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HHS football ready to renew holiday rivalry

by | Nov 22, 2023 | Featured: Sports, Sports

Capping off an up-and-down season, Hopkinton High School’s football team will wrap up the campaign with the annual Thanksgiving Day showdown against neighboring rival Ashland.

The Hillers come into the holiday rivalry with a 5-5 record to the Clockers’ 4-6 mark. Hopkinton came out of the gate strong in 2023, winning four of its first five, but injuries slowed the team’s progress.

“It was a good start, and then we experienced a lot of injuries, more injuries than I have ever experienced in my 10 years of coaching,” said coach Mark Sanborn. “So we had some rough moments there.”

Hopkinton knocked off Wayland, Algonquin, Dracut and Medfield and nearly outlasted Westwood in a high-scoring affair. But the injuries took their toll. The Hillers suffered blowout losses against Holliston and Norwood and narrowly fell to Sharon. Sanborn’s crew will head into the Thanksgiving game with some momentum, having scored a 20-0 victory over Dover-Sherborn on Nov. 10.

“It was a good overall team win,” Sanborn said, adding that another win on Thanksgiving will go a long way toward easing the sting of some of the midseason setbacks.

“It’s Ashland versus Hopkinton, it’s always a good battle,” Sanborn said. “You have two coaches who went to the school where they now coach and two programs that have a lot of pride and tradition in football.”

This also will be the final game for a group of seniors who Sanborn raved about.

“With all the injuries, we had some lopsided losses in the middle when we were at our most hurt point,” he said. “But, no matter what, no matter how the previous week went or the team we were playing, our kids showed up. They worked hard, and they are so much fun to be around and to coach.”

Senior captains Jason Girard, Charley Petruney and Carlos Linton led the way all season, despite not being immune to the injury bug. Linton missed a couple of weeks from his linebacker duties, and Petruney, a Tri-Valley League All-Star a season ago, only played two games due to a broken wrist.

“I think he would have been in the mix for MVP of the league this year,” Sanborn said. “They have all been great leaders on and off the field.”

Senior Cooper Fossbender put together a strong campaign on both sides of the ball, and Sanborn praised his ability to be a leader through his play on the field. Wide receivers Christian Pereira and Sam Pantera also stood out in their final years with the program.

“They have had awesome seasons,” Sanborn said. “They stepped up when we lost guys to injury.”

Hopkinton heads into the holiday matchup having beaten Ashland at home last year. Sanborn dropped his first Thanksgiving Day contest as coach, so the 2023 game represents a bit of a rubber match for the relatively new Hopkinton leader.

This year marks the 99th meeting on Thanksgiving for the neighboring schools. Hopkinton leads the overall series with a 54-39-5 record.

As the old saying goes for rivalry games, Sanborn said the records can be tossed aside when the first ball is kicked off.

“They have played some good teams, and I know they are going to be hungry,” he said. “This year is going to be another good football game.”

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