Another memorable year in local sports is in the books.
There were literally hundreds of compelling stories. Here, in no particular order, are my favorites.
Unforgettable year for Knights
What a debut season for North Andover in the Merrimack Valley Conference. You could go on and on and on, but here’s the CliffsNotes version.
The basketball team had one of the greatest years in school history, reaching the Division 2 North final, stunned Central Catholic with a game-ending 33-9 run and sharing MVC title. Football coach John Rafferty fired and after a firestorm of protests is rehired. Legendary coaches Mike McVeigh, Bill Tarbox and Bud McCarthy retired. Danielle Coughlin became the first female wrestler in Massachusetts history to win a state title. Morgan Lumb became the first NA girl to earn a Division 1 basketball scholarship in 35 years and Isaiah Nelsen was the first boy hoopster to earn a scholarship in 38 years.
Nick Oswald rushed for a modern area record 402 yards in a game. A basketball star was blessed not to suffer crippling injuries when his car with four passengers flipped over. Reserve Megan Collins scored with a second left to give North Andover a 45-44 win over Central Catholic, the No. 2 ranked team in EMass., in the Christmas Tourney finals.
Remembering Bill Blood
An emotional overflow crowd packed the Pollard Funeral Home to pay their respects to coach Bill Blood of Methuen, who died in late January at age 63.
There were more well-known local coaches than Blood, but few were any better, or any more devoted or any more versatile.
He coached football, baseball and track and if he needed to coach any other sport, he’d be spending hours at the library poring over videos and books to master that one.
His last coaching job was with Phillips Academy track. An impressive number of Big Blue tracksters were at the funeral. An emotional young girl was sobbing. Blood’s widow, Debra, took her aside and calmly and lovingly instructed her that the best way to keep Bill’s memory alive was to show people the love and concern he always did for his students and athletes.