Fall 2019 was an exciting season for each of our sports. On the cross country trail, runners new and old broke course records and ended the season with a 5-1 record. The varsity soccer team made it into a post-season tournament with a 10-5-4 record before losing to the number one seat Northfield Mount Hermon School. The varsity football team went undefeated in the regular season and took on Suffield Academy in the post-season NEPSAC Kevin Driscoll Bowl game, hosted right on Avon’s Ryan Field.
The varsity soccer team finished the season with a 10-5-4 record, losing in the NEPSAC quarterfinals. It was a tough way to end, but a great season in total. Senior Mack Brennan spoke about the season in his Chapel Talk the morning after the NEPSAC loss.
“As I returned from the game last night, the emotions I was feeling drove me to throw away what I had written for today, and instead write about our soccer team, which felt more fitting for the time,” he began. His speech follows:
My alarm rang at 5:30 a.m. I hobbled out of my bed and scootered off to meet Coaches Jo-Mar & Cugell and the rest of their victims. Coach Jo-Mar split us into four groups, each starting with a different envelope. His words of advice before he sent us out on a goose chase were: “Wear as little clothing as possible.” We proceeded to open our envelope, the directions stating, “Go to Beaver Pond and submerge yourselves in everything you are wearing.” Several “What the…”s were muttered, and we half-heartedly hustled off to the pond, not wanting to lose the competition but dreading entering the water in the freezing cold morning temps. Upon arrival, we all jumped into the weed-infested pond. We took our required video proof and swiftly exited the water, off to find our next envelope. This of which took us to where we are right now [the chapel].
Chapel’s envelope sent us all the way to Fisher Meadows. It was here that we were again instructed to get into the water, but this time we had to rub the mud from the depth of the murky pond onto our faces. I looked around at all my fellow sufferers smothered in the worst smelling muck ever imaginable, and I had an epiphany: we looked like complete idiots. Now I do believe that Coach Jo-Mar’s primary reasoning for this early morning was to bring us together as a team; however, I'm fairly certain the videos he required of us smearing the vile-smelling mud all over our faces was purely for his entertainment.
I am pleased to say every single player who came to pre-season made it out alive, and when all was said and done, I was joined by 23 teammates who were willing to continue enduring the daily corner flags and other forms of Jo-Mar “bringing us to the void.”
If I am going to be upfront, my original goal for soccer was to play a sport that would help me get in shape for basketball. Don’t get me wrong, I love soccer, but basketball was definitely at the front of my mind. However, this team has become much more to me than I could have ever expected.
Up through the final few weeks of the season, we were working as hard as possible to make playoffs. Big ties against Berkshire and Loomis were some of the deciding games down the stretch of our season. We still had no clue if we would be in or not. Even after our 7-0 victory over Wilbraham & Monson, we still were waiting to hear if we would make it to the dance.
While at the Salisbury football game later that night, Mr. Barlow approached me and told me we made the playoffs. I honestly cannot say that I have ever been more excited. I was overjoyed that the work that my teammates and I poured out on the field daily had paid off.
Gameday came. We knew we would have each others backs through everything. There has never been a moment in my life where I felt I was a part of something so much greater than myself than yesterday when Anthony lead our Army down the NMH hill. The Brotherhood shown was outstanding. Having half the school venture two hours away from home, to not only come, but also outnumber the home opponents fans, while being in below-freezing weather was truly inspiring. Not only was I apart of the soccer family, but the entire AOF Brotherhood. I would like to thank the Army for showing out for us even though we could not pull out the win for you guys.
At the time, I truly felt there was absolutely no scenario where we could lose. I had complete confidence that my teammates would pull away and win for sure. The end soon drew near, and the ref blew his whistle three times. The defeat felt so surreal. As we went out to the field to pick up Alexander ‘Xan’ Henrich, I began to tear up realizing my time with this family was over. Huddled around Xan, the red eyes seemed to tell that we all had come to the same realization.
This team had become exponentially bigger than the game of soccer. Throughout my sports career, I can honestly say this has been the greatest team I have ever been a part of. The family that is often talked about with sports teams was truly felt rather than just stated. The Brotherhood was alive and stronger than I ever could have imagined.
Captains Alec Riggle ’20, Cam Sweedler ’20, and Zeke Menendez ’20 provided strong leadership this year and, along with the other seniors Mack Brennan, Josh Gomina, Bradley Morris, John O'Connor, Witt Sperau, and Ryan Varano, helped to create a very strong team bond. We are excited about the future, with a talented group of returners led by Xan Henrich ’21, Amir Thomas ’21, and Michael Indomenico ’21.
Several underclassmen contributed significantly to the team’s success this season: Sam Dion ’23, Michael Gouvin ’23, Nana Tuffour ’23, Colin Dugan ’23, Win Brichkowski ’22, Matt Leopold ’21, and Nick Karol ’21 all played important minutes. The program has depth and will look for Ryan Nunez ’21, Saagar Motupally ’21, and Konner Adams ’22 to compete for minutes next season. Nikhil Satpathy ’21 and Jacob Perry ’21 both will return in net as well, and the coaching staff is excited to see their continued progress. A special thanks to Drew Donlan ’20 and David Haden ’21 for serving as stellar managers this year.
Notable results include a 4-2 win at Hotchkiss, and 6-0 win vs. Westminster.
Josh Gomina ’20 scored 23 goals and had nine assists, earning All-WNEPSSA and All-NEPSAC honors.
Witt Sperau ’20 also earned All-WNEPSSA and All-NEPSAC honors.
Xan Henrich ’21 and Amir Thomas ’21 both earned All-NEPSAC honors.
With a strong start to the season during a scrimmage with Choate Rosemary Hall, Head Coach Beth Larson knew Avon was definitely up there competing with the top schools in our league. Highlights from that first scrimmage included Bronson Dubey ’23 finishing first for the Winged Beavers and third overall with a time of 17:48, August Berklas ’21 running his first high school cross country race and finishing second for Avon and fifth overall with a time of 17:58, and seniors Paul Chavey and Collin Anderson finished fourth and fifth for Avon.
At the first official season race against Salisbury and Trinity-Pawling, Bronson Dubey ’23 finished first with a winning time of 18:02, followed by Paul Chavey ’20 who came in third with a time of 18:30.
“I am very proud of the team’s accomplishments this season, with our first big victory at the Gordon Glover Invitational, coming in first out of five teams,” commented Coach Larson. “It was fun to destroy Westminster on our home course during Family Weekend. And the surprise podium finish at Shaler Invitational, coming in third out of 11 teams and only five points away from Hotchkiss, who just finished fourth at New Englands.”
At Morning Meeting the following Monday, Captain Collin Anderson ’20 presented the trophy to Mr. Detora–his first trophy as headmaster.
We had three varsity runners earned All-League Honors. One of them, Berklas ’21, broke our 5K course record with a time of 16:50. Chavey ’20 and Dubey ’23 finished in the 17s. Mark Schadt ’20 and Thomas Baldini ’23 finished in the 18s with Baldini hitting 18 flat perfectly with a time of 18:00.00. Jack Oneglia ’23, Collin Anderson ’20, Linhao Jiang ’22, James Chapman ’20, and Aidan Shea ’23 all finished in the 19s.
The Coaches’ Award went to Mark Schadt ’20, who joined the team mid-season. Completely new to the sport, he joined cross country with full motivation. On day one, he was already trying to run with the top dogs during practice. Currently, he holds the title of having the fastest start in our Founders League Championship meet–leading the pack of 60+ athletes by a 10-yard gap for the first 100 meters. Before races, he can be heard among his teammates, pumping them up. He ran his first 5k in 21:14 to remarkably hitting 18:40 twice this season.
The JV team’s Most Improved Award went to Aidan Shea ’23, someone who ‘thought he was going to die’ during pre-season. Several of his first days of practice involved walking off a side-stitch. But, he mustered up enough strength to race his first 5K in 23:08. As the season continued, he dropped a minute by his second race, and another minute by his fourth race...In total, he dropped 3.5 minutes this season, ending with a time of 19:39. He was so fast that he earned the last spot to race with varsity at New Englands.
Varsity’s Most Improved Award went to Linhao Jiang ’22. This runner started running during track season last year, and joined cross country for the first time this year as a top JV runner. By his third race, he made the last spot on varsity and never let go!
Finally, the team’s Most Valuable Runner Award went to August Berklas:
“We had no idea what to expect from August, but we knew he was a pretty good wrestler and had an insane amount of determination!,” said Larson. “He can be spotted running from a distance, as his running form is unique with his toes pointed outward. And you may even catch him chasing frogs during a run. His commitment, dedication, and extreme mental toughness made him our fastest runner this year.”
Toward the end of the season, Avon finished third out of 11 at the Shaler Invitational. The final race, the Founders League Championship, was hosted by Avon, where our Winged Beavers finished fourth out of 10 teams.
“Avon’s cross country team has come a long way in recent years of our program,” said Coach Larson. “Two years ago at Founders, we finished ninth out of nine. Last year, sixth. And this year, we finished only two points away from third.”
Coach Larson has written full recaps of each meet in the results section of the cross country team’s webpage.
Looking to build on the momentum from last year, this year’s football team entered camp with high expectations and lofty goals. This team was led by captains Burton Fricke (Senior Linebacker), Will Rosenblatt (Senior Linebacker), James Wilborn (Junior Linebacker), and Tyler Phommachanh (Junior Quarterback) who set out to win an Erickson Conference Championship and a New England Bowl Championship. The 2019 Winged Beavers of Avon Old Farms completed an undefeated regular season, finished alone atop the Erickson Conference, and ended the campaign as New England Championship Runners-Up. However, this season cannot be measured by wins and losses or statistics alone. This group of young men represented well the community of Avon Old Farms as fierce competitors, sportsmen, and citizens. This was a team that fought for each other and the name on the front of the jersey until the final whistle on November 16th.
The season began on Ryan Field as Avon Old Farms hosted the Pride of Trinity-Pawling. Avon got off on the right foot and enjoyed a convincing week one win by a score of 38-13. Led on offense by Tyler Phommachanh in his debut as the starter who threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, two of which to Senior Brown University commit Graham Walker. This game also saw Post-Graduate Nehemiah Thompson start his record-setting season score his first touchdown in the Crimson and Navy on a 15-yard touchdown run on what would go on to be known affectionately as Jet-1-Right. Led on defense by Burton Fricke’s sound tackling and a timely interception by Senior CB Peter Ryan, Avon prepared to go on the road in week two.
In week two, Avon traveled to the Kent School and again found success and left enjoying a 42-10 victory. This week led by an opportunistic defense that got their hands on three Kent passes, once each by sophomore Jon Oris, and seniors Kai Grocki and Drew Monin. Phommachanh had a prolific day through the air throwing for six touchdowns, three of which to junior wide receiver Josh Tracey with a long of 65 yards. Also catching touchdowns were Graham Walker, Post-Graduate Wyatt Wilson, and James Wilborn. The momentum from the hot start continued to build as Avon returned home.
Week three saw the Wildcats of Williston Northampton come to Ryan Field. Though a new opponent, Avon saw similar results. This time offensively, however, on the ground. On 240 yards and only 20 carries, Nehemiah Thompson scored five touchdowns and contributed to Avon’s best performance of the year on offense. Avon’s offense totaled 520 yards as Phommachanh added three more touchdowns to his total to Walker and Oris. The defense was lead by Kevin Coss and James Wilborn, each recording two tackles for a loss, and was capped by a late interception by Graham Walker.
In week four, Avon traveled to Hotchkiss. Avon was faced with adversity as starting quarterback Tyler Phommachanh went down with a shoulder injury and didn’t return to action. Back-up quarterback Xavier Copening led the Winged Beavers on three scoring drives and threw a long touchdown pass to Josh Tracey down the far sideline. The defense rose to the occasion and only allowed seven points on 200 yards. Drew Monin and Burton Fricke led the way up front and sophomore safety Marco Scarano and Peter Ryan added interceptions of their own.
Avon hosted Taft on a beautiful late Autumn Saturday for Family Weekend. The game had an exciting back and forth tempo, but Avon proved to be too much for the Rhinos this day. Avon’s run game was the story this week. Nehemiah Thompson rushed for all of the Winged Beaver’s six touchdowns as he carried the ball 31 times for 275 yards ending the day in style with a 50-yard fourth-quarter run down the home sidelines. Scarano made several plays at the line of scrimmage and intercepted a Taft pass deflected by fellow sophomore Kenny Soares. This was a game won in the trenches. Both lines dominated a stout Taft front and were led by Jaedon Roberts, Coss, and post-graduate Arther Long. The game was a great end to a fantastic weekend that also marked the Investiture of Headmaster Jim Detora.
The game of the year came in week six when Avon traveled to Brunswick to take on the Bruins on their Homecoming Weekend. Another back and forth game was won in overtime by the Winged Beavers behind several gutsy performances. Drew Monin recorded more than 12 tackles and forced a key fumble that allowed Avon to get back in the game. Coss and Roberts were instrumental in stopping a Brunswick rushing attack that had been formidable all year. Scarano, Ryan, and Walker patrolled the secondary and kept Brunswick out of the endzone at key times. On offense, it was a balanced attack. Though throwing a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown, Phommachanh threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns, most importantly the fourth-down game-winner to Graham Walker in overtime. Thompson rushed for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns. The game was sealed by an interception by Walker and Avon escaped keeping their undefeated season intact.
At home, on Senior Night, Avon played host to Exeter in week seven. Josh Tracey caught all three of Phommachanh’s touchdowns that night and Thompson added two touchdowns to his growing season total. However, it was the defense that stole the show. Allowing just over 200 yards, and behind dominating efforts by both the front seven and the secondary, the defense pitched a shutout for 47 minutes. Exeter scored on the final play of the game making the score 42-6. Before going on the road to play in the final game of the season, this game served as an appropriate and fitting way to send out a group of seniors who have enjoyed a great deal of success on Ryan Field, and to honor their parents and families for all of the sacrifices they’ve made and for their support of the program.
Avon traveled to Salisbury in week eight with an undefeated record looking to finish strong. The Avon Army came out in full force and in freezing temperatures provided a great atmosphere for the regular season closer. As was the case in the final half of the season, this was a back and forth affair once again ending in overtime. Phommachanh had another outstanding performance throwing for four touchdowns, two to Tracey and two to Wilson including the game-winner in overtime. Defensively, Ryan and Walker added interceptions to their season totals, Monin fought through injury and recorded double-digit tackles, and Soares recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown and forced overtime following a Jack Ryan extra point. This game had all the ingredients for an instant classic by itself but singing Men of Avon together as a Brotherhood, Army and players in enemy territory will be a memory that will last the students a lifetime.
Avon fell just short of accomplishing their last goal. In front of a packed house, Avon took the field against a Suffield Academy team that was also undefeated and played a bit better on that day. While falling to Suffield by a score of 29-21, Avon saw a few players cap off in some cases record-setting seasons. Tyler Phommachanh threw for 27 touchdowns. Josh Tracey caught 12 touchdowns. Both Tracey and Graham Walker had more than 800 receiving yards. Nehemiah Thompson rushed for 1,000 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. Both Drew Monin and Marco Scarano recorded more than 85 tackles, Kevin Coss recorded 10 sacks, Peter Ryan secured four interceptions and the defense as a whole held all teams combined to less than 800 yards rushing. This was a season of many impressive individual accomplishments, but it was the productivity of the team as a whole that will be their lasting legacy.
Finally, Avon placed several players on End of Season superlative teams. The following were named to the All-Erickson League Team: Jaedon Roberts, Kevin Coss, Nehemiah Thompson, Drew Monin, Tyler Phommachanh, Graham Walker, and Josh Tracey. Jaedon Roberts was voted the Erickson League Player of the Year. Lastly, Jaedon Roberts, Kevin Coss, and Nehemiah Thompson were voted onto the All New-England Team for Class A. Jaedon Roberts was NEPSAC Class A Lineman of the Year.
2019 was a season full of memorable plays and exciting moments, but what will forever be the legacy of the 2019 Winged Beavers will be the way they played for each other and never gave up. At times it took all 48 minutes, but that was what they were willing to do to carry the culture of the football team at Avon Old Farms forward and leave behind a legacy of winning. A senior who has been at AOF for four years has a record of 29-6. Has won three Erickson League Championships, twice in an undefeated fashion. They have played for three New England Bowls, twice for a New England Championship. Has never lost to Salisbury, and has only one regular-season loss on Ryan Field. This team and specifically the senior class has given this community countless memories and helped formed relationships both on and off the team that will last a lifetime.
In addition to the exciting competition this season, we were also pleased to celebrate eight athletes who signed a letter of intent on November 13th:
Tommy Dallahan - UCONN
Jake DeLeo - Georgia Tech
Emmett Tolis - Fairfield University
Michael Hernandez - Sacred Heart University
Logan Pfannenbecker - Manhattan College
Colin Reilly - University of North Carolina
Will Collins - Providence College
Will Rosenblatt - Colgate University