The Good Old Days
The state of New Hampshire is pushing the basketball season. They staged official games in November this year. The Fall Mountain Wildcat girls opened their 2018-19 season last Friday night, turning back Raymond 55-29. Area enthusiasts are used to seeing scrimmages conducted in November, but now there are official games. Our area hoop season began with that contest and will see the final state title game held March 16, 2019. That’s 17 weeks of hoops, counting the preliminary two weeks of practice. That is way too long. The spring season is about half that long with the length of fall sports fitting in between.
Times were a lot simpler when I was a kid. The state finalists had been determined before schools returned from February vacation. Pro and college sports seasons were even shorter. It was manageable for my little mind. Today, as I have told you before, sometimes all the action gives me a headache. For even a sports fanatic like myself, too much is too much.
While on the subject of the old days, my sports memory bank allows me to go back to my late days of being a single digit. That’s somewhere in the vicinity of 9 years old. Most of my early local memories were confined to Bellows Falls because I wasn’t allowed to drive back then. Bellows Falls has excellent athletic facilities today. But way back then, their competitive venues were at the bottom of every list. The football and baseball fields overlapped at the village playgrounds and the basketball court was the present middle school venue. When the old bleachers were pulled out, fans in the front row often had their feet stepped on. New athletic fields came to be when some schools refused to play on the hard surface of the football field.
There were less than ten bowl football games back then. The college basketball champion was crowned in mid-March and the professional post seasons were complete about a month before they are now. I know everyone has heard about the “Good Old Days;” well to me, sports wise, they were just that.
A good idea that will likely never see its day
I really don’t know where to file this idea. On the surface, it’s really neat. In reality, it probably doesn’t fit.
Fall Mountain Athletic Director Gordon Dansereau has twice scheduled a Thanksgiving Day football game for the Wildcats. First, a couple of years back, Monadnock was slated as the opponent. This fall, Stevens was to be the opposition. I had the contest on my calendar, but for the second time in three years, the idea had to be scratched.
If we didn’t have area state champions to salute in recent weeks, this column was slated to do an April Fools-like piece about that Thanksgiving Day Game. It would have been a tongue-in-cheek synopsis about a make believe game between Fall Mountain and Stevens that obviously hadn’t taken place.
The biggest reason I wish the game could have been held is there are just not enough truly special traditions in high school sports. Communities need these events to feel good about themselves. Keene is the nearest location that seems to find special ways to celebrate. For years, their Pumpkin Festival – not a school event – was a truly spectacular event until some people who don’t respect good things in life ruined the fun. Keene also has the Swampbats. Many people have teams in their towns, but the Swampbats are special. Many residents in Keene go to the games as much to see their neighbors and socialize as they concentrate on the game. Each home game serves as a New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, Old Home Days celebration for those in attendance. A Thanksgiving Day gathering could have done the same.
But it wouldn’t have probably worked because so many families already have their traditions and these include not being in Langdon for the holiday. In addition, the weather may possibly not cooperate. This fall, if the game had stayed on the books, it may have been impossible to clear the field. The field would have been the number one problem. However, coupled with the cold, safety would have been a big issue this time around. Last, but not least, this old longtime basketball coach would have felt disrespected. Let me tell you, regardless of the sport, putting together a varsity team is not easy. Crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s is always a challenge to get your team ready. Snow days are already a problem. Add in missing between one and three more days to practice football and your team is behind the eight ball compared to others.
Again, I would love to see a Thanksgiving Day game, but…
Russ Pickering coaching track?
That question mark is the big story. Russ Pickering is coaching track in the wintertime. The twist of said story is that Russ Pickering is not part of a basketball team for only the second winter in forever. He stepped down from coaching the Fall Mountain JV girls to help Fall Mountain get better in track.
Pickering grew up in Walpole. He played in the days when Walpole had their own high school – a decade before Fall Mountain opened their doors. He has coached at both Bellows Falls and Fall Mountain high schools for years and years. This is only the second winter in 60 some odd years that Pickering is not part of a basketball team in one way or another. Pass along the name of anyone else in the area that can make such a claim in any sport. The one year Pickering did not coach or put on a uniform was in the mid-80s, when he studied one year at the University of Oregon.
A career well done
Sarah Wells played field hockey for Bellows Falls Union High School. She was one of the athletes who was on the ground floor of the building process for what the program has become today. I remember clearly her final game as a Terrier. The team suffered a difficult loss in the semifinals to Stowe 1-0 at Middlebury. A strange sky – which included rain, sun, and a rainbow – shown in the distance as the game ended. There must have been two pots of gold at each end of the colorful arch. One for the Terriers field hockey team, which has won every state championship since; and one for Wells who over the past four years has enjoyed one heck of a career at Castleton University.
The former Terrier led her team to a 15-5 record this fall and an 11-1 Little East Conference record. The Spartans advanced to the Little East title game and fell 2-1. Wells led the team in scoring with 18 goals and eight assists totaling 44 points. She also led the team in shots with 92. This was Castleton’s first year in the tough Little East Conference.
Wells’ coach Christine Kemp took over the helm of the team this fall and said before practice began that she was told that Wells “was a talented player.” Kemp tells us that Wells “exceeded any expectations I had of her.”
Wells started 72 of the 74 games in her career. She finished fifth in Castleton history in both goals scored and points and ended up third on the all-time assist list. Kemp told us, “Sarah is a captain and a passionate leader, a hard worker who sets an example. In the end, she is just a really special kid.”
Wells won a Little East Player of the Week honor and was named to the New England All-Star second team list, which includes several leagues.
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