HAVERHILL - Lowell High's formula for success this fall consisted of a defense that swarmed to the ball and created turnovers, and an opportunistic offense that turned these miscues into points.
In the season finale, however, the Red Raiders got beat at their own game.
Haverhill's defense forced six turnovers and three of these takeaways led to scores as the Hillies overcame a two touchdown halftime deficit while rallying past Lowell, 28-21, in the annual Thanksgiving Day game at Trinity EMS Stadium Thursday morning.
Lowell and Haverhill each finished the season with 7-4 records.
"Unless you are the (New England) Patriots, you turn the ball over that many times in a game you are going to lose," said Lowell coach John Florence. "You have to give Haverhill credit. They came out and made plays in the second half. For whatever reason we just didn't get it done in the second half."
The Red Raiders were up 21-7 at halftime. Quarterback Brian Dolan hooked up with Keagan Latta on a 27 yard touchdown pass with 4.5 seconds to go in the first half that sent the Red Raiders into halftime with a lot of momentum.
But it was Haverhill that came out and dominated play after the break. Hillies' quarterback Shane Finn threw a pair of touchdown passes in the second half.
"We made some adjustments," said Haverhill coach Tim O'Connor. "Lowell is an excellent team, but we knew we could compete with them. We competed with everyone this year except for one game.
"Last year, we learned how to win and compete. This program is going in the right direction. Things are going well in Haverhill right now. We have a bright future."
The Hillies snapped a 21-21 tie with 9:02 left to play in the game as Finn hooked up with Piero Garcia for the 25-yard TD pass that proved to be the game-winner.
Haverhill tied the score, 21-21, on third quarter touchdowns by John Ramsdell, on an 8-yard pass from Finn, and Stephane Bristol, on an 18-yard run. Both scores came after Haverhill recovered fumbles in Lowell territory.
"They bounced back in the second half," said Florence. "They are a well coached team. They have a good program. We expected it to be a battle. Unfortunately, we just didn't come out on the winning end today."
Lowell came out smoking on this cold windy, morning. On the opening possession of the game, Dolan ripped off a 50-yard run to the Haverhill 9-yard-line, and Ngaiiva Mason raced into the end zone on the next play. The first of Evan McHugh's three PATs gave Lowell a quick, 7-0, lead.
Patrick Yale scored the first Haverhill TD, returning an interception 15-yards for a score with 7:26 left in the second quarter. The first of Yale's four PATs made it 7-7.
Lowell came right back and took a 14-7 lead as Shyheim Cullen raced 55 yards for a touchdown on a fake punt.
With less than a minute to play in the opening half, Lowell blocked a punt, setting up the Red Raider offense at the Hillies' 25. Two plays later, Dolan hooked up with Latta on the scoring pass that gave Lowell a two touchdown lead at the break.
Senior receivers Jack Galvin (2 catches for 51 yards) and Tom Smith (4 catches for 41 yards) played well for Lowell.
"It was a good season," said Florence, whose Red Raiders advanced to the semifinals of the MIAA Division 1 North Sectional before losing to Everett. "The kids came to play every game. They worked hard.
"The games we lost, if a few plays here and there were different the result might have been different. We just needed to make a few more plays in those games in order for us to come out with a positive result in the end."
Senior lineman Matt Burns led the way on defense for Haverhill.
"This was a statement game for us," said O'Connor, who guided Haverhill to the semifinals of the MIAA Division 2 North Sectional. "I think it tells everyone in the MVC that we're for real. That we're here to stay. The 0-11 days are long gone in Haverhill."
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