Haverhill Hillies Football '06

Fri, Sep 29, 2006 07:00 PM @ Haverhill
Team Final
Methuen 7
Haverhill 20
Haverhill's Troy Warcewicz (44) and Corey Gobbi, right, tackle Methuen's Matt Barlett. » Carl Russo, Staff Photographer

Hillies become a passing fancy

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Friday, August, 24 By Dave Dyer
Staff writer

HAVERHILL | Haverhill High quarterback Peter Byron and ace receivers Andy Powell and Peter Early found out again last night that first-year coach Tim Briggs is a man of his word. "He told us in the summer that we'd be passing the ball if we had the chance," said Early. "So all three of us worked out together three days a week, after lifting, to get ready."

With its running game stuffed early by winless but fired-up Methuen, which took a 7-0 lead, the unbeaten Hillies were forced to pass. The results were sensational as they rallied for their fourth straight win, 20-7, before a crowd of more than 1,400.

Byron completed an impressive 15 of 24 passes for a region-best 259 yards with Early (6 catches, 126 yards, 2 TDs) and Powell (7 catches, 71 yards) his primary targets. "Everyone asked me in the summer if we'd be a running team or a passing team," said Briggs. "I told them we'd take what teams give us, and that's what we've been doing.

"That's what we did tonight. They were packing everyone in on us and we had to pass. We knew it in the first half, but we didn't do a very good job. At halftime, we just told them to relax and do what they needed to do (through the air)." That was music to Early's ears.

"We feel we can pass it and I love to hear that," said Early. "Byron threw some great balls."

Byron did indeed throw the ball well, but his receivers made some nice catches as well, starting in the second quarter when Haverhill tied the game. With Haverhill starting on its own 40, Early caught three passes for 51 yards, the final one a tough grab in traffic for a 19-yard TD.

Haverhill came out of halftime throwing, going to the air six times in a row, with Powell catching three balls for 34 yards. With the Methuen defense loosened up, Corey Gobbi (11 carries, 39 yards) ran the ball 22 yards to the 2 and scored easily on a sweep on the next play. Nick Vazquez kicked the extra point and Haverhill was in front to stay, 14-7.

At that point, the Haverhill defense | led by noseguard Josh Reyes, linebackers Troy Warcewicz and Dan Saunders and an athletic secondary | stiffened and kept the Rangers on their heels the rest of the way.

The Hillies' offense made three more visits into Methuen territory, meanwhile, and finally got an insurance TD with 2:18 to play when Early caught the ball on the right sideline and then cut back nicely for a 43-yard TD.

"The thing I'm happiest about is the way we responded," said Briggs. "Things weren't going our way in the beginning, and we lost our poise a little when they scored, but we came back." Haverhill's fourth straight win marks is believed to be its best start in at least 43 years. Complete Eagle-Tribune records go through the 1984 season and in the 20 years before that, they never had a winning season.

Methuen (0-3), which dominated the first quarter (18 plays to 4 for Haverhill) was led by the running of Johnson Claude (17 carries, 62 yards), who scored the Rangers' touchdown on a 3-yard sweep on the first play of the second quarter. Defensively, Methuen's front four played well and senior Pat Sughrue had an exceptional game at monster back.

"We played well for awhile but they've got speed, which we don't have, and they found our weakness," said Methuen coach Glen Guerin, whose Rangers have now lost 27 straight games over three years. "We've had people missing in the secondary | Michael Bartlett was out today with mono and they exploited us."

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