Alger Played Major Role in Elevating Holliston Football

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Alger returned last year for a book-signing event at Fiske’s General Store.
Issue Date: 
September, 2018
Article Body: 

Gary Alger, who played an integral role in elevating Holliston High’s football program into elite status in the early 1970s, lives in Connecticut now, but he continues to stay up to date on the Panthers’ fortunes.
The 64-year-old Alger started at fullback for three seasons and played on an undefeated state title squad in 1971 and two Tri Valley League championships teams. His individual statistics for 27 games are not only dynamic, but also record-setting. He’s Holliston’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (40) and two-point conversions (19). He gained 3,000 yards rushing, and his 13-game streak of scoring at least one touchdown still stands as a school record. Alger’s 278 career points was tops at Holliston until Zach Elkinson broke his record with 330.
“I keep tabs on the team through Facebook, and I’ve returned to see a game or two,’’ Alger said. “I saw Zach play in the Super Bowl when they demolished Wahconah. Breaking my scoring record was inevitable and a sign of progress. Last October, I had a blast when I was invited back to town with coach (Tom) Caito for an event that featured Ken Dunn’s book on the history and tradition of Holliston football.’’
Gary Alger wasn’t just a good football player. He was more, much more.
His best game and his top thrill speak volumes about his team-first philosophy. His four TDs and 125 yards rushing against Dover-Sherborn is his most memorable individual effort but the Panthers’ 12-8 triumph against Medway his senior season had more significance and was more thrilling.
“It didn’t matter how many TDs or how many yards I gained,’’ Alger said. “We didn’t think about stats, we thought about our team. The Dover-Sherborn game was my best offensive effort, but beating Medway kept us undefeated. We were both unbeaten and met late in the season. That game was not easy; it was physical, a slug in the mud. They keyed on me and it was Rich Carpenter who beat them on a punt return for a TD.’’
Alger is quick to deflect any focus on his gridiron excellence to his teammates, especially his offensive line.
“We had undersized linemen who dominated,’’ he said. “Guys like Dan Zimmerley, Bob Smallwood and Steve Miller opened big holes. Our defense was superb, too. Players like Glen Carey, Cecil Wright, Greg Honza and Pete Henderson did a great job. Gary and Gerry Petercuskie were strong on defense, Don Peterson was an aggressive tight end and Buddy Frost was unsung at quarterback.’’
A 6-foot, 215-pound back, Alger had size, speed and strength. He ran behind his guards and tackles and left the outside sweeps to Ed Gillen and Bob Horrigan. “I ran the 40 in 4.7 seconds and the 100 in 11.2 seconds,’’ Alger recalled. “Very few of coach Caito’s players went both ways, so we were never tired. I hit the holes quickly and most of my TDs were on runs of 3-5 yards. And, I liked blocking for Gillen and Horrigan.’’
Alger was a breed apart, piling up honors early in his career. He was a TVL all-star in football and track and was a Boston Globe all-scholastic grid choice. As a sophomore, when he scored 110 points, he was honored by the Framingham News (now the Metrowest Daily News) as the area scoring champion.
Alger had full scholarship offers to play at Pittsburgh, UMass and Syracuse but instead chose Brown University. Unfortunately, his college career was brief, lasting only two games. “I injured my shoulder playing in the Agganis all-star game, then re-injured it when I got to Brown,’’ he said. “I was told after another shoulder injury that I couldn’t lift weights. So, I decided not to play as a sophomore and focused on getting a degree in sociology.’’
After graduating in 1976, Alger enrolled at Andover-Newton Theological School and became an ordained minister.
“I had parish ministries in New Hampshire and Connecticut for eight years,’’ Alger noted. “I later got involved with behavioral health and became a trained psychotherapist. As a drug counselor, I worked in clinics and hospitals, but now I’m a licensed alcohol and drug counselor at the University of Connecticut, assisting faculty, staff members and their families.’’
Many of Alger’s fond memories of Holliston football center on Caito, who saw him play in the eighth grade and labeled him “my baby bull.’’
“Tom Caito loved his players,’’ Alger emphasized. “He was a great motivator and a disciplinarian, but he was also very supportive. “He helped build my confidence, and he and my dad are the two men who shaped my life. Tom made the team the top priority in practice and he preached that what we do in practice will be reflected in our games.’’
Relying on a philosophy that made winning a high priority, Alger also strived to always give 100 percent and enjoy the friendships built in athletics. “Life lessons were learned in sports,’’ he noted. “I learned that when you thought you had nothing left, you still were able to provide that extra effort. I also learned to respect your teammates and your opponents, I learned compassion and I learned sportsmanship.’’
A four-year veteran of outdoor track, Alger ran a leg of the 4x220 relay and he also was extremely capable in the shot put and discus. His best heave in the shot put was 51 feet, 10½ inches and his top mark in the discus was 120 feet.
“We won the state title in track my senior year (1972) and my last attempt in the shot put was my best,’’ Alger recalled.
Calling his late parents (Ray and Beverly) role models for their support and encouragement, Alger and his wife (Caroline) live in Harwinton and have eight adult children, six of whom were adopted.
Last year, Alger was delighted to participate in a book-signing that featured Holliston’s grid history. Alger reunited with Caito at Fiske’s General Store and marveled at how gracious fans and friends of the football program were. “I was in my glory,’’ he said. “It was great to see friends and teammates and to connect with them again. There was a lot of respect and love shown that day, especially since coach Caito was on hand.’’
Alger has a knack for praising others. When he scored touchdowns, his offensive line was cited. When he set records, he lauded teammates and coaches.
During his three varsity years, the Panthers went 24-3. “After a loss to Medfield my sophomore season, I remember being dejected on the bus,’’ Alger recalled. “A teammate (George Payne) saw me and said: ‘hold your head up; you’re a Panther.’’’
Indeed, he was. And still is.