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MILLIS — The Holliston Panthers began their pursuit of a Super Bowl title by knocking off the defending Division 4A champion Millis-Hopedale on the road, 24-7, Friday night.

In the 63rd meeting of the Gridiron Classic rivalry, the Panthers got a big opening night performance from senior Ryan Benco. The Holliston quarterback was 8 for 17 with 132 yards passing and two touchdowns in his first start under center.

The dual-threat QB also got it done on the ground, rushing 10 times for 53 yards.

“He’s an athlete, he’s a winner,” said Holliston coach Todd Kiley. “He made some big plays for us, some key runs on first downs. So for him to do what he did in his first start, we’re very pleased.”

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After a scoreless first quarter, Holliston got on the board in the second when Mikey Nash broke free for a 77-yard touchdown run. The senior wideout had 121 all-purpose yards, all of which came in the first half.

Fellow senior receiver Jake Armstrong had a pair of scores, catching a touchdown pass in the final moments of the second quarter and rushing for another 70 seconds into the third frame.

Down, 18-0, the Mohawks responded with a long drive that ended in a touchdown. Senior quarterback Bryce Latosek found PJ Adams to cut the deficit to 11 midway through the third quarter.

Latosek went 11-for-27 passing with 79 yards.

Despite just the one score, Millis-Hopedale’s offense looked productive, mounting several long drives. But the stingy Holliston defense came up big to limit the Mohawks in the red zone.

“We played some loose coverage on them, knowing what type of speed they had,” said Kiley. “We were bend don’t break today and our kids responded when they needed to.”

For Holliston, it was the quick-strike offense that delivered when it mattered most. The Panthers punched it in three times on drives of three plays or fewer. Each of those possessions came following mistakes and turnovers.

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“That was the difference, we capitalized on three or four possessions,” said Kiley. “You absolutely need to do that against good teams like [Millis-Hopedale].”


Dan Shulman can be reached at dan.shulman@globe.com.