Redhawks football dedicate opener, season to fallen police officer
Before the start of every Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton football season opener, the players form a line – helmets in hand – as they have done every year since the team’s inception.
Saturday was no different. There was still a half-hour until kick-off at Houston Fields in Contoocook when the players and sidelines went quiet. The village’s VFW Post color guard marched onto the field, followed by a procession of Hopkinton police officers and Peter Powers of Hillsboro. Deliberately, players walked onto the field and presented their helmets so the men could place small, red stickers bearing the badge number 607.
They do this to honor Peter’s son, Sean, a local police officer who was killed in 2008.
Powers did not play a role in the founding of the Redhawks, but he was well known during his lifetime in both the Hillsboro and Hopkinton communities.
“Every year at the first game, they dedicate the season in memory of Sean because Sean made the connection with the kids in the community as a police officer,” his mother, Marilyn Powers, of Hillsboro said.
When Sean Powers died at age 24 in August 2008, he was the newest officer with the Hopkinton Police Department, making him only a few years older than the teenagers he often stopped to talk to at the skate park next to Hopkinton Middle/High School.
“The kids loved him. They just loved him,” Marilyn Powers said.
She recalled his memorable personality, his smile and especially his humor. “Funny, funny, funny, funny kid. Sense of humor beyond belief. Heart of gold,” she said.
Powers grew up in Hillsboro and graduated from Hillsboro-Deering High School. Before joining the Hopkinton Police Department, he fulfilled a dream to be a Marine.
“He did two tours in Iraq, came back safely from both of them and then turned around and I can remember him calling saying ‘I got into the (police) academy’ and that would have been the year he died,” Marilyn said.
“He never made it to the academy.”
On Aug. 14, 2008, Powers had completed a shift and was driving his Harley-Davidson motorcycle home on Route 202/9 in Henniker when then-22-year-old Jeffrey Dennis rear-ended him with his car. Powers died at the scene.
As the towns of Hopkinton and Hillsboro mourned his death, a club football team called the Redhawks was getting ready to start their first season.
The cooperative team was bringing students from two rival high schools together – Hillsboro-Deering and Hopkinton – and dedicating the season to the Hillsboro-Deering alum turned Hopkinton police officer was an easy decision.
Many have referred to that first dedication as a “bridging the gap” moment, including Marilyn Powers and current Redhawks booster club president Dennie Yianakopolos. The team “has always and will always honor his memory,” Yianakopolos said.
The football club has grown significantly over the years and became a sanctioned Division II varsity team in 2016, but they still carry with them the memory of Sean Powers.
That means a lot to the Powers family, Marilyn said.
“I think it’s just absolutely wonderful, but I think more than anything it is a reminder to people that life is short and to take care of each other,” she said.
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