A Legacy of Excellence
The pursuit of excellence through participation in athletics has always been a core value critical to our mission to develop the whole student. Simply put, there are certain key life lessons that are best learned through training for and competition in sports, be they individual or team-oriented. Moreover, there is no better way to foster school and community spirit than through sports.
In that regard, we are most fortunate that the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth intuitively understood the potential benefits of interscholastic athletic competition for their new school. And, we are doubly blessed in that their prescience extended to finding the right leader to establish and grow such an important program.
In Hall of Famer Jack Garrity, a former Medford H. S. All-Scholastic, 2-time BU hockey All American, U.S. Olympian, and WWII veteran, the Sisters could not have made a better choice. Mr. Garrity would become a member of the AWHS faculty and serve as its first athletic director, coach, and physical education teacher. But even the Sisters could not have imagined how divinely inspired their hire would prove to be.
In order to appreciate the central importance of sports to AWHS students and student-athletes past, present, and future, some historical perspective is in order.
AWHS fielded its first varsity team in league competition in 1950-51, when Coach Garrity entered a basketball team in Div. III of the Catholic League. Despite being comprised of only sophomores and freshmen, they had a winning season. This was surely a harbinger of things to come.
The school’s first baseball team, also coached by Mr. Garrity, joined the League in 1952 with juniors as their oldest players. They too had a winning season.
In February 1952, then U.S. Representative John F. Kennedy was the featured speaker at a benefit to help establish a football program at AWHS. The event was attended by some 1,200 people including BU’s head coach and AD Buff Donnelli and BC All-American and head coach Mike Holovak (who would later become coach of the Boston Patriots). The speaker and the size and make-up of the turnout were a reflection in part on Cardinal Cushing’s power and connections (including with the Kennedys), and the esteem with which Jack Garrity was held in the Boston-area sports community.
Coach Garrity established the football program in the fall of 1952, with the first senior class leading the way. They were also assigned to Div. III of the Catholic League. After an opening loss, the team finished 4-1 capturing the school’s first league championship!
The basketball team was moved up to Div. II in 1952-53, and went on to win the post-season Class B New England Catholic Tournament for the first time. The baseball team was moved up to Division II that Spring as well.
Golf was introduced as a varsity sport in 1953, again with Coach Garrity at the helm.
Hall of Famer Don Edmonston, a member of the first AWHS graduating class (1953), was the school’s first preeminent student-athlete. He starred in basketball and baseball, and earned an athletic scholarship to Stonehill College.
The 1953-54 basketball team, under new coach John Bane, had a terrific, breakout year. They won the Class A New England Catholic Tournament, and then stunned perennial powerhouse Somerville 62-61 in the Tech Tournament at Boston Garden. AWHS Hall of Famer Peter Houston, the school’s first 1,000 point scorer, led the way and was named the tournament MVP.
The 1954 football team finished 7-1 and was Divi. III co-champion. Their immediate success prompted a move up to the Catholic Conference for the 1955 season. But the tougher competition didn’t seem to have much of an effect as AWHS was Conference co-champion with Lawrence Central at 6-1.
The 1955-56 basketball team, playing in the Catholic Conference for the first time, tied for the Conference championship, and qualified for the post-season New England Catholic and Tech tournaments.
Coach Garrity started the school’s storied hockey program in 1955-56. (It’s said that many of his first players could hardly stand up on skates.) AWHS joined the newly-formed South Shore League in 1956-57, finishing second only to Hingham.
Hall of Fame Coach Armond Colombo joined Coach Garrity’s football staff for the 1955 season, thus pairing two of the preeminent coaches in the history of Massachusetts high school sports.
The 1957 and ’58 AWHS football teams, led by coaches Garrity and Colombo, would reach new heights and start a run that would be unprecedented and remain unmatched.
The teams were a combined 17-0, outscoring their opponents 547-135, for an average score of 32-8* The 319 points scored by the ’57 team remains a school record. They were led by Hall of Famer Mark Chiros and his state record-shattering 187 points. They beat Class A Western MA Champion Agawam 27-19 before 10,000 fans at Hollis Field in the season finale.
The ’58 team was lead by Hall of Famer Peter Marciano (Rocky’s brother), and Hall of Famer Hank Cutting, a 3-sport star who would serve his country in the Marines before returning to the school to coach in 1969, and as a teacher and Dean of Students in 1971.
* To put this dominance in perspective, the ’57 and ’58 teams beat B.C. High by a combined score of 92-7.
Regrettably, Coach Garrity would remain at AWHS only one more year. The unfortunate chain of events which lead to his departure started in 1958 when Cardinal Cushing decreed that in Catholic high schools, the Chaplain should also serve as the Athletic Director, and Coach Garrity was “demoted.”
Then, the following year, the new AD (who shall remain unnamed) denied Coach Garrity’s request for a leave of absence to play for the U.S. Olympic hockey team at the Squaw Valley games. Coach Garrity resigned and went to teach and coach at Quincy High School (and later at Milton Academy).
Over his eight years at AWHS, AD and Coach Garrity established and nurtured our school’s basketball, baseball, football, hockey, and golf programs, and hired and mentored brilliant young coaches in Messers. Colombo, Bane, and Edmonston. Coach Garrity’s football teams went 52-12-3, winning 78% of their games and 5 league titles. And, after a 1-win first year, his hockey teams won 74% of their games and 2 league championships. Sr. Virginia Maria’s decision was indeed divinely inspired as no one person in our school’s long and proud history has had such a positive impact on our sports program, and as a result on our student-athletes.
The school’s administrative blunder could have been far-reaching and long-lasting, but for Principal
Sr. Mary Blunt’s (Sr. Hugh Francis) decision to hire Armond Colombo as Coach Garrity’s successor.
In the Spring of 1959, the baseball team won its 3rd straight Conference title. The team was led by battery mates catcher Peter Marciano and pitcher Dick Mayo (Mr. Baseball), both of whom would sign professional contracts.
Coach Colombo’s 1960 football team finished 8-0-1, winning the first of 3-straight Catholic Conference and Class B State championship.
Hall of Famer Don Edmonston returned “home” to AWHS that year. He succeeded John Bane as head basketball coach, and Coach Colombo as head baseball coach.
The school added a cross-country team that fall (1960). The runners literally came flying out of the gate, winning three league titles in a row and a State Championship in 1961.
By the spring of 1960, AWHS student-athletes were performing well at Catholic and State track meets even though the school had no official team.
Track was added as a varsity sport in 1961-62. The team finished 2nd in the Catholic meet in its post-season debut.
In 1962, AWHS fielded is first female sports team when it established a girls basketball team. Miss Marilyn Steele headed the program. The game played then bears no resemblance to the fast-paced, aggressive, athletic game of today. No one could have predicted then that starting in 1975, the AWHS girls would win 17 League titles and 5 State Championships, thus becoming the most decorated program in school history.
The football team continued it remarkable run through the first five years of Coach Colombo’s tenure. His teams went 38-3-2, winning 90% of their games, 5 consecutive Catholic Conference titles and 3 State Championships. Thereafter the program returned to mere mortal status, however, save for a year here and there.
That all changed when Hall of Fame Coach Kevin Macdonald arrived to build on the work started by Coach Joe Crowley and return AWHS to football prominence. Over Coach Macdonald’s first 10 years his teams went 86-14-2, winning 84% of their games, and 3 league titles. They went to 3 Super Bowls and won 1 State Championship. In doing so they drew apt comparisons to the Garrity/Colombo “golden era” of football prominence. Ted was a starter on 3 of those teams.
In 1988, Principal William Drinan, CFX and Athletic Director Al Gallotta ’69, P’00, ’02, made a commitment to expand our girls sports program. That year, AWHS added both boys and girls soccer programs. Since then the boys team has won 5 league titles and have been a state runner-up once.
The girls program has won 3 South Sectional titles and reached the state final game once.
Our girls hockey program began playing as a varsity program in 2004. They have had a number of tournament teams and have advanced to the state semi-finals once.
In 2004, our boys lacrosse team was established, with girls lacrosse following in 2007. The boys have won three league titles and the girls one.
Our Cheerleaders have been steady participants at football, basketball, and hockey games from the earliest days of each sport. Since 1990, competing in the Fall and Winter seasons, our Cheer teams have won 7 CCL titles, 2 regional titles, and, in 2010, the school’s only national championship!
AWHS also has a softball team, which has won 5 league titles, a volleyball team which has won 4 and a South Sectional title, a girls tennis team, which has won 1 title, and a co-ed swim team. In the past the school has fielded a boys tennis team and, in the late 1950s-early 1960s, a sailing team which performed quite well even when matched against local college competition.
Collectively, AWHS teams have won 113 league and 25 state titles, and 1 national championship. As a result, they have experienced significant success and received well-earned accolades. Just as importantly, they have been consistently recognized by the MIAA for outstanding sportsmanship and scholarship.
Throughout our school’s proud history then, the opportunity to participate in inter-scholastic athletic competition has been an integral component of our educational and developmental offerings. Through sports our young men and women strive for excellence guided by dedicated coaches who are first and foremost mentors and teachers. Our parents, faculty and staff, alumni and friends play important roles in the AWHS athletic experience as well.
The valuable life lessons learned on our fields, track, courts, and ice go far beyond athletic achievements-they prepare our student-athletes for bright futures and productive lives. And along the way, life-long bonds of friendship are forged based on shared experiences.
In order for AWHS to continue to offer this unique aspect of its overall educational program at such a high level, we have to provide our coaches and student-athletes with competitive facilities and resources. We are committed to doing so, but need the help of equally committed benefactors.