Haverhill Hillies Football '07

Carl Russo, Staff Photographer

Byron, Hillies remain resilient

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Wednesday, October, 10 By Hector Longo
Staff writer

In four varsity years, his on-field role models have gone from Sammy Baugh to Dan Marino to J.C. Watts.

Not for the congressman from Oklahoma's politics either. Haverhill High quarterback Peter Byron is no football historian or political scientist for that matter. He's just a kid who's been force-fed three wildly divergent offenses in four years of high school.

Friday night, Byron | now the master of head coach Tim Briggs' grind 'em up option attack | leads winless Haverhill, 0-5, when the Hillies host Central Catholic at 7 p.m.

"I guess I really don't want to talk about (the ancient single-wing offense he started his Haverhill career with)," said Byron. "And I never dreamed I'd throw for 1,300 yards like I did last year in our pro-set. But I like running the ball. And I've learned to enjoy the option game an awful lot."

Short on quality, experienced linemen | the Hillies are down to less than 40 non-freshmen in the program according to Byron | Briggs figured he had no other choice but to focus on the split-back, option game.

"We still take what the defense gives us," said the coach. "I mean we threw 30 times two weeks ago, then ran for 300 yards last week against Andover.

"It's nice to know with (Byron) that if people pile everyone in to stop the run, we have a quarterback who can throw it. We need one who's able to do both, and that's been Peter."

Byron remains upbeat, despite the club's start. While the Hillies have lost 12 straight games, Byron sees light, and believes fervently in what he preaches.

"The Central game is winnable. I mean I'm not going out and saying this is our time, or it will be easy," said Byron, who runs the 300 for the Hillie track team in the winter and hit .317 for the baseball team last spring. "It's just that every game is winnable.

"We only have like 30-something kids, but we stick together. From the last sophomore to the top senior, there's a lot of respect for each other. And we work so hard. If people want to put us down, they just don't know what they're talking about."

If Central expected a downtrodden Haverhill bunch, it is going to be mistaken.

"Last week we had an awful lot of fun, moving the ball up and down the field against a very good team," said Byron, who piloted the offense to 338 yards (316 rushing) in the 35-7 loss to the Golden Warriors. "We just have to find a way to put the ball in the end zone. That's what this game is all about."

Often this fall, Haverhill comes to the line with three different play options. Byron scans the defense and then decides on which is best. It's not easy.

"I didn't think I'd ever be able to do this when the season started," said Byron, whose brother Paul plays golf at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) and whose brother Andrew was the Hillies' quarterback in 2002-03. "I thought I was in way over my head. Now it's second nature. If you compared me on films from camp to the Andover film, it wouldn't be close."

Byron, whose numbers are depleted by sacks, has 59 carries for 189 yards on the year. He's also thrown for 462 yards. His impact goes beyond the numbers, though.

"He's always there and always loyal to his team and his teammates," said Briggs. "He'd be starting on defense, but I can't afford to lose him. He's had to learn and to lead us. But I've definitely gotten more out of him than I ever thought we would."

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