winthrop.
The Winthrop boys find themselves in the NEC South with traditional foes Marblehead, Gloucester, Swampscott, Danvers, and Saugus. In the NEC North, Lynn English, which will be led by their 6-6 superstar Keandre Stanton, once again will be the team to beat.
On the girls side, second year head coach Ignacio Oyola, a protege of Brownâ€™s as an assistant for eight seasons, is trying to bring back the same sense of continuity to the Lady Viking program which had been a hallmark of past WHS girls coaches such as Ron Spinney and Peter Grimes. The girls will be facing the same NEC South rivals as the boys, with Swampscott once again rating as the team to beat.
In the NEC North, Lynn English is rated as the favorite to capture the title.
The Winthrop High boys hockey team, which opened its season last night (Wednesday) at Danvers, will feature one of the top players in the NEC in senior forward Chris LeBlanc. Coach Dale Dunbarâ€™s Vikings, the NEC Northâ€™s champs last year, figure once again to be at the top of the heap, with Saugus and Beverly rated as the leading contenders to take the crown away from Winthrop. The NEC North will see a realignment this year, with Revere moving to the South. The other teams in the North with Winthrop, Beverly, and Saugus are Peabody, Gloucester, and Danvers.
The girls hockey team dropped a tough 1-0 decision to Barnstable, a non league rival, in the season opener Saturday, but Lady Bulldog fans should expect Coach Anthony Martucciâ€™s crew once again to be one of the top teams in Eastern Mass. The girls were back in action last night (Wednesday) at Masconomet.
All in all, it should be a fun season for Winthrop sports fans, as once again the athletes of Winthrop High, despite being the smallest school in the Northeastern Conference, show that dedication and grit can overcome rivals who on paper are bigger and stronger in terms of their numbers.
Well, the Patriots keep finding ways to win or, more accurately, ways not to lose, each week.
There is no question that the Patsâ€™ defense is dreadful and lacks the playmakers of the past years, guys like Bruschi, Vrabel, McGinest, Law, or Harrison, who could turn a game around. A football defense is like an army in combat; no matter how good the game plan may be, it still takes individuals both to execute the plan and to go above and beyond when circumstances demand it.
Other than Andre Carter, the Pats donâ€™t seem to have anybody who can fill that role, and certainly that is true of the pass defense.
On the other hand, consider this factoid: The Patsâ€™ defense ranks dead last in terms of total offense allowed per game, but guess who was second worst entering last weekâ€™s games? Yep, the steamrollinâ€™ Green Bay Packers, at No. 31.
That certainly says something about the nature of statistics. (â€œThere are lies, damn lies, and statistics.â€) But we still would feel a lot better about the Patsâ€™ playoff prospects if their defense could show just a little bit more strength in the final three weeks of the regular season, starting with Tim Tebow this Sunday in Denver.
TURN BACKWARD, TURN BACKWARD
This week in Winthrop sports annals:
10 YEARS AGO
The WHS hockey team, rated by many as one of the top Division 2 teams in the state, opened the season with wins of 3-1 over Marblehead and 8-3 over Swampscott. Rob DeLeo scored the winning goal against Marblehead with 3:15 to play. Matt Driscoll and Andrew Brugman scored two goals each to lead the Vikings to a 4-0 icing of archrival Gloucester.
Mark Oâ€™Brien swished a 25 foot jumper as time expired in overtime to give the WHS boys basketball team a 56-55 win over Beverly.
Sophomore Colleen Lally scored 17 points to spark the girls basketball team to a 41-37 win over Lynn English.
Steve Goldberg won the two mile run in 11:59 to help the WHS boys indoor track team catch Salem for a 43-43 tie. Nadjib Arachiche won the mile in 5:11. Dan Brennan made up 15 yards in the final event, the mile relay, to ensure the tie.
20 YEARS AGO
WHS football captain Sean Watson was the recipient of the annual Irving P. Alexander Memorial Trophy from the Winthrop Rotary Club.
Neil Arbuthnot explodedÂ for six goals, including the game winner with 47 seconds to play, to pace the WHS hockey team to an 8-7 win over Beverly. Linemate Neil McDonald added the other two goals and linemate Dan Tamasanis earned five assists.Â Winthrop had led the game at one point 7-2.
The WHS girls basketball team continued to crush its opponents, routing Marblehead 48-17. Liz Doherty scored 18 points and Lori Thomas added 10 for Winthrop, which led 26-4 at the half.
Mike Mason scored 19 points and James Faretra added 10, but the WHS boys basketball
team dropped a 70-61 decision to Marblehead.
Coach Pat McGeeâ€™s boys indoor track team rolled past Marblehead, 52-25. The shotput trio of Donnie McElree, Joe Kearns, and Robert Ferland led the way with a sweep.
30 YEARS AGO
Maureen McManus, Debbie Consoli, and Eileen Kelly paced the WHS girls basketball team to its fifth straight win. The Lady Vikings now are tied for the top spot in the NEC with Salem, which defeated Winthrop in the season opener.
The relay team pulled out a win in the final event for the boys track team to seal a 46-40 triumph over Beverly.
Coach Bill Falascaâ€™s undefeated hockey team edged challenger Saugus, 3-2. The first line of John Tiano, Chuck Sullivan, and Bubba Jaworski have tallied 12 goals in the past two games for the 5-0 Vikings.
40 YEARS AGO
Santa continues to shower the basketball and hockey team with victories. Steve Christopher lit the lamp for a hat trick to pace the WHS hockey team to a 6-2 triumph over Danvers. Pat DeGregorio and the Tsiotis brothers, Chris and Nick, paced the Viking hoopmen to a 61-40 rout of one time powerhouse Beverly.
50 YEARS AGO
The WHS basketball team enjoyed a fine week, defeating the Alumni team and Marblehead. Capt. Frank Corbett scored 14 points and John Warren added 13 in a 49-33 victory over Marblehead. A large crowd at the War Memorial gym enjoyed the Varsity vs. Alumni battle as Len Riley scored 21 points for the victorious WHS squad, which claimed its fifth straight win over its Alumni brethren.
60 YEARS AGO
Although the WHS basketball team dropped a 57-34 decision to Winchester, WHS head coach Gordon Connor said he was pleased with his teamâ€™s effort. Center Steve Miles led the way for Winthrop with 13 points and fouled out two opponents. Winthrop is now 2-1 on the season after wins against Wakefield and Melrose.