HOLLISTON, Mass. -- For the third straight year, the No. 21 Holliston Panthers defeated the Westwood Wolverines on Thanksgiving, 27-0, and, by doing so, again clinched a spot in the upcoming MIAA playoffs as the winners of the Tri-Valley League's large division.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win the league, and we knew we had a bunch of holes to replace offensively, defensively, [along with] some young guys [who] had to step into roles and we picked up right where we left off last year and we accomplished our goal today and that’s to run the table in this league,” Holliston head coach Todd Kiley said.
After a rather slow first quarter, the Panthers offense came to life by scoring 13 unanswered points in the second quarter, as senior running back Jake Frechette, (8 carries, 31 yards), cashed in on a seven yard score before senior quarterback Dan Barone (14 carries, 146 yards), sprinted past the Wolverines defense on the following series to give the home crowd something to cheer about prior to halftime.
“[It was] definitely just a team victory," Barone said. "That was definitely a real physical game, got pretty [intense at times], but we came together, as brothers like we are and [turned in] a big team victory."
Holliston extended their lead midway through the third quarter, as Barone scored on 14-yard option play, which was set up by junior backup quarterback Stephen Hennessy. Barone then registered his final score of the game when he connected with Frechette on a 30-yard pass to secure the win for the Panthers.
“They’ve played like that all season,” said Kiley, when asked to describe the play of Barone and Frechette. “They’re important leaders for this football program, and they showed it this morning. Those are kids that have logged a lot of hours for varsity football here too.”
As for Westwood, this clearly wasn’t their best game of the season. The Wolverines offensive lined struggled to protect quarterback Alex Berlutti, who tossed two interceptions and was sacked four times. Westwood was also flagged six times in a span of 40-minutes, which clearly was the main reason why head coach head coach Ed Mantie believed his team lost.
“We had some opportunities early in the game," Mantie said. "We got the ball, go right down the field and have a couple of penalties that get us backed up. Second quarter, we go down the field, have a fumble that backs us up, [which resulted in points for Holliston]. We battled, and our defense hung in there tough, we stopped them down here on the goal line to keep it a two touchdown game [before intermission], but we didn’t make enough plays on offense to win it.”
DEFENDING BARONE A FRECHETTE
Prior to kick-off, Westwood knew that if they were going to be successful, they’d have to stop Jake Frechette and Dan Barone, but instead, they allowed both players to register four scores and 177 yards on the ground.
“They are certainly good players, but we could have stopped them,” Mantie said. “They didn’t put up a ton of points like they did against everyone else, [but] it’s more so what we did not do on offense.”
Barone commented on his and Frechette’s play by saying, “Jake is a huge part of our offense, huge part of our game plan every week and to just have that leading rusher at Holliston High School right next to me, gives you comfort to the whole offense that anytime you give him the ball it could be a big play, so Jake is definitely a huge part of our offense, and will continue to be for the rest of the season.”
THREE YEARS IN A ROW
For the third year in a row, Holliston defeated Westwood on Thanksgiving, and also clinched a spot in the upcoming MIAA playoffs, which made Kiley quite happy after his team’s ninth win of the season.
“It’s a 10-team league, so it’s not an easy thing to do. We’ve had new kids just step up every year You’ve got a new group of seniors and they’re just all following after each others work ethic, the way they approach the game and the program, [and] the results are there,” Kiley said.
The head coach continued to compliment his squad’s effort and commitment by saying, “They make us coaches look good. A lot of talent in that locker room.”
SUCCESSFUL FIRST SEASON
Despite ending his season on a sour note, Mantie seemed rather optimistic about the future of Westwood football.
“We have a lot to build on in the future. If somebody told me, we were going to be 8-3 in the beginning of the year, certainly I would have taken it, but we can do better, [and] we will be better,” Mantie said.
Westwood will graduate 20 of their players, but expect both Alex and sophomore Bo Berlutti, along with junior Brandon Rodenbush to be major components for the Wolverines next season.
H- Jake Frechette 7-yard run (Barone Kick)
H- Dan Barone 63-yard run (kick failed)
H – Barone 11-yard run (Stephen Hennessey Run)
H – Frechette 30-yard pass from Barone (kick failed)