Franklin High’s Athletic Prowess Leads to Another Dalton AwardOct 29, 2020 12:00PM ● By KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Tom Angelo, Franklin High’s Athletic Director, left, displays the Dalton Award as Principal Josh Hanna looks on.
Franklin High School is cornering the market on the Dalton Award.
The Dalton trophy, presented by The Boston Globe, goes to a high school that produces the top winning percentage in all varsity sports. Franklin captured the Division 1 honor for the 2019-20 school year by finishing with a percentage of 75.93, a winning margin of almost seven points ahead of second-place Natick, which compiled a 69.05 percentage.
Franklin has won the award two years in a row, and it’s the school’s third trophy in the last six years. The Panthers also captured the award for 2014-15.
I’m just thrilled for our athletes and coaches,’’ said Franklin High’s Athletic Director, Tom Angelo. “To be the best Division 1 program in the State for the last two years is an outstanding accolade.’’
Angelo, who’s been the Panthers A.D. for five years, credits a variety of factors that are part of the school’s successful formula.
“The athletes start competing in the town’s youth program early on,’’ he said. “Our coaching staff coaches for all the right reasons. They’re educators who teach life lessons, and they love to practice and compete. Our overall athletic lineup includes 30 varsity teams, and we offer a strength and conditioning program that keeps kids active and well-conditioned. Our facilities (three turf fields and a hockey rink) are also top-notch.’’
Franklin’s overall varsity record for the 2019-20 school year was 177-51-15, which does not include spring sports that were canceled because of the coronavirus. Natick’s record was 137-57-16 and Needham’s was 144-67-13.
Angelo credits all the Panthers’ squads for playing a role, but there are several programs that contributed to the victory with some incredible numbers. The girls’ basketball team went unbeaten at 25-0, wrestling finished with a 23-2 mark, field hockey went 14-2-2, the boys’ cross-country team had a 7-0 record, and the female runners were 5-0 while gymnastics amassed a 9-2 record.
“Hats off to Natick,’’ Angelo said. “They had an exceptional year. For us, the number of dual meets we had in wrestling was a plus. Natick wrestlers competed in more regional tourneys than us, but our dual-meet numbers were more than Natick’s.’’
Another key number is Franklin High’s athletic participation rate. About 600 students participate in a sport each season, and that’s 33 percent of the school’s enrollment of approximately 1,800.
“The award confirms that we’re doing things the right way, like setting high standards and maintaining the proper priorities,’’ Angelo emphasized. “And, there’s no doubt that a big key is the low turnover rate with our coaching staff. We also hold our varsity captains to a higher standard. We expect them to be extensions of the coaching staff. They attend meetings and conferences throughout the year that emphasize the importance of leadership.’’
Winning the trophy is indeed a tribute to the athletes and the coaches, but Angelo noted that it’s also a community effort. “We get great support from the school administration, the Department of Public Works and the Recreation Department. They provide lots of assistance and support,’’ he said.
FHS Principal Josh Hanna was delighted with the back-to-back honor.
“What an impressive accomplishment for Franklin High to be honored two years in a row as The Boston Globe’s Dalton Award winner,’’ said Hanna. “Success like this doesn’t happen by accident. This is a result of hard work and commitment for many years on behalf of our student-athletes, athletic department, and families. We’re quite proud of the success of this program and believe it’s a result of trusting a process of getting better each and every day.’’
Two veteran coaches at Franklin — John Leighton and Fran Bositis — weighed in on the school’s talented pool of athletes.
“I’ve been fortunate to teach and coach in Franklin since 1999,’’ said Leighton, who led the girls’ basketball team to a co-State championship last winter and also coaches unified basketball and assists the girls’ Lacrosse team. “We’ve been lucky to work with a number of very talented athletes. These last two years have stood out for the breadth of talent in every program. It’s impossible to highlight only one or two teams. Every single program has enjoyed a high level of success and the credit belongs to the commitment of our athletes, their families, coaches and our community, which has always supported youth sports. I am incredibly proud to be a member of the coaching staff.’’
Bositis, who’s coached the boys’ soccer team for 50 years and won 9 Hockomock League titles, echoes Leighton’s opinion.
“I believe that the success of Franklin’s athletic program for the last two years, and in general for many years, is because we have been blessed with really good athletes,’’ said Bositis. “We also have some outstanding coaches who’ve worked very hard in raising the level of all of the teams in the program. And, youth sports have done a really good job in preparing our young athletes to compete at the next level.’’
Angelo points to two programs — cheerleading and unified sports — that don’t have their numbers included for the Dalton Award but nevertheless are very successful.
“Cheerleading has won a State title and two regional championships in the last two years,’’ he emphasized. “And, unified track and basketball at Franklin have the highest participation rate in the State. Again, that says a lot about the school community and our coaches.’’
What also factors into Franklin’s success are student-athletes who might start on teams at other schools, but may have to be role players on a variety of the Panthers’ teams.
“We preach that being part of a team is an honor,’’ said Angelo. “Every team has roles for student-athletes. A supporting cast is needed, and we foster the belief that you’re important because of your role. It’s not just about one’s skills. It’s about your attitude and being a great teammate.’’
Many ingredients are necessary for a school to accumulate three Dalton Awards in six years. Franklin knows the winning formula and the late Ernie Dalton, who was the Globe’s high school sports editor from 1938 to 1970, would no doubt be proud of the Panthers’ achievements.