The Hopkinton High School football team kicks off its postseason run this weekend and head coach Jim Girard thinks his team is coming together at the right time as the Hillers prepare to defend their Division 4 district championship from a year ago.
“We are seeing improvement in all areas,” Girard said. “So we are excited about going into the final couple of games.”
Girard spoke with the Independent before last weekend’s regular season contest at Westwood, so it was unclear whether the Hillers would get a home game in the first round and who the opponent would be. But the playoff spot was already secured, and the season has included several highlights, including a new program record for passing yards in a career by senior quarterback Ryan Kelleher.
Girard called Kelleher a “gifted passer” after watching his signal caller amass 3,275 yards and counting over the course of his time with the Hillers. The head coach also extolled another senior, the versatile Luke D’Aloia.
“He is the heart of and soul of our football team, as Luke goes, so goes Hopkinton,” Girard said. “He is the heartbeat of the team on offense, defense, special teams, intensity, enthusiasm… we follow his lead.”
Numerous players have stood out for Hopkinton over the course of their first three games, during which the Hillers posted a 3-3 record. Matt Brown has been versatile on both sides of the ball, Girard said.
“He’s always flying around on defense,” he noted.
Tyler Dougherty has been an “impressive” player on defense, the head coach added, and the trio of Ben Powers, Theo Cavallo and Kyle Stukel have anchored the offensive line.
Keirin Herr, Ty Scanlon and Brendan Kelly have all been strong for a Hopkinton defense that has held opponents to fewer than 10 points four times this season, including all three victories.
In order to make a deep run in the postseason again, Hopkinton will need to work on cleaning up penalties, Girard said. In losses, the Hillers have too frequently put themselves in difficult down and distance situations with flags for holding or offsides.
But Girard is confident his veteran team has the ability to pull it together at the most important time of the year.
“We are a senior-heavy group,” he said, noting his team has 21 seniors on the roster. “They are all contributing in one way or another. They are a tight group and a lot of fun. They work hard in practice, they’re just a very enjoyable group to coach.”