BEVERLY — If the strength of the Haverhill High football team is its beefy yet athletic offensive line, then they’ll be busy this fall opening up holes for their workhorse of a running back.
Sophomore Ian Kessel had his number called 36 times yesterday at Hurd Stadium, and he responded with 155 yards rushing and all three of his team’s touchdowns as the Hillies held off Beverly, 21-19, in the season opener for both.
A transfer from St. John’s Prep, Kessel scored on a 5-yard scamper in the first quarter, an 18-yard cutback in the second quarter (in which he dove to get the football over the pylon) and a 2-yard blast in the fourth quarter in which he dove over the pile.
“Ian has a lot of potential,” said Hillies head coach Tim O’Connor. “He needs to hit the hole harder and really shoot through it, and when he learns how to do that, he’ll be really dangerous.”
With the victory, Haverhill — which never trailed in the game — put an end to the Panthers’ 14-game winning streak dating back to 2002, the second longest streak in Eastern Massachusetts. Beverly went 13-0 last season and won its second Super Bowl championship in three years.
“We had a great week of practice,” said O’Connor. “Our scout guys took a beating running their Wing-T offense, but it really got us ready for what we faced (yesterday).”
“We knew coming in they’d be physical and well coached. We were ready for that.”
Beverly, which actually outgained the Hillies offensively (337 yards to 279), got to within two points on sophomore Matt Madden’s second touchdown of the game with exactly four minutes to play. But the two-point conversion rush attempt was stuffed, and a 45-yard field goal attempt on the game’s final play was blocked by Haverhill.