Circle these dates on your calendar: Friday, Dec. 20; Thursday, Jan. 9; and Friday, Feb. 21.
These are the dates Bellows Falls and Springfield meet up in basketball next winter. I have concerns about the three dates, but first thing’s first.
Anyone who attended the Cosmo vs. Terrier girls’ basketball playoff game at the end of last season won’t forget that contest anytime soon. From the size of the crowd to the wonderful spirit shown by both sides to the outstanding play by both teams, it was certainly a night to remember.
The dates listed above cover the rivalry meetings of both genders this coming winter. The first date is this winter’s only meeting between the girls’ teams, while the other two dates highlight the boys’ new era of basketball in each community, with the first scheduled encounter in Springfield and the later in Bellows Falls.
Residents of each town have been hearing the whispers for weeks that new coaches will man each sideline. Both these coaches have been working with their prospective players since school let out in June, so the whispers have moved beyond the gossip stage. John Hollar will be the new headman at Bellows Falls, while Mike Hatt will return to the sidelines in Springfield.
I personally think this rivalry, which has been all Bellows Falls for some time now, will be incredibly competitive again. This is good for the athletes from both sides as crowds for these meetings should be off the charts.
By the way, don’t know who is responsible, but I believe both ADs need to find a way for the girls’ teams to go back to meeting twice each winter. Assuming here that since Bellows Falls dropped to Division III, the league schedule called for only one game so both schools then have to make that second match-up a priority. I realize points-wise that means Springfield gets fewer points, but the rivalry is much bigger than points. Bellows Falls still plays Springfield in football where fewer points mean even more because of fewer games.
While on the subject of new coaches in the rivalry, the Cosmos will be naming another shortly. Joe Costello has moved on from the girls’ program he brought to new heights each season, and Rich Saypack is charged with filling his shoes with someone who can continue to mold a nucleus. Someone who should be able to blend their remaining talents to another strong season. However, please be advised, this is not done as easily as people think.
Ever hear of the Red Sox? Chris Sale and Mookie Betts are still around as is Alex Cora. In Springfield, the new guy or gal is being asked to replace the equivalent of Costello, Betts, and Sale and is coming in new. Stay tuned.
Cosmo fans should remember many successful seasons when Mike Hatt was the varsity boys’ coach in his previous stint. Bellows Falls fans don’t really know John Hollar as a head coach, but the job he did, especially on defense, with both Terrier boys and girls’ teams as a high level valued assistant over the years should be well-known. For those who may not know, both Hollar and Hatt were varsity coaches at one time at Newport, while Hatt also was head man at Stevens and Hollar at Woodstock. Both coaches have always been students of the game, having learned from several coaches along the way.
Feel good story
Colby Howe grew up as a pitcher for both Bellows Falls Union High School and the Pierce Lawton Post 37 Legion. He was important to the teams he pitched for and was one of those “quiet” athletes who did his job and always could be depended on. Upon graduation, he attended New England College of the New England Collegiate Conference and pitched rather sparingly there. However, just like all of his Bellows Falls baseball days, he did his job and was ready when called upon.
First remember, it is very common for many athletes to see less action at the college level. Secondly, many collegiate athletes don’t stick around playing a sport for four years if they don’t get called on regularly. That is where Howe comes through once again as his dependable self.
Howe may have logged more innings in his first years at NEC, but he was more effective as he grew older and the team needed his services in a different way. Fewer innings, higher stakes. When Howe was called on this spring, although it may have only been for 10 and two-third innings of work, his contribution was important to a team, which needed good supplemental pitching to enjoy a great season, advancing to the Super Regional Round of the Division III NCAA Tournament.
Howe’s high school coach Bob Lockerby remembers an athlete “every coach would love to have. He was always willing to do whatever he was asked to do. Regardless of what role he was asked to fill on a given day, he embraced the situation and was ready to play. He was a good teammate, who was always supportive of the guys around him.”
Pierce Lawton Coach Bill Lockerby played Division II College Baseball at American International College and Lockerby feels good about Howe’s success. “His last year for us was my first year, and he was very dependable. He was a quiet dedicated kid who went about his business. I have noticed several times since he left us that he has been at the field working on things to get better. He was a really good person, who obviously loves the game of baseball,” Lockerby related to me, as well as affirming just about everything relative and predecessor Bob said.
Howe was one of the very few pitchers who appeared in the post season for New England College. His numbers for his senior year included no record, but a stingy 0.84 ERA and only seven hits allowed, six strikeouts and seven walks, and a measly 189 batting average against. He was truly back-up support for this staff, but he was very reliable when called upon for his successful team.
Black River soccer
Schedules are set for Black River soccer this fall. The highlight of the regular schedule is the Black River Invitational Tournament for the girls and The Josh Cole Tournament for the boys. Both tournaments are ready to go for the fall of 2019, but the final match-ups might have to be a little flexible.
Everything is expected to go off as it presently constituted on paper for the girls on Sept. 6 and 7. Both tournaments hope to bring back the same four teams they fielded a year ago. On Sept. 6, girls’ play opens with Otter Valley meeting Green Mountain at 6 p.m., followed by Black River hosting Proctor at 8 p.m. The Consolation game and Finals will be the next night in that order at the same times.
The finality of the Josh Cole Tournament will have to wait until mid-August for its set pairings to be confirmed. The number of soccer playing boys is dwindling for the possible Presidents squad. When practices begin the second week of August, the final count will be in, and we will all see if there is a Black River boys’ soccer team this year in the school’s last year.
Athletic Director Joe Gurdak assures me there will be a tournament and he has fill-in plans if necessary. One thing Gurdak does not have though is a head coach for the boys’ team. Anyone interested in coaching the team needs to give Gurdak a call at 802-875-4721.
The Josh Cole Tourney is slated for Friday and Saturday nights Sept. 13 and 14. The first round is currently slated for Leland & Gray versus Windsor at 6 p.m. on Friday with the Presidents hosting Green Mountain at 8 p.m. A new set-up will be announced if Black River is short on boys. The Finals would be Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. preceded by the Consolation contest at 6 p.m. Plans are slated for the tournament to continue in Ludlow even following the closing of Black River High School.
Three President spring athletes were selected to play in Vermont versus New Hampshire All-Star games this spring with Zach Paul appearing in the baseball games and Emily Perham and Paige Kelley taking part in the softball counterpart.
Fall Mountain Wildcat Claws
Orion Binney is in year three at the helm of the Wildcat football program and he has three new assistants who he hopes can contribute to the program moving upward. Binney receives a big boost with the hiring of former Newport Head Football Coach Rich Boone. The Wildcats are still raw in many ways and having the experience of another head coach level instructor really helps. Boone is bringing two of his right-hand men to the field with him as he is followed by James Tremblay, who assisted him at Newport, as well as his own son Cole Boone, who is volunteering to help. Tremblay has coached at several levels in several states over the years and the younger Boone played on a state title football team and was a wrestling champion during his high school years.
Binney says, “It has been fantastic so far,” as the coaches have been together for New Hampshire sanctioned conditioning drills. Binney adds, “Boone was the Newport coach when I first came on board and he and Stevens’ Paul Silva reached out and were so helpful to me starting out.” The Wildcats open at home versus Raymond on Friday night, Sept. 7.
Fall Mountain is the largest school in our reading area and they should be proud of the fact they also field the most varsity teams in a given year. Looking at this fall, they once again will offer football, two soccer teams, two cross country teams, volleyball, and golf.