HAVERHILL — Part 1 of the rebirth of Haverhill football was plenty exciting.
The Hillies seemingly had taken permanent residence in the cellar of the Merrimack Valley Conference. The numbers were depressing with the lowlight being a 32-game losing streak.
But the last two years have proved the Hillies can play with the MVC’s elite. They snapped the streak in 2011 and went 8-3 this fall, equalling the team’s best record from the previous 32 years (the 2001 team also was 8-3).
Part 2 of the rebirth may be just as uplifting. Sending Hillie gridders to college.
Those seniors who revived the program are continuing to do the school, team and city proud.
Two-time all-conference lineman Dan Burrows has accepted a hefty scholarship package from Maine.
And the Hillies recently received more good news. Two other Eagle-Tribune All-Stars are headed to exclusive academic schools to continue their football careers.
All-Scholastic running back Chance Brady (2,063 rushing yards, 32 TDs last fall) will be heading to Tufts. Record-setting signal-caller Tommy Morgan (1,839 passing yards, 20 TD passes last fall) chose RPI.
“We want people to know going to Haverhill High and playing football can lead to opportunities,” said Hillie coach Tim O’Connor. “You don’t have to go to prep school or Catholic school.”
The 6-4, 290-pound Burrows said, “We’re proud to be seen as the senior class that has helped bring Haverhill back. When Coach O’Connor came, we knew with this staff and our talent we could achieve great things and I think we did.”
Burrows stressed the turnaround began before the Class of 2013. He said that although the Brown and Gold struggled, older teammates like Brett Pettis, Mac Milewski and Ryan Filliger were top-notch leaders who sped up the rebuilding process.
Burrows always had that impressive size and his work ethic and pride in the classroom completed the package. He also was considering Division 1-AA Marist and Division 2 Southern Connecticut and Assumption.
“I took my official visit to Maine the weekend of Jan. 18,” he said. “The coaches were great. It felt like the best fit. It’s a great school and it made the most sense.”
Dollars and sense.
“It was a really good package,” he said.
The same could be said for Burrows, who combines his terrific size with the competitiveness and athleticism to star in track (49-9 3/4 shot put) and baseball (1.93 ERA last spring).
Needless to say, the Merrimack Valley hasn’t seen too many baseball players the size of Burrows.
“They always want to make sure I’m actually in high school!” he said with a laugh.
More than a few lineman undoubtedly shared that sentiment.
Burrows started a couple of games as a 6-2, 260-pound freshman and then starred the last three falls.
He realizes 1-AA college ball will be another world entirely.
“I won’t go in with a big head,” said Burrows, a dedicated wightlifter who can bench press 310 pounds and squat 500 pounds. “I’ll take my licks. If I keep working hard, I’m certainly capable of getting my shot.”
O’Connor believes the Black Bears are getting a good one.
“Dan has intelligence and size,” said O’Connor, the 2012 Eagle-Tribune Football Coach of the Year. “He’s 6-4, 290 and not fat. Maine sees the potential in him. He went to a one-day camp there and made a name for himself.”
Like Brady and Morgan, Burrows takes his academics seriously.
“They’ve always been there,” he said.
“I’m in the Classical Academy. You need to keep high academic standards to be a member. Once I started playing football, I knew the grades part was just as important.”
He may have been destined to become a Black Bear like previous Hillies Jim Hinds and brothers Brendon and Corey Parker.
Burrows’ 4th grade teacher at Golden Hill? Brendon Parker. And his principal at John Greenleaf Whittier Middle School? Parker again.
Follow Michael Muldoon on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.
Previous 1-AA players
Dan Burrows is one of only a handful of Haverhill High players to sign with a 1-AA scholarship school.
In the last 30 years, that list includes Jim Hinds (HHS ‘82, four-year Maine letterman), Corey Parker (HHS ‘88, twice named UMaine’s top defensive lineman), his brother Brendon Parker (HHS ‘92, lettered twice at Maine) and Jeff DiBurro (HHS ‘89, lettered twice at Holy Cross).