EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 4, 2012

Who's No. 1: Pelham-Windham rivalry simmers

Unbeaten crosstown rivals Pelham, Windham expected to win state golf titles today

By Hector Longo hlongo@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The NHIAA could face a precedent-setting dilemma this afternoon.

Let’s just say the unbeaten Windham High golfers go out and, as expected, dominate today at Canterbury Woods at the New Hampshire State Division 2 golf tourney. And a little over an hour away at Newport Country Club in the Div. 3 state tourney, top-seeded and also unbeaten Pelham High equals the feat.

What then? A special showdown on neutral turf next week?

The folks in these two towns just might demand it.

And you know, you could sell tickets to the event, maybe even sell it out.

Yeah, these two bordering towns don’t like each other too much.


Back in August, a weekday morning football scrimmage on a practice field drew a couple hundred fans.

A championship event like this?

“Maybe, it’s because they wanted to partner up as a high school, and instead we got our beautiful new place, and they still have that old, well, you know,” said Windham High senior Connor Greenleaf.

“They’re just different than us.”

The venom spews from both sides, too.

“Let’s just say there’s nothing sweeter than beating them in any sport,” said Pelham junior Jake Vaiknoras, who between golf, hoops and baseball has tasted both victory and defeat against the Jags. “And nothing tastes worse than losing to that school. Nothing.”

On the golf course, each club has been flawless to this point in the fall.

Up in Division 2, the Jags rolled through their second straight perfect regular season at 19-0. In Division 3, Pelham spun off 22 straight wins, surviving its toughest matches with Mascenic (a 6-shot win) and Con-Val (by 5).

Making up for 2011

Windham’s accomplishment of back-to-back seasons would be all the more spectacular if the Jags had just closed the deal in the 2011 state meet.

“It was tough to handle last year, extremely disappointing” said Jags’ senior captain Andrew Kalil.

“We lost by one stroke in the tie-breaker with the sixth guy, after our top five guys had tied with Hanover.

“This time around, it’s different.”

The Windham ace Greenleaf, one of the dominant junior golfers in the state, hit this fall with a purpose. He was flying high, coming off a match-play appearance at the U.S. Junior Amateur.

“Going undefeated was nice this year, but obviously states are the real thing for us,” he said. “This year, I feel like we’re going in with a whole new attitude, and we aren’t about to overlook anything or anybody.”

Pythons bring their best

One message coach Joe Vaiknoras, Jake’s dad, has tried to instill with his Pythons is the team concept, and how working as a team can pay huge dividends.

“Every guy on this team works hard every day in practice,” said Pelham senior Alex Newton.

“We had the right mix with leadership from the three seniors – myself, Nick Neary and Brad (Pomerleau) and a great group of underclassmen. And we come to play.”

If they did meet

Let’s just say, what if?

“Honestly, I haven’t really thought about Pelham for a long, long time,” said Greenleaf, who was reminded that the teams met in the regular season last fall when they both competed in Division 2.

Windham graduated a heavy hitter in Nick Fairweather from that group, and the Pythons returned everyone this fall.

“We’re a very talented team,” said Jake Vaiknoras. “If we played them, we’d win. We play well under pressure. We thrive under pressure.”

Not so fast, Jake.

“We handled them last year, and I think we beat them again this year,” said Windham’s Kalil. “We’re very deep. Our eighth guy has scored for us an awful lot this year. I think our depth is our strength.”

The bottom line is that even if both go on to win titles today, we will never find out who the better team is.

The rivalry, one of the region’s fiercest, will continue to simmer.

“I’d love to play a match this year, we all would,” said Newton.

“No matter what, they’ll always be our biggest rival. The fact is they are five minutes down the road. Everyone in that high school knows everyone in our high school. And it just doesn’t get any better.”

Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS Division 1 Local Competitors At Cocheco Country Club Londonderry: Taylor Simpson, Nick Stone, Curtis Harper, Dan Pleba, Bobby Barrett, Brett Laplante, Ryan Broderick, Nick Stevens Pinkerton: Nick Salema, Andrew Wentworth, Eric Byrne, Kaitlyn Lutinski, Jake Veilleux, Matt Galvin, Matt Barnes, Ryan Christie Salem: Ryan Henrick, Tyler Pickett Timberlane: Jameson Collins Division 2 Local Competitors At Canterbury Woods Sanborn: Mitch White, Scott Sullivan, Isabelle Sullivan, Ryan Dellapenna, Ben French, Jeff Dow, Chris Palladino, Chris Pasto, Windham: Connor Greenleaf, Andrew Kalil, Stephen Beck, Patrick Higgins, Connor Wittemore, Max Masse, Jack Grubbs, Adam Dolan Division 3 Local Competitors At Newport Country Club Pelham: Jake Vaiknoras, Alex Newton, Nick Neary, Brad Pomerleau, Doug Carton, Quinn Diack, David Boardman Note: The low 25 scorers at each venue return to the course Saturday to compete for the State Individual Championships.