Wahconah, Holliston on Parallel Paths to State Title Tilt
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A year ago, the Holliston football team found itself in the same place as Wahconah -- on the outside looking in as the teams that knocked them out of the playoffs battled for the prize they coveted.
For Holliston, it was Dennis-Yarmouth, which beat the Panthers in the South Sectional before going on to win it it all against Doherty, the team that beat Wahconah in the state semi-finals.
It has been a long and satisfying road that has brought Wahconah and Holliston -- finally -- to Gillette Stadium for Saturday afternoon’s Division 4 State Championship game.
“We’ve always had to the goal to make it to Gillette,” Holliston senior wideout Zach Elkinson said earlier this week. “Since we were freshmen, we’ve worked hard.
“Our senior year, we knew we had a chance to do it. All summer long, we worked out and went to camps, so it started there.”
Elkinson has been a major contributor for 11-1 Holliston, accounting for nearly 1,700 all-purpose yards in 11 games, according to the website MaxPreps.com.
Elkinson is the principal weapon for quarterback Nick Athy in the passing game, catching nine passes for 293 yards and four TDs in one game earlier this season. And as a rusher, Elkinson has averaged 11 yards per carry and gone over 100 yards on the ground twice this fall.
He and Athy are also part of a senior class that took Holliston deep into the playoffs a year ago and has taken it one game from the big prize in 2014.
“I think going into this season with as much experience as this team has, we knew this was a real possibility,” Holliston coach Todd Kiley said on the field of Gillette Stadium during Tuesday’s MIAA Football State Championship Breakfast event.
“We only had four seniors on last year’s team, and we were a South Sectional finalist. We knew we had a great group coming back. It was just a matter of us staying healthy and executing … and us coaches not screwing it up.”
Far from screwing up, Kiley has built up a program that is making its third trip to Gillette -- just a short drive from the Holliston campus -- in six years. Holliston went to back-to-back Eastern Mass Super Bowls in 2009 and 2010, winning it all the second time around.
Of course, Wahconah is no stranger to Foxborough, either.
Coach Gary Campbell has taken his program to the Super Bowl two out of the last three years. In 2012, Wahconah won the final Western Mass Super Bowl played at Gillette before the MIAA initiated the state playoff tournament format last fall.
“I started on both sides of the ball that game,” Wahconah lineman Sean Rice said of the 24-21 win over South Hadley. “It was pretty much offense I remember. It kept going back and forth, back and forth, and then in the second half, there weren’t any points scored.
“It was pretty exciting the night before. I couldn’t really sleep. But once we got here, we got settled in, we watched a couple of games from up top. We watched Everett play, which was pretty cool.
“We went down to the bubble there and started to warm up, and the game feeling started coming to my stomach and I got a little nervous. Then we went to the locker room and got a lot more nervous.
“Then we stepped out here, and I was like, ‘It’s the real deal. It’s time to go.’ “