Boston High School: Pat Gill

Snapshot: Winchester remembers Pat Gill

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
WINCHESTER, Mass. -- Winchester High football returned to the field for the first time since the death of senior captain Pat Gill in Saturday's game against Thanksgiving Day rival Woburn.

The Sachems lost, 34-14, but Knowlton Stadium provided a backdrop for catharsis and healing as the three-sport athlete was remembered both on the field and off:

Football brings remembrance, hope to Winchester

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
WINCHESTER, Mass. – Eleven. Eighteen. Forty five.

Pat Gill was all of those things to Winchester High, depending on which season it was. Nearly all in attendance in Saturday’s capacity crowd at Knowlton Stadium had some connection to the Sachems football captain and three-sport athlete who was killed in a one-car accident a week earlier.

Gill was laid to rest on Friday, following a service at St. Mary’s Church. But Saturday served as another public memorial – part remembrance, part celebration – a cathartic experience for a family and town in the midst of grieving.

Winchester hosted Woburn, the Sachems’ Thanksgiving Day rival. The memory of Gill, who played alongside many of the Tanners players during his Pop Warner days in Woburn, surrounded the game. His younger brother led the Sachems onto the field in the pregame introductions. His athletic numbers were emblazoned in red on floral displays that were shown underneath Knowlton’s scoreboard. Even the rival Tanners wore commemorative decals on their helmets that read “Sachems 11” – for Gill’s football number.

Perhaps, most telling of how much Gill remains present, he was still listed on Winchester’s gameday roster: “Gill (capt.), Pat, [grade] 12, WR/OLB, 6-0, 190.”

“You wouldn’t know it, but some of us are pretty good friends with the Woburn kids,” fellow Winchester football captain Parker Carey said after Saturday’s game. “Even though we are bitter rivals, it shows that at the end of the day it’s football, and friends and family come first.”

One week: It was just about a week exactly since the time Winchester football’s players heard about Gill’s death until the time they returned to the field for Saturday’s game.

“It’s been an unbelievable up and down from last Saturday morning and getting the call right through to yesterday afternoon [at the funeral],” Winchester head coach Wally Dembowski said.

The Sachems claimed leads on two separate occasions – 7-3 and 14-13 in the first quarter and third, respectively – before Woburn ran away in the fourth quarter to a 34-14 win.

“Monday, a lot of us were emotional wrecks at that practice,” said senior captain Davis Clarke, who scored one of the two Sachems touchdowns Saturday. “It’s gotten a little bit better every day.”

He added, “It’s getting back to the new normal, I guess you could say.”

A trying week culminated with Gill’s funeral on Friday. There was an outflow of support from the surrounding communities at his wake, with members of the football, hockey and lacrosse communities from the surrounding Middlesex League towns attending.

Through the ebbs and flows of emotion, Winchester’s players admitted it was difficult to focus on football at times. And yet it also provided something in return.

“For me, it’s almost been an escape from life, it’s been a safe haven,” captain Jimmy Crowther said. “It’s been an escape from reality.”

“Everything you need to know about Pat Gill is …”: Winchester hockey coach Matt Spang was in attendance for Saturday’s game. He offered his best rememberance of Gill.

Spang, a Winchester graduate who was part of state championship teams in 1998 and 2000, began telling the story of a heart-to-heart with Gill at the beginning of last season, when the Sachems were struggling to find consistency.

“This kid’s a stud football player, the captain of the lacrosse team, he’s a super star. In the winter, for us, he was more a role player. He comes up to me last year – this is early in the season – he told me he wanted to talk after practice.”

Spang immediately suspected Gill wanted to talk about his ice time. He was pleasantly surprised with the turn in conversation.

“So he comes into my office after practice and lays this on me,” Spang said. “[Gill] says to me, ‘Coach, what can I do to help make our best players better and make our team better, to push them to make us better?’”

Spang was floored.

“It was the most humbling thing from a player I’ve ever coached,” Spang said. “That was him, that was Pat.”

The tragedy has forced the coaches on Winchester’s staff to add the hat of councilor to their usual palate of duties. While Saturday’s game passed, beginning to deal with the loss of a teammate and a friend has only begun for those who knew Gill best.

“You talk about him and you laugh – you can’t tell a Pat Gill story without having a smile on your face,” Spang said. “There’s tears of pain, but there’s tears of joy, too. He was a great kid.”

He trailed off and added, “We’re doing our best.”

Requiem: Winchester High School is undergoing renovation construction. It’s a school built in the Brutalist form that became popular across the state’s high school and university building projects dating to the last half of the last century. Given that much of the school’s structure is about to be redone, it’s given Winchester’s students free license to add impromptu graffiti memorials to Gill outside the Sachems’ locker room.

Walking through the exterior doors that lead to the athletics wing, you’re greeted by “GI11” with a heart symbol next to it scrawled out in spray paint. Beneath it are the letters “RIP”.

Further down the corridor, Gill’s No. 11 is shown in the middle of a read heart directly across from the locker room entry. The soot from the outside construction created a crackling noise to the heavy footsteps of football cleats on the concrete floor.

“I felt like to see the crowd made you feel a lot better,” Clarke said. “Going into the game, I think everybody here was all hyped up, and to see all the people who cared about Pat, that just made you feel like you wanted to play harder today.”

Winchester’s captains sat in a semi circle inside of Dembowski’s office following the game. Members of the local writing media were allowed in talk to the group about their experience. They were still half-dressed in their football gear. Their personal remembrances remained. Carey had written messages to Gill on his taped up wrists still.

There was a moment of levity, as the group reflected on the team’s first rushing touchdown of the season, which Tim O’Brien scored in the first half.

“It was usually Gilly scoring the touchdowns,” quarterback Michael Grassey said. “Just knowing that he’s watching over us …”

Carey interjected, “Our first rushing touchdown of the season! Gilly was pissed about that.”

Aside from the emotional void, there also was a bit of roster scuffling for Gill’s positions. Dembowski reflected on how Gill began the season as the Sachems’ placekicker as well. He’s now down to his third string replacement.

“But they came out and battled their rear ends off for three quarters,” he added.

The afterglow of the game was starting to wear off.

“It was kind of very surreal,” Crowther said. “We’ve played in front of crowds like that on Thanksgiving, obviously, especially because it’s such a big rivalry. Seeing all those Nos. 11, 45 and 18 shirts, it gets to you, but it makes you want to play more and more.”

Driving past the high school and through the heart of town, the reminders were still in place. The posters hanged in state at Knowlton with the familiar motif of Eleven, Eighteen, Forty Five. People walked their dogs on the most perfect New England fall afternoon you could conceive. They too wore the Sachems’ black and red.

Life moves on, forever changed.

Hendricken again setting pace in R.I.

October, 9, 2013
That Hendricken High again is among the top football teams in the state, while playing in the top division (Division I), isn’t a major surprise.

Rhode IslandThe Hawks have a long history of reloading instead of rebuilding – which is exemplified by the fact they’ve won three consecutive Division I Super Bowls and have a chance to become the first team in state history (since the Interscholastic League implemented Super Bowls in the early 1970s) to win four consecutive bowl championships.

But the fact Hendricken is 4-0 overall and tied with Barrington for first place with a 3-0 record is a surprise considering the Hawks have a veritable rookie under center – Pat Gill.

Last season as a junior, Gill was under center for exactly zero snaps as the Hawks upset La Salle in the Division I bowl with then-senior Ryan Brannigan leading the way.

But at the end of fall practice and before the regular season commenced, head coach Keith Croft decided that Gill would be his best option at least to qualify for the playoffs if not win that iconic fourth consecutive Super Bowl.

“Pat has been one of the greatest success stories in the history of Hendricken football,” said Croft. “Really, he’s an underdog (for what it’s worth, Gill checks in at 5-feet-8 and 160 pounds) and is the type of kid you root for.”

Gill gave an indication of things to come in Hendricken’s non-league, season opener against a Division II team, St. Raphael, whom the Hawks dispatched by the score of 34-6.

Gill completed a modest 3-of-4 passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns –one a 25-yard strike to Lee Moses and the other a 20-yarder to Mike Scarcella.

“At the beginning, I came into a new role after our Super Bowl championship,” said Gill. “Fortunately, we had a lot of guys back especially in the offensive line. But in the beginning, I really was a little bit shaky.

“Once we got going it was amazing.”

At the least, Gill was semi-amazing during a 36-14 victory over South Kingstown in Hendricken’s division opener.

He passed for 94 yards, including a 33-yarder to superb running back Remington Blue midway through the second quarter for a 7-0 lead. Gill also threw another touchdown pass and dashed 36 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter to break the game open.

“I’m more comfortable knowing how to read the routes better,” said Gill. “I also feel I’m more explosive when I’m running. But I have to get better.”

Gill gave another indication that he was getting “better” during a 38-7 romp over East Providence.

The game was scoreless entering the second period when Gill heaved a 65-yard touchdown pass to Moses.

Altogether, Gill tossed a trio of TD passes – each to a different receiver.

With Gill and Blue leading the way, Hendricken turned a 40-0 Division I victory over Tolman into little more than a half-field scrimmage.

After the dust had settled, the Hawks led the division in both points scored (114) and fewest points allowed (21).

“Since I’m a senior, I know I have more experience and am better able to help the younger guys on the team,” said Gill. “We have a lot of our good skill guys back and we know what we can do.

“We know no other team ever has won four Super Bowl titles in a row. We’re very hungry to win that fourth title.”

ROLLING THE DICE: If La Salle Academy beats out Hendricken for the regular-season Division I title, and perhaps wins the Super Bowl, the Rams can look back on a 22-21 victory over Cranston West on Oct. 4, as the turning point in their season.

The Falcons led 21-14 entering the last 1:45 when La Salle when Jace Pena lofted a short touchdown pass to Keon Wilson with 25 ticks of the clock remaining.

The score also presented head coach Geoff Marcone with a conundrum: Go for the extra point (Pete DeSimore already had kicked two PATs), a tie and overtime, or opt for a two-point conversion which would produce a victory.

Marcone let the Rams decide and they opted for the deuce. Keon Wilson passed to DeSimone in the end zone for the game-winning points.

RETURNING TO THE HARD WOOD: Jane Burgess Schwechheimer has been appointed the new girls’ basketball coach at Lincoln School.

Burgess, who’s married to Pawtucket Red Sox General Manager Lou Schweccheimer, had a stellar career at Warwick Veterans High which enabled her to obtain inclusion in both the Hurricanes’ and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Halls of Fame.

She later went on to star for St. John’s.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

October, 10, 2012
Cranston East last won a Division I Super Bowl in 1987 – which, of course, was well before the players on the current team were born.

Rhode IslandBut the Thunderbolt have an opportunity to prove they’re a legitimate contender this season when they play at defending Division I Super Bowl champion Hendricken on October12.

Coach Tom Centore’s team set the stage for this matchup of undefeated teams when it waxed East Providence, 42-20, on Oct. 5. Quarterback Alex Corvese threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers – all in the first half – as the ‘Bolt bolted to a 28-7 lead. Covese’s longest strike was a 46-yarder to Marquem Monroe. Nicholas Ferry caught a 28-yard TD pass just before halftime and, in the third quarter, returned a punt 35 yards for a score that broke the game open.

Hendricken (4-0) and La Salle (4-0) are tied for the division lead, but Cranston East (3-0) is only a half-game back and is 5-0 overall.

The Hawks tuned up for the ‘Bolt by blanking Cranston West, 36-0, as quarterback Pat Gill ran for three scores passed for a fourth. In its previous game, the Hawks whipped Tolman, 28-7, converting three turnovers into three touchdowns in the process. Gill scored on a one-yard run and also connected with Marco DelVecchio on a 52-yard scoring bomb.

La Salle remained tied with Hendricken by whipping winless South Kingstown, 39-14, as quarterback Anthony Francis threw touchdown passes of 21 and 63 yards to Keon Wilson.

Johnston maintained its status as the only undefeated team (4-0) in Division II-A by mauling Coventry, 26-6.

The final score was representative of how explosive the Panthers have been this season. In those four league games, they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 154-18.

Johnston built a 14-0 lead with five minutes left in the first half, thanks to a six-yard run by Brenden Pappas and a two-yard run by Joe Santilli.

West Warwick was knocked from the ranks of the undefeated in Division II-B when it was routed, 42-14, by Shea on September 28. Dennis Lloyd paced the Raiders with three touchdowns while Tyshon Ashe added a pair.

Cumberland, who blitzed North Kingstown 41-6, moved into sole possession of first place with a 4-0 record. Quarterback Brendan Guerin led the Clippers by passing for 132 yards and three scores.

The Wizards (3-1) rebounded the following week as they pasted Pilgrim, 41-6, with Austin Paygal running for four scores – including one that covered 66 yards.

Elsewhere, East Greenwich toppled previously-undefeated Moses Brown, 39-21, in Division III action. Carney Crawford paced the Avengers (4-0) with 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Andrew Minor passed for 117 yards and three scores.

Middletown (3-0) remained a half-game behind the Avengers thanks to a 48-20 victory over Tiverton. The Islanders’ Randy Butler had a career game as he carried the ball 12 times for 149 yards and a touchdown and also returned a kickoff 70 yards for another score.

Overall, Middletown amassed 428 yards of total offense against the Tigers. Middletown gave a premonition of things to come when it belted Ponaganset, 48-7, in its previous game. Butler also was a force in that game since he scored on a 31-yard run and caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Justin Sellers.

In other games of note:
* Mount Hope (2-2) evened its record in Division II-A by beating Woonsocket, 26-7, with Jesse Raiola rushing for 125 yards and three scores.

* Central Falls captured its first Division IV victory of the season by blanking Scituate, 42-0. Quarterback Brandon Canuto threw four touchdown passes – three to Odair Semedo.

* Classical also won its first league game, in Division III, by holding off Burrillville, 16-14. Amilcar Burganza provided what proved to be the winning score when he returned an interception 50 yards in the fourth quarter.

Long-time Portsmouth boys’ soccer coach Mike Stinton recently annexed his 200th career victory as the Patriots blanked South Kingstown, 1-0. Stinton was appointed Portsmouth’s head coach in 1989.

Then, the following week, the Patriots (5-3-0) won their fifth consecutive Division I game, 5-1 over Tolman as Brendan Jumoas scored two goals and assisted on two.

The East Greenwich boys’ cross-country team ventured north and captured the team title in the Woods Trail Run Invitational in Thetford, Vt.

The Avengers amassed 107 points – 29 better than second-place South Burlington (Vt.) High. Ben Fazio (6th), Garrett Scanlon (18th), Scott Kulm (23rd), Nat Waddell (26th) and Tom Sommer (34th) accounted for the Avengers’ scoring.

What had been rumored is on the verge of becoming fact.

East Providence, which had accumulated a $7-million budget deficit and has been operating under a state-appointed Budget Commission, will eliminate middle school sports as part of a proposed plan to help get the city out of the red. Football, basketball and baseball, which have long served as successful feeder programs for East Providence High, would be the primary sports on the chopping block if the overall proposal is approved by November 1.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

Recap: No. 14 Winchester 7, Woburn 5

May, 15, 2012
WOBURN, Mass. -- After Tuesday’s game, Winchester head coach John Pirani and Woburn's Ken Blaszka each said they know what their respective teams need to work on: starting with fire.

No. 14 Winchester ultimately beat Woburn, 7-5, on the road, but both teams stumbled out of the gate with some sloppy passing in the first two quarters.

“I think we have a lot of talent, but I think we’re still growing in terms of maturing and … we’re feeling our way through to get to the point where we’re comfortable with what we’re doing and that’s exactly how I felt,” Pirani said. “I think we were very tentative for maybe 10 or 12 minutes and then we got to the second period and all of a sudden we’re playing. We did a lot and that’s something we’ll have to overcome in the next couple of weeks.”

Blaszka said the same about his Tanners (13-5) and their momentum – or lack thereof.

“We got to come out the first half a little more fired up than we are offensively.”

Come the start of the third quarter, it didn’t take long for Winchester (12-2) to start feeling the heat as the Tanners scored less than one minute into play to tie it 3-all.

Then Winchester started throwing shots at the cage and, as the rain gained momentum, so did the squads. At 6:53 Winchester regained their edge, 4-3. Woburn then fought back for the 4-all tie at 6:30 with a quick snapshot from the left wing. Winchester then responded with three consecutive goals. At 4:40, the Sachems scored with a clean look at the net, at 3:11 with a wrap-around from the left and at 9:30 in the fourth.

Woburn’s Eddie Insognia netted the team’s final goal at 8:17 from the right wing, but Winchester’s battling defense kept the remaining attempts away.

In the final two minutes, Winchester maintained possession, leaving Woburn with time only for a last-second heave.

“The defense, that’s what our bread and butter is,” Pirani said. “We frustrated [Woburn]. You could tell they were taking some shots that weren’t particularly well conceived.

“[Woburn] got that goal right at the beginning of the half and then we pretty much shut them down after that. So we were pretty pleased with our defensive effort.”

Blaszka said he thought his Tanners played well defensively, too – pressuring the ball, grabbing turnovers and clearing well – especially Michael Tedesco, who also scored. But, offensively, Woburn didn’t find its stride.

“Offensively, I thought we had our looks, we just didn’t hit the cage, you know?” Blaszka said. “We put five goals in, the goalie had six saves; we've got to dial in the shots on the cage.”

For Winchester, Chris O’Connell and Jesse Samek had two goals, while Pat Gill, Tim Mangano and Brendan Kelley each had one. For Woburn, Brendan Gilgun had a hat trick and Casey Shea assisted twice.

“Gilgun’s been good for us,” Blaszka said. “He’s been stepping up as of late. Beginning of the year he had a dislocated shoulder that he played through and that’s three to four weeks of rehab and he just played. He’s a tough player, he’s been coming through for us a lot lately and I’m glad he had three. I wish we had three and he won the game.”