Franklin High Captures Prestigious Dalton Award

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Panthers’ Winning Percentage Tops in Division 1
Franklin High Athletic Director Tom Angelo, Principal Paul Peri and some of the school’s athletes celebrate winning the Dalton Award, awarded by The Boston Globe to a high school that produces the top winning percentage in all varsity sports. Jen Papa photo
Issue Date: 
November, 2019
Article Body: 

Franklin High School athletes, coaches and administrative staff can take a bow — for a job well-done. The Panthers have won the prestigious Dalton Award for the 2018-19 school year.
The Dalton trophy, presented by The Boston Globe, goes to a high school that produces the top winning percentage in all varsity sports. Franklin captured the Division 1 honor by finishing with a percentage of 75.86, a winning margin of almost seven points ahead of second-place Wellesley High, which compiled a 68.88 percentage.
The award is Franklin High’s second in the last five years. The Panthers also won the Dalton Trophy for the 2014-15 school year.
“I’m honored and truly humbled that Franklin High has won the award,’’ said Tom Angelo, the school’s athletic director. “Winning the trophy is a tribute to the athletes and the coaches but it’s also a community effort. We’ve had great support from the school administration, the Department of Public Works and the Recreation Department. They provide assistance and support for our student-athletes.’’
The award is named after Ernie Dalton, who was a devoted high school sports editor at the Globe dating back to the 1960s.
Franklin became a contender to win the award early on and clinched it when it ended the 2018-19 school year with 11 Hockomock League championships, 4 Sectional crowns and 1 State title. The four Sectional champions included volleyball, wrestling, girls’ basketball and cheerleading, which also won the State crown. Franklin won the Dalton Award by compiling a record of 279-84-14 (excludes tournament results).
“We are truly honored to receive this recognition,’’ said Franklin High Principal Paul Peri. “The hard work, determination, grit, teamwork, and sportsmanship of our student-athletes is something that truly embodies our core values. Thank you to our outstanding coaches, supportive parents, and incredible athletic director, Tom Angelo.”
John Leighton, who coached Franklin High’s girls’ basketball team to the school’s first Sectional championship last winter, echoed Angelo’s words, calling the award “a community effort.’’ Leighton’s team finished its regular season with a 19-1 record and defeated Wachusett for the Sectional title.
“The youth programs in town help our kids to be well-prepared when they get to high school,’’ Leighton said. “Hard work pays off and it helped our team live up to expectations. The girls who are now seniors endured a tough time during the 2016-17 season. We lost our first six games and missed the playoffs. Two years later, they win the Sectional. They overcame adversity and learned a valuable life lesson.’’
Leighton, who’s entering his 16th year as the girls hoop coach, said that “winning the Dalton Award is special, because a lot of teamwork goes into it.’’
Zach Brown, Franklin High’s baseball coach, is proud of the achievement and delighted that his squad finished last season with a regular-season record of 22-1. In 2018, his Panthers won the Super 8 State crown.
“We take pride in our program and we’re pleased to be able to help win the award,’’ Brown said. “It’s great for the town and all the players and coaches. Our athletes are talented and our coaching staff is tremendous across the board, always taking time to get involved at the younger levels. They’re also great role models.’’
Brown also lauded Franklin’s residents and its booster clubs. “From top to bottom it was a great team effort,’’ he emphasized. “Families and booster clubs always get behind fund-raisers and other activities. Franklin is a special town, and it’s a good example of where athletics is an extension of the classroom.’’
Some key factors that provide clues to Franklin’s athletic success include its participation rate, its sports menu and its coaching roster.
About 600 students participate in a sport each season and that’s 33 percent of the school’s enrollment of 1,800. Franklin has the largest sports menu in the Hockomock League (57 teams at 3 levels). And, there are 90 coaches on the Panthers’ staff.
Angelo, who’s in his fourth year at the Panthers’ A.D., emphasizes that the Dalton Award confirms several things.
“The award confirms that our coaches and student-athletes are incredible,’’ he said. “And, it confirms that we’re doing things in athletics the right way, like setting high standards and maintaining the proper priorities. There’s no doubt that a big key is the coaches on our staff. Our success begins with them, and we’re fortunate to have very little turnover. We also hold our varsity captains to a higher standard. We expect them to be extensions of the coaching staff. They attend meetings and conferences throughout the year that emphasize the importance of leadership.
Angelo also points to Franklin High’s strength and conditioning program as a factor in winning the award. The activity is offered during the summer months.
“It’s a program that’s directed by our coaches,’’ he noted. “And, it gets the kids indoctrinated into Panther Pride. Workouts on our fields and in our facilities help freshmen acclimate to what’s ahead. The program is like a feeder system.’’
Although the award is a reflection of varsity teams’ winning percentage, Angelo emphasized that he’s equally proud of the cheerleading and unified sport programs. “Our cheer team has earned League, Regional and State championships and our unified sports teams have one of the highest participation rates in the state. Last fall, Franklin High was recognized by the Massachusetts Special Olympics as a Unified Champion School.’’
Angelo, who is serving this year as the Hockomock League’s president, also emphasizes that because Franklin High has so many well-conditioned and enthusiastic student-athletes, there’s lots of depth.
“Franklin athletes are respectful, and they’re gritty competitors,’’ he said. “I played sports in high school and college, and it amazes me how talented our kids are. The expectations are always high and students who might start on teams at other schools may have to be role players here.’’
And at Franklin High, no one discounts the value of role players. They’re all part of the winning formula that led to the 2018-19 Dalton Award.