Millis High Athletics on a Roll During the 2017-18 Campaign

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Millis’ size doesn’t hold it back from success in sports, and this past year was no exception, says AD Chuck Grant, who says 72% of Millis High’s students played sports this past year.
Issue Date: 
July, 2018
Article Body: 

Winning one state championship would be considered dynamic for a high school’s athletic program, but capturing two state crowns in one season to kick off the year is about as good as it gets.
At Millis High, athletic achievement for the 2017-18 school year was a stunning chapter in the Mohawks history. The autumn season was filled with success and championships. The football squad won its second straight Super Bowl by downing Hoosac Valley, and the girls’ soccer team downed Millbury for another state title. Millis previously had won a girls’ state soccer title in 2009.
The Mohawks didn’t stop with those two state titles. They wreaked havoc in tourney play in boys’ soccer and girls volleyball, stunning a pair of top-notch squads. The boys’ eliminated Bourne in a huge opening-round upset before bowing to Cohasset, and the volleyball contingent ousted top-seeded Worcester Tech in the first round of the Division 4 playoffs.
“The fall season set a positive tone for the entire year,’’ said Millis Athletic Director Chuck Grant. “The football team was a special group — experienced and poised. They were unbeaten as freshmen, all together as jayvees and aware that we had lost in three straight Sectional finals. The girls’ soccer team learned how to lead and how to utilize their leadership skills. The seniors developed terrific team chemistry with the underclassmen. They had high aspirations, and along the way they discovered that to achieve their objectives that it would take hard work. They were determined and they were skilled.’’
The autumn season was a giant plus on another front for the Mohawks. For the first time in school history, three teams competed at Gillette Stadium. Besides the football team’s appearance in the Super Bowl, the boys and girls soccer teams faced Ashland’s two squads in regular-season games. The girls won, but the boys lost.
“A lot of community pride was on display that night,’’ said Grant, who’s been the athletic chief at Millis for 16 years. “As the school’s A.D., I realized how far we’ve come to be competing at such a prominent facility. It was a special night.’’
The winter season didn’t produce any state accolades, but there were tourney appearances and a league championship.
The girls’ and boys’ basketball teams qualified for tourney play, but were eliminated early — the girls bowing to Oakmont Regional and the boys losing to Assabet Valley. The ice-hockey squad, which is a co-op venture with Hopedale, finished 12-7 overall and captured the Dual Valley Conference crown. Five boys from Millis competed in that program.
Elsewhere, there was success in girls’ gymnastics, a sport in which Millis co-ops with Medway and Holliston. That contingent finished sixth in the states, and three of the girls were from Millis. In indoor track, Bethany Steiner qualified for national competition in New York in the two-mile event and finished 12th.
The spring campaign featured the baseball and softball teams in tourney play. The boys lost to Archbishop Williams and the girls were eliminated by West Bridgewater. Four Millis boys got a taste of varsity lacrosse, teaming up in a co-op program with Bellingham. That squad posted a 6-12 record, which is the best record in boys’ lacrosse at Bellingham. In track, Katherine Malewicz won the 200-meter event at the Tri Valley League’s championship meet and Lucy Clayton finished third in the 800 and 4x400 relay at the Division 4 State Meet.
In another area, Millis has been ultra successful in retaining coaches. Turnover has been low, and Grant views that as a major plus in maintaining continuity.
“Brian Kraby will be replacing Dana Olson as the football coach,’’ Grant said. “Everyone else will be back. Dana, and Dale Olmsted before him, did a great job in revitalizing football. Brian was a player and an assistant coach here, and I believe he’ll do an excellent job. We may be the smallest school in the Tri Valley League but I’m convinced that our success stems from the work ethic of our athletes and the retention of our coaches.’’
Grant’s vibes for the grid program shouldn’t be taken lightly. When he coached varsity football at Walpole High during an eight-year stretch, his squads competed in three Super Bowls and won two of them.
Athletic participation numbers and facilities are other facets that Grant noted. He’s pleased with the gradual increase in participation rates but mixed on his feelings about the school’s athletic venues.
“About 72 percent of our student body plays at least one sport,’’ he noted. “That’s up from 69 percent. And, we had six student-athletes play three sports. As for our facilities, the softball field was upgraded, thanks to a fund-raising effort, and the baseball field is now being upgraded. Our football practice field, however, is outdated and detached. We’re a school that’s had lots of success at the state level, and we’ve shown that we do more with less. Our athletes deserve first-class facilities. Going back to the 1960s, we’ve got the same football field and the same gym.’’
Another drawback in terms of facilities occurs in outdoor track. Millis competes on the road for every one of its meets. “We’re one of five schools in the state that has no outdoor track facility,’’ Grant said. “Yet, we’ve had league and state champions and even qualifiers for national competitions.’’
Will more success be in the mix for Millis when the new school year kicks off in September? Grant is optimistic.
“Football should produce some positive results,’’ he said, “and the girls’ and boys’ soccer teams have a lot of returnees. Volleyball also returns some key players. Kraby will have his work cut out in football, because we’ve lost 17 seniors, but we’ll present ourselves well because of our work ethic. Girls’ basketball, which has won state titles, will bounce back, and in softball, we’ll have Abby Doyle back, one of the league’s top pitchers.’’
Grant emphasized that he’s encouraged to see student-athletes inspired. “They recognize what it means to enhance a program and to build tradition,’’ he said. “The kids know that if they take the risk that goes with hard work, there are no boundaries.’’
Millis always battles low numbers, its facilities aren’t very dynamic, and it is the smallest school in enrollment in the TVL. But, those drawbacks are never excuses. The Mohawks have been state champs in football, girls’ soccer, girls’ basketball and boys’ and girls’ volleyball. And, they’ve had individual state champs in track.
No one knows what the crystal ball has in store for the 2018-19 school year at Millis, but it likely will be another plus in athletics for the Mohawks.