hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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September 6, 2012

Hillies football shooting for division title

Last season's turnaround raised the bar for team

There’s a change in atmosphere around the Haverhill High football team.

Going into last season, the Hillies were mired in a long losing streak. The team’s seniors had barely experienced what it was like to win a football game.

But after a 4-7 season last fall — a record which could have been better with a couple of fortunate bounces of the ball — the team’s expectations have risen significantly.

“We want to win the MVC Small (division),” said senior quarterback Tommy Morgan. “We learned how to win last year, and I think all eyes are on us to do some big things this year.”

The buzz has been considerable around the Hillies in the pre-season polls. After a 42-12 win over Malden in this year’s opening game Sept. 8, the Hillies were ranked 23rd in Eastern Massachusetts by the Boston Globe and received mention in ESPN Boston’s poll.

Despite the early praise, head coach Tim O’Connor maintained this group of players has a lot to do to get better.

“It’s still a work in progress,” O’Connor said. “We’ve closed the gap on some of the upper echelon teams, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We’re not even close to the caliber of the Central Catholics and the Dracuts yet, but we’re getting there.”

The Hillies had a chance on Friday to go 2-0 for the first time since 2006, but the team’s multitude of mental mistakes contributed to the loss of its home opener to Tewksbury, 30-22.

How far the team goes will likely depend on the legs of workhorse running back Chance Brady. He ran for 1,641 yards last year and is well on his way to surpassing that mark this year, with 255 yards in the season opener and 125 in the Tewksbury game.

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