HAVERHILL — The early Haverhill High appearance in the state and regional polls will be short-lived ... thanks to Central Catholic.
Still, after absorbing a 40-0 thumping Hillies coach Tim O’Connor remains confident his club will be back before this fall season is done.
“We’ll have to get healthy again, but we’ll use this as a learning experience, and we’re going to get better,” said O’Connor, whose club fell to 1-1 heading into the bye week. “It’s a learning curve for guys like (QB) Shane (Finn) and (halfback) Ian (Kessel). Overall, we’ll have to change a couple of things, but we’ll be fine.”
For the Raiders, it was the second straight dominating effort over an MVC small foe and a sizzling primer for Friday night’s Veterans Memorial Stadium showdown with Johnny “Rockets” Thomas and St. John’s Prep.
In all phases, the Raiders clicked ... mercilessly.
D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie (17) and Markus Edmunds (44) busted long first-quarter TD runs, the former having been set up by Cody Demers’ pinballing punt return.
QB Mike Milano put the hammer down in quarter two, clicking on TD connections with Ryan Etter and Demers, who caught 7 balls for 51 yards on the day. Each of those was set up by Haverhill turnovers.
“You just can’t play on a quarter of the field — no team can,” lamented O’Connor of the Hillie field position woes.
Down 28-0, the Hillies had one last spark to render the second half relevant. Kessel (20 carries, 69 yards) turned the right corner and dashed for 38 big ones. Finn then hit Johnny Ramsdell for 25 more to the Central 5 in the final minute before the intermission.
But Kessel was stoned by the Raider front twice and a pair of passes were incomplete as time ran out.
“That was a big effort from our whole team out there,” said the junior Milano, who has clearly made a huge jump up from his sophomore campaign. “A lot of (the improvement) is from the experience I got last year, but so much more is from my teammates. They boost my ego and give me an awful lot of confidence out there.”