Agganis All-Star week coming together smoothly

Steffan Gravely attempts to shake off a tackle during last year's Agganis All-Star football game. (Item File Photo)

LYNN — Whether you’ve played, coached in or just watched them, the Agganis All-Star games mean something to just about every local sports fan. No one knows that better than Paul Halloran, who has been involved with the games in one way or another for 34 years.

“I covered the 1985 football game as a string reporter for The Item,” Halloran said. “So I’ve been involved in some way since then. Back then it was only the football game and the sports department handled getting the word out.

Halloran is now the Executive Director of the Agganis All-Star games and he enjoys working to give local seniors one last chance to take the field as high school athletes.

“I think what it is that I enjoy is two things,” Halloran said. “One is giving a lot of kids an opportunity for a final high school game. These are all seniors that are All-Star caliber players. A lot of them will go on to play in college for sure, but it’s safe to say that a majority of them won’t. These games are an opportunity to put on a jersey one last time. They also get a chance to play with kids they competed with. We have kids on the same teams from Classical and English, Marblehead and Swampscott. A lot of friendships are made.”

The driving force behind Agganis Week is raising money for the Agganis Foundation, which has given scholarships totaling over $2 million to 984 student-athletes.

“A key part of this week is having one last opportunity to play and the other piece is the games serve as a fundraiser for the foundation,” Halloran said. “The games serve to help that and by doing that we keep the legacy of Harry Agganis alive too. There are a lot of places and fields named after Agganis but we humbly say the main driver 64 years after his death is this foundation. All these kids that receive scholarships and awards with his name on it, it means a lot.

“As great an athlete as Agganis was, 64 years later it’s not a given people are still talking about someone,” Halloran said. “That means a lot to us. When you talk to people who saw him there’s no mixed opinion either. The unanimous consensus was that he was the real deal. To keep that legacy alive is a special thing.”

With nine games being played between Sunday and Thursday, getting the players to fill each roster proves to be a giant task.

“It’s interesting for a number of reasons,” Halloran said. “We get 330 players in nine games. To get 330 athletes we’re probably inviting 500 to 600. It’s a busy time. Kids have college orientations and vacations. What I do is reach out to a wide range of Athletic Directors on the North Shore.

“It’s not rocket science but it’s still a lot,” Halloran said. “More kids means a longer process. There’s a lot more going on in these kids lives right now.”

Along with keeping his fingers crossed for some nice weather next week, Halloran hopes that the games are a positive experience for everyone.

“We hope that the players have a positive experience,” Halloran said. “We want a level of play befitting of Harry Agganis. Matt Durgin is the football director and him and I meet with officials and coaches 20 minutes before the football game every year. I always just make sure that any nonsense whatsoever is not allowed. We want fair play and sportsmanship. You go out and hit hard but we want everyone to have a positive experience.”

Agganis Week begins Sunday with an awards ceremony at Manning Field followed by the baseball and softball games at Fraser Field. The games continue Monday with basketball (relocated to Lynn English), Tuesday with girls and boys soccer, Wednesday with girls and boys lacrosse and Thursday with football.

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