With the 2019-20 school year fast approaching, we at The Daily News wanted to take one last opportunity to look back at the best moments from the last decade. This week we’ll be highlighting the best of the 2010s from each local school, starting today with the highlights from a championship-packed decade at Newburyport High School.

Fairy tale ending

You couldn’t have scripted a better ending for Bill Pettingell if you tried.

The longtime Newburyport High baseball coach had accomplished pretty much everything there is to accomplish in his 40-year tenure with the Clippers. He finished with 615 wins, 18 Cape Ann League titles, three sectional titles, two state finals appearances and an induction into the Mass State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. But it wasn’t until his very last game that his team delivered the one accolade that had long proven elusive — a state title.

The 2011 Newburyport High baseball team sent Pettingell out on top, capturing the Division 3 state championship after finishing the season with 13 straight wins. The Clippers finished 23-5, tying the state finalist 1976 team’s program record for wins in a season, and pitcher Brett Fontaine clinched the historic title with a complete-game victory at Fraser Field, beating Pioneer Valley 9-4.

Pettingell had made the decision to retire the prior offseason, and while he’d long maintained that he didn’t need a state title to validate his career, the accomplishment still carried special weight, particularly to the many former players in attendance for his last game.

“I snuck a glance at him before the last out, and he had tears starting to come,” then-assistant Steve Malenfant told The Daily News after the final out. “He’s going out with a state championship. How can you beat that?”

Clippers run wild

Newburyport High has always been known as a powerhouse in the running community, but this past decade the Clippers — particularly the boys cross country and indoor track teams — enjoyed a run of success that few other programs could match anywhere in the state. 

In the nine seasons between the fall of 2010 and 2018, Don Hennigar’s boys cross country teams have never finished lower than second at the divisional state meet. The Clippers won six state titles, and a Newburyport athlete has finished first overall at the state meet in each of the last five years. That run of dominance has carried over to All-States as well, where Newburyport runners have won five All-State championships this decade, and last year the team broke through to win its first-ever All-State team title as well. Even without recently graduated two-time All-State champion Sam Acquaviva, this fall’s team looks set up to challenge for the crown once again too.

Meanwhile, the boys indoor track team’s run ranked among the most incredible in school history. Tim Foley’s Clippers won six consecutive state titles between 2011-16 and placed second in Foley’s final year as coach in 2017. Over the course of the decade, Newburyport athletes and relay teams won 17 state championships, and Nick Carleo and Alec Reduker went on to also win All-State titles and All-American honors in the mile and high jump respectively.

Nick Carleo and his brother Jack, also an All-State cross country champion, both went on to run at Providence College. Reduker has since earned All-American honors as a high jumper at MIT as well, where Acquaviva will join him this coming year. Those athletes and coaches, along with many, many others, helped produce a run of excellence we likely won’t see again soon.

The Untouchables

Former Daily News photographer Jim Vaiknoras once told me that the 2013 Newburyport High girls soccer team was the best high school soccer team he’d ever seen. The team’s mantra was something to the effect of ‘if we score a goal, we’re going to win,’ he said, because they were so good defensively that they simply weren’t ever going to allow a goal.

That’s no exaggeration either. After allowing two goals against Amesbury on Oct. 7, Newburyport didn’t surrender another goal for the rest of the season.

Newburyport’s run to the 2013 Division 3 state championship was unparalleled. The Clippers (21-0-2) completed the first undefeated season in program history and recorded 18 shutouts along the way, including 12 straight to end the year. Newburyport was dominant in all of its five tournament games, ultimately claiming the big prize after beating Granby 1-0 in the title game thanks to a Jaycie Triandafilou goal in the sixth minute.

The team featured center defender Aly Leahy, the first All-New England player in program history, and four other All-CAL players in Triandafilou, midfielders Carly Brand and Abbie Bresnahan, and goalie Lilly Donovan, who finished the year with a program-record 0.23 goals against average. 

Serving notice 

Over the past five years, the Newburyport girls lacrosse program has become one of the most dominant in the state, at one point going more than two full years between losing regular season games. But it wasn’t long ago that the Clippers were an up-and-coming underdog, and when Newburyport won the 2014 state championship, it was something nobody could have seen coming even a few weeks before.

The 2014 Newburyport girls lacrosse team started the season 0-3 and through late April didn’t look like anyone’s idea of a championship contender. But then the Clippers came together, started playing as a unit, and over the rest of the spring won their last 14 games in a row to claim the program’s first state title.

Along the way, Newburyport avenged an earlier loss to Cape Ann League rival Manchester Essex and pulled off thrilling wins against Marblehead and Norwell in the tournament. Facing Bromfield in the state final, Newburyport took a 7-6 lead on an Ali Peffer goal with 20 seconds left in the first half, and then shockingly maintained that score the rest of the way.

The Clipper defense, led by Mary Pettigrew, Lilly Donovan, Kelly Conway, Shannon Tinkham and freshman goalie Izzy Sarra, executed a master class of team defense in the second half. Newburyport shut out Bromfield’s Sophia Turchetta — the future Dartmouth College midfielder who finished high school with more than 600 career goals — while successfully playing keep away over the game’s final minutes to claim the historic title.

And in doing so, a new standard had been set.

End of an era 

The 2015 Thanksgiving football game will go down in history as one of the most memorable in the 100-plus year history of the Newburyport-Amesbury football rivalry. The game marked the final game in the Hall of Fame career of former Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano, and it also happened to be the first game ever played at the brand new James T. Stehlin Field at World War Memorial Stadium.

Given those circumstances, it’s perhaps fitting that the game itself turned out to be one of the most exciting in the rivalries history, as Newburyport erased a two-score halftime deficit to beat Amesbury 36-34 in overtime.

The game had it all. You had late drama, with Newburyport quarterback Rob Shay hitting Myles Maloof for the game-tying 41-yard touchdown late in the fourth. You had defense, with the Clippers stopping Amesbury on their final drive to force overtime. You had trickeration, with Newburyport scoring on the first play of overtime thanks to a wide receiver pass from Owen Bradbury to Nick LaValley. And then, on the biggest snaps of the game, Newburyport came through on both sides of the ball — the Clippers scored their two-point conversion in overtime, and when Amesbury answered with a touchdown of their own, the defense got the stop to wrap up the victory.

“They came out and we dominated the second half and made the plays when we had to,” Gaudiano told The Daily News after the game. “I think that’s what football is all about.”

***

Newburyport High Postseason Results 2010-19

Football: 5 appearances, 2-5; Thanksgiving, 6-3

Boys Soccer: 4 appearances, 4-4 

Girls Soccer: 8 appearances, 19-7; 1 state title (2013), 4 North titles (2011,13,16-17)

Field Hockey: 8 appearances, 6-8

Golf: 1 individual North champ (Brendan Crowther, 2012); 3 individual state qualifiers (Crowther, 2012; Matt Babcock, 2016-17)

Volleyball: No tournament appearances

Boys Cross Country: 6 state titles (2011-13, 16-18); 3 state runner-ups (2010, 14-15); 1 All-State title (2018); 1 All-State runner-up (2014); 2 All-State third-places (2012,16); 5 state champs (Nick Carleo, 2014; Joe Molvar, 2015; Jack Carleo, 2016; Sam Acquaviva, 2017-18); 5 All-State champs (Nick Carleo, 2013-14; Jack Carleo, 2016; Sam Acquaviva, 2017-18)

Girls Cross Country: 3 EMass third-places (2012, 2016-17)

Boys Basketball: 7 appearances, 9-7 

Girls Basketball: 7 appearances, 4-7 

Boys Hockey: 9 appearances, 5-9; 1 state finalist (2010) 

Girls Hockey (Masco co-op): 8 appearances, 7-8; 2 state semifinalists (2017-18)

Boys Indoor Track: 6 state titles (2011-16); 1 state runner-up (2017); 17 state champs (2011: John O’Neal, 55 hurdles; 4x400 relay; 2012: Nick Carleo, mile; Keith Conway, 2-mile; 2013: Nick Carleo, mile; 2014: Nick Carleo, mile; 4x400 relay; 4x800 relay; 2015: Tom Graham, 600; Alec Reduker, high jump; 4x400 relay; 2016: Jack Carleo, mile; Alec Reduker, high jump; 4x800 relay; 2017: Jack Carleo, mile; 4x800 relay; 2018: Sam Acquaviva, 2-mile); 2 All-State champs (2014: Nick Carleo, mile; 2016: Alec Reduker, high jump); 1 New England champ (2016: Alec Reduker, high jump); 2 All-Americans (2014: Nick Carleo, mile; 2016: Alec Reduker, high jump)

Girls Indoor Track: None

Baseball: 8 appearances, 10-7; 1 state title (2011) 

Softball: 7 appearances, 4-7 

Boys Lacrosse: 9 appearances, 13-9 

Girls Lacrosse: 9 appearances, 19-8; 1 state title (2014); 3 North titles (2014, 17-18) 

Boys Tennis: 2 appearances, 3-2 

Girls Tennis: 4 appearances, 7-4

Boys Outdoor Track: 3 state runner-ups (2011-13); 13 state champs (2010: 4x800 relay; 2011: Nick Healey, 400; 4x400 relay; 2012: John O’Neil, 110 and 400 hurdles; 2013: Nick Carleo, mile; 2014: Nick Carleo, mile; Alec Reduker, high jump; 2015: 4x800 relay; 2016: Jack Carleo, mile; Alec Reduker, triple jump; 2017: Jack Carleo, 2-mile; 2018: Sam Acquaviva, 2-mile); 2 All-State champs (2013: Steve Preston, discus; 2014: Nick Carleo, mile)

Girls Outdoor Track: None