The mission was simple, to find out which local high school enjoyed the best overall sports season this fall.
The conclusion was more difficult as four schools — Andover, Central Catholic, North Andover and Pentucket — had legitimate cases that they deserve to be No. 1.
Andover certainly enjoyed the most postseason success, capping off yet another unbeaten season in swimming with a Division 1 state title and advancing to the state semifinals in field hockey. The Golden Warriors also had a strong 13-4-3 girls soccer season, were 13-1 and state qualifiers in golf and upset Everett in football while going 8-4.
Central Catholic had winning seasons in seven sports, highlighted by its 9-2 campaign in football and the D2 state runner-up swim team. Pentucket’s 9-2 football team, which came within an extra point of the North finals, highlighted six winning programs.
But for overall success, one would have to cite North Andover, which didn’t have a losing record in any sport. That was highlighted by its 9-1 boys and girls cross country teams, its No. 1-seed boys soccer team, a 10-2 golf squad and a much improved girls swim season.
Central Catholic was close behind, as its only under-.500 team was golf, and a case can certainly be made on its behalf.
Regardless, it was a great fall overall in the area. Haverhill, for example, had a great MVC-winning season in volleyball, Methuen and Claudia Crowe had a tremendous season in field hockey, Lawrence advanced to the North finals in volleyball and Windham won yet another state title in field hockey.
FIELD HOCKEY BEST
It was a tremendously entertaining and successful football season, with Central Catholic and Greater Lawrence coming close to reaching Gillette and fine seasons by Pentucket, Salem and Andover among others.
But once again, for whatever reason, field hockey reigns supreme in our region.
In addition to Windham winning the Division 1 state title and Andover winning the Division 1 North crown, Pinkerton was the No. 1 seed in New Hampshire and Central Catholic was a highly successful 12-4-4.
The MVC in field hockey may be the best conference in the state, with Andover, Central Catholic, North Andover and Chelmsford particularly strong every year.
Exciting winter season
Although it may seem like the fall will be a tough act to follow, I couldn’t be more excited about the winter, particularly in basketball and wrestling, with indoor track close behind.
In girls basketball, defending Division 2 state champ Pentucket returns the nucleus of last year’s team and its boys team should be a load as well. The Central Catholic girls should be one of the top teams around and never discount the Central and Andover boys.
In wrestling, perennial power Timberlane will be strong once again in the last year of head coach Barry Chooljian’s historic career and Salem will be a force led by defending 195-pound champ Beau Dillon and Matt Adams.
Moreover, the local teams in the MVC — arguably the best wrestling conference in New England — should be formidable, likely led by Central Catholic. North Andover, which was hit hard by injuries last year, and Lawrence, should be vastly improved and rebuilding Haverhill and Methuen should remain competitive.
As for indoor track, it doesn’t get the headlines as other sports (what with all the meets in Boston), but there is some outstanding local talent back with the likes of Salem’s Autumn Aronovsky and Katya Rojco, Central’s Katharine Duren and Pentucket’s Syeira Campbell, Madi Krohto and Phoebe Rubio among the girls. Phillips’ Alex Fleury headlines a great crew of middle distance runners among the boys.
And don’t forget defending Division 1 state champion Methuen/Tewksbury girls hockey, which returns two-time Eagle-Tribune MVP Kaia Hollingsworth.
So while it’s fair to lament the end of the fall season, it’s time to look ahead for what should be a great winter.
Knights’ mighty fall
Football 6-5, boys soccer 14-3-2, girls soccer 11-6-3, golf 10-2, field hockey 9-5-5, girls cross country 9-1, boys cross country 9-1, volleyball 13-7, swimming 6-4