By David Willis
HAVERHILL — Patrick Yale simply couldn’t contain his excitement.
“I’m the happiest man alive,” he said. “What an amazing night.”
The Haverhill High junior had all the right in the world to be overjoyed last night.
Yale kicked the field goal the proved to be the winning margin, and intercepted a pair of passes, one that ended a key fourth-quarter drive and the other to lock down the victory as Haverhill earned a gritty 10-7 win over Lynn English in the Division 2 North quarterfinals, the Hillies’ first trip to the postseason since the 2001 season.
“It’s amazing,” said defensive lineman Matt Burns. “Freshman year we were 0-11, and this season we are a top seed winning a playoff game. It’s crazy. I don’t even know how to describe it.”
It was Burns that gave the Hillies the lead with 0:19 to go in the first quarter.
Lynn English QB Chris Lessard attempted a screen pass, but the 6-foot-2 Burns tipped the ball up in the air, caught it and scampered 12 yards for the touchdown.
“It just happened so fast,” said Burns. “The coaches have been telling me all season to watch for the screen pass. I swatted, got my hands on it and just prayed for my life. I don’t even think I had any thoughts. I just tried to run forward.”
That score proved to be crucial, as Haverhill struggled to find any offensive rhythm, finishing the game with just 118 yards.
But the Hillies were able to extend the lead with 2:46 left in the third. Lynn English attempted to convert a fourth-and-1 from its 40-yard line, but was stuffed for no gain. Four plays later, QB Shane Finn hit John Ramsdell for a 25-yard gain to the 8-yard line. Yale then calmly booted the 25-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
“I have been kicking field goals since freshman year and it’s still the most nerve-wracking thing in the world,” said Yale. “But it went through.”
Lynn English, which had just 78 yards through three quarters, found some pace in the fourth, scoring one touchdown and driving to the Haverhill 43 with just over two minutes left.
But that was when Yale stepped in, jumping a corner route and picking off Lessard — who was in the game because former Hillie receiver and now English QB Jordan (Javier) Lark was knocked out of the game with a leg injury on the first possession of the night.
“I have been telling Yale for a while that he is the best cornerback in the MVC,” said fellow defensive back Tommy Maguire. “And he’s only a junior, but he has made some huge plays. Then he got the second pick. We play defense. That’s what we do.”
A possession later, Yale locked down the victory by picking off a Lessard desperation heave. Also starring on defense for the Hillies were Adam Mondello (eight tackles) and Stephane Briston (6 tackles).
Haverhill now advances to host No. 4 Lincoln-Sudbury in the North semifinals on Friday.
“I told the boys before the game to embrace the moment and we captured it,” said Maguire. “Now we can’t wait for next week.”
Haverhill 10, Lynn English 7
Lynn English (4-3): 0 0 0 7 — 7
Haverhill (6-2): 7 0 3 0 — 10
H — Matt Burns 12 interception return (Patrick Yale kick), 0:19
H — Yale 25 field goal, 2:46
LE — Zach Lozzi 25 run (Chris Lessard kick), 6:57
RUSHING: H (37-82) — Stephane Bristol 13-53, Ian Kessel 13-30, Tommy Maguire 5-9, John Ramsdell 2-8, Shane Finn 4-(-18); LE (31-145) — Bryam Discua 9-63
PASSING: H — Finn 3-11-0, 36; LE — Chris Lessard 4-13-3, 7, Jordan (Javier) Lark 0-1-0
RECEIVING: H — Ramsdell 1-25, Maguire 1-12, Piero Garcia 1-(-1); LE — Daekwon Shepard 1-7, Kyle O’Connor 1-1, Jonathan Kosmas 2-(-1)