Snubs, snubs and more snubs

  • Dave Douvadjian (22) along with Mike Larabee (33) and Mike Roberts (28) highlighted the 1972 Greenfield football team that was among the biggest snubs in our bracket. file photo

  • Coach Polly Bixby (right) and the 1997 Mahar girls volleyball team were snubbed in our Greatest Teams Tournament after winning a state title. file photo

  • Kevin May and the 1976 Turners Falls football team went 10-0 but chose to not play in the Super Bowl that year, which contributed to them being on our snub list. file photo

  • Members of the 1976 Turners Falls football team prior to their Thanksgiving Day win over Greenfield, which helped them to a 10-0 finish to the season and a spot on our snub list. file photo

  • Gary Frost (left) and the 1984 Athol football team went unbeaten at 10-0 and won a Super Bowl but that wasn’t enough to get them a high seed in our tournament. Their 15th-seed earned them a spot on the snub list. file photo

  • Somehow Mackenzie Phillips and her 2015 Turners Falls softball team was left off our Greatest Teams Tournament despite winning a state title, which earned them a spot on our snub list. File photo

Published: 3/21/2019 7:36:32 PM

Mahar Regional School boys basketball coach Chad Softic may have summed up the feelings of many earlier this week when he wrote in about the 1992 Athol boys basketball team’s opening round loss in the Recorder’s Greatest Teams Tournament.

“The town of Athol is organizing a mob as we speak after the ’91-92 basketball team was beaten,” he began. “I have a safe house in Vermont where Jeff Lajoie and Jason Butynski can lay low.”

The first week of our tournament brought with it plenty of interest from local folks who either supported the teams that made the field, complained about teams that lost, or lamented about teams that were left out.

It’s no surprise. Franklin County and the North Quabbin area have had a lot of successful teams over the past century and while there can only be one winner, the tournament is certainly open to debate.

Softic said that the ’91-92 Athol team may be the best boys basketball team he ever witnessed from this area with several players who excelled. That team fell to loaded East Boston team in overtime in the state finals, failing to score a point in overtime, but that loss was highlighted by the fact that several Athol starters fouled out in regulation, which included some questionable calls.

“Scott Laasko getting into foul trouble killed them,” Softic recalled. “Greg Gauvin, I think, is still the all-time leader in scoring at Westfield State, Laasko was an all-WMass center, Derek Patria was Phil DiPhillipo, my brother (Adrian Softic) was a three-sport all-WMass athlete and John Chi was a fundamental and fiery leader.”

The email (sports@recorder.com) and phone line (413-772-0261 ext. 259) for the Recorder sports department nearly broke over the past week with folks chiming in from across the country. Here’s a look at some of the biggest snubs:

1972 Greenfield football

The 1972 Greenfield Football team was snubbed from a bid, but some suggest that team may have been the greatest ever at GHS. The Green Wave boasted an offense that was led by a four-headed trio in the backfield — quarterback Mike Roberts, running backs Dave Douvadjian and Jeff Budrewicz, and fullback Mike Larabee — who gave opposing defenses fits all season long.

Douvadjian, described as “the most gifted runner in Western Mass.,” nearly broke the Western Mass scoring record at that time, finishing with 164 points scored on the season, 10 short of Turk Bruno’s record set at Agawam High School in 1956.

Greenfield finished the season with a 7-1-1 record, playing in class AA which featured larger and stronger schools. In the Turkey Day game against Turners Falls, the Green Wave won convincingly, 18-6, to earn a spot in the Super Bowl. Douvadjian scored all three touchdowns in the game.

The Green Wave ultimately fell to Fitchburg, 22-6, in the Super Bowl.

1976 Turners Falls football

Turners Falls has one of the more interesting cases to be in the bracket, seeing as their undefeated season did not result in a championship.

Prior to the ’76 season, the Turners Falls school board signed a postseason ban in August, preventing Turners from playing in the Super Bowl. Rumors swirl around town as to why the team decided not to play in the postseason.

Turners gained its 10-0 record through its balance, featuring an attack offense that was the highest scoring offense in Western Mass., and a smothering defense who’s first team didn’t allow a touchdown all season.

The former Indians were led under center by Dale Welcome and a backfield that featured Kevin May, Mike Brown and Dave Choleva.

To close out the year, Turners Falls won on Turkey Day in the 50th installment of the game in a 36-6 rout after May had four touchdowns, three on the ground and another on a kick return.

1997 Mahar girls volleyball

The Mahar girls volleyball team wasn’t just good — they ran through the competition.

Finishing with a 21-0 record, the Senators didn’t drop a set in the two Division II playoff games, defeating Frontier in the semis and Turners Falls in the finals to move onto the state tournament.

In the state semifinals, Bourne High School was just another small roadblock for Mahar, who won 3-1 to move into the state championship game.

The year before, an inexperienced Senator team fell in the state championship match, but the ’97 squad was determined not to let that happen.

They used their experience to stay focused after falling behind 2-0 against Medfield, winning the next two sets to force a final fifth set, in which Mahar dominated to win the state finals.

The Senators were led by setters Sarah Haigh and Megan Woodcock and outside hitter Robyn Bacon, who was a team captain. 

2015 Turners softball

There is no excuse for the 2015 Turners softball team being left out. In fact, in our initial data gathering, that team was listed but was somehow missed when filling out the brackets.

Led by pitcher Mackenzie Phillips and slugger Jenna Putala, the Powertown put together one of the finest seasons in program history.

Turners Falls went 19-1 in the regular season that spring and then marched through the WMass Division 3 tournament, winning their four games by a combined score of 45-1. That included a 13-0 rout of Monson in the WMass championship game. Turners then got past Hopedal, 3-1, in the state semifinals, before beating Millis, 5-2, in the state championship.

In the state finals, Millis took a 2-0 lead in the third inning but the Powertown erupted for seven hits and five runs in the fifth to take the lead for good. Millis pitcher Carly Wenzel took a no-hitter into the fifth but Jordyn Fiske broke that bid up with a single and Hailey Whipple followed with an RBI double to get the rally started. Jordan Meattey, Putala, Gabby Arzuaga, Phillips and Nicole John each added hits in the rally.

Phillips finished with 10 strikeouts as the Turners Falls juggernaut cashed in on another state title.

1970 Greenfield boys track

Joe Martino emailed his case for the 1970 GHS boys track team.

“This team is considered the best in GHS history and still has many school records standing today,” he wrote.

Martino backed up his claim with evidence. According to him, that team set 14 school records, was undefeated during the regular season, won the Steele Relays (setting two records), won the WMass AA (large school) championship, and set a WMass record in the 2-mile.

There are many more track teams that could have been included. Greenfield boys had six WMass champions, Mohawk boys had 10 WMass titles, the Frontier girls had eight WMass crowns and many more schools had several teams worthy.

1938 Turners football

While information on the 1938 Turners football team was sparse, local historian Mike Cadran said that the 1938 Powertown team finished fourth in the nation.

That team, which featured Ed Bourdeau and June Dolan at the ends, Baron Prohovich at fullback, Tetu Kulch at quarterback, Willie LaFrance and Maheen Skrypeck at the halfbacks, and Dick Burrill, John Dolan, Gus Christian, Gerry Cadran and Richie Gingras on the line.

One article from that season said the team would go down “in Valley history as one of the greatest teams of all time.” Another article from that season said that Turners Falls was on the list of 25 teams considered by the Associated Press in Baton Rouge, La. for the national championship.

Talk about a snub.

Low-seeded snubs

We referenced several teams that we recognized as snubs based on their seeds during the week but here are a few of the most egregious mistakes.

One emailer pointed out that the 2003 Mohawk ski team as a 16-seed was a farce considering it was the lone ski team on our list.

The Mohawk boys ski teams won 21 league crowns including a streak of 19 in a row, captured seven state titles, including 10 individual state crowns. The girls team won 14 league titles, including stretches of six-straight and five-straight, won a state championship and had eight individual state titles.

The aforementioned 1992 boys basketball team from Athol was a big snub as a 10-seed, and the 1984 Athol football team as a 15-seed was another definite oversight as that team went undefeated and won a Super Bowl. The 1962 Athol football team was the measuring stick at the time of the 1984 Super Bowl, and that team won its opening-round game as a No. 9 seed in the Gary Mullins Region.


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