Baseball Champs!

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Franklin High Athletics Had Dynamic Success During 2017-18 Campaign
Franklin High School sports had a stellar year, capped off on June 21st with a state championship for Panthers baseball!
Issue Date: 
July, 2018
Article Body: 

To label Tom Angelo’s second year as Franklin High’s Athletic Director as “outstanding’’ might be understating what took place on and off the fields and courts during the 2017-18 school campaign.
The Panthers’ athletic teams won one state championship and were in contention for a second. They also captured five sectional crowns and 10 Hockomock League titles. Athletic participation rates increased, quality coaches were retained, facilities were upgraded, unified teams entered the mix and chemical health issues dropped dramatically.
Franklin High athletics for 2017-18 was indeed a banner year.
“It really was very positive,’’ said Angelo. “All the wins and the championships were great, but it’s the quality of the kids who compete that stands out. They welcome community service, they’re role models for younger players, and they all volunteer at clinics their teams sponsor.’’
The year started on a high note in September, when the school was presented the Hockomock League Sportsmanship Award for teams that competed in 2016-17. What makes the award significant are those who vote to select the award-winner. It’s the coaches in the league who vote to determine the winner. “The banner is on display in the gym,’’ Angelo noted. “It’s rewarding to have success, but it’s also nice when good sportsmanship accompanies successful teams. It’s a tribute to good kids and good coaches.’’
Last fall, nine varsity teams combined to produce an overall record of 63-46-8. The boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams won Hockomock League titles and squads that competed in tournaments included field hockey, golf, girls’ soccer and volleyball. “The fall season was pleasing,’’ Angelo said. “It was a job well-done.’’
The winter season, however, was one for the record books — 10 teams combined for an overall record of 111-30 and the campaign produced five league championships, three sectional titles and one state crown. The Hockomock champs included wrestling, girls track, boys ice hockey, girls swimming and cheerleading. Sectional titles were won in boys’ basketball, wrestling and cheerleading. And, the state crown went to the cheerleaders, led by new coach Doni Gill.
“The kind of season we had during the winter is something athletic directors dream off,’’ said Angelo. “It was so humbling. Our teams were ultra successful and well-coached. I know how difficult it is to get those kinds of results.’’
Tourney teams included boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys and girls ice hockey and wrestling. Coach Carmen Colace’s matmen went 24-0 in dual meets and captured the Division 1 state dual-meet championship. The cheerleading team finished first in its three competitions, then rolled in the league, regional and state tourneys. In boys’ basketball, coach CJ Neely took the Panthers to their second state title appearance but fell short, bowing to Mansfield. The boys quintet finished with an overall record of 22-4.
The spring season was still on-going at Local Town Pages deadline with the teams combining for a 69-40 record. Three Hockomock League crowns were won — one each in boys and girls lacrosse and the other in girls track, which finished with a 5-0 record in dual meets. Tourney teams included baseball, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse and boys tennis.
“It was pleasing to post good records, but it was a difficult season because of the weather,’’ Angelo emphasized. “Many postponements occurred and all our teams had to practice in the gym. It’s a testament to our coaches who remained patient until we could get outdoors.’’
The MIAA pushed back its tourney schedule in June because of the need for schools to re-schedule games after so much inclement weather. Many teams were still competing for state crowns and Franklin’s baseball team was one of them. The Panthers won three straight games in the Super 8 Tournament and in the final, took home the championship title on June 21st.
The 56-year-old Angelo had other reasons to embrace 2017-18. Unified sports took hold. The track squad, which started in his first year on the job, won a sectional title and competed in the states. Also, a unified basketball team was started and Franklin High hosted a jamboree. About 40 students participated in both sports. Also, Franklin High was awarded the coveted Val Muscato Award, given to a Hockomock team with the highest winning percentage in the 12-team league.
There also was success on other fronts. Athletic participation involved 111 more students for an increase of eight percent over last year. A veteran staff of coaches was retained — only two new varsity coaches will join the staff next year (field hockey and volleyball). Chemical health issues declined and facility upgrades were very visible.
“We lost two fine coaches — Lisa Cropper in field hockey and Kate Horsmann in volleyball,’’ Angelo noted. “They’ll both be missed. Lisa will now coach the Dean College women’s team and Kate left to return home to Kentucky. Their replacements are terrific additions (Kelsey Weymouth in volleyball and Michelle Hess in field hockey).
“We’re very pleased with the way chemical health issues have decreased. Twenty-nine athletes were suspended in my first year but this time we cut that number to 11. It’s a tribute to the kids, coaches and the captains. It shows there’s more focus on athletics. As far as facilities go, I couldn’t be happier. Our football field and track have new surfaces and the Beaver Street fields also have new artificial turf. The four fields on campus that have natural grass are maintained so well by our Department of Public Works.’’
When September rolls around, Angelo’s primary goal will be “to do what we do better.’’
“Our outlook is positive,’’ he said. “We’ve got quality kids and our youth sports programs in town are a strong feeder system. And, as long as we keep the coaches we have, I’m optimistic that the future will be bright.’’
The 2017-18 athletic year at Franklin High was all about achievement and success — on a variety of fronts.