When it comes to fall sports and activities at the high school level, it’s all about participation.
At Tabor Academy, Old Rochester Regional, and Old Colony, September is about sprinkling the seeds for a successful athletic program.
“Our theme goes back to the concept of team,” said Tabor Athletic Director Conan Leary. “We look at three phases – participation, development, and competitiveness. The participation piece is huge, especially at the entry level. We are really more excited about getting the kids involved than anything else.”
Leary, in his second year as Tabor’s AD, noted that about 75 percent of the school takes part in fall team activities, which includes things like drama and dance.
For Old Rochester AD Bill Tilden, “It’s definitely the busiest time of the year, at least in terms of the number of teams. Just think of trying to get all the kids registered, so many of them have never played at the high school level and we want it to go smoothly for them.”
Tilden is proud of ORR’s athletic participation number, which he estimates to be over 450 of the school’s 800+ students in just fall sports.
With girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ cross country, and football and field hockey all in the mix, there’s always a game happening somewhere once the season gets going in September.
At Old Colony, AD Matt Trahan is happy to see another strong turnout in the fall.
“Where we stand right now is two hundred and twenty athletes in the fall – that’s the highest here as long as I can remember,” he said. “Participation is great, and the kids seem to really enjoy being part of it.
“For me, it’s really fulfilling to see things moving in the direction they’re in,” said Trahan.
Here’s a look at what’s happening on the three Tri-Town athletic fields:
Tabor is gearing up for the regular season in most sports, which start midweek, and will be competing in a new league this year: the prestigious ISL (Independent School League).
“We have been wanting to get in for years,” said Leary, a long-time Tabor coach who is in his second year as AD and is still the school’s wrestling coach. When St. Paul’s of New Hampshire left the league, Tabor was one of nine schools to apply.
“Luckily, we were selected, and we were very grateful,” Leary said. “It’s a very reputable league, catches a lot of eyes, turns a lot of heads in terms of recruiting for colleges.
“And a big thing is, just as far as distance, this puts us in a Boston-area league, where we were going 90 minutes, two hours away to play just about every road game. It’s great for the kids, and stretches them and our coaches so much less.”
One athlete who college recruiters are sure to be looking at is Aly Hussein, who won the boys’ cross country New England title last year for Tabor and returns to lead a stacked team.
The football team won the Class B New England title last year, winning at home under the (rented) lights in an exciting affair. They will compete for it again despite longer odds and a tougher schedule, led by running back Angel Santiago (Plymouth) and wide receiver Seth Kourtesis.
“They seem positive and upbeat, they know they’re up against it this year,” Leary said, noting that the team had two scrimmages this week before opening on the road September 23 at St. Mark’s. “My overall evaluation is that they’re athletic but small.”
And Leary says watch out for the girls’ soccer team, which has been on a run since winning the New England title earlier in the decade. Led by scorer Kat Barry and the speed of Jaydah Bedoya, he thinks they have a playoff run ahead under Coach Steve Sughrue.
“They’ve got a great attitude, and they work hard,” he said. “They really work together; they’re definitely the model for teamwork.”
Old Rochester Regional
While Tilden isn’t ready to crown the Old Rochester versus Wareham football opener as the ‘Game of the Century,’ he’d have to admit it was pretty darn good – especially since his Bulldogs came up with the 41-40 Cranberry Bowl win.
The game was a battle of top running backs, ORR’s Harry Smith vs. Wareham’s Isaac Nascimento, with Smith scoring four touchdowns and topping 300 yards in the comeback win. Smith and Nascimento both set school touchdown scoring records along the way.
“Harry is one of those fun-loving kids that’s great to be around, his intensity is great, he’s having a good time,” Tilden said. “I think the kids enjoy blocking for him, they know he appreciates what they do.”
As to the game, which was played at Wareham, “It was pretty electric, the rain showers came through to add a layer to it, and it stayed close all the way through. You never knew what was going to happen. The two offenses were so spectacular,” said Tilden.
And it was good to see the long-time rivals both playing at their peak.
“I was looking at the Cranberry Bowl trophy, and there have been a lot of lopsided games on there,” he said. “But I think everyone knew walking in that these teams have high hopes, and I don’t think losing takes away from Wareham’s – they played a fantastic game.”
Next up for the Bulldogs is another road game versus a rival, this Friday night at Apponequet.
While ORR’s “Dawg Pound” was largely in Wareham for the football showdown last week, the girls’ volleyball team was coming up with an equally thrilling 3-2 comeback home win over Fairhaven that went past the two-hour mark.
“We haven’t beaten Fairhaven in a long time,” Tilden said, noting that the game went past two hours. ORR followed it with a 3-1 win over Somerset on Monday, and they play Sturgis on Friday.
“They had high hopes for this season, and this group seems to have jelled very well,” he said, adding that JV coach Jimmy Oliveira, a veteran of the New Bedford High program, was taking over the varsity for the first time.
Off the field, Old Rochester soccer and track athlete Mikayla Gardner was chosen to serve on the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s student council, the first member of the school to be chosen.
“It’s just a small group of kids. They meet once a month on rules, tournaments, and it’s really an honor to be selected,” he said. “Mikayla is an incredible kid.”
While the 20-0 defeat in the season opener versus Sacred Heart wasn’t indicative of the type of game the Cougars played, it was still a disappointment.
But AD Trahan knows that coach Brandon Mendez and his staff will get things back on track as they prepare for Game 2 on Saturday versus Holbrook at Brockton High (11:00 am).
“For us, it’s a regroup, recommit type of thing,” he said. “The coaches know it’s about keeping upbeat and emphasize the positive. I saw them in the film room. They were going over what was good and what was off, working together on it.”
New sophomore QB Kyle Schultz is finding his way, and a healthy return by RB Jarred Gagne should help.
The boys’ soccer team lost star Paul Soucy to graduation, but Coach Sergio Pedrosa has younger brother Zach Soucy and sophomore Hunter Soares to fill the void. Their first big test comes next Wednesday versus Upper Cape. “The league’s been between us and them the last couple of years, always a good matchup,” Trahan said.
The volleyball team turned heads with a 3-0 win over Diman (about double OC’s enrollment), and Trahan says the team has record numbers.
Looking ahead, Old Colony is excited about Homecoming Week in October, where a donation of lights from D.W. White means night soccer games (boys’ and girls’) and a Friday night football game.
“We play Saturday morning football, so to have that and the soccer games under the lights is special,” Trahan said. “To be even able to do that is kind of a bucket list thing for us.”
By Jonathan Comey