Haverhill Hillies Football '14

Inspired by ailing legend, Knights beat Hillies for North title

NORTH ANDOVER — Bubba Shkliew removed his helmet to show a face smeared with eye black, sweat and a few tears and stopped for a moment on the Walsh Stadium turf to took around absorb the emotion that filled the field.

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Football, 03/10/15 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Hillies denied by inches

LOWELL — Already committed to Syracuse University, Lowell High's Shy Cullen has exhibited the potential to go on to greatness.
He'll never make a bigger play then his one completed pass yesterday here at Cawley Stadium.
Trapped at its own one-inch-line and facing a 3rd-and-long with about a minute to play, Cullen took a handoff, faked forward then jumped and lobbed a strike to Nicolau Coury for 19 yards and the upset-clinching first down as the Red Raiders held of Haverhill, 8-6, on the snow.
"Just a great play," said Hillies' coach Tim O'Connor. "I thought we had tied it, though, at 8-8. I thought we had gotten the safety on (both first and second downs)."
Cullen's connection halted a wild fourth-quarter sequence, which saw the Hillies march 69 yards — all on the ground — only to be stopped by a fumbled snap on fourth-and-goal from the Red Raiders' 1.
"Mistakes," lamented Hillies coach Tim O'Connor. "The lesson I hope we learn there is that you need to finish."
The sour ending spoiled a pretty spirited effort by a Hillies team that had been clobbered by the injury bug.
One captain (Samie al-Ziab) remains on crutches awaiting knee surgery. Another, Pat Yale, were a walking cast as he nurses the torn ligaments in his ankle.
Yet, the Hillies fought. And rallied from an 8-0 hole with a huge second half.
"I thought we played really well today,"  said O'Connor. "We fought the elements, we fought tough calls at times. "It's a testament to the progam. A lot of kids underneath stepped up. We had a lot of young kids playing today. We bring eight back on offense, seven back on defense next year. So we'll see how that goes."
Down 8-0 at halftime, the Hillies held Lowell to only 21 second-half yards (19 coming on the Cullen dagger).
Offensively, the going was tough, but Haverhill got into it the hard way, sending both Ian Kessel and Pedro Santiago right up in the firing line between the tackles. Every yard gained in the snow had to be earned.
"They both ran hard and did the best they could under the conditions," said O'Connor.
Kessel, who led all rushers with 118 yards on 24 tries, cut the lead to 8-6 midway through the third on a four-yard TD burst. His earlier 29-yard dash off-tackle set up the score. Kessel closed a fine junior campaign with 852 yards and eight TD's on 148 carries.
But the conversion was stuffed, leaving it at 8-6.
Neither team managed much of anything until Haverhill took over at its own 30 with under six minutes to go.
The march was impressive, and the Hillies had their shots.
But on third-and-goal Kessel pushed the pile for two yards, tumbling just short of the line, to set up the fruitless fourth down miscue.
Defensively, the Hillies got just work inside especially from linebacker Phil Panici, who wore al-Ziab's No. 39 jersey to honor his fallen comrade.
Tackles Abraham Kann and Elias Gaetano found the snow to their liking as they devoured the Lowell inside game with penetration. Captain Matt Haskell anchored a Hillies offensive line that owned the trenches when it had to.
"This one hurts, but we'll bounce back, we'll  re-evaluate things and go from there," said O'Connor. "I'm happy with the growth of the program, and  disappointed with how it finished (with two losses). We're 7-4, MVC small champs, and it's something to build off of. Hopefully, we come back hungry."
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Football, 11/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Haverhill rallies for huge victory

READING — Lying on the ground in obvious pain, about to be taking off the field in a cart, Haverhill star Samie Al-Ziab signaled for fellow captain and close friend Phil Panici to come to his side for one message. Block this kick! “I saw one of my best friends in the whole world go down with an injury and I knew I just had to make a play,” said Panici. “I had a new fire in my eyes. I knew something had to happen.” With Haverhill trailing by six points and just three minutes left in the game, Panici busted through the line and blocked the punt. The ball then bounced to Albert Maldonado who picked it up and ran it 32 yards in for the touchdown. Quad-captain Patrick Yale then booted through the extra point, and Haverhill clinched a 14-13 comeback victory over Reading in the Division 2 North semifinals. The victory sends the Hillies to the Division 2 North finals, for a rematch against the team that dealt them their last loss, North Andover. “This was a miracle,” said Maldonado. “To see this team, my family, so happy is just incredible. We were nervous when we were down, but we looked at each other and said, ‘Great teams don’t lose big games like this’ and we made it happen in the end.” Haverhill appeared to be facing elimination, as Reading took a 13-0 lead late in the third quarter and had twice turned the Hillies away without points inside the Rocket 20-yard line. But sophomore quarterback Broghean McGovern then turned in the biggest play so far in his varsity career, capping off a 78-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Trevor Ferguson. “I thought Broghean was going to check down to one of the fast guys,” said Ferguson of the first touchdown catch of his career. “The defenders broke off of me and Broghean threw a perfect pass. I knew I had to catch it. I knew it could decide the game, I had my opportunity and I had to take it. It was the best feeling in the world.” Following a defensive stand Haverhill took the ball back and drove to the Reading 17-yard line, but was again turned away without points. The Hilles then forced another three-and-out, but the clock had ticked down to just over three minutes left and dual-threat Al-Ziab had just been carted off the field with a leg injury. As Reading set up to punt, Maldonado had a feeling. “I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the ball,” he said. “For some reason I asked another guy to switch positions with me for the kick. Then I see Phil ‘The Animal’ Panici block the punt. I picked it up and I knew I needed to score the touchdown for the team. I looked to me left and to my right and I didn’t see anyone. Then I just ran as fast as I could.” Yale, a senior with a knack for the clutch, then kicked through the extra point to give the Hillies the lead. The Rockets responded with a quick drive to the Haverhill 18-yard line. But with just 1:05 left, Hillie sophomore Aaron Brooks jumped in front of the receiver and picked off a pass to all but lock down the win. “Brooksy’s pick was huge,” said Panici. “We always make fun of him that he doesn’t have great hands, but he made a terrific play to jump that route and make that interception.” The Hillies then needed to run just three more plays to run out the clock and earn their trip to the North finals. “It is just so awesome to earn another shot at North Andover,” said Panici. “It is great to be playing football in November that matters. North finals, here we come.”

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Football, 11/07/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Hillies shackle Burton, Newton South in tourney win

HAVERHILL — Its confidence stripped in a humbling regular-season closing loss to North Andover High, Haverhill stepped into the playoffs, saddled with the responsibilities of slowing down one of the state’s most explosive offenses in Newton South, powered by dynamic sophomore Austin Burton.

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Football, 11/05/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Haverhill clinched MVC Small title with defensive dominance

HAVERHILL — It was Haverhill football’s motto from the first day of camp to the fourth quarter on Saturday.

“This is our time!” they yelled.

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Football, 10/18/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Kessel rushes for 143 yards in Haverhill win

Ian Kessel rushed 18 times for 143 and one touchdown to lead Haverhill football 42-26 over Dracut on Friday. 

Pedro Santiago rushed 12 times for 122 and two touchdowns as the Hillies, who primarily have been a rushing team this year, did much of the same against Dracut. 

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Football, 10/10/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Haverhill uses running game to roll past Lawrence

HAVERHILL — Samie Al-Ziab’s face showed the wear and tear of a tough afternoon, as he took a moment to wipe away the blood running from the gash above his nose.

“This was a long, hot, tough game, but it was sure worth it,” said Al-Ziab with a smile. “We wanted this one so bad after getting embarrassed two weeks ago. Today we got to show the team that we are.”

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Football, 09/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Central crushes Haverhill for second straight blowout win

LAWRENCE — Two weeks into the season, staring at the only team to knock them off last year, Central Catholic's only problem might be going the distance.
For the second straight week, the Raider starters had the helmets unbuckled for good by the mid-third quarter, making quick work of Haverhill High before about 1,200 fans here last night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
"Our coaches condition us every day, so we'll be fine playing the full four quarters," said Raider halfback Mike Balsamo, who steamrolled his way to 54 yards on just seven carries.
The Raiders will need it. Saturday, they travel to 2-0 St. John's Prep, fresh of last night's 14-6 victory at Brockton.
St. John's defeated Central here a year ago. The Raiders have gone on to rip off 11 straight wins since, including the drive to the 2013 Division 1 Super Bowl championship.
Central simply smothered the visiting Hillies, who came in riding the high of a last-minute opening win over Beverly.
But when the Raiders recovered their own opening kickoff — kind of a side-of-the-foot-flopper that came to rest in no-Hillies-land — they went to work.
Markus Edmunds dove in for the first of his three TDs on the night — five for the young season — and a fumble on Haverhill's second snap from scrimmage set up No. 2.
"That's our preparation, and we were hyped up for this one," said Balsamo. "We have some pretty experience guys like myself, Markus, Mike Milano. We have a lot of key starters back. So we're ready for challenges like this."
Central's starters dominated nearly every second they were in there, outgaining the Hillie regulars 304-20.
Edmunds, Milano and Balsamo combined to run 24 times for 205 yards on their own.
Fans got to see a hungrier, maybe even nastier Balsamo.
"That's my style of game," said the senior, who's already gotten offers from Wofford and Bryant. "I'm 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and I'm going to use it all I can to punish defenders and move the chains.
Now the Raiders can look ahead to the Prep and try to forget the nationally-acclaimed 40-21 loss that saw Eagle Johnny Thomas make ESPN's SportsCenter for his 106-yard interception return for a TD.
"I never watch (the video)," said Edmunds. "I want to vomit every time I watch it."
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Football, 09/12/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Hillies weather Beverly charge

HAVERHILL — The momentum had completely shifted to the visitor’s sideline.

Resuming Saturday’s lightning-suspended game against Beverly High on Sunday morning, the Haverhill football team watched the visiting Panthers score on their first two possessions to tie the score with eight-and-a-half minutes to play.

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Football, 09/06/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars