EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 7, 2012

Hillie stunner a 'program changer'

Hillie stunner puts recent woes in rear-view mirror for good

High School Football Hector Longo
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — HAVERHILL – For Tim O’Connor, the lowest of lows came in his initial meeting with the team, June 25, 2010.

“Eighteen kids showed up,” said O’Connor. “I wondered what I was getting myself into.”

QB Tommy Morgan’s thoughts pointed to a couple of months later, when in his start against Central Catholic, a 29-0 spanking, he threw five interceptions — yep, even one for the thumb.

As they awake this Sunday morning, every single person associated with Haverhill High football — from Superintendent Jim Scully on down — can officially turn the page on all the “lowest of lows.”

The program reached an amazing high here on McNamara Field yesterday, a stunning, 30-23, upset of Chelmsford that might be the kind of thing that alters the future.

“Everyone now knows that this program has changed magnanimously,” said one of many Hillie heroes yesterday, Chance Brady. “A moment like this, to beat a team like this is unbelievable. But I’m not surprised. Coach preaches football and family, and this group has each other’s back.”

Why is this victory so vindicating?

“The bottom line is that it’s a program changer,” said Morgan.

Remember, this is an unbeaten, defending conference champion Chelmsford team. And also keep in mind, this is a program that O’Connor and the Hillies sidestepped last year, opting to beg for crossover relief on their schedule.

That move drew some criticism, not just from around the MVC but even here in the Shoe City.

“How people perceived that really matters little to me,” said O’Connor. “I care only about the 60 kids in that locker room right there. A year later, it looks like that was the right move for us. And that’s all the matters.”

Where does Haverhill football go from here?

Wherever they go, it will attract more attention. This is a program that ended a 32-game losing skid by going 4-7 last year.

Now 4-1, they’ll need some help in the chase for the MVC Division 2 race because of the earlier loss to Tewksbury. But O’Connor and the crew are only looking at the positives that lie ahead.

“It’s a program built for the long haul,” said the coach. “We are winning on all levels, not just the varsity. Sure, we lose some key pieces (Morgan and Brady for two) after this year. But you’re looking at a pretty good defense that loses one starter next year.”

I had the inkling coming in — actually picked the Hillies to win this one at my blog (blogs.eagletribune.com/mvsports) — but yesterday’s win officially puts Haverhill High on the football map.

“We are coming together,” said the receiver on the game-winning TD, Jordan Javier. “We’re doing what has to be done. We’re beating the teams we’re supposed to beat.

“We’re good.”

Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.