Dozen Green Wave athletes to be inducted as Hall of Famers
Twelve athletes ranging from Sam Blackman, Class of 1956, to Emma Crowcroft, Class of 2009, have been chosen as the New Milford High School Athletic Hall of Fame’s 2019 class of inductees.
Joining Blackman and Crowcroft are John Bucinsley ’67, Betty Carter ’67, Laurie Center ’75, Donna Maruszak Roberts ’81, Margo Maytham Muttilainen ’83, Eric Muttilainen ’83, Jack Lavalette ’87, Tom Ferrell ‘06, Devon Dobson ’07 and Danielle Gasser ’08.
The inductees will be honored Nov. 2 at Fairview Farm Golf Course in Harwinton. Banquet ticket information will be announced in coming weeks in local media and on the Athletic Hall of Fame website at nmhsahof.org.
Full bios and plenty of photos of the 2019 inductees will soon be posted there.
Those wishing to join the Athletic Hall of Fame Club should visit nmhsahof.org.
Sam Blackman, Class of 1956, was among the most versatile of Green Wave athletes, earning 13 varsity letters from five different sports.
During the autumn season, he teamed with top cross country runner Ed McKenzie to form a potent 1-2 punch for coach Russell Devin and achieve a Housatonic Valley Schoolmen’s League title and state prominence.
Come wintertime, Sam was a prolific scorer and twice all-HVSL for coach Joe Wiser’s basketball quintet, averaging 16.8 points per game as a junior and 20.2 as a senior, along the way raising the school record to 37 points in a game.
Sam found time for three seasons of indoor track & field, excelling as a runner at various distances and climaxing his efforts in the state meet as a senior with second place in the long jump.
During an era when it was permitted, Sam competed in the spring for both coach Devin’s track team and coach Wiser’s baseball team. He was the catcher on a diamond squad that played its way to the HVSL championship game and provided first places at various meets for the track team in the 100, 200, 400 and broad jump. His victory in the 440-yard run helped the Green Wave win the HVSL title at Canterbury School. Sam capped his high school career with fourth place in the state 440.
John Bucinsley, Class of 1967, was a dominant runner and four-time MVP for championship Green Wave cross country and track & field teams.
The best runner by mid-sophomore season on a potent harrier squad, John was the Green Wave’s leading runner right through his senior campaign, pacing such outstanding runners as Doug Goodwin, Tom Roberts and Peter Squires to the finish line in meet after meet.
As a senior, he set five straight course records as undefeated NMHS won the Western Connecticut Conference championship. He capped his cross country career with high finishes in the state class and state open races and competition in the New England meet.
During two indoor track seasons, John captured state titles in the 1,000-yard run and the mile.
His exploits in track & field included state gold medals in the state class and state open mile runs. John’s ability to win races from 220 yards to the mile and his clutch relay performances helped the Green Wave win two WCC titles. Along the way, he set a school record in the 880 at 1:57.
John closed the books on his NMHS career with second place in the New England mile in a school-record 4:20.5.
Betty Carter, Class of 1967, was a uniquely gifted athlete who proved her considerable talents in field hockey, basketball and volleyball.
Betty was described as a “fantastic” athlete by legendary coach Fran Zaloski, who served as her mentor in all three sports, and as ahead of her time by others who had seen her play for NMHS.
Her field hockey skills helped lift the Green Wave from several seasons as a .500 team to a best-ever 7-1 during her senior season.
In the winter, she was a scoring and rebounding stalwart as the Green Wave achieved three straight winning campaigns. Betty was twice honored as the team’s MVP thanks to many scoring outbursts peaking with a 22-point effort vs. Ridgefield.
On the volleyball court, Betty was a key player for a Green Wave team that won regional laurels and advanced to the state tournament.
Laurie Center, Class of 1975, used smarts, competitive spirit and strong athletic ability to claim 10 varsity letters in field hockey, basketball and softball.
Termed the “backbone” of the Green Wave field hockey team, Laurie specialized in anchoring a strong defense throughout her three varsity seasons. When the occasion called for it, she had the stick skills to assist or score key goals herself.
Laurie was Green Wave basketball’s top scorer and rebounder during her junior and senior seasons, especially rising to the occasion against the toughest rivals and at the most opportune times. She scored more than 20 points five times as a senior and capped her hardcourt career by tallying 38 of the Green Wave’s 70 points in two state tournament games.
Laurie enjoyed perhaps her finest Green Wave sports moments as two-time team MVP on the softball diamond. She pitched and helped bat NMHS to the state tournament semifinals as a junior and led the Green Wave to a 15-1 regular season and the WCC title as a senior.
Donna Maruszak Roberts
Donna Maruszak Roberts, Class of 1981, displayed all-WCC volleyball talents and was the fastest sprinter in Green Wave girls’ track & field history.
She developed into a stellar volleyball player during her junior and senior seasons, employing good timing and excellent jumping ability at the net as team MVP.
It was on the track that Donna truly carved her niche in Green Wave sports annals. She won 11 gold medals and four silvers in her four WCC track meets. Individual 100-, 200- and 400-meter efforts and her relay prowess earned Donna a pair of team MVP honors, helped inspire two WCC team championships and rewarded her with multiple state medals.
Donna’s best performances in the 200- and 400-meter runs established times that long remained school standards.
Margo Maytham Muttilainen
Margo Maytham Muttilainen, Class of 1983, was graced with superior athletic ability, leadership and fierce competitive will for Green Wave girls’ basketball and track & field.
Margo’s court sense, passing skills, tenacious defense and clutch scoring were integral ingredients as the NMHS girls claimed an historic WCC hardcourt title during the winter of 1982-83. Her defense on the Panthers’ superb Ann Odoy was crucial as the Green Wave stunned multi-times defending champion Masuk in the WCC championship game.
During three seasons of track & field, Margo rose to the occasion countless times to win big races, anchor meet-deciding relays and, of most note, soar to heights in high jump well above the previous school, league and state records. Her 5’9 ¾” leap in 1981 still stands as the state record.
Her consummate talents were vital as the Green Wave won three straight WCC track championships. In all, Margo’s teams won four league titles in her six varsity sports seasons.
Eric Muttilainen, Class of 1983, contributed to a strong Green Wave basketball team and etched a Green Wave baseball pitching career unparalleled during the several decades before or since.
Eric brought leadership, tough defense and strong rebounding to the cause to help a younger corps of ambitious basketball teammates including AHOF inductees Louis Heaton and John Ndwuku make waves in the WCC.
On the baseball diamond, he was the mainstay of a talented mound staff for two seasons. As a junior, Eric earned 10 of the Green Wave’s dozen wins while posting a 1.64 earns run average and striking out 67 batters in 55 innings. A 17-inning, 230-pitch effort vs. Bullard-Haven in the state tournament was the stuff of legend.
His senior campaign proved the catalyst for the program’s first league title in more than 20 years. Eric built a personal mound win streak to 13 games, struck out 84 batters in 61 innings, etched a 1.04 ERA and swung a strong bat as the Green Wave posted an overall 17-4 record en route to WCC laurels.
Jack Lavalette, Class of 1987, is well remembered as a game-breaking defensive force and wide receiver whose clutch performances keyed Green Wave football to unprecedented success, as well as an excellent sprinter in track & field.
Jack’s unprecedented 12 pass interceptions as a junior were just a sample of his diverse gridiron skills. A three-season starter as wide receiver and defensive back, he hauled in five touchdown passes as a sophomore. His junior campaign was a veritable highlight reel of big plays. Jack scored on long punt returns, pass receptions and interception runbacks as the Green Wave won six games for the first time in school history. As a senior, he earned team MVP, all-WCC honors and ‘Who’s Who in American High School Football’ recognition for his pass-receiving exploits and shutdown defense.
Come springtime, Jack ranked for four years as one of the WCC’s best sprinters and a perennial state contender, climaxing his career by kicking home first, tied for first and second in the WCC 100, 200 and 400. All the while, his leadership played a key role as the Green Wave captured WCC team laurels.
Devon Dobson, Class of 2007, delivered record-shattering 235 goals and 108 assists and displayed peerless faceoff skills while spearheading Green Wave boys’ lacrosse to the heights of the SWC and into the state’s upper echelon.
His explosive scoring and playmaking was complemented by an ability to retrieve grounders and a remarkable knack for winning faceoffs. His 70 percent success rate translated to a major Green Wave advantage in possession time.
Devon twice served as a team captain and three times was chosen as team MVP while leading the Green Wave to a four-year, 56-22 record in competition against some of the best lacrosse programs in the region.
For his contributions, Devon was a three-time, all-SWC first-team selection and earned all-state honors as a junior and senior.
Danielle Gasser, Class of 2008, utilized remarkable court sense, eye-hand coordination, net dominance and leadership to spark Green Wave volleyball to SWC and state prominence. Athletic versatility also earned her recognition in girls’ tennis and track & field.
As catalyst for an ambitious volleyball side, she was MVP all four seasons, all-SWC three times, all-state twice and, as a senior, state player of the year.
Danielle’s court skills were a principal factor as the Green Wave improved from a 4-10 ledger in 2004 all the way to an 18-4 record and a trip to the state tournament final in 2007.
She displayed a variety of talents during the spring season, earning all-SWC honorable mention on the tennis court and placing sixth in the SWC javelin throw for Green Wave track.
Emma Crowcroft, Class of 2009, was a talented, multi-sport athlete who achieved her greatest success as a javelin thrower for Green Wave girls’ track & field.
She started her high school sports career as a freshman defensive standout for Green Wave soccer. Emma transitioned to volleyball for the next three autumn seasons. She rewarded the court crew with strong net play that helped propel the Green Wave all the way to the state tournament final in her junior year.
Throughout a four-year basketball career, Emma utilized her height to rank among the Green Wave’s all-time best in scoring and rebounding.
She peaked as a track & field athlete who excelled in the javelin, shot put, discus and triple jump. Emma won SWC individual gold medals in the javelin and shot put and climaxed her Green Wave career by winning the state class and state open javelin throw titles and challenging for New England laurels.
Along her way to collecting 11 Green Wave letters, Emma gained numerous all-SWC laurels and team MIP and MVP honors.