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Steel tough: Pittsburgh native Thermitus helps lead Hollis Brookline to title game

Marc-Andre Thermitus of Hollis Brookline High School.

HOLLIS – Immersed, almost unwillingly, into the New England Patriots dynasty during his most formative, growing years, Marc-Andre Thermitus refuses to budge.

“Pittsburgh Steelers, baby, born and raised,” the Hollis Brookline High School junior said.

The folks out on Route 122 don’t mind the Black-and-Gold talk these days. The way Thermitus has been carrying the football for the Cavaliers, he could root for the Yankees, Lakers and Canadiens, too.

Thermitus and the Hollis Brookline footballers will make history, win or lose, on Sunday afternoon (2:30) when they travel to the University of New Hampshire for the Division II state championship game.

While the Cavaliers’ opponent, Plymouth, will be gunning for their fourth straight and unprecedented 27th title overall, it is HB’s first-ever football title game appearance.

Thermitus, a 5-10, 177-pounder, has helped galvanized the Cavaliers in this amazing run to the title, despite being the lead running back in an offense built around the passing game.

Since returning in Week 5 from a broken foot he suffered in the opening-night loss at Milford, Thermitus has run for 664 yards and a dozen touchdowns with 125 yards and three scores coming in the state semifinal stunner over unbeaten Bow last week.

“We’re much more balanced where in the past we’ve been more pass-heavy,” said Thermitus, who took over this fall for one of the best-kept secrets in small school Granite State football, bruising Brandon Iodice.

“I think it’s made us more successful. The spread offense can make it hard on a running back. We are much more physical now than we were at the beginning of the year, and I think that has attributed to a lot of these wins. I’m not going to complain. The more carries, the happier I get.”

Why the uptick in business for Thermitus?

First and foremost, it’s been his return to health. The foot he fractured against Milford is now 100 percent.

“He’s really picked up his game lately,” said Hollis Brookline coach Chris Lones. “We’ve had high expectations. He can really run. It’s great to have him back.”

OK, sure, but what’s up with that Steelers thing? Well, as Thermitus said, he was born and grew up just outside of Pittsburgh in Uniontown, Pa. When his dad changed jobs, Thermitus moved to Hollis in 2012.

It was not an easy transition as you might expect. Football helped make it just a little easier.

“I had to leave all my friends, who I had been with since pre-school. At that age, it was very emotional,” he said. “The day after I moved here, I went over to an HB Junior Cavs practice. A week later I joined the team and played my first game against Milford.

“Mostly I went there because I loved football. But part of me knew it would help making new friends. It certainly did.”

Thermitus tried other sports, too, like baseball and lacrosse. But these days, he’s all football.

“I am 100 percent football now,” he said. “As the years went by, and I got better and better at it, I thought the right thing to do was to go 100 percent and see where it takes me.”

Right now, it’s taking Thermitus to where no Cavalier has boldly gone before.

As for his buddies on the team that aren’t all about the Steelers?

“There are a lot of them, mostly all my teammates are Patriots fans. They let you know it. The last couple years haven’t been easy,” Thermitus said. “Patriots fans can be tough. But if my team was that good, I’d boast, too.”