Every single member on the 1983 West Roxbury football team felt the same as they watched Nantucket arrive at the Division 5 Super Bowl on a private plane on the day before Thanksgiving.
While the initial reaction may have been surprised, intimidation was not in the question. They were motivated and confident, headlines predicting their loss like, “Street-smart West Roxbury Faces Suburban Powerhouse,” circulating through their heads.
It wasn’t “street-smarts,” that left each of the teams they had played up until that point with disappointment and despair. It was unity.
Nantucket would be no different than any of those previous 10 teams. West Roxbury shut them out, 12-0, becoming the first city team to ever win a Super Bowl.
Dec. 3 will mark the 30th anniversary of that monumental Super Bowl win for West Roxbury but the team will be honored before West Roxbury's game against Madison Park at 3:30 p.m. on Friday at West Roxbury. The team will also celebrate on Friday with a pregame tailgate.
While it’s been decades since that Super Bowl victory, for coach Leo Sybertz, it still feels like yesterday.
“It was a tremendous moment for me then and it’s even more important to me now,” Sybertz said. “A great thing to be able to think about, look back on.”
The sensation of all the different players on the Raiders’ roster experiencing those same emotions, the focus during practice, the excitement before a game and the short-term satisfaction after a win, represented far more than a game of football.
Boston had just gone through one of its most tumultuous eras in the history of the city with the desegregation of public schools. In an attempt at unity, parts of the city had shown hostility.
But a football team at West Roxbury high, freshly founded in 1976, proved to be an example of changing times.
“Kids are kids,” Sybertz said. “There’s never, ever a racial thing. You hear about racial things in the city but nothing was ever brought up like that.
"That was out of the question.”
The squad may have sported green and white but they represented colors from all around the city.
“When they say city team, you automatically think this was some sort of ethnic group,” said Jerome Edwards, a former member of the 1983 team. “This team was a mix of all types of nationalities that came together from all different areas in the city.”
Edwards described black, white, Greek, Italian, Irish-American and Lebanese all as nationalities represented by the ’83 team. Roxbury, Mattapan, Dorchester, Roslindale and West Roxbury were all communities also represented on the team.
“We were truly brothers,” said Reginald Nichols, former defensive end of the 1983 team. “There was never any issues, whether it be inside or outside in the locker room. I think that’s a testament to the school, I think that’s a testament to coach Sybertz.”
For them, playing for Sybertz was a dream. He ended his career as one of the most successful coaches in BPS history. In 31 years as a head coach, Sybertz made 10 playoff appearances, won 13 league championships, five Super Bowls and recorded a City League record 202 wins.
“It was an honor to be able to play for him because he was such a great coach and it was an honor to be on the team,” Edwards said. “You wanted to make sure whatever you did on the outside didn’t jeopardize your opportunity to play each and every game.”
Each game marked a new step toward success for the Raiders. Sybertz had plenty of all-scholastic players on offense, including fullback Raymond Gee and tight end Darrow Patton who played for Northeastern University and Boston University, respectively, on full scholarships.
Marshall Drayton led the way at quarterback with Ron Patterson under center, both of whom served as captains. Leroy Gardener and Lloyd Smith made up the Raiders’ backfield. West Roxbury’s current basketball coach Marty Sommers played wide receiver.
However, the real strength of West Roxbury resided on the defensive side of the ball, where Patterson, Sommers and Patton also played with the third captain of the team, John Hall. The Raiders’ defense only allowed 32 points over 11 games.
“Our defense scored more points that year than all the 11 teams we played scored on us combined,” Edwards said.
That brick wall defense was the key for West Roxbury staying on the Boston Globe’s ‘undefeated bus’ throughout the season. (The Globe illustrates a bus with the names of all the undefeated football teams on board each Monday. If a team lost during the weekend, a dog was shown throwing the team off the bus.)
“The bus represented those teams who were undefeated,” said William Watkins, a former member of the 1983 team. “Every week we would look at that bus to make sure we were at the drivers seat.”
Nothing changed about Sybertz’ coaching methods as the undefeated season progressed. His players still came to their 3-hour practice every single day, and practiced just as hard, if not harder.
“When you’re working your butt off in practice, you can’t get too complacent,” Sybertz said. “You don’t have enough breath left to be complacent.
I gave pep talks during practice. I never had to do it during games because when it came to game day, they we’re already revved up. They were ready to go.”
The football team also got constant support from West Roxbury headmaster Don Peligrini, who made sure school spirit for the team was never an issue.
“We considered him to the best headmaster in America,” Sybertz said. “Couldn’t find anybody better. He backed us up 100 percent.”
He added his players made the season easier by just coming to practice every single day. It was those practices in which relationships were built that would last 30 years and carry the team to the historic Super Bowl win.
“Everybody respected each other,” Sybertz said. “There was a tremendous amount of love and respect among the players. If you walked into that room before practice you could smell it, the love and respect.
"It rose above everything else.”
As Sybertz reminisced, he remembered how Patton was interviewed by reporters after the Super Bowl win. Patton was asked what Nantucket’s biggest threat was, whether it be their running game, passing game or defense.
Patton answered, “We are.”
The Latin Academy girls' soccer team went into its game against Burke Thursday with a mission to score as many goals as possible. Not for the win, but to raise money for breast cancer.
Clad in pink and playing with a pink ball, the Dragons hosted its second annual breast cancer fundraiser game and shut out the Bulldogs, 2-0. The match was supposed to be last Friday against Charlestown but was rained out.
Coach Nick Kamberidis’s goal of a big turnout was successful with at least 50 people in attendance, ranging from teachers, the Latin Academy boys' soccer team and girls JV soccer team, parents and local residents.
“We usually just get 4-5 parents to come out to our games,” Kamberidis said, “and yesterday we had 12 to 15 parents there as well as friends and family.”
Latin Academy’s JV girls soccer team ran the fundraiser by charging admission (five dollars for adults and three dollars for students or anyone wearing pink.) The girls also sold food, refreshments and crafts.
He said that most of those in attendance donated, which lead to a $400 dollar donation to the American Cancer Society to support breast cancer.
Kamberidis said the girls had been having a tough week, but really came together to support the cause.
“I told the girls before the game that the reason we are doing it is bigger than all of us,” he said. “We all know someone that has had to battle cancer and doing this fundraiser is more important than other games. They really took the message to heart.”
O'Bryant, the second-place team in the South division, survived a scare from West Roxbury, the second place team in the North division, as the Tigers took the 20-14 victory despite the Raiders' late rally Friday afternoon.
“We do the same thing we do every week,” O’Bryant coach Kevin Gadson said. “We study the team we’re going to play against and try to prepare as best as we can. Then we practice on what we do best and try to do it better and better and better.”
O’Bryant junior quarterback Ajani Alfred-McFall ran for an 11-yard touchdown in the second quarter as the Tigers took the 6-0 lead at the half.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the real action began. O’Bryant ended a 65-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown run by junior running back Mehki Williams. McFall completed a pass to sophomore wideout George Gomez for a successful two-point conversion.
West Roxbury answered with an 80-yard kick return for a touchdown by junior star running back Michael Obiangwe.
“We came back because they were killing the game,” Obiangwe said. “That’s when we really started playing harder as a team. Before then I still believe we were playing as individuals and that was not working out.”
The Tigers completed a 35-yard pass to junior wide receiver Joseph Farrell for their third touchdown.
Even with the score 20-6 in the last five minutes, the Raiders refused to go down without a fight. Obiangwe ran 15 yards for a touchdown, capping a 68-yard drive. The two-point conversion was successful on a pass from junior quarterback David Berucci to senior tight end/defensive end Aaron Whitehead, but the Raiders couldn't get any closer.
“We’re just going to keep a good balanced attack,” West Roxbury coach Derek Wright said. “The passing game is definitely part of that, but when you have a big horse like Mike [Obiangwe] you run him. We have some other players that we’d like to get outside with too, but we like to keep teams guessing.”
O’Bryant 's Williams was just happy to have a key role in the Tigers’ fourth win in a row.
“While we had some ups and downs and can do better,” he said, “I think today, we showed everyone that we’re a family. We play together and because of that we came out with the victory.”
The stars have only been getting brighter as the city championships are just two weeks away. Here's a look at the players that shined this week.
Marc Thebaud, C.A.S.H.: C.A.S.H. was desperate for a new goalkeeper this season. While Thebaud had always been a midfielder, he stepped up for his team. Coach Ian Glaude said he’s been fantastic and has played a big part in its 1-0 win over Latin Academy last week.
Mendel Moise, O’Bryant: While O’Bryant had a tough week with three losses, this senior defender never gave up. Coach Ian Doreain said that this is his first full year playing soccer and he continues to play well in the back.
Guy Charlot Destin, Dorchester: This week was the best week yet for the senior sweeper and captain. The strong defender was flawless, playing through the entirety of the Bears’ two shutouts against Boston English (7-0) and West Roxbury (6-0.) He also had a goal in the first and an assist in the second, all from the back.
Adilson Alves, Boston International: This junior dominated the field this week in the Lions’ game against West Roxbury. His speed and fancy footwork paved the way for one header and three additional goals, all within 10 minutes.
Mahmoud Hayek, West Roxbury: This goalkeeper never gives up, shown by the Raiders’ match against Boston International this week. The Raiders had many impressive shots on goal and Hayek stopped 16 of them in the 10-2 loss.
Jessica Martinez, Burke: Martinez is Burke’s best forward. While the team has yet to win its first game, she never gives up no matter what the score is. She also had two impressive goals in the match against Charlestown that ended 2-2.
Angelina Machante, Snowden: Coach Wade Wall calls her a star forward who continues to improve with each game. The Cougars lost all three, but Machante scored the only goal of the week against Boston International on Friday, ending 4-1.
Janiel Gordon, Charlestown: Gordon had her best week yet with her first hat trick in the 5-1 win against C.A.S.H. on Tuesday. She also scored on a penalty kick against Burke Thursday which tied the game 1-1.
Coach Conor Treacy called her a key member of the team with excellent natural ability.
“It is easy to forget at times that she is only in the 10th grade,” Treacy said. “She has the potential to become a very talented soccer player. She will continue to be a key player for Charlestown over the next couple of seasons.”
Mirlande Philogene, Dorchester: The senior midfielder was a key player in the Bears’ 3-0 shut out against Burke on Tuesday. She scored two goals within the first 15 minutes of the game.
Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu
It initially looked like it could have been anyone’s game on Wednesday in the Boston International-West Roxbury boys' soccer match. Both displayed strong defense during the first 15 minutes, until West Roxbury scored the first goal. A turnaround occurred soon after, and Boston International came out on top, 12-2.
Once Raiders sophomore forward Richter Mirville netted the first goal, the scoring was dominated by the Lions.
Only two minutes after Mirville scored, Boston International junior Jerard Kasemba scored on an impressive shot after a lengthy dribble past defenders.
Soon after, Mirville scored what would be the Raiders' last goal.
Lions junior Adilson Alves then took the field by storm and headed in his first goal. He went on to score three more, all in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
The second half started 5-2, with a chance for West Roxbury to strike back. Yet it seemed to have lost confidence, and had trouble defending Boston International.
“I think fitness is an issue,” said West Roxbury coach Daniel McDonald. “We start well but don’t finish well. When we get behind we start to lose our shape and nobody keeps position anymore.”
Alves had one more goal off an assist by sophomore Aderito Rodriguez.
Kasemba was also a key player with two goals; one from the 20-yard line in the second half. Despite the high score, Kasemba believes his team could have played better.
“We didn’t do as good as usual because of the rain, and the grass made us slip a lot,” he said. “We didn’t pass as much as usual, either.”
When the Lions did pass, the exchanges were fast and concise, which played a big part in the win. Boston International sophomore keeper Eliseu De Pina was also a factor with six saves.
Raiders goalkeeper Mahmoud Hayek made 16 saves, some impressive. Still, he was disappointed and is looking to improve.
“We could play better,” he said. “We need to improve on positioning and more communication.”
A new month brought even greater performances by the city soccer stars.
Troy Fredericks, Latin Academy: The freshman forward put the seniors to shame against CASH on Friday. He made sure he was open at all times and helped out on defense when necessary. He also had great control of the ball which helped set up the two goals scored.
“He’s coming up and showing the older ones how to play,” coach Dennis Allen said. “I was very happy with his performance yesterday and I think he has earned a starting spot.”
Elmer Ventura, East Boston: Somerville brought an end to East Boston's winning streak, but that doesn't mean the Jets didn't play their best. Not only did Ventura lead the team to 9 wins thus far, he scored two goals and three assists against Latin Academy on Thursday.
Lizandro Noguiera, Brighton: This junior forward had an outstanding week. He had an assist in the Bengal’s 9-1 win over Dorchester as well as 3 goals in their 8-0 shut out against Charlestown on Friday.
Ildo Pires, Boston English: Coach Edmar Varela called the junior his best defender and counts on his performance every week. The Cape Verde native is well-conditioned, disciplined, and sets a great example for his team.
“He chased every play as if it was his last,” Varela said of his performance last week.
Heroldans Limage, Dorchester: This freshman took over the role as keeper this season and has been impressive. The Bears lost 3-1 in a thrilling game against Brighton, but Limage had 12 saves.
Lovelyse Bienamie, Dorchester: Dorchester received a blessing last week in the form of a sophomore forward from Boston International. The newbie debuted with a bang and scored both goals in their 2-1 win against Charlestown on Tuesday. The first goal was during the first half, after a cross from senior midfielder Merlande Philogene. The second came at the end of the thrilling second half. The game was tied until Bienamie scored in the last 15 minutes of the game.
Helina Gurmessa, Brighton: This freshman surprised everyone this week, even coach Bridget Driscoll. The forward scored three of the four goals in the Bengals 4-1 win over Boston English. Not only is she new to the game, this was the second match she's played this season.
Monique McPherson, West Roxbury: Although West Roxbury has yet to win its first game this season, coach Edmar Cayemite applauds senior forward Monique McPherson for keeping the team motivated. She also scored the only goal in Thursday's 6-1 loss to New Mission.
Sara Centeio, Charlestown: Despite missing the first two games of the season with paperwork issues, this forward has recorded six goals and two assists in the five games since she's returned. The Townies suffered a tough 5-4 loss to Snowden on Thursday, but Centeio had a hat trick.
"She works very hard both on and off the field," coach Conor Treacy said via email. "Her GPA of 4.34 demonstrates her standing as a model student-athlete."
Brittany Brancato, East Boston: The Jets' city record is 7-1, mostly due to this exceptional keeper. She's had six shutouts this fall, two of them against Burke and CASH 7-0 last week.
Photo courtesy of America Scores Boston
The South End was abuzz with soccer enthusiasts of all ages to celebrate at the 2012 SCORES Celebration Thursday night with special guest, U.S. women’s national soccer team star Heather O’Reilly. Students, athletes and Boston public school supporters gathered at the high-energy gala at Cyclorama for a night of soccer activities, poetry performances and food from local restaurants.
The faces of Boston public school athletes lit up as they received pointers from O'Reilly in the kid's clinic that kicked off the event. The olympic gold champion enthusiastically assisted each player in shooting and passing drills and coached them in a scrimmage.
“I've been involved for close to seven years," O'Reilly said. "I fell in love with the program and its uniqueness. I was an education major in college so it sort of blended together everything I find important. When I heard America SCORES was [in Boston] I jumped at the opportunity to help.”
O'Reilly also spoke about competing in the London olympics, signed autographs and posed for photos.
O’Reilly, New England Revolution team President Brian Bilello and New England Revolution broadcaster Brad Feldman spoke about their love of America SCORES and the impact it’s making on students.
“It’s a great organization,” Bilello said. “The fact that they’re combining soccer and education is great. It’s made a lot of sense for a long time for the Revs to be involved.”
After the soccer events, Lael Watson, a fifth-grader at Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, made a poetry performance.
“My poem ‘I Am’ is about where I’m from and who I am,” Watson said. “I’m nervous, but I have a lot of confidence. I’m really happy I was chosen.”
Coach Mark Salzillo was thrilled and grateful that SCORES invited the Orchard Garden School.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to meet professional soccer players and create the idea of soccer at a bigger level for them, because they’re all beginners,” Salzillo said.
The celebration was provided by America SCORES Boston, a non-profit organization dedicated to help urban youth attain life skills, literacy, and health through soccer.
“America SCORES is a very special organization because it gives kids the platform to believe in themselves,” O’Reilly said. “Keep it up America SCORES because you’re doing fantastic things.”
Week two was an exciting one in city soccer with surprising wins and losses.
For the boys:
The first surprise came from the Brighton vs. Madison Park boys' match last Monday. Even though Madison Park is the top contender in the league, their 4-1 win over Brighton came as a shock.
Brighton has been going hard this season, beating all other teams by a landslide. On the 14th they beat Snowden, 10-0, and last Thursday they dominated English, 7-3. Their only other loss was their first game against Latin Academy, which they had to forfeit due to paperwork issues. Kawuba and his boys worked hard from the start of the season to challenge Madison, but clearly they’re going to have to work harder.
Snowden was an even greater surprise last Friday in their win over Charlestown. Before Friday, the team had lost every match this fall, losing by 10 to Brighton and 9 to Dorchester.
It’s as if a different team took the field Friday, as they dominated against the usually powerful Charlestown. Not only were four goals scored, but they also managed to shut out Charlestown, finishing the game on the winning end, 4-0.
Another unexpected win came about this past week from O’Bryant.
It’s common knowledge that suburban teams usually come out on top against city league teams, but O’Bryant didn’t let this mess with their game. O'Bryant came out victorious against D1 Revere in a thrilling match Saturday, winning, 3-0.
“Our win relied on the short passes on the ground,” O’Bryant coach Ian Doreian said. “We also had five players in the midfield so we really controlled the middle of the field. Revere’s a really strong team so it was a big deal and a big win.”
And the girls:
East Boston played outside the city Tuesday, facing North Quincy, and it did not end pretty.
“The good news is that no one got struck by lighting during the game,” East Boston coach Richard La Cara said of the loss, “but we got smoked.”
Despite East Boston’s best efforts, it just wasn’t enough, as the Jets lost, 7-0.
La Cara knew that it wouldn’t be an easy game, however, and looks at the loss as a learning experience.
“They’re a really good team for the suburbs,” he said. “I like to bring in some competition to know there’s something to strive for. The girls tried and never gave up.”
Another surprise this week was O’Bryant’s 10-0 win over CASH.
Before last Tuesday, the team had not scored one goal this season, playing to a scooreless tie agaisnt Latin Academy. While CASH wasn’t much competition, O’Bryant’s goals came rapidly as if they had been playing for months.
Dorchester and Boston English haven’t had a great start to the season. Both teams had lost every match thus far, but that changed for Dorchester Friday.
The two went head-to-head in the thrilling match, but Dorchester came out on top, 3-2. The teams performed equally, with Dorchester senior Mirlande Philogene providing the game-winning goal in the middle of the second half.
“We have definitely come a long way since our first game,” Dorchester coach Allison Cohn said. “We’ve been working a lot better as a team so we had our act together. We were pretty fairly matched but we had more subs so that worked in our favor.”
For the boys:
East Boston at Malden at 3:45 p.m, Friday.
East Boston just gets stronger by the week. The undefeated Jets have dominated every match this season, most recently shutting out South Boston, 8-0. Freshman keeper Edwin Avelar has only surrendered one goal thus far, to Boston International.
East Boston’s rein may be over on Friday, however, as they are playing outside of the city. Malden also has a strong team with only one loss against Somerville.
West Roxbury vs. Boston English at Ceylon at 3:30 p.m, Monday.
Neither West Roxbury nor Boston English are off to a strong start this season, as both are still in search of their first victory. West Roxbury struggled against CASH in the one game they’ve played so far, losing 10-1.
English has played three matches and at least had three goals against mighty Brighton last week. It looks like English has this one set, but West Roxbury will definitely put up a fight.
Snowden vs. O’Bryant at Madison Park at 3:30 p.m., Thursday.
Snowden has had a weak presence in the league so far, but you wouldn’t know it by the way they played last Friday. The team dominated the usually strong Charlestown, winning the match, 4-0. This was the team’s first win of the season, and it’s likely they’ll keep that momentum going this week.
O’Bryant has also had a successful week, even after playing outside the city. They shut out CASH, 6-0, as well as Revere, 3-0, on Saturday.
Coming out of two equally nice wins, the match on Thursday is sure to be a thriller.
For the girls:
New Mission vs. Brighton at Portsmouth field at 3:30 p.m., Monday.
This will be the best girls game of the week by far. New Mission is this season’s team to watch and Brighton is trying to recover that title.
New Mission is still undefeated while Brighton lost their first game against Latin Academy 6-0. Brighton won both games against South Boston and Snowden and there is no way they’re going down again without a fight.
O’Bryant vs. Dorchester at Franklin Field #2 at 3:30 p.m., Monday.
Both O’Bryant and Dorchester have lost just once thus far, and both teams will do what they can to ensure they come out victorious.
O’Bryant had a stellar week, shutting out CASH, 10-0, and Burke, 4-0. It’s likely that they’ll be using this game against Dorchester to get them ready for Mt. Alverania on Tuesday.
Although the game is slightly in O’Bryant’s favor, Dorchester shouldn’t be counted out. They’re coming from Friday’s thrilling 3-2 win over Boston English and will be sure to provide a high-energy match.
East Boston at Charlestown at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday.
Charlestown is not happy with its tie against South Boston last Wednesday. The team has yet to win a match, but if their first win is against East Boston they are definitely a team to watch.
East Boston lost 7-0 to North Quincy Tuesday but came back victorious against West Roxbury on Friday, winning 7-2. If they come into the game against Charlestown with the spirits of Friday, it’s likely they’ll be the winners.
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
After West Roxbury lost the season opener, 20-12, to Ashland, coach Derek Wright and his team wanted to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. Their hard work showed as they beat Charlestown, 26-0, on Friday afternoon.
Eight minutes into the first quarter, the Raiders offense scored on their first drive of the game on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by senior David Bertucci.
Junior running back Michael Obiangwe had a stellar game, finishing with 214 yards rushing.
“I worked hard for it at practice,” he said of his performance. “I expected better than that though. All I want to do is beat coach’s record. I’m still working on that.”
The second score came in the form of a 25-yard breakaway run by Obiangwe during the second quarter.
Right before the end of the first half, Obiangwe had another touchdown run of 33 yards.
Obiangwe showcased his talents on both sides of the ball playing defense and offense, providing a sack during the second quarter.
“We played a whole lot harder [this game,]” Obiangwe said. “The defense stepped up and we just did a whole lot better than last week. We have to keep working on it and getting better, especially since we’re playing Madison next week.”
After a scoreless third quarter, the game ended with a 3-yard run by senior running back Franzy Joseph.
The Raiders’ defense was at their best, creating constant pressure on Charlestown junior quarterback Ibrihama Diallo, sacking him three times.
Junior right back Marcelo Holliday had a strong defensive game, contributing multiple tackles.
“We did okay,” he said. “We tried our hardest but we could have done better. We’re going to work on running and being more aggressive [for next game.]
Even the victorious Raiders believe they have work to do.
“We played well, we still made more mistakes than we wanted to,” Wright said, “but we played well enough to win. It was a good first win for the guys. We’ll work harder this week to get better, but I don’t think it’s going to be easy. With hard work and dedication, we will [make it to the finals.]”
Despite the loss, Charlestown coach George Munroe looks at it as a learning experience.
“They learned a lot about themselves which is good,” he said. “We knew we were outgunned coming into this. But I want guys who are not going to quit, and they fought every single play. That’s what I want, I want guys who are going to fight. We’re rebuilding, and that’s in their minds. But even in rebuilding, you still have to fight.''
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- 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.