Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hopkinton Wraps up TVL Title With Win Over Holliston

By Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN)

HOPKINTON – You have to go all the way back to the days before the Barack Obama administration to recall when summiting to Tri-Valley League riches didn’t go through Holliston first. But after nearly a decade of coming up short against the perennial juggernaut, Hopkinton has finally laid that albatross to rest.

The Hillers (7-0) capped a perfect regular season with a 12-8 win over the Panthers (3-3) in a defensive slugfest before a capacity crowd at Dave Hughes Stadium. With its sophisticated blend of speed and athleticism in its 4-3 defensive front, Hopkinton held Holliston to just 134 yards of offense as it claimed the TVL’s Large division outright and notched its first win over the powerhouse program since 2008.

“It’s a tribute to the kids,” Hillers head coach Jim Girard said. “They’re good kids, they work hard, they’re unselfish, and I think that’s really the big key. They’re good athletes, yeah, but they do all the other things right. And that’s why they’re TVL champs.”

Though as sentimental as this night might be to some, don’t expect Girard to reflect too long on the historic win. In Hopkinton, they’re on to Cincinnati.

“I don’t pay attention [to history]. I’m just focused on this year’s team,” he said. “I’m proud of these kids and this coaching staff. It’s a great accomplishment, the TVL’s a very competitive league, and to beat a program like Holliston that is outstanding, it’s a great win for us. [But] we’re gonna enjoy this win for about 24 hours, and then it’s on to the playoffs. That’s it.”

The Hillers turned to two of their best defensive players to preserve the win late. First, two plays after pinning Holliston at its own four with a punt with four minutes left, safety Connor Hebert (three sacks) came flying off the edge to take down quarterback Ryan Branco for a safety and 12-8 advantage.

“He comes off the edge like he’s shot out of a cannon – he’s extremely fast,” Girard said of Hebert. “His first couple games of the season, he was hampered by an ankle injury, but he’s finally got his legs under him, and to just watch him out there on defense, it was devastating.”

Then on Holliston’s final chance, after a tip-drill catch set up a new set of downs at its own 37, a fumbled ball took a wild bounce towards the Panthers’ sideline, but Farina (sack, interception) pounced on it to seal the win.

For a first half that saw the two teams combine for seven punts and 154 total yards, there was plenty of chess to chew on. The Panthers opened the game repeatedly breaking the huddle in single-file before shifting into either a spread look or their patented “war” package; that experiment lasted just 12 plays, with Farina ending the drive with a sideline interception.

The Hillers, meanwhile, dug into the creative side of offensive coordinator Dan Sullivan’s playbook to score the half’s only points. Initially faking an end-around to the right at the snap, Ryan Kelleher (17 of 35, 182 yards, TD; 13 carries, 65 yards) instead shoveled the ball to Will Abbott going the opposite way for a 10-yard sweep and 7-0 lead with 4:41 to go in the second quarter.

“We worked on that play this week in practice, and Will executed it well. We blocked it up really well,” Girard said. “We try different things, and given the situation and circumstances it seemed like the right call.” 

No comments :