KP Powers Into Hock Cup Final With Win at Canton

King Philip Volleyball
KP sophomore Ahunna James (11) had a big match on the outside, helping the Warriors power past Canton and advance to the Hock Cup final. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – King Philip got off to the perfect start to Wednesday night’s Hock Cup semifinal at Canton. The Warriors jumped out to a 14-2 lead and cruised to the win in the opening set. From that point on, nothing came easy, as the battle of league champions went back-and-forth over the next three sets and both teams had to grind out every point.

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KP was able to use its strength at the net, led on the outside by sophomore Ahunna James and in the middle by senior Nicole Coughlan, to power past the Bulldogs. The Warriors won 3-1 (25-12, 27-29, 25-22, 25-20) and advance to Friday night’s final.

“I was surprised [at the start],” said KP coach Kristen Geuss, “but I certainly knew they were going to come back so I didn’t want us to let our guard down at that point because they’re such a good team.”

She added, “It gave us a little bit of confidence. It gave us that cushion so I think we were able to be a little more comfortable out there.”

Canton coach Pat Cawley credited her 10 seniors for their resilience and leading the team back after that very tough opening set.

“These 10 seniors who are graduating couldn’t be better people to be in the gym with every day,” she said. “Obviously we had a really slow start. Those other three sets, I couldn’t be more proud of my kids, the way they played. They gave it everything they had. They went all out.”

Nothing went right for the hosts at the start. Serve-receive was off, passing was off, hitting was off and KP took full advantage.

Coughlan had a pair of kills and a pair of blocks in the early going, Lily Carlow had a pair of aces, and James got off to a quick start with a pair of kills, as KP jumped all over the Bulldogs to build a 14-2 lead.

Canton tried to get some momentum going with good swings by Shannon Malloy and Angie Elias, but Sami Shore’s accurate tip, back-to-back points for Coughlan, and a kill from Giovanna Fruci put and end to any thoughts of a comeback. Coughlan was dominant and she closed out the set with a pinpoint tip, her seventh point in the first, to put KP up 1-0.

Liz Bickett smashed Canton into the lead to start the second set and the Bulldogs looked intent on making sure the match was not a sweep. Their defense improved, turning many of the points into long rallies. Steph Trendell and Nikki Desjardins were able to chase down everything on the back row and keep balls alive.

“I just feel good that my kids gave it everything they had, especially after losing the first set by so much,” said Cawley. “It’s hard to come back in volleyball after that. I just told them to forget it, we’re starting over, and they did. We battled.”

KP continued to be strong defensively as well, with libero Emma Brooks and Carlow prominent on the back row, and started to mix things up offensively, getting James more and more involved on the outside. She had seven kills in the second set alone.

“She’s only a sophomore, so I look forward to see what she can do in the future,” Geuss said of James. “Her and Nicole are definitely our weapons, but I think our setters (Lauren Peterson and Stella Bailey) are doing a good job moving the ball around a lot more than we have to kind of mix it up a little bit and keep their blockers off-balance a little bit.”

After Brooks found an open spot with a kill from the back row and Coughlan smashed another spike down the middle, KP had opened up a 14-8 lead and it looked like the Warriors may start to pull away. Instead, Canton stormed back with seven of the next eight points, including a kill for Bickett and block for Anna Verille, to tie the set at 15-15.

A James kill made it 20-17 but Canton forced a long rally capped by an Elias swing and neither side seemed able to grab momentum, as the atmosphere got as loud as any match this season. Shore had a hit called on the line, but Verille answered. Then Coughlan hit the end line with a kill but a diving dig by Desjardins kept a point alive for Elias to somehow find an open area with a bump.

Canton had the first set point after a Bickett block at 24-23 and her tip gave the Bulldogs another chance at 26-25, but first Coughlan then James had the answer. James saved another set point to tie it 27-27, but Sydney Gallery came off the bench for a big block and Elias hit the line for an ace to close out a 29-27 win for the hosts.

“They were super scrappy,” said Geuss in praise of Canton. “We had to work for every point. That was not an easy match.”

The Bulldogs coming back to win in the second set the stage for two more hard-fought sets in which neither team could put the other away.

KP took a 15-6 lead in the third, following another kill by Fruci, but Canton continued to fight, winning 10 of the next 13 points to get back within two. After a couple of errors, Elias had a block and two kills to make it 20-19. After another kill and a KP shot into the net, the Bulldogs had come all the way back to tie it at 21-21.

But, another pair of errors put KP back in front and the Warriors were able to put themselves on the brink of the final with kills from Camryn Buckley and Coughlan.

In the fourth set, KP again was able to put together a run and grab the lead. An 8-0 run, including a pair of Coughlan kills, put the Warriors up 14-8. Canton never got closer than four points the rest of the set.

Behind a pair of kills from James down the stretch and a block and two kills from Coughlan, KP was able to keep Canton at arm’s length, despite the best efforts of Elias and Bickett. It was fitting that Coughlan, the senior closed out the match with yet another big swing off the Canton block.

“I’m grateful that we had a season and I’m grateful that we could all hang in there so we could have the Hock Cup,” said Cawley. Canton finished the season at 10-2. She added, “It is a little taste of the postseason for them. We don’t really peak until the last 10 matches and this season you blink and it’s over and we’re just raring to go and find our way.”

King Philip (11-1) advances to the Hock Cup final to face Kelley-Rex co-champion Franklin. The teams split their two regular season matchups.

Geuss said, “We’re thrilled to be here. This was great competition for us and hopefully it will set us up for Friday. Hopefully it’s going be a good match and hopefully we show up to play the way we’ve been playing.”

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Mansfield Sweeps Sharon to Reach Hock Cup Semis

Mansfield Volleyball
Mansfield senior Kacey Veiking (23) goes up for a tip in the Hock Cup quarterfinal at Sharon. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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SHARON, Mass. – As his team met in the hallway prior to Monday night’s Hock Cup quarterfinal, first-year Mansfield coach Mark Ledwich had a sense that the players were ready to build on the momentum of four wins in the final six games of the regular season and put in a good performance.

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The Hornets did just that, sweeping Sharon 3-0 (25-10, 25-17, 25-18). Mansfield didn’t trail at any point against the Davenport division runners up, earning the impressive road win and booking a spot in the semifinal.

“Going into the game, we knew that if we could serve spots it would lead them in directions that would really help our defense,” Ledwich explained, “and all we did was practice where we needed to sit on defense to make that happen. It was a great game by all the kids to go out there and do their jobs.”

Sharon has not had much experience with a playoff atmosphere, even one with a limited crowd, and the Eagles looked a little tentative out of the gates. Mansfield jumped out to a 10-3 lead, then doubled it to go up 20-6 as the Eagles struggled with unforced errors.

“Someone used the term high-stakes game before the game and I think they were a little bit nervous about that,” said Sharon coach Andrea Lovett. “A lot of people were playing against people they play with in club a lot and their club coach, which also makes them a little nervous. They just didn’t execute the way they needed to. It was all fundamentals.”

Mansfield also looked strong at the net, setting a pattern for the game, as the front line dominated on both offense and defense. Sharon’s leading hitter Sara Fandel found it difficult to get into a rhythm against the blocking of Ashley and Nicole Santos, Kacey Veiking, and Alina Nowakowski.

Veiking had an early kill followed by back-to-back swings from Olivia McGrath, who also added a block and ace during the first set. Yvette Nau had an ace and Leah Fandel added a kill from her middle position but Ashley Santos followed with a kill to end any chance of the hosts going on a run. Nowakowski and Santos went back-to-back with kills to end the first.

“One of the things we said was that whatever happened we had to play at our energy,” said Ledwich. “Although we have restrictions for fans, our bench brings it and makes it feel like every one of our games is a home game.”

The Eagles tried to regroup between sets, but again the Hornets came out flying. Mansfield scored the first six points of the second, behind McGrath’s strong service game. Three times Sharon would battle back within one, but each time Mansfield grabbed a crucial point to make sure it stayed in front.

After Sharon cut the lead to 11-10, McGrath scored with a well-placed tip and setter Christina Lydon scored with a quick leap and spike. Sara Fandel finally got free for a blast to make it 21-14, but Nowakowski continued to find the right angle on the outside and scored with consecutive swings. Nicole Santos added a kill in the middle and the Hornets were up 2-0 with a chance to seal the match.

Sharon needed to get off to a good start in the third, but it was the Hornets that scored the first three points and got to play from in front yet again.

Lovett said, “I’ve noticed a trend for us in the last few matches that we get down a little bit and then sort of kick in and this wasn’t a team that we could kick in against.”

The Eagles kept battling. Brynne Aidlin-Pearlman had an ace and Fandel a kill, but McGrath was proving tough to stop and Santos had a big block for an 8-5 lead. Like the second set, the Eagles were able to get within a point but couldn’t get over the hump.

“They’re good blockers and I don’t think our hitters took advantage of their knowledge and ability to hit around them, over them, mix things up,” said Lovett. “I was saying in the huddle that you can’t just pound it into their hands, you’ve got to figure something out. We didn’t adapt well.”

Down 16-15, the Eagles saw a shot drop long. It would be as close as they could get. Nowakowski followed with an ace and McGrath fired one off the block for a point. Veiking knocked one off the blockers’ hands and McGrath closed out the match with another ace.

Mansfield (6-5) will now get its third shot at co-champ Franklin in the semifinal on Wednesday. Ledwich said, “We have yet to play Franklin at full strength. We are where we need to be and a full strength Mansfield looks like this and we’re ready to come back at Franklin. Third one’s the charm.”

Sharon (8-3) will host North Attleboro in the consolation round to close out one of its most successful seasons in years.

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North’s Sinacola Dominating on the Mound for Maine

Nick Sinacola
Former North Attleboro star Nick Sinacola has struck out 10 or more batters in all five of his starts for the University of Maine this spring, picking up the win in all five games. (University of Maine)

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After having the 2020 college baseball season wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic, players could be forgiven for taking a few games to get into their strides this spring. That hasn’t been a problem for former North Attleboro star Nick Sinacola, who has been dominant on the hill for the University of Maine.

Sinacola, who helped the Rocketeers win their first state championship as a senior in high school, has won each of his first five starts (including Friday night’s win at NJIT) and has recorded double digit strikeouts in all five games. He has already been named the America East Conference Pitcher of the Week twice and earned national press when College Baseball News added him to their Players of the Week as well.

Before this weekend’s trip to New Jersey, Sinacola spoke about what it means not only to to be off to a strong start but to be able to get on the field at all.

“I think we’re all grateful,” he explained. “We’re just making the most of it, have a good year, and have some fun while we’re out there. That’s the number one thing is just having some fun, trying to win some games.”

Sinacola added, “It was a sense of normalcy that I think everyone is kind of looking for, so whether you’re playing or not playing, even just seeing it on TV or seeing videos of it gives people that sense of normalcy.”

The Black Bears were confident in the fall that the spring season would happen, although the team decided over the winter to pass up its usual season-opening trip to Florida because of the logistical issues that come with traveling during the ongoing pandemic. Maine’s season began on March 6 against Merrimack College with Sinacola getting the call to start.

“It was something special,” he said. “That first pitch, it felt really good to be back in that Maine uniform.” Sinacola struck out 11 in 5-2/3 innings, allowing only three hits and one run to open the year with his first collegiate victory.

As a freshman, two years ago, he made 19 appearances, including three starts. He struck out 35 batters in 35-2/3 innings and tossed five innings of no-hit relief against national power Florida State. He made four starts in the abbreviated 2020 season, losing all four despite striking out 23 batters in 21 innings.

This year, Sinacola has been on a different level. Over his first four starts, Sinacola struck out 11, 16, 15, and 12 batters (his total of 54 was tops in the America East) and had an ERA of just 1.01 (which was 13th in the country and would be the lowest in program history). He led the nation with a strikeout rate of 18.23 per nine innings, his 4.05 hits allowed per nine innings was 11th best in the nation, and he was 20th in WHIP (0.79). He was also halfway to the program’s single-season record for strikeouts (108).

“You spend really a whole year working on everything you can to be ready for when the season comes around,” Sinacola said about his great start, “and I felt like I was in a good spot at the beginning of the year. Having the confidence in myself to make a really good pitch, every single pitch, and confidence in my catcher Ryan Turenne, and trusting everyone behind me, really makes a big difference.”

Does he notice how many strikeouts he is racking up during a game? Can he tell that he is nearing double digits again?

“No, I can’t do that,” Sinacola laughed. “It’s so in the moment, you’re so focused on what you’re doing with this hitter in that specific situation. At the end of the day we’re just trying to get outs, regardless of how we do it.”

Part of Sinacola’s development was the two summers he has pitched with the Brockton Rox, where he had the chance to put into practice the instructions from his Maine coaches, while also being able to try different things to see what fit best.

“You’re off the leash with what you’re doing with the coaches here, so you get the chance to improve yourself and really learn through yourself,” he said. “You get the opportunity to grow on your own.”

Like most pitchers making the jump from a dominant high school career, Sinacola noted that his biggest development came from “learning to pitch, not just throw.” He talked about pitch sequences and planning how to approach to every hitter that he faces depending on circumstances of the game.

His approach at North worked pretty well too. During his senior season, Sinacola won all 10 of his starts, including three in the postseason, posted an ERA of 1.23 and struck out a league-high 71 batters. In the state title game, Beverly struck for three runs in the fifth, but Sinacola settled down to help Big Red lift the state championship trophy.

“Winning is so fun and that winning atmosphere is definitely something you want to be around,” Sinacola said. “It also pushed me to be better because winning the whole thing is something that we’re always chasing. We’re all just trying to win.”

He added, “More than anything, it was a humbling experience because going from being able to win as many games we did that year (18-2 overall) and then going immediately into fall ball here with crazy hitters and other great pitchers it was humbling to see that okay this is a whole other level. You have to adapt and grow your game.”

Sinacola is one of many former Hock baseball players from that season who are making their mark at the collegiate level and he noted that the strength of the league (the Hock sent two teams to the Super 8, had two D2 South finalists, and two state champions) forced him to improve his game.

“The Hock my senior year was one of the best leagues in the state that year,” he recalled. “Playing against good teams, definitely fuels the fire because every night you have to play well to get the win.”

With the America East changing its playoff structure, splitting into two divisions and with only the top two in each division reaching the conference tournament, Sinacola admits it will be a tough test for Maine but that the Black Bears have the talent to be in the mix. Currently, Maine (11-8, 6-5) leads its division by percentage points (UMass Lowell is second at 7-6 in the league) and has a weekend series with the University of Hartford coming up next.

Missing an entire season due to the pandemic adds unique perspective to the challenges and the opportunities the team faces this spring.

“The bus rides don’t get easier up here for us,” he joked, “but it definitely makes you more grateful for the game. The fact that there are other teams and other schools who aren’t able to have the opportunities we have to go out and play definitely adds a different level.

“We think we have the team to make the tournament and that’s the goal. I think it definitely pushes us to be better and we’re excited to play for that this year.”

Milford Comes Out On Top in Slugfest at Stoughton

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Milford celebrates Tyler Lane’s touchdown with 1:59 left to play, which turned out to be the game-winner in a 28-21 win at Stoughton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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STOUGHTON, Mass. – One of the characteristics that first-year Milford coach Dale Olson has talked about with his team is resiliency. On Friday night at Stoughton’s new Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Hawks showed that they have been listening to the coach’s message.

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Milford overcame two first half turnovers and three first half drives that ended inside the Stoughton 10, and twice in the fourth quarter the Hawks answered Stoughton touchdowns with scoring drives of their own. All of that allowed Milford to pull out a hard-fought, 28-21 road win against their former division rival.

“We always talk about adversity and we faced it again tonight,” said Olson. “The kids handled it. We didn’t score two times inside the five and that’s a great football team and you can’t do that, but I’m proud of our kids tonight. They fought and good teams find a way to win.”

The visitors were able to move the ball almost all night. Milford finished with more than 300 yards passing and nearly 200 yards on the ground, but the Hawks missed several opportunities to break the game open early.

On the opening drive of the game, the Hawks put together a 10-play drive and marched all the way down to the Stoughton three. Milford was finding success with the short passing game, as senior Brady Olson (25-of-42, 312 yards) completed seven passes to three different receivers on the first possession. But, on first and goal, his pass into the end zone was intercepted by Emmett Pearl.

“We were trying to get as much pass rush as we could and they just nickel-dimed it,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke. “They had a couple simple patterns and we were trying to cover, but we didn’t stop them right there.”

Stoughton got the ball at it own three and just four plays later was in the lead. A 19-yard carry by Christopher Ais (17 carries, 68 yards) gave the Black Knights some breathing room. On third and five, John Burke (11-of-24, 187 yards) fooled the Milford defense with play action and hit Christian Ais (five catches, 108 yards) in stride for a 73-yard score.

Not to be outdone, the Hawks hit back with a big play of their own. Facing third and 13, Olson fired a strike to Max Martin (seven catches, 121 yards), who hauled it in, took a big hit, spun free, and got a good block from Jayden Agnew to race 75 yards. Both extra points were blocked, so it was tied 6-6.

Following and Evan Hazard interception and return, Milford started its next drive at the Stoughton 25. The Black Knights managed to stop the Hawks on three plays inside the 10 and blocked Nicholas Araujo’s 21-yard field goal attempt.

A short punt again gave Milford great starting field position, this time at the Stoughton 34. On second down, Jake Queeney picked off a pass in the end zone to again deny Milford a go-ahead score.

With a 53-yard punt, Christopher Ais pinned Milford down to start its next drive at its own two, but with horrible starting field position the Hawks finally got back into the end zone. Olson started working down the left sideline to Matt Varteresian (seven catches, 74 yards) out to almost midfield.

As Stoughton’s defense prepared for the pass, Carter Scudo took a draw play up the middle for 52 yards and the visitors’ first lead. Olson hit Agnew on the conversion to make it 14-6.

Milford had one more possession to try and extend its lead before halftime. The Hawks used 15 plays and got all the way to the Stoughton three but were denied again by the Black Knights defense. Andrew Medina made a good play on the ball to breakup one pass and Olson saw his fourth down try get batted down at the line.

It definitely looked like the story of the game would be missed chances, as Stoughton put together a 14-play, 76-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly 7-1/2 minutes of the third quarter. The big play was a play action pass from Burke to Pearl for 31 yards into Milford territory.

Burke capped the drive on third and goal from the five, as he rolled out to his left and went full extension to hit the front pylon. His two-point pass to Pearl in the back of the end zone tied the game at 14-14.

“He had some good throws,” Burke said of his quarterback. “We just missed a couple of home runs. We worked hard and we had some good runs.”

After an intentional grounding call stalled Stoughton’s next drive inside Milford territory, the Hawks answered to get back in front. On third and six, Olson went deep to Keithley Sutton, who just got his hands under the ball and pulled in the 37-yard reception. On third and three from the 26, Olson showed off his legs, scrambling for 25 yards down to the goal line. Scudo (11 carries, 68 yards) punched it in for his second touchdown of the night.

“We knew that we could take the short stuff,” Olson explained. “Take what they give you and [Brady] did it tonight. At times, it didn’t look good and we struggled to run the football and in the end we rushed for 173 yards. In the end, we needed to be able to run the football to win this game and we did.”

For the second time in the game, Ais pinned Milford deep, this time with a 60-yard boot that rolled down to the two. On first down, the Black Knights nearly caught Scudo in the end zone, but he was able to dive to the one and avoid the safety. Stoughton took advantage of a short punt to even the game up. Christian Ais cut upfield on a sweep to the left and raced for a 22-yard score, his second touchdown of the night, and it was 21-21 with 4:38 to play.

Momentum seemed to be with the home team, but Milford’s offense continued to be hard to stop. An eight-yard pass to Sutton converted a third and four and kept the drive alive. With the ball at the Stoughton 22 and the Black Knights expecting a pass, Tyler Lane (seven carries, 58 yards) burst up the gut on a draw play, cut to the far sideline, and flung himself at the front corner of the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning score.

“I was trying to blitz there at the end, thinking they were going to throw, and that kid just went over us,” said Burke. “Their QB is just tough. He had a pretty good day. Second half I thought we did better.”

Stoughton had two minutes to try and answer. Burke started it with a 15-yard keeper and was able to recover from an intentional grounding call with an 11-yard pass to Queeney on fourth and eight. In the end, the Milford defense forced three straight incompletions and a turnover on downs to seal the win.

“It was a rock fight,” said Olson. “Burke has a done a great job and Stoughton kids are tough kids. We’re 4-1 and almost every game we’ve been in a rock fight, it’s just a slugfest.”

Milford (4-1) will travel to Lowell for a non-league game next Friday night. Stoughton (3-2) will look to avoid a three-game losing streak when it travels to King Philip.

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Milford Earns Rare Win at Franklin After Wild Finish

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Milford senior Carter Scudo (11) rushed for more than 170 yards to help the Hawks earn their second win against Franklin since 1990. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Considering Milford’s track record in this long-running series against neighboring Franklin, it should be no surprise that if the Hawks were going to pull out just their second win against the Panthers since 1990 that it was going come right down to the final play.

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Evan Hazard’s interception in the end zone sealed a wild, 34-27 victory for the Hawks on Saturday afternoon at Pisini Stadium, ending a wait of more than three decades for a road win against Franklin.

The Milford defense, which had recorded two shutouts in its three games so far this season, was given a stern test by Franklin’s spread offense but forced four turnovers and scored a pair of touchdowns, including Kevin O’Connor’s late interception return that proved to be the game-winner.

“I’ll take a win,” said first-year Milford coach Dale Olson. “I knew this rivalry had been one-sided in the past, I didn’t know it was that one-sided. I’m happy for our kids and we’ve just got to keep getting better. That’s it.”

He added, “The pick-six was huge by Kevin. They’d been hitting us all day in the flat…We knew it was going to be a challenge, facing a quality team in Franklin.”

It was 27-20 after first half in which both teams were able to move the ball at will. Things settled down in the third and fourth quarters and the score remained the same until O’Connor sat on the short out route, intercepting the Jared Arone pass and returning it 60 yards for the touchdown with 3:33 left to play.

Although that pushed the lead to two scores with time quickly running out, it was hardly the end of the action.

Franklin came right back on its next possession to cut the lead in half. Keith Nally returned the kick 27 yards out to the 40 to give the Panthers good starting field position. A 10-yard completion from Arone (24-of-35 for 292 yards) to Jake O’Brien (five catches for 57 yards) converted a third and nine to keep the drive alive. After a 28-yard pass to Mack Gulla, Arone hit O’Brien in the front corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.

With just 1:35 left, Milford was able to recover Parker Cheuvront’s onside kick attempt and took over at its 48. Carter Scudo (23 carries for 174 yards) got a first down in Franklin territory and the Panthers started to use their timeouts. On fourth and four, Matt Varteresian’s jet sweep was stopped short of the marker and the Panthers took back over on their own 30 with just 19 seconds on the clock.

Arone went to work on the far sideline, hooking up with Will Tracey (nine catches for 161 yards) on gains of 14, 12, and 10 to get to the Milford 34 with seven seconds left. Franklin tried to take a shot at the end zone, but the Hail Mary attempt was intercepted by Hazard as the clock ran out.

Franklin coach Eain Bain said, “Having a young team, it’s not as easy as saying okay veteran you know what to do, you’ve seen this a million times, but when you look at what we put in for today and what we were trying to do, I’m happy with the execution for about 90% of the game plan. We made some mistakes but we’ll learn from them. We know the talent we have.”

The hosts opened the scoring in the first quarter. Kyle Palmieri caught a blocked punt to start the Panthers in Milford territory. A holding call forced Franklin into a third and 23, but Arone was able to find Tracey deep down the far sideline for a 44-yard completion down to the two. Gulla (27 carries for 114 yards) punched it in from there for a 6-0 lead.

Milford responded on its next drive. On third and five from the Franklin 37-yard-line, Brady Olson (5-of-15, 83 yards) had his swing pass tipped but fortuitously it fell into the hands of Jayden Agnew who weaved his way for 27 yards inside the Franklin 10. Scudo took a sweep to the left and found the corner from eight yards out to put the visitors in front.

“They came out in a five-man box and that dictates you have to run the football,” Olson said. “I thought Carter did a great job. We’ve got to get better in general at our pass game. We’re too good Monday through Friday passing the ball and then Saturday comes and we’re not great.”

Now it was Franklin’s turn to answer. The Panthers put together a nine-play, 67-yard drive to regain the lead. After Gulla was able to get two yards on fourth and inches, Arone again looked deep down the sideline to Tracey and he was able to pull in the 32-yard touchdown pass.

“I thought we threw the ball well and ran the ball well,” said Bain. “[Jared’s] grown a ton, the receivers have grown a ton, our line, I think we run the ball as well as we have in four years here. I thought they had to gear up to stop our run and that almost never happens.”

The lead didn’t last long and Milford was able to take control with two scores in just 28 seconds. Scudo’s 38 yard, winding run through the Franklin defense set up Milford inside the 10. Olson (nine carries for 23 yards) capped the drive with a one-yard sneak. Two plays into Franklin’s next drive, Milford was able to force a fumble right in front of its bench and the ball was scooped by Hazard, who raced 35 yards for a 21-13 advantage.

After Jonathan Martins recovered a fumble, Franklin cut the lead back to just one. Despite being surrounded by the Milford pass rush on third and 11, Arone again went deep to Tracey, this time for 31 yards. Gulla bounced left for 24 on the next play down to the Milford seven. Two plays later, Arone hit Tracey on a three-yard slant for the score.

“We knew we needed to defend the whole field today against a good spread team and they got us on a couple long passes,” Olson explained. “That just can’t happen. At times I thought we did it well today and two big plays that turned into scores for them we had them behind the chains. Third and [23] and third and [11] and they scored touchdowns. That hurt.”

That was not the end of the first-half scoring. Milford took over with little more than two minutes left in the half. Olson was able to find Keithley Sutton down the far sideline, after the pass slipped through the hands of a Franklin defensive back, for 35 yards into the red zone. A Scudo draw got the Hawks to the four but the Panthers stuffed back-to-back plays. Olson spiked the ball, bringing up fourth and goal.

The Milford QB was able to push forward for the one-yard sneak with 17 seconds left in the second quarter. The XP was no good and the Hawks went into the break up 27-20.

Bain said, “We’re not huge up front. We put a lot on their plates to try and stop the run and that [Milford] line, that’s a really, really good offensive line and I thought our guys played so well. I’m so proud of them.”

Milford (3-1) will travel to Stoughton next week, the first of two crossover games against two of the top teams in the Davenport division (league-leading North Attleboro being the other). Franklin (2-2) will try to bounce back when it hosts Oliver Ames on Saturday.

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