MIAA Division VIII Super Bowl notebook: Community rallies around Hoosac Valley team; a sticker for everyone

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STEPHANIE ZOLLSHAN - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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FOXBOROUGH — Late in the fourth quarter facing a 37-0 hole, Hoosac Valley quarterback Vance Eugene broke free of a few tackles for a 28-yard gain. It was one of few Hurricane highlights during the MIAA Division VIII state championship loss to Millis, and Eugene got up pumped and wagging a finger. Hoosac had life.

On the sidelines, athletic director Molly Meczywor and a few chaperoning teachers offered encouragements for their student-athletes. The band and cheerleaders performed to charge up the Hurricanes reserves. In the stands, hordes of family, friends, classmates and fans roared back to life. Skylar Case and members of the perennial state finalist girls basketball team looked on with approval. Head coach Dayne Poirot and his staff called in another play.

Back home in the Berkshires, no televisions were shut off or radios silenced.

Even in a 37-0 loss, the Hurricanes football team rocked Gillette Stadium, and an entire community remained just as hooked as they had been all week long.

COMMUNITY RALLIES

The game was a fleeting two-hour affair, but the week and season that preceded it is something that won't leave the minds of local fans for some time.

In her first year as athletic director at Hoosac Valley, Molly Meczywor was taken on a wild ride with the football team that had her scrambling over the last two weeks to put together not only the trip out to Foxborough, but also a mid-week meet-and-greet with the team and community. For this group of kids, though, she says it was all more than worth it.

"They've been incredible and everything has gone really smooth," Meczywor said on the sidelines of Gillette. "I just started an athletic council at the school and all the football captains showed up right away."

She detailed a leaf-raking event that helped those in need around the community that saw virtually the entire football team show up to help out.

For the families, there were similarly feelings of pride, even as the scoreboard continued to dip heavily in Millis' favor.

"My day is fabulous. It'd be better if the score was better, but this whole experience has been great," said Jen Waterman, mother of senior wide receiver Nicholas Waterman. "The community this week has been awesome, and I think that is the most exciting part for the boys. The community event Wednesday and the dinner last night. The lead up to the game was almost as exciting as the game itself in our little small town."

Hoosac had a potluck supper in the high school cafeteria for the players and families with north of 50 guests joining the team.

"They're a really close-knit group of boys. They've really got each others' backs," said Mrs. Waterman of Hoosac's senior group. "They're an example of what it means to be really, really close. A nice group of boys, great group of kids."

A COUNTY CONNECTION

While Hoosac Valley did not win a state championship, one former Berkshire County educator got to put a checkmark next to a state football title on his to-do list.

Art Reilly, a longtime teacher, coach and former Lee High School athletic director, is now the A.D. at Lincoln-Sudbury High School. His team played Friday night and beat King Philip for the state Division II title.

"It's been wonderful," Reilly said earlier in the week. "We had a great shot at Lee. It's so good to see Hoosac here and I know Wahconah has been here."

At Lee, Reilly had Keith Thomson, who just finished his 13th year at the helm. Tom Lopez is the coach at L-S, and he's been there a little longer than Thomson has been the head guy at Lee.

"I just stay out of the way. The football coach, Tom Lopez, has a real strong program. For 40 years, he's been the head coach," Reilly said. "My job is to stay out of the way and let the coach and the boys do their jobs."

RUSTY'S ICED TEA

In addition to their helmets clad with lightening bolt stickers, the Hurricanes had an extra meaningful decal Saturday.

Chayne Brassard, a senior at Hoosac, started brewing up iced tea for his friends this summer. That list of buddies just so happens to include the entirety of Dayne Poirot's roster. Rusty's Iced Tea — Brassard's red hair and love of Rusty Wallace brought on the nickname from an uncle — was born and has grown rapidly in popularity throughout the school. During a recent experiment in a science class, one of the freshman on the team brought some in to test out with an egg.

Each player Saturday had a sticker on the back of his helmet that read Rusty's in big letters, but also had the player's number and an individual message of motivation.

"Well my friend Juice [Justin Meczywor], who is on the football team started the whole thing, so I really have to give him credit for that," wrote Brassard, who was unable to make it to Gillette, but followed along. "And I decided that the rest of the guys shouldn't get left out so i made them each a sticker."

Junior tight end Sam Larabee's No. 5 sticker had a message that made him think of his older brother, who would get scooped by his "chicken wing."

"He gave everyone a sticker with their number and a personal message on it. We just wanted to support him. We love the kid," said Larabee. "Mine's a story from last year that made me remember my brother."

BAND PLAYS ON

With Hoosac trailing 24-0 and the team in the locker room searching for answers, the crowd at Gillette was treated to a battle of the bands between Millis and Hoosac Valley. The Hurricanes, freshly decked out in nice uniforms and under the direction of drum majors Jake Meczywor and Aaron McAdoo, put on a great performance.

"We pulled it together pretty quickly. We only had about two weeks to prepare," said Meczywor whose brother Justin is a defensive back on the football team. "We've never done anything in a stadium like this before. This is definitely the biggest thing we've ever been a part of."

The group also won responsibility to perform the National Anthem before the game and nailed it.

"I thought it came out perfect. Amazing," said McAdoo, who also commented on the relationship between the football and band programs.

"It's a small school, so we all know each other and it's a pretty close atmosphere. We've known everyone since preschool it seems."

GIVE ME AN H

The football team wasn't the only group of student-athletes doing its thing on Gillette Stadium turf. The Hoosac Valley cheerleading squad bused out with the band and players as well and kept things active in a large student and fan section up in the stands throughout the contest.

"I give them a lot of credit. They worked really hard all year and they deserve to be here," said cheer captain Alexis Boucher. "They're doing their best out there.

"All of us are so excited, we may not look it right now, but we're thrilled to be here in the stadium with them."

The cheer team also recently competed in an event in the Berkshires.

Eagle sports writer Howard Herman contributed to this notebook.


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