Boston High School: Cape Ann League

In a helter skelter season, Acton-Boxborough this week becomes the fourth team to claim the No. 1 spot in our Top 25 poll this season.

The Colonials ascent to the top spot was made possible by wins over Top 10 foes Lincoln-Sudbury and Needham in the last week while other squads continued to get bit by the upset bug.

For this week's complete poll, click HERE.

(Editor's notes: This poll does not reflect Monday's results. We will issue one final regular-season poll at the end of the week following the completion of the regular season.)

DCL disruption: No. 9 L-S had a tough go of it last week, dropping two of its last three games, including an overtime affair to DCL rival Westford Academy. On the heels of the win, the Grey Ghosts checked in at No. 7 this week, creating a log jam of three DCL teams in the Top 10, including the top-ranked Colonials.

Clippers sailin' in: Starting the season 12-1, Newburyport makes its first Top 25 showing this week, making its mark at No. 17. The Clippers defeated previously ranked Hamilton-Wenham, 11-10, in a key Cape Ann League tilt that wasn't decided until double overtime.

Newburyport wasn't the only squad making its debut this week as Wakefield (14-3) slides into No. 25. It's the Warriors program's first appearance in poll history.

Video: Thanksgiving football preview

November, 20, 2012
With hours remaining until kickoff to Thanksgiving rivalries across Massachusetts, we're taking a look at the action in our weekly preview with editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall.

Aside from the historical rivalries, such as Malden vs. Medford and Needham vs. Wellesley which both celebrate their 125th anniversary this year, there's plenty on the line this Thursday with several playoff spots decided. We took a look at some of those CAL/NEC, Bay State, Merrimack Valley, and Catholic Conference games and more:

(Video produced by Greg Story)

Masconomet new No. 1 in boys' soccer Top 20

October, 23, 2012
The defending D1 North champions and state finals runner-up Masconomet jumped into the top spot in the rankings following defeats for Ludlow, Weymouth, and Acton-Boxborough. The Cape Ann League champs are one of only two unbeatens in the latest boys' soccer Top 20 poll.

Needham jump into the No. 2 spot ahead of Ludlow after last week's win over Weymouth, just hours after the Wildcats had been installed as the new No. 1.

There is lots of balance in the poll and teams No. 1 through No. 15 can all be considered threats to win the state championship. There are strong teams sitting just outside the rankings as well, including Silver Lake, Franklin, and Medway, that teams will hope to avoid in the postseason.

Hingham's loss to Silver lake caused the Harbormen to drop out of the poll and cost them the Patriot League Keenan Division title. Hingham was replaced by Winchester, which leads the Middlesex Liberty Division and edged league rivals Wilmington for the No. 20 spot after beating the Wildcats earlier this season.

North Andover's Lumb commits to Hartford

August, 11, 2012
North Andover High senior guard Morgan Lumb has verbally committed to the University of Hartford for the 2013-14 season, the Scarlet Knights' Athletic Director Jon Longley wrote in a tweet to the Boston-area media earlier tonight.

Lumb is a three-year starter for the Knights, who reached the quarterfinals of the Division 2 North tournament this past winter. She averaged 16 points per game last season, and is a two-time Cape Ann League All-Star.

The Knights are moving into the Merrimack Valley Conference this season, where they are expected to contend in loaded league that should be one of the state's fiercest, between Andover, Central Catholic and Billerica.
(Updated at 3:12 p.m.)

At a meeting of Merrimack Valley Conference athletic directors this morning, the league unanimously approved the application of North Andover High for the beginning of the 2012-13 academic year.

North Andover had been among a host of schools, including the MVC’s Billerica, Chelmsford and Tewksbury, that had applied for entry into the Dual County League. The four schools were then invited to join the league before the DCL then put plans to expand to as many as 14 teams on hold in May.

"This was a great opportunity to add a first-rate school to the Conference," Dracut athletic director Tim Woods said following the meeting. "Our schools share a lot in common with North Andover and it fits geographically into the middle of the MVC.”

Rumors have persisted that Haverhill might eye a move to the Cape Ann League.

So, following North Andover's move to the MVC, is it likely that the Hillies will move over in a one-for-one move?

"Haverhill has not applied to the Cape Ann League and we do not plan to," Haverhill athletic director Tom O'Brien told ESPN Boston Thursday afternoon.

O'Brien did admit that when the MVC's demise was being forecasted, he'd explored "several options should the league break up", but it was never his intention to leave.

"Our priority at Haverhill has always been to keep the MVC together and remain a part of the league," O'Brien added. "We feel it is one of the top conferences in the state from top to bottom and are proud to be a member."

DCL putting expansion plans on hold

May, 19, 2011
The Dual County League is going to hold off on plans to expand the league from 10 to as many as 14 teams, Concord-Carlisle athletic director Barry Haley confirmed this afternoon.

Monday afternoon, Westford Academy principal Jim Antonelli said that three Merrimack Valley Conference schools -- Billerica, Chelmsford and Tewksbury -- as well as North Andover from the Cape Ann League, had been invited to meet with league officials next Monday morning at Acton-Boxborough High School about possibly joining. Fifteen schools reportedly applied, including nine from the MVC (Haverhill was the lone school to refrain, instead applying for admission to the CAL).

The DCL will drop from 12 schools to 10 in the fall, when Arlington officially becomes a member of the Middlesex League and Tyngsborough of Mid-Wach C in the Central Mass district.

"We've had conversations with the schools, and there's probably issues regarding whether they would accept an invitation," Haley said. "Instead of wasting everybody's time, we're not going to try to do something fairly quickly that will end up causing a lot more complications."

Haley confirmed that the principals and athletic directors will still meet on Monday.

(Updated, 3 p.m.) Editor's note: Antonellis later confirmed that while Billerica, Chelmsford and Tewksbury have withdrawn their applications, North Andover will wait to hear of any change of plans from the DCL.

Wilmington hockey comfortable at the top

February, 24, 2011
It seems that nothing ever changes for the Wilmington hockey program.

The Wildcats recently clinched their fourth consecutive Cape Ann League title and 10th in 16 years. With two games remaining on the regular-season schedule, they are on pace to earn the top seed in the EMass. Division 2 North tournament for the second year in a row. Since the start of the 2007-2008 season, Wilmington has posted a combined record of 69-10-10.

Wilmington's rivals have grown accustomed to falling short of the perennial North Shore powerhouse. However, the Wildcats are quick to point out that there is nothing routine about this year's title run.

For one, the Wildcats graduated 16 seniors last spring, including goalie and reigning CAL Player of the Year Zach Rosa. For another, the Wildcats will switch leagues — from the CAL to the Middlesex League — next season. This season figured to provide CAL foes one final chance to settle scores with a weakened Wilmington squad after years of taking part in lopsided rivalries.

The revenge tour against Wilmington hasn’t transpired. It's been business as usual for the Wildcats (15-2-2 overall, 13-1-1 CAL), who ran their CAL unbeaten streak to 29 games before falling to Newburyport on Feb. 12.

"We're always looking to send a message," says senior defenseman John Malone. "No one expected us to do this at all. We wanted to make a statement that we can play with anybody even though we lost so many people."

One area in which the Wildcats didn’t figure to struggle was scoring. The team returned sophomore Cam Owens, who burst onto the CAL scene as a freshman call-up from the junior varsity, netting 14 goals in 15. Owens has continued with his near goal-a-game average this season, netting 17 goals and 17 assists in 18 games.

Playing alongside his brother, senior Andy Owens (7 goals, 26 assists), and junior Dalton Rolli (12 goals, 4 assists), Owens possesses the ability to make an end-to-end rush through multiple defenseman at any time. Rolli has found that playing alongside Owens provides its own challenges, namely finding a few leftover goals for himself.

"It's something special," Rolli says. "The stick-handling ... what he can do with the puck is amazing. I've seen him go up and down the ice so many times. I skate behind him and see if I can get a rebound. It doesn’t really happen; he always puts it away."

While Wilmington's forwards dictate a frenetic pace, the team's defensemen force opposing forwards to exercise caution in their attempts to match speed with speed. Playing alongside Malone, Brian Hurley, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound football standout, is the catalyst for the team's physical style of play.

"I hit hard out there, and it makes the rest of the team want to do the same thing," Hurley says. "I like to start us off."

Hurley plans to resume his football career at the collegiate level as a defensive end and tight end. Scanlon believes Hurley also has the skills to be an enforcer on a college hockey team.

"He's very intimidating," Scanlon says. "He has crushed some kids over the years — even our own kids. He ended one kid's season in a practice this year. They're all clean hits, but he's bringing a lot of power with him."

Senior goalie Joe Aucoin, a career backup before this season, has filled the sizable shoes of Rosa, posting a 13-2-2 record and 1.75 goals-against average. Scanlon says his goalie has assuaged any concerns he regarding the position prior to the season.

"The net was a question mark at the beginning of the year," Scanlon says. "I think he's been the key to us doing as well as we have. He makes game-turning saves."

As he prepares to make his first state-tournament start, Aucoin says he is no longer concerned with being the next Zach Rosa.

"I definitely felt the pressure early because he was so good," Aucoin says. "Following his footsteps was tough, but I always knew I could play."

Scanlon and his players point to the Wilmington Youth Hockey League as another reason for the prolonged success of the program. As an indication of the preparedness of players who join the high school team, Wilmington's second forward line is comprised entirely of freshmen. The freshmen trio, Brendan McDonough (11 goals), Cody McGowan (6 goals) and Luke Foley (3 goals), have accounted for 20 goals.

"Wilmington hockey is a tradition," Malone says. "As a young kid, we all wanted to play high school hockey and be the best we could be. It's a winning tradition."