FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Only the strong survive, and simply the cream of the planet thrive, with a target on their backs, and the Holliston Panthers have joined the ranks of repeat champions, defeating the Chicopee Comp Colts 27-6 tonight in the Division 4 Super Bowl.
“Winning last year was unbelievable, and I had a lot of guys come up to tell me that we were going to be back here again, and that’s what we prided ourselves the minute the last season ended,” said junior Sam Athy, who scored the last touchdown of the game and snagged an interception on the ensuing series. “We had a bunch of guys that got right back in the weight room and we worked our butts off in the off season.”
The Panthers went between their double wing (“War”) and spread sets, and were able to produce offensively, which was expected. But to keep the Colts from running up the score was the question of the afternoon, and Holliston coach Todd Kiley knew that would be the key to his team’s win.
“You’re not going to completely shut down that team, but I thought we did a nice job of containing that team,” Kiley said, sporting his 2014 State Champions jacket.
Kiley and his staff gave a trio of seniors -- nose guard Zachary Sterling, and defensive ends Justin Keast and Ian McCarthy -- the opportunity to hunt the Colts from snap to whistle, outnumbered, and bring another trophy back across Route 126 to Holliston High School.
“Talk about having a monster assignment!” Kiley exclaimed. “We basically said, ‘It’s your job to stop the run’, so we went 3-2, five in the box. We felt like we needed six guys in coverage because the Colts receivers are that good. We sent an occasional blitz, here and there, to keep them off balance but for the most part we stayed in our base coverage and our kids did a great job of executing.”
Coach Kiley is a gambling man. But with intelligent, strong and fast guys up front, his gamble paid off as his front three hit the Chicopee line hard, holding them to a total of 16 rushing yards on the day.
“The football manual says that you’ve got to run with five guys in the box, so they tried to establish the run, and our five guys did a nice job against the run,” Kiley added.
“I knew I was going to get double teamed so I had to be quick off the ball, I had to get skinny, in between the linemen and pursue at an angle,” Sterling said, motioning the changes he made during the game to keep the middle of the field occupied. “I knew where I could beat the center and I knew where the guards were going every now and again so I was able to squeeze in between them and get pressure on the quarterback and backfield.”
“It’s a tough balance to keep and a thin line between playing the run and the pass,” McCarthy said of the assignment given to he and Justin Keast. “With the run, you’ve got to keep the play inside with three men up front and I think we did a great job of that.”
Even with the pressure up front, Holliston was not in the clear as Trevor Johnson (20 for 37, 205 yards) looked downfield to Cam Kagan (seven catches, 79 yards, TD), Mason Labonte (54 yards) among other weapons at his disposal and connected with them.
“We made enough plays, defensive back wise, to contain them. We had two safeties over the top, we went man underneath a lot of times and you’ve just got to give our kids a lot of credit.
Kiley, obviously a man of great skill and foresight, pumped the breaks on any talk of next season.
“I think we’ll let these guys enjoy the back to back victories and we’ll talk to you in a couple of weeks,” he laughed while being whisked away for photo opps with his coaching staff and friends.
Ian McCarthy was a junior here last year, and left a message for this year’s juniors if they want to maintain the crown that they’ve captured two years in a row.
“It’s all offseason work,” McCarthy emphasized. “If you put in the work during the offseason, you’re going to get the outcome you want.” With that being said, Athy is picking up right where McCarthy and the rest of the seniors are leaving the team as players today.
“We want to be back here again next year,” declared Athy. “We play for the brothers before us, we play for the brothers that are with us now and I’m sure there are going to be a lot of us back in the weight room when next week hits because we want to be back here at this point next week.
“That is what we do in Holliston -- we like to win State Championships. I love this team, this town and the coaching staff so much.”