One more game

Colin Healey was surprised when he found out he had been selected to the West all-star team for the CHaD East-West NH High School All-Star Game.

It was no surprise to his coach, or his teammate, that Healey, who recently graduated from Merrimack High School, would be on the team, which will take the field at Saint Anselm College at 1 p.m. Saturday against the East.

“He was a quick selection for most of the coaches,” said Dante Laurendi, the Merrimack football coach who is serving as an assistant for West coach Paul Lavigne. “It’s a compliment to him and his work ethic, for a kid who maybe hadn’t had success record-wise, but still took that pride to work hard and continue to do well. That’s a compliment to him.”

A three-year starter on the offensive line for the Tomahawks, Healey expected that the team’s lack of success would damper his chances of making the team.

“Coming off the winless season (as a junior), and then only winning three this year, it was kind of a surprise to me,” he said. “There’s only 40 kids for each team, so it’s just great. I was definitely nervous. You’re with all-stars, these are top tier kids and there’s always competition.”

If being on the team wasn’t exciting enough for Healey, he found out earlier this month, he wouldn’t be the only Merrimack player on the team, as Devin Gillis was added to the roster before practices started.

“I just found out a week and a half before,” said Gillis, who has been backing up quarterback Trevor Knight from Nashua South. “It’s something you look forward to and play for during the year, and finding out that I’d be able to play, it’s amazing. You get to play your last game with someone you know, and someone who has protected me for all four years of high school.”

Both players were happy to get to take the field one more time with Laurendi, who enters his second season as the Tomahawks head coach in the fall.

“That’s really cool and it’s a comforting thing,” Gillis said. “You always have someone in your corner, who really knows your game. Whenever I’m struggling in practice, he’s always right there to tell me that one thing I need to hear. He sees me in a different way than other coaches would.”

And according to what some of their West teammates have been saying, the Tomahawks are getting looked at in a different way around the state.

“It’s unbelievable, just to see how far not only Colin and I have come, but how far our program has come,” Gillis said. “You talk to a lot of guys, and we knew moving up to Division I would be a challenge, but they have nothing but respect. It’s amazing to think of where we were and what we came from.”

Where Healey and Gillis came from was a tough situation, one they managed to survive through their hard work and love for the game.

“It was tough,” Healey said. “A lot of kids hanging their heads and not wanting to be there, but when you lose and lose and lose, it’s what you’re used to. You can’t get over that.”

The strides that Merrimack made in their senior year was a testament to the work the pair of Tomahawks put in, as was their selection to the team.

“I’m happy for those guys,” Laurendi said. “They were two of our best workers on the team and they both overcame some adversity and dealt with a lot of negative things and rose above it. To see them rewarded for their effort and hard work is great.”