Panther Pride surfaced in several unique ways Monday night inside famed Twelve Acres Restaurant-Banquet venue in Smithfield.
For the second time in as many years, there was a special send-off for only Johnston High School’s senior athletes, which was highlighted by the announcement of those prolific Panthers who were honored with the prestigious titles of Male and Female Athletes of the Year as well as Scholar Athletes of the Year.
This time around, though, there were so many multi-sport stars, it made the annual selections more difficult than in past years.
In the final analysis, football, track and wrestling star Elijah Burgess – who’ll enroll at Rhode Island College in September – was awarded the 2018 JHS Male Athlete of the Year.
On the girls’ side, there were co-winners.
“We’re fortunate to have so many talented schoolgirl athletes here at JHS,” Keith Corey, who founded the Senior Sports Night Dinner last spring, offered. “So, we had co-winners for the first time in many years.
Enter Jordan Moretti – who excelled in basketball and softball and helped lead the Panthers into the state finals in two sports – share the Female Athlete of the Year with her friend and teammate Lauren Civetti, who was a standout in hoops and on the softball field as well as in the often-grueling sport of cross country.
The JHS Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year is Benjamin Budway, who is as talented with the clarinet as he was in football, while the Female-Scholar Athlete of the Year award went to Alyssa Johnson, who served as President of the Class of 2018 and played girls volleyball on Cherry Hill.
“We’re proud of each and every honoree here tonight,” Corey told an attentive audience. “You have all excelled in the classroom and on the playing field and you will always be remembered for your tremendous efforts in helping maintain Panther Pride.”
Budway, who doubles as the Class of 2018 valedictorian, had a 4.38 grade point average (GPA) and will enroll in Brown University in September. Johnson, meanwhile, held a 4.22 GPA and will become a member of the Class of 2022 at the University of Rhode Island.
A total of 16 Panthers received Scholar-Athlete honors for maintaining a 3.3 GPA or above. Those honorees and their respective sports are: Gabriella- soccer, golf; Madison Plouffe- soccer, softball; Jordan Moretti-basketball, softball; Madison Paolucci-cheerleading; Lauren Civetti- cross country, basketball and softball.
Also, Cheyenne Day-softball; Dylan Lavoie-football, baseball; Jesse Vigeant-football, volleyball; Fallon Davis-cheerleading; Emily Gaye-soccer, lacrosse; Elijah Burgess-football, track and wrestling; and Taylor Medeiros-cheerleading.
Also, Taylor Poland-cross country, lacrosse; James Baccala-football, track; Katerina St. Angelo-softball; and Charles DiMascio-volleyball.
Corey, who succeeded the late Gary V. Mazzie as the Panthers’ athletic director, emceed the dinner that included special messages from Jim Hopkins, a high-respected former teacher-coach who chairs the prestigious JHS Athletic Hall of Fame and Dave Taborelli, an All-State outfielder on the Panthers’ first-ever state championship baseball team that dates back to 1963.
“This room is filled with All-Staters who in five years will be eligible to enter the Hall of Fame,” Hopkins related. “Your impressive performances have added yet another chapter of Panther Pride to our school’s legacy.”
Taborelli, meanwhile, offered, “Tonight, we are all proud to be part of 55 years of tremendous Panther Pride that began back in 1963 and continues through tonight. You are all part of the tremendous sports tradition here at JHS. You should all be proud of what you’ve accomplished; please carry that with you forever. Go Panthers!”
One of the night’s highlights was what Corey called “The Ice Cream Buffet”, which afforded athletes and adults alike to make their own ice cream sundaes with the help of the staff at Twelve Acres.
Likewise, Johnston School Committee officials Vice Chairman Robert LaFazia, Gena Bianco and Joseph Rotella were among the guests and also showered “our great Panthers athletes” with words of praise and applause throughout the fun-filled affair.