EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 15, 2013

Sports in a Minute

Dave Dyer
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Streak continues

The year is young but Bradford’s Dave Dunham has already extended his streak, which now stands at 35, of having won at least one race every year since he began racing in 1979. He extended the streak by taking first at the Prospect Mountain snowshoe race Jan. 6 in Woodford, Vt. It was the earliest Dunham had won a race since 1997 and only the fourth time since 2000 that he won his first race of the year.

New Billerica coach

Billerica has hired Rich McKenna as its new head football coach, replacing Peter Flynn, who resigned after 23 years and a 150-99 record. McKenna is a Billerica grad and former assistant who was head coach the past four years at Westford, where he posted a 28-17 record.

McKenna will have his hands full at Billerica. The Indians graduate 17 players, including all-conference standout Matt Clifford, from a 2-9 squad.

Vesey sparkles

North Reading’s Jimmy Vesey had an impressive tournament in Team USA’s recent gold medal run at the World Junior hockey championships. The 19-year-old Harvard freshman had a goal and four assists in seven games. His one goal came against Canada goalie Malcolm Subban, the Boston Bruins’ first-round draft pick.

Nicoll cited

Rhode Island College junior Brian Nicoll of Plaistow, who was recently featured in the Eagle-Tribune, was named Pilgrim League Wrestler of the Week last week for his performance at the Ursinus North/South Duals. He won all three of his matches to improve his record to a team-best 17-4.

Freeman returns

Methuen’s Ryan Freeman is expected back with the Northern Essex men’s basketball team for tonight’s home game against Roxbury after missing two games while he got his academics in order. The Knights (now 7-7) lost three players to grades after the first semester, including Lawrence’s Franklin Martinez.

Kicker to UMass

Exeter High School senior Logan Laurent is taking his kicking talents to Gillette Stadium next season.

Exeter’s punting and kicking specialist announced last week he’s made a verbal commitment to play college football at UMass.

He received interest from bigger schools like Minnesota and North Carolina, and had a scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire.

UMass will be eligible for FBS bowl participation for the first time this fall. The program is coming off a 1-11 inaugural season in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). It played five games at Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots, in 2012 and will again play all of its home games there in 2013.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Laurent handled punts, extra points, field goals and kickoffs for the Blue Hawks during their run to the Division I state championship last fall. He’s best known around the state for his consistent touchbacks and his long, clutch field goals — like the 42-yarder he hit, into the wind, that helped pave the way to Exeter’s 23-13 win over Pinkerton in the 2011 D-I championship game. It was one of Laurent’s three field goals in the game.

Middle schoolers

Patrick Corbin of Windham, executive director of the NHIAA, said he’s approved close to 50 waivers this winter allowing seventh and eighth-graders to play for high school teams. Most are from teams up north, although there are several Christian schools that have also petitioned for waivers.

Schools in Division III, where enrollments range from 301 to 650 students, are allowed to use eighth-graders; Division IV schools, with enrollments under 301, are allowed to use seventh and eighth-graders.