Sports

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Libby prepares his team for the playoff game. | by Chad Crogan

by Lily Clardy

Senior A.J. Libby could not wait for football playoffs this year.

He would not be playing, since his high school team was eliminated earlier in the season. But the fifth grade team that he coached made it all the way to states.

Libby has been coaching these kids for four years. “They started off not even knowing how to hold a football,” Libby said, “and now they are running plays, doing tackles, and it’s just so great to see how the kids have improved over the years.” He is proud of all of the kids and their improvements. He loves to watch the kids play.

He started coaching because of his father. His dad was the head coach of a team. He needed some help, so Libby offered to coach. He enjoyed it, so he stuck with it.

Despite his busy schedule, A.J. is committed to the team. “After my practice, I go right over to coach,” Libby said. While most of Libby’s teammates head home after practice, he runs drills, practices individually with them, and helps each kid improve on different skills. He mainly works as an offensive and defensive line coach, but he also works with special teams and linebackers. Libby said he teaches them “which way to step and how to block, and what kind of stance they should be in.”

From coaching Libby has learned new techniques for his high school team. “In games, if I step the wrong way, or I put my head on the wrong side of the person I’m trying to block, I almost instantly realize that’s not what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I am able to realize things I am doing wrong more easily because some of the things are something I basically just taught the kids how to do.”

Libby uses approaches that he learns from his high school coaches to help the kids. “I spend too much time around Coach Mac,” Libby said, ” so I use a lot of the phrases he uses, with the kids, and I teach them other things like blocking techniques.”

Assistant Coach Mike Nanartowich, who has been working with Libby for about three years, says that Libby connects well with the team. “ A.J. isn’t much older than the kids,” Nanartowich says. “The kids always say, ‘Since A.J. is doing it, we should do it.’”

Libby feels like he plays the role of a big brother. That connection motivates the team even during tough workouts. One day at practice, one kid refused to do the army crawl, but Libby went over to him and tried to convince the kid that it would be fun. Once the kid said okay, Libby got down in the mud and did it with him.

Coaching has become more than a volunteer opportunity for him. This experience has guided his career choice. He wants to be a high school teacher.  “Knowing that your making an impact on the kids,” Libby said, “and knowing that maybe if you hadn’t taught them some things, they might have never learned it.” The power of that connection has made a lasting impact on him and the kids.

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The Hawks walk in arm in arm for their last game of the season against the Marlborough Panthers. | by Siobhan Richards

by Siobhan Richards

The Hawks played in the annual Thanksgiving Day game against longtime rival Marlborough High School, on Thursday, November 23. Despite being tied 6-6 at halftime, the Hawks lost to the Panthers 27-12.

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Senior Tony Francolini drives into the end zone for the Hawks' second touchdown of the night. This play makes the score 14-0. | by Siobhan Richards

by Dakota Antelman

Senior Tony Francolini said he expects to cry regardless of the results of Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day Football game.

He is one of several seniors on the Hudson roster now looking back on five years spent in a program that has experienced notable ups and downs.

He cemented a spot as Hudson’s number one running back after the graduation of Jesse Nemerowicz. Francolini had a standout senior season, leading the Hawks in rushing with more than 1,000 yards.

Teammate and lineman Conner Nemerowicz made a name for himself in Hudson football even after his brother’s high school and college success. Nemerowicz’s defensive performance as a senior recently earned him all star recognition.

Senior quarterback Cory Clemons stepped into his starting role this year after the graduation of Stephen Miranda in the spring. He was Hudson’s third starting quarterback in three years, and, at times, promised to bring new dimension to his offense. Describing himself before the season as a “pass first quarterback” he frequently targeted senior receivers Spencer Cullen and Austin Berry.

All three recently spoke with the Big Red about the season so far and the upcoming 2017 Thanksgiving Day game against Marlborough.

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Dance Team Joins Athletic Community as a Varsity Sport

Members of the dance team perform at halftime during the senior night game. | by Siobhan Richards

by Siobhan Richards

Not many athletes have to fight for their team every year, but for members of the dance team, that has been their reality. Dance team has officially become a recognized varsity sport this year, after pursuing the issue for four years.

After getting approval from school committee and enduring the three year probation process, current seniors Aly Haley and Hannah Farrell now lead the team they’ve pushed for since their eighth grade year.

“The girls have worked really hard the last four years, and it’s just so great that they can take something that they do after school, at night, almost every single day of the week for years, and they now get to show that to their peers. Dance is a sport. They are athletes who work extremely hard, and they now have the opportunity to show it. It’s great,” coach Kelly Haley said.

As a varsity sport they now have funding from the school and have access to any resources provided for the other recognized sports. Aside from the financials, the team is now able to have a senior night, but most importantly a varsity letter.

“This year we’ll get physical varsity letters, which is silly I know, but every other sport gets them. We work just as hard. It’s nice to get the recognition,” Farrell said.

Another improvement is the ability to have a full time choreographer to practice with them every day. In past years they would only have limited time with a choreographer, sometimes only an hour a week, due to budgetary restrictions.  

“So it’s like if you went to soccer or football practice, and your captains had to run every practice except once a week when your coach was able to be there, but for a very limited time,” Farrell said. “Now that we’re a recognized sport, we have a choreographer coming in every day working with us for the entire practice.”

Previously, this left the captains to block their own numbers, spending hours doing what professionals should rather than learning the dance themselves.  

“[Before] it felt like I was the choreographer and not the dancer. Having to do both and run practice was hard to balance because I couldn’t see what I was messing up or what I needed to work on because I was watching the dance,” Haley said.

Even without the support of a choreographer on a daily basis, the team still performed at competitions. The rigor and intensity of the dance had to be there to place against other varsity dance teams.

“It was really annoying before especially because when we compete at competitions, we’re competing as a varsity team,” Aly Haley said. “At that level, the other teams have 30-50 girls and a full time choreographer.”

The dance team faces 12 other recognized varsity dance teams, including Newton North and South, Framingham, Plymouth, and Needham. Though the other schools are all larger, the team has still been competitive in past years, placing first at an invitational competition, and second at the regional competition last year.

The dance team has become an important part of the HHS community, which joined the dance team in the varsity sport flashmob at the Homecoming Rally.

“I think to other people being a recognized sport is kind of old hat, and people don’t realize how much it truly matters to be a varsity sport,” Farrell said. “Since we know what it’s like not to be a sport, to now be recognized as one, it’s a really big deal.”

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Senior Julia Bobe serves the ball to start the fourth game. | by Siobhan Richards

by Ally Jensen

On November 3 the varsity volleyball team lost their game against Westwood, knocking them out of the district playoffs. But this was not their biggest loss that night. The team had to say farewell to their only senior, Julia Bobe.

Four years after her first season began, Bobe says goodbye as her last high school volleyball game comes to an end.

“I’ve been in the program for so long that to finally be in the position where I get to help other people learn was really fun for me. I try my best to steer everyone in the right direction and stuff. It was challenging, but for the most part it was pretty fun.”

Despite being the only senior on the team, Bobe had the opportunity to bond with her underclassmen teammates.

“I got really close with the juniors and even the freshman on the team. I didn’t mind being the only senior because I never felt excluded.”

It was an unexpected turn of events when Bobe’s last season ended with the team going to the playoffs, which hasn’t happened since she was in eighth grade. But as a player she has faced obstacles throughout her athletic career.

“It was rough because each year going into tryouts, I had no idea what to expect. Junior year I got really close with my coach. It was like she was my coach but also my friend. She taught me so much that I thought I already knew, but turned out I didn’t. That was really hard when she left,” Bobe says.

With a new coach again this year, Bobe has had to adjust to new customs multiple times throughout her volleyball career, but that has not changed her commitment to the team. 

“This is my first year coaching, and as a new coach coming in, Julia has accepted change and has supported me as a coach. She’s led this team to the success we’ve had this season,” Lewis says.

“I enjoyed having her on my team this season, and I am lucky to call myself her coach. We are going to miss her tremendously next year.”

 

The Hawks shake hands with Westwood, after losing 3-2 in their playoff game. | by Siobhan Richards

by Siobhan Richards

Volleyball played in their first playoff game since 2013 on Thursday. After a back and forth game, the Westwood Wolverines won the game, 3-2. The Hawks finished their season, 9-9.

 

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The boy’s meet starts with a balance from all three teams. I by John Houle

by John Houle

On October 19, The Cross Country teams completed their first Tri-Meet of the year against Clinton and Gardner. Hudson defeated both Clinton and Gardner. Check out our photos of the meet.

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by Brianna Cabral

by Brianna Cabral

This video captures highlights of the three games leading up to the Hawks’ home playoff game tonight at 7 p.m. against Westwood. This is the first time since 2013 that the team has competed in the playoffs. Hudson had a 3-1 loss against North Middlesex on October 24, a 3-2 win against AMSA on October 25, and a 3-0 win against Innovation Academy on October 27.

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Emily White rushes past Assabet defenders with the ball early in the first half. | by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

Field Hockey notched their fourth win of the season on senior night on Monday night against Assabet. The win, however, came in an unfamiliar setting for the Hawks — the Morgan Bowl.

The game, which Hudson won in comeback fashion by a score of 2-1, was the first such game in six years to take place in Hudson’s sports stadium. As the Hawks walked out with the win, coaches and players agreed the setting made the game special.

“This is the best game I’ve ever played in,” said senior goalie Buffy Cautela. “I had people watching me. It was crazy. My name was announced under the lights. This was unbelievable. I couldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was amazing.”

Things started off on what Cautela called a “sour” note, however, for Hudson. Despite dominating possession of the ball for much of the first half, Hudson conceded the first goal of the game to Assabet’s Sefora Mejia with just under 15 minutes remaining in the first half.

Mejia was able to get behind Hudson’s defense and redirect a rebound off Cautela and into the net.

Though Hudson threatened to tie the game once just moments after the shot, and again in a flurry of activity in the final seconds of the half, they entered halftime trailing 1-0.

“I think we could have played better in the first half than we did,” said Coach Jennifer Wallingford. “I think there might have been some jitters.”

Wallingford’s goalie, Cautela, added that she worked during halftime to warm herself back up after a first half where she faced few shots aside from Mejia’s goal-scoring shot.

“I had a little bit of an easy goal go in at the beginning,” she said. “I’m not used to not having shots. So I had a slow start, but I got back in. We warmed up during halftime, and I was good to go after halftime.”

Cautela regularly faced upwards of 30 shots in games earlier in the season. She saw just 12 come her way Monday, however, as her defense largely stifled an Aztec offense that had only scored twice all season prior to their game against Hudson.

In addition to the defense, the Hudson offense finally broke through with just over 10 minutes left in the game when Lydia Beatty scored for the Hawks. Hudson struck again less than four minutes later, taking the lead on a goal by Shannon Bonner.

In beating Assabet, Wallingford noted that Hudson beat a much larger team than themselves. Thanks partially to recent injuries, and, more so, to a small roster to begin with, Hudson played the game with just one substitute. Assabet, meanwhile, had a much larger bench allowing them to rotate players in and out of the game while Wallingford was often forced to simply rotate her players through different positions.

“A lot of times we have to make do,” she said. “That’s what we did tonight. I’m glad Hudson got pumped up enough to come back in the second half.”

With the game behind her, Wallingford sees a potential for field hockey both in the Morgan Bowl and on possible future athletic facilities on the HHS campus.

“I maintain that we’re the only team in the school that should be playing on turf,” she said. “When we get turf, if we get turf, I want field hockey to have priority because the ball moves the way it’s supposed to when the field is as flat as possible.”

The playing surface was, in fact, one of the reasons she did not push for a field hockey return to the Morgan Bowl sooner. Prior to Monday’s game, Wallingford said, she feared the grass would inhibit her players’ ability to move the ball cleanly.

But, after the game, one which drew fans to field hockey in numbers players like Cautela had not seen before, Wallingford said she might be warming to the idea of the Morgan Bowl as a field hockey venue.

“We made it happen,” she said. “Everybody seems to be pretty happy about the way the ball moved on this field, so maybe we’ll play more here next year.”

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Senior Tony Francolini drives into the end zone for the Hawks' second touchdown of the night. This play makes the score 14-0. | by Siobhan Richards

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.”