Holliston football coach Todd Kiley said he doesn’t want to sound as cliché as Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but he has a similar message regarding his Panthers’ matchup at rival Westwood this week.
Forget that Westwood kept Holliston out of the playoffs last year with its 42-14 win on Thanksgiving. Never mind that sole possession of first place in the Tri-Valley Large rides on the outcome of Friday night’s game.
Kiley insists his players are treating it like it’s any other game on the schedule.
“They’re focused on beating Westwood because they are the game Friday night that’s on our schedule,” Kiley said. “And our goal is to win the league and that’s just one of the games that we need to win to win the league.”
Holliston had achieved that goal three years in a row before the Wolverines pulled away in their lopsided victory on Thanksgiving.
The Panthers (4-0) had to grind out a 35-26 victory over Hopkinton in their first league game of the season last week. Holliston led by just a point in the fourth quarter before a touchdown by Joe Bellomo and successful 2-point conversion by Zach Elkinson iced the game.
The going doesn’t get any easier with a Wolverine squad (2-1) that easily handled Medfield, 35-7, last Friday in its league opener. Senior quarterback Bo Berluti had four touchdown passes and rushed for another score.
Kiley said Westwood’s balance makes it difficult to stop.
“You can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “You have to play disciplined defense against them to have success.”
The same could be said about trying to neutralize the Holliston attack.
The Panthers’ offense is on a torrid pace over its first four games, averaging 40.3 points.
Senior quarterback Matt Jeye has eight touchdown passes against two interceptions, and threw for 181 yards, three scores, and an interception in the win over Hopkinton.
Zach Elkinson (13 catches, 315 yards) and Nick Athy (10 catches, 157 yards) are Jeye’s go-to targets. Elkinson has a combined eight touchdowns through the air and on the ground. Athy has four.
The Panthers also have four playerswith 118 rushing yards or more.
Kiley said nobody on his team is trying to carry the entire workload.
“There’s no egos on this team,” he said. “They’re just worried about doing their job.”
Holliston’s defense has played phenomenal as well, allowing 9.8 points per game. Senior middle linebacker Paul Beling has 32 tackles and Jeye has 18 stops as a defensive back.
Kiley knows his Panthers have a tough task in stopping Berluti and his receiving corps, which Kiley called “game-breakers.” But it’s Berluti’s ability to take off and run that makes him even harder to stop.
“That’s [Berluti] what makes their team go and he does it with his arm and his feet,” Kiley said. “He’s just a phenomenal athlete and he’s a competitor. That’s a good combination to have if you’re his coach.”
. . .
Newly anointed No. 1 Everett (2-1) tries to break the curse of the top spot when it hosts Cambridge (2-2) Saturday at 2 p.m. . . . Mansfield (3-0) tries to improve to 2-0 in the Hockomock Kelley-Rex when the No. 3 Hornets travel to surprising No. 20 Attleboro (3-0) Friday at 7 p.m. . . . No. 4 Xaverian (2-1) will try to bounce back from its 15-14 loss at No. 11 Barnstable last week when it hosts Catholic Memorial (1-2) on Saturday for a 2:15 p.m. kickoff . . . First place in the Hockomock Davenport is on the line when 3-0 Stoughton plays host to 3-0 Oliver Ames Friday at 3:45 p.m.