Mom and son
John Habib's City Sports: CHaD All-Star's mom was NH football pioneer at Central High
LIKE MOTHER, like son?
Manchester High School Central offensive tackle DeCory Francis was assigned uniform No. 64 for today’s CHaD New Hampshire East-West High School All-Star Football Game at St. Anselm College’s Grappone Stadium. His mother, Misty, could not have been happier.
“I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it,” Misty said. “That’s the same jersey number I wore when I played football for Central.”
You read that right, folks. Misty Francis, proud mother of DeCory and younger brother Jassiah, played two seasons of football for the Little Green.
“I was the first female in the entire state to ever play high school football, and I’m still proud of it to this day,” she said.
To that, DeCory added, “It’s pretty cool, especially when I tell someone who doesn’t know it. At first they don’t believe my mom played football, but after they hear it from other people, they just have a funny, surprised look on their faces.”
Mother and son have more than a team and uniform number in common. Like his mom, DeCory has now played for Jim Schubert, Central’s head coach when Misty was playing and now an assistant for the West squad of which DeCory is a member.
“I love it,” Misty said. “I had a wonderful experience playing for Coach Schubert. I played Pop Warner football in Hooksett and decided I wanted to keep playing football when I arrived at Central. Coach Schubert accepted me from the very beginning and told me I’d get no special treatment for being a girl. He told me I’d be treated just like everyone else on the team, which was fine by me.”
Misty was one of two freshman players to make the varsity team. A two-way lineman, she didn’t start for the varsity but did get to play some minutes beside her older brother, Joey Francis Jr.
Her football career ended with the conclusion of her sophomore season, though. Feeling she was too small to make an impact at the varsity level and fearing an injury would keep her from competing in basketball and outdoor track and field, she decided to hang up her cleats.
“It was difficult to stop playing football because I knew all the guys I was playing with from Pop Warner,” she said, “but I had to stop.”
There was another activity to fill the void: boxing, the sport in which her father, Joey Francis Sr., had won four Golden Gloves New England championships. Misty followed her father into the ring and wound up winning two regional Golden Gloves championships of her own.
“I was one of nine children, and boxing was in our blood,” she said.
Still at her high school playing size of 5 feet, 8 inches and 175 pounds, Misty remains active in sports as a throwing coach for Central’s track and field teams.
So it shouldn’t come us a surprise that DeCory, who will spend a year of prep school at Bridgton (Maine) Academy before selecting a college, also was a member of the school’s track and field program — and an accomplished one at that. At the New England Interscholastic Championships in Bridgewater, Mass., earlier this month, he placed fifth in the discus.
And, like so many Francises before him, DeCory also took up boxing under the tutelage of his grandfather.
“He told me boxing would not only get me in top condition, but it would teach me to not be afraid of getting hit,” DeCory said. “It definitely prepared me for football.”
DeCory’s younger brother is now undergoing his own preparations for high school football. Jassiah, who just completed seventh grade, is a member of the Manchester East Cobras junior program and an aspiring Central linebacker.
“I’ve never missed a practice or a game for either of my sons,” said Misty. “Sports is a very important part of my family, and I love every second of watching my sons compete.”
She expects about 20 members of her family to be in attendance today to watch DeCory, who said he likes the “old-school” style of coaching he’s been getting from Schubert and head coach Paul Lavigne.
Safe to say, Misty likes it, too.
SEEING Schubert on the sidelines again begs the question of why a street near Central hasn’t been named for him.
Schubert won six state championships as head coach of the Little Green, the same number as Bob Chabot won as head coach of Manchester Memorial. The city named a stadium, Memorial’s Chabot-McDonough Field, for Chabot and Hubie McDonough Jr. Shouldn’t it at least name a street for Schubert?
“I agree,” Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, a teammate of Schubert’s during their days as Central students, said earlier this week. “I’m willing to accept any suggestion from any citizen on what to name after him. Just call my office, and if someone comes up with a great suggestion, we’ll do it.”
While we’re at it, let’s do something to honor former coaches Joe O’Neil of Central and Jack Amero of Manchester High West. O’Neil led the Little Green girls’ cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field teams to a combined 33 NHIAA state titles during his tenure. The suggestion here is to name the famed cross-country course at Derryfield Park for him.
Amero led the Blue Knights girls’ soccer program to 15 Class L titles and 415 wins, including 62 straight victories from 1989-93, the longest winning streak in the country at that time.
SIDELINED since December 2012 by a series of three knee operations, veteran football and basketball official Moe Bilodeau has been cleared to work games again. The 63-year-old Bilodeau, now in his 24th season as an official, is an alternate for the CHaD game.
“You know, when something has been taken away from you and you get it back, it feels great,” said Bilodeau. “I missed officiating games and can’t wait for the fall season to begin.”
Bilodeau said he will be roaming the sidelines today with Bo Cuchetti, who has served as an official and state football commissioner during 50 years of distinguished service.
IT WAS a while in coming, but Boston Strong’s first race was worth the wait. A 3-year-old colt out of Manchester’s Sovereign Stable, the horse finished third on June 20 in the ninth race at Belmont Park in New York.
“I thought he ran well, said Sovereign Stable president Matt Gatsas, nephew of the mayor, noting that the race was short — six furlongs, or about three-quarters of a mile. “We were hoping to race him in a longer seven furlong to a mile race, but we were happy with the results, seeing him fly to the finish line.”
The horse’s name, of course, was inspired by response to last year’s Boston Marathon bombings. Gatsas obtained the naming rights for Boston Strong for only $100 — before another group attempted to secure the same name and wound up settling for “Wicked Strong.” That horse went on to compete in this year’s Belmont Stakes and finish tied for fourth with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome.
Sovereign Stables purchased Boston Strong for $145,000, but because of multiple setbacks, including some nagging injuries, he wasn’t able to race until last week.
“We’re planning on racing him again later in July, this time in a mile or mile-and-16th race,” Gatsas said.
Gatsas and Sovereign Stables have pledged to donate 5 percent of Boston Strong’s winnings to the One Fund, the charity established in support of Marathon bombing victims, so the $6,000 the horse earned at Belmont resulted in a $300 contribution.
“City Sports” is published Saturdays in the New Hamphshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org.