Saturday, September 9, 2017

Postgame Blog: Big Plays Propel Holliston Past Millis

Holliston quarterback Ryan Benco was fantastic in his first career start for the Panthers.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

MILLIS - The score didn't tell the whole story, but Holliston quelled any talk of the Panthers having a "down year" with a 24-7 win against defending Division 4A state champion Millis on opening night.

The Panthers got a sterling performance from senior quarterback Ryan Benco, who threw for over 150 yards and two touchdowns, to go with 55 yards on the ground, in his first start under center. On multiple occasions, Benco used his feet to evade the Mohawk rush, and either create positive plays on the ground, or buy time to push the ball down the field.

Perhaps no play was bigger than his 88-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Quinn. The throw was a perfect toss against single coverage, deep down the left side, hitting Quinn in stride as he streaked for the Millis goal line. Perhaps even more impressive than the throw itself, was the timing of Benco's strike.

Millis had just gotten on the board midway through the third quarter, after star Millis quarterback Bryce Latosek hit P.J. Adams for a score to punctuate a long Mohawk drive, but Benco erased any thoughts of a Millis comeback with his dagger.

"I wasn't nervous," Benco said of his first start. "I've been ready for this. I was excited for tonight."

Holliston Capitalizes on Opportunities

While the Panthers weren't exactly pushing Millis around, when they did get movement, it often led to big plays. A gaping hole spring senior running back Mikey Nash for a 77-yard touchdown run to break the ice late in the second quarter. A long drive, powered by Benco's legs, ended with a Benco touchdown pass to Jake Armstrong moments later, giving the Panthers a 12-0 lead at intermission.

Then the Holliston defense forced a quick three and out to start the third, leading to a high snap on Millis' ensuing punt. That gave the Panthers a first and goal, and Armstrong punched it in up the middle to make it 18-0.

So, it perhaps wasn't as dominant as the final score indicated, but Holliston made plays when they were there to be made, and much of that started with a numbly offensive line that could get to the second level of the defense.

"Our offensive line is so fast, and we use that to our advantage," junior left tackle Scott Elliott said. "They're really tough up front, and they always play us tough. We're as fast as we have been in a few years, and we had to use that against the big guys they had."

Kevin Pyne Sits for Millis

It was a disappointing night all around for Millis, made worse by the fact that super soph Kevin Pyne sat out with a knee injury. Pyne, currently rated as the No. 2 recruit in the country for the class of 2020, confirmed that he had a minor knee injury, but that he believed he would play next week.

Pyne's absence forced a shuffling of the Millis offensive line, and shortened up the Mohawks' rotation in the defensive trenches. It's hard to overstate how important Pyne is to this team, so it's great to hear that he will likely be back on the field soon.

But don't use the fact that Pyne didn't play to take away from Holliston's victory. This wasn't about a star sitting out, this was about Holliston proving, once again, that it will contend for a state title. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see both of these teams playing deep into the state tournament.

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