Sports

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Matt Burke shown on the field holding a football during the Dolphins game against the Steelers. | Submitted photo by Peter McMahon (Miami Dolphins)

by Siobhan Richards

For New Englanders, the football season was a time to root for the Patriots, especially when the Patriots played one of their AFC rivals, the Miami Dolphins, in Week 17 last year. In that game, however, Hudson football fans had to root for both teams.

Matt Burke, an HHS graduate and football captain from the Class of 1994, has climbed through the ranks of both collegiate and professional football to become the current defensive coordinator for the Dolphins.

Burke played football for most of his high school career as a safety and at quarterback his senior year. Burke also excelled in the classroom. He was the Class of 94’s valedictorian.

“That’s [Hudson] where it really started. I played other sports [basketball, baseball, and track],” Burke said, “but when I went to college, I knew football was the sport I was most passionate about.”  

Burke attended Dartmouth, where he played safety, and he was a part of an undefeated Ivy League championship team in 1996. At the time, coaching had not crossed his mind as a possible career.

“I took kind of a convoluted path to coaching,” Burke said. “When I left Hudson, I went to Dartmouth, and I kind of thought I was going to be a doctor or something. When I was in college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved football.”

Burke began his coaching career at Bridgton Academy in North Bridgton, Maine. From there, he worked as a graduate assistant coach at Boston College, where he received his masters degree. There, he also realized his passion for coaching and was determined to make a career out of it.

“Over the course of my time at BC, I was like, ‘All right, this is what I want to do.’ I don’t know if I ever really made a conscious effort to coach, but it just kept happening, and at some point I looked up and said, ‘Man, I want to make a career out of this,’” Burke said.

As he continued to coach, more opportunities opened up. While working as the assistant secondary coach at Harvard, his big break came.

“You never know when your break is going to come or when opportunity is going to rise, so you can’t really plan for it. But I told myself, ‘I’m going to work hard and be a good coach, and whomever I was working with would hopefully recognize that when a break did come,'” Burke said. “I told myself that I was going to coach as hard as I can and be as good as I can and let the breaks happen when they may. I just happened to get very lucky.”

Burke’s hard work paid off when Harvard recommended him for a coaching position at the Tennessee Titans. They hired him as the defense quality control coach, beginning his NFL career.

He moved around to three different teams, slowly moving up in the ranks to linebacker coach. This past January, he was promoted to defensive coordinator of the Dolphins.

As the linebacker coach, he worked closely with parts of the defense and, specifically, with linebacker Mike Hull.

Hull spoke highly of his coach, saying, “He’s a very intelligent coach. He knows everything about the defense, and he’s going to give you straight answers so you know what your job is.”

Burke can find the specific strengths in each player and highlight them on the field. Under Burke, Hull had a breakout season, more than tripling his tackles, with 18 tackles in 16 games.

“[Burke] lets you be a football player and really lets you thrive in whatever your niche is or whatever type of player you are. He doesn’t try to make you too mechanical and really works with you,” Hull said about Burke’s coaching style. “I love working for him. I think I speak for every linebacker in the room. He’s a great coach.”

Some of Burke’s coaching success can be traced back to his time at Hudson under former football coach Victor Rimkus.

“I definitely experienced a lot there [at HHS],” Burke said. “Looking back I ended up experiencing a lot of different things in my early football career, and it was a good foundation of experiences of both highs and lows.”

His relationship with his former coach and teacher has stayed strong throughout the years. The two have met up on occasion when Burke is in town, and Rimkus even went to see some of his games in college. He still recalls much of his time with Burke in high school, even though Rimkus retired after Burke’s junior year.

“I coached him 25 years ago, but he always had a place in my heart. He was such a great student and athlete,” Rimkus said. “Matt was an outstanding student, an outstanding athlete for a tall spindly kid, and boy, he could really run.”

Rimkus has followed Burke’s career wherever he went, and as a former coach, is very impressed by his career path.

“Well I’d like to think I did [inspire him to become a coach],” Rimkus said with a chuckle. “During the years I have always watched for him on the sidelines, until his father told me he’s always up in the press box. He’s so intuitive and really knows the game. I hope they have a great season down in Miami, and he’s got a lot of work to do down there on defense.”

Burke has been working with the team throughout the offseason and addressed some of his ideas for the season at a press conference in May.

“I could see all kinds of success stories from Matt Burke. He’s going up, and I wouldn’t be surprised some day if he becomes a head coach in the NFL,” Rimkus said. “I think someday you might even be reading about him as a head coach tangling with the Patriots.” 

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McKayla Shutt bats while a teammate looks on. | Submitted photo

by Dakota Antelman

Less than a week into her high school softball career, McKayla Shutt thanked her coaches for treating her just like the rest of her teammates.

Born without a full-sized left hand or fingers on that left hand, Shutt faces difficulties in softball that her teammates and opponents do not. But, after roughly her first year of high school play, she remains happy that her coaches don’t use her disability as a reason to go easy on her or keep her off the field.

“The coaches treat me like everyone else,” she said. “I do the same amount of catching, the same amount of throwing, the same skills that everyone else is taught.”

The backup first basemen and backup catcher on the eighth grade softball team, Shutt plays by first catching the ball with a glove on her right hand. She then drops the glove with the ball still inside of it, and finally picks the ball out of the glove to throw it also with her right hand.

Her coach, Catherine Brow, said she was impressed by Shutt’s ability.

“She does it so quickly especially when she’s behind the plate,” Brow said of Shutt’s fielding. “She catches it, and, by the time she’s standing up, she has the glove down, the ball in her hand and she’s ready to throw. It’s such a quick change. You don’t even notice it.”

While Shutt has played other sports, including field hockey, soccer and basketball, she has spent a considerable amount of time playing softball. She began playing t-ball in kindergarten and has progressed ever since.

Over the years, however, she has not found the kind of honest criticism from coaches she currently enjoys.

“[Before this year,] if I didn’t catch as well in one inning, my coaches would be like, ‘Oh it’s fine, shake it off,’” Shutt said, adding, however, that she loved all her coaches. “But here, the coach that I have will tell me, ‘You weren’t as good as you could have been.’ It’s nice to hear them say that.”

Catherine Brow sees this inclusivity as a core coaching value. In accepting Shutt with open arms, and treating her just as she does any other player, she also said she feels driven by her job as a paraprofessional and her ongoing education to become a special education teacher.

“Everybody should have the same opportunity,” she said. “Nobody should have anything held against them because of their disability. I’m not going to treat her any differently. I’m going to give her the same chance I give everybody else.”

Passivity by her own coaches was not Shutt’s only problem before high school. Indeed, opposing coaches, she said, would doubt her ability to play or question her when she dropped her glove and threw the ball with the same hand she caught it with.

“I’ve proven most of them wrong,” she said.

In dealing with naysayers, Shutt said her mother has been a crucial source of support.

“Obviously, she has two hands,” Shutt said. “But she has been there for me during everything with sports, especially when people are giving me a hard time about it.”

While some of her past coaches treated her differently or even questioned her ability, Shutt said her teammates have always supported her without question.

“They pick me up when I’m down,” she said. “They know how to cheer me up. They understand that it’s difficult, but they treat me like a normal person, which is really nice. They treat me like I have two hands.”

She added that this was the first year that she and all of her softball friends have played on the same team. Before this year, they were scattered among teams playing in a town league.

As the year progressed, Shutt said the new competitive atmosphere helped her improve. During the season, she made a major batting adjustment, switching from a conventional batting stance to a “slapper” stance. Before high school, Shutt hit using her one right hand. With Brow as her coach, she learned to bat from the other side of the plate while running towards the ball.

“I think that’s helped her a lot,” Brow said the day after one of the team’s practice. “She was hitting very well yesterday, and that’s definitely an improvement for her.”

Shutt hopes to one day become the starting varsity catcher. After her eighth-grade season, one in which she said she saw no special treatment, she said she now sees a clear way to make that happen.

“Since I came to the high school, I’ve talked to the coaches about it, and they’ve told me what I needed to correct,” she said. “They’ve been working with me on it. I think I’ll get there.”

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The team puts their sticks in the air in a huddle before getting onto the field for the start of the second half. | By Ally Jensen

by Ally Jensen

Oakmont defeated the girls varsity lacrosse team, 15-13, on Thursday, May 18.  The team recognized the seniors at this game.

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Maddie Haufe swings on a pitch during the game. Haufe would later tie the game with a two run double in the seventh inning. | by Siobhan Richards.

by Dakota Antelman

After forcing extra innings with a six-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Hawk softball team lost one of its longest games in recent memory on Saturday, May 20 by a score of 10-6 in the tenth inning. The late season loss now amplifies the pressure on the Hawks to secure a spot in next month’s playoff tournament.

“That’s a stinger,” said head coach Laura Bowen after the game. “That’s a stinger of a loss.”

The Hawks fell behind early thanks to a three-run Tantasqua first inning. Lindsey Zac started the scoring for the Warriors with a sacrifice fly with no outs in that inning. Kelsey Emrish and Marie Stewart tacked on RBIs of their own as the Warriors sent all nine of their batters to the plate before Hudson could get off the field.

“I think that we put ourselves in a hole,” Bowen said. “When we came out in the first inning and let up three runs, we put pressure on ourselves before we even got a bat in our hand which stinks.”

The score held until the fifth inning when Zac and Emrish knocked in two more runs for Tantasqua, giving them a 5-0 lead. Abby LaFountain batted in Tantasqua’s sixth run in the top of the sixth inning.

As the Warrior offense thrived, the Hawks had just two hits and a walk as they entered the seventh inning trailing 6-0. Two walks and two singles to lead off that inning, however, seemed to turn things around.

“A lot of teams down 6-0 in the seventh inning are going to go up and give up,” said Bowen. “But we brought the next batter up and had quality at bats.”

As Tantasqua batted around in the first inning, the Hawks did the same in the seventh inning, scoring six times during ten individual at bats. Amanda Doucette managed to break the Tansatqua shutout with an RBI single with no outs. Jordyn Safranski then scored from third base on a wild pitch, and Megan Miller chipped away at the lead with a two-run single with two outs. Maddie Haufe finally tied the game with a base clearing two-run double.

“It’s just the momentum that’s going through you [that keeps you going],” Haufe said of her team’s ability to come back. “We were getting pumped up, thinking we can win when we came back with all those runs.”

The game remained deadlocked after the seventh inning, however, dragging into the tenth inning before the Warriors revived their offense. They scored four times in the top of the tenth inning and stifled Hudson’s attempt at a second comeback in the bottom of that inning, winning the game.

While she celebrated Hudson’s ability to force extra innings, Bowen said she wished her team scored earlier in the game.

“We kept saying, ‘Make an adjustment from your at-bats; learn what the umpire is calling; learn what [the pitcher] is throwing,'” she said. “I think that definitely helps. She was a good pitcher, I’m not taking any credit away from her, but, like I said, we have to make adjustments earlier than that.”

The Hawks now sit in third place in the MidWach B league. They need at least two wins out of their last four regular season games if they are to return to the playoffs. Though she said that path will be difficult, Bowen vowed after the Tantasqua loss to “go down fighting.”

“We’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves for sure, but it’s absolutely doable,” she said. “These girls have it in them. It’s just a matter of if they want it or not.”

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Jack Cecelya throws off to the Bromfield team after Hudson scored late in their opening day game on Friday. | by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

Ultimate frisbee player Jack Cecelya wore a shirt with the words “If you build it…” scrawled on it last Friday, a reference to the words Ray Kinsella hears in his cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams.

Indeed, he and 10 other HHS students, with head coach Mark Krans, built an ultimate frisbee team this past winter. On Friday, Bromfield came to play in Hudson’s first match.

The team has been practicing in the HHS gym and on local fields since October. Their game Friday, however, marked a new step in expanding ultimate frisbee at Hudson High as the team began competing in interscholastic games for the first time.

“Ultimate is a beautiful sport,” Krans said. “It’s great competition. People who play ultimate love ultimate, and they play it for the rest of their lives. Just to give these kids an opportunity to play against the other high schools and whoever else we can play around here is a great opportunity.”

The matchup kicked off a nine-game schedule that will take Hudson to a variety of nearby towns for games against teams including Nashoba, Billerica, Lincoln-Sudbury and Groton-Dunstable.

Bromfield, which is entering its fourth season as an organized program, did manage to beat the rookie Hawk team. However, they only did so late in a game which had been tied 7-7 after nearly two hours of play at Hudson’s Intel Field.

After their team’s eventual 8-7 win on a sudden death “Universe Point” score, even Bromfield coaches and parents remarked on the strength of the Hudson team in its debut.

“You guys must have been practicing,” one parent said to Krans as she followed the Bromfield players off the field.

Though they lost, Krans and his players saw numerous bright spots in their debut. As their competitors noted, they say these bright spots were, in part, the result of nearly seven months of practice.

“I can throw a frisbee much better than I could going into this experience, which has been awesome,” said junior Elizabeth Cautela. “We’ve grown closer together as well. We’re friends now while we were just strangers before. We’re definitely like a family. We have a lot of fun together.”

Among the struggles for the Hawks was the introduction of heavy wind to their gameplay situations. Playing on the relatively open Intel field, the Hawks did often fail to connect with one another on long passes as their throws were frequently blown off course. They had not dealt with wind during their many months in the gym.

The game also marked one of the first regulation 7-on-7 games since the club started. Though their ranks have both swelled and shrunken since October, they have rarely had enough players show up at their early morning gym practices to run full team scrimmages. As of Friday’s game, the team only had 11 players on the roster.

Though they may not have been running full games, however, Krans said the months of practices have already generated conversation about ultimate frisbee among students and teachers. Krans, who called Massachusetts “one of the hotbeds of ultimate in the country,” noted his excitement about the growing popularity of the sport and his team in particular.

“The kids are loving it,” he said. “The teachers are hearing about it. I’m having a blast. The kids work hard, they’re teachable, they listen and they have improved so much in such a short period of time.”

New and already improved, the Hawks are eying the season ahead of them in hopes of succeeding at the state tournament in Northampton on June 1.

Looking beyond this year, the Hawks are doing their best Kevin Costner impression and hoping that since they built it — their team — more players will come.

“We called it the Hudson Ultimate Experiment because we weren’t sure if it was even going to take off and work out,” Krans said. “It’s taken off well, but we really need to grow, especially because four of our players are seniors who are going to be leaving at the end of the year. We want more young players to join so that we can build a legacy of the Hudson Ultimate Experiment.”

Cautela echoed that sentiment, saying that she has already seen and heard enough from prospective players to think that ultimate frisbee at HHS will be successful beyond this still young season.

“It’s something fresh,” she said, later adding. “A lot of these kids have been playing the same sports for 10 years or longer than that. They’ve been playing softball forever or baseball forever, and they’re tired of it and want something new. I think the future is pretty bright.”

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by Siobhan Richards

Hudson track and field had their first home meet against Quabbin on Thursday, April 27. The girls team pulled out a close win of 77-68, however the boys team fell to Quabbin 100-45.