Cavaliers drop Pride

HOLLIS – It was a tale of two halves for the Hollis Brookline football team on Friday night. Through the first 24 minutes, the high-powered Cavaliers offense continually managed to put points on the board against the visiting Merrimack Valley Pride. For the final 24 minutes, the offense simply wanted to prevent a fumble.

An absolute downpour in the second half caused a number of turnovers for both teams, but the Cavs managed to hang on for a convincing 38-18 victory.

The Cavs were clicking on all cylinders to start the game. HB opened the first quarter with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Joey Delaney to Matt Simco, giving the team an early eight-point lead. However, the Pride managed to bite back, as quarterback Evan Martin connected with Cam Tillman on a 29-yard touchdown on the following drive.

Fortunately, the Cavs managed to find the end zone two more times before the first quarter ended, as Delaney tossed a pair of touchdowns to brother Brian Delaney to give Hollis Brookline a 14-point lead.

The second quarter belonged to Merrimack Valley. Martin found the end zone on a one-yard run to start the frame, and he later tossed a 78-yard touchdown to Ryan Neylon to cut the Pride’s deficit to two. The Delaney brothers connected on another touchdown towards the end of the quarter, giving Hollis a 28-18 lead heading into halftime.

As the Cavaliers’ offense was seemingly rolling, the sky suddenly opened up, changing coach Chris Lones’ game plan.

"First half we did what we wanted to do, and second half we just did what we needed to survive," he said. "Mother Nature came in, and that changed everything. Instead of focusing on scoring, we had to make sure we could just snap the ball. That was a struggle for both teams, but you just got to keep playing."

Neither team could keep care of the ball in the second half, especially the Pride. Five of the six Merrimack Valley second-half drives ended in either a fumble or interception, with senior Jack Byrne leading the Cavs’ defensive effort.

While Hollis Brookline also struggled with turnovers in the second half (two fumbles), the running game continually managed to pound the ball and run down the clock.

The Cavs rushed for 141 yards in the second half, and the team even sat their starting quarterback in favor of the safer wildcat formation.

"We ran the ball tonight and that was huge," said Lones, whose Cavaliers have won three straight since an opening weekend loss to Windham. "We’ve been working on (the running game) all year. When you have a second half like we did, that becomes even more important. We’ve wanted to be more balanced, and we got that tonight."

Merrimack Valley threatened to decrease their narrow deficit multiple times in the second half, but the Cavaliers finally put the game away on a 36-yard touchdown run by Brian Delaney. The junior finished the game with four touchdowns.

"He’s a horse," Lones said. "On any given day, any of these guys could be the stud. We’ve got a boatload of weapons."