Rotary clubs host Thanksgiving rivals at luncheon

Published in the November 22, 2017 edition

THE RIVALRY between the Pioneers and Hornets was replaced with good cheer during the Lynnfield and North Reading Rotary Club’s annual pre-Thanksgiving luncheon on Nov. 15. Front, from left, NRHS Cheerleading Coach Kathleen Roy, NRHS Drum Major Emily Nearing, NRHS cheerleading captain Isabella Mejia, NRHS cheerleading captain Alexandra Colella, LHS football captain Anthony Murphy, LHS cheerleading captain Elaina Patermo, LHS cheerleading captain Madison Barrera, LHS cheerleading captain Annabella Agnoletti and LHS cheerleading head coach Tiffany Petruzzella. Back row, from left, NRHS Band Director Eric Forman, NRHS football captain Jackson DeAngelo, NRHS football captain Kyle Bythrow, NRHS football coach Jeff Wall, LHS football coach Neal Weidman, LHS football captain Harry Collins, LHS football captain Nathan Drislane, LHS football captain Cooper Marengi and LHS football captain Nick Kinnon. (Dan Tomasello Photo)


NORTH READING — The annual Thanksgiving Day showdown between the Lynnfield and North Reading football teams has become a rite of passage for both schools as well as a highly anticipated event in the two towns.

The same is true for the annual pre-Thanksgiving Day luncheon, which was hosted by the North Reading and Lynnfield Rotary Clubs at Kitty’s Restaurant on Nov. 15.

North Reading Club President Mike Walbourne served as the master of the ceremonies during the luncheon. He said the two clubs do “a lot of great work” in their respective communities.

“In the coming months, both the North Reading and Lynnfield clubs will be working on a food project,” said Walbourne. “We will be giving away over 15,000 meals along with 13 other Rotary clubs. It’s a great event to bring us together once again.”

North Reading High School Principal Anthony J. Loprete paid tribute to retiring NRHS Band Director Eric Forman, who also served as Lynnfield’s band director before coming to North Reading.

Forman was touched by Loprete’s tribute.

“I have had the distinction of being on both sides of the field, with 10 years in Lynnfield and the last 19 in North Reading,” said Forman. “Thank you for including us.”

Neal Weidman comments

Lynnfield football head coach Neal Weidman thanked the two Rotary Clubs for hosting the luncheon. He said the student-athletes from both towns are fortunate to attend high schools that care about students.

“I hope they know how lucky they are to go to school in a community like Lynnfield and a community like North Reading,” said Weidman. “The community support for our schools and our kids has been really great. You guys are really lucky.”

Weidman congratulated North Reading football coach Jeff Wall and the Hornets on a great season. He said the Hornets played a great game during North Reading’s 27-26 loss to Melrose in the Division 4 North semifinals.

“I know how hard he works and how hard he works to prepare his players,” said Weidman. “I am not only impressed by their players’ ability, but I am always impressed with their organization and how prepared they are for their opponents. The division they were in this year was super tough, and the way they competed was very impressive.”

Weidman said he’s impressed “how far the North Reading program has come.”

“About 10 years ago, (both teams) were always hoping for our first or second win of the year,” said Weidman. “We have come a long way and I am really impressed with what they have achieved over the years.”

Switching gears, Weidman congratulated the Pioneers on “another successful season.” He noted the Pioneers lost the Division 5 North championship 38-34 to Watertown.

“It was a little bit tough for us,” said Weidman. “We really, really had to battle some adversity with the weather and playing a good opponent. The kids’ effort was great and the toughness they showed on (Nov. 10) impressed me.”

Weidman congratulated LHS cheerleaders for a successful season that included qualifying for states.

“I would also like to thank the cheerleaders for their support,” Weidman added.

Weidman thanked his assistant coaches and players for their commitment.

“We start this journey in the offseason when we ask them to do strength and conditioning all winter, spring and during the summertime so they can prepare themselves as much as they can,” said Weidman. “Once the season starts, it’s six days a week that they have to do this and it’s not easy. When you start, it’s 95 degrees out and when you finish its 20 degrees out. I give the Lynnfield players and the North Reading players a lot of props for being able to do that.”

Weidman said he and Wall “have similar philosophies on coaching young men.”

“I believe that we share a common goal of helping our student-athletes become productive members of society,” said Weidman. “That is the ultimate goal.”

While Weidman said he and Wall have different coaching styles, he said, “our general messages are the same.”

“One of the most important messages is fighting through adversity,” said Weidman. “The definition of adversity is to be in an unfavorable fortune or fate. If you think about that definition, there is a ton of adversity that you have to deal with during a football season. Every game that you compete in has adversity that you have to fight through. Things happen that you have to deal with, and it’s on a daily basis.”

Weidman said, “Part of our jobs as football coaches is to help develop skills so that the young men we work with can handle this adversity not only during their time as a football player, but also when they move on in life.”

“Much like a football game, nothing that these young men do in life is going to be perfect,” Weidman continued. “How they are able to handle life’s adversity will determine how successful they are as young men. Some of the skills that Jeff and I hope these young men develop are discipline, work ethic, accountability and toughness.”

While Weidman said physical toughness is important, he said mental toughness is critical.

“I feel that in today’s society, there are very few areas where in a young person’s life they are receiving the skills necessary to be mentally tough,” said Weidman. “Mental toughness is defined as a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education and the work place. That is something we want all of our students to be able to develop. You don’t become mentally tough by accident. You have to make a concerted effort to control your overall outlook. You must make it a priority to plan for and visualize positive future outcomes. You need to focus on how you are going to handle adversity instead of worrying about things you have no control over. You also must recognize that your attitude is a choice. I have to remind myself this on a regular basis.”

In closing, Weidman said “I would love it if all of the students here today remember no matter the adversity they face, meet it head on with mental toughness and visualize the positive future outcomes.”

“I know Jeff feels the same way,” said Weidman. “If we can leave you with that, then I know it will be a successful season.”

After Weidman concluded his remarks, he was given a round of applause.

Jeff Wall comments

North Reading football head coach Jeff Wall thanked the Rotary Clubs for hosting the luncheon once again. He also thanked Weidman for the support and encouragement he has given him over the years.

“Neal is a tremendous coach, a great mentor and a great leader,” said Wall. “He has a positive impact on the Lynnfield community and is a phenomenal person. We had Thanksgiving games where some people were talking about Super Bowls, and we were in the toilet bowl. We were not talking about X’s and O’s. We were talking about keeping our kids motivated. It’s tough sometimes because all too often people focus on the wins and losses, and not the experiences.”

Wall congratulated Weidman and the Pioneers on “another phenomenal year.”

“For me, Lynnfield has become the measuring stick of excellence,” said Wall. “They have been at the top all the time. It doesn’t just happen. It’s the work done in the offseason, the preparation and all of the hard work that goes into it. I am just in awe of what you guys have been able to do and you should be proud of all your successes.”

Wall also thanked North Reading High School cheerleaders for the support they have given the Hornets this fall.

“They are truly gifted young ladies,” said Wall. “The work ethic that they have is unmatched.”

Wall thanked NRHS Band Director Eric Forman for his service to NRHS.

“The band starts the week before we do,” said Wall. “The week before, I am fixing up and painting sleds and the band is out on the turf. It’s amazing they are starting before us. It’s impressive to watch.”

Wall noted a reporter recently called the Hornets the “cardiac kids” because North Reading won close games this season against Masco and Wayland, and lost a heartbreaker to Melrose.

“Watching them have the courage to continue on was absolutely amazing to me,” said Wall. “They didn’t quit. They kept fighting and believed in themselves and believed in each other. And to me, that is what it is all about.”

Wall said the Hornets’ injuries this season have taught the team about adversity.

“Every week, someone was down and someone stepped up,” said Wall. “It was amazing to see.”

Wall attributed the Hornets’ ability to respond to adversity to senior captains Kyle Bythrow and Jackson DeAngelo.

“You have both cemented your legacy as being the best captains and leaders I have ever been around,” said Wall. “Your mentorship will serve this program well in the future. I will always be grateful for you two.”

Wall said the Hornets “are not necessarily the biggest, fastest or strongest team.” However, he said the Hornets “are the most resilient and toughest group of men I have ever been around.”

“They have a no quit attitude and are a group that will not be denied,” said Wall. “They have imposed their will on many teams in the Cape Ann League.”

In closing, Wall encouraged the Hornets and Pioneers to “enjoy the build up to the game.”

“Enjoy every moment,” said Wall. “Allow yourself a moment to get caught up in it because there is going to be a time when football, cheerleading and the band ends. And when the clock is zeroed out for either team, please be reminded whether you won or lost, you have made a tremendous impact on your respective schools and respective programs.”

After Wall concluded his remarks, he was given a round of applause.