High school football teams from Bedford and Burlington finished their 2022 seasons on Thanksgiving.
But wait – there’s more. Both towns will be represented in this weekend’s state championship football games at Gillette Stadium, along with Billerica, Tewksbury, and Wilmington.
That’s because the undefeated Shawsheen Valley Technical High School Rams will face the Hornets of North Reading High School on Friday at 5:30 p.m. for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 5 championship. Tickets can only be bought online through Ticketmaster.
There’s an atmosphere of excitement at the regional school, said a staffer in the athletics office, building up to the departure of the players and cheerleaders on Friday at 1:45 p.m. Fan buses are scheduled to leave the Billerica campus for the game at 3 p.m.
“It has already been quite a year for Shawsheen football, as Coach Al Costabile – in his 25th year at Shawsheen – earned his 200th win earlier this season,” said Brian O’Donnell. O’Donnell and Nancy Asbedian are the school’s head cheerleaders in Bedford – and also the town’s representatives on the Shawsheen Tech School Committee.
“I am proud and excited for the Rams at this achievement and their opportunity to show once again what an amazing school community they are,” Asbedian declared, adding, “Bedford should share in this event.”
O’Donnell said the coach’s milestone was recognized by the New England Patriots Foundation “and a donation to Shawsheen’s program presented at the school by Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett.”
One of those 200 wins was on Sept. 10 by a score of 30-26 over Bedford High School in the season’s opener for both teams. It was Shawsheen Tech’s closest game of an undefeated season. The Bucs didn’t lose again until the state quarterfinals. The Rams overcame a 20-6 deficit on an 85-degree Saturday afternoon.
O’Donnell pointed out that although there are no Bedford students on the football team, “Bedford and Hanscom students currently are represented on teams such as cross country.” Indeed, the girls’ hockey team is a cooperative squad of skaters from BHS and Shawsheen Tech.
“One of the first inductees into Shawsheen’s Hall of Fame was David Smith ’93, whose family lived for many years on Fayette Road,” O’Donnell pointed out. Smith is among the career leaders in several football offensive categories at Northeastern University.
Although the number of Bedford students at Shawsheen Tech is small compared to the rest of the district, the families consistently speak highly of their experiences.
Diane Cohen’s son Ryan was a Dual County League all-conference lineman for this year’s football Buccaneers, but his older brother Eddie played for Shawsheen Tech five years ago. “I told Ryan before the season even started Shawsheen Tech was going to go all the way to the Super Bowl this year,” his mother said.
“I’m wishing them the best – go Rams,” Cohen said. She added, “Although if Bedford played them again, we would win.” (The two schools would have met in the 1978 MIAA Division 3 Super Bowl if Bedford had defeated Concord-Carlisle on Thanksgiving. Shawsheen won the Division 3 title in 2010.)
“They have very dedicated sports teams and the school is very supportive of the student-athletes,” said Heather Randhahn, whose son Daniel is a junior in the automotive technology program.
Shawsheen “has been a really good fit for him. He has some fantastic teachers and administrators that we’ve gotten to know. They’re extremely supportive and dedicated,” said Randhahn. “He has been very happy there.”
Randhahn said Daniel was first exposed to the vocational school in seventh grade when he took part in Shawsheen’s Project Explore, an opportunity for students to sample several of the school’s vocational-technical programs over a three-week period.
“It has been nice for him, coming from the Bedford schools, to be among students from five communities, widening his horizons that way,” she added.