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Holliston Opens It's Bag of Tricks

Posted by Andrea Murphy on Oct 13 2004 at 05:00PM PDT
Creativity, old-fashioned work have Panthers at top of their game By James Whitters, Boston Globe Staff HOLLISTON -- First came the basic plays -- the bruising, off-tackle runs that are the cornerstone of every high school offense, from the lush lawns of Weston to the dusty oil fields of West Texas. Then came the fun stuff; the play-action passes, naked bootlegs, and spicy spread formations that have left defensive coordinators in the Tri-Valley League frantically flipping through their playbooks for an answer. For 20 fast and furious minutes last week, Holliston High School head coach Todd Kiley put one of the state's highest-scoring offenses through a rapid-fire series of plays, briefly letting his creative playbook spring to life on the back practice field at Holliston High School. What a show. The Panthers made precise blocks, ran crisp routes, and caught accurate, well-thrown passes. It was clear the Xs were taking it to the Os just as Kiley dreamed they would. When it was over -- when Kiley had finally taken his foot off the accelerator of an offense that's led Holliston to a 4-1 start by averaging 31.5 points per game -- the focused second-year head coach had a simple message. ''They can't stop us if we execute," he shouted. Heading into Saturday's game at Norton, few teams have been able to stop Holliston's multi-dimensional attack. The Panthers can beat you with the pass -- as they did in a 35-0 win over O'Bryant when quarterback Tyler Parrino connected on touchdown strikes of 48 and 59 yards -- or they can beat you with the run -- as they did in a 30-8 win over Medway, when Parrino rushed for 46 yards and two touchdowns and junior running back Dave Menapace lugged the ball for 102 yards and a score. ''It's a lot of fun knowing that every week we could be running a completely different offense from the week before," said Parrino, a wiry 5-foot-9-inch, 150-pound senior who transferred from Xaverian before the start of his junior year. ''We can go from wide-open shotgun to just power. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want." Parrino may not look like the prototypical quarterback, but he's proven to be the perfect conductor for Kiley's amorphous attack. A fast, shifty runner and a quick thinker, Parrino excels as an option quarterback. Put him in the pocket, however, and he can hurt you downfield with his underrated throwing arm. Not surprisingly, Holliston's double threat has found the end zone four times through the air and four more times on the ground. ''I wouldn't be able to do what we've done with 99 percent of the quarterbacks out there," Kiley said. ''We've put a lot of things in [the offense], and he's been able to handle everything we've thrown at him. He's a very heady player." Parrino isn't the only Panther making plays. Menapace, a sturdy 5-foot-9, 160-pound tailback, ran for more than 100 yards in his first two varsity starts. Junior fullback Zach Rodgers has scored three touchdowns, including a pair in Holliston's 34-21 win over Hopkinton two weeks ago. Senior wide receivers Mike Shilalie and Chris Valiant have combined for six touchdown catches. The offensive line, led by 6-foot-1, 265-pound senior Bobby Evers, has also played a big role, consistently opening holes for Menapace and Rodgers and giving Parrino the time he needs to find his receivers. ''Ty and us are on the same page," Shilalie said. ''It's working out well." Holliston's playoff hopes died last year when the Panthers dropped back-to-back 13-6 decisions to Medfield and eventual Super Bowl champion Westwood over the final two weeks of the season. You don't have to tell Kiley that a couple of more well-timed touchdowns could have sent his team to its first postseason appearance since 1991. ''It was close," he said. ''We faced two really good teams in those games." Kiley isn't taking any chances this year. With games still left to play against Medfield, Bellingham, Dover-Sherborn, and Westwood, the Panthers' focused, hard-driving coach is priming his dynamic offense to be at its very best when it matters most. ''Anytime you're undefeated in the league and you have wins over teams like Medway and Hopkinton, that's a good sign," he said. ''But it's still early. We've got a lot of things to work on. There's still six or seven teams fighting for the number one spot and only one gets to move on. Hopefully we'll be the ones left standing."

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