By Dan Guttenplan
---- — The fall season came to a close for local teams Tuesday when the Amesbury football team saw its inspiring season end in the Eastern Mass. Division 3A playoffs. On the surface, any fall season that extends past Thanksgiving has to be considered a bountiful one for local teams.
Looking deeper, this fall may be remembered as one that reinforced some of the area’s top rivalries.
The Amesbury and Newburyport football teams battled for a league championship until Thanksgiving Day, giving added significance to an already fierce rivalry. The Newburyport and Amesbury girls soccer teams took turns establishing themselves as contenders for the Division 3 North sectional title. The Triton golf team held off a surging Newburyport squad late in the season to capture another River Rival Championship. And finally, the Pentucket boys soccer team continued its recent dominance over Newburyport in the annual ALS Cup, but the Clippers proved to be a program on the rise by advancing to Division 3 North semifinal.
Before we move on to the winter season, let’s review the top 10 moments from the fall.
1. Newburyport’s repeat state championship: The Newburyport boys cross-country team repeated as Eastern Mass. Division 5 champion, besting second-place Coyle Cassidy by 31 points in the championship meet at Wrentham’s Development Center. The top finishers for the Clipper boys were Nick Carleo (4th; 16:05), Joe Santo (8th; 16:37), Joseph Molvar (13th; 16:49), Chris Orlando (16th; 16:54), Vye (40th; 17:34), Gabriel Ficht (64th; 18:05) and Sawyer Updike (76th; 18:21). The Clippers punctuated their season with a third-place finish at the Mass. All-State Meet.
2. Triton’s championship on the links: The Triton golf team earned the school’s first state championship since the winter of 2011 by capturing a team title at the Division 3 Championships at Hillview Golf Course in North Reading. The Vikings, who also won their seventh River Rival Championship in the last 14 years, earned a trip to the Mass. State Finals. With a 15-5 record on the season, the Vikings were undoubtedly the top team in the River Rival Region.
3. Amesbury’s undefeated regular season: The Amesbury girls soccer team had its best season in program history, finishing the regular season 15-0-2 with a cast of seniors that included All-Cape Ann League selections in Megan Cullen, Emily Martin and Erin Leary. The Indians were the top seed in the Eastern Mass. Division 2 North tournament, before falling to Belmont in the quarterfinal round.
4. Amesbury’s flashback to 2008: The Amesbury football team fell one game shy of returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since its state-championship season in 2008 Tuesday night in a 35-14 loss to Lynnfield. Although the Indians will not represent the North in the Division 3A Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium, they can certainly hang their hat on a successful regular season. They won their first Cape Ann League title since 2008, and carried an eight-game winning streak into the Lynnfield game.
5. Crowther’s shining moment: Newburyport golfer Brendan Crowther took home an individual title at the Division 3 Championships, shooting a 4-over par 73 at Hillview Golf Course in North Reading. Crowther advanced to the Mass. State Finals, where he placed fourth out of 117 by shooting a 77 at Red Tail Golf Club.
6. A tradition of excellence: The Newburyport girls soccer team did what it typically does late in the season: It made a deep run in the Eastern Mass. Division 2 North tournament, advancing to the semifinal round before falling to Belmont. The program, which won sectional titles in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011, continues to flourish under coaches Robb Gonnam and Kevin Sheridan with plenty of new faces on the field.
7. Pentucket reloads: Despite losing its top goal-scorers to graduation each of the last two years, the Pentucket boys soccer team reloaded to earn the top seed in the Eastern Mass. Division 2 North tournament after posting a 14-2-2 regular-season record. The Sachems eventually fell to Concord-Carlisle in a semifinal matchup, but they will certainly remember the fact that they ran their winning streak against Newburyport in the ALS Cup to seven.
8. Newburyport girls step out of the shadows: The Newburyport girls cross-country team, typically overshadowed by the boys, placed third at the Eastern Mass. Division 5 Championships, earning an invitation to the Mass. All-State Meet. The top finishers for the Clipper girls in the Division 5 meet were Kelly Conway (15th; 20:18), Kristin Mackie (19th; 20:26), Erin Carroll (21st; 20:27), Rachel Haley (39th; 20:59), Lillian Eagan (46th; 21:19), Fiascone (49th; 21:22) and Rose Hart (67th; 22:03).
9. Newburyport’s stock is rising: The Newburyport boys soccer team, which has gotten progressively stronger each season under coach Shawn Bleau, advanced to the Eastern Mass. Division 3 North semifinal for the first time in six years. The Clippers experienced their highlight of the season in a 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Lynnfield, a team that ended the Clippers’ season last fall. Finishing 11-7-2, the Clippers have improved their win total in each of the last four seasons.
10. Newburyport’s can’t-lose team: The Newburyport field hockey team’s run of dominance extended through a third season with coach Lauren Hefferan on the sidelines. The Clippers posted a 13-3-3 record on the season, giving the squad a three-year cumulative record of 43-7-8. The Clippers fell to Wayland in the opening round of the Division 2 North tournament. Senior captain Paige Hefferan earned CAL Division 1 Player of the Year, and her mother, coach Lauren Hefferan, was named CAL Division 1 Coach of the Year.