written by Ken Hamwey, Bellingham Bulletin Sports Editor
The Bellingham High boys cross-country team won its second straight Tri Valley League championship by finishing unbeaten in five meets. The squad’s key triumph was a 29-27 victory over Dover-Sherborn that put the Blackhawks in the driver’s seat.
After beating D-S, BHS downed Norton, Dedham, Medway and Millis, ending its dual-meet season at 5-0. Then they took aim at the conference and the Division 6 meets, which came after the Bellingham Bulletin deadline.
“Last year, we talked about a possible league title,” coach Peter Lacasse said. “That championship was won with underclassmen. This year, with five seniors, the boys believed they could go back-to-back. The championships are a testament to their work ethic and mental and physical toughness. It’s a great achievement.”
As for the conference and division meets, Lacasse is optimistic about the possibility of matching last year’s sweep of those battles. “The conference meet will involve all the TVL schools, large and small, and it’s within reach,” he said about winning it. “The division meet (Nov. 10) will include 40 schools, and we think we can make it two division titles in a row.”
If BHS succeeds in capturing three straight post-season victories, it then would aim for an unprecedented fourth title in the All-State Meet on Nov. 17 in Northfield. “We’d have to have a great day to win the All-State Meet, but we’re in the mix,” Lacasse said.
The team’s senior captains include Ethan Carr, Philip Jones and Michael Reissfelder. The other key contributors are seniors Brandon Williams and Brandon Gillcrist, sophomores Cameron Hasselbaum and Aiden Campellone, and freshmen Daniel Kurczy and William Desrosiers.
“They’re athletic and they all bought into a team-first concept,” Lacasse said. “They work hard and they don’t care about individual honors. They’ve been fun to coach. The seniors have done a fantastic job establishing tradition for our younger runners, who have learned great lessons from them.”
Football Team in a Major Slump
Bellingham High’s football team, which won its opener against Blackstone-Millville, has struggled since, and at the Bulletin
deadline was dealing with a five-game losing streak. BHS has lost to Canton (42-6), Dedham (20-14), Norton (19-16), Millis (20-8) and Dover-Sherborn (28-20).
Against Dedham, the Blackhawks were thwarted early by a pair of interceptions that led to two touchdowns and a 14-0 deficit after the first quarter. However, quarterback Jim Kilduff’s 33-yard keeper up the middle in the second stanza made it 14-6, and his 27-yard sideline pass to Dan Unegbu drew BHS closer at 14-12. Unegbu’s rush for the extra points left the contest tied at intermission.
Dedham, which regained the lead early in the third quarter on an 11-yard TD pass, was back in control, but BHS let a golden opportunity slip away in the last five minutes of the final quarter. The Blackhawks had a first-and-goal at Dedham’s five-yard line, but three rushes and a fourth-down pass failed to force a tie and perhaps a potential victory.
“We went with our hottest back (Unegbu) but we couldn’t punch it in,” coach Dan Haddad said. “On fourth down, we went to play action. We had a receiver open but we just didn’t execute.” Haddad, nevertheless, liked the way his players fought back to tie the contest. “We were confident we were going to take over but they just made one more play than we did,” he said.
Against Norton, Unegbu and Christian Kelly scored TDs, giving BHS the lead, but the Lancers scored in the final quarter for the victory. Unegbu had a 48-yard run and Kelly hauled in a 20-yard pass from Kilduff.
“Unegbu was fantastic on both sides of the ball,” said Haddad; “but the result was incredibly frustrating and disappointing because we had the opportunity to win. We just can’t seem to make the plays. We need greater mental toughness and discipline.”
After losing to Norton, the Blackhawks bowed to Millis and Dover-Sherborn. “We need to coach better and play better,” Haddad said after the Millis defeat. The loss to Dover-Sherborn was a disappointment because a penalty cost the Blackhawks the lead with 2:12 left in the game. BHS had connected on a two-point conversion that would have given it a 22-21 advantage in the closing minutes, but a holding infraction forced a replay from 13 yards out. A pass attempt for the two-point conversion failed.
“Penalties and turnovers are hurting this team, which gives us an all-out effort every game,” Haddad said. “Our execution is lacking and that’s on me. We’re getting good leadership but we’re not creating any breaks. The team has to make its breaks.”
BHS Volleyball Team Eyes Playoffs
The Bellingham High girls volleyball team was 6-7 with seven games left to play at the Bulletin deadline and still hopeful it will earn a playoff berth.
“We’ve been up and down this season, but we’re looking to make a push in our last seven games to make the playoffs again,” said coach Steve Mantegani. “We need to work on jelling as a team while we improve our passing and doing the little things better.”
Maddie Mantegani, the team’s senior captain, has been strong at setter, leading the Tri Valley League and the team in aces as well as being in the top three of the TVL for assists. She was named the Max Preps Player of the Week for Massachusetts for her efforts during the week of Oct. 1.
“Gianna Sannicandro, a junior outside hitter, has been coming on strong lately and is in the top five for kills in the TVL,” Mantegani said; “and she’s improved her all-around game. Jenna Venuti, a junior captain and outside hitter, is also ranked in the top five in the TVL for kills as well as top three in aces. Rose Nelson, a junior right-side hitter, is in the top three for aces in the TVL as well as being more active defensively for us.”
The squad had an impressive 3-1 win against Fontbonne Academy, which was ranked in the Top 10 in Division 3.
BHS Golf Team on the Upswing
The Bellingham High golf team is making progress, and coach Brian Dedentro is pleased with the team’s improvement.
“We’re 5-7 overall and 5-2 in the Tri Valley League’s Small Division,” he said at the Bulletin deadline. “It’s our best season in years. Key victories have come against Dedham, Medway, Millis and Ashland. Senior captain Owen Fitzgerald is ranked in the top 10 of the TVL, and junior captain Matty Gamble has been a very strong and reliable No. 2. We’ve got a substantial amount of young talent coming up.”
BHS Girls Soccer Team Keeps Battling
Injuries have forced soccer coach Len Gosselin to call up junior-varsity girls to fill out his varsity roster. The BHS squad, Gosselin says, is very young and is without half a dozen players who’ve suffered injuries. Also, nine players from last year’s squad have either graduated or transferred to other schools.
“Losing players has been both good and bad,” he said. “It’s allowed us to look at younger players, but it also has put a strain on our team and its players. Our varsity girls continue to learn and play hard every game. Our JVs, mostly 8th-graders, have been in every game against opponents who are in grades 9 and 10.”
The Blackhawks have only one victory, against Blackstone-Millville, and that triumph was the first for the program in four years. “I’m proud of all of our players, who are improving every game,” Gosselin said. “We have no seniors on the squad, but juniors Kim and Alexis Rodriguez, McKenzie Goldberg, Paige Goddard, Caela Hurley, and Jackie Gagnon have shown progress and are strong competitors. Our girls may be small but they’ve got big hearts.”
Wernig Hopedale’s JV Field Hockey Coach
Former Bellingham High coach Carrie Wernig returned to the sidelines this fall and directed Hopedale High’s junior-varsity field hockey team.
Wernig, a Bellingham High graduate and an all-star in field hockey, previously coached the Blackhawks for 10 seasons. During her decade with the BHS varsity, her teams qualified for tourney play nine times and reached the South Sectional Finals once, losing to eventual state champion Hopkinton.
“Lauren Bouchard is Hopedale’s varsity coach and I’ve known her for a while,” Wernig said. “She also coaches my daughter Haley at the club level. My team comprises mostly seventh- and eighth-graders. It’s been fun teaching the girls the basics and it’s been a learning experience for them. For me, it’s enjoyable to be back coaching.”
Wernig, who played at BHS as Carrie Leoncavalo, was a Tri Valley League all-star. She earned a scholarship to Providence College, where she starred at forward for four years and was named to the Big East all-star team. She then took the varsity coaching reins at BHS in 2003 and retired in 2013. The 40-year-old Wernig, who lives in Franklin with her husband and three children, will spend the off-season coaching a club team in Franklin.
Bellingham Bulletin Sports Editor KEN HAMWEY brings over 40 years of journalism experience to our publication. Ken is always open to sports suggestions and questions, and may be contacted via email at KenHSports@aol.com.