by Dakota Antelman
Senior running back Tony Francolini came out of a conversation with his team’s athletic trainer with an ear-to-ear grin.
Despite his slight limp and the small cut above his eye, Francolini was excited. With their 22-14 victory over Quabbin, his team had just notched their first win in a regular season home game in nearly two years.
“It was homecoming night,” Francolini said. “I’m a senior. I just wanted to get this win. I think our whole team did.”
The Hawks jumped out to an early lead when Francolini scored on a 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Hudson shut down the Quabbin offense before marching back down the field in the second quarter. Quarterback Corey Clemons ended that drive with a touchdown of his own, scoring on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line.
Quabbin closed the deficit with Hudson as they scored once at the end of the second quarter, and again early in the fourth quarter.
Thanks to two successful Hudson two-point conversions earlier in the game, and a failed Quabbin two-point conversion on their first touchdown, the Hawks maintained the lead. They then cemented it when Francolini ran in his second touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter.
“We were able to run the ball,” said Coach Dan McAnespie. “That’s who we are right now. Run the ball, let our offensive line play, and don’t try to trick [Quabbin].”
In focusing their offense on the run game, the Hawks specifically focused on Francolini. He amassed 29 carries, rushing for 148 yards in addition to his two touchdowns.
“That’s what we wanted to do,” McAnespie said. “We won the Clinton game by giving it to [Francolini] all the time. We won this game by giving it to him all the time.”
Francolini’s big day and the win it helped secure came two days shy of the two-year anniversary of Hudson’s last home victory in the regular season. They beat North Middlesex on October 23, 2015, but they did not win at home again until last year’s non-playoff consolation game against Burncoat, after that year’s regular season ended.
The streak-breaking victory also came both at the end of Homecoming week in Hudson and a week after the Hawks suffered a 38-6 loss to Oakmont on the road. After the HHS student section stormed the field following the game, Francolini noted the role that fans had in the game.
“For Oakmont, no one was there, but that just hurts the pride,” Francolini said. “When we had the whole Red Sea out here screaming for us, we had to get that win for them.”
McAnespie echoed that statement.
“When you feel like you’ve got your student body behind you, a lot of good things can happen,” he said. “We had a great week of school. We had an awesome pep rally. Our kids were feeding off of that for sure.”
Nearing the end of their season, the Hawks will play at least one more home game next week against Tyngsboro. They will then play two non-playoff games before hosting the Turkey Day game against Marlborough next month.
Aware of that limited slate of games left for them, seniors like Francolini walked off the field Friday with a crowd of classmates celebrating nearby and at least one American Flag emblazoned dollar store bucket hat sitting in the end zone, torn off the head of a fan by the wild celebrations that followed the win.
“I’m super proud of my kids,” McAnespie said. “They worked really hard tonight. I’m really proud of our defense. I’m proud of the way our kids played. They played with a lot of excitement. We had a great week of school. It was a great night.”