Winter Athletic Success: A Pleasant Surprise? Or More Than That?
Joe Taft, Veritas Sports Editor
Last year was a difficult one for Rockland High School as a collective unit.
In a year when the only team to win a South Shore League title was the swim team, there is so much room to improve.
Fortunately for the Bulldog teams, there is a good chance of not just matching, but tripling or even quadrupling the amount of league titles from last year in just the winter.
How is that possible? So many talented seniors graduated last year. Weren’t we supposed to enter a period of “mediocrity” like some of the student body expected?
The winter teams this year have a chance to sweep the South Shore. With some key wins, there could be four new years being printed onto the gym banners sectioned “LEAGUE CHAMPIONS.”
The boys basketball team, with help from returning players Stephen Norris, Joe Kimball, and Jakigh Marcelin, are heavy favorites to win the league after defeating Randolph on Friday night on their home court.
Stephen Norris’ senior season has been everything we could have hoped for here at the high school. He was All-Scholastic for football, and leads the South Shore League in points per game. Coming off of a 45-point performance against Hull, (the most points a boys player has scored in a game in RHS history) the senior captain had 16 points in the effort against Randolph.
Another player with varsity experience, junior Jake Crawford, had a game-high 20 points. Crawford also knocked down an unbelievable three-point shot to end the first-half on a high note. Crawford faded away from way behind the arc as the ball went off the backboard and through the twine, immediately sending the student section into hysteria.
Rockland trailed by three points at halftime to an undefeated Randolph team who was ranked in the top twenty in the state by The Boston Herald. Three points at the half…
Wasn’t this year supposed to be a let-down?
In the third, Rockland went on an 18-5 run to take the lead. The defense-oriented Bulldogs held the Blue Devils scoreless for the first 4:30 of the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils battled back to come within five points, but in the end it was not enough. A 54-47 win put Rockland in sole possession of first-place in the South Shore League. The Boston Herald now has the Dogs ranked twenty-fourth in Eastern Mass, one spot above Randolph.
We’ll get back to it in a second. The girls’ basketball team beat the Lady Devils by 52 on Friday night, and also lead the South Shore League. Randolph scored a mere 21 points against Rockland, while junior Maddie Olsen led the Lady Dogs with 20 points.
Before the season started, students at RHS did not know what to make of the girls’ team. Everyone knew senior Kyra Rose would have another stellar year. She already has three SSL All-Star selections under her belt, as well as an MVP award from her sophomore campaign.
Rose scored her 1000th point on January 5th in front of a packed gym against Cheshire, Connecticut. Her final season as a Lady Dog will probably go down as one of the best in girls’ history.
Returning players, like senior forward Caroline Kilduff and sophomore Danielle O’Brien, have made big contributions for the team. Their varsity experience is tremendously aiding the squad.
The girls are undefeated in league play, and are 8-2 overall. Led by coach Diana Mitchell, a 1000 point scorer herself when she played, the team will be highly competitive in the tournament this year.
The wrestling squad has been on the radar this winter as well. The team is well on its way to taking the South Shore League, after a tough second place finish last season.
The team is led by senior Brad Gasdia who won the Cohasset Winter Tournament two weeks ago.
Gasdia also competed in the all-state tournament last year as a junior. He is poised for a big senior year on the mats.
The hockey team has been very good, and sit with a record of 3-3 divisionally and are in third place. The team is 9-3 overall on the season.
Junior captain Matt Dunn has been scoring from all angles this winter, as the three-sport athlete has two hat-tricks and some multi-goal-scoring games as well.
Senior captains AJ Clark and Dan Leary have been playing great hockey as of late, as well as senior Riley Lang and sophomore Michael Flaherty. Sophomore goalie Harry O’Brien has been great in net for the Dogs.
Head coach Mike Flaherty, Michael’s father, notched his 100th career win in the team’s victory over Silver Lake earlier this month.
At all times, any player is ready to have his number called and enter the game to make a play and give the stars an opportunity to score.
That has been the theme for every team this winter. Whether Coach Flaherty needs a goal out of Matty O’Brien, a sophomore who is finding the back of the net quite often even though he is not the star of the team. Or if coach Fred Damon needs a key 3-pointer out of senior Mickey Burns, or a defensive stop out of juniors Ryan Leavitt or Andrew Starkey. If Coach Mitchell needs a basket out of freshman forward Adiza Alasa, or anyone else on her bench, she can trust that the plays will be made. All of the winter coaches trust their players in crucial moments.
It’s because of the hours of preparation put in by Rockland athletes during the off-season. The blood, sweat, and tears, (and trust that there isn’t a single exaggeration in that statement) that the players put in day-in and day-out is what allows them to be so successful. The player who comes in and makes one big play and goes right back to the bench is training just as hard as the player who doesn’t touch the bench all game. The players are ready to lend a helping hand and pick each other up when they need it. They are ready to push their teammates during practice, in the weight room, and during the game.
That’s what being a Bulldog is all about. Being able to tell the teammate next to you that you love them and would lay it all out on the line for them. It truly is a special thing to see.
But to opposing teams, don’t let the sincerity towards each other fool you. The Dogs’ bite is just as big as their bark.
(Pictures credited to Rockland High Sports Facebook page.)