hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 8, 2012

Hillie to play in Shriner's Classic all-star football game

By Alex Lippa
alippa@hgazette.com

Blaine Joia has been attending Patriots games at Gillette Stadium since he was 10.

Sitting up at the higher level of the stadium, he would go to the games with his grandfather and cheer on Tom Brady and his teammates. On June 15, Joia will be returning to Gillette Stadium, but he will have a much different view of the field this time.

Joia, a Haverhill High wide senior who plays wide receiver and safety, was selected by the Massachusetts Coaches Association to play in the 34th annual Shriners Classic at Gillette Stadium. The Shriners Classic is an all-star game featuring the best high school football players in the state.

"It's such a huge honor," Joia said. "When I heard, it kind of took my breath away."

Joia is the first Hillie player in several years to be selected to the game. He was also chosen as Haverhill High's most valuable player and named a Merrimack Valley Conference all-conference player, as well as an Eagle-Tribune football all-star.

"It's well deserved," said coach Tim O'Connor. "He was a huge playmaker on both sides of the ball. He was as good as any other player I've seen on the field."

It was not a smooth road for Joia to get to this point. He did not play his junior year due to poor grades, but re-joined the team after taking summer classes and boosting his grade point average to become academically eligible.

Joia's most memorable play of the season was his 86-yard touchdown catch in the season opener. The play was the jumping off point which vaulted the Hillies to their first win in 32 games. Joia also had a spectacular interception return against Lawrence, in which he hurdled a defender on his way to a 101-yard touchdown.

Joia hopes to take a post-grad year at Bridgton Academy in Maine next season, before he plans to play college ball in the fall of 2013.

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