For as long as anyone can remember, Sharon High's football program had been mostly nothing more than a doorstep in the uber-competitive Hockomock League.
But in 2012, the Eagles' fortunes took a wild turn for the better, behind a wunderkind 25-year-old head coach and a fearless Lilliputian of a linebacker. In the Eagles' second year under coach Dave Morse, they not only turned in their first winning season in 15 years, but they also went to the Division 3 Super Bowl for the first time in school history -- and won.
Prior to this season, the Eagles had won just seven games in their last 10 seasons, including just four since 2008. Sparking the turnaround offensively was senior running back Sean Asnes, who rushed for over 1,800 yards on the season. But the hallmark of this unexpected run was the defense, led by Hockomock League Defensive MVP Brad Schiff. At just 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Schiff was one of the region's best downhill run-stuffers, named to ESPNBoston.com's All-State Team with 174 tackles.
The Eagles won two defensive struggles in the postseason -- first a 7-6 slugger over Pembroke, then a 12-3 decision over Wayland for the Super Bowl title.
“It’s unreal,” Schiff said following the Super Bowl win. “It still hasn’t hit me. I’m overwhelmed by emotions. It’s hard work, it’s commitment for four years. It feels great.”
Bottled up for most of the game, the Panthers finally found a way to spring loose star running back Dylan Oxsen with one of the oldest backyard plays in the book. Receivers Bobby Moss ran a short hitch up the left slot, caught the pass from quarterback Jason Lamb, turned and lateraled the ball to Oxsen, who had slipped out of the backfield.
The junior then raced the final 50 yards down the sideline for a 62-yard hook and ladder and a 13-12 win over Nauset that clinched a first-ever playoff berth and league title for the Panthers. It was the 32nd touchdown of the season for Oxsen, who made ESPNBoston.com's All-State Team this season with a state-best 40 rushing touchdowns.
"I honestly thought the game was over, I thought we were done," said Oxsen, that night. "But we pulled it off."
The Panthers bowed out to Natick in the Division 2A playoffs, but went out swinging, with five rushing touchdowns and nearly 300 yards from Oxsen.
Before it could hoist its first D1 state baseball title in eight years, Xaverian had to douse the state's most feared lineup -- No. 1 Lowell, in the Eastern Mass. Final.
The 2012 MIAA baseball tournament was overrun by the unconventional, but this moment takes the cake for its sheer 10 seconds of chaos. With one out in the top of the seventh, Xaverian clinging to a 3-2 lead but a Lowell pinch runner in scoring position, Lowell's Matt Tulley popped up to second. But with the infield fly rule called, second baseman Chris Hoyt intentionally dropped the ball, then froze the runner at third with a throw home.
However, the Catholic Conference MVP's throw sailed straight over the catcher to the backstop (unintentionally this time), and Lowell's Ricky Rosado sped home from third. At the same time, first baseman Mike LaVita sprinted home, and the result was a dramatic tag for an inning-ending double play. Lowell's best scoring chance of the night was nullified, and six outs later Xaverian was Eastern Mass. champion.
After beating Algonquin several days later for the state championship, many players commented on how much momentum swung on LaVita's season-saving tag at home. You couldn't draw up this scenario again if you tried.
Brockton head coach Bob Boen admitted to reporters following the Division 1 basketball state championship that, in what turned into an unmistakable kiss of death, he went into halftime with a 27-20 lead over Springfield Central and told his players 20 more minutes and they have it won.
What ensued was an unpredictable scoring explosion from an unlikely hero. Central reserve guard Cornelius Tyson scored 16 second-half points, including four 3-pointers, as the Golden Eagles blew out Brockton in the second half. They outscored the Boxers 47-19 in the final 16 minutes to claim their first Division 1 title in two decades. It was the program's first state title since 1991, when the Eagles had one of the nation's best backcourts in future pros Travis Best and Edgar Padilla.
“Throughout the whole season, everybody was doubting him (Tyson), saying he’s not that good, that he hasn’t been living up to his name,” said forward Kamari Robinson, who along with teammate Tyrell Springer was named to ESPNBoston.com's All-State Team. “He came out here today and balled. When the lights are on, it’s time to perform. And I really appreciate what he did today. That was a grown-man performance right there.”
BC High head coach John Flaherty’s enduring memory of Malden Catholic’s late hockey coach and athletic director Chris Serino came after last year’s Super 8 tournament final.
Serino’s Lancers, who capped their second straight championship season with a 3-1 win over Flaherty’s Eagles, dedicated their season to their ailing coach, who was battling throat cancer. It was an emotional scene.
Following the Lancers’ victory at the Garden, Serino made it a point to visit the Eagles’ locker room to congratulate them on a hard-fought game and fine season. At the time, Serino’s voice had been reduced to a whisper, his body thinned by the chemotherapy treatments.
But there he was.
“He was tough, he was competitive,” Flaherty told ESPN Boston on the evening of Serino’s death in October. “Some people thought he was all about wins and losses, but what he did with my team that night, nobody in there will ever forget.”
Of course, Serino had his moment with his boys, too. The Lancers skated around the Garden ice with championship trophy held high, and Serino was there to take pictures with the players he loved.
“You know what?” forward Mike Iovanna, who scored the game-winning goal in the Super final, told correspondent Dan Hickling earlier this year. “We did it for him. It's tough to see him like that. Our season was based on him.”