Two former Charlestown High basketball players are headed to college to play basketball.
Omar Orriols and Alijiah Robinson signed nationals letters of intent in the Charlestown High gymnasium Friday afternoon. Orriols will attend Community College of Rhode Island while Robinson is head to Benedict College in South Carolina.
“This is a special day for two of our student-athletes and their parents and guardians,” Charlestown coach Edson Cardoso said. “I’m very excited that these two gentlemen are moving forward academically and with athletic scholarships.
“It is a special day for all of them and I’m very proud of these two young men.”
After transferring to Charlestown from Holbrook for his senior season, the 6-foot-8-inch Robinson averaged 15 points per game to go along with 12 rebounds and 4 blocks.
“It’s great, it’s a blessing, it’s a great opportunity to go out and make something of myself,” Robinson said.
Robinson was accompanied by his brother Perez Veiga, who played for Charlestown as well, and has been a mentor to his brother.
“The big thing for me was not to follow in the footsteps of my family members, my cousins, they are all locked up or in jail, they are all doing bad things and such and I didn’t want to be part of that cycle,” Robinson said. “That was part of my motivation. Also my brother Perez Veiga, whose been with me through it all, has really helped me through school and being that person pushing me forward.
“I’ve really been trying to be good academically all the time because I know without academics you really don’t have anything. Without academics there’s no basketball and I wouldn’t be sitting here today without that. I just want to thank all my coaches, family members and everybody who has been there to support me through the journey.”
Orriols played for Charlestown two years ago, averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in the Townies’ run to TD Garden.
But he dropped out of school his senior year and only recently completed his GED.
“Once I figured out how the real world was, I was just sitting at home feeling unproductive so I had to do something and get my GED,” he said. “No looking back at all.
“I thank my coaches today for giving the opportunity and giving me a chance to attend community college in Rhode Island. It’s very exciting, I’m finally moving on, moving forward, it feels good.”
Orriols's mother, Sarail Lopez, broke into tears during the signing.
“I’m happy for him, I’m really proud that he’s moving on,” she said. “He finally made that decision that I was waiting for.”
Cardoso said since he took over the program five years ago, all 40 players he has coached have gone on to college. He said about half are playing in basketball in college.
Last year, former Charlestown player Akosa Maduegbunam signed his national letter of intent to play at Penn State. But after averaging only 6 points and 8 rebounds in 3.8 minutes per game, Maduegbunam will transfer to Long Island University Post, according to Cordoso.
"As I do every year, I talked with each of our players at the end of the season to evaluate where they are and to set a course for success in their future," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said in a press release announcing the release of two players last April. "Patrick [Ackerman] and Akosa have decided to seek opportunities elsewhere. First and foremost, we want what is best for our student-athletes. We thank Patrick and Akosa for their contribution to our program, wish them the very best, and will try to assist them in anyway we can."
The Friday Night Lights at White Stadium will go dark this September.
After a 70-foot stadium lighting pole at White Stadium was knocked over by Hurricane Sandy last season, the district had all the other poles tested to see if they are structurally sound. The pole that fell was rusted through at the bottom. It fell into the parking lot and didn’t hurt anyone.
All the poles were removed after the season. Earlier this week Boston schools Athletics Director Ken Still said they lights would not be be replaced until the end of this season, but on Thursday he said they will be back in by Oct. 4.
"Now they are stating that we should be up and running by Oct. 4," Still said on Thursday. "Maybe before that. So we're switching all the night games [back to White Stadium] after Oct. 4."
After the incident last fall, the city soccer championships were moved from White Stadium to other fields until all the other poles could be X-rayed for rust. While Still said at the time that those poles received positive results, he also said that the poles haven’t been replaced since they were first installed in the 1940s.
“When they X-rayed them there might have been one or two or three that were slighted,” Still said on Tuesday. “Rather than play with it they said ‘take them all' and that’s it because it was something they would have to do some time down the road anyway.”
This fall’s original draft of the football schedule had six night games slated for White Stadium. Those games were moved to other fields on the final football schedule released earlier this week.
Still said about 90 percent of those games will still be played at night but at other fields. Many of those games were moved to Saunders Stadium in South Boston. Four of those games that scheduled for after Oct. 4 that were originally moved to other venues will now be moved back to White Stadium and played under the new lights.
“We picked and chose different turf fields that were able to accommodate games when someone else was not on the field,” Still said. “The majority, almost 90 percent, were moved to night. Some might have been move to day if that was what the coach preferred.”
Last season the football field at Boston English was also out of commission because the turf was deemed unplayable. That field will be ready to go this fall. Dorchester, which played all of its home games at White Stadium in the past, will now play home games at the new turf field installed at the school.
The Brighton High School football team is going island hopping this fall, which started Thursday with scrimmages against Nantucket High School followed by a Sept. 14 nonleague rematch of last year’s thriller against Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
Though on the field each trip means great football, off the field they serve as a catalyst for the building of new friendships and experiences for each team.
“It gives the kids different opportunities to do things they’ve probably never done before,” said Brighton coach Randolph Abraham. “It’s bonding time, too; the kids become friends with the other players and we all go to the beaches and eat seafood. It’s just a really good experience.”
The Brighton squad departed for Nantucket midday Thursday on the Fast Ferry out of Hyannis Port in Cape Cod. That night, they participated in a strictly passing exhibition with Nantucket, followed by a full scrimmage Friday morning. Following Friday's scrimmage, both teams were treated to a cookout, giving players and coaches alike the opportunity to get to know one another.
In two weeks, Brighton will conclude the island adventure when it kicks off the regular season in a nonleague game against a tough Martha’s Vineyard team. This will be the fifth year Brighton has played the Vineyard, and it has yet to capture a victory.
In last year’s showdown, the Bengals held tough throughout the majority of the game but ultimately fell, 45-38, in a barn-burner at White Stadium. Brighton led, 22-8, at the half and entered the fourth quarter tied at 30, but the Vineyard prevailed after scoring late two more times.
“They outcoached us last year.” Abraham said. “I watched the tape and some of the things they were doing were the pistol and the triple option. The second half was their half.”
For the Brighton players, the opportunity to spend the night camped in the Martha’s Vineyard high school gymnasium was exciting. Senior quarterback Jalen Apperwhite also described the trip as a testament to their development as a football team.
“Just the whole long trip seems to bring the team together,” Apperwhite said. “We’re already close, but it’ll bring us even closer as a team, which will make us better on the field. It builds trust, and we’ll want to do all we can for the person playing next to you.”
Not many city teams are able to say they’ve visited both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for football, and trips like these are great for city sports. The annual Martha’s Vineyard game provides the Brighton players with a unique opportunity to leave the city for a mini-vacation while improving their game. It’s also an opportunity to make new friends to keep in contact with via social media.
But let’s not forget it’s also a great escape for the coaches, too.
“We really enjoy going down to Martha’s Vineyard,” Abraham said. “I at times leave the kids at the beach with the assistant coaches and go and enjoy a moment alone at a local seafood place.
"It’s a good time. I never would have gone to Martha’s Vineyard if it weren’t for this rivalry.”
Revolution player Chad Barrett surprised the state champion Under-12 Dorchester soccer team Monday at Pope John Park.
Barrett and Papa Gino’s employees surprised the Team Force with a pizza party during their practice. Barrett signed autographs, fielded questions, and organized a shooting drill.
Susan Wadlington, a team parent who nominated Team Force, said in a press release, "I nominated this team because they all come from different backgrounds, attend different schools, but truly come together as a team on the soccer field."
Team Force won the state championship in June.
The Revolution and Papa Gino’s will surprise eight New England soccer teams and coaches with a number of prizes, including a personal appearance by a Revolution player, 50 tickets to a Revolution game, and Papa Gino’s pizza.
For more information on the “Play, Eat, Score” contest, click here.
New England Revolution Youth Academy coaches worked with more than 100 athletes at the Boston Scholar Athletes annual soccer clinic Friday afternoon at the Kroc Center in Dorchester.
The athletes were coached in dribbling, passing, and ball control. Free physicals were also provided.
“I hope they get some good technical work in today,” said Revolution Academy coach Kyle Teixeira. “A lot of the stuff we’re doing here is a lot of footwork stuff that they might not see around. We’re trying to teach them and start off with the basics and go from there.
“I enjoy coming to this area and working with these type of kids that don’t get the Revolution coaching year-round. So it’s always a great time to come in here, and as long as they are having fun, that’s all we care about.
"A lot of these kids are playing high school and we have over 100 kids here, so the more the merrier. It’s definitely going to help out the high school programs in Boston.”
While Teixeira hoped to show the student-athletes some new drills, Latin Academy girls’ coach Kara Stafford was glad to see that she already does many of the same drills with her players.
“I hope that they can see what we do at practice is exactly what the higher-level people do at practice,” said Stafford, who brought 46 players to the clinic. “And that they can see how to take these skills and really compete a little harder.
"A lot of what the drills are doing are great because they are all contests and they are building teamwork. They are all group tests.
“It should [get them fired up for the season], they look pretty fired up today.”
Latin Academy junior Vita Franjul said that while her school represented about half of the players at the clinic, it was still a good opportunity to meet players from other teams.
“We get to learn different skills from the people who are here who have been doing it a long time,” she said. “And it’s a way to meet people from other schools, too, because usually we only play with players from our own school.
“And we’re doing a lot of enjoyable activities. So we’re working out but having fun at the same time.”
Charlestown senior captain Ahmed Ibrahim said the clinic was not only an opportunity to improve his skills but also a way to show some of the younger players on his team how to do things the right way.
“I’m trying to get better and my coach told me to come here because he wants to train the other guys because I’m the captain,” he said. “We have some freshmen here that I’m trying to work with to just build a better team.”
The 11th annual Daniel F. Conley Soccer for Peace tournament was held at Pope John Paul II Park in Dorchester on Thursday afternoon.
Since 2003, Conley, the Suffolk County District Attorney and Boston mayoral candidate, has welcomed parents and children to the tournament in an effort to promote peace and camaraderie throughout Suffolk County.
Citizens Bank donated 150 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to children in need as part of the Gear for Grades initiative, which helps provide children with the tools necessary to succeed in school.
New England Revolution players Juan Agudelo and Bilal Duckett also signed autographs and posed for photos.
On Friday, Revolution players will hold a free soccer skills clinic for BPS high school soccer players from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kroc Center in Dorchester. The athletes will be coached in dribbling, passing, and ball control. The clinic is sponsored by the Boston Scholar Athletes program.
Perhaps the only person tough enough to tackle the job of equipment manager in the Boston Public Schools athletic department would be someone with pro and college football experience.
About a month after the Boston Globe reported that the athletic department was being investigated for allegedly misspending funds related to the purchase of equipment and supplies, BPS hired John Hillebrand to take over the department.
Hillebrand, who started Monday, spent the last year as head equipment manager of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars; that was after working as an assistant equipment manager with the Patriots for 18 years. He also was Boston College’s assistant equipment manager from 1991-93 as well as equipment manager at Edinboro University in 1990.
“I have a lot of experience,” Hillebrand said during Wednesday’s fall coaches meeting at the Burke High School auditorium. “I know what I’m doing. You just have to give me some time to do it.”
Hillebrand, 46, replaces William Fitzgerald, who resigned shortly after the investigations began in the spring. It is unclear whether Fitzgerald’s resignation was linked to the investigations.
The exact nature of the investigations — which are being conducted by the Boston Police, the Massachusetts Inspector General’s Office, and the Boston Finance Commission — is unclear; a Globe public records request for a copy of an audit was denied on the grounds that investigations are ongoing.
After news of the investigation broke, several BPS coaches said they believed that issues surrounding the ordering of equipment resulted from the fact that Fitzgerald was one person processing $3.1 million in orders for 19 high schools. They also said his ordering and purchasing procedure was slow and antiquated, and that he was the only person who knew how it worked.
During an interview after Wednesday’s meeting, Hillebrand said he was in a manpower situation similar to his one at BC.
“It’s extremely similar, oh yeah,” he said. “There were two other people [at BC] and actually one person left early, a year early. It was me for three months by myself at Boston College.
“I’m going to just do my job and go from there.”
Hillebrand will have the support of the Boston Scholar Athletes program, a nonprofit organization created about four years ago to support BPS athletics.
In fact, the BSA will provide all of the equipment that was requested over the summer by coaches for this fall, aside from uniforms. BSA athletic director Brad Schoonmaker said they were glad to help.
“But like I said, we’re probably more excited to start working with John to start creating some efficient systems so coaches can be prepared and have what they need to start the season,” Schoonmaker said before Wednesday’s coaches meeting.
“One thing we both know, both the BPS and the BSA, is that there is going to be some disruption in the fall, and our goal is to minimize that disruption. Moving forward, we just want to work really collaboratively with John to try to create some efficient systems so everything runs more smoothly.”
Schoonmaker said that while Hillebrand will still be one equipment manager servicing 19 high schools, his experience will help.
“Obviously, his resume speaks for itself, coming from the Patriots, coming from the Jaguars, he definitely knows his stuff,” said Schoonmaker. “So we’re excited to kind of learn from him and help him have an easier transition than he maybe would without us.
"Yes, the math is still the same but hopefully he utilizes the BSA and we can together create something that’s pretty good.”
After Wednesday’s meeting, BPS athletic director Ken Still, who will retire in October, said there will be an adjustment period, as with anything that is new.
“You have to get adjusted your own way, especially in the job that he has, as to how he stacks his uniforms, as how he delivers it,” Still said. “He’ll have his own setup and the way he has it, it seems like it will be good.”
Hillebrand told coaches that he will be strict about deadlines for requesting equipment and that he will periodically come to the schools to check inventory.
“If it’s gone, if a kid took it, if the dog ate it, if I happen to come over for a spot check, I’m going to be like, 'Where is it?' ” Hillebrand said during the meeting.
BPS assistant athletic director Wallace Johnson said the school district is also working on a new policy for putting equipment orders out to bid.
“Things are changing,” he said. “We will no longer be able to call up a vendor and say, ‘Send me this or that or the other,' without a proper [purchase order],” Johnson said during the meeting. “So the dates that he gives, you better follow them, because if you don’t have your information in to him by that time, you will not get the equipment that you need.”
O’Bryant boys’ soccer coach Ian Doreian liked what Hillebrand had to say.
“Ultimately, if the bidding process is done in a more streamlined fashion, and coaches are held accountable for the amount of supplies they have, and they are turning their requisite forms in on time, then that will make things easier,” said Doreian.
Even Hillenbrand's response to how the process would be streamlined was streamlined.
Asked how long it would take him to streamline the bidding process, Hillenbrand said, “When it does.” And when asked how long it would take for him to get settled into his new job, Hillebrand said, “When I get settled.”
One of the most noticeable differences between the old coaching regime at South Boston High and the new one is the coaching staff’s beige fisherman hats with embroidered Knights logos on the front.
“It’s a skin-health thing -- I’m paranoid about skin cancer and things like that,” said first-year head coach Ray Butler during the team’s first day of double-session practices Thursday at Saunders Stadium. “I know a coach who got [skin cancer] years ago, he got it behind his ears. So you wear the baseball hat and forget about the sunblock. Since then, I’ve been incredibly paranoid about it.
“Us as coaches, we tend not to take care of ourselves when the season starts. Breakfast is a coffee and you don’t eat again until the end of the day.”
With that kind of attention to detail, South Boston hopes to turn the page in its football program and move on from the last six seasons under Sean Guthrie. The former Boston College football player, who is still a math teacher at South Boston, was notified of the change in direction just before Christmas vacation last year.
Butler, a Latin Academy alumnus who has 20 years of coaching experience at the high school and college levels, was hired in April.
“He was a very well-liked coach and he genuinely cared for these kids and their well- being, so it’s a difficult situation to walk into,” Butler said. “Bill Parcells said a long time ago, if you give the kids an excuse to drop out or quit, they’ll take it.
"We had such a long period from when he [was asked] not to come back to when I was hired. Kids wonder, ‘What’s going on? Am I really being card about?’ So kids have those questions and that has a lot to do with how things transition.
"But he did a lot for this program and the kids liked him a lot and they respected him a lot. But that’s the past and people say the past is past and history, and there is no future in the past is how it goes.”
Even though Guthrie did informal work with some players in the weight room during the transition period, turnout has been low at South Boston’s camp so far. Only 12 players were dressed for Thursday’s practice.
“It’s one of those things where if everyone who did paperwork shows up, we’ll probably have 60 kids on the team," said Butler. "One of the things we ran into is a large number of the kids had job opportunities with some of the programs out there, ABCD and some of those things."
Butler remains positive, and his players seem to be ready to move on with him.
“It’s been a good challenge,” said senior cornerback Demario Taylor. “He’s pushing us, he’s trying to get us better than we were last year, and we’re learning new things this year.
“I’m getting over [Guthrie] now, because sooner or later you’re going to have to move on. The new coach, he’s helping us forget the past and think about the future.”
It helps that Butler has so much experience on the sideline. He started his coaching career as the JV coach at Holliston High in 1993 and worked his way up to offensive coordinator by the time he left in 1998 to take a job on MIT’s first-ever football coaching staff.
A year later, he got an offer to coach at the University of Rhode Island, but the commute became too difficult when he got married, so he took a job at UMass-Lowell. That program was dismantled after two years, so he moved to Mount Ida College.
From there, he went to Curry College before going back to MIT in 2008.
For the last three years, he has been a physical education and health teacher at Boston Latin School. Last year, he served as an assistant coach at Latin before the South Boston job opened up.
“It was one of those things where, do you want to continue being a position coach or take an opportunity to be a head coach?” he said. “This looks like an opportunity to build a program and get things going.”
Before he could get things going on the field, he had to fix up the storage shed at Saunders Stadium.
“It was leaking, the floor was rotted, and it was infested with mice and everything,” Butler said. “The coaches donated the labor and BSA donated some materials and it’s 100 times nicer than it was. So things won’t get ruined and it will last and we’ll be good to go.”
While Butler won’t be in the building -- he is still teaching at Boston Latin -- assistant coach Kevin Williams teaches at Excel High in the South Boston Education Complex. Williams played at Latin Academy with Butler before moving on to play at Northeastern.
Another assistant, Leon Finkly, was South Boston’s quarterback during its last Super Bowl run in 1998. Volunteer Eli Harrington rounds out the staff.
They all sported the beige fisherman caps with the embroidered Knight perched on the front.
“Coach Williams rocks it because he makes it look like a cowboy hat because he buttons up the sides,” said senior wide receiver and tight end Victor Wu. “Everybody else looks like it’s about to rain or they are about to harvest some crops -- harvesting crops for Thanksgiving, for the Thanksgiving game.”
The Spartans pulled out a tight victory against Mission on Wednesday night to bring home their first Under-18 title in the Boston Neighborhood Basketball League boys' championships.
Freddie Oliveria hit two clutch overtime free throws with 5.7 seconds left in overtime to give the Spartans the narrow 49-46 victory at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.
“Those were big free throws,” said Oliveria, who is going into his senior season at Charlestown High. “I was very nervous. We stuck together as a team. We were a little nervous, it’s the championship game. We got it together and we started playing together as a team and we got the W.
“We went away from what was working and the coach told us to go back to it and we went back to it. I’m just happy about the championship. It feels good.”
In the Under-13 championship, Lee School beat Money Team, 26-14. Abdul Meslin scored a game-high 8 points for Lee School while Julian Howell led Money Team with 7 points.
In the Under-15 championship game, the Rebels beat the Boston Titans, 46-29, thanks to Johnathan Cassers's game-high 16 points. His teammate Deven Palmer finished with 13 points while Izaiah Winston-Brooks and Omar Fontes-Jules each chipped in 7 points for the Boston Titans.
“I noticed we were struggling to get the ball past half court in the beginning of the game,” said Cassers, who attends the Academy of the Pacific Rim charter school in Hyde Park. “I told my teammates to look up and every time I got the ball I always looked up and I always tried to see the open man. And when I saw the open lane I just took it.
“It feels good to represent the area you’re from. It feels good go back home and tell everyone how I won and how we played better as a team.”
In the Under-18 game, Mission, which defeated the defending champion Lee School to reach the Under-18 championship game, were down 13-2 in the early going before battling back to trail, 26-24, at halftime.
Carlin Haymon, who scored a game-high 19 points, sank a pair of free throws with 4.7 in regulation to send the game into OT.
“We waited too late to execute, they executed the game plan but they missed a lot of foul shots,” Mission coach Charles Davis said. “We just didn’t play together. They played tough, I’m proud of them. Nobody expected us to get this far and I’m proud of them.”
Spartans' guard Ernie Chatman (12 points, six assists) was called for traveling with 15.4 seconds left in overtime as his team led, 47-46, Haymon had a chance to give his team the lead with 8.9 seconds left but he missed a layup after catching an inbound pass under the hoop.
Oliveria grabbed the rebound and Haymon spent his last foul and headed to the bench with 5.7 seconds left. In the meantime, Oliveria came up big at the line to clinch the victory.
“It’s fitting for him to make two free throws to put us up three because that kid has been through so much,” Spartans coach Joe Chatman said. “So many people expect so much out of him because of his size and for him to show that he had the grit and the toughness to make two free throws at the end shows you a lot about who he is and what he’s become over the last five years.”
Oliveria said the win gives him confidence going into his senior year.
“We just won the BNBL championship,” he said. “It feels good.”
New England Revolution players will participate in two events this week involving Boston public school students.
Kicking off Thursday is the 11th annual Daniel F. Conley Soccer for Peace tournament starting at 4 p.m. at Pope John Paul II Park in Dorchester.
On Friday, the Revolution will hold a free soccer skills clinic for BPS high school soccer players from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kroc Center in Dorchester. The athletes will be coached in dribbling, passing, and ball control. The clinic is sponsored by the Boston Scholar Athletes program.
Since 2003, Conley, the Suffolk County District Attorney and now mayoral candidate, has welcomed parents and children to the tournament in an effort to promote peace and camaraderie throughout the Suffolk County community. Each young player will be given a backpack courtesy of Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank is donating 150 new backpacks stuffed with school supplies to children in need as part of the Gear for Grades initiative, which helps provide children with the tools necessary to succeed in school.
Special guests at the tournament will include Revolution players Juan Agudelo and Bilal Duckett, who will sign autographs and pose for photos.
There also will be a K-9 demonstration from the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, and staff from the Boston Museum of Science will have interactive activities. Radio station JAMN 94.5 will provide the entertainment.
The Boston Neighborhood Basketball League girls' championships wrapped up Tuesday night in dramatic fashion as the Under-18 Lee School team roared back in the final minutes to beat the defending champs at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury.
The Lee school beat Lets Ball Together, 32-31, in the Under-18 game after the Boston Showstoppers won both the Under-15 and Under-13 titles.
Araion Bradshaw of the Lee School earned MVP honors in the Under-18 game after lading all scorers with 14 points, including eight in the second half. Bradshaw’s sister Amari is also on the team, and their father Eric Bradshaw is the coach.
“It feels great,” Araion Bradshaw said after the game. “I’m really proud of my teammates, family, and especially my big sister, who’s leaving.”
This was Amari Bradshaw's last summer of eligibility, as she graduated from Belmont High School in the spring. Following the MVP and trophy ceremony after the game, the coach commended his players on never giving up.
“I told my team, if we hit our free throws, we’d be all right.” Eric Bradshaw said. “They took the lead late in the game but we fought our way back.”
In a game that was back and forth for all 40 minutes, Lets Ball Together led, 27-24, with 1:30 left but couldn’t hold on.
The leading scorers for Lets Ball Together were Raven Kelsey with 11 and Kiana Daley with six. Daley also was in her last summer of eligibility, and after the game, the former O’Bryant basketball and track star talked about her team's performance.
“We definitely played tough,” Daley said. “During the game, we kept our heads straight and it also came really close at the end.”
In the Under-15 championship, the Boston Showstoppers defeated Lets Ball Together, 35-14. Leading the way for the Showstoppers was Sayawni Lassiter with 10 points and Me’Ara Carter with 16 rebounds and some exceptional defense.
“We just went out there and played the game,” Carter said. “All my teammates really helped with the win because they played really hard.”
The first game of the night was the Under-13 championship, in which the Boston Showstoppers defeated Lets Ball Together, 22-15. After a slow start offensively for both teams the Showstoppers had a 7-3 edge at the half. The teams picked it up in the second half.
Arianne Howard was the leading scorer for the Showstoppers with 10 points.
The boys BNBL championships is Wednesday, with the three-game format starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Reggie Lewis Center.
On Monday, the BNBL season will wrap up with the Under-18 all-star games at the Shelburne Center in Roxbury. The girls game is at 6:30 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses capped off a four-day coaching conference for Boston-area youth coaches Tuesday afternoon at Boston University.
The Up2Us National Training institute was sponsored by Up2Us, a nonprofit that trains coaches from around the nation to provide mentorship and life skills to underserved children through athletics.
Many of the conference attendees were coaches or staff members in organizations that serve Boston Public School athletes, such as SquashBusters, America SCORES Boston, Metro Lacrosse, and Tenacity.
“From all of my colleagues around the world, I really want to congratulate you all,” Moses told more than 100 coaches seated in Metcalf Hall in George Sherman Union. “At the end of the day, it’s the dedication and the willingness to want to make a difference that puts us all in this room together. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Many of the coaches in attendance also participate in Up2Us's program called Coach Across America, which supports national youth development programs that use sports as a vehicle to improve the lives of kids.
Shanna Scuafri is a Coach Across America member who is training as a program assistant for the Boston Scholar Athletes program. She will work at Madison Park High as well as West Roxbury High.
“I think it’s really important that during this program we were able to meet people and other [Coach Across America] members from the local area,” Scuafri said. “I learned a lot about how to facilitate relationships with the kids. The greatest lesson I learned was that no kid is a lost cause. Each one of them deserves a chance to better themselves and you can also become a better person from it.”
Paul Caccamo, executive director of Up2Us, spoke about the importance of the conference along with how much growth he has witnessed in just four days.
“Everybody always talks about all the problems, just about the problems when coaching the kids," he told the coaches. "But you guys spent the last four days talking about the solutions and you are the solutions. This is a room full of heroes.”
The last day of the conference also included a brainstorming session during which the coaches talked about what they had learned and shared their individual accomplishments with the rest of their group.
“It’s really all about teaching the participants how to be skilled not only when coaching the kids, but just relating to them,” said Up2Us facilitator and trainer Vanessa Akhtar, who also attends Boston University. “It also means a lot to us to have such support and a great partner in the Laureus organization.”
Moses is chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, an international organization dedicated to facilitating worldwide programs of sports-related community projects that help protect kids from various social problems. Laureus has worked with more than 2 million children in more than 45 countries.
“When we talk about charitable organizations and our mission at Laureus," Moses said, "and all the people that we work with, at the end of the day, we consider all of the people with us as a part of our family.
“And it’s my honor to really welcome you today, as part of our family, as people who really make a small part of the world really valuable to someone else.”
Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe
During coach Brian Vaughan’s first official practice as the head coach of the Boston English football team, his message was very clear: it’s all about improvement.
“These guys have been working hard all summer in the weight room and in the seven-on-seven passing leagues,” Vaughan said. “We have a lot of young guys. For some, it’s their first time playing high school football and also playing football in general. We’re hoping for the best and as long as we work hard, good things will happen.”
As 24 players bustled out onto the practice field dragging pads and carrying cones, it was evident that the majority of the Eagles were itching to get back on the gridiron. Football was once again beginning for English.
Senior quarterback Dhejour Relerford expressed his approval of Vaughan’s immediate influence.
“He coaches everybody hard,” Relerford said. “Everybody’s been in the weight room, and he always pushes us to be better than we were last year. I like him.”
Vaughan coached at Pope John in Everett for the previous four years until English hired him last January. When asked about the difficulty in transitioning into a new staff, Vaughan seemed confident, especially in developing relationships between his fellow coaches and players.
“We have guys coaching the kids in every position,” Vaughan said. “I’ve got eight guys on my staff; these guys love football, some of them have been with me my whole time at Pope John. They love the opportunity and challenge of building a new program.”
The Eagles don't seem too interested in English’s recent mascot change, even if it is one of the the oldest public high schools in the country. In fact, starting center Christopher Banks said that this Eagles team mindset is all football.
“Changing the mascot to the Eagles doesn’t really have an impact on us because we’re just focused on winning and getting our mindset right for week one,” Banks said. “I want to go to the Super Bowl and beat BLS on thanksgiving. I’m excited for the season to start.”
Following a disappointing 3-7 record last season, Vaughan and company look to revamp a young Boston English team that had 24 players at its first practice, 7 more than they had at last seasons Thanksgiving game. And with a new coach who eats and sleeps the sport, things are looking better for English.
“I’m never out of football,” Vaughan said. “During the winter I’m breaking down films, so I’m always thinking about it. Ever since I was eight I've been either playing or coaching. We’re excited, I’m excited, and this is exciting times here at English. I don’t know how much will translate to wins, but we’ll be competing, I know that.”
Globe correspondent Justin A. Rice contributed this report.
Boston City TV and Boston Neighborhood Network have released this fall’s lineup of "Mayor Menino’s Game of the Week."
Each week, a Boston City League football game will be aired live on Boston City TV (Comcast Channel 24 and RCN Channel 12) and replayed on Sunday at noon and Tuesdays at 7.30 p.m.
The games also will be aired on BNN (Comcast Channel 23 and RCN Channel 83.)
The games also can be viewed any time online at www.cityofboston.gov/gameoftheweek
This fall's schedule (subject to change):
Friday, Sept. 13: Dorchester vs. Madison Park, at Madison Park High School, 3:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 20:. O'Bryant vs. New Mission, at Madison Park High School, 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 27: Burke vs. O'Bryant, at Madison Park High School, 6 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 4: West Roxbury vs. Brighton, at White Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 11: West Roxbury vs. East Boston, at East Boston Stadium, 6 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 18: Weston vs. Boston Latin, at White Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 25:. Madison Park vs. Brighton, at White Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 1: MIAA playoff game*
Friday, Nov. 8: MIAA playoff game/non-qualifier game*
Friday, Nov. 15: MIAA playoff game/non-qualifier game*
Friday, Nov. 22: MIAA playoff game/non-qualifier game*
Thursday, Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving): South Boston vs. East Boston at White Stadium, 9:30 a.m.
*pending a playoff berth
With its brand-new, bright green field turf literally sparkling in the sunshine, Dorchester High opened its football training camp Monday morning.
The $2.8 million renovation to Roberts Field, which abuts the school, will allow Dorchester to play its first home football games in school history. The Bears, who previously played home games at White Stadium, will christen the new field Sept. 20 when they host rival Latin Academy at 6 p.m.
The upgrade to the 225,000-square-foot complex includes a new red scoreboard and stadium lights for the football, soccer, and baseball fields. There are also five rows of shiny new bleachers lining one sideline of the football field.
“The field is beautiful, it’s really a nice facility,” said Dorchester coach Rich Moran. “This is the first time in history [we will have a home game] so this is a very important year in Dorchester sports, not just football but baseball and just the whole athletic process.”
The new field comes on the heels of a dream season for Dorchester.
A year after winning only four games, the Bears went 10-1 last fall, losing to Upper Cape Cod in the school’s first Super Bowl berth since 1989.
But the first thing Moran told his players Monday was that last year was last year.
“Last year is gone,” he said. “We are done and our whole goal now is, how quickly can we become a family? How quickly can we truly become a team?
"The success last year was because of the team aspect. We are a very, very good team. The kids play well offensively and defensively and special teams. I told them this morning, how quickly can you do it?”
The Bears graduated only five or six seniors, but making a return trip to the Super Bowl will be even harder this year with the MIAA’s new statewide playoff system in place. While last year they had an automatic bid to the Division 5 Super Bowl because they won the Boston City League South, this year they would have to win two playoff games before qualifying for the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
Senior running back Hakim Harris acknowledged that returning to the Super Bowl will be more difficult, but he said it’s a process nonetheless.
“First we have to beat our conference and then we have to win the playoffs,” he said. “Playoffs then Super Bowl. So it’s all a process.”
Harris is one of the running backs who will try to make up for losing the speed of senior running back Robinson Cyprien.
“We worked hard in the offseason, we worked very hard,” Harris said. “Speed can always be replaced. Just because one man is gone doesn’t mean we won’t be the same. We could be better, we could be the same, we could actually be worse this year, but I think we’ll be better this year.”
They will get a good indicator when they play Madison Park Sept. 13 in the season opener for both squads. Last year, Dorchester defeated Madison Park in the final regular-season game. The game was dubbed the “unofficial city championship,” since Dorchester won the South Division and the Cardinals won the North.
“That game is going to be amazing,” senior quarterback Demetrius Leary said. “The first game of the season, there are going to be butterflies. I know everyone will have butterflies because it’s the first game but as soon as the ball is kicked off, everybody will be fired up.”
The Madison Park game will be followed by Dorchester’s first-ever home opener against Latin Academy. But first Dorchester has more than 30 days to practice on its new field, which hopefully will be enough time for construction crews to remove tarps and mounds of dirt surrounding it, along with their giant yellow hydraulic excavators.
“They are going to be tired today but they are loving it,” Moran said of his players. “It’s their field. It’s an important piece to success for Dorchester. Not just for the high school but for the community.
“It’s going to be great, it’s going to be exciting. It’s what high school football is all about.”
High school football practice doesn't officially start in Massachusetts until Monday but about 60 to 70 Boston public school players got things going a little early on Saturday afternoon at the Boston Scholar Athletes program football combine.
Woburn-based Athletic Evolution conducted the combine for the second straight year at the Kroc Center in Dorchester. The players tested their ability in the 40-yard dash, pro agility, max vertical touch, broad jump, 60-yard shuttle and finished the day with a pushup test. About 35 student-athletes also took advantage of the opportunity to have a free physical.
"I hope they get a little excited knowing that football starts Monday for them," said Erik Kaloyanides, who founded Athletic Evolution in 2005 after playing at Reading High and Syracuse University. "Honestly this is more for the future because there is not much they can do about it now. So if they are not happy with their speed or strengths or whatever it may be, hopefully they’ll utilize this for next year and we’ll see even bigger numbers at our BSA fit series that we do with the BSA all summer long.
"I think that that’s probably the main goal, get excited for football but then understand that if they are not happy where they are at they have an opportunity to improve next year."
Kaloyanides said the players would walkaway from the combine with a printout of their results so they know what areas they need to improve.
Getting pumped up for the season wasn’t a problem for Dorchester senior running back and linebacker, Dale Cooper, who helped the Bears make it to the Division 5 Super Bowl last year.
"I feel like I’m already into the season," he said, "and the season hasn’t started yet."
Several BPS coaches were on hand to watch the combine, including West Roxbury coach Derek Wright, who had about eight or nine players participating.
"I just want them to get the exposure," Wright said. "See what the other athletes are doing and see what they are up against in terms of competition and so on and so forth. More to open their eyes to what’s out there."
On Saturday, Aug. 17, the New England Revolution will be collecting school supplies between 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. before their game at Gillette Stadium against the Chicago Fire.
Fans are encouraged to donate new or gently used supplies. Those who do will receive an autographed Revolution player card.
All proceeds will support Boston’s Cradles to Crayons, an organization founded in 2002 that, according to its website, “provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive -- at home, at school and at play.”
In Boston, Cradles has distributed over 55,000 packages, many to BPS families.
On Wednesday, Revolution players Kevin Alston and Kelyn Rowe and mascot Slyde took nine middle school students on a shopping spree at a Staples in Brighton, where Staples generously donated $1,000 worth of school supplies toward Saturday’s collection.
Here's a video of the shopping spree.
This is the second installment of a charitable drive series of three that began July 13 and will end Sept. 21 during the Revolution’s final home game of the season against D.C. United.
Donations will be accepted at the Bank of America gate and the NRG plaza.
For a video depicting the Staples shopping spree, click here.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the 18-and-under Boston Astros found themselves down, 6-4, in their second annual alumni baseball game Wednesday night at Jim Rice Field on the boarder of the South End and Roxbury. Enter Kenny Miranda, a former Boston public school student and Under-18 player used solely by the Astros for his fastball, to pinch-hit.
It was his first at-bat of the season.
And, boy, did he make it count.
Miranda cracked a three-run home run over the right-field fence, and he wore a grin trotting around the bases so wide that catcher Brianne Toney exclaimed, "Kenny’s going to be talking about this for months!”
The excitement of his home run and his team’s 7-6 victory left him at a loss for words.
“I’m speechless right now,” Miranda said after the game. “That was my only at-bat of the season. It was the first home run I’ve ever hit.”
That homer capped a wild two weeks for the Astros, who for the second time in four years won the Triple Crown Sports US Baseball Championship in Richmond, Va.
“Winning the championship was the best,” Miranda said. “Last year we went and we lost, so it was great going back and winning it all.”
Founder Robert Lewis Jr. started the Boston Astros 34 years ago with the belief that baseball could be a powerful vehicle to teach young men values and life skills. This 18-and-under team is more than 90 percent BPS kids, with the majority from the Roxbury and Dorchester area.
After the Astros won their second national championship two weeks ago, Lewis was extremely proud, but not too surprised.
“It’s very exciting," he said. "I mean, who would have thought that we would’ve won two national championships? But I knew they had it within them.
“What the championship means for urban baseball more than anything is that there’s great baseball being played here in the city."
The alumni game was not only a celebration of the Astros championship run, but a celebration of urban baseball itself. The alumni team was made up of either college graduates or players still in college, all with an affiliation to the Astros.
Lewis’s latest initiative in his effort to promote and advance citywide baseball is a program called The BASE. According to its website, the program "provides comprehensive athletic and educational advancement opportunities for prominent student athletes. The BASE will be a model, leveraging sports as a vehicle to engage youth in a positive, rigorous, passionate and success-driven environment with the goal of excellence -- both on and off the field."
Lewis has also recently joined the board of directors of the Lou Tomkins All Star Baseball League, a nonprofit summer travel team that enables both city and suburban Boston teams to compete against each other. League president Joe Rushing was in attendance at the Astros game and expressed his excitement with the new partnership.
“We want to expand our league and inner-city baseball in conjunction with The BASE to give more of the kids the opportunity to play high-quality baseball,” Rushing said.
“To give these kids the opportunity to play all star teams from, say, Framingham, Westfield, or Sudbury is just especially good for the kids and is definitely good for the league.”
Boston City Councilor and BPS graduate Felix Arroyo was one of the few lucky enough to throw out a first pitch. Arroyo, who is running for mayor, attended Another Course to College and played with the Astros in the 1990s. He talked about the importance sports can have on building strong relationships.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” Arroyo said. “It’s really about using these sports as a way to start conversations with the kids that are really necessary. About their own lives, about their own dreams, and about where they want to go with their life. And you can use sports as a way of doing it.”
With 11 of the 12 high school seniors on the Astros championship team attending college, it's definitely succeeding.
The following is sixth in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Unlike some children he grew up with in Albania, Eglis Bizhoti always had food on the table and shoes on his feet. One luxury the son of an economist and school teacher never had in Albania, however, was a tennis racket. In fact, he didn't even know what a tennis racket was.
But after his family first immigrated to Dorchester in 2005 when he was 15-years-old, Bizhoti got the chance to first swing a tennis racket. And it wasn't long before he could hardly be found without his own racket as he walked the halls of Another Course to College High School in Brighton before graduating in 2010.
“When I moved here I did not know any English, I never saw a tennis court before I came to the States, I never had any experience at all,” said Bizhoti, who tagged along with his neighbor to a free summer tennis enrichment program called Tenacity two weeks after he first arrived. “Before [I joined Tenacity] I was going to the park and I asked people if I could play and they said ‘no,’ they were really snobby and rude. I said ‘come on, let me try?’
“The first time I whiffed and the second time I hit better. I just liked it. ‘This looks cool.’ Like something I could do. I had no money. We came here with pretty much zero, negative. My parents couldn’t afford anything.”
This past spring the boy who played five hours of tennis as a member of the cooped Latin Academy tennis team was a junior on the UMass Boston tennis team that recorded its best season in program history. Bizhoti played a crucial role on the team as the Beacons clinched their first Little East Conference championship in 23 years. That title also clinched the program’s first trip to the Division 3 NCAA Tournament.
UMass Boston trailed defending conference champ, UMass Dartmouth, with the final two singles matches left in the conference tournament on May 4. Moments after Bizhoti tied the contest at 4-4 by winning his No. 6 singles match in straight sets, his teammate Alex Loyer won his No. 3 singles match to give the Beacons the conference championship.
“It was amazing going to the NCAAs for the first time in school history and for myself,” Bizhotti said. “You always want to go to the NCAAs, which was one of the goals I had for playing college tennis.
“Being on a winning team is always awesome. Who doesn’t like to win? It was also with local kids I knew for a long time so to do it with them was also special to be on the same court as them.”
UMass Boston ultimately lost to Skidmore College in the First Round of its NCAA Tournament debut but head coach Eric Berg said he has almost his entire squad returning from last year’s 14-4 campaign. And he’s looking for Bizhotti to be an even bigger leader than he was last season.
“He definitely came through in the clutch,” Berg said of Bizhotti. “Eglis has the potential to be a very good leader. He’s vocal and everyone knows he cares a lot about the team. This he year he played lower than he thought he would in the lineup. I expect him to come into the fall with a little more urgency, knowing it’s his senior year.
“He does play well against the better players. If he’s higher in the lineup I think he’ll do well.”
Bizhotti owes a lot of his success on and off the tennis court to Tenacity, the tennis enrichment program he joined on a lark seven years ago because his neighbor invited him. But after his first summer in the program ended, Bizhotti said his family moved back to Albania because they weren’t adjusting to their new environment well. This was despite the fact that they won a lottery that gave them the green cards and social security numbers to move to the United States.
After the family decided to move back to the United States in September 2006, Bizhotti and his sister enrolled in Another Course to College. He caught onto English quickly but Bizhotti still struggled in school while his sister, Alba, thrived academically. He got As in math his first two years because he said it’s a “universal language” but he got Ds and Fs in every other course and was told that he might have to leave the school.
He started to work harder his junior year and made the honor roll his senior year.
“I went to school at 5 a.m. to type a 500 word essay,” he said. “Now I’m just happy I just got through that.”
In addition to working at Tenacity and the Stillman Tennis Center in Charlestown as an instructor, he also worked at Shaw’s and contributed $500 a month to supplement the income of his parents, Niko and Vasilika, who both work low-wage jobs at Logan International Airport.
But tennis was not only his rock and it provided role models for him.
“It’s a sport where individually you learn a lot about yourself and you learn how to deal with adversity,” he said. “So tennis really kind of put me in that environment that gave me examples to follow.”
Bizhotti started to get good too.
He volunteered at a tennis program for middle school kids at Harvard and he also played a ton of tennis with the staff there too. He made friends who played for the Latin Academy tennis team and they told him he should join. Before he graduated form high school in 2010, Bizhotti was a two-year captain of the Latin Academy tennis team and a four-year All-Star.
He played his first two seasons of college tennis at Salem State before he transferred to UMass Boston because the coast of room and board in Salem was too taxing on his family, which lives next to the UMass Boston campus.
“I’m really proud of what Eglis has achieved, he’s an impressive young man,” Latin Academy coach Andy Crane said. “He honors his father and mother.”
Bizhotti’s parents work so much at the airport that they’ve only been able to get away to watch one of his college matches at MIT when he played for Salem State.
Bizhotti, who is working at City Sports and Tenacity’s Boston Common site this summer, hopes to play No. 3 singles or higher for the Beacons during his senior year.
The economics major is thinking about studying finance during his senior year and isn’t sure what he wants to do after graduated other than that he wants to make enough money to give his parents some relief.
“I just want him to get two days off, he’s a guy who likes working but he needs rest as well,” Bizhotti said of his father. “I think we’ve come a long way from where we started and there ‘s going to be more things to climb — like anything.”
There’s no doubt he’ll follow the advice he gives to his tennis students on the rest of his own climb.
“‘Constantly ask questions about yourself,’” he said. “‘What can I do to improve?’”
The following is fifth in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Former Boston Latin Academy swimmer Tim Connolly came to Latin Academy head coach Mark Thomas in the seventh grade as what Thomas described as “a peanut.” Now with his freshman season of swimming at Bentley University under his belt, Connolly’s transformed from a “peanut” to the school’s record holder for the 200 backstroke.
Connolly “cracked” the previous record in last years North East 10 Conference championships with a blazing time of 1.54.56 seconds. He notes it as a very memorable moment of his young career at Bentley.
“I finished at the wall, looked up and everything finished and accumulated at that moment,” Connolly said in a recent interview. “It was like my entire swimming career coming together. It felt awesome.”
Aside from breaking the record, Connolly helped the Falcons take first place in 6 out of 9 meets and capture second place in that Northeast – 10 Conference Championships this past year. Connolly attributes his recent success in collegiate swimming to solid support from his experience at Latin Academy.
“Swimming at BLA with Mark really helped me when I started swimming at Bentley,” Connolly said in a recent interview. “Especially when preparing for back - to - back meets and just being part of a cohesive team.”
Connolly was a senior captain of his Latin Academy squad of sixty swimmers in 2012, where his experience as a 6 year veteran and solid relationship with longtime coach Thomas helped with his transition into collegiate sports.
“One thing I always admired in Timmy was how he benefitted in the atmosphere at BLA, and how its carried over to Bentley,” Thomas said. “When he was first starting off he really admired the older kids and it was clear that he wanted to be the best he could while he was here.”
Even during Connollys rookie season at Bentley, Thomas kept up with his former swimmer’s progress in the water. During a Latin Academy vs. Waltham meet held at Bentley last winter, Connolly even made an appearance and caught up with his old coach.
“Mark has over 30 years experience and knows a ton of people,” Connolly said.
“He helped me realize the different day to day process between collegiate and high school swimming. He was always very positive and supportive of me.”
Bentley swimming coach Mary Kay Samko also reflected Connolly’s improvements in the water this past year. She talked especially highly of his drive to get better each and every day.
“I didn’t expect such success to happen when he first came to us in September,” Samko recalled. “But as the season progressed, it was his goal to set the school record, and he went out and did it.”
Connolly is also the first leg for the Falcons in both the 200 and 400 team medleys, where Samko praises how he sets the tone for the rest of the team.
This summer Connolly lives in his hometown of Dorchester where he trains as a member of the Weymouth Whales swimming club.
As a student - athlete, Connolly notched a solid 3.0 G.P.A in his first year at a competitive Bentley University, and he hasn’t forgotten his Boston Public School roots.
“For all the BPS athletes now, no activity or sport is out of your reach," Connolly recalled. "There are people out there who will help you in the BPS community. No matter what activity or sport you want to participate in, you can do it.”
The Boston Scholar Athletes program increased their hours that their scholar-athletes spent in BSA Zones by 50 percent from 2011-12 to 2012-13 school year according to the BSA’s end-of-year report.
The BSA was started about four years ago to boost Boston public school athletes, establishing study rooms called Zones in all 19 BPS high schools for student athletes to learn. The program also funds Boston.com’s BPS sports page.
Released late last month, the report also says the athletic participation among scholar-athletes increased by 12.3 percent.
"We made a big push to improve our data collection process with the implementation of our Sales Force database," BSA Executive Academic DIrector Kelly Parrish said in an email. "This has allowed us to more precisely track the number of scholar-athletes in BPS. Also, we have put more of an emphasis on the recruitment of new athletes into our Zones."
Eligibility rates for BSA scholar-athletes remained relatively high as well.
Non-exam schools saw 84 percent of scholar-athletes remain eligible in the fall while 97 percent of exam-school students (Boston Latin, Latin Academy and the O'Bryant school) scholar-athletes remained eligible in the fall. Those numbers remained the same in the winter season while they jumped to 90 percent for non-exam scholar-athletes in the spring and 98 percent for exam school scholar-athletes.
Non exam school football scholar-athletes had a 78 percent eligibility rate compared to 98 percent at exam schools. Boys' basketball scholar-athletes had an 80 percent eligibility rate while exam-school basketball scholar-athletes had a 98 percent eligibility rate.
One impressive sport for eligibility all around was soccer, where both girls' and boys’ soccer eligibility rates were at 99 percent for students at exam schools while non-exam schools soccer teams saw a 91 eligibility rate for girls' soccer and an 83 percent eligibility for boys' soccer.
Parrish gives all the credit to the BSA faculty for the success in eligibility for students playing sports.
“In regards to the increase in eligibility rate, it is a testament to the work that our facilitators are doing in the Zones and the consistency of their existence for three years now," she said.
Just three percent of Zone members graduated without post-secondary plans, which includes full-time employment, training or vocational programs, military and plans of going to a college or university.
"Heading into our fourth full school year we are excited to see the first group of freshmen that started out their high school careers in the Zone go on to graduate with a plan,” Parrish said.
She says that there is always room for improvement and that they are far from finished with hopes to continue their work.
"We feel like we can always improve and are never satisfied with the results from the previous year," she said. "We will continue to do the things that have made us successful in the past.”
Globe Correspondent Justin A. Rice contributed to this report.
James Whitter is a student at the O'Bryant School who writes for Teens in Print.
The following is fourth in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Brendan Casey, a former decorated offensive and defensive lineman at Boston Latin, is now entering his sophomore season on a Hobart College football team that’s coming off a conference championship. But before his time as a Statesman, Casey received notable recognition as a lineman for coach John McDonough at Latin.
At Latin, Casey was a three year varsity letterman under McDonough. In his senior year, Casey was named a Massachusetts Shriners All–Star, and received the Dual County League lineman of the year award. He attributes his toughness in the trenches to his former offensive and defensive line coach Walter Apperwhite.
“He was the coach that impacted me the most at BLS,” Casey said in a recent interview. “He was the driving force for me to play football in college. He’s also a really tough guy.”
Coach McDonough, who’s been coaching for 32 years, says Casey ranks as one of the best lineman he’s ever had.
“Brendan was a workout warrior,” McDonough said. “He led the way in the weight room. Just an awesome kid on the field. He was the defensive player of the year of the Dual County league his senior year. He was also one of many Gatorade players of the year in Massachusetts.”
Following his senior year at Latin in 2011, Casey made the transition to Canterbury Prep. School where he says he matured both mentally and physically. He also maintains contact with some of his former younger teammates at Latin, and has advised them of the benefits of taking a prep year after graduation.
“I’ve talked to a ton of the kids I used to play with,” Casey said. “A lot of returning upperclassmen this year at BLS. I tell them how good it’s been for me to take the prep year at Canterbury, to get adjusted to college sports.”
According to his Hobart coaches, Casey adjusted soundly to their program. Casey’s work ethic and attitude immediately impressed his Hobart line coach, Kevin Dewall. Dewall had been following Casey’s production at Latin, and was an integral part of his recruitment.
“Brendan has that blue collar mentality, which is just how I like my lineman to be,” Dewall said in a recent interview. “He’s a no nonsense kind of guy and because of his attitude he clicked right away with a lot of our guys. His strength is his strongest asset.”
Returning for his sophomore season, Casey has the opportunity to earn playing time on the offensive line on a tough Hobart team. Last season he played behind an All–American left guard who DeWall noted was a very “helpful experience for Brendan to learn from.”
“The competition for playing time is tough,” Dewall said. “Last year we were 12–1 overall and won the conference championship. On our offensive line we have three returning starters, so Brendan definitely has the opportunity this year.”
Casey is looking forward to the preseason camp this August, and is happy with his adjustment from BPS athletics to the collegiate level.
“It’s a big adjustment coming from BPS sports to college football,” Casey recalls. “I had to get used to having a playbook, but I’ve done pretty well so far.”
Globe Correspondent Justin A. Rice contributed to this story.
The following is third in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Caroline Kiritsy and Rachel Wolsfelt have a relationship much like the rest of their teammates do on their Division 1 Duke rowing squad. They’re supportive of each other, they attend team dinners, and every fall they participate in a rigorous ropes course solely for a preseason team bonding experience.
But Kiritsy and Wolsfelt share a different, special kind of bond: they’re both alumnus of Boston Latin, where they each discovered their mutual love for rowing, facilitated through the Boston public school atmosphere.
"If you look at Duke’s roster, they recruit nationally,” Latin’s Athletics Director John McDonough said. “No other school has two kids on that team, and here this little public school has two of them."
At Latin, Kiritsy and Wolsfelt were both part of a heavyweight eight that placed third at regionals in 2009, which qualified them for Youth Nationals in Ohio. This was Kiritsy’s junior year, and Wolsfelt’s freshman year. It was on the water that a friendship blossomed between the two.
“Caroline was my coxswain for both my ninth and tenth grade years,” Wolsfelt said. “She was the one that got me interested in Duke, and I actually stayed with her on my official visit. Now that we’re both at Duke, we’re still great friends and teammates.”
The coxswain is typically seated at the stern of the boat, and is responsible for steering and the coordination of both power and rhythm of the other rowers.
Kiritsy, an upcoming senior captain of the Duke squad, started rowing at Latin in 2005 during her eighth grade year. As one of three kids in her family, Kiritsy was encouraged to participate in sports starting at a young age. But her smaller stature initially discouraged her.
“When I joined the team, I was the smallest person out there. So I was naturally put at the coxswain position,” Kiritsy said in a recent interview.
“But I really found my niche because I knew I was completely contributing. I absolutely loved the rowing program at Latin. Coach Gillian Curran is an incredibly strong and influential woman. She definitely got me inspired,” Kiritsy recalled.
Like Kiritsy, Wolsfelt also began rowing in eighth grade under Curran. Aside from rowing at Latin, Wolsfelt also participated in volleyball and track. Now entering her sophomore season at Duke, Wolsfelt emphasizes how much rowing at Latin helped define her as a collegiate student athlete.
“Rowing at BLS really helped me with my work ethic, but not just athletically; it helped in school too,” Wolsfelt said.
“I learned how to manage my time between the two. And during my senior year, I met Joe Cappellano who’s a facilitator for the Zone program. He really helped me with the college process, and emailing different coaches and stuff.”
The Boston Scholar Athletes academics Zone is active in all 19 BPS high schools, where they strive to provide assistance and a quiet place to study for all student athletes.
Academically, Kiritsy and Wolsfelt both excel.
Kiritsy is majoring in mechanical engineering, where she’s currently interning in Georgetown, Texas for the summer. McDonough describes her as a “brilliant kid and a superstar.”
Wolsfelt is enrolled Duke’s prestigious pre–med program, where she aspires to major in evolutionary anthropology. She’s currently spending her summer at home in Boston, where she’s taking summer classes at Boston University.
Through each of their successes both on the water and in the classroom, both Kiritsy and Wolsfelt stress the importance of their individual dedication to their studies during their time at Latin.
Kiritsy was adamant in expressing the importance of academics in her journey to Duke.
She noted, "I’m thrilled that I have the opportunity to study here. During high school, it was very important for me to study at a good university.”
Wolsfelt notes how BPS sports has helped mold her into to the person she is today.
“I’d encourage all BPS students to participate in a sport," Wolsfelt said. "I think sports help keep a healthy mind and a healthy soul. I also met all my closest friends because while playing, and established relationships with people across all ages.”
Globe Correspondent Justin A. Rice contributed to this report.
The following is second in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Marco Banegas-Flores can still remember going on his Irving middle school basketball team field trips to watch Jose Juan Barea cement his name among the best point guards to play in a Northeastern jersey.
He can still remember how he would rush to the Curry Student Center with his O’Bryant teammates to take in the exhilarating college atmosphere.
The historic Matthews Arena may have just been feet away, but playing on the same court that Reggie Lewis and Barea had played on might as well have been a fantasy for the undersized, Dorchester-native point guard.
“If someone told me in high school my freshman year that I’d be playing for Northeastern with a chance to play in the NCAA tournament, I wouldn’t believe them at all,” Banegas-Flores said.
After a sophomore year that included a CAA regular season championship, an NIT appearance and seven starts in a Husky uniform, Banegas-Flores can happily say he was wrong.
“I’m big on my faith and just knowing that if you do the right things, you have a positive attitude, then things will go well for you,” Banegas-Flores said.
The former city league student athlete did not have the typical journey to Division 1 athletics. In fact, Banegas-Flores, who will be a junior this fall, didn’t find himself with a consistent playing time as a freshman at O’Bryant.
“We all knew the abilities that he had, he just had to take his time and there were certain things he had to learn in terms of how you play the game the right way,” former O’Bryant coach and math teacher Jose Figueroa said. “Once you learn how to do that, obviously it’s worked out tremendously.”
In just the next year, Banegas-Flores found himself leading the Tigers to the second round of the state tournament, their most successful season during his tenure. That, and winnings the South Division two out of his four years marked his proudest moments as a Tiger.
To his gratification, they weren’t his proudest moments as an athlete. Upon his senior year in 2010 Banegas-Flores was accepted to the Brimmer and May prep school in Chestnut Hill.
It would only take one year before Banegas-Flores would trade in his green and white colors for black and red and fulfill a long awaited dream.
The point guard still proudly represents his community.
“Marco has an extremely strong sense of community,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “He’s very proud of his Boston roots and I think that pride has come from his community service.”
During his short tenure with Northeastern, Banegas-Flores and his teammates have held various basketball clinics for the Boston community, including the Tobin K-8 School.
While the Husky is proud of the work he has put in, he said that none of it would have been possible without the guidance from his older brother, former O’Bryant player and current New Jersey Institute of Technology student, Chris Flores.
“I play basketball because he played basketball,” Banegas-Flores said. “He’s a role model on and off the court for me. He’s a really good student, A’s and B’s, he really keeps his nose clean, staying out of trouble so I just followed in his footsteps and it got me where I am today.”
According to Banegas-Flores, him and his brother shared a common value for academics during high school that was key to their success.
“I definitely hear the same kind of critiques about the whole inner-city school system and athletics within the city,” Banegas-Flores said. “The recourses are there.
“It was well-known if we wanted to pursue basketball in school, we had to be well educated.”
For a city league student that didn’t have the Boston Scholars Athletes program growing up, Figueroa is certainly proud of his former player. Not just for getting accepted to a Division 1 program, but also for handling adversity.
After starting the first seven games of his sophomore campaign, Banegas-Flores’ playing time dwindled upon the return of Northeastern’s starting point guard Jonathan Lee and the emergence of freshman point guard David Walker.
“From the conversations I’ve had with Marco about his playing time and his future, he’s handled it like a man,” Figueroa said. “He’s definitely grown in to a man that understands the big picture.
“He’s made a commitment to a team and although it may not be going the way he wanted to right now, he knows he’s a part of a team and he’ll do whatever it takes to be a part of that team.”
The following is the first in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Former Brighton football standout Jonathan Marrero isn’t the type of athlete to let opportunity pass him by.
So in the fourth week of his freshman season at Springfield College last fall, Marrero jumped at the chance to step in for his team’s injured quarterback in the third quarter of their home game against the Rochester Yellowjackets before finishing the year with eye-popping numbers: 10 touchdown passes for 533 yards.
More impressive was his total of 794 all-purpose yards.
“I’m extremely proud of him for what he’s done so far at Springfield," former Brighton head football coach James Philip said. “Jonathan’s the kind of person that when given the chance, he’ll take full advantage of it.”
Marrero jogged onto Springfield’s Stagg Field in that third quarter against Rochester as a young player itching to prove himself. In his first play as a member of the Pride, Marrero completed a short pass. Although it was just a short gain, that first small success carried much more meaning to the rookie quarterback.
“I was definitely nervous,” he recalled. “Especially being in the huddle. But after that first play, all the nerves went away. And I just played the game.”
Marrero finished that game with 43 yards rushing and a touchdown pass en route to leading Springfield to a resounding 44-14 victory. In the last seven games of the season, Marrero led the Pride to five more victories.
“My first season at Springfield went really well,” Marrero said. “We finished [with] eight wins, three losses but didn’t make the playoffs because we didn’t win the conference. That was a little disappointing, but I think we’ll keep getting better as a team this year.”
Marrero attributes much of his success at Springfield to solid coaching and support from the Boston public schools community.
“I’ve got to hand it to my Brighton coaches,” Marrero said during a recent telephone interview. "They taught me respect and to not let the outside world affect me while I was playing football. And also my family for being supportive.”
As a BPS student at Another Course to College in Brighton, Marrero started for Brighton under the tutelage of Philip for all four years. His freshman year he played wide receiver and cornerback where his athleticism, vast football knowledge and knack for leadership were quickly noticed by his coaches. They moved him to quarterback as a sophomore.
As a junior, Marrero led the Bengals to the Division 4A Super Bowl for the second year in a row against Northeast Regional. Despite losing both times, Marrero had solid games and in a 38–14 loss in the rematch, Marrero had two touchdown passes in the second half.
“Those games (against Northeast) taught me how to stay composed in big situations,” he said.“Once I got to college, it helped me as far as keeping calm during our games.”
Aside from his success on the field, Marrero is also described as a good student and a true gentleman.
“My Brighton coaches really prepped me well,” he said. “I was also fortunate to have gone to ACC, which helped me out with the college process.”
“He never had a problem with his grades, he never missed practice,” Philips said. “But most importantly, he led by example. I wasn’t surprised at all by his success at Springfield.”
In Week 7 of the season at Springfield, Marrero earned the Division III weekly Golden Helmet award for his outstanding performance against the Merchant Marine Academy where he tallied seven touchdowns, tying a Springfield school record.
He notched other notable achievements at Springfield: Three Liberty League rookie of the week awards, being recognized as the Springfield College Male Maroon athlete of the week, and being selected as the MVP of the ECAC Division III Northeast Bowl after leading Springfield to 31-8 victory against Alfred University.
Over the course of his rookie season, his head coach at Springfield, Mike DeLong, quickly noticed Marrero’s mental and physical adaptation to football at the collegiate level.
“Jonathan really developed as an athlete this year,” DeLong said.
“He really gained a good grip on what we’re trying to do offensively, and his work ethic definitely earned the respect of his teammates. That and he’s tough as nails. He really surprised me with how quickly he caught on to our system.”
And what he's learned, he wants to pass on.
“Advice I’d give to younger BPS athletes is remember to keep up with your school work,” Marrero said. “You have to do well academically too, and you have to try and stay level headed and focused on both school and sports.”
Marrero is currently living and training in Connecticut this summer, close to Springfield where he looks forward to improving his game and continuing his studies. He is majoring in sports management, while minoring in business.
“I’m really looking forward to next season,” he said. “We’ve got a really strong team coming back, with a lot of returning sophomores and juniors. I definitely have high expectations. I want to go undefeated.”
Former Brighton High football and basketball player Prince Unaegbu will attend Bridgton Academy prep school in North Bridgton, Maine, this fall in hopes of earning a Division 1 football scholarship to UMass-Amherst.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound tight end and defensive end was also a two-year starter for the Bengals' basketball team, which won the city and state championships last season.
“A prep school would help me reach my goals academic-wise.” Unaegbu said during a recent telephone interview. “It is also an all-boys school located in the middle of nowhere. I get to spend the whole year there so I'll focus on my school and whatever else I have to do.
“Work out all year, and study all year.”
In nine games, Unaegbu had 99 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, and 52 solo tackles. He also had seven receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
“Prince was a dominant defensive end and a great blocking tight end,” Brighton football coach Randolph Abraham wrote in an email. "Most teams avoided running outside to his edge, as he was unblockable.”
Even though the Bengals didn’t win the football city championship, Unaegbu believes it was a good season.
“Last year at Brighton I'll say was pretty good,” he said. "Even though we didn't make it to our goal, I'll say I had a very good season.”
Unaegbu credits his coaches for his success.
“They helped me realize my potential, like in practice when they would make me work 10 times harder than the other people on the team.” Unaegbu said.
Abraham wishes good things for his former star.
“Prince is the best person I have ever coached and I am extremely proud of him,” Abraham said. “He has great character and ability and will be going far in life.”
Dennis Membah is a Brighton High senior who writes for Teens in Print.
Hernandez School track and field prodigy John Lara finished his middle school career on a high note by competing in the Junior Olympic National Track & Field Championship at A&T University in Greensboro, N.C.
Lara ran in the fifth heat of the 800-meter run late last month and finished third out of 12 runners in his heat with a time of 2 minutes, 3.36 seconds. He failed to qualify for the finals but ultimately finished 18th nationally in his event.
“I lost because I put myself down mentally because I doubted myself against my competition," Lara said, "because I got nervous.”
To view a video of Lara's race click here.
It may not have been the finish he was looking for but it was still an exceptional year for Lara. He went from being in the city championship for the 400-meter dash, to winning the Boston Athletic Association invitational mile and breaking the state record for the 800-meter dash (2:04) at the Division 3 middle school track and field state championship. Then, he was runner-up in the New England championship before he won the Region 1 meet by besting the same Rhode Island runner who edged him at New Englands.
“My feelings about John's progress is obvious, he has so much potential and he is just getting started," Hernandez coach Michael Baugh said in an email. "He has been training with me since fourth grade. He was fast but still hadn't grown into running until sixth grade when he got third in the Boston Middle School [Cross Country] Championships.”
When asked how he has been able to accomplish so much, Lara said “my coach and my mother were my motivation, they have supported me and helped with training. I could not do it without them.”
This fall, Lara will attend Catholic Memorial where he will continue to run track and field and also continue to train with Baugh on the side. Lara was disappointed that he didn't qualify for the finals at Nationals last month but he said he will be unhindered by his final summer performances when he starts running for CM.
“Losing made me work harder and to do better," he said. "I’ve been training all summer with my coach to become even better than before.”
And he has big plans for high school.
“I want to be Top 5, no, Top 3 in the nation," he said. "That is my goal.”
Karl Clement is a senior at the O'Bryant School who writes for Teens in Print.
Right up until the scheduled kickoff of what was supposed to be his first game as Charlestown High School football coach last September, George Munroe was haggling with local hospitals to secure paperwork that would clear some of his players to play under the state’s new concussion law.
Despite Munroe's efforts, Charlestown ended up forfeiting its season opener against Burke. Boston English also forfeited its opener against Brighton because it, too, did not have enough players whose physical exams had been cleared by school nurses.
“There were a few kids that weren’t in that we were trying to get them in but the hospitals wouldn’t process it,” Munroe said Monday, noting that a special consent form has to be filled out to obtain a copy of a physical if players don't walk away with it in hand the day of their exam.
“It was like pulling teeth to get the hospitals to fax stuff over to us.”
The Boston Scholar Athletes Program — which funds Boston.com’s BPS sports page — is trying to avoid that scenario this fall by having doctors on had to give free physical exams during its Summer Fit Program this week and at all of its preseason clinics in the coming weeks.
“With the situation of all the forfeits from last year, we kind of realized we need to be proactive around this issue,” said BSA athletic manager Brad Schoonmaker.
The BSA Summer Fit Program, which started in July, will offer physicals from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday at Madison Park High School. Waivers to be eligible for the physical can be obtained on the BSA's website and its Facebook page, Schoonmaker said.
Munroe said he told his entire team to attend the Sumer Fit program this week so the players can get their physicals.
“It’s going to make things so much easier,” he said.
Schoonmaker said physicals also will be offered at the volleyball clinic Aug. 14 at MGA Sports in Norwood, at the football combined on Aug. 17, which will likely be at Madison Park, and during the soccer clinic run by the New England Revolution Aug. 23 at the Kroc Center in Dorchester.
Schoonmaker said BPS school nurses will process the physicals during the final week in August.
“So that’s one of the things we’re most excited about, is getting the school nurses to actually input all that data,” Schoonmaker said. “Because the school nurse is the only person who can check that box.”
This fall will mark the third year the concussion law is in place. Players must file a head-injury history form and parents must watch a concussion video or undergo a brief concussion training session, usually online. Players, parents, coaches, and athletic directors must certify that they've taken the educational course, and the student can't play until they file the forms.
No BPS sport had a harder time making sure players were cleared to play last fall than soccer. On the first Tuesday of the season, only two of seven scheduled games were played. Most of the games were canceled because of paperwork not being filed on time.
East Boston boys soccer coach Lorenzo DiBenedetto, who noted that he has never forfeited a game in his 10 years as Jets coach, said it will be tough for many of his players to make the BSA's summer sessions because they have summer jobs.
“It’s a great initiative,” DiBenedetto said. “I think what needs to happen is to take that good-spirited initiative and make it tailored, more tailored to us."
DiBenedetto applauded the BSA's efforts but said he only learned about the program two weeks ago and that it would be more helpful if they provided physicals to fall athletes the previous school year, before summer vacation starts.
“Unfortunately it’s the first time doing it,” he said. “If they had a little more input from coaches, I would say, ‘Listen, do it at the end of May, early June.’ That would be fantastic so I’m going home for the summer and kids are taken care of.
“That’s something we should look into next year, but [this year's program is] better than nothing.”
About Boston Public Schools Sports BlogMore »
- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.