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Special connection through athletics in tiny Hatfield

  • Smith Academy fans cheer during their team's win against Littleton Tuesday at DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Smith Academy fans cheer during their team's win against Littleton Tuesday at DCU Center in Worcester.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Keith Natale of Smith Academy, right, shoots after getting past Ryan Sullivan of Littleton Tuesday at DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Keith Natale of Smith Academy, right, shoots after getting past Ryan Sullivan of Littleton Tuesday at DCU Center in Worcester.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith Academy fans cheer during their team's win against Littleton Tuesday at DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Keith Natale of Smith Academy, right, shoots after getting past Ryan Sullivan of Littleton Tuesday at DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

The connection starts with a fist bump and an “I love you.”

For just about every game this season, former Smith Academy athletic director Sherry Webb shares a brief moment, among the millions she’s gathered in her legendary career, with her old students and athletes.

From behind the bench at the DCU Center, or behind the scorer’s table in Hatfield, Webb fist bumps the boys basketball team, which in turn shares the three-word term of endearment.

It’s more than just a moment though. It’s a glimpse into the world of Falcon athletics, Smith Academy and the small town of Hatfield.

The population of the 16-square-mile town could easily fit in the Worcester arena. The town always turns out in support of its boys and girls. That was the case Saturday in the sectional final and again Tuesday, when the Falcons beat Littleton 72-56 to advance to the state final.

“The community and the rest of the students in the school ... came to support” us, Smith Academy senior Mat Sulda said. “They travel an hour and a half to get to the DCU Center to come watch us play. We had a great fan section. Parents, friends, everyone comes out to support from the community. It’s incredible.”

Hatfield loves its Smith Academy sports and remembers its teams, especially its champions. Every banner that hangs in the so aptly named Sherry Webb Gymnasium has a name and face to go with it. And people remember the names.

“Seeing as how Miss Webb has three-fourths of (the banners), it’s pretty incredible knowing the tradition,” Sulda said. “If I went in the Smith Academy gym without banners it wouldn’t be the same. Just looking at the history of every sport, it’s a really a great feeling.”

Bob “Jingles” Kovalski still casts his 6-foot-7 shadow over Smith Academy, and it’s been over 50 years since the big man was the centerpiece of two state championship Falcon teams.

In the early 1990s, the Falcons fielded a dynasty that won four sectional titles in a five-year span, including two state Division 3 championships.

The names Jim Smiarowski (1990), Marc Mulherin (1992), Mike Theberge (1993) and Bill Skorupski (1993) are stitched into the fabric of the 1,000-point banner. The group was responsible for the program’s early 1990s success.

They are also part of the program’s fabric. Smiarowski’s nephew Christian is a sophomore on this team which has only a few more stitches left to add.

Sulda will be remembered for his sweet lefty jumper. Derek McMahon for his heady point guard play. Keith Natale for his calm, cool and versatile play. Seaver Rickert for his toughness. David Longstreeth for his strength and clutch postseason plays.

“I remember after the (1992) state finals down at the Legion they had an autograph session where they’re signing hats,” said Smith coach Matt Zerneri, whose playing career for the Falcons ended in 2001. “As a younger kid you look up to those guys with the success that they had and the road that they took to get there.

“The town really is like a ‘Hoosiers.’ The whole town comes together,” he added. “These kids earned the right to be remembered and I have a good feeling they’re going to be.”

There is still one more game, though. One more fist bump. One more connection to be made before this team makes its way into history.

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

Related

Falcons ‘D’ gets it done

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WORCESTER — Like it has done all season, the Smith Academy boys basketball team turned to its defense when it mattered most Tuesday. With a trip to the state Division 3 championship on the line, the Falcons shut down Littleton and pulled away for a 72-56 victory in the semifinal round at the DCU Center. “Incredible. I thought the western … 0

The sentiment of this article couldn't be stated any better! As a Smith Academy alum, it is impossible to not feel nostalgic about attending this incredible school and supporting these amazing teams! Thank you for writing this article Mr. Moran.

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