By Derek Blanchette
First off, the Ken Blanchette update. At this time, his speech is still a bit behind. He has moments of great clarity followed by some stumbles. Watching him talk, you can see he knows what he wants to say, but sometimes that thought struggles to come out of his mouth clearly.
On the positive side, he has started driving short distances and the improvement is noticeable. His goal is still to try to be back by the time the spring season starts, but there are still many hurdles to clear before this happens.
Again, I can't thank everyone enough for their well wishes and constant interest in his recovery.
Congrats to the Groton-Dunstable boys soccer team on repeating as Division II State Champions. It is tough enough to win a district title, let alone a state title, but to repeat is nearly impossible. The depth of weapons the Crusaders possessed was staggering. Nate Pomeroy put a perfect finishing touch on an outstanding high school career with two goals in the title game. His skill set will fit in nicely next year at Brown University.
This season also saw Tom Hill win his 550th game as head coach of the Bromfield boys' soccer team and pass the 1,050-win mark if you include his basketball victories. Hill is by far one of my favorite coaches, and he gets it. By "it" I mean that in those 1,050 plus victories, not once has he touted his skill as a coach. He is the first to deflect the shine of victory to his players and assistants.
In a fall full of achievements, the Groton-Dunstable football team picked up the first league title in the program's brief history. A dominating mix of offense led by fullback Matt Manning and quarter Mack Eberhardt has been matched by a defense giving up less than 14 points a season. It is possible that the Crusaders might currently be the third best team in Central Massachusetts, slightly trailing Auburn and Nashoba. It is amazing what Coach Derek Asadoorian and his group of assistants have achieved in half a decade.
One of the few teams that could boast as much success in that five-year run would be the Ayer-Shirley volleyball team. Despite being bounced out of the districts in the opening round by a talented Tri-County squad, the Lady Panthers ran their record to 75-19 since 2008, including a perfect regular season and district final appearance in 2010. Coach Donna Ferreira has her squad building towards even more success in the upcoming year with a talented group of underclassmen who will be back and ready for more next season.
And finally, the North Middlesex football team is starting to turn things around under Coach Sandy Ruggles. While a 3-8 record does not tell the full story, the Patriots were a competitive team that never shied away from a challenge. Ruggles has built up a program that struggled through some down years and has the program seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. A mixture of talent, hard work and a talented group of assistants has brought an air of optimism that has been missing for a while. After a great fall, the only question remaining is what can the winter season provide for an encore?