The Bombardiers ran twice as many plays as the visiting Panthers over the first 10 minutes of the frame, and found the end zone three times, turning a close game into a 37-18 runaway win and securing Big Blue a playoff berth.
“We made the plays,” said Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan. “We made some adjustments at halftime that worked for us. And just overall I thought we played physical. I think that wore them down a little bit by the end.
“We came to win. We had a good week of practice and now we have to build off that. I’m proud of our team – I’m proud of the special team, proud of the offense, proud of our defense. We just have to build off of it and see where the chips fall now.”
After going three and out in its first drive, Attleboro’s defense went on a tear over its next three series. Meanwhile, the Panthers were forced into three and out on each of their first three drives of the second half.
“That’s the difference, [our defense] was on the field for a long time, and they played as well as they could,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “Offensively we just didn’t execute. It wasn’t that the kids weren’t prepared, we didn’t take Attleboro lightly. We executed great to start. Then we couldn’t run the ball, then we missed open guys. We missed some running lanes.
“The scoreboard is going to say we gave up 37 points but I don’t think it speaks at all to how our defense played and executed.”
Attleboro’s second drive of the second half almost didn’t get going at all. A bad snap on third down looked like it was going to end the drive, but senior quarterback Cam Furtado (12 carries, 119 yards, two total touchdowns) bought some time and hit Elvin Sam on the sideline, who was ruled in bounds, for an eight-yard gain. Then Furtado’s sneak on fourth down moved the chains.
Big Blue committed to the ground game from there, running out of its “tank” formation for the majority of the drive. Justin Cote (16 carries, 94 yards, three total touchdowns) had two carries for a total of 15 yards, Furtado converted a second down with a six-yard run and Cote capped the drive with a seven-yard score. Furtado’s two-point rush made it 16-6 with 5:27 left in the quarter.
Another quick stop got the ball back for Attleboro at their own 26-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Furtado went play action but had to escape a pair of rushers in the backfield. He juked past another would-be tackler at the line of scrimmage, found a hole and raced his way for a 73-yard touchdown and a 23-6 lead with 3:56 left in the third quarter.
Franklin didn’t gain a yard on its next drive, and was forced to punt from its own 23-yard line. But Attleboro junior Nick Evans broke free and blocked the punt with Myles Haynes jumping on the loose ball.
Attleboro turned a two-point lead (8-6) into a 24-point advantage in just a matter of four minutes.
“Midway through the third quarter, we committed to the run,” Strachan said. Attleboro racked up 234 rushing yards. “We went with what we call our tank. We just felt like we were wearing them down in the second half. We just settled into it, so it was really a good win for us.”
Franklin took the lead in the first quarter. After its first drive got down to the Attleboro three-yard line, the Panthers’ offense couldn’t punch it in. However, they forced a quick three and out to get the ball out. A 22-yard completion from Jake Noviello (19/40, 228 yards, two touchdowns) to Ryan Driscoll put the Panthers inside the 10-yard line.
Three plays later, Noviello linked up with Driscoll again for a four-yard touchdown and 6-0 lead.
Attleboro’s defense set the offense up for its go-ahead score. On the eighth play of Franklin’s drive, Furtado – playing safety – picked off Noviello and brought it back to the Franklin 15-yard line.
On the third play, Furtado hit Cote for his only other completion of the game for an 11-yard touchdown. Furtado kept it himself for the two-point rush and an 8-6 lead in the second quarter.
Attleboro thought it had added to its lead twice late in the second quarter, but penalties erased a pair of touchdowns. First, Furtado hit Cote for an 88-yard touchdown, but a holding penalty at the line of scrimmage and a block in the back down field took the score off the board. Two plays later, Sam got behind the secondary and Furtado hit him for an 89-yard score, but another holding penalty took points off the board.
“[Franklin] is a good football team, [Noviello] is one of the best quarterbacks in the league,” Strachan said. “I just think we settled down. The offense needed some time to get going, the defense hung in there. We had two big turnovers, two picks, that came at the right time for us.
“It was a must-win for us.”
Franklin tried to orchestrate a second half comeback, scoring a pair of touchdowns. First, Noviello kept it himself for a one-yard touchdown. The Panthers got the ball and needed just three plays to cover 56 yards, with Noviello hitting Evan Wendell on back-to-back 22-yard gains, the latter for six points.
Attleboro iced the game when Furtado converted a fourth down run. On the next play, Cote sprinted his way for a 30-yard touchdown to cap the scoring.
Attleboro football (3-4 overall, 3-2 Hockomock) will likely be the sixth seed in the D1 South bracket, according to The Boston Herald’s rankings. If that stands, the Bombardiers could be traveling to visit a familiar playoff foe in Xaverian.
Franklin (2-5, 1-4) is currently in the ninth spot in the Herald’s rankings, just 0.06 points out of the final playoff spot. However, there are still games to be played Saturday and nothing is official until the MIAA releases its rankings on Sunday or Monday.