After a dominating win by Stoughton on Thanksgiving last year, and a shutout over Canton during the regular season earlier this year, the Black Knights had won seven of the past eight meetings, and for straight on the holiday.
“There was some local talk that this rivalry had lost some luster,” Bohane said. “I couldn’t disagree more.”
And by the the way the Bulldogs played on Thursday morning, neither could they.
In its best game of the season, Canton scored a 27-0 win over the Black Knights. It marked the first since on the holiday since 2012, and first win at Veteran’s Memorial Field against Stoughton on Thanksgiving since 2003.
A suffocating defense limited the Black Knights to less than 100 yards, and became the first group to shut out Stoughton since October 2010.
“This rivalry has respect on both sides and we love to play each other,” Bohane said. “This rivalry is going strong, and today we came to play. These kids talk about this game all year long, this is part of the voyage of being a football player at Canton, you play Stoughton on Thanksgiving”
The Bulldogs’ defense looked as though it had been ready for this game all year, allowing just 36 yards total in the first half, with 27 of them coming on one play. It forced Stoughton into a three-and-out to start the game and the offense came through right away.
Highlighted by a 25-yard run from senior Alec Ragusa (15 carries, 102 yards, touchdown) and a 10-yard pass from sophomore Johnny Hagan to Ryan Lentol on fourth down, the Bulldogs marched 67 yards on nine plays.
Hagan capped the drive, eluding a pair of Stoughton defenders on a 22-yard scramble into the end zone. Owen Lehane’s first of three successful extra points put Canton up 7-0 with 4:33 left in the first quarter.
After trading punts, Stoughton’s third drive of the game was halted by a turnover on just the second play. After Justin Ly scampered for 27-yards on first down, the Black Knights fumbled on their next play, and Ragusa quickly scooped it up and sprinted 45-yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with under a minute left in the first quarter.
“It had been eight quarters in a row that we were shutout by them so you start second guessing yourself but we stuck together as a team and as a staff,” Bohane said. “Coach Burke’s defenses are always among the best in the state, and we get to see it every year. We just stuck with what we do.”
Stoughton’s offense continued to struggle to move the ball against the Bulldogs. On third down of its next drive, junior Evan Gibb was sacked by Ragusa and the Knights were forced to punt.
Canton took advantage of a short field two series later. It took the Bulldogs just five plays to cover 34 yards, with Ragusa capping the drive with his first rushing touchdown of the day from four yards out. Junior Brendan Albert put an end to Stoughton’s final drive of the half with a sack on third down. Canton took the 20-0 lead into halftime.
The Bulldogs’ defense held Stoughton to just three first downs all game, and didn’t allow a third (0-for-8) or fourth (0-for-1) conversion. Canton took advantage of its defense right away, scoring on its first drive after Stoughton was forced to punt to start the game.
The Black Knights’ defense came up with a big three-and-out stop to open the second half but Canton’s defense responded with a huge stop on third and one and got the ball back for its offense.
The offense rewarded the defense with its longest drive of the game, covering 70 yards in nine plays before finding the end zone again. Sophomore Gersom Rivera (nine carries, 66 yards) got the drive started with a 32-yard dash, and, despite a holding penalty, Hagan moved the chains with a 21-yard run of his own.
The Bulldogs went with four straight running plays, the last a QB option that Hagan kept and extended over the goal line while being tackled to make it 27-0 late in the third quarter.
“I don’t like talking young, but we are young and I think we made our fair share of young mistakes during the year,” Bohane said. “The first game against Stoughton we made every mistake and we only lost 12-0, it was a frustrating game. We had a steady improvement all season. Today I thought we stayed clean and that helped us get the momentum. Stoughton is a real good team, but we just kept plugging away.”
Stoughton’s offense moved into Canton territory for the first time on the final play of the third quarter, but three plays into the final frame, the Black Knights were forced to go for it on fourth down. Canton senior Tony Harris jumped the quick out-route and intercepted the pass, returning it 29 yards to get the Bulldogs the ball back.
“We were up 20-0 on them a couple years ago and we managed to lose the game, so we’re always on edge…but the defense played phenomenal,” Bohane said. “Coach Carew does a great job for them with the offense but we just kept plugging away. He makes adjustments, we make adjustments. The kids played great. We don’t have a lot of mottos and we don’t use cliches, but we say Gang Green on defense and pursue the football. Overall we base everything on being tough and I thought our kids were tough today.”