WILMINGTON – Last week we told you the story about Celia Kulis, who had so much success in her first calendar year of track-and-field, which helped lead her to not only the Town Crier's Female Athlete of the Year award, but also to a Division 1 college athletic scholarship as she will be attending Holy Cross in the fall.

While she made a number of firsts, so did the Town Crier's Male Athlete of the Year winner, Gavin Erickson. He becomes the first selection in 27 years to participate in four sports during the calendar year (thank you COVID-19), but he's also the first male athlete chosen to have play lacrosse and obviously the first to have earned a lacrosse scholarship. Then earlier in the football season, he became the first person in the program's history to rush for three touchdowns in one playoff game.

In the calendar year, Erickson was a reserve player on the basketball team, a key figure in the football team's 5-2 abbreviated Fall-2 season, was a league all-star and team's top scorer on the lacrosse team. Then in the fall, he led the football team in overall points, finishing with 88, including 13 combined touchdowns from his wingback position.

Erickson will graduate with 11 varsity letters (counting the cancelled COVID seasons), receiving four each in football and lacrosse and three in hoop. He was named an All-Star and All-Conference in Football and an All-Star in Lacrosse. In football, he ended his career with 629 rushing yards with six touchdowns and 1,020 receiving yards with 14 more scores, giving him 20 touchdowns in 29 games. He also finished with very impressive numbers of 6.7 yards per carry and 22.67 yards per catch.

When the Town Crier first started out the award, the sole purpose was to recognize the three-sport athletes. Certainly, Erickson fits in the mold of all of the previous multi-sport athletes we've honored since 1994.

“Gavin is one of the most dynamic and smooth athletes I've ever had the luxury of coaching,” said football coach Craig Turner. “A lot of times it seems as if he's going half speed just because of how effortless and smooth he is with his movements. He's an old school type kid who doesn't care about touches or stats, he just wants to win. He's universally loved by both his coaches and teammates alike which speaks to what a quality young man he is.”

GROUPING THINGS TOGETHER

Gavin is the oldest of two children to Keith and Melissa. He has a younger sister Emma, who is a sophomore at the high school and a member of the cheerleading teams, football and basketball.

“(Growing up with her) was fun and we definitely went through the brother-sister normal stuff. Now that we're getting older, it's more than us just being siblings, it's more of a friendship. She's just 20 months younger than me, so we're pretty close,” said Gavin, who added that Emma played some youth sports but switched to dancing and now cheerleading.

This winter season, Emma will be on-hand to watch and support Gavin as he plays his second varsity season with the boys basketball team. Last year he was a role player on a team that finished with a record of 2-9.

“(The season was) honestly fun especially (at that time) just to go out and play something since football was moved and the previous spring, lacrosse was cancelled,” he said. “That last game of the season to send us off with a big win (over Stoneham was a great highlight).”

Certainly, basketball is Gavin's third sport and he doesn't log the minutes on the court like he does with lacrosse and football. But he has made an impact with the program for so many different reasons.

"Gavin is just such a great athlete. That's all you can really say. He is just a great, great athlete,” said boys hoop coach Dennis Ingram. “And there is no panic in him. My assistant coach said to me at the beginning of the year, that Gavin just calms us down so much. We put in a new system and he understands it so well, and does such a great job keeping all of the kids calm.

"If you want to talk about a leader by example, that is him. He is a great leader, he is a great teammate and he is the type of kid that all of his teammates look up to.”

TWO SPRING SEASONS

You can say that the Fall-2 Football season was much like “Spring Football”. Wilmington finished with a solid 5-2 record, as the players finally got a chance to play with one another for the first time since Thanksgiving of 2019.

“It was a pretty successful season and I wish we had more games. It would have been great if we had playoffs. Then we had six months of an off-season and then jumped right back into it (for the fall),” he said.

Before the abbreviated seven-game schedule began, Turner announced that Erickson, who had 17 receptions for 337 yards with five touchdowns as a sophomore, would be moved from his wide receiver spot, to a wingback position, meaning he would be carrying the ball and also still catching his share of passes.

“I definitely enjoyed it and was getting the ball more and I was still able to go out as a receiver. I really liked the switch and what Coach Turner did for me. I think it benefitted me a lot, and it put the ball in my hands a lot more,” he said.

The new spot helped open up the offense, especially with new QB Pedro Germano calling the shots. Erickson finished the seven games with six catches for 156 yards and one score, as well as 41 rushes for 227 yards and another score.

Immediately after the season ended with the dominating win over Winchester, the football pads went away and the lacrosse stick came out of the closet. Lacrosse is Gavin's best sport – although an argument could be made with the numbers he put up over his career in football.

The lacrosse team made giant strides this past spring, finishing 5-7 overall under new head coach Jeff Keefe, who had officially taken over the year before but the season was cancelled.

“We fluctuated – it was up and down all season. We really weren't too consistent. We would get the job done on some games and then some games we would lose a lot to a little, but we always tried our best,” said Erickson, who served as a junior captain on the team.

A midfielder, who possesses excellent speed, as well as shooting and dodging abilities, Erickson led the 'Cats in scoring and was the go-to player.

"Gavin is a kid who is always working to improve on different parts of his game, and because of that he has become a very well rounded player,” Keefe said during last year's season. “He has always had the ability to score, but as last season went on, he improved in other areas of his game, and his Lacrosse-IQ increased and he became an even better player.

“He is a role model for the younger kids. We want the other players to play like him and show the kind of effort he always does. He also became more vocal as the year went on, and the younger players really bought into what he was saying. When he is at his best, he brings out the best in the rest of the team.”

When the spring season ended, Erickson continued to play Club Lacrosse with HGR. It was late in the summer when he was taking interest in colleges and some were taking interest in him.

“I was looking at St. Anselm, St. Michael's and then Seton Hill – those were my top three,” he said. “It was late August when I had decided on Seton Hill. I had been talking to them for a while and it was getting to a point where it was about settling down. So, I started visiting some colleges and I just really liked that one.”

Seton Hill is a smaller Division 2 college outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Erickson said their lacrosse program was one of the top ranked D2 programs in the country.

“They are a very good lacrosse program. They have a lot of athletics. It's not really a big school. I think it's less than three thousand kids. It has a lot of land on it and some old buildings and it's just really old school. They are really good in sports, especially in lacrosse. I think they were eighth (in the country) last year, so they are definitely a good program that just continues to build up and up. There's a lot of potential there.”

His plan is to not only continue his successful lacrosse career, but also major in Sports Marketing.

“(Seton Hill) is right near Pittsburgh so there should be a lot of job opportunities especially with all of their sports teams. That's what I really kind of want to do – get an internship with one of those teams and just build my way up and up and then keep going and find my way back to Boston,” he said.

AN ALL-PURPOSE SEASON

Coming off the 5-2 abbreviated Fall-2 season, Erickson and his football pals couldn't wait for the “real season” to get underway. This was going to be 'the year'.

“Going into the season, we were all really excited. We had like twenty seniors and we were just all pumped for a real season of football,” he said. “I was excited because it was my senior year, my last year to play here. We all just got really into it. We were doing captains' practices twice a week, lifting all of the time and we were really just getting prepared because we knew that we had a talented group, even before the season started.”

In the first seven games of this past football season, Erickson was a solid contributor on both sides of the ball, but over the last month of the season, he took his game to a new level. The incredible four-game stretch happened a week after what can be described as his toughest game, the loss to Stoneham. Wilmington had to beat Wakefield in the final regular season game to get into the playoffs, as well as get a better seed.

“We knew after the Stoneham game that we needed to beat Wakefield and get that playoff push (for a better seed). (As the game went on and we were trailing) we definitely felt the pressure. There was a lot of pressure especially when the student section came over (and stood behind the end zone) but that was really fun, a great atmosphere and it was just really enjoyable,” recalled Erickson.

In that exciting overtime victory, Erickson came through with a huge 55-yard touchdown run, scored on two conversion plays, and was also among the other ten defenders who made the goal line stand on the final play of the game to give the 'Cats the dramatic victory.

Defensively, Erickson, 6-2, 200, has played cornerback.

“This year I think I did pretty good. I've been playing (defense) since freshman year and starting on varsity since sophomore year, so just developing the skill for it was really nice to know what I was doing at all times. I think I did pretty good the past three years. I didn't really let up anything big (and kept everything in front of me),” he answered about his overall play.

While he came up with some big plays defensively during the entire season, it was his offense in the Wakefield and Middleboro games that he will always remember. In the playoff win, he combined for 188 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns, helping the 'Cats win their first ever road playoff game in program history.

“The Middleboro game, I had never been to the playoffs and I was really excited for it. Pedro (Germano) was throwing the ball well to me, so it all worked out fine,” he said. “Scoring three touchdowns was obviously a great feeling and very exciting, but knowing that I'm the first one is really fun to hear.”

In those two wins, he combined to score four touchdowns and add three conversions, scoring 30 of the team's combined 61 points. He had 148 combined receiving yards and 96 combined rushing yards.

“Gavin's an explosive playmaker,” said Turner after that Middleboro win. “We talked a lot with our seniors in particular about how in this playoff run, our seniors and our big-time playmakers need to lead the way for us. Gavin is at the forefront of that group. He's made so many big plays for us the last three seasons and we're going to need him to continue to make those plays for us to move forward.

“In a game filled with dynamic playmakers in both sides, he certainly stood out of the crowd.”

After that magical win, Wilmington advanced to the quarterfinal round to face Foxboro, led by one of the state's best running backs Dylan Gordon, who ended up with over 250 rushing yards and five scores leading his team to victory.

“(Trying to take him down was) very hard and it was not that easy,” said Erickson with a laugh. “He's just so big and fast, so it was hard to bring him down. He knew what he was doing back there. He was definitely legit. We knew that he was a good runner and we knew that they were just going to feed him the ball, especially if it was working and then more so if they were ahead. We knew that they were just going to feed him the ball the whole game. We tried our best to stop him. If we could have stopped them (our offense) could take over and (execute plays) really fast. He just outworked us I guess.”

Erickson scored the game's first touchdown, giving him four scores in two playoff games, and he added another one in the wild Thanksgiving Day loss to the Redmen.

“It was a really tough game, but a good game. We were down at halftime by just two points and we knew that we needed (the next score). Then it just slipped away and the next thing you know is we were down by two touchdowns and it was late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, we knew this was it. It was a really fun game though, especially for my last game ever. I enjoyed playing in it. I wasn't happy with the result.

“Not just football, but a lot of us have been playing together in a lot of sports and then we just all hang out together whenever we can. We have been hanging out for years. That (football season) was emotional and fun.”

He added that all the fun was made possible by so many people.

“I just want to say thank you to my parents, to my teammates and to my coaches,” he said.

Mike Ippolito contributed to this report.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.