It turned out to be worth the wait.
The Hornets tied the game with under a minute to go and then scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion in both overtime periods to upend the Rocketeers, 31-29, in double overtime at Community Field.
It marked the first time the rivals played one another in overtime.
“It was a special environment here at Community, one of the last old school places. I have such respect for their coaches, we knew they were going to be ready to play,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “I thought we just hung on in the second half. It wasn’t going our way, we couldn’t get much going. We did just enough.”
North Attleboro was close to putting the game out of reach with just over four minutes to play. Nathan Shultz sliced through the Mansfield defense to the tune of 65 yards to put the Rocketeers in prime position near the red zone. North got a first down but nothing more as Mansfield’s defense held, forcing the Big Red into a field goal attempt.
The Hornets got a second life when the 28-yard attempt went wide, but they had just 4:11 to play with no timeouts and 80 yards to gain.
Junior Conner Zukowski (18-for 29, 302 yards, four touchdowns) led the game-tying drive for the Hornets. After converting a third down early in the drive, the Hornets went on to march 80 yards on 10 plays, finished off when Zukowski floated one to sophomore Trevor Foley (7 catches, 113 yards, three touchdowns) in the corner of the end zone. Zukowski also hit Dana Johnson three times on the drive for 63 yards.
Foley hauled in the two-point conversion pass right at the goal line, was hit back, stayed on his feet, and then stretched out over the line to tie the game, 15-15, with 0:49 seconds to play.
“I felt like we really played young in the first half but in the second half we showed a lot of character, they really stepped up and played like veterans,” Redding said. “Every week I think we’ll make progress but we just have to learn to play for four quarters.”
Mansfield started on offense for the first overtime and on the first play, Zukowski went right back to Foley, floating one to the back right corner and the 6’4 sophomore did the rest, out-leaping the defender to grab the score. Zukowski found Drew Sacco cutting across the middle for the two-point conversion and the Hornets jumped ahead 23-15.
North got the ball down to the 1-yard line on its first three plays and senior Tyler DeMattio — who made the switch from quarterback to running back this week — bulldozed his way in on fourth down to keep North alive. Freshman quarterback Chase Frisoli (6-for-9, 86 yards) fired a low bullet and Gavin Wells made a nice catch for the two-point conversion to knot it 23-23 and send it to double overtime.
The Rocketeers took their turn on offense first and despite a big push from the Hornet defensive line, DeMattio (19 carries, 65 yards) was able to bounce it outside and scamper into the end zone. A false start pushed North back five yards and the conversion pass was swatted away by Foley at the goal line.
On Mansfield’s first play, Zukowski backpedaled before dumping off a screen pass to Rocco Scarpellini, who broke free of a pair of tackles to get into the end zone. On the two-point try, Zukowski lofted a pass to the back left of the end zone to Foley for the win.
“It was a great game, both teams played tough and it’s tough for any team to walk away from a game like this with a loss,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “We’d rather but on the other side of it but I’m proud of our kids, especially after the disappointing loss last week. I thought our kids worked really hard to bounce back.
“We played better. We didn’t play good enough to win but we played better this week than we did last week so we’re happy about that. And with the new rating system, a two-point loss isn’t so bad anymore.”
Mansfield opened the game with a touchdown on the first drive. The Hornets went 3-for-3 on third down on the drive, moving the ball all the way down to the 2-yard line after Zukowski linked up with Foley for 26 yards. A high snap forced Mansfield into a 3rd and goal from the 24 but Zukowski found Foley in one-on-one coverage on the left side. James Gilleran’s point after put the visitors up 7-0 with 7:16 left in the first quarter.
North was forced to punt but DeMattio pinned the Hornets at their own 2-yard line. The ball came free on a handoff attempt and it was ruled DeMattio recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. A scramble on the point after attempt ended up intercepted and Mansfield held its advantage at 7-6 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
“We had used him last year at back in the Century Game so it’s always been in the package but it gives us the ability to do some different things on offense, and it also lets us play him on defense,” Johnson said of moving DeMattio from quarterback to running back and linebacker. “We haven’t had the luxury to have him play both ways but he’s a senior now, sometimes you have to roll the dice and just get your best players on the field.”
Wells put an end to another Mansfield drive with an interception and the Rocketeers forced a punt on the next series. Tyler Bannon converted a third down with a 12-yard run, and Shultz followed suit with a 12-yard run on his own, followed by a late hit call to get the hosts inside the 10-yard line.
Mansfield drove into North territory late in the first half, going 65 yards on eight plays but Danny Curran read the pass perfectly and stepped in front for an interception in the end zone to prevent any further damage, keeping a 15-7 lead at halftime.
The defenses were the stars for the majority of the second half. North was forced to punt after a three-and-out to start the second half, fumbled on its second possession, and had to punt again at the end of the third quarter after a big sack from Mansfield’s Aidan Devlin.
Meanwhile, Mansfield had a turnover on downs due to a fourth down sack from Tyler Bannon and had back-to-back punts. On its first three drives of the second half, Mansfield had a total of 62 yards before the final drive of 80 yards to tie the game.
“They didn’t play great against Feehan but we knew they were better than that,” Redding said of the Rocketeers. “They came out with a whole different look with DeMattio at running back and he runs really hard. The quarterback played well for a freshman, they were much better tonight than they were on film. They had us on our heels with their blitzing, with DeMattio coming, with Bannon coming off the edge — he’s a big, fast kid. We’re fortunate Zuk stepped up and had a heck of a night throwing the football, that was the difference.”
It marked Mansfield’s first win over North since 2013, although the team’s hadn’t played since 2014. It was the first overtime game in the rivalry; games previous ended in a tie at the conclusion of four quarters but that rule was changed about a decade ago.
“That was a classic, just about as good as high school football gets,” Redding said. “I’m glad the rivalry is back and we’ll see them at Alumni next year but maybe we’ll go up to Memorial [Park] and keep playing on the old-school fields.”
Mansfield football (2-0) will have its first home game of the season next week when it welcomes another member of the Hockomock League’s Davenport division in Stoughton. North Attleboro (0-2) hits the road for the first time to take on another Kelley-Rex division foe in King Philip.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Milford junior Isaiah Pantalone has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for Sept. 6 through Sept. 12. Pantalone is the first player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2021-22 school year.
Pantalone made an impressive varsity debut on Friday night against Foxboro, amassing 368 total yards on just six touches and caught three touchdown passes, helping the Hawks open the season with a 49-28 win. He finished with four catches for 296 yards, one carry for 11 yards, and had a 61-yard kickoff return.
“You saw that kid tonight, Isaiah Pantalone, he’s a special kid,” said Milford head coach Dale Olson after the game. “Isaiah is a dynamic athlete he played subvarsity last year because of the amount of senior athletes we had.”
If there were questions about whether Milford could match last year’s prolific offense, they were answered just seconds into the game. A halfback pass from Matt Girard found Pantalone wide open for an 80-yard score on the first play from scrimmage. Later in the first half, Evan Cornelius found Pantalone across the middle, in between a pair of Foxboro defenders, and he burst out of the pack for a 74-yard touchdown.
After Foxboro got a score back and cut the Milford lead to seven, Pantalone stole back momentum with a 61-yard kickoff return that gave the Hawks excellent field position, and turned into another Milford touchdown. He also caught a 76-yard pass, which would have been a touchdown but for Tommy Sharkey’s hustle, and had an 11-yard carry that came up an inch short of the goal line. With the chance to run clock in the fourth quarter, Milford got Pantalone one-on-one on the outside and hit him on a 66-yard slant that effectively put the game away.
The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.
MILFORD, Mass. – Milford graduated almost all of its starters from last year’s prolific offense. There were concerns that it may take the Hawks a few weeks to integrate new faces in new positions and start producing close to what they were able to during the Fall II season. It turns out, the new players didn’t need long at all to find their footing.
Junior Isaiah Pantalone (four receptions, 296 yards) touched the ball six times in the game and accounted for three touchdowns and more than 350 total yards. Junior Evan Cornelius stepped into the quarterback position, replacing UMass quarterback Brady Olson, and threw for two scores and rushed for two other. Senior Tyler Lane took over as the primary back from Carter Scudo (also playing at UMass) and rushed for 116 yards and a pair of scores.
It all amounted to a 49-28 season-opening win for the Hawks against Foxboro, one of the favorites in the Davenport division. The Milford sideline clearly felt that they were underrated coming into the year and they believed this was an emphatic statement to the rest of the league that they shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Losing nine kids on offense from last year’s team, but I knew we had a good core group of kids coming up,” said second-year Milford coach Dale Olson. “Our sub-varsity went undefeated and we had some talented kids. You saw that kid tonight, Isaiah Pantalone, he’s a special kid.
“They struggled to stop our run off tackle and made them put everybody in the box and then you get one-on-one matchups and Evan Cornelius delivered the ball a few times.”
Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli admitted that his team struggled to contain Milford’s balanced attack and was undone by allowing too many big plays. “They were a lot more physical than we were and they deserved to win the game. We didn’t quit, we kept coming back, but just didn’t have the ability to stop them in any way or fashion.”
It took only 13 seconds to show how explosive the new faces on offense could be. Milford turned to a little trickery on the first play from scrimmage, as Matt Girard looked upfield on a halfback pass and saw Pantalone all by himself. It was an 80-yard strike that set the tone for how the Hawks would attack.
Foxboro’s offense answered right back on its first possession. The Warriors marched 64 yards on 10 plays, twice converting third downs thanks to offsides calls against Milford, to tie the game. Tom Marcucella rolled out and threw a strike to Tre Stith for a 10-yard score to bring Foxboro level. Marcucella was impressive throughout, completing 26-of-45 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns.
“Offensively, we did what we had to do,” Martinelli said. “It was the other end, the defensive end, we had no answers for them. We’d put seven in the box to stop the run and they were good enough to throw the ball.”
On Foxboro’s second possession, Sam Carpenter (4-for-4 on extra points) attempted a 52-yard kick that was short to the left. By rule, Milford took over at the 20. On third and four, Cornelius fired the ball across the middle to Pantalone, who eluded a pair of Warriors and was off to the races again. This time it was a 74-yard touchdown and a 13-7 lead.
The Warriors had a chance to try and tie or take the lead after Cornelius’ fumble was recovered by Dylan Kerrigan at midfield. Milford’s defense came up with a three-and-out to get the ball back. Carpenter did his job in the punting game, pinning the Hawks at their own two.
Milford proved that it also had the ability to put together a long drive. Lane took the first carry for 22 yards to get out from the shadow of his own end zone and the Hawks never looked back, producing a 10-play, 98-yard drive (six carries for Lane and four for Grant Scudo) to extend the lead. Lane finished it with a one-yard plunge and Cornelius ran in the conversion to make it 21-7.
Foxboro answered right back. Three plays later, Marcucella swung the ball to Dylan Gordon (158 total yards), who proceeded to break three tackles on the sideline, somehow staying inbounds, and broke free for a 76-yard touchdown. Pantalone made sure the momentum was short-lived, returning the ensuing kick 61 yards to the Foxboro 37. Lane got the ball to the one and Cornelius punched it in, restoring the two-score lead.
After nearly hitting a Hail Mary pass to end the half, Foxboro came out and put together another strong drive to start the third quarter. Marcucella was 5-for-5 and found four different receivers on the possession. He picked out Tommy Sharkey on an out-route to the front pylon for an 18-yard touchdown that got the Warriors back within seven.
Lane came up less than a yard short on fourth down at midfield, giving Foxboro the chance to pull even, but again the Hawks were able to make a key defensive stand and force a punt. With Foxboro trying to step up and stop the run, Cornelius hit Pantalone on another slant route. This time it was for 76 yards but Sharkey hustled to delay the touchdown. Two plays later, Lane got his second of the day, barreling over the goal line from four yards out.
Jaden Agnew then came up with a huge play, reading the bounce off the receiver to pick off Marcucella and return it down to the Foxboro 12. Pantalone went 11 yards to the one and then, after Foxboro’s line stuffed two attempts from inside the one, Cornelius started the fourth quarter by getting just into the end zone for a 42-21 lead.
“They’ve got skill all over the place, the quarterback puts the ball on the money, and them coming down and making it a one-score game, but then we answered and then we answered again,” Olson said about going up by more than two scores. “I knew we were going to be alright because they couldn’t stop us off-tackle. It was just over and over, it was no secret we were running over (senior lineman) Marco [Monteiro].”
Following a Foxboro punt, helped by a couple of solid coverage plays by Scudo, Milford effectively sealed the win. No surprise, it was Pantalone again. The Warriors had bunched up at the line expecting the run and the receiver was able to beat his coverage at the line and caught a 66-yard pass from Cornelius for his third score of the night.
To their credit, the Warriors kept fighting despite the big deficit. Marcucella went 6-of-10 on the next drive, including a highlight-reel sidearm toss to Rashaad Way ( nine catches, 121 yards) and a 10-yard touchdown to Gordon. After Agnew was ruled to have fumbled out of the end zone as he dove for the pylon, Foxboro mounted one more drive to try and make it a game, getting all the way to the Milford six with five minutes to play, but the drive stalled.
“They’re a good program, they’re well-coached, but we kind of thought we’d be able to enforce our will,” Olson explained. “We did graduate a lot but we’re good up front, we’ve got some good kids, and I couldn’t be prouder.
“People were writing us off, saying they’re one-and-done, they’re rebuilding, but I think we’ve got one of the better teams in the Hock. We want to keep rising this program.”
But he was certainly pleased with the big zero on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard.
In the season opener — and return to Fall football — for both squads, Taunton posted a 21-0 win over visiting New Bedford for its first shutout since Thanksgiving 2018.
“Typical first game… too many penalties,” Sidwell said. “Every time we’d try to get the momentum going, there’d be a flag or a mistake. But this is certainly something we can build on, something we can coach on the mistakes we made. And we have to make sure we do a better job taking care of the ball with three turnovers.”
Taunton scored twice in the second quarter and added another early in the fourth to overcome three turnovers and some untimely penalties to sink the Whalers.
The Tigers’ defense ended up stealing the show, forcing the Whalers to punt on six of their eight offensive series, including four straight to open the game. The fifth drive of the game was stopped by a turnover on downs and the first drive of the second half — and longest of the game for New Bedford — was thwarted by an interception.
Junior running back Bryan Batista had a breakout game in his first career start. He scampered for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and also hauled in a 29-yard pass to help pace the Tiger offense. Junior quarterback Jacob Leonard also had a strong game, going 12-for-15 passing with 147 yards and a touchdown.
Leonard spread the ball around to all of his weapons with six players hauling in at least one catch, led by four receptions for Isaiah Williams. Trent Santos, Troy Santos, and Nathan Keenan all hauled in two passes as well.
Taunton forced a quick three-and-out to start the contest, highlighted by one of Ryan MacDougall’s four tackles for loss. And the offense looked poised to march down the field but the Tigers fumbled after a completion that was past the first down marker.
It wasn’t until the very end of the quarter until Taunton got the ball back on offense and this time, they held onto the ball and found the end zone. Going 68 yards on six plays that mainly featured quick short passes, the Tigers struck on a bubble screen. On third down, Leonard fired a quick strike to Trent Santos on the left side and the senior wide receiver did the rest, slicing across the field and through the Whaler defense, cutting up field and finding his way to a 22-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
John Castillo’s sack on first down set the tone for the next drive and New Bedford quickly went three-and-out. Leonard hit Batista on a screen for 29 yards to move just outside the red zone but an interception in the end zone put that drive to a screeching halt.
The defense stood tall again with a big stop on third and short, and an errant punt gave the Tigers prime field position at the New Bedford 34-yard line. Taunton took full advantage this time as Batista had back-to-back carries, the latter a 22-yard touchdown through a big hole on the right side of the line created by center Ryan MacDougall and guard Jack Moitoso.
“I thought it was good, he’s a good slash runner and was able to wear them down a bit at the end,” Sidwell said. “We have some skilled receivers too that can do some special stuff with the ball and all of them catches today and made some plays too. They’re working hard for us. Trent only had what, two catches? A year ago we had to throw it to him a lot but we’ve developed more weapons.”
The Tigers stopped New Bedford’s last-minute push when Faisal Mass came up with a big third down sack, getting the ball back with a chance to score before the break.
The offense sputtered a bit from there. Leonard and Williams linked up a couple of times to move up field as the clock ticked under a minute in the first half but New Bedford ended up applying enough pressure and the Tigers couldn’t convert before the half.
Batista opened the second half with a great run up the right side, going for 31 yards but he was stripped from behind and New Bedford took over after just one play.
The Whalers moved 30 yards and into Taunton territory but Nick Lima wrestled away a fourth down pass from a receiver for an interception to stop the New Bedford drive. The Tigers couldn’t capitalize and had to punt three plays later.
Tackles for loss from Nathan LaPlante and Lima on back-to-back plays forced the Whalers to punt just seconds into the fourth quarter and Taunton’s offense finally put together another scoring drive. Batista ran for 15 yards on first down behind the blocking of juniors Logan Frank and William Guachichulca-Torres and sophomore tackle Bryan Joanis.
Leonard hit Troy Santos on a quick strike and the sophomore receiver went for 33 yards to move into Whaler territory. Four plays later, on fourth and short, the Tigers iced the win with a 12-yard touchdown from Batista for a 21-0 lead with under five minutes left.
“It was odd, we had some film from the Fall 2 season but not knowing exactly who they had or what they’d run,” Sidwell said. “I think they were missing their top back today so that made a difference. But I thought the kids fought hard and the defense kept coming up with stops. There was some bending but hopefully, we can gain some confidence from this, smooth things out, and get some momentum going.”
Taunton football hits the road next week to renew acquittances with another longtime non-league rival, traveling to Fall River to take on Durfee. The Hilltoppers dropped a 10-7 decision to Attleboro on a field goal as time expired. Taunton and Durfee will kick off at 7:00 on Friday.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2021 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
2020 Record: 1-5
Coach: Mike Strachan
Key/Returning Players: Ryan Betts, Sr., RB/LB; Keigan Conley, Sr., RB/LB; Christian Dame, Sr., TE/LB; Alvin Harrison, Sr., OL; Hayden Hegarty, Sr., TE/LB; Aiden Hochwarter, Jr., QB; Ethan Lako, Jr., RB/DB; Chris Leonardo, Sr., OL/DL; Isaiah Miranda, Jr., C; Kaiden Murray, Sr., RB/DB; Isaac Pereira, Sr., OL/DL; Anthony Salviati, Jr., WR/DB; Jacob Struminski, Sr., OL/DL; Freddy Wheaton, Sr., RB/LB;
Attleboro struggled on the offensive side of the ball last year, scoring only 44 points in six games and not scoring a touchdown until the fifth game of the season. The Bombardiers will need to improve on that side of the ball to try and move up the standings and challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex. With eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, Attleboro can rely on an experienced roster to try and turn things around this fall.
It will be obvious where Attleboro’s strength lies. The Bombardiers run 6’3 285, 6’3 255, 6’2 285, and 6’3 305 at the guard and tackle positions. They are going to try and overpower teams. The leader of that group is senior Chris Leonardo, who is a force on both sides of the ball. Seniors Alvin Harrison, Jacob Struminski, and Isaac Pereira are a formidable front and junior Isaiah Miranda will be back at center. Experience and size are important, but the Bombardiers will need its array of running backs to take advantage. Seniors Ryan Betts, Freddy Wheaton, Keigan Conley, and Kaiden Murray will all get the chance to carry the ball. Junior Aiden Hochwarter returns under center after taking over midway through last year and he will have classmate Anthony Salviati to throw to out wide and senior tight end Christian Dame.
The Attleboro defense will also rely on its strength up front with Leonardo and Harrison controlling the middle. The linebackers have plenty of experience, with Dame, Wheaton, Betts, Conley, and senior Hayden Hegarty all coming back after seeing significant time last year. The secondary has a lot of athleticism. Junior Ethan Lako, Salviati, and Murray are all capable of making big plays and forcing turnovers.
“It is great to have some normalcy back this fall,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have eight returning starters on each side of the ball this season and we have great senior leadership. We are looking to a great fall season.”
2020 Record: 3-4
Coach: Eian Bain
2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview
Key/Returning Players: Jared Arone, Sr., QB; Shane Kindred, Sr., WR; Will Tracey, Sr., WR; Mack Gulla, Sr., RB; Ethan Aeillo, Sr., OL; Jack Porkorny, Sr., OL; Jonathan Martins, Sr., DL; Cullen Pek, Sr., LB; Joe Tirrell, Sr., DB; Luke Davis, Jr., DB.
All eyes are on Mansfield and King Philip as the favorites in the Kelley-Rex and that’s how coach Eian Bain likes it. The Panthers are certainly flying under the radar a bit but that might not last very long, especially after their success during the preseason has turned some heads.
Having a lot of familiar faces in key positions will be an early advantage for the Panthers, who have a strong non-league schedule that starts with Wachusett and features perennial state powerhouse Duxbury. Senior Jared Arone gained a lot of experience at quarterback during the Fall 2 season and could be poised for a big year with a full schedule on tap. Part of the reason why is because of all the weapons around him. Both Shane Kindred and Will Tracey developed a lot of chemistry with the QB in the abbreviated season and will be his main two targets this year.
And while the Panthers have developed a reputation for a pass-heavy offense, we saw a much more balanced approach during the spring and with senior running back Mack Gulla ready for a breakout season, it’s likely that balance continues. Gulla is a tough runner that will keep defenses honest; he isn’t just going to help set up the passing game, he’s a true threat to run all over defenses. It will all start up front and the Panthers have center Ethan Aeillo and tackle Jack Porkorny back in starting roles.
Senior Joe Tirrell and junior Luke Davis give the Panthers a veteran presence in the secondary. Franklin allowed over 20 points per game last season but will be looking to bring that number down some this year as they try and establish themselves as a contender in the division. Senior Jonathan Martins impressed last season and will be a key piece on the defensive line while the linebackers will be anchored by senior Cullen Pek.
“The Panthers return many familiar faces but face a tough task of replacing some key positions,” Bain said. “Many players have stepped up but there is still a lot to be answered before the home opener against Wachusett.”
2020 Record: 4-3
Coach: Brian Lee
Key/Returning Players: Charlie Grant, Sr., QB/DB; Crawford Cantave, Sr., RB/DB; Nick Viscusi, Sr., WR/DB; Jonathan Joseph, Sr., WR/DB; Hunter Hastings, Sr., OL/DL; Chris Sesay, Jr., OL/DL; Rudy Gately, Jr., RB/LB; Danny Clancy, Sr., WR/DL; Matthew Kelley, Jr., K.
King Philip has a strong core of returning players set to compete for the Kelley-Rex crown this Fall season but the Warriors are hoping to develop some depth along the way as they navigate through one of the state’s toughest schedules.
KP is still hurting from the Fall 2 season, when they lost six players to season-ending surgery, four of which were starters. With a quick turnaround to this season, the Warriors will still be without those players but there is still lots of excitement around those who will be on the field this year. Senior Charlie Grant returns as the starter at quarterback and has some weapons to utilize around them, starting with receivers Danny Clancy, Nick Viscusi, and Jonathan Joseph. All three have varsity experience and are seniors. Junior Rudy Gately and senior Crawford Cantave give the Warriors a thunder and lightning running back combination. Senior Drew Danson was set to be one of the top tight ends in the league but is out due to injury. Sophomore Thomas McLeish will also be in the mix to play at quarterback and Grant could see time at receiver.
Hunter Hastings and Chris Sesay are the returners on the offensive line and will start at the tackle positions while Dan Nineve will be the center and Amro Ismail and Sean King man the guard positions. It will be a lot of the same names on the other side of the ball with Hastings, King, and Sesay all playing both ways. Junior Nate Kearney will also be in the mix as a pass rusher.
The veteran group on defense will be the KP secondary, which features a lot of familiar faces. Both Cantave (safety) and Viscusi (corner) had really strong junior seasons and will lead the way alongside junior Thomas Brewster, senior Eli Reed, and Joseph, who has really impressed so far this preseason. There will be a little inexperience at linebacker but the Warriors have Gately back in the fold alongside senior Jake Sullivan and junior Will Astorino. Matt Kelley is back as the starting kicker.
“I love my team, great kids,” said KP head coach Brian Lee. “We just have to make sure ready to go every single week. It’s been kind of a burn, playing in the Spring. It feels like we’ve been going, going, going, but now we have to focus on staying healthy and getting through Thanksgiving. It’s been fun to be around them, they are good kids that work hard. Hopefully, we can turn that into being successful.”
2020 Record: 6-0 (Kelley-Rex division champions)
Coach: Mike Redding
Key/Returning Players: Mark DeGirolamo, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan DeGirolamo, Jr., TE/DE; James Fichera, Sr., WR/LB; Joe Forte, Sr., OL/DL; James Gilleran, Sr., OL/DE; Zander Holmes, Sr., RB/LB; Jephte Jean, Jr., OL/DE; Dana Johnson, Sr., WR/DB; Drew Sacco, Jr., RB/DB; Rocco Scarpellini, Jr., RB/LB; Braeden Veno, Sr., OL/DL; Conner Zukowski, Jr., QB/DB
Mansfield won the 2019 state title, is riding a 16-game win streak, hasn’t lost a game in league play since September 2017, and hasn’t lost an in-state game since a triple-OT thriller against Foxboro at Fenway to close out 2018, so the Hornets have earned the target that is on their backs this fall. Everyone will be aiming to be the first Hock team to hand the Hornets a loss and try to end a three-year run as the top team in the Kelley-Rex. Although there are some guys in new spots, especially at the skill positions, Mansfield returns 10 starters and several players who saw significant action off the bench last year.
The offense will be powered by an experienced line. Four of five starters return from last year with only junior center Colton Johnson added. Seniors Mark DeGirolamo, Joe Forte, and James Gilleran, and junior Jephte Jean are all back and should give the Hornets an edge up front. Junior Conner Zukowski will be the new starting quarterback and he will have several new weapons to call on. Juniors Drew Sacco and Rocco Scarpellini are new starters in the backfield, but both were called on plenty last season. Senior Dana Johnson and sophomore Trevor Foley will get the start out wide.
Defense has been Mansfield’s calling card during its run, as the Hornets allowed only 23 points in six games last year. DeGirolamo and classmate Braeden Veno are back on the defensive line along with Jean and senior Pedro Cruz. All three starting linebackers returned, as seniors Zander Holmes and James Fichera are paired with Scarpellini. Junior safety Ryan DeGirolamo is the only starter back in the secondary and will need to provide leadership for sophomores Foley and CJ Bell. Senior Jared Fraone will start at the other corner spot.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding is counting on a tough preseason, against state powers Everett and Central Catholic, to help the Hornets prepare. He is also excited about the new statewide playoff system that could pair Mansfield with a new set of tournament opponents as they seek to make it a three-peat in Div. 2.
2020 Record: 5-2
Coach: Dale Olson
Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Evan Cornelius, Jr., QB/DE; Tyler Lane, Sr., RB/LB; Alex McColl, Sr., DE/OT; Marco Monteiro, Sr., DT/OT; Angelo Romero, Sr., RB/LB; Grant Scudo, Sr., RB/SS
Milford made a successful move into the Kelley-Rex last season. Under first-year coach Dale Olson, the Hawks earned a first-ever win over perennial league power King Philip and finished second in the division. This year, the Hawks will try to make another title challenge despite having several new faces stepping into important roles.
On offense, the Hawks will be transitioning from the pass-first offense that Brady Olson ran last year. Junior Evan Cornelius is a very different quarterback, who will bring a lot of size and strength to the position (which makes sense, since he also plays defensive end). Graduation took away a lot of dynamic playmakers from last year’s offense but seniors Tyler Lane, Angelo Romero, and Grant Scudo will give Milford a deep backfield and last year senior Jaden Agnew emerged as a major threat in the passing game.
The Hawks will be tough up front again this year on both sides of the ball. Seniors Alex McColl and Marco Monteiro are big and tough and will open holes on offense while clogging running lanes on the other side. Cornelius will add a threat on the edge defensively and the linebacking corps continues to be a factor, led by Lane and Romero. Scudo seeks out the ball at safety and is always a threat to force a turnover.
Olson admits that his team lacks experience at the skill positions, but he added, “Having three scrimmages will help prepare the first-year varsity kids to play week one.”
2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview
2020 Record: 2-4
Coach: Brad Sidwell
Key/Returning Players: Trent Santos, Sr., WR/DB; Nate Keenan, Sr., WR/RB/FS/K; Nick Lima, Sr., WR/TE/OLB; Nate Laplante, Jr., OL/DL; Ryan MacDougall, Jr., OL/LB; William Guachiculca-Torres, Jr., OL/DL; Faisal Mass, Sr., TE/WR/DL; Tyler Wynn, Jr., WR/DB/P; Evan Perrota, Sr., RB/LB; Jake Leonard, Jr., QB; Isaiah Williams, Jr., WR/DB; Logan Frank, Jr., OL/LB; Bryan Batista, Sr., RB; Jon Castillo, Sr., WR/SS; Jack Moitoso, Sr., OL/DL; McKyen Gonsalves, Jr., WR/DB;
Taunton didn’t have the best record during the Fall 2 season but the opportunity to just get on the field and play was incredibly valuable for the Tigers. There are less than a dozen seniors (eight) on the roster for the Tigers this season so head coach Brad Sidwell will be looking for a strong class of juniors, as well as some sophomores, to make up the majority of the lineup this Fall.
A good chunk of those juniors were inserted into the starting lineup or played a large number of snaps just five months ago when the Tigers played six games. That allowed the Tigers to build some depth for the upcoming season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Junior Jake Leonard got a jump start to his career when he took over for an injured Danny MacDougall. That experience will be key as he begins his first full season as the starter under center. Leonard will have three veteran options to work with in senior captains Trent Santos and Nate Keenan — two receivers — and tight end Nick Lima. Senior Faisal Mass will be a big target as a tight end, also providing key blocking on the line, while seniors Jon Castillo (receiver), Jack Moitiso (offensive line) and Evan Perrota (running back) will be in the mix as well.
Junior Ryan MacDougall started on the offensive line last season and will be joined by classmates Nate Laplante, William Guachiculca-Torres, and Logan Frank while sophomore Bryan Joanis will also be in the mix so some playing time. Keenan could also get some carries out of the backfield while junior Bryan Batista could emerge as a go-to option carrying the ball. Juniors Tyler Wynn, Isaiah Williams, and McKyen Gonsalves are three names to watch as receiving options for Leonard.
Taunton has a lot of experience in its secondary with both Santos and Keenan playing on both sides of the ball, and that experience will be a big strength for the Tigers. There is also a lot of depth in the linebackers, starting with Lima, who uses his speed to attack the ball. He can also step out and play in coverage or drop back into a safety role if needed. Lima will be joined by Frank, MacDougall, and Perrota as linebackers. On the line, Laplante had a strong sophomore season and could be poised for a breakout year.
Taunton will prepare for the ever-challenging division slate with non-league games against New Bedford, Durfee, and Middleboro in its first three weeks. It also marks the first year of its new Thanksgiving rivalry with Milford.
“We’re excited to begin the season with this group after productive preseason practices and scrimmages,” said head coach Brad Sidwell. “Although we only have eight seniors, many of our players gained experience in the spring season. We need to improve through the non-league start of the season as the Hockomock Kelley-Rex is always a challenge for any of the teams involved.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Player are listed alphabetically
Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Offense
Jared Arone, Senior – Franklin
Playing quarterback in an up-tempo, pass-heavy offensive set against the defenses in the Kelley-Rex division is a difficult task for an experienced signal-caller. Arone stepped behind center for the Panthers last year and got his first taste of varsity action. Now, a few months later, Arone will try to build on that experience to make the Franklin offense even more potent. From the opening game, against a loaded Mansfield defense, Arone showed that he has the accuracy to make the offense tick and the willingness to stand in the pocket and make throws down field. He developed a better rapport with his also relatively inexperienced receivers over the course of the season and there is potential for the Panthers to be prolific in the passing game this fall. In a division that continues to be loaded with talent, Franklin will hope that Arone can continue his growth and help the Panthers challenge perennial powers Mansfield and KP for the Kelley-Rex crown.
Evan Cornelius, Junior – Milford
Milford junior Evan Cornelius worked his way onto the field during the abbreviated Fall 2 season as a sophomore, emerging as a dangerous threat at defensive end. Now, Cornelius will see a new role on the offensive side of the ball as the new quarterback, taking over for Brady Olson, who is now at UMass. Cornelius isn’t a stranger to the position having started under center on sub-varsity his freshman year. Coming in at 6’3, 235-pounds, Cornelius doesn’t look like your prototypical high school quarterback but it’s a position he’s comfortable in, has a strong arm, and is athletic enough to make plays with his feet. It will be interesting to see if the Hawks change their offense up much as Olson was a pocket passer that spread the ball all over the field. Cornelius and the Hawks will get a stiff test right away as they host Davenport contender Foxboro on opening night.
Rudy Gately, Junior – King Philip
It was a big spring for King Philip’s Rudy Gately, both on the gridiron and on the diamond for the Warrior baseball team. That upward trend will likely continue this Fall with Gately poised for a possible breakout season at running back and linebacker for King Philip. The Warriors have one of the best backfields in the league with senior Crawford Cantave alongside Gately. King Philip has a reputation for pounding the rock and having two viable options, along with an improved passing game, should make the Warriors tough to stop on offense. Gately is tough as they come and will have no problem running right at the defense. He’s not all power and strength either as he showed he’s got the wheels to breakaway from the defense.
Dylan Gordon, Senior – Foxboro
Opposing defenses are going to have their hands full trying to contain and tackle Foxboro senior Dylan Gordon this season. At 6’3, 200-pounds, Gordon is not the size of your average running back but he certainly has the skillset of one. He has shown good patience in waiting for space to develop and he has a really strong line in front of him that is going to create holes for him. Once he finds the space, he has no problem running right at the defense. It’s probably going to take more than one person to tackle him most of the time and when he gets into open space, he can turn on the jets and pull away. He has good hands out of the backfield too so he will be an option in the passing game on swing passes and wheel routes. Given his size, he will be a good option to help protect the quarterback on passing plays as well.
Tyler DeMattio, Senior – North Attleboro
DeMattio was a force to be reckoned with last season, leading North Attleboro to an unbeaten record and the Davenport division title. Capable of beating teams with his arm or his legs, DeMattio was nearly unstoppable for much of the fall, as the Rocketeers scored 40-plus points in each of the first three games and recorded a league-high 186 points in six games. His ability to grind out tough yards up the middle, coupled with the speed to break a big play and the arm strength to stretch the defense vertically, made DeMattio a unique weapon for the North offense. Teams couldn’t bunch the line of scrimmage for fear of giving up the home run pass over the top, but DeMattio could also grind out drives taking the small yardage plays right up the middle. His toughness was emphasized by lining up at tailback against Attleboro in the season finale despite a cast on his wrist. Expectations are always high for North and defending the Davenport crown is the goal this fall. If they can keep DeMattio upright and healthy, then North will have one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers to make another title run.
Alvin Harrison, Senior &
Chris Leonardo, Senior – Attleboro
Attleboro has rarely lacked for size on the line of scrimmage and this fall will be no different as the Bombardiers will roll out an offensive line that averages 6’3, 280 pounds. Harrison and Leonardo are both returning starters on both sides of the line and will be critical to Attleboro finding its offensive footing after a tough Fall II season that saw the Bombardiers score a league-low 44 points. Attleboro likes to keep the ball on the ground, especially with a relatively inexperienced quarterback, so Harrison and Leonardo will be called upon often to open up holes and give their backs the chance to get to the second level. Both players have the size and strength to take on multiple defenders and they are going to be leaders on offense, making sure everyone has the right assignments against defenses that like to move around and throw numerous looks on each snap. Linemen tend not to get the acclaim of the guys they block for, but Attleboro is going to be counting on its line to be its foundation as it tries to climb up the standings and make a push for the playoffs.
Over the past three seasons, brothers Christopher Ais and Christian Ais as well as Christian Georges combined to score nearly all of Stoughton’s touchdowns. Now those three are gone to graduation so there will be a lot of opportunities for new faces to step up. Senior Jonah Ly is in his third year on the varsity team and should see an expanded role inside the Stoughton offense. Ly knows the Stoughton offense well and has a good combination of strength and speed. He will be relied upon for his blocking too inside the Wing-T. Ly has the ability to get to the edge, changing the point of attack for the run-first Stoughton offense, and can break big plays. The Knights will be hoping that his development can help the offense put points on the board.
Drew Sacco, Junior – Mansfield
Mansfield comes into the season with inexperience at the skill positions, but that doesn’t mean the Hornets lack for talent. Sacco is one of several players who saw significant time during the abbreviated Fall II season and will be counted on to step into a bigger role this year. Quick and strong, Sacco showed flashes of his ability to make big plays last year and should get more carries this fall after the graduation of Cincere Gill. The Hornets like to spread the ball around and expect classmate Rocco Scarpellini, sophomore CJ Bell, and others to get plenty of touches as well. Sacco could get the nod as the primary ball carrier at the start and behind an experienced line has the chance to keep the Hornets’ ground game piling up the yards. Mansfield continues to be the team to beat in the Kelley-Rex and Sacco will be one of the players looking to keep the win streak alive for the Hornets and try to add yet another league title to the record book.
Trent Santos, Senior – Taunton
Taunton has a lot of speed and depth on the offensive side of the ball and the Tigers are hoping that translates into points although it won’t be easy against a very talented Kelley-Rex division, which features a lot of good defenses. Senior Trent Santos is in his third year starting and this will be his second season at wide receiver after starting at quarterback as a sophomore. The Tigers will feature a new starter in Jake Leonard, who did get some reps last season so there is already some chemistry between the two. Not only does Santos have a firm grip on the playbook, he knows what it takes to beat the tough secondaries he goes against. He has really good speed and can go up and get it downfield on deep passes. He can really stretch the defense out but isn’t afraid to go across the middle and run with the ball after the catch. Taunton has a lot of weapons so it will be tough for defenses to double him.
Chad Silva, Junior – Oliver Ames
Oliver Ames has struggled to put up points in the past couple of seasons, scoring 46 in six games last year, but Silva has emerged as a go-to, every down back that could be a spark for the Tigers on the offensive side of the ball. A big, strong back, Silva has shown that he is capable of carrying a heavy load, even against the top defenses in the Hock. Never shying away from contact, Silva can run over smaller defenders, and also has the agility and quickness to get the edge and create some running room. Still just a junior, Silva continues to grow and get stronger, which will be a problem for opposing defenses. OA moved the ball well at times last season, but couldn’t finish drives on a regular basis. The Tigers will be looking to Silva to carry the bulk of the offense this fall and try to find the end zone more consistently to compete with the top teams in the Davenport.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Player are listed alphabetically
Colin Albert, Senior – Canton
Canton graduated some key pieces on defense so the Bulldogs will be relying on experience in both the linebacking and defensive backs corps. Colin Albert is one of the more experienced linebackers for Canton and will be an important leader for the Warriors’ defense. The Davenport Division is as competitive as ever and there won’t be any easy games. Albert will provide stability on defense, making plays against the passing game and also playing a role helping against the run on the outside. The Bulldogs are aiming to make a push for the postseason and if they are to get there, Albert’s leadership on both sides of the ball, and both on and off the field, will likely be a reason why.
Tyler Bannon, Senior – North Attleboro
North’s explosive offense gets a lot of attention, but the Rocketeers were also a strong team on the other side of the ball last season. They allowed only 55 points over six games and only twice did teams reach double digits (the most allowed was 12 against Oliver Ames). Bannon was one of the biggest playmakers on the defensive unit. The senior outside linebacker was a terror on the pass rush and could also set the edge whether lined up at the line of scrimmage or dropped back a few yards. Bannon uses his good size and strength to take on blockers, but his speed and quickness off the ball allowed him to get a step and into the backfield almost at will. With North incorporating several new faces into the mix this season, his leadership will be critical for the Rocketeers to maintain the same level as last year. Whether standing up a runner or chasing someone down from behind, Bannon was able to cover a lot of ground and make plays all over the field. Expectations are for North to be the team to beat in the Davenport again this fall and it can’t rely only on the offense to win the title. Bannon and the defense will need to be at the same high level of play they showed last season.
Crawford Cantave, Senior – King Philip
King Philip senior Crawford Cantave is one of the best two-way players in the league and has made a lot of plays in all three aspects of the game for the Warriors over the past two seasons. The Warriors have a lot of talent on this year’s roster and they’ll be aiming to try and knock off Mansfield to get back atop of the Kelley-Rex division. KP hung its hat on defense during its run to three straight state finals appearances and if they want to make a deep run again this year, the defense will need to be a top priority. Crawford will play mostly in a safety role but can also play in a corner role if needed. He does a great job of reading the play and uses his speed to react quickly and make the play. When all is said and done this season, expect Cantave to have some highlight-reel plays under his belt.
Mark DeGirolamo, Senior – Mansfield
The first two words that come to mind when thinking of Mansfield senior Mark DeGirolamo are experience and versatility. This is someone that has been making plays for multiple seasons for the three-time defending Kelley-Rex division champion Hornets. Although he’s primarily been a defensively end for most of his career because of the combination of speed and strength he has, he also has the size to slide inside and clog up the middle. Mansfield will primarily line up in a 4-3 but will give teams different looks with 4-4 and 3-4 packages, and DeGirolamo can play in all of them. He will also start at tackle on the offensive end, his speed allows him to protect the quarterback against rushes off the edge. He was second in the team with 33 tackles during the Fall 2 season and led the Hornets in tackles for a loss.
Mack Gulla, Senior – Franklin
Mack Gulla made an immediate impact when he joined the varsity program his sophomore year, scoring in the first game of the season back in 2019. He hasn’t stopped making plays for the Panthers since. Gulla has improved greatly in each of the past two seasons and now has a chance at a breakout senior campaign as the Panthers make a push to compete for the Kelley-Rex division crown and a spot in the postseason. He’s a downhill type player on both sides of the ball; he isn’t afraid to run through the defense when carrying the ball and is tough to tackle when he gets going. And from his middle linebacker spot, he attacks the ball carrier and is tough to get away from when he gets his hands on you.
Tyler Lane, Senior – Milford
There were a lot of eyes on Milford last season because of the weapons they had on the offensive side of the ball, but once you saw the Hawks play it was tough not to talk about how well they played on the defensive side of the ball. One name that always seemed to be in on the play was linebacker Tyler Lane, who will enter his second year as a starter this Fall. Lane has really good speed (something that people will also see when he carries the ball on the offensive side) and does a really good job at reading the play, which allows him to find a way to the ball. Whether it’s coming on a blitz, coming up to stop a run, or dropping off into pass coverage, Lane is a reliable option. Lane has the speed to get around the edge and the strength to make the tackle. If the play is coming up the middle, Lane is no stranger to big hits and can make a play there too. He’s solid in pass coverage and quick to make a play if the pass is completed.
Whether he lines up at linebacker or drops deeper to play as a safety, Taunton senior Nick Lima is a playmaker for the Tiger’s defense. He can quickly read a play and see where it is headed but has the speed and quickness to hang back for an extra beat before closing on a ball carrier. Lima can also provide the Tigers with an extra rusher when they choose to blitz and on the next play drop deep into coverage downfield. Lima’s versatility and leadership will be key as Taunton tries to figure out the best combination on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers have a lot of skill and depth on the offensive side but one challenge has been establishing the same on the defensive side of the ball. Having Lima in the mix gives Taunton a good start to solving that problem.
Emmett Pearl, Senior – Stoughton
Stoughton senior Emmett Pearl got his feet wet during the Fall 2 season and now could be poised for a breakout year with an expanded role on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Stoughton has solid returning experience with its three-down lineman, it will be about the ends and linebackers around them to make plays on the ball. The defense is usually a calling card for Stoughton and the Knights will be going up against some tough competition both in the division (Foxboro, North) and in the non-league games (Mansfield, Milford) so they will certainly need some new players to step up. Against the run, Pearl does a terrific job of clogging up any holes up the middle and can also come from the outside and get into the backfield. Pearl isn’t just all power either, he has great instincts and impressive speed for his size.
Rashaad Way, Senior – Foxboro
Fans of Foxboro football are going to be hearing the name Rashaad Way a lot this season. After a breakout junior campaign, Way is in line for what could be a monster year for the Warriors, especially because he impacts all three parts of the game. Offensively, Way will be one of the go-to options in the passing game and can help take the top off the defense with his speed on deep routes. When it comes to special teams, Way might be the best returner — both on kickoffs and punts — in the league right now. It seemed like almost every time he got the ball, he was close to breaking one for a score. But the focus for here is on Way’s defensive performance at cornerback. He does a nice job reading the play, has the speed to keep with receivers, and has good instincts and timing. With a year already under his belt, Way will be one of the top players in the secondary in the entire league.
Freddy Wheaton, Senior – Attleboro
Attleboro struggled to score points last year, but for the most part, the Bombardiers were consistently tough on the defensive side of the ball. Although all-time leading tackler Michael Strachan graduated, Attleboro’s experience in the linebacking corps should be a strength again this fall. Wheaton is a dynamic presence in the front seven. His high motor and the energy he brings to each play is contagious and he seems to be able to cover ground from sideline to sideline. A player who seems to relish contact, Wheaton is a solid tackler and will need to step up behind Attleboro’s large defensive line to help stop the opponent’s ground game. The Bombardiers are a veteran, athletic group and Wheaton’s presence in the middle of the field will be critical if they are going to build on last season and start to challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex.