Pete Clifford is hard to miss, a towering 6-foot-7-inch, 312-pound lineman for the Michigan State football team. On Friday, the former Salem (N.H.) High stalwart, wearing number 75, will play a pivotal role in the trenches when the Spartans take on Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.
A fifth-year senior who swings between left tackle and left guard, Clifford anchors an offensive front that helped Michigan State rank among the Big Ten leaders in scoring (34.1 points per game), total offense (426.2 yards), rushing (200.3 yards), and passing (225.9 yards).
The Spartans are one of just 12 teams in the NCAA to average more than 200 yards per game both rushing and passing. Clifford graded out as a winner in 10 of 12 regular-season games, and his play earned him a place on the All-Big Ten Conference second team.
"Pete Clifford has worked extremely hard to make himself a better player," said Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. "I voted him first team because of the contributions he made to this offensive attack. He consistently posted the top grade among our offensive linemen, and he played a major role in helping this offensive unit rush for more than 2,400 yards, throw for more than 2,700 yards, and score more than 400 points."
Clifford had a star-studded career at Salem, where he earned All-New Hampshire honors, and then prepped at Bridgton Academy in Maine before heading to Michigan State. He is working toward a degree in criminal justice.
Scholastic odds 'n' ends
According to preseason polls, big things are expected from area boys' and girls' basketball teams. The Globe's preseason boys' poll ranks five teams in the Top 20, while seven girls' teams earned Top 20 billing. The top-rated boys' team is Central Catholic at No. 3, followed by Lowell at No. 8, Lexington at No. 11, Andover at No. 13, and Lawrence at No. 17. Central Catholic is also tops among the girls, coming in at No. 2 ahead of Lowell at No. 3, Westford and Andover at Nos. 7 and 8, Arlington Catholic at No. 11, Wilmington at No. 14, and Lexington at No. 16. . . . The Lowell girls, though, ran roughshod over Central Catholic, 70-45, behind the 27-point effort of Ashley Rivera,
to all but guarantee that there will be a reshuffling of positions. . . . The 22d annual Greater Lawrence Girls Christmas Basketball Tournament gets underway this afternoon in Methuen when Lowell plays Salem (N.H.) at 2:30. The rest of the schedule is Andover vs. North Andover at 4:15; Methuen vs. Central Catholic at 6; and Lawrence vs. Pinkerton Academy (Derry, N.H.) at 7:45. The tournament continues Friday and wraps up next Sunday with the championship game at 7:45. . . . The winter sports season is still in its infancy, but already there have been some memorable nail-biters. Among them, the Central Catholic boys' indoor track team beating Methuen, 44-42, on the strength of a stirring effort by its 4 x 400 relay team of Mike Bahktiari
, Mike Zappala
, Roberto Valenti
, and Jay Smith.
. . . Then there was North Andover scoring twice late in the game to beat Methuen, 2-1, and prevent what would have been a hockey upset of huge proportions. North Andover received goals from Ryan Sifferlen
with 3:13 left and Brian Amor
with just 19 seconds remaining to snatch victory from defeat. Methuen was 4-13-2 last season, and North Andover 12-5-4. . . . And who can forget the much-anticipated wrestling match between Central Catholic and North Andover? CC trailed, 26-22, with two matches to go, but received wins from seniors Dave Kando
at 171 pounds and Alberto Nunez
at 189 to win, 28-26. Central Catholic had lost six straight to North Andover. . . . Greater Lawrence topped Reading, Methuen, and 13 other teams to win the Wakefield Wrestling Tournament. Winning for the Reggies were freshman Matt Buco
at 103, Franchesco Ortiz
at 125, Saul Orellana
at 135, and Chris DelaRosa
Colby College junior Matt Briggs
(below) of Concord won the TAMC/TD Banknorth Eastern Cup 10K Nordic last weekend at the Nordic Heritage Sports Center in Presque Isle, Maine. Briggs was the only skier to break 30 minutes with a time of 29:23.06. He topped a field of 96 skiers from the University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth, Vermont, Bates, St. Lawrence, and other club teams, beating runner-up Samuel Evans Brown
of Bates by more than 37 seconds. . . . Edinboro University of Pennsylvania appears to be the top choice of area wrestlers. The Division 1 Fighting Scots grapple in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Edinboro's roster lists heavyweight Joey Fendone
and his 184-pound brother, Shawn,
both from Central Catholic; Phil Moricone
of Pinkerton, who wrestles at 174; Eric Morrill
of Timberlane, at 125; and Chris Honeycutt,
who wrestled two years at North Andover before moving to Ohio, at 184.
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