It was a beautiful moment.
The online tributes were numerous and passionate from students and athletes who’d been profoundly affected by the wisecracking teacher-coach with the big heart. Soon after, the Tenney Grammar School dedicated its gym in his honor.
Few teams have struggled like Lawrence field hockey has the last 15 years or so.
Expectations were low in the regular-season finale. The Lancers were 0-17 and most any other team already would have been in “wait ‘til next year” mode.
Not so fast. Bianca Pena scored and Brittney Marte (9 saves) played like Tuukka Rask in net as the Lancers tripped Rockport 1-0. That snapped a 57-game losing streak dating back to Oct. 6. 2009.
There was no quit on the gridiron either. Methuen seemingly had their Nov. 9 game won when Willie Weinhold scored on a 1-yard run with 1:40 to play to up its lead to 36-24.
Nelson Valerio scored with 31 seconds left to make it interesting, but nothing more. Until the Lancers recovered the onsides kick. It appeared there just wasn’t enough time. But Valerio (3 TD runs, 2 TD passes) tied it on a 1-yard run with just five seconds left.
The best was yet to come. He found George Urena for the conversion pass and the improbable 38-36 victory.
From zero to state semis
It’s risky, to say the least, to become a varsity sport without a subvarsity season or two first.
But the Tewksbury-Methuen co-op girls hockey team was making the plunge. Its debut was against a veteran Boston Latin squad. True to form, it was ugly. But for Latin, which fell 8-0. Methuen High sophomore Amanda Conway scored three goals.
Conway didn’t ease up much the rest of the way, scoring a state-leading 52 goals. The fear of a possible winless season riddled with lopsided losses never happened.