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Holliston Eyes Larger Goals

Posted by Andrea Murphy on Sep 11 2004 at 05:00PM PDT
By Sean Jacquet/News Sport Correspondent Flash back a year to September 2003. Coming off a 1-10 season, Holliston's football team was entering camp with a rookie coach, new quarterback and only four seniors to lead the squad. After an 0-3 start, it looked like more of the same for a team that had only one winning season since 1993. But then the tide turned. The Panthers won three in a row, and five of their last eight, riding a 1,400-yard season by Daily News All-Star running back John Burke. Holliston finished 5-6 (5-4 Tri-Valley League), a nice story for a team that, admittedly, was in a rebuilding year. Now, back to the present. It's Year 2 of the reclamation project for the Todd Kiley-led Panthers. After sporting T-shirts bearing the words "Restore the Tradition" last season, Holliston is hoping to be a top dog in what, by many accounts, is a wide-open league. "We think we have a chance to compete for the title," said Kiley, the former Natick assistant and Holliston High graduate. "The league is very strong this year. There are six or seven teams that have a legitimate shot at the top, and we think we have as good a chance as any. Last year we gained respect, but this year we have it, and we're not going to sneak up on anybody." Ironically enough, the Panthers may have gained the most respect in their losing efforts. Needing two wins to grab a share of the TVL title, the Panthers lost consecutive 13-6 decisions, to 8-3 Medway and eventual Super Bowl champion Westwood. In the Thanksgiving Day tilt against Westwood, the Holliston defense limited the second-highest scoring offense in Division 5 to 40 rushing yards, which will serve as a point of reference for a team on the rise. "You can see the confidence in the kids," said Kiley. "They have a little bit of an edge, and for good reason. We came within two close games of a share of the title. We got a little taste of it at the end, and that has made us hungrier this year." Perhaps the greatest source of that burgeoning confidence is quarterback Tyler Parrino. Now in his second year with the Panthers after transferring from Xaverian, the senior has become acclimated to the system. "As a coach, you're at ease when a kid like that is running the show," said Kiley. "We're able to do so much more because of the good decisions he makes, what he can do with his arm and his legs. He's just a huge part of this team, and the kids feed off him." A precise passer, shifty runner and strong leader, the captain has the tools to carry the Panthers on the field and in the locker room. "We weren't used to winning last year, and once we got the feel and we learned how to win, we got the confidence we needed," he said. "At the end of the year, we were expecting to win, not wondering how the other team was going to beat us." Parrino will need that confidence as well as the support of his teammates, because he's been asked to shoulder a good deal of the offensive load. Since Burke took his act to Curry College, Parrino will likely carry the ball more often, along with new starting tailback Dave Menapace. Because of this, Parrino won't play safety, starting the season solely on offense. Said Kiley: "He's too valuable to lose." Holliston High football cap and schedule Sunday, September 12, 2004 HOLLISTON League: Tri-Valley League Coach: Todd Kiley (2nd year) Last Year's Record: 5-6 Last Playoff Appearance: 1991, lost to Weston 16-12 in Division 6A Super Bowl Captains: OL/DL Chris Harrington (5-11, 190, Sr.); OL/DL Bobby Evers (6-1, 265, Sr.); QB/DB Tyler Parrino (5-9, 150, Sr.); Returning Starters: Harrington; Evers; Parrino; G/MLB Brendan Shea (6-1, 225, Jr.); FB Zach Rodgers (5-11, 205, Jr.); Jon Neal (6-0, 205, Jr.); WR/CB Mike Shilalie (6-1, 170, Sr.); LB Derek Wilson (6-0, 190, Jr.; OL Mike Ghiloni (6-1, 240, Sr.); DB Brian Zunner (5-10, 160, Jr.) Other Players to Watch: S Matt Casserly (6-1, 165, Sr.); WR Chris Valiant (5-7, 140, Jr.); RB Dave Menapase (5-9, 160, Jr.); Dick Bell (6-1, 230, So.); RB Chris Harris (5-10, 187, Jr.) LB Marc Petercuskie (5-11, 170, So.). Team Strengths: Despite the team's youth (only six seniors return), Kiley considers experience one of the Panthers' assets. Ten starters are back from last year's squad, including Parrino, whom Kiley considers one of the most valuable players on the team. The Panthers are also strong up front, as all four of five starters return. Bell will fill for the graduated Craig Sheehan, joining Evers, Shea, Ghiloni and Harrington. Team Weaknesses: Although Parrino provides stability at the quarterback spot, the Panthers will have to reconstruct their running game after the loss of 1,400-yard rusher John Burke to graduation. Menapace is likely to get the bulk of the carries out of the backfield, although he will be pushed by Marian transfer Chris Harris. Depth is also a concern. Coach Kiley: "We know playing .500 ball isn't going to be good enough this year, as far as a goal goes. The stakes are higher, and we've raised the bar. And for good reason. We have some guys back, they've all been working hard in the offseason, and we've had a great preseason." Opening Game: Friday, Sept. 10 vs. O'Bryant (7 p.m.) League Opener: Thursday, Sept. 23 vs. Medway (7 p.m)

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