They’re among all the legends linked to the illustrious sports history at Johnston High School.
They’re known as mentors, classic coaches and awesome athletes who have ever worn the Blue and White and brought many memorable moments to Cherry Hill since JHS opened in 1963.
For the honor, glory and distinction they have brought to their hometown and alma mater, members of a girls’ state championship volleyball team, nine prolific Panther greats, three coaches and a role model who has influenced countless young people through the years have been elected to the prestigious Johnston High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Our committee is especially excited about the Class of 2018,” James “Jim” Hopkins, a one-time JHS teacher-coach and Hall of Fame chairman, offered. “October 28 will be like previous Hall of Fame inductions; one of the greatest days in Johnston High School sports history.”
The 2004 girls’ volleyball team, which was swamped with injuries at the outset of the season but went on what Coach Greta Lalli called “a triumphant tirade” and defeated Prout Memorial, three games to one in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s Division III state finale, headline the list of inductees.
Coached by Greta Lalli and Peg Guilmette, the Panthers included Captain Lauren Ferguson, Toni Mastrangelo, Alicia Bubar, Melissa Houghton, Kristen Shaken, Krista Clayton, Chelsea Marandola and Natalie Soukamneuth.
In a newspaper article after Johnston dispatched Prout, Lalli told a writer: “This is like the dream team of Class C. All the practicing in the world can’t teach heart. That’s what they have.”
“Their [Hall of Fame] induction should be quite the reunion,” Hopkins related of the 2004 state champs who won 11 of their final 12 matches, finished with a 12-4 record before winning the coveted state crown. “They had some kind of special team.”
Donald Iafrate, Class of 1967, has been selected to receive the prestigious Gary V. Mazzie Lifetime Achievement Award named in memory of the late Hall of Fame Founder who was a teacher, coach and athletic director during his remarkable 40-year tenure at JHS.
“Donald was an outstanding athlete during his time at JHS,” Hopkins remembered. “But more importantly he has made a life-long impact on thousands of Johnston youth with his unwavering dedication to the Johnston Little League and Youth Football Association, feeder programs that have had a direct impact on the success of past baseball and football teams at JHS.”
The three coaches scheduled for induction on Oct. 28 during the always-interesting ceremony that will be held inside Edward L. DiSimone Gymnasium starting at 2 o’clock and followed by the annual Hall of Fame Dinner at Cranston Country Club at 4 o’clock are: Allan McGillivray, Joseph Acciardo and Stephen DiMeo.
Allan will be inducted under the Coach/Contributor category and began his long and distinguished career at JHS in 1976. He was an assistant track coach in charge of Panther sprinters and this group was among the most successful in the state with a relay record or 14-1. He was head coach of the Class B runners-up and coached numerous All-Staters during their careers. Upon his retirement from JHS, he became the primary emcee at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
A 1986 grad, Joe enjoyed many individual All-Division selections as one of the outstanding athletes of the 1980s at JHS. He quarterbacked the 1985 division champion team that lost to Rogers in the Super Bowl. After graduating from URI, Joe joined the teaching and coaching staffs at his alma mater and coached the 1995 state baseball champion team as well a leading the football squad to state titles in 2008 and 2009. He is a member of the RI Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and continues to lead the JHS football and baseball programs.
A lifelong resident of Johnston, Steve has dedicated a lifetime of coach to the student/athletes at Ferri Middle School and JHS. He was an assistant coach for a number of years before becoming the head coach in baseball and basketball as well as an assistant football coach. He was named Coach of the Year on numerous occasions in both sports and along with multiple divisional championships; he led the Panthers in both basketball and baseball to championship finals. He presently is the head basketball coach at Shea High School.
Ryan joins a long line of outstanding JHS basketball players in the 1,000-point club. He captained the 2011-12 team and landed first team All-Division honors even though he played with a torn meniscus. He was a first team All-Division player in his junior year as well as third team All-Division as a sophomore.
Gian was second team All-State for the 2012 state championship baseball team. He was the 2012 Cy Young Award winner for his division as the outstanding pitcher and was MVP for the 2011 Class B State Tournament. He co-captained the Panthers and helped lead JHS to back-to-back state titles. He was a two-time starter for the basketball team in his junior and seniors seasons.
Justin starred in wrestling and football and led the Panthers to a 25-5-1 record his junior and senior wrestling season at JHS. He finished fourth the 145-pound class and in 2013 finished as the state champion runner-up behind champion Christian Labrie. He was a 2013 All-New England selection. He helped the Panthers win the Division One South title with an 11-3-1 record.
A 1972 JHS grad, Karl starred in baseball, basketball and football and shared the Panthers backfield with Billy Gelsomino and was the primary punt and kickoff returner. He was an outstanding shortstop in baseball and landed All-Western Division honors in his junior and senior seasons. He was also selected as the Scholastic Athlete of the Year.
Chris was a three-sports standout on Cherry Hill and in 2012 he was named first team All-State baseball by the Providence Journal. He captained the football and baseball teams and was a starter in basketball, as well. He was MVP of the 2012 state championship series and named first team All-Division in his junior and seniors years. He was voted MPVP by the coaches in 2012.
Bob is a 1970 JHS grad and a three-sports starter in football, basketball and baseball. Although the Panthers struggled in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Bob’s never-say-die attitude helped the Panthers achieve a .500 record during his time. He was considered one of the top players in the league and received many Player of the Week honors presented back then by WJAR-TV Sports. He was a .300 hitter in baseball.
David was a star in baseball, basketball and football prior to his graduation in 1977 and was the primary factor for the success of the 1977 Western Division champions that posted an 11-1 league record. He was an All-Western Division outfielder battling .408 and was one of the top pitchers in the league with a 7-1 record and ERA of 1.12. He was named Most Athletic for the Class of ’77 and also named Rhode Island DECA student of Year in 1977.
Before his graduation in 1971, Robert starred in baseball, basketball and football in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was an All-League selection in each of those sports as well as being named captain for all three Panther squads. He quarterbacked the football team to a 7-4 record following a winless season and his leadership was most notable at crunch time when he always seemed to get the key hit, clutch basket or perfect pass.
Al graduate from JHS in 1990 and played golf and hockey. He played defense on the 1988-89 Suburban Division and lead the Panthers to back-to-back Suburban Championships. His skills were not limited to defense, as he moved to offense the following season and scored five goals in the championship series. He was named captain of Coach Gary Mazzie’s golf team in his senior year and was the Class of 1990 Salutatorian.
So, Sunday, Oct. 28 promises to be filled with many memories the Class of 2018 provided for JHS athletic teams through the years. In keeping with tradition, Hopkins announced the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is open to the public free of charge. Dinner tickets may be purchased for $35 per person people interested in attending should contact the firstname.lastname@example.org.