Coming off back-to-back Division IV Super Bowl titles, the Holliston High School football team started their season focusing on the present, not the past.
Led by head Coach Todd Kiley and senior captains Sam Athy, Jack Barrett, Mark Mulvaney, Sam Ratcliffe, and Ben Salley the Panthers take it day by day in order to improve and grow as a team.
“We always talk to our players about how we take one game at a time,” Coach Kiley said, “and that starts with one practice at a time. So, we don’t like to talk about the past. We like to reflect on the past after the season, but during the season we’re focusing on the task at hand.”
Taking it day by day includes intense workouts and practices during the week to prepare for Friday night. The week between games consists of watching film and workouts on Sundays and Mondays; heavy practices, where the brunt of the work is done, on Tuesday and Wednesday; and a runthrough of special teams and all plays on Thursdays.
The players also have special rituals before each game to get pumped up and prepared.
“Well, we come at 3ish and get locked in in the locker room,” Salley said, “we … listen to tunes and just try to get locked in and get ourselves ready for the game.”
The work is hard, but to the players, it is all worth it.
Ratcliffe said it is is all about “The camaraderie. It’s being with the boys, that’s what makes it worth it, because practices are hard -you know that. You know they’re going to be a grind, but it’s being with your boys every day that makes it all worth it. That’s what you’re gonna remember in 20 years.”
At the beginning of each season, Kiley gives the players an order of priorities that they are expected to follow during the season.
“Family comes first always, our academics come second, football is third, and their social life is fourth. We ask that they put football in front of their social life because they only get one chance at this,” said Kiley.
For many of the players family and football come together.
Mulvaney and Barrett have younger brothers in the program, while Athy’s dad is a coach.
“Well, I don’t look at him as my dad when he’s on the field, but I treat him as a coach just like the rest of them. But it definitely has its advantages, I’ve learned a lot from him. I love my dad,” said Athy.
Barrett says that having his brother play with him is a fun experience.
“You don’t really treat them as a brother on the field, you treat them as a teammate. But there is something to be said about having a sibling on the same team,” said Barrett.
Mulvaney adds, “Well, my brother is a freshman so he is on the freshmen team, but in the offseason I’m making sure he is doing everything, and doing his part.”
Another special relationship on the field is between the offensive linemen, led by coach Jim Perry.
“The starting five linemen are pretty tight. Me, Mark, Ryan Vazza, Scott Elliot, and Mike Bozyczko: we’re all good friends and Coach Perry is kind of a father to us. He’s good with us but he’s also hard on us. He yells at us sometimes, but he always means well. He just wants us to get better and do better.”
The Panthers are expected to do well again this season. Kiley expects the whole Tri-Valley League large division to be competitive this year.
Facing tough competition means the Panthers must be tough competition. Players expected to make an impact on the field this year are Jake Armstrong, Spencer Aronson, Mikey Nash, Ben Thomas, Ryan Benco, Ryan Vazza, Mike McKenna, Brad Seymour, and Alex Kelley.
The atmosphere of playing at Kamitian is greatly influenced by the fans. Every Friday the stadium fills up with the Red Sea, Pep Band, parents, middle school and elementary school students and many more.
“It’s definitely a big advantage having our whole town at the games because there’s nothing like having every single person from the town being there, supporting us. So it’s definitely an honor to play in front of everyone. It is a big advantage,” said Barrett.
Each week presents a new challenge, and the team is always working to improve. After 7 games, the Panthers record stands at 6-1. The team has come out strong at every game, but had a tough loss to rivals Westwood at the homecoming game on Sept., 30. Last Friday night the Panthers beat Medway 22-7.
Kiley said “We need to continue to improve and our team knows that if you’re not improving each week obviously that’s going to allow other teams who are improving to reach your level. So it’s about the task at hand, being focused on the task at hand and focused on that opponent who you’re playing next week and not worrying about the big picture. The big picture will take care of itself.”