Dave Morse Classic to Return this Winter with Fans

by Ken Brown

HARDWICK – The memory and life of Vermont Hall of Fame sportswriter and journalist Dave Morse will once again be celebrated this winter as the Dave Morse Classic (DMC) returns to the “Cat Den,” showcasing some of the best high school basketball in the state after a year hiatus. 

COVID shortened the Vermont high school winter sports season in 2021 and one of the casualties of the abbreviated schedule was the sixth installment of the Dave Morse Classic. The four-team round-robin tournament was created by Hazen Union boys’ head coach Aaron Hill and Hazen Union Athletic Director John Sperry after the community legend lost his battle with cancer in March of 2015.

Coaches, referees, and fans from all over the state have traveled to Hardwick over the years to support the tournament, honor his memory, and enjoy some of the best basketball the state has to offer. Hill’s Wildcats are two-time defending champs and will host Williamstown, Randolph, and Lamoille this season. The DMC has raised thousands of dollars for the Dave Morse Scholarship Fund and it will be welcomed back this December with what Sperry hopes is safe enough conditions for a packed gymnasium.

“Last season was hard for everybody in a lot of ways and it feels great to get the DMC back along with the fans. Everyone in the gymnasium, including the players will have masks on, so we hope conditions will allow us to have a packed gym to fully support the tournament. It is always a great weekend of high-quality basketball, and we already have the trophies and t-shirts ordered, so we’ll cross our fingers as we head into December and get through the holidays safe,” said Sperry. 

Health and safety protocols have not been the only thing keeping the Vermont Principal’s Association busy this fall as sportsmanship took a major hit during the high school soccer season, with several incidents of hate speech, racial and homophobic slurs, and other forms of unsportsmanlike conduct from both players and fans. High school administrators, athletic directors, and coaches will be on high alert this winter as fans are scheduled to return to gymnasiums around the state in full force. The VPA has sent out a public statement to high school administrators and has asked for it to be read aloud to fans, coaches, referees, and players before the playing of each game. The statement supports the intolerance for hate speech of any kind at Vermont high school events. They have also created an open log on their website, vpaonline.org, for high school officials, student athletes, fans, and coaches to identify specific incidents that may require investigation throughout the winter sports season. Sperry attends every home game for both girls and boys’ at Hazen and hasn’t turned a blind eye to what he saw during the soccer season.

“Unfortunately, some of the things I saw myself and read about this past fall was worrisome and sportsmanship amongst fans and players seems to be getting worse. We’ll remind everyone before every game this winter what the standard is for our fans and players to treat each other with respect. Hopefully, we won’t have any issues, but I’ll be on the lookout this season and so will the officials on the floor,” said Sperry. 

High school basketball practices officially start on November 29 for Hazen Union, Twinfield-Cabot, and Craftsbury Academy.