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Football a State of mind for these Panthers
by Sean Jacquet/Sports Correspondent
Wednesday August 18, 2004
For the most part, the halls of Holliston High were empty this summer with the exception of a few teachers and maintenance workers. The classrooms were quiet, the lockers undisturbed.
In the heat of July and August, Holliston High lay silent with one notable exception: the field house.
On any given Monday, Wednesday or Friday night, 30 Panther football players shattered the silence with the clanking of weights, good-natured teasing and shouts of encouragement.
Despite what the calendar might say, it is not vacation when it comes to football, and these players know it. After an encouraging 5-6 campaign in 2003, the mission for 2004 is to crack the .500 mark, while breaking into the Tri-Valley League elite. And to live up to those expectations, they can ill afford to take a vacation.
"We know the expectations are higher this year," says Tyler Parrino, who is the Panthers' senior quarterback and captain. "Last year, not much was expected, but this year, we have higher hopes. Last year, we came in hoping to win. This year, we expect to win."
Still, the wily veteran knows victories don't come without sacrifice and commitment, and to witnesss a Monday evening weight training session at Holliston HIgh, it's obvious this Panther squad has both of those qualities. The Panthers hold lifting session three nights a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). An average of 30 players attends each session.
The focus is to improve strength and quickness, but the time spent in the gym also has the added benefit of building team unity. According to Parrino, the team lifting sessions have augmented a sense of optimism that began percolating last season. After enduring nine losing seasons in 10 years plus a coaching change prior to the 2003 season, the Panthers program was desperately in need of a bright spot.
Enter coach Todd kiley, the former Westfield State quarterback, whose upbeat style has been precisely what the Panthers have been looking for. Kiley's attitude has carried over to the players in his first season, and after 2003's sussecss, Holliston has undergone a complete attitude adjustment.
"Judging from the talk around town, the attitude is completely different," says Parino, who himself was a newcomer in 2003 after spending two seasons at Xavierian. "It's a different mentality now. I wasn't here for the previous years, but I can tell the attitude's changed, and I think the off season work is part of that. Everybody's working hard because we're looking to be the best we can be. And the coaches are appreciative of that."
In addition, the offensive and defensive skill players attend a Tuesday night passing league at Framingham High. Parrino says the league builds team unity while also helping the younger players familarize themselves with Kiley's offense.
"Obviously it helps to get stronger, and that's probably what the most emphasis is on, but the passing league definitely helps, especially with the younger players," says Parrino. "It helps us learn the plays and really gel as a team."
But it isn't just a matter of showing up three nights a week. Many players have other pursuits, including jobs, vacations, and even other sports. Parrino suited up the the Holliston Senior Ruth team, which played Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, coninciding with the lifting sessions. To accommodate those players with other obligations, Kiley and the coaching staff opened the weight room in the morning and afternoon, allowing players to lift and play summer baseball.
"It's hard, particularly with the kids who play summer baseball, but the coaches have made it possible," says Parrino. "If a kid can't make it in the evening, the coaches will open the gym in the morning, so the opportunity has been there for the baseball players."
Parrino and company will get the chance to see their hard work and dedication pay off very soon enough. Most of the team will head to the Bay State camp, which runs double sessions from Saturday until Monday. The entire team will report to Holliston High Monday evening for mandatory conditioning drills.
The players will then have to endure three days of conditioning before the beginning of the intense double sessions Thursday morning. But the way PArrino looks at it, his Panther teammates haven't been afraid to hit the weights during the summer, why should a little running scare them?
"Everybody's very excited," says Parrino. "Everybody's working very hard and we've all been supportive of each other.
We've all been bonding and just having a good time. We're focusing on the positive. We're looking for this year to be as a continuation of last year. The attitude's the same, and we're hoping for an even better result."