The news about high school football in Haverhill has been good this fall.
Haverhill High is having its best start to a season in years, with three wins and one loss in the Hillies’ first four games. It’s a welcome turnaround from the past several losing seasons, and has resurrected pride in one of the community’s deepest traditions.
Equalling the Hillies strong start are the Whittier Regional High Wildcats, who also started the season at 3-1. While Whittier hasn’t suffered consistent defeat during the last few years like the Hillies did, the Wildcats’ success this season comes with a new twist.
Two father-son coaching tandems are helping lead the way for Whittier on the off the field — Head Coach Kevin Bradley and his son Connor, and Assistant Coach Bill Yameen and his son Bill.
Connor Bradley is a sophomore quarterback who was not named a starter by his father/coach until the team was having trouble with its offense at one point this year. Bill Yameen, also a sophomore, is a center with the Wildcats’ offensive line.
The fathers and sons talked to Gazette reporter Alex Lippa about their relationships and roles on the team, and how unique the situation is because of their family ties. (See story on page 1.)
What takes this beyond a sports story is the attitude of those involved. The fathers rave about seeing sides of their sons they could only observe by being with them on the practice field. They watch with pride as the boys develop friendships and become leaders, even though they are only sophomores.
“Rather than sitting in the stands, you watch them practice every day and how they interact with the other players,’’ the elder Yameen said. “It’s a whole different way to be with them.”
The fathers also talked about the importance of treating their sons the same as other players — something their boys appreciate.
“He treats me like just another player on the team and that’s how I take it,’’ the younger Yameen said of his father.
What’s really refreshing is that as much as the fathers and sons are committed to the game they love, they realize what’s most important about school — the books and the classroom. Connor Bradley and Bill Yameen finished their freshman year near the top of their class academically. And if they ever waver from their studies, their moms are there to offer an important reminder.
“If you ask their mothers, that is the biggest thing ... academics always comes first for them,’’ the elder Bradley said.
The Whittier coaches and their sons are keeping their sport in perspective, something that too often fails to happen around youth and even high school sports.
Football is part of a formula that brings balance to their lives, along with academics and a solid family structure.
The elder Yameen admitted that he sometimes drives the long way home after practice so he and his son can talk a bit more football.
“But once we walk up the steps and into the front door at home, it stops,’’ he said.
So in this year of football success in Haverhill, two men and their sons are demonstrating that wins and losses aren’t everything, but that family values and the personal growth of players are what truly counts.