This & That: Black River student about to make local history

Timing is everything. Just as I was mapping out this week’s sports page, the telephone rang. Black River Athletic Director Joe Gurdak was on the other end of the line. He told me that the Black River Presidents would be playing Leland & Gray at home that evening (remember home for this season is Nason Gym in Chester) and that senior Drew Schoenberger would be chasing his 1,000th point in the game. Schoenberger was likely to become the 6th president in Black River sports’ lore to join the elusive 1,000-point club.

Hopefully by the time you read this, Schoenberger will have joined said club, but if he scored 7 points or less against the Rebels, the senior would be out again to hit the mark on Feb. 15 at Nason Gym in a game against Long Trail.

Black River
Black River boys’ basketball player, Drew Schoenberger, stands alone with the ball. If he scores eight points the rest of the season, he will stand forever with five other former President basketball players as the only thousand-point scorers in the school’s history. Photo by Doug MacPhee.

Once again, over the long and storied history of Black River basketball, there have only been five players to hit the cherished mark. Bruce Stryhas created the list, followed by Greg Witalec, Matt Warnecke, Travis Cook, and the most recent was Robert Rohrig who also coached the Presidents at one time. Certainly, the club is very elusive.

Taking things a step further, the club is unofficially closed. The truth is, the club remains open until the doors of Black River High School shut for good. However, adding up all the numbers, no current athlete has enough points to come close to entering the club. Thus, the club is forever totally elusive now.

The first knowledge I have about high school basketball in Ludlow, is that Black River Academy competed in Division I and reached the official Vermont State Tournament for the first time in 1927 and played no other than Springfield, in the Division I state semi-final game and lost 39-21. I wonder, if it was during that title-chasing season, Black River Academy became known as the Presidents. After all, Black River graduate Calvin Coolidge was in the White House at the time.

Springfield faced Burlington in the title game that year and fell 25-15. Putting two and two together, this means in about 100 years of the sport, Black River style, there will only be six standout performers, who gained entrance to the special grouping. High standards indeed.


Sportsmanship emphasis

Sportsmanship, for the most part, is not a problem at high school sporting events in the area. There are occasional small problems, but area athletic directors are on top of these outbursts and are able to deescalate the source in time to prevent bigger happenings.

Springfield first year Athletic Director, Cagney Brigham, saw a situation he was not comfortable with at a road basketball game this season. Some Springfield fans went beyond the norm in a game, and their actions were noticed by many.

A few days later, the Springfield girls’ team had a rivalry home game with Bellows Falls and Brigham wanted to make sure all fans understood their expectations. He printed up a spectators’ memo, handed it out, and the contents are a good reminder to one and all of what everyone’s role is.

The correspondence read:

“Recently we have had some events occur at games that is no longer going to be accepted. The conduct that has been on display, in the stands, WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED! Please let the players play, the coaches coach, and the officials officiate.

“Four Roles in HS Athletics:

  1. Athlete – Role is to work hard, keep a positive attitude, and do everything they can to improve on their skills.
  2. Coaches – Role is to develop athletes’ skills and to provide the most positive experience possible for the athletes.
  3. Officials – Role is to manage the rules of the game.
  4. Spectators – Role is to encourage and positively support the athletes who are competing.

“If anyone is not able or willing to adhere to these expectations I will be asking them to leave the building. Spectators need to support their team by cheering for them; not against the other team or anyone else involved in the game.”


Cagney Brigham

Athletics Director”

The night, Brigham passed out the memo. It went well, generally. There were a few fans representing both sides who kind of pushed the envelope, but Brigham paid them a little attention, and the limits were quickly understood.

This correspondence was included today, not in any way to point out that Springfield was having a problem but as a proactive approach to each of our communities, in promoting good sportsmanship. One time or another, most schools have needed a reminder or two to make sure certain fans support their athletes in the best way possible.


Thanksgiving football

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. That is what Fall Mountain Athletic Director Gordon Danserau is doing at Fall Mountain, where a couple of years back he attempted to put together a Thanksgiving Day football game between Fall Mountain and Monadnock. When push came to shove, the game was not held because the Wildcats would not have enough players on that day.

I applaud Danserau for trying again. I love Thanksgiving football games but only on one condition. To gain my support, the school needs to push the start of the basketball season to give the boys’ basketball team the same preparation everyone else on their early schedule gets. If not, playing a game from another season unfairly impacts another team’s opportunity to prepare properly for their competition. Time will tell how that will end up playing out.

Fall Mountain’s scheduled opponent next Thanksgiving will be Stevens, their biggest rival. The Wildcats will host the game in Langdon, N.H. Hopefully they draw a large crowd and establish a great tradition.

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