LYNN – It?s called Thanksgiving, but for many it is a de facto homecoming, and that?s part of what makes the Classical-English game such a special event.
It?s been 20 years since Brian Smith suited up for Lynn Classical, but he remembers those days fondly and was pleased to expose his young son, John Wilder Smith, to the rivalry Thursday.
Smith, Classical ?95, was visiting from South Carolina, where he returned in 2001 after a two-year stint coaching at his alma mater. He is a teacher and head football coach at C.E. Murray High School in Greeleyville, S.C. He and his wife, Lucy, live in Manning, S.C. with John, their only child.
Smith graduated from Classical in 1995 and went to The Citadel, where he was a 4-year letterman at outside linebacker, graduating in 2000. He returned to Lynn and served as an assistant coach under Matt Durgin at Classical, then took a job as an assistant at The Citadel, working under Ellis Johnson, who is currently the defensive coordinator at Auburn.
Smith was an assistant for two years at C.E. Murray before taking over as head coach in 2013. His team went 6-4 this year and qualified for the playoffs. He said everything you hear about the role football plays in the lives of people in the South is 100-percent accurate. (A full month of spring football for high-school teams would be an indication.)
?It?s a religion down there,” said Smith, speaking with a bit of a drawl. “They don?t care as much about all the other sports. Everything they do is about football.”
To that end, Smith, a huge fan of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, said he will start preparing for the 2015 season next week.
A religion indeed.
Jessica Starbard is willing to pay her dues to follow her dream of being a successful television sportscaster, and right now that means working at WBKB in Alpena, Mich., four hours north of Detroit.
Starbard, English ?09, is a sports reporter and anchor, covering a variety of high-school sports and outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing.
?I love my job,” said Starbard, who is part of a two-person sports staff at the CBS affiliate, though she admits she was struck at the sheer ruralism of the area when she arrived in Alpena, on the shores of Lake Huron?s Thunder Bay.
?I pulled up and I was on a farm,” she said.
Starbard earned a degree in communications and media studies and political science from Northeastern in 2013. She worked as an intern and writer at WHDH TV (Channel 7), intern at NESN, sideline reporter for Everett High football on Everett cable TV, co-host of a sports talk show on LynnCam, sideline reporter for the North Shore Navigators, production co-op at Major League Baseball productions ?
Paying her dues indeed.
Kristin Lauria, Classical ?14, never sought out headlines in her four years at Lynn Classical, but she received her share for her outstanding performance on the basketball court and softball field. She also earned respect and admiration last spring when she took a student in Classical?s COACH (Creating Opportunities for Autistic Children) program to the senior prom.
A freshman at Westfield State University, Lauria was at Manning Field Thursday to watch her younger brother Matthew play quarterback for the Rams.
?I?m so happy,” she said of her college choice, noting that she opted not to play basketball this year in the interest of “focusing on my grades.” She is playing intramural hoops and hopes to try out for the varsity next year.
Currently undecided, Lauria said she plans to major in education with a focus on special education. She will likely make a very good teacher someday, something to which Mario Rodriguez would attest.
Rodriguez is the student Lauria took to the prom after working with him throughout the school year and developing a friendship. She felt the COACH students should get to experience the prom with their classmates and she took it upon herself to ensure Mario did.
?I feel every student should be able to enjoy t