Charlene Larracey stuck herself into the thick of Holliston’s postgame huddle, as she often does, while the Panthers listened to coach Todd Kiley’s words amid sobs. She and linebacker Shane Early, a captain, embraced in a hug silently as Kiley reminded his team what an incredible time this record-breaking season was despite their Super Bowl loss.
Early was a close friend of Larracey’s son, Joey, who died after collapsing in a preseason scrimmage in September 2008. The support from the Holliston community was overwhelming in the weeks following the death, and remains strong today in a variety of ways - moments of silence, helmet decals, vigils, even the “7’’ and “3’’ written on the cheeks of wideout Christian Baker in eye-black.
“Your brother is watching you,’’ an assistant coach told the team following Tuesday night’s win over Cohasset, pointing to the sky.
And yesterday, Joey’s legacy and Charlene’s presence remained inspirational.
“It’s just incredible seeing her here, after all she’s been through,’’ said senior defensive back and tri-captain John McLean. “We did it all for [Joey] this season, and to come to a Super Bowl in his name is an honor.’’
Said Kiley, “That gets you through tough days when you know that they’re being strong (Charlene and husband Jim). Not every day is a great one, there are some days that are tougher than others . . . But [their] strength is what gets you through the day. They are part of our family, and it means a lot to our team to have them around.’’