Football

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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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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.”

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Senior Alec Dalton solemnly watches as the clock winds down. The score remains 14-6. | by Siobhan Richards

by Dakota Antelman

A Hudson football player slapped his hands against his pads and screamed, “It’s over!” as quarterback Corey Clemons trotted to the sideline after throwing an interception late in Friday’s 14-6 loss to Nipmuc.

Moments later, it was over. The Warriors, who entered the game ranked ninth in Central Massachusetts by the Worcester Telegram, avoided an upset loss on the road that Hudson nearly executed.

“We played great,” Clemons said. “We fought [throughout] the whole game. But, just at the end, we made a few little mistakes. We’ve just got to get better next week.”

Hudson started the game by marching down the field and scoring on an Andrew Di Battista touchdown on their first possession of the game. Though the Hawks failed to score on their two-point conversion attempt, they followed that drive up by shutting down the Nipmuc offense for the remainder of the first quarter.

The Warriors broke through in the second quarter when George Morrice ran in an 8-yard touchdown. They then took the lead on a successful extra point kick.

After trading punts with Hudson for most of the second half, Nipmuc got its next break when they pinned Hudson against their own goal line with less than four minutes left in the game. With Hudson trailing 7-6 at the time, the Warriors intercepted Clemons’ pass and sent their offense to work deep in Hudson territory.

Nipmuc coaches soon put the ball back in the hands of Morrice, who solidified the Warrior lead with a 24-yard touchdown run with 2:21 remaining in the game.

A week after the Hawks beat Clinton on the road to notch their first win of the season, head coach Dan McAnespie noted the successes and failures of his offense that ran through both games.

“I think our offense clicked better in the Clinton and in this game at times [than it did earlier in the season],” he said. “But, at times, it totally just couldn’t do it.”

Looking back on the game, both he and Clemons saw opportunities where Hudson could have changed the contest’s outcome.

Primarily, the Hawks got within at least 20 yards of the Nipmuc end zone twice after their first touchdown. Snapping issues marred both drives, however, as high snaps either left Clemons with little time to pass, or sent him scrambling to retrieve the ball as it bounced yards behind him.

Likewise, at least one major penalty stymied Hudson’s final attempt at a comeback after Nipmuc’s second touchdown. Officials assessed Di Battista a 15-yard penalty midway through the drive. The penalty pushed the Hawks back towards their goal line and quickly snuffed out Hudson’s hopes of the first down they needed to extend the drive.

“We both were able to move the ball, but then we stalled and we did dumb things like snaps over the head, the penalty [and a] third and three where we have it but then we don’t have it because we’re running backward,” McAnespie said.

The Hawks now head back on the road to face Maynard next week. Both McAnespie and Clemons noted that their team has work to do in practice this week to improve before that game. Shortly, before walking off the field, however, Clemons said he was proud of what his team put forth despite being one of many Hawks disappointed by the outcome of the game.

“We could run all over them,” he said. “We made good blocks. We ran hard. They thought they were coming to blow us out, but we gave them a fight. The end wasn’t what we wanted, but we came out, punched them in the mouth, and fought.”

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The Hawks appear frustrated after Assabet recovers another fumble. | by Siobhan Richards

by Siobhan Richards

On Friday, September 8, the football team opened their season under the lights against longtime rival Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. They were the first team to play on the new Assabet Field, but lost to the Aztecs 42-14.

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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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by Cheyenne McLeod

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.”

 

Football Schedule

Final football schedule following the approval of the December appeal

 

 

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A spreadsheet showing the new divisional changes.

by Serena Richards

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.

A spreadsheet showing the new divisional changes.
A spreadsheet showing the new divisional changes.

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.

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by Dakota Antelman

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.

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by Dakota Antelman

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.