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It all starts tonight.

The moment every local athlete has been preparing for — the start of the winter high school sports slate.

Friday and Saturday’s schedule are filled to the brim with local games from basketball to wrestling.

North Middlesex announced Monday night via its twitter account that the school would be joining Groton-Dunstable in a cooperative wrestling program with Leominster High School.

In addition to wrestling, North Middlesex has added a cooperative alpine skiing team with the Bromfield School.

Patriot athletes, who wish to join the newly affiliated programs can do so immediately.

Preseason preparations were cut short Tuesday afternoon as each school canceled all afternoon practices due to a massive rain/ice dominated Nor’Easter.

Roads were flooded out in many places in the area towns. As much as it pains the coaches to say it, the athletic directors made the correct move canceling practice.

The temperatures will likely drop by the time the teams exit their respective gyms and rinks. Student athletes across Twitter were posting updates about having hockey games in their driveways it was so slick.

I can vouch.

I stepped outside to my car, which was encased in a sheet of ice, and nearly became acquatinted with my driveway.

All the hustle and bustle inside the local gymnasiums and rinks the last few weeks will be put to the test tonight. Nothing beats the unbridled optimism that surrounds teams this time of year.

No matter how many or how few games you won last season, it is natural to think that this will be the year you get over the hump.

This will be the year that your players stay healthy, but if in fact an injury occurs, there is another skilled reserve ready to step-in.

This is the season where the rest of the league takes one-step back, and your team gobbles up ground.

You have to love the start of a season. Christmas may be two-weeks from now, but we as high school sports fans will have an early gift presented to us tonight.

Four-of-the-eight local basketball teams begin their season tonight with the exception of Bromfield, who had their games with Lunenburg postponed as a result of unforeseen circumstances on the Blue Knights’ end.

Ayer Shirley’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams open their seasons on Wednesday against Littleton. The boys host the Tigers, while the girls make the short loop around the rotary to Littleton High School for a non-league game.

Weekend schedule: Basketball

NM boys tip-off season at home vs. Algonquin — 7 p.m.

The Patriots come into the season under the tutelage of first-year head coach Justin Maly, who was an assistant under the now retired Erik Dellasanta, who stepped down at the conclusion of last year.

North Middlesex (2013-2014 record: 10-11) fell to Longmeadow in the Western Mass. semifinals last season at the Cage on th campus of UMass Amherst. The Patriots make the step-down to Midland B, where it will face teams with similar enrollments like Groton-Dunstable and Quabbin. Algonquin (2013-2014 record: 6-14) swept the season series with North Middlesex in 2014, winning by scores of 49-42 and 48-44.

NM girls’ travel to Algonquin for season-opener — 7 p.m.

Talk to North Middlesex head coach Pat Murphy at any point during the fall season, and he will have a countdown to basketball on the tip of his tongue. He lives for it. And so do his players. The Patriots are coming off an impressive 20-5 regular season, where it met its demise in the Western Mass.finals against Longmeadow.

North Middlesex features a more shoot-first offense, and it will base much of its game from the perimeter. Murphy’s teams are as certain as winter in New England, you’re going to get snow, but you will never know how much. The same holds true for the number of wins for the Patriots. It all depends on the steady progression of the team during the course of the year.

Groton-Dunstable girls host Shepherd Hill — 7 p.m.

No, it is not a league game for Mark Hennelly’s Crusaders, but there is no question that they will be approaching it as if it were. Groton-Dunstable traveled to Connecticut over the weekend for a preseason tournament, and the Crusaders are ready to put their hard work to the test for real.

Groton-Dunstable missed out on the playoffs with an 8-12 overall record.

The Crusaders return senior sharp-shooter Lindsay Werner, along with classmates Melyssa Langell, Nicole Georges, Alexandra Pray and Nicki Wilkinson.

Other letterwinners include juniors Kara Jussaume, Val Lutkevich, Nicole Moody and Jenna Plausse.

Groton-Dunstable hosts the Pete Trainor Memorial Holiday Tournament on Monday, which features girls’ basketball teams from Lunenburg, Gardner and North Middlesex.

Crusader boys’ hope to hold off Rams — 7 p.m.

The G-D boys face a tough challenge traveling to Southeren Worcester County to face a Shepherd Hill team. Crusader head coach Greg Gillette admits that this week’s preparation for the Rams has not been easy, as there are no tapes of what they present since it is the first game of the year, under a new head coach.

Groton-Dunstable fell in the tournament’s opening round to a Concord-Carlisle team that went on to take the Central Mass crown in Division 2.


North Middlesex vs. Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley — 2 p.m. Wallace Civic Center

The Patriots start their quest at another state title tomorrow afternoon against former Coughlin Conference foe Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley.

The Patriots squeaked out a win over the Blue Knights in the Central Mass. 3A finals last season.It should be a dandy, as North Middlesex made the jump to Division 3 after Fitchburg/Monty Tech dropped to Division 3A.

Groton-Dunstable vs. Leominster — 4 p.m.

Groton-Dunstable will start its season on the road at the Wallace Civic Center against Roy Conference foe Leominster. If the Blue Devils are anything like they were when they came to Groton last season, a physical game can be expected.

Groton-Dunstable is under the direction of third-year head coach Phil Rowley. The Crusaders finished top in the league at 16-5 overall, while the Blue Devils were right behind them at 12-8-2.

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