Boston High School: Matt Burns

D2 North: Haverhill 10, Lynn English 7

November, 2, 2013
HAVERHILL, Mass. -- It's been 12 seasons since Haverhill High last appeared in the postseason, so excuse Hillies coach Tim O'Connor if he got a little animated following what was mostly a stagnant MIAA Division 2 North first round contest. It wasn't too long ago the Hillies were 0-11, mired in continued futility, and here the head coach was raving on and on about how he'd run through a wall for his players.

"We didn't have kids bench pressing 300 pounds," he recalled. "Now, we've got kids benching 300, squatting 500, and we're still growing."

If the top-seeded Hillies are to emerge from this wide-open North field, they will have to improve significantly on offense, if tonight's 10-7 win over Lynn English tonight is any indication. The Hillies' lone touchdown came on a 10-yard pick-six from defensive end Matt Burns. With some key two-way starters playing through injury, the Hillies found themselves going mostly horizontal on offense, their few deep shots downfield mostly going to waste.

But defensively, this was an impressive outing. They set the tone early, holding the Bulldogs to 58 yards in the first half, with all but three of those yards coming on the final drive of the second quarter. No statement was bigger than Burns' TD late in the first quarter. On the second play of English's drive, Chris Lessard attempted to throw pass to the left flat. But the lanky Burns, who had been keeping his arms active going up against English star tackle Chris Tinkham, was able to disengage and leap up for the interception.

"Coach had been telling us all week that when they come out with no backs in the backfield, one quarterback, then it's usually a screen or a short type of pass," Burns said. "I looked for it, went out and got the ball."

After Pat Yale booted a 25-yard field goal for a 10-0 Hillies advantage late in the third, the Bulldogs' offense found some life, cutting the lead to 10-7 after a nice 46-yard punt return from running back Zach Lozzi. His return gave them starting field position at the Haverhill 37, and two plays later they capitalized, Lozzi again, this time coming around the right on a sweep for a 25-yard score.

That's when the Hillies' defense showed its backbone once again. Yale came up with two interceptions in the final 2:28 to preserve the win -- the second one a route he jumped at the right sideline, seemingly standing in place all night waiting for the ball to drop with nobody near him.

Javier goes down: The homecoming for English quarterback Jordan Javier, a star last season at Haverhill, was short-lived. He went down on the second play from scrimmage, getting pulled down to the turf after throwing an incomplete pass, and began screaming out in pain, clutching his left knee. After several moments laying on his back, he was carted off the field, then taken away in an ambulance during the second quarter.

"They think it might be an ACL, but he's at the hospital right now, so we're not sure," Bulldogs coach P.J. Holey said. "He was guarding [his knee], but we couldn't give an assessment then.

"I feel bad for Jordan, because he wanted to come back here and put on a show. He had a great week of practice all week, but we hope he's alright."

Setting the edge: In Tinkham, the Bulldogs have one of Massachusetts' top two-way linemen, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound road grader with supreme upper body strength, surprising mobility and a somewhat violent bull-rush technique. Defensively he tends to draw double or triple-teams; other times, teams keep play outside of the box, or let him fly upfield and counter with a draw.

And in Burns, Tinkham found a perfect foil. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Burns is long and lean, with great hand-to-hand combat skills to free his arms up and attempt to bat a ball -- an important trait for this matchup, considering how many times English threw to the flats.

For most of the night Burns held his own, hitting Tinkham with club and rip moves as well as a "wax on" technique, swinging his arms up in an uppercut motion when Tinkham got his hands inside on Burns' chest plate. Late in the game, with fatigue wearing in, Burns was replaced at end by outside linebacker Michael Kwegyir-Attah, who also showed some of his own arsenal of moves.

"He's definitely one of the top, if not the best, lineman I've faced," Burns said of Tinkham. "He's very physical, gets me inside underneath my pads. Never played against a guy like that."

Tinkham has drawn an assortment of Division 1 interest, from UMass down to FCS upstarts such as Bryant and UNC-Charlotte, and generally projects as a two-gap defensive tackle at the next level. Grades have been a focal point of improvement for Tinkham, and Holey says he is "decimal points away" at this moment.

"He's got a motor that doesn't stop," Holey said. "He's a very physical kid, he's got to control his emotion. The only thing they want to see out of him is admissions. But they love his motor."


LYN 0 0 0 7 --- 7
HAV 7 0 3 0 --- 10

First Quarter
H - Matt Burns 10 interception return (Pat Yale kick) :19

Third Quarter
H - Yale 25 field goal 2:54

Fourth Quarter
L - Zach Lozzi 25 run (Chris Lessard kick) 6:57

Recap: Haverhill 17, Methuen 0

October, 5, 2013
METHUEN, Mass. – It was all about team defense on Friday night as the Haverhill Hillies received a balanced and poised effort from their defense to shut out the previously unbeaten Methuen Rangers, 17-0.

Haverhill (3-1) used a ground-and-pound approach offensively to complement their staunch defensive effort as running back Tommy Maguire exploded for 160 yards rushing on 17 carries to go with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead the Hillie offensive attack.

Proving to be one of the state’s most dynamic one-two punches, Maguire and Ian Kessel (20 rushes, 91 yards) ran around and though the Methuen (4-1) defense, doing the majority of their work in the second half of play.

“We knew we were going to have to win close games this season,” Maguire said after the game. “We pride ourselves in our defense and we came out and played hard to earn the win.”

Despite a scoreless first half Haverhill defensive back Josh Dion made a big interception at the Haverhill goal line to thwart a promising Methuen drive deep in Hillie territory.

With the teams scoreless, Haverhill mounted their strongest drive of the game late in the third quarter, highlighted by a spectacular 35-yard reception by John Ramsdell (5 receptions, 52 yards) on a deep toss from quarterback Shane Finn.

Still scoreless, deep in to the third quarter of play, Patrick Yale calmly stepped in and nailed a 36-yard field goal to give Haverhill the game’s first points and a 3-0 lead with 53 seconds remaining in the third.

It would be all Haverhill and Maguire in the fourth quarter as the senior ripped off touchdown runs of 26 and 61 yards to help solidify the team win.

“I think it really just came down to preparation this week,” Haverhill head coach Tim O’Connor said after the game. “The game was supposed to be Saturday and got moved to Friday and we ended up practicing a little longer than usual ad we put it on the kids and they came though.”

Running back Will Weinhold (85 yards from scrimmage) and linebacker Luis Sanchez played well for Methuen in the loss.

Game Balls and Team-D: O’Connor handed his game balls in the post-game talk to linebacker Phil Panici and defensive lineman Matt Burns. Both players helped lead the shutout effort and played strong games up front. The did a good job stuffing the Methuen run, forcing long third downs and providing pressure in the Ranger backfield all night long.

“If you want to be the best you need to beat the best,” O’Connor said. “They were the best at 4-0 and that is what we did tonight.”

It was a true team effort on defense as a number of Hillies stepped up and made big plays. Whether it was linebacker Michael Kwegyir-Attah setting the edge, linebacker Stephane Bristol making big hits over the middle, or defensive lineman Sammy Al-Ziab firing in to the Methuen backfield for a sack, the Hillie defense was up to the challenge.

“We knew that we were going to be strong defensively this year,” O’Connor said. “We returned nine kids on the defensive side of the ball and I told people, that if we start clicking, watch out.”

The Hillie defensive backfield also played a disciplined game as they stayed at home and read their keys with Dion and Chiedozie Onwuka (big late-game INT) also stepping up to secure two of the three Methuen turnovers on the night.

“We did a lot of film study,” O’Connor said. “It is a credit to the staff, and a credit to the kids. These kids work real-hard in the film room, staying late and just preparing.”

Despite a 40-0 loss to Central Catholic two weeks back, Haverhill has defeated two strong offenses in Beverly and Lawrence and held both teams below 20 points at 19 and 12 points, respectively.

MVC D2 Race: Both teams were coming off big Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 wins last weekend, as Haverhill defeated Lawrence, 26-12, and Methuen shut down Dracut, 35-20.

The victory on Friday night was an important one for Haverhill as they look to keep pace with No. 17-ranked Tewksbury (4-0), at the top of the MVC Division 2 standings.

The Hillies will get their crack at the Redmen on Oct. 18, as The Redmen host the Hillies in a Friday night game at Doucette Stadium in Tewksbury. The Hillies must first tangle with Dracut next Friday as they play host to the dangerous and upset-minded Middies in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Methuen will travel to Tewksbury next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and will play their final MVC D2 contest at home against North Andover on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.