Tewksbury High Sports Fans -- Brace Yourself For Monday's Big News
Dual County League is expected to announce its expansion plans on Monday, and all indications are that Tewksbury is on the move.
Getting any of the athletic directors or principals from the schools involved in the Dual County League expansion process to go on the record and spill the beans ahead of time is harder than finding Whitey Bulger.
But unless this typist has completely missed his guess, the Tewksbury High Athletic program is about to receive some very good news on Monday when the Dual County League announces its future expansion plans.
This past Tuesday, the current DCL athletic directors and many of the DCL principals met and did their best impersonations of Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. They made their final decisions on which of the 10 teams that applied for admission to the DCL earlier this year will be accepted for play beginning in 2013.
Westford Academy principal Jim Antonelli, who has been one of the lead organizers in the DCL's expansion plans, confirmed that nine out of the current 10 Merrimack Valley Conference teams officially applied for admission into the DCL.
Notre Dame Academy already jumped ship to the Colonial Athletic Conference last week, leaving Haverhill High as the only MVC school that didn't ask to join the crowd moving to the DCL. Lowell High, Billerica, Chelmsford, Lawrence, Methuen, Central Catholic, Andover, Dracut and Tewksbury all applied, Antonelli confirmed. North Andover, from the Cape Ann League, also applied.
Rumors were swirling as we headed into the weekend, with the Eagle Tribune newspaper of Lawrence claiming Tewksbury and North Andover are the only two applicants out of the 10 who will be invited to the dance.
Antonelli, who confirmed that there will be an announcement early next week, possibly on Monday, did not sound like a guy who was talking about inviting only two new programs into the league.
"The bottom line is that we met on Tuesday to decided whether or not we were going to take all 10 schools that applied, or six or five or four, or whatever," Antonelli said. "But not all the principals were there so it took a few days to communicate with them, and we had a few outstanding questions we want to get clarification on from the MIAA."
The DCL was not able to get those clarifications Friday afternoon before the MIAA offices closed, but Antonelli expects to have his answers on Monday, and that's when the announcement will be made.
Tim Woods, athletic director at Dracut High, says he hasn't heard a word, other than the rumors being tweeted by the Eagle Tribune.
"It's possible that they could take only two (programs) initially," he said. "They can do that if they want to. It might make sense."
Tewksbury High's own athletic director, Brian Hickey, who can be as tight-lipped as a cloistered nun and as politically correct as the White House press secretary when he wants to, did his very best to keep the secret intact when we spoke to him Friday afternoon.
Hickey termed the Eagle Tribune rumors as "not accurate."
"There have been some communications but I've been asked to keep the communications confidential," Hickey said. "All I can say is that we're looking for what's best for our kids. It's a huge move, if in fact it does take place, and there are a lot of details to be worked out. I'll leave it at that."
Well, this scribe will leave you with one thought, too. If Tewksbury does, in fact, get invited to move into the DCL on Monday, it will be a huge step in the right direction for the TMHS athletic program.
For decades, the Tewksbury High coaching staff has done a remarkable job keeping its teams competitive against schools with enrollments two and three times the size of THMS.
Tewksbury currently has about 920 students enrolled. Lowell and Lawrence have over 3,000 each. Methuen and Andover have over 1800 students each and Chelmsford and Billerica enroll close to 1600. Then there's Central Catholic, which attracts some of the top student-athletes from 15-20 different towns in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.
Personally, I'm impressed every time a Tewksbury High team beats one of the above-mentioned schools in any sport.
But then you look at what's happened in ice hockey, where the MVC and the DCL merged five or six years ago and formed a a three-tiered league matching schools with like enrollments. How has that worked out? Just think back to that amazing Sunday afternoon this past March when coach Derek Doherty's Redmen won the Division 2 state hockey championship at the TD Garden, and you'll have your answer.
With only a couple exceptions, most of the existing DCL schools' enrollments are within 200 students of Tewksbury's numbers. So iIf Tewksbury gets one of the coveted DCL invitations as expected on Monday, it says here that Hickey, and of course former AD Bob Aylward (who helped engineer the hockey team's move to the DCL) deserve a couple of big time "attaboys" for this one.