Haverhill Hillies Football '13

Hillies rally with best half of their lives

HAVERHILL — Its Turkey Day clash with Lowell in serious jeopardy, the Haverhill High football team closed 2013 with its best half ever.
Even up 21-7, Lowell High never stood a chance and fell to the Hillies, 28-21, before about 500 fans here at Trinity Stadium.
Both teams finished the year at 7-4.
“I think coach (Tim O’Connor) challenged us as a team to step it up. I mean one of their TDs came on a fake punt and another came off of a blocked punt,” said Hillie senior defensive end Matt Burns, who ended his career in style with a pair of big sacks and a forced fumble.
“We needed to do it, and we needed to do it as a team.”
The Hillies simply slammed the door shut on defense.
Burns, Taylor Gonzalez, Phil Panici, Mike Attah, they all played stout up front. And when the Raiders took to the air, Haverhill’s secondary more than lived up to its billing.
Lowell managed just 53 yards after the break, and the Hillies forced three turnovers, pouncing on the opportunities to get back into the contest.
Battered clearly playing in pain, Johnny Ramsdell helped turn the tide with Haverhill facing a 4th-and-goal from the Lowell 7.
The diminutive receiver worked open into the flat at the 3 and pulled in a Shane Finn fastball. He spun, made one Raider miss then plowed through another to bounce into the end zone for the score.
A wind-aided Pat Yale pitching wedge lofted up clanged off the crossbar and vaulted through for the PAT and a 21-14 game.
Minutes later, a lethal Josh Dion hit forced a Lowell fumble. And this time, it was Stephane Bristol that made the visitors pay, sweeping left on an 18-yard TD run to knot at at 21-21 headed to the fourth.
O’Connor promised some tricks. One came in the move of Samie Al-Ziab into the backfield as a second runner.
Al-Ziab opened the next possession with a 46-yard run, helping set up the game-winner.
QB Shane Finn made Lowell jump with a hard count then heaved it up into a stiff wind with nothing to lose.
Receiver Piero Garcia located and hauled in the prayer, scooting into the end one with over nine minutes left.
Leading for the first time, 28-21, the Hillie defense finished in style.
Burns’ strip-sack ended one  possession, and Tommy Maguire fittingly closed out the effort with an interception at 1:58 to play.
“To end my career and our season like that, all I can really do is smile,” said Maguire, who has shown so much grit through an injury-marred season. “You really have to love football to go out there and play on a day like today. Thanksgiving football is the greatest tradition in the world. And this is just the greatest day of my life. I’ll never forget it.”

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Football, 11/28/13 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Division 2 North semis: Hillies bow out

HAVERHILL — At some point, the Hillies had to score or an end like this was inevitable.
"Smoke and mirrors carried us this far," said Haverhill High head coach Tim O'Connor.
Make that smoke, mirrors and one nasty Hillies defense.
But last night in the Division 2 North semifinals, Haverhill ran into a gritty, opportunistic group from Lincoln-Sudbury that pounced on a pair of paltry Haverhill punts and seemingly every other Hillie mistake in a 27-6 Warrior win.
"That's a very good football team, from a very good conference, and offensively, we just are what we are," said O'Connor.
After scoring no offensive touchdowns in the playoff-opening win last week vs. Lynn English, the Hillies looked on the cusp of breaking through.
Four trips inside the L-S 15 yielded only six points, though, and ultimately, that would spell doom in their Division 2 playoff run.
Next week, Haverhill fills out the regular season dance card with Reading before a Thanksgiving date against Lowell.
"We had our chances," said O'Connor.
Clearly, the best opportunity came with momentum in the third quarter when down 20-6, Patrick Yale picked off a Warrior pass and returned it to the Hillie 48. Haverhill marched right down the L-S 8, but couldn't stick it in, failing on downs.
The failed opportunity starched the Hillie sideline and the home crowd.
While Haverhill bowed out of the playoffs, they got major efforts from their usual impact suspects. Yale was everywhere in the defensive backfield. Johnny Ramsdell hauled in the Hillies lone TD, a 46-yard TD strike in a 3-catch, 76-yard night. Piero Garcia caught four balls for 48 yards.
Defensively, tackling machine Phil Panici delivered his expected 15-stick performance.

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Football, 11/08/13 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Yale leads Haverhill to playoff vivtory

HAVERHILL — Patrick Yale simply couldn’t contain his excitement.

“I’m the happiest man alive,” he said. “What an amazing night.”

The Haverhill High junior had all the right in the world to be overjoyed last night.

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Football, 11/01/13 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars