Talented Burke Sets High Goals For HHS Boys Soccer Team
Owen Burke is an adept passer who can play in the midfield or at wing. Photo Courtesy of KEN ROBINSON (kbrphoto.com)
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Owen Burke isn’t afraid to set lofty goals.
Holliston High’s center midfielder, who was a three-time soccer all-star last year as a junior, lists winning a state championship as his No. 1 team objective. His personal goals will also be a challenge — he wants to repeat as an all-star and to achieve all-American honors.
The 5-foot-11, 155-pound Burke isn’t boasting and he isn’t being unrealistic. A key cog in the Panthers’ offensive and defensive schemes, the 17-year-old is the real deal. After three matches as a freshman reserve, he started the final 13 games, and he’s been basically a four-year, first-string competitor who can play either right wing or midfielder.
Burke is versatile, talented, and competitive, and he just happens to be a two-year captain who’s now striving to lead Holliston to its third straight Tri Valley League Large Division crown. His all-star credentials include berths on the TVL team, the Eastern Mass. Coaches Association squad and the Metrowest Daily News team.
“I believe we can win a state title,’’ he said. “We’ve got experience (nine starters back) and we’ve got depth. Our players have talent, the team chemistry is solid and the program’s culture is strong.’’
Burke, who played in a state semifinal as a freshman, is acutely aware that a variety of factors have to line up to win the playoffs.
“Everyone has to buy in or be on the same page,’’ Burke emphasized. “And, some luck is needed. An all-out effort is a must for every game and we all have to listen to advice from coach (Jay) Dupuis.’’
Holliston’s coach is no stranger to success. He’s never missed qualifying for tourney play in his 11 years as the Panthers’ coach. That’s positive and Dupuis’ thoughts are all positive when Burke is the topic.
“Owen is a great team leader,’’ said Dupuis. “He’s got a high soccer IQ, his foot skills are excellent and his instincts are great — always at the right spot. A really good passer, he’s outstanding in transition, able to depend on his defense to provide attacking ability. Owen can be dangerous for opponents, especially when the ball is at his feet.’’
Burke, who’s played club soccer for nine years, scored 10 goals and assisted on four others last year during the covid-19 season. Those stats may not sound prolific but Holliston played only 10 matches. Burke, however, is more than just an offensive threat. He’s got other key attributes that include quickness, endurance, and quality technique. He’s also strong finishing plays and that’s what occurred last year against archrival Ashland.
“That was the best offensive game of my career,’’ said the Holliston native. “I scored two goals and we won, 3-1. I was able to maneuver well and my passes connected.’’
So far, Burke has 2 goals and 4 assists and Holliston’s record at Local Town Pages deadline was 2-0-1.
Burke’s optimistic outlook for the Panthers shines brightly when he’s discussing the four other captains and his coach.
“Striker Ben Siegel, center backs Brendan MacLeod and Aidan McEachern, and forward Ryan Foley are effective leaders,’’ Burke said. “We all mesh well. They all have high soccer IQs, they’re talented and all of them are capable at their positions. As for coach Dupuis, he’s a very good motivator who puts players in the right positions and he’s able to change tactics at a moment’s notice.’’
Burke, who started in youth soccer aa a five-year-old, prefers playing in the midfield, where he’s been the last two seasons. “I like it because a midfielder can affect his team, both on offense and defense,’’ he noted. “Passing is one of my strengths and there’s lots of room in the midfield to connect on passes.’’
Burke also connects effectively in the classroom. He’s a high honor student who plans on majoring in business. He also hopes to play collegiate soccer. “Some college coaches have expressed interest in my play,’’ he revealed. “I’d like to compete at that level, no matter what division it might be.’’
When Burke was a freshman, Holliston won the TVL Large title, then rolled to the sectional crown by beating Norton. The Panthers later lost in the state semifinal to Wayland. As a sophomore, he gained more playoff experience but Holliston bowed in the second round to Scituate. Last year, there was no tourney format because of the coronavirus.
“My top thrill was winning the TVL Large Division title and the sectional championship as a freshman,’’ Burke said. “Beating Norton was exciting. They’re usually a strong team and they play in the TVL. They were formidable.’’
A two-time captain is a high honor and Burke labels the designation as “humbling.’’ He says he was honored to be chosen twice because “coach Dupuis considers that role vital.’’ Burke leads by example, can be vocal when needed and exerts lots of energy.
Relying on an athletic philosophy that embraces winning, Burke believes that if he and his teammates are striving to reach their potentials and enjoying their athletic experiences, “then winning will follow.’’
Life lessons that Burke has learned from athletics include leadership, a positive attitude and overcoming adversity. “A negative attitude doesn’t help a team,’’ he emphasized. “It lowers confidence. And, low confidence will lessen your chance of winning. Sports also teach how to overcome adversity, like a losing streak. You learn to bear down.’’
Burke regards his parents (Scott and Jen) as role models for their support and encouragement. He also regards his younger brother (Danny) as an up-and-coming freshman midfielder who likely will contribute to the Panthers’ success this season.
“It’s fun to have Danny as a teammate,’’ Burke said. “He’s an excellent passer who’s strong on defense. We’ve often worked out together. He’s a hard-worker who’s positive and can make an impact. I’m glad my brother is a teammate in my final season.’’
Playing in his final campaign for Holliston with his younger brother on board no doubt could be double trouble for opposing teams. But, Burke also knows his final season will be bittersweet because there’s people he’ll miss.
“I’ll miss great friends but I’ll always have good memories,’’ he said. “Meaningful relationships were formed but it’ll be okay to look ahead to a future in college. A great ending at Holliston would be to go out as a state champion.’’
Owen Burke is an intense competitor who’s positive, optimistic and eager to succeed. It’s those ingredients that could lead to a state crown.