You’ve probably heard that the Saugus High athletic program, led by Winthrop’s Rob O’Leary, wants to return to the Northeastern Conference after spending this year as a member of the Cape Ann League. Rob, who was a tremendous hockey player at Saugus High, has always been an “NEC Guy” and no doubt recognizes that Saugus’s true home should be in the conference and playing schools such as Winthrop, Lynn Classical and Lynn English, Beverly, Danvers — which are proximate to the town of Saugus and represent traditional rivals.
We know that WHS principal Eileen Belastock and director of athletics Peter Gobiel will vote in the best interest of the school’s athletic program when they vote whether to welcome Saugus High back into the NEC. We’re pretty sure that our superintendent of schools, John Macero, who was a popular and respected teacher and administrator in Saugus, would be in favor of Saugus’s return to the NEC.
Saugus has always been a competitive and spirited opponent for Winthrop teams and the Viking football team’s traditional opening game has usually been the Sachems — we remember a spectacular five-touchdown performance by Anthony Palmer during Winthrop’s two consecutive NEC title seasons and Super Bowl appearances under the direction of head coach Tony Fucillo. The Winthrop-Saugus hockey rivalry, notably during the Bill Falasca and Tom Holmen eras — and more recently during Dale Dunbar’s coaching — has always produced entertaining games in front of large crowds both at the Larsen Rink at the Mike Eruzione Center and at Kasabuski Rink in Saugus.
We were saddened when we first learned of Saugus’ decision to go to the Cape Ann League — their departure not only left a hole in our schedule, but in our collective memories as well — so we are heartened by Saugus’ desire to return to the NEC. We say let’s welcome back Saugus and we commend Rob O’Leary for making this vital decision that will benefit Saugus High student-athletes.