By KAITLYN NAPLES
For over 25 years, every year, on Thanksgiving eve, students athletes from the three Bristol high schools gather together to have breakfast and to be recognized for their accomplishments on the field and courts.
The annual “Breakfast of Champions” also is when the community presents an individual with the Ralph Papazian Leadership Award, an award given out to educators and coaches in the city who embody the same qualities— such as leadership, integrity, and community involvement— the late Papazian exuded during his life.
This year, former assistant football coach at Bristol Eastern High School, and former Social Studies teacher at Northeast Middle School Mike Morin was the recipient of the Ralph Papazian Leadership Award. Morin was saluted for his contributions and impact made to the students and athletes in Bristol.
Morin was born in Bristol and played baseball, football and wrestled at Bristol Eastern High School, before attending Bates College to play football and baseball. In addition to teaching at Northeast Middle School, he was a co-sponsor of the Northeast Middle School ski club and served more than 20 years as an assistant football coach at Bristol Eastern, including its state championship in 1988.
Morin shared stories of being on the field, specifically the memories of what it felt like to step onto Muzzy Field on Thanksgiving Day.
“You’re all going to remember what it feels like to walk onto an actual playing field,” after the Thanksgiving Day game, Morin said to the football players in the room.
He said all of the athletes in the room are a success “because you’re doing something with your life right now” and he told them to respect themselves as leaders, respect their opponents, and respect the game they play.
“Play clean and hard and make positive memories for you and your team,” Morin added.
Chris Cassin, Bristol’s athletic director, said he was happy to be attending the breakfast because he attended the first one and also was hired by Ralph Papazian for a football coach position.
“You’re here today because you exhibit a commitment to your team,” Cassin said to the athletes, adding their high school journey was coming to an end, but their life’s journey was just beginning.
Both Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central football coaches spoke at the breakfast, and praised their team, especially the captains and seniors for having a strong season and working hard.
Bristol Eastern football coach Sal Cintorino said, even though it is the “Battle of the Bell” football game, it is still Thanksgiving and he encouraged everyone to thank someone special in their lives.
Bristol Central football coach Mike Archangelo said he enjoyed working with his team over the last season, and said his entire group “played as a family.”
St. Paul Catholic High School football coach Jude Kelly, whose team captains and seniors were also invited to last week’s breakfast, added he had an “outstanding year” and that it was a winning season at St. Paul.
Bristol Eastern played against Bristol Central Thursday morning at Muzzy Field. Bristol Eastern won its seventh consecutive Thanksgiving Day game against Bristol Central, with a final score of 21-18.
St. Paul played against Xavier on Friday evening. Xavier won 62-19.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.