Hopkinton’s Run Falls Short, Panthers Prevail 20-0 Ending Hillers
6-Game Win Streak
By: Lou Ottaviani
October 22, 2011 — It’s football season and as we enter the seventh game of the season, it’s only natural to have some setbacks, nicks and bruises. For the Hillers, the timing of these unfortunate events couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Hopkinton had been riding on a high note of a 6 consecutive winning streak and were facing their number one rival, the Holliston Panthers. For many of the Hopkinton seniors, the Hillers were looking at an opportunity they’ve been waiting for all season, and that was to face the defending Division III Super Bowl Champion Holliston Panthers at David Hughes Stadium last evening before a respectable size crowd. However, remember me mentioning that it’s typical to have some setbacks by the time one reaches the seventh game of the season. Well, unfortunately for the Hillers, they were the recipients of such misfortune.
Prior to going into last night’s matchup, Hopkinton had received some bad news. Mike Decina, their starting senior star quarterback would be lost from the starting lineup for the next 3 to 4 weeks due to mononucleosis. This was a devastating blow for a team that had been on a roll winning six consecutive games and having an opportunity to show the defending Division III champs what they were going to be up against.
True, with seven games into the season, the Hillers were definitely starting to show signs of fatigue, wear and tear. The competitiveness of the TVL season has taken its toll on the Hillers. And despite all that, Hopkinton has still continued to battle through the challenges they face, show the pride, commitment and heart that this team is made of. The heartache doesn’t end with Decina being out. Other key players banged up include junior running back Ryan Bohlin (whom they lost due to injuries sustained during the first half), along with, senior linebacker Adam O’Neil who played banged up from injuries sustained during last week’s game against Norton.
With Hopkinton’s star quarterback out, junior back-up, Hank Rudden was given the nod to start his second career varsity game. In those two starts, his first against Medway last year when Decina went down and last night it was baptism under fire getting his second opportunity against, of all teams, the Holliston Panthers. Both his starts ironically have been against two outstanding teams. With that said, Rudden played with courage and poise for someone asked to take on this huge task. Rudden demonstrated poise and composure and didn’t appear to be flustered at any time during the game.
For Hopkinton, there was no doubt that they were coming into this game as the underdogs. However, the strategy for the Hillers would have to be to control their running game, keep the ball on the ground and control time off the clock and possession. Holliston, on the other hand, was fresh and hungry. This fast, well coached and well disciplined team had other things on their mind and came out with other intentions.
As the start of the game, Hopkinton came out sticking to their game plan. The action and tempo of the game was going back and forth throughout the first quarter with neither team scoring. It was like a prize fight, watching each opponent sizing each other out. At the start of the second quarter, Hopkinton was making a threat to score as they marched the ball from their own 49-yard. A pass completion from Rudden to Shaun Palmer netted 25-yards putting the ball on the 27. That followed by an Alex Hulme 11-yard pickup put the Hillers on the 16. Two plays later, what appeared to be a mix up in communications, saw a Rudden pass in the end zone, fall into the hands of Panther defenseman Jake Frechette to stop any potential opportunity for a Hiller score. Holliston was given possession at their own 20.
With that drive, Holliston tried to capitalize, moving the ball near mid-field. However, an 8 yard sack on third down by Hiller linebacker Jack Lampert forced the Panthers to punt at their own 49.
Holliston started to make things happen with their last drive of the first half. Running back, Dan Barone put on a show, picking up 43-yards on four carries, capping off a score with a 1-yard plunge with 2:08 left in the half. Barone also added the PAT kick to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead going into the locker room at half-time.
Considering the circumstances, the Hillers had to be feeling pretty happy considering the challenges they were facing going into the game.
At the start of the second half, Holliston received the kickoff and grabbed possession at the Holliston 31-yard line. Eating up 4:24 on the clock and driving the ball 67 yards to the Hiller 2-yard line, the Panthers were stopped by the Hopkinton defensive line who stepped up big time, forcing Hopkinton to take over possession.
Hopkinton’s defense was playing stellar. On Holliston’s next possession, Barrett Hanlon had a huge play, picking off a Dan Barone pass at the Panther 43-yard line. Hopkinton was unable to make anything happen and were forced to punt. With the ball on the 20-yard line, Max Athy quickly picked up 15 yards on his first two carries, bringing the ball to the 35. Two plays later, with the ball on the 40, Dan Barone running to his right, made a sharp cut to his left and sprinted to the end zone untouched for a 60-yard score with just 54 seconds left in the third quarter. His PAT kick made it 14-0.
As a side note, Hiller punter, Keaton Britt did an excellent job punting all night, kicking the ball away from his Panther punt returners, he didn’t allow a Holliston the ability to return any of his punts for gains.
Holliston took advantage of a Hiller fumble on their next possession, giving the Panthers decent field position at their own 43. This is where the Hillers defensive fatigue was starting to show. Twelve plays later, Holliston’s Max Athy crashed in from the 5-yard line to give Holliston a 20-0 lead which was too much for the Hillers to overcome.
Hopkinton gave a last drive effort to see if they could put something on the board with 2:02 left in the game, but it was a little bit too short and too late in the game at this point.
What could have been or should have been, just did not happen. Perhaps not having the services of Mike Decina might have made a difference with the outcome of the game, but we’ll never know. It is the opinion of this writer, that had Mike Decina played, one could argue that Hopkinton’s offense might have had additional valuable field possession which would have allowed their defense some additional and needed rest, or that perhaps with Decina’s offensive talent, he might have broken a run here or there which could have changed the outcome of the game. I’m sure that Holliston may have considered this situation, as well. But regardless of the outcome, the final score of 20-0 was not indicative of how this game was played, and the win stays with Holliston.
Junior Hank Rudden should feel good about the effort he gave, despite the outcome. He stepped into a tough situation and performed admirably. His teammates should feel very good with his performance, finishing the evening with 11 completions in 21 attempts for a total of 99 yards. I thought that the defense played a decent game up until the end of the third quarter, beginning the fourth. Holliston’s offensive possession eventually took its toll on them. If the Hiller defense had an Achilles’ heal, it had to be trying to stop Holliston’s inside trap (counter trap) play. The loss puts Hopkinton’s (6-1, 2-1; TVL) first blemish on the season.
Holliston’s Dan Barone (29 rushes for 219 yards; 2-TDs and 2-PAT Kicks) led all rushers on the night. Barone also accounted for 14 of the Panthers 20 points. Hopkinton’s Alex Hulme led the Hiller running attack with 87-yards on 15 carries.
One must tip their hat to Holliston (5-1, 2-0; TVL)for sticking to their game plan a playing disciplined football game and showing their fans why they are the defending Division III state champs. Holliston is a talented, fast and well coached team and deserves the accolades for their accomplishment.
1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q FINAL
HOLLISTON 0 7 7 6 20
HOPKINTON 0 0 0 0 0
School Player Run-Pass-FG Yardage Time Qtr
Holl Dan Barone Run 1 yd. 2:08 2
Holl Dan Barone PAT Kick Good
Holl Dan Barone Run 60 yds. :54 3
Holl Dan Barone PAT Kick Good
Holl Max Athly Run 5 yds. 2:28 4
Holl PAT Kick Blocked
HOPKINTON – Alex Hulme 15 carries, 87 yards
HOLLISTON – Dan Barone 29 carries, 219 yards, 2 rushing TDs, (2 PAT kicks)
HOPKINTON – Hank Rudden 11 for 21, 99 yards
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