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Bellingham Bulletin

BHS Hall of Fame Ceremony a Night to Remember

Nov 30, 2018 02:59PM ● By Pamela Johnson

MC Kevin Grupposo

written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Sports Editor
 
Bellingham High’s inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony was dynamic, entertaining and rich in athletic history and tradition.
 
The inductees included six individuals, two coaches and two teams. Inducted were Ricky Santos, Glen Gariepy, Brenna Elliott, Ron Russell and the brother-sister combination of Matt and Stacey Blue. Coaches honored were Ron Bonollo and the late Frank Flynn, and the teams cited were 1985 State title field hockey squad and the 2003 State champion boys basketball team.
 
A capsule look at the inductees details their achievements and statistics toward the end of this column, but what follows now are the heartfelt comments and appreciative remarks from those honored and those speaking on behalf of Flynn and the two teams.
 
Bellingham High’s Athletic Director, Michael Connor, welcomed the inductees and thanked the audience of about 230 for attending and welcoming the initial class. Kevin Grupposo, who has coached and witnessed many of the inductees’ achievements, served as the master of ceremonies. His delivery, insightful remarks and historic reminders about each recipient ensured the audience at the Coachmen’s Lodge on Nov. 24 that they were in for a special night.
 
Honored first was Flynn, a coach who also served as the high school’s interim principal. Grupposo labeled him as “the cornerstone of BHS athletics.’’ Bonollo, who played for Flynn, recalled his service as an infantryman in World War II at Normandy. “He was the only coach at BHS for a long stretch,’’ Bonollo said. “In 1953, he led the school to the Assumption Small College basketball title. He was truly a great family man and an outstanding coach and I’m honored to speak on his behalf.’’
 
Flynn’s son, Michael, a teacher in the school system, was only two years old when his father died at 42, officiating a football game in New Bedford. Here’s what he said about his dad: “His influence on students was remarkable. He coached many athletes, like Roger Canestrari, Jim and Ron Bonollo and Glen Gariepy. He was the first coach of the Blackhawks, and all the plaques and records don’t tell you about the man. A letter to the editor from the five co-captains of his 1953 basketball team praised him as a man of influence, emphasizing that the players attained their success because of him. The captains noted that because of him and his family, their lives were more complete.’’
 
Gariepy, BHS’s all-time leading scorer in basketball, with 2,070 points, emphasized how fortunate he was to play as a freshman. He recalled Flynn’s philosophy of playing hard and being a good sport.
 
“I was able to score 19 points as a freshman in the semifinals of the 1963 Tech Tournament at Boston Garden,’’ he noted. “I was glad to put Bellingham on the map. I want to thank everyone here — from those that nominated me to those who still remember me. It’s a thrill to be part of this ceremony.’’
 
Russell was inducted for his prowess in baseball but he also played on the first winning football team at BHS. His baseball travels led to playing minor league ball for the Texas Rangers in Florida and mingling with legends like Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Carl Yastrzemski.
 
“I had great athletic experiences from Bellingham to Brandeis University,’’ Russell said. “At Brandeis, we got to the NCAA Tournament three times. In the Gulf Coast League in Florida, my locker was next to Sammy Sosa’s. I knew him then as a future Hall of Famer and we became friends. I’m thankful to be honored and for all those at BHS who’ve supported me.’’
 
Stacey Blue is on the banner of 1,000-point scorers in basketball, but she also was a superstar in field hockey. Grupposo called her “agile, fast, relentless and mean’’ and reminded the audience that she was Mass. Field Hockey Player of the Year for two straight years. She also has coached the sport at the college level.
 
“I liked field hockey,’’ Blue said, “because my father knew nothing about the sport and couldn’t yell at me. It seemed like all the cool athletic girls played it. I have great memories of my days at BHS and I’d really like to play field hockey one more time.’’
 
Blue smiled when she reminded basketball fans that her 1,184 career points are a few more than those attained by her brother Matt, who also is in the 1,000-point club.
 
Elliott, who scored a career 111 goals and played on the 1988 state title field hockey team, was called “a locomotive’’ by Grupposo. “She was feared and she was a supreme competitor, ranking No. 7 in the country in goals scored,’’ he recalled.
 
“I’m honored and humbled to be in the first class of inductees,’’ Elliott said. “I want to thank everyone who made this possible, especially my mom for keeping such good scrapbooks. Coach Bonollo told me when I started playing that I’d be a 100-goal scorer and he was right. Being an athlete is a blessing because you get to experience the joy of victory and the agony of defeat. Tonight is a marvelous night.’’
 
Bonollo coached BHS to state championships in field hockey in 1985 and 1988. Grupposo said that “his approach was to work his players hard and to get the best out of them.’’ That he did.
 
“The girls didn’t know what to expect from me,’’ he related. “I had success because I was at the right place at the right time and I was with the right people. I got hooked on female competitors and what they brought to the table. We won State championships in Division 1 and 2. Athletics teach kids to never quit and I was surrounded by great people.’’
 
The 1985 State champion field hockey team was fast, fierce and defensive-minded and was  honored for being the first State title team in what’s considered the modern era of BHS sports. Tammy Coady spoke for the players, calling the championship ride “an improbable journey.’’ When she said “We accept our induction,’’ mild laughter could be heard.
 
“We learned the sport in the eighth grade and, when we played in the tourney in 1985, we were a huge underdog,’’ Coady said; “but we wrote history by defeating Murdoch, 3-1, at Boston University. This was a do-you-believe-in-miracles moment. It was a Cinderella season and all of us thank you for your support.’’
 
Matt Blue excelled in basketball and baseball and, as Grupposo said, “He had ice water in his veins.’’ Blue was a scorer on the wing and helped lead BHS to a State basketball title in 2003.
 
“I’m honored to be inducted with a phenomenal class of people,’’ Blue said. “My father (Rich) and my sister (Stacey) had an influence on me. My sister taught me how to be a good student-athlete but the real MVP in the Blue family is my mom. Many people affected me positively and I played on a great team in 2003. Practices were tough but the players on that team were special. I live in China now but it’s Bellingham that made me.’’
 
Blue coached in college at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA, and at Lafayette and the University of Hartford. Currently, he’s a player-development coach for the National Basketball Association in Jinan, China.
 
Ben Belcher spoke on behalf of the 2003 basketball team that defeated Bromfield for the State title. He cited Rich Blue and his dad, Gary, as coaches who helped players in their early years, then lauded the coaches of the ’03 team, especially head coach Barry Hutchinson, who died at 47. “We loved coach Hutch,’’ he said.
 
“Our parents were all in and we were all on a mission,’’ Belcher emphasized. “A State title was the goal from the get-go. We had winners, hard workers, talent, and experience. What we didn’t have was big egos. The 2003 season was a great era of our lives. It was all about family, friends and leadership.’’
 
Santos, who is the only athlete to have his number (2) retired at BHS, quarterbacked the Blackhawks to a pair of Super Bowl titles, was a starter on the 2003 State basketball champs and finished as a Sectional champion in baseball. He re-wrote the record books at New Hampshire and also played on two Grey Cup championship teams (Montreal) in the Canadian Football League.
 
“This town has meant so much to me,’’ Santos said. “I had great mentors. My parents have been inspirational and so were parents of my teammates. The core values I embraced were to dream big, to be influenced the right way and to grow in my daily life. Confidence was instilled early, and although no one likes to lose, I learned to grow whenever my teams lost.’’
 
Santos first coached wide receivers at UNH but now is Columbia University’s quarterbacks coach. Grupposo summed up Santos’s demeanor, saying, “He’s one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.’’
 
Following is a capsule look at the inductees with the players and the coaches listed in alphabetical order and the teams in chronological order. (This information was originally printed in the Bellingham Bulletin.)
 
MATT BLUE — This 2003 graduate was a four-year competitor on Bellingham’s basketball team, averaging 17 points from his off-guard slot and scoring more than 1,000 points. During his senior season, he helped coach Barry Hutchinson’s squad finish with a 25-1 record and a state championship by defeating Bromfield. A three-time Tri Valley League all-star in basketball, Blue also excelled in baseball, hitting .370 during a four-year career. After graduation, he enrolled at St. Lawrence University and enjoyed additional success at the Division 3 level. He averaged 10 points a game and played on three winning teams, highlighted by a 24-4 contingent his senior year that earned an NCAA tourney berth. After college, Blue was quickly hired as an assistant basketball coach at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA. He later moved on to other assistant posts at Lafayette and the University of Hartford. Currently, he’s a player-development coach for the National Basketball Association in Jinan, China.
 
STACEY BLUE — This 1999 graduate of BHS scored 1,000 points in basketball and led Bellingham's field-hockey team in scoring for three seasons. She was a co-captain and team MVP in basketball and field hockey at Bellingham and served as a co-captain her senior year at UMass-Amherst. At BHS, she was a four-time Tri Valley League all-star in field hockey and basketball and was the Boston Globe's player of the year in field hockey in 1997 and 1998. A Northeast Region All-American in field hockey in 1998, she hit .300 twice in softball and excelled as a sprinter in track. A key contributor on the 1996 state title field hockey team at Bellingham, she was a dynamic force on a basketball squad that went from 2-18 in her freshman season to the tournament. In softball, she led the Blackhawks in stolen bases, and in track she ran the 100-meter event in 11.3 seconds.
 
BRENNA ELLIOTT — This 1991 BHS graduate scored 111 goals in field hockey, and that career total elevated her to a No. 7 ranking in the country during the 1990 season. Elliott also was a dynamic competitor in track, establishing a Tri Valley League record in the javelin, throwing it 117 feet, 10 inches. Her all-star recognition included the TVL, Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Milford News. Forty-five of her 111 goals came in her junior year in the fall of 1989. In 1988, she was a sophomore and the Blackhawks were striving to win a state title. Her goal against Mansfield in tourney play gave BHS a 1-0 triumph, and that victory enabled the Blackhawks to advance and eventually become state champs after downing Southbridge. Elliott experienced a second state crown as an assistant coach. During a four-year stretch, she was Bellingham’s jayvee coach when Joanne Paquette guided Bellingham to its third state title in 1996.
 
GLEN GARIEPY — Bellingham High’s all-time leading scorer in basketball amassed a four-year total of 2,070 points, a record that has gone unchallenged for 52 years. He averaged 35 points his junior year and 34 as a senior, leading the Blackhawks to the Tri County League title.  Also a phenomenal pitcher and power hitter, he won 26 games in baseball, finishing 9-1 his senior year and later going 10-0 for the Milford Legion. In an incredible pitching performance, he hurled all 10 innings of a one-run win over Blackstone, striking out 21 hitters. BHS posted an 18-2 record his senior year (1966) in baseball and was 19-1 his final year in basketball. Gariepy was a Tri County League choice for three years and was named to the Boston Globe All-Scholastic team in basketball. He also was a Bay State Tournament all-star as a freshman when Bellingham won that tourney. He earned a full scholarship to the University of Rhode Island and later returned to BHS, where he taught English and also coached the girls varsity basketball team for 21 years. He also coached jayvee baseball at Bellingham.
 
 RON RUSSELL — This 1981 BHS graduate was a three-year varsity starter in football and baseball. A tri-captain in football on the 1980 squad, he was a receiver and cornerback who sparked that team to the school’s first winning season. Russell had seven interceptions and four fumble recoveries that year. Baseball, however, is where he excelled. A co-captain on the 1981 team, the pitcher/third baseman hit .400 and was named a Tri Valley League all-star. A two-time MVP for the Ashland Legion, he also played for the prestigious Milford Town Team. He excelled at Brandeis University, where as captain he pitched and played third base. Drafted by the Texas Rangers, he played two seasons in Double-A baseball in the Florida Gulf Coast League, where he was a teammate of future Major League star Sammy Sosa. He later served as an assistant coach for Brandeis and the Ashland and Westboro Legion squads.
 
RICKY SANTOS — A three-sport star at BHS, Santos quarterbacked the Blackhawks to a pair of Super Bowl crowns that included victories over Martha’s Vineyard and Tyngsboro. He also played on the 2003 state title basketball squad that downed Bromfield in the championship game. Twice selected as the Tri Valley League’s MVP in football, Santos twice captured the Football Player of the Year Award in Division 5. He later became a Division 1-AA All-American at the University of New Hampshire, throwing 123 touchdown passes for 13,212 yards. He led New Hampshire to four straight berths in the 1-AA playoffs, passed for 165 yards and a touchdown in the Hula Bowl and had his number (2) retired at both BHS and UNH. Santos won the Walter Payton Award as a junior at UNH, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy at the 1-AA level.  The 2003 BHS graduate later coached the wide receivers at UNH but now is the quarterbacks coach at Columbia University.
 
RON BONOLLO — A superb athlete at BHS in basketball and baseball, Bonollo will be inducted as a coach for leading the Blackhawks to state championships in field hockey in 1985 and 1988. The 1985 Division 2 crown was the first state title at BHS in the modern era, and the 1988 title was achieved at the Division 1 level. BHS beat Murdoch in Division 2 and Southbridge in Division 1. Bonollo’s field hockey records at two schools were dynamic. He was 84-14 at Franklin High (three Hockomock League titles) and his Bellingham teams compiled an 86-13 record.  At Bellingham, he transformed field hockey from a deliberate, possession game to an up-tempo style. What followed during his five years at the helm were Tri Valley League, Sectional, and State championships. Induction into the BHS Hall of Fame will mark the third time he’s been a hall of famer. He was inducted into the Mass. Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Dean College Hall of Fame in 1980.
 
FRANK FLYNN — A three-sport coach (basketball, baseball and cross-country), Flynn had a 14-year career that ended with a 70.5 winning percentage and an overall record of 560-234. His basketball teams went 242-76; his cross-country squads compiled a 212-80 mark; and his baseball teams went 106-78. His 1957-58 basketball team won the Bay State Class E championship, and his 1958-59 squad won the Bay State Class D title. He coached some of Bellingham’s finest athletes, such as Ron Bonollo, Jim Bonollo, Glen Gariepy, George LaPrade and Roger Canestrari. Flynn enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served in the infantry for two-plus years in the European Theater, earning the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. A terrific educator, Flynn not only taught and coached, but he also served BHS as an assistant principal and as acting principal. After leaving BHS in 1965, he became a high school football referee. A year later, he suffered a fatal heart attack while refereeing a game between Arlington and New Bedford. He was 42.
 
1985 FIELD HOCKEY TEAM — This squad was the first to capture a state championship at BHS in the modern era. Coached by Ron Bonollo, the Blackhawks finished their regular-season at 16-2 and were runners-up to Hopkinton for the Tri Valley League title. When the Sectional Tournament got underway, BHS defeated, in order, Sandwich, Harwich, Cohasset and Bishop Stang (3-1) for the crown. A 1-0 victory over Triton gave the Blackhawks the Eastern Mass. Title, and they wrapped up a Cinderella season by downing Murdoch, 3-1, at Boston University for the Division 2 state crown. The players included Beth Thornton, Lisa Payne, Mandi Coady, Marci Coady, Tammy Coady, Lisa Beals, Kim Trites, Tammy Kosmas, Barbara Deziel, Lisa Colbreath, Heather Fontaine, Sheila Hastey, Michelle LaPlante, Sarah Powers, Diane Loff, Christine Fleuette, Carol Brennan and Jill Morrell.
 
2003 BASKETBALL TEAM — Coached by the late Barry Hutchinson, this squad finished with a 25-1 record, rolling to four triumphs in the Sectional then two more in the state playoffs that led to the Division 3 state crown. During the tourney run, the Blackhawks defeated, in order, Westwood, Wareham, Norwell, Rockland (for the Sectional title), Watertown and Bromfield (for the state championship). The starters included captains Ben Belcher and Matt Blue in the backcourt, Jeff Cammarata and Ricky Santos at forward and Dorien Brown at center. Rounding out the squad were Wil Spont, Andy Melchiorri, Jermaine Jordan, Mike Claffey, Kevin DeGray, Adam Remillard, Cyril Heinricher and Brad Jones. Assistant coaches were Dave Hutchinson, TJ Chiappone and Rob Evans. The trainer was the late Arthur “Doc’’ Provost. The only close call in the tourney was against Rockland, which ended with Bellingham winning, 59-57. BHS captured the state title by downing Bromfield, 49-40, at the Worcester Centrum.
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