The year 2013 in high school sports will be remembered as a year of firsts -- from the first-ever true MIAA football state championship to a number of first-time state title winners. Here's a countdown of our top five moments:
5. March 12: Burlington wins shootout in epic D1 North hockey final
En route to a second straight Division 1 state title, Burlington needed to get through Middlesex League rival Winchester to punch its ticket to the Garden. The game was largely a defensive stalemate, with a young Sachems team standing up to the veteran Red Devils. Senior goaltender Derek DeCastro was brilliant, making 27 saves before the shootout, but was matched every step of the way by Winchester sophomore James Offner (36 saves). After claiming a 3-1 victory in the shootout, Burlington went on to roll through Marshfield for its second straight crown, but it’s greatest test came from the upstart Sachems.
4. June 15: Walk-offs decide D2, D3 baseball state championships
Middleborough won its first Division 3 state championship since 1997 in a similar fashion as that fabled season, pulling out a walk-off victory over Hopedale in the final out. With the bases loaded, senior shortstop Kevin Huscher hit one back up the middle, sending in two runs for a 4-3 victory. In the Division 2 state final, to conclude the day’s events at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park, Hingham outlasted Auburn in 12 innings, one of the longest state finals in MIAA history. In a game filled with unconventional managerial decisions, Hingham’s Cody Clifford planted the winning hit, a single up the middle, for a 7-6 victory.
3. May 10: Duxbury lacrosse outlasts Lincoln-Sudbury in longest game in state history
It was a regular-season matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2. The teams played before a capacity crowd at L-S and the game had the feel of a state championship bout. An intense rainstorm delayed the start of the game and anticipation built, but once it got going, it didn’t disappoint. The two state powers went blow-for-blow behind two tremendous defensive units, and four full overtime periods (and three hours) passed before Tyler Powers ended it for the Dragons in the nighttime mist, making it the longest game played in state history. While Xaverian eventually went on to claim the Division 1 state title, the duel between two of the state’s preeminent lacrosse programs is one that many in attendance will speak of for years to come.
2. March 17: Putnam's state title brings hope for City of Springfield
Springfield Putnam’s first state championship in school history came down to a matter of free throws, but they may have been some of the most exhilarating free throws of all-time at Worcester’s DCU Center.
First, Mansfield’s Ryan Boulter was fouled attempting a three in the corner with just a few seconds left in regulation, down 39-36. With the D1 state title on the line, Boulter calmly sank all three, not even letting his eyes leave the rim, to force overtime. Boulter again drained a three with 19 seconds to go in overtime to tie it at 48, but Ty Nichols drew a foul on a layup going the other way to get himself to the line.
Nichols sank two free throws with 7.5 seconds left to give the Beavers a 50-48 lead. Mansfield’s Rocky DeAndrade was unable to get a shot off on the ensuing possession, and Putnam took home its first state title in school history.
Afterward, Putnam head coach William Shepard had a teary-eyed exchange with ESPN Boston.
“We’ve had some negative things going on back home -- shootings, murders, things that kids are just tired of hearing and seeing,” Shepard said. “Just to have this positive thing, people come around this positive energy ... the young people that haven’t reached high school can know that there are positive things out there, they can stay away from the nonsense and do the right thing.”
1. Dec. 7: "Cody Time" lifts Central Catholic to D1 football state championship
Cody Demers was not the highest-profile of Central Catholic’s talented senior class, but there was a reason he was the team’s captain and the Merrimack Valley Conference’s Player of the Year: When it came to crunch time, nobody was more clutch.
In the Division 1 North Final, the 5-foot-8 Demers took some brutal blows early from Everett’s feared defensive stalwarts, only to recover a few moments later and score the winning touchdown. Faced with single coverage against one of the state’s premier defensive backs, Demers set him up outside and ripped across his face, laying out in the shallow end zone for the game-winning touchdown catch that secured his team a spot in the inaugural Division 1 State Championship.
Three weeks later, at Gillette Stadium, Demers set the tone early and often as the Raiders doubled up Xaverian, 34-17, for their first title in 15 seasons. On the first scoring drive, Demers buried a Xaverian defender in the turf with a crackback block that sprung quarterback Matt Milano loose to complete an 18-yard touchdown pass. In the fourth quarter, Demers put the nail in the coffin with a Megatron-like 19-yard TD catch -- tipping the ball up and away from a defender in front of him, then spinning 180 degrees and corralling the ball into his bread basket as he tip-toed inbounds before falling out.
“We’re kind of used to it, but we kind of like it -- being the underdog, coming from behind, picking everybody off one by one, it just makes the win that much better,” Central running back D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie said after the win.