After the district appealed the new football realignment in December, they learned that they had won the appeal in early February. Over February vacation the M.I.A.A released the updated schedule, lasting through the 2020-21 cycle.
Overall in the realignment, divisions were condensed and eliminated. Any division ending in an “A” was eliminated, and the schools in it were rearranged accordingly based on enrollment numbers. Teams in Division 2A were moved to Division 4 or 5, and Division 3A teams were moved to Division 5 or 6. With the removal of Division 3A, the M.I.A.A initially proposed for Hudson to move up from Division 3 to 4, making it hard for a small school like Hudson to play larger schools.
Following the December committee meeting appeal, the Hawks were approved to remain in the same division, which was renamed Division 5. Due to the realignment, the Hawks will play new schools, such as Littleton, Nipmuc, and Maynard and will no longer play Auburn, North Middlesex, and Gardner. Hudson will still play rival schools, Marlborough and Assabet.
Coach McAnespie is happy with these changes.
“Everything is where we want it. We’re in a league that we want and a division we want to be in.”
Final football schedule following the approval of the December appeal
With realignments in the 2017 football season, Hudson, Oakmont and many other schools oppose the new postseason divisions. Hudson, with 363 enrolled athletes, is the second smallest school, next to Oakmont with 348 enrolled athletes, in the new division. Many concerns have risen around this.
“When we were competing against teams in our C division [this past season], with like enrollment, that was a great move for us,” Athletic Director Jessica Winders explains. “That was based off enrollment. It was where we fit. We were playing against schools that were similar sized to us.”
“We want to make sure that we are placed in a division where we can compete,” Oakmont’s Athletic Director Eric Dawley shared.
It makes the postseason unfair, with small schools like Hudson or Oakmont, playing against schools like Worcester North or Nashoba, with almost double the amount of enrolled athletes.
Coach Dan McAnespie explained that his main concern is the bottom four schools, Oakmont, Hudson, North Middlesex Regional, and Grafton, being much smaller.
Although the size comparison is a concern, there are other reasons schools are opposing this. Traditional games are one of the other main concerns.
“The bigger concern for us is that we are giving away some of the history and tradition of opponents, that we have always historically played,” Dawley said. “And our football program here has a lot of tradition, a lot of history. We have had a lot of success over the years.”
Another concern is how this is going to affect the leagues through the proposed 2017-2020 seasons. “What will happen to league football? Will it even exist anymore, or will we have to play teams that are in our division, competing for the same four playoff spots each year,” Dawley further explains, and Winders expressed similar concerns.
The only way a school can oppose this proposed alignment is by bringing an appeal to the M.I.A.A. football committee meeting. One was held Friday December 3; however, the outcome of that meeting will not be known until mid-February 2017.
As snow fell in Marlboro, the district champion Marlboro Panthers kicked off to the 3-7 Hudson Hawks. Two hours later, the Panthers walked off their home field having beaten the Hawks 44-0.
Senior running back Owen Cappadona scored three touchdowns in the first half and even opened the scoring by throwing a touchdown pass to his teammate Kevin Short on the first Panther drive of the game. Luke Goulet added touchdowns for the Panthers in both the first half and the second half.
Hudson tried to counter Marlboro’s offensive assault but was marred by miscues throughout the first half. Early on, Stephen Miranda was flagged for intentional grounding in the end-zone for a safety. Later in the half, Hudson lost a fumble giving Marlboro possession deep in Hawk territory.
As the game progressed and the Panther lead increased, the Hawks regularly kept the ball on fourth down and tried to keep their drives alive. However, this was often to no avail as the Panthers racked up four turnovers on fourth down.
Marlboro’s win excited the home crowd who have now seen their home team shut out its rival Hawks in each of the past two Thanksgiving Day home games. For the Hudson fans who made the trip across town lines to Kelleher Field, the loss was a difficult continuation of years of losses to their rivals on Thanksgiving morning.
Before they next play Hudson, the Panthers will graduate a large senior class that includes Cappadona, Goulet and quarterback Evan Schmidlein. Likewise, the Hawks will hope that their large junior class will turn out strong results next fall as seniors.
The football team won its first home game of the year Friday, beating the Burncoat Patriots 33-14 after jumping out to a 13-0 lead early in the first half.
Quarterback Stephen Miranda completed seven passes for 137 yards and two touchdown passes against the Burncoat defense in his first game back from a shoulder injury. His teammate Tony Francolini rumbled for 55 rushing yards for the Hawks, carrying the ball 13 times in the victory.
The Hawks jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by Miranda and extended that lead in the second quarter when Miranda again scored on a short run play from inside the Hudson 5 yard line.
Miranda and the Hudson offense continued to pick apart the Burncoat defense in the second half with Miranda hitting Thomas Di Battista with a 23-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and following that up with a 54-yard strike to Adam O’Niell in the fourth quarter.
While Burncoat was able to cut into Hudson’s lead with late game touchdowns, Hudson running back David Nugent was able to seal the victory for Hudson when he scored his first varsity touchdown on a 10-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks now get next Friday off before they head to Kelleher field on Thanksgiving morning for their annual Turkey Day game against Marlboro.
With a new face at quarterback, the Hawks fell short of the win in Friday’s game against Worcester Tech, losing 27-13 and leaving only next week for them to snap a seven-game home losing streak spanning two seasons.
Worcester Tech was able to erase an early Hudson lead and take a 21-6 lead into halftime. The Eagles then tacked on six more points on a third quarter David Carrigan touchdown and only allowed Hudson back into the end zone in the final minutes of the game when Tony Francolini scored on a 9-yard run.
“We just couldn’t get it going,” said head coach Dan McAnespie. “Our blocking was bad. Our execution was bad. We just couldn’t get it going.”
Throughout the game, the Hawks were without quarterback Stephen Miranda who was sidelined by a shoulder injury he suffered during last week’s 18-8 loss to Oakmont. After he walked away from the game with lingering shoulder pain, his coaches decided to take him out of this week’s game, electing instead to send in junior Cory Clemons as Hudson’s quarterback.
“[He] couldn’t carry the ball,” McAnespie said of Miranda. “Putting him in right now would be a bad idea. We’re going to give him another week to heal, and then he’s going to go next week for sure.”
Clemons, who had been playing receiver this season, was already acclimated to the Hudson offense as one of Miranda’s primary targets on pass plays.
His familiarity with the receiving side of the Hudson offense, however, meant that he entered Friday’s game without much experience throwing to his teammates. While he would turn to the pass game 17 times against the Eagles, completing seven passes for 58 total yards, he said that his lack of familiarity with his receivers did have an effect on his ability to make successful passes.
“These past couple weeks I’ve been playing receiver, so I haven’t gotten the timing down with everybody. It would have been nice to get a little bit more reps,” Clemons said. “This week we did improve a lot but not enough to get the win.”
For Coach McAnespie, who saw Clemons sacked on five separate occasions during the game and watched 10 of his 17 passes fall as incompletions, his junior quarterback’s debut highlighted aspects of the team’s skills that needed improvement.
“He threw the ball OK,” McAnespie said of Clemons. “We had some drops out there. We can’t do that anymore. We got to get better on our offensive line too, but Corey is throwing the ball pretty well.”
Larger than Clemons and the pass game was the Hawks’ hope for a home victory that has eluded them since Week 7 of last year. Though Friday’s loss was the Hawks’ second highest scoring output at home this season, it was also their fifth loss in five games at the Morgan Bowl this fall.
As the team has continued to lose at home, however, portions of the Red Sea have regularly shown up for games and the team has continued to push for the win, a fact not lost on Clemons and his teammates. For him, moving on from Friday’s loss and getting a win in their final home game next week against Burncoat is crucial, no matter who the Hawks use to do it.
“Whether it’s me at quarterback or Stephen at quarterback, it doesn’t matter. I want to win next week, especially for the seniors because it’s going to be their last game playing on this Morgan Bowl,” he said. “It’s a great field, and I feel bad for them that we haven’t got them a win on it this year.”
After falling to North Middlesex 34-6 at home, the football team is assessing what has caused its 0-4 start and turning its attention towards a series of crucial road games over the next three weeks.
The loss to the Patriots came just a week after the Hawks ended up on the wrong side of a 37-14 score against Auburn. It also followed a narrative similar to that of Hudson’s week one loss to Assabet, with the Patriots jumping out to a lead in the first half and holding the Hawks at bay for the rest of the game.
After his team mustered just 142 yards of total offense, and after his defense surrendered 28 points in the first half, Hudson lineman and captain Cam Hannigan was disappointed.
“There’s definitely going to be offensive and defensive changes, and we’re definitely going to be battling it out because I’m sick of this,” Hannigan said. “I don’t like being 0-4.”
After each team failed to score on their first series, North Middlesex quarterback Joe Haskins was able to connect with receiver Jake Hachey late in the first quarter for the game’s first touchdown.
From there, the Patriots began to extend their lead while stifling Hudson’s own drives. Dan DiPano soon stretched the lead to 14-0 on a 12-yard rushing touchdown, all before an interception and a 60-yard run by Haskins set up Hachey to score once again, boosting the score 21-0.
Tim O’Niell and Xavier Marty would add scores for North Middlesex while Hudson quarterback Stephen Miranda eventually connected with receiver Zach Chaulk for a 8-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds of the first half.
“We need to toughen up,” Hannigan said of the Hudson run defense. “We need to dig deep this week. We need to dig deep for the rest of the season, and we’re going to have to stop getting blown back off the ball.”
Likewise, Hannigan recognized the pressure that his quarterback, Stephen Miranda, has been under for much of the season as opposing pass rushers have frequently been able to beat their Hudson blockers and hit him.
“They’ve definitely shown improvement from week one to week four, but there’s still little things that we need to pick up,” Hannigan said of his teammates on the offensive line. “The linebackers are what is killing us right now. They keep coming in, and we keep getting messed up mentally thinking ‘who is getting who?'”
Head Coach Dan McAnespie noted the struggles of the offensive line, but he also attributed some of the loss to his team’s three turnovers.
“We turned the ball over a lot today,” he said. “When you turn the ball over against a good team like that, they’re going to score.”
The Hawks fumbled the ball early in the first quarter and were then intercepted twice before halftime. Despite heavy rain at points during the game, McAnespie said that the conditions were not responsible for the turnovers.
Overall, Friday’s loss was a frustrating one for the Hawks, who returned from halftime to see that many of their fans had already left the game.
As Hannigan and his team head out to Gardner, Quabbin and Tyngsboro over the next three weeks, Hannigan is hoping he will be able to help rack up three wins to excite the fan base once again.
“I could see why the Red Sea left at halftime when we’re having such difficulty at the beginning of the season,” he said. “Hopefully, Homecoming will bring that Red Sea back, and we’ll have three wins on the road.”
Despite a week of improvements after last week’s game against Assabet, the football team came up just short of a win against Clinton on Friday, losing at home 20-18.
Stephen Miranda and the Hawks’ pass game churned out twice as many passing yards, with 143, as they did a week ago. The run game also surpassed its week one total by the end of the first quarter, finishing the day with 135 yards. On defense, the Hawks were able to slow down the Clinton run game just a week after giving up 123 yards to Assabet’s Gabe Souza alone.
“We improved a lot this week compared to last week; we played a lot better,” said receiver Zach Chaulk before turning his attention to next Friday. “We’re playing a tough Auburn team next week, so this week at practice we’re going to have to be going at 100 percent [on] every single snap [and] every single drill.”
After the Hawks jumped out to an early lead on a Stephen Miranda 11-yard touchdown run, Clinton strung together a 40-yard run and a 50-yard passing play to set themselves up inside the Hudson 20 yard line. On the next play, they seized the lead from Hudson with a touchdown and a successful extra point attempt.
As the Hawks and Gaels came out of halftime, Hudson pounced on an early opportunity when Kyle Lally recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half. Initially touched by a waiting Clinton receiver, the ball skittered back to the Clinton 20 yard line, where Lally dove to take possession.
For Coach Dan McAnespie, recovering the fumble was proof of the improvements his special teams players made in practice after a rough start to their season.
“We worked on it all week, and the kids responded,” he said. “We spent a lot of time on that this week, and it worked out very well today.”
The Hawks would fail to score on the ensuing drive, however, with Clinton stopping four straight plays by the Hawks and taking over deep in their own territory.
That left the game wide open for the Gaels to stretch their lead early in the fourth quarter, and again just a few plays later when they recovered a Hudson fumble near midfield and promptly marched the ball down the field to push the score to 20-6.
With roughly five minutes left in the game, however, the Hawks were able to claw back into contention, thanks in part to a 59-yard touchdown reception by Adam O’Neill. Hudson was able to bring itself within two points of a tie game moments later when Miranda and receiver Thomas Di Battista connected for a late touchdown reception. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt ultimately failed though, and the Hawks conceded defeat shortly afterwards.
The loss was a difficult one for the Hawks, with Chaulk describing the feeling on the field as “heartbreaking.”
But even in the minutes directly following the loss, the Hawks focused primarily on the successes of Friday’s game, with Chaulk commending his teammates for their enthusiasm on the sideline.
“Last week, I definitely saw them get a little down when we are losing,” he said. “Today I told the sidelines, we need to get loud. You guys are driving us. A couple things didn’t go our way, but the sidelines and everybody were in it the whole game.”
McAnespie’s message was much shorter.
“We fought this one,” he said. “We fought hard. That’s what I told the kids. It’s not what we wanted since it was a loss, but we fought for sure.”