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HOLLISTON – Yes, high school football games in September do matter. Even nonleague matchups.

On an unusually steamy morning, there were no shortage of penalties and confusion late regarding the amount of time on the game clock. But in an intense and spirited display, host Holliston held off sixth-ranked Barnstable, 21-18, in a two-hour and 41-minute marathon Saturday morning.

“We knew we were going to beat this team. These kids believe in themselves,” said Holliston coach Todd Kiley, whose 2-0 squad, a perennial Division 5 South contender, built a 21-6 lead entering the fourth quarter against their D2 South foe.

“It is a hard-working lunch pail group and they are resilient.”

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That resilience was needed. Penalties, 17 in all, plagued both teams, and allowed neither to create any rhythm offensively. Neither side, nor the fans, were happy.

Trailing by 15, Barnstable (2-1) finally gained momentum in the fourth quarter, closing within 21-18 with 3:31 left on a 1-yard keeper from Nick Wilson and along with his 5-yard scoring toss to senior captain Brian Frieh. But the Red Raiders failed on the two-point conversion, a Wilson pass, on the first, and the point-after was blocked after the second TD.

Having no timeouts remaining, Barnstable needed one stop to get a chance to win.

Holliston (2-0) continued to slow the pace and attack in between the tackles like the Panthers had througout the second half. At times, there were questions if the clock had started too late, or continued to run, making the final three and a half minutes feel like an eternity.

Tim Aylward and Tristian Benson combined for 11 yards on the first two plays of the drive to give the Panthers a crucial first down. The clock continued to be adjusted over the next few plays, but Benson finally put an end to things with his 27-yard run that allowed a victory formation to be set.

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“We talk to our kids about the rules changes and how there is going to be stuff that goes on during the game that may not make sense, but that is not our job to worry about it,” said Kiley.

“The officials have done a great job of getting after it in the offseason. Between the five of them they made sure they got the right calls today.”

Matt Arvanitis scored on a 4-yard keeper for the first Holliston score and he added a 28-yard TD pass to Sean Keast in the third quarter. In between, Tristan Benson (17 rushes, 105 yards) blasted in from the 2.


Karl Capen can be reached at karl.capen@globe.com.