Hoosac Valley Hurricanes get first glimpse of Gillette Stadium
FOXBOROUGH — For the coaches and athletic directors, Tuesday morning's Super Bowl breakfast at Gillette Stadium involved logistics and what to do on Saturday. For the players, it was a little different.
"It's an incredible feeling," Hoosac Valley's Adam Bush said. "It's like nothing I've ever done before. It's something that's going to stick with me forever."
Bush was part of the Hoosac Valley contingent that joined coaches and players from the other 15 teams that will play for MIAA state championships on Friday and Saturday at the home of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Two games will be played at Gillette Friday night, while the Hurricanes will play Eastern Massachusetts champion Millis in the third game Saturday afternoon. There will be six games total played Saturday, starting with the Division VI title game between Littleton and Middleboro at 9 a.m. The last game of the day is the D-I game between traditional Bay State powers Everett and Xaverian at 8 p.m.
The Hoosac-Millis game's kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MIAA officials want fans to know that the game will start no earlier than 1:30, and should the Division IV game between Nashoba and Melrose run long, the Division VIII game would start 15 minutes after the conclusion of the D-IV game.
Probably the two most important matters for the players was the coin toss to determine home and visiting teams, and meeting with the media on the Gillette turf, in that order.
For the Hurricanes, everything went well. Barry Haley, the MIAA's North sectional tournament director, tossed a ceremonial coin to determine which team would be the designated home team. Hoosac won the toss and elected to wear its home jerseys, most likely some combination of red. The Hurricanes will be on the east sideline.
With the toss won, the Hurricanes will get to occupy the New England Revolution's locker room at halftime, while the Mohawks will spend the 13-minute intermission in the locker room provided for the University of Massachusetts football team.
The Hoosac players, like their brethren from the other 15 high schools, spent much of their time on the Gillette turf looking up at the upper levels of the huge stadium.
"You know. It really didn't hit me until I actually stood on the field and looked at everything," said Matt Hall. "It amazes me. I'm looking around, enjoying every moment I can."
The event started with a breakfast for the captains, the coaches and the athletic directors, along with other administrators, cheerleading captains and band representatives (if a school had a band).
Football Hall of Famer and former Patriots standout Andre Tippett addressed the gathering, and his remarks had players ready to go out and play in their street clothes and, in some cases, bow ties.
"I guarantee you in 10 years, 20 years, it's going to come back to you," Tippett said of this weekend's game, "and you'll enjoy it.
"I played my whole career with guys who never won a state championship."
To a player, the Hoosac contingent said they were truly excited to play on the turf at Gillette. But to play where Tom Brady plays? That's another story.
"I am not a Patriots fan, but I'm not a Patriots hater," said Bush. "I'm a big fan of Belichick's and Gronk [tight end Rob Gronkowski]. I'm not a Patriots fan, but I do respect them for what they are."
"I'm just a football fan," Vance Eugene said, admitting that he's also not a Pats fan. "I never thought I'd be on a field where the professionals play."
Ask Hurricanes coach Dayne Poirot, you get a much different answer about the Patriots. The Hoosac coach said he even wore his Patriots socks to Gillette.
"I've been here a lot to watch games. I've been here in the preseason to watch a joint practice," said the Hoosac coach. "It's cool to be here and just be around what you consider the top of the mountain for football, the NFL. It's great."
Over a long Berkshire County season and MIAA playoff, Bush has cultivated a lumberjack-style beard, and had the best facial hair of all the players from the 16 teams. He knows it will have to be trimmed down once he begins practicing basketball but, along with a similarly scruffy Hall, is glad they've been able to keep growing them into December.
"At the beginning of the season," Hall said. "I wasn't planning on shaving it. I was hoping I wouldn't have to shave it.
"It's good that I'm here."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.
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