Sharon Football Will Go Independent For Fall 2020

Sharon football
Sharon football lines up for a play at North Attleboro during the 2019 season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
Citing dwindling numbers, lack of youth programs, and seeking a more competitive playing field, Sharon football will be playing an independent schedule for the 2020 season, withdrawing for the Hockomock League for at least one season.

Sharon athletic director Dr. Nick Schlierf and interim principal Ralph Olsen filed a letter of withdrawal to Franklin principal and league president Paul Peri, Franklin athletic director and league chair Tom Angelo, and the Hockomock League back in November seeking to withdraw from the league in football for the 2020 season, and possibly the 2021 season. Needing a minimum of 70% of the entire voting membership, the league unanimously approved the move at the league’s Principals/Athletic Directors meeting in December. The move only applies for football.

Although it’s the first time a member school has gone independent since the Hockomock League split into two divisions, the move is not unprecedented. Sharon played an independent schedule in 1993 and 1994 while Canton did the same in 2002 and 2003. Both schools rejoined the Hock and went on to find success. The Eagles won the 2012 D3 EMass Super Bowl and Canton is coming off back-to-back Davenport titles and sectional final appearances.

“It is our hope that this will move will once again successfully rebuild and strengthen our football program and return us to Hockomock competition in fall, 2022,” Schlierf said in the letter submitted to the league, noting the Eagles will “most likely seek an extension of the one-year waiver for the 2021 season as well, just to provide greatest
transparency for the league.”

The Eagles finished 0-5 in Davenport games this past season, going 0-11 overall with a loss to Oliver Ames on Thanksgiving Day. Sharon had just 45 total students involved with the football program this past season, including seven sophomores and nine freshmen. Over the past three seasons, Sharon has one win against Hockomock foes but has experienced more success in non-league action with four wins and over double the amount of points scored despite playing fewer games. The Eagles’ defense allowed just 21 points to Division 6 State Champion Ashland this past season.

“We find ourselves in a downward trend. Playing an independent schedule for 2020 and 2021 could rebuild the numbers and the confidence our players need to compete in the mighty Hockomock League,” Schlierf said in one of the listed reasons for going independent.

The letter also noted that the town youth and middle school programs have ceased operation, removing all potential training for traditional, full-contact football before high school. Head coach Dave Morse founded a youth football program in town that had over 100 players each year for a stretch but has seen numbers shrink in recent years.

 

“The goal is to encourage more students to participate because of the appearance of a more competitive balance between opponents and the hope that players of comparable size may develop in the two-year interim as we play a schedule outside of the Hockomock League,” the letter said.

The move has left a hole in the schedule of the five other Davenport teams, but they have all moved quickly to find new competition. Stoughton AD Ryan Donahue confirmed that the Black Knights will take on Braintree, Canton AD Danny Erickson said the Bulldogs added Dennis-Yarmouth for that week, and The Sun Chronicle’s Peter Gobis reported Foxboro picked up Bishop Feehan. North Attleboro coach Don Johnson said his team is still weighing the options, potentially using it as a bye week.

2019 HockomockSports Football Awards

Mansfield Secondary Steals The Show At Gillette

Mansfield football Nick Bertolino
Mansfield junior Nick Bertolino intercepts a pass in the end zone late in the second quarter of the D2 State Championship at Gillette Stadium. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Throughout the season, we’ve seen the Mansfield defensive line wreak havoc in opponents’ backfields, and the Hornets’ linebacking corps deny top running attacks.

In the Division 2 State Championship at Gillette Stadium, it was the secondary that took center stage.

The Hornets corners and safeties combined for three interceptions, including a game-changing takeaway late in the second quarter, to help Mansfield run away with a 41-0 win and the program’s eighth state title.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

With such a large margin of victory, it might seem unlikely that the game changed on one play. But instead of holding a one-score lead at halftime and having to kick off to the Warriors, an interception turned into a three-score lead.

With a 14-0 lead and the clock ticking away in the first half, Lincoln-Sudbury’s offense got a sudden jolt after a 15-yard penalty and a broken play that resulted in a 54-yard run from Warrior junior Jack Malone.

Mansfield senior corner Makhi Baskin fought off a would-be blocker, making a tackle inside the 10-yard line to prevent Lincoln-Sudbury from getting on the board. While it looked like a simple hustle play, the ensuing plays proved how big it was.

 

The Hornet defense, faced with their first red zone challenge with the Warriors starting at the 7-yard line, came up big.

The first play went backward as the Hornets came buzzing in to halt the Warriors after a bad snap. The teams traded penalties with a hold pushing L-S back 10 yards, only to regain half of that on an offside call.

Facing second down from the 18-yard line, L-S senior receiver Griffin Brown found an open spot against the Hornets’ defense in the end zone near the left sideline.

L-S junior quarterback Collin Murphy floated a pass that looked destined to drop into Brown’s waiting arms, but Mansfield junior corner Nick Bertolino read the play and timed his jump perfectly, cutting in front of the receiver and hauling in his first career interception.

“We were in zone and I was supposed to play in the flat…the guy got around me and I had great help over the top,” Bertolino said. “I just read the quarterback’s eyes, dropped back, and went up and got it.

“It felt like it was a big game-changer. They were driving on us some and had that big run but we got the ball back and went down and scored, and I felt like that kind of sealed the game.”

The Hornets marched 80 yards on eight plays, capped by a four-yard touchdown from senior Vinnie Holmes with just over a minute left in the half, and just like that, Mansfield held a 21-0 advantage.

“They had that nice run, and they threw a nice fade and I thought they had a touchdown,” admitted Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “Nick Bertolino came out of nowhere, that was a big play. [If they scored] it makes the game interesting at half but instead we get the pick and go down and score, and it goes from 14-7 to 21-0 that. I thought that was the turning point of the game for us to be able to extend the lead, and then put them away in the second half.”

While it doesn’t stand out as much as the interception, the tackle from Baskin just a couple of plays earlier inside the 10-yard line proved to be a game-changer.

“That saved a touchdown,” Redding said. “The defense keeps playing, even if its first and goal from the one, they are battling to keep the other team out of the end zone.”

For Baskin, it was just a play he knew he had to make.

“We always go by the motto of ‘never surrender’…we just never give up, and that’s what I did on that play, and then we got the big interception,” Baskin said. “We take a lot of pride in the secondary. We have a lot of camaraderie with each other.”

Bertolino’s interception wasn’t the first or the last by the Hornet secondary in the game. The first came on the Warriors’ first possession. Mansfield was forced to punt after its opening drive stalled, and a miskick on the punt gave L-S decent starting field position near midfield.

But just a couple plays into the series, safety Michael DeBolt came down with a deflected pass for an interception to get the ball right back. And the Hornets cashed in when Jack Moussette connected with a wide-open Everett Knowlton for the opening score.

Lincoln-Sudbury ventured into the red zone for the first time in the second half but were stuffed on a run play and Bertolino and DeBolt combined for a pass breakup in the end zone.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Bertolino entered the state championship with a team-high nine pass breakups.

“He’s played great as a junior,” Redding said of Bertolino. “He’s a really good cover guy. He kind of had a breakout year, he played JV last year and didn’t play any varsity. He lines up and plays 12 weeks at corner and did a great job for us.”

After holding Murphy to just five completions for 52 yards (one play for 44 yards, the other four for eight or less yards), the Mansfield secondary capped its night when Baskin came up with his team-high third interception this season.

“This defense, even when [L-S] got inside the ten, we kept saying they’re not going to get it in, they’re not going to get it in,” Redding said. “It’s tough against our defense when you’re that close because our coverage tightens up, defense gets aggressive, and we knew we’d make them work. They wanted a shutout today, and it’s a great way to end it the way this defense has played all year.”

Mansfield Meets Massive Expectations with Super Finish

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The Mansfield football team celebrates with its Division 2 State Championship trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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FOXBORO, Mass. – Almost from the moment that last season ended at Fenway Park, talk started about how this year’s Mansfield team had the potential to win it all. The Hornets have matched those massive expectations at every step this year and they may have saved the very best for the biggest stage of all.

Under the bright lights of the Div. 2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium, Mansfield (11-1) put together its most dominant performance of the season, shutting out North champion Lincoln-Sudbury 41-0 to win its first state championship since 2013. The Hornets out-gained the Warriors 358-137, picked off three passes, and allowed only five first downs on the night.

“I’ve been in a bunch of Super Bowls, but nothing like this,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding, who earned his eighth Super Bowl win in his 11th appearance. “Too many weapons on offense, too much experience, just a dominant defense.

He added, “This year, we’re an elite team. Just amazing skill, we’re great up front, and I don’t know if we have a weakness as far as high school teams go.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Senior Vinnie Holmes put together an MVP performance in his final high school game. Not only was the linebacker and ever-present on the defensive side of the ball, but he also spearheaded the Mansfield ground game. Holmes gained 145 yards on just nine carries and scored three touchdowns.

“My o-line does a great job all the time for me,” said Holmes of linemen Noah Jellenik, TJ Guy, Jason Comeau, Andrew Cowles, and Jake McCoy. “I just found some running lanes and I was able to capitalize on them.

 

“I told myself I was going to have the best game of my life tonight and I think that’s what I did.”

Redding added, “When he’s on the field, we’re tough to beat. He’s got a great group around him but he’s a special player and we’re going to miss him an awful lot. We tried to get him the ball as much as we could today and he did his job as usual.”

Holmes stole the headlines but this was a complete team performance.

L-S tried an onside kick to start the game and Shane Downey grabbed it to give Mansfield the ball at its own 47. Although that drive stalled, Michael DeBolt got the ball right back when he picked off Collin Murphy’s second pass of the night and the Hornets were in business again at their own 48.

A 36-yard counter by Holmes put Mansfield inside the 10. Two of the Hornets’ eight penalties in the first half backed them up but Jack Moussette (6-of-8, 98 yards) ran a perfect play action fake and then hit a wide open Everett Knowlton down the seam for a 14-yard score.

“Jack had a night,” said Redding. “He was spot on. When we’re clicking with all our weapons, there’s not a bad play call on the sheet.”

Another three-and-out and the Hornets got the ball in L-S territory. Mousette connected with Cincere Gill (92 total yards) for a 31-yard completion to the four. Two plays later, Nick Marciano doubled the lead with a three-yard keeper.

A roughing the passer call on a third down incompletion let L-S move the chains for the first time on the night. Jack Malone cut back against the grain for a 54-yard run down to the Mansfield seven. It looked like the Warriors might be able to make it a game, but a bad snap and a holding penalty had them backed up to the 18.

Murphy (5-of-16, 52 yards) thought he had his receiver open at the front corner of the end zone but Nick Bertolino recovered and pulled down the pick in the end zone.

Eight plays and 80 yards later, Mansfield made it 21-0. Mousette continued to be accurate in the passing game, finding DeBolt open for a 49-yard play on third and nine to get into L-S territory. Holmes capped the drive with a four-yard dive for his first score of the night.

“They had that nice run and they threw a nice fade, I thought they had a touchdown,” Redding explained. “Nick Bertolino came out of nowhere. That was a big play. That makes the game very interesting at half, instead we get the pick and then go down and score. I thought that was the turning point of the game.”

Just six plays into the second half and the Hornets tacked on another score. The defense came through with another quick stop, highlighted by Chris Graham forcing a high throw on a screen that allowed Holmes to close in and stuff the play for a one-yard loss. Gill broke a 28-yard run to the 16 and then Holmes got to the corner for the touchdown to make it 27-0.

L-S drove again into the red zone on its next possession but again came away empty. Graham stuffed a run for a three-yard loss and Bertolino and DeBolt combined on a pass breakup. The Hornets went for it on fourth and one from their own 28 to keep their drive alive and on second and 15 Holmes went straight up the gut, untouched, for a 72-yard TD, adding an exclamation point to his night.

While Holmes was speaking to reporters, Moussette stepped in and offered this assessment of the Mansfield running back, “First kid in, last kid to leave, this kid earned everything he got tonight. This kid’s one hell of a football player and I couldn’t be prouder of him. He’s our MVP.”

Makhi Baskin added a third interception for the Mansfield secondary and, with a running clock in the fourth quarter, Ethan Thevenot added a late score from five yards out. It was the first shutout of the season for the Hornets, who allowed only 13 points in four playoff games combined.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

At the beginning of the season, Mansfield players set winning the Super Bowl as a goal. They knew that the talent was there to have a special season. On Friday night, they made sure that there would be no tripping over the final hurdle. In fact, they plowed right through it.

“We had a meeting in January and wrote three goals on the white board,” said Moussette. “One was ‘win the summer,’ ‘win the first week of practice,’ and ‘win the Super Bowl.’ Look where we’re at right now.

“We earned this. I’m just so ecstatic. I’m at a loss for words. I’m so happy for everyone.”

2019 Hockomock League Football All Stars

Below are the official 2019 Hockomock League Football All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.

Hockomock League MVP

Kelley-Rex

Vinnie Holmes, Mansfield

Davenport

Kyle Fitzgerald, Canton

Hockomock League All Stars

Kelley-Rex Division

Qualeem Charles, Attleboro
Michael Strachan, Attleboro
Jason Weir, Attleboro
Austin Jordan, Franklin
Thomas Gasbarro, Franklin
Evan Wertz, Franklin
Jack Nally, Franklin
Jake Davis, Franklin
Sean Piller, King Philip
Ryan Halliday, King Philip
Robert Jarest, King Philip
Terence Guy, Mansfield
Vincent Holmes, Mansfield
Michael Debolt, Mansfield
Nicholas Marciano, Mansfield
Cincere Gill, Mansfield
Jason Comeau, Mansfield
Nathan Cabral, Oliver Ames
Daniel MacDougall, Taunton

Davenport Division

Jack Connolly, Canton
Kyle Fitzgerald, Canton
John Hagan, Canton
James Murphy, Canton
Robert Gallery, Canton
Aidan Dow, Foxboro
Shayne Kerrigan, Foxboro
Anton George, Foxboro
Michael Sheehan, Foxboro
Luke Rosa, Milford
Colby Pires, Milford
John Kummer, North Attleboro
Ethan Mottinger, North Attleboro
Ethan Friberg, North Attleboro
John Saab, Sharon
Carlvin Laguerre, Stoughton
Anthony Pizzano, Stoughton
Chris Ais, Stoughton
Christin Ais, Stoughton

Canton Beats Stoughton To Cap Memorable Season

Canton football Kyle Fitzgerald
Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald leaps up to haul in a pass that turned into a touchdown in the second quarter. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – The Canton football team has had two of its most successful seasons in recent history.

Last year, the Bulldogs ended on a sour note when rival Stoughton came to town and earned an upset win.

Canton wasn’t going to let that happen again.

The Bulldogs (10-1), who won the Davenport division outright this season, capped a historic season with a 30-8 win over the Black Knights (10-1) in the 94th annual Thanksgiving meeting between the neighbors.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

It marks just the fourth time in program history the team has won 10 games, joining 1979, 1981, and 1987.

“The kids were disappointed last year, we didn’t play great and Stoughton came to play,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “You see it over there on their sidelines…we had to live with that for a whole year. We didn’t want to let that happen again. I always knew it was important to the program, but that win two years ago and that whole feeling. It was a great day for the program, as is today, and it kind of started this run.

 

“We have a healthy rivalry. There’s a lot of talk about how the playoffs have taken the luster out of Thanksgiving, but not around here. I know how [Stoughton] values this rivalry, and I know how much we value it. Its two teams with mutual respect. Stoughton has a very good team that is very well-coached. Beating them on Thanksgiving is quite an accomplishment, that’s how we view it.”

Canton scored twice in the second quarter to take the lead and its defense pitched a second half shutout out, holding the Black Knights without a first down for nearly the entire second half.

Not only did the Bulldog defense prevent the Black Knights, who were without star two-way players Christopher Ais and Christian Georges due to injury, from moving the chains after the break, they limited the visitors to less than five yards on its first five series of the second half.

“For this program, for our class, this means everything for us,” said Canton senior David Allen, who had a second half touchdown catch. “We’ve won a lot together from when we were young. Getting knocked out of the playoffs hurt but to be able to take this trophy home to end the season means a lot to everyone on our team.

“It’s such a big rivalry. After a loss, you get to think about it but then it’s on to the next game, and especially with Stoughton, there’s a lot of extra motivation behind playing on Thanksgiving against them. We played very well defensively today, and we just had to grind it out on every play.”

After a scoreless first quarter that saw Canton come up with a stop against a goal-to-go situation for the Black Knights, the Bulldogs started the second quarter with 1st and goal from the 10 after a nice run from senior Kyle Fitzgerald (eight carries, 85 yards, touchdown) and 21-yard pass from Johnny Hagan (5-for-15, 99 yards, two touchdowns) to senior Jace Emma.

But similar how to the Black Knights were denied in the opening quarter, the Bulldogs couldn’t solve Stoughton’s defense. Despite getting down to the one-yard line, Stoughton got a good push up front from the likes of Carlvin LaGuerre, Oluwole Fabikun, Jerry Brisson, and Kelven Rodriquez, and senior Jaden McCall and junior Sproul Derolus combined for a huge tackle for loss on third down, and a fourth down pass fell incomplete.

Despite not scoring, the Bulldogs were able to flip field position, and cashed in on its next drive. On the first play from the Stoughton 35-yard line, Hagan floated one down the middle that Fitzgerald went up and grabbed over the defender and battled his way the final five yards for a touchdown. Owen Lehane’s point after made it 7-0 with 8:14 left in the second quarter.

Stoughton’s next drive didn’t go far thanks to a tackle for a loss on second down from Canton senior Jack Connolly, and a sack on third down from senior Lucas Ragusa. A good punt return from senior Gersom Rivera gave the Dogs the ball at the Stoughton 20-yard line.

Two plays later, Fitzgerald took his second straight handoff on a jet sweep and cut right up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5:39 left in the first half.

“It was a long break coming off the Holliston game, and you always worry if there will be a hangover from that loss,” Bohane said. “There was a couple of days I was a little worried but once we got back together, I could sense it. They are a very mature group, a lot of them play multiple sports and compete all the time. I could tell by the way they were acting that we’d be alright. The coaches did a great job preparing them and the kids came to play today.”

Stoughton responded with its best drive of the game to make it a one-score contest. Senior Clayton Rahaman (7-for-20, 147 yards) lofted one down the sideline that junior John Burke made a nice adjustment to haul in for a 35-yard catch, earning a first down on 3rd and 20.

Junior Jake Queeney got open and drew a pass interference call two plays later, and then moved the chains with an 11-yard catch. Sophomore Anthony Girolamo (11 carries, 30 yards) scampered for 13 yards to move inside the 10-yard line, and two plays later junior Christian Ais extended at the goal line for a 6-yard touchdown.

Rahaman connected with senior Anthony Pizzano for the two-point conversion to make it 14-8 with 1:14 left in the second quarter.

A good return from Rivera and a run from Hagan got Canton into scoring position with under a minute to go, but Ais came up with an interception in the red zone to put an end to the drive.

Neither team moved the ball to open the second half as Canton punted after a three-and-out, and Stoughton did the same after going backward. Field position benefitted the hosts again as they started at the Stoughton 29-yard line. Canton moved into the red zone but a holding penalty pushed them back and Burke broke up a pass in the end zone.

The Bulldogs settled for a 28-yard field goal from Lehane to make it 17-8 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.

While Canton’s offense tried to establish itself in the second half, the defense came it plenty of chances. Stoughton’s first four drives all resulted in punts and totaled -14 yards. Its fifth drive didn’t yield any yards and ended with an interception two plays in.

“The defense has been outstanding all year,” Bohane said. “We played great against Stoughton the first time too. We had a couple of lapses but Coach Eckler did a great job with his adjustments at halftime and we really never had any issues with the defense the rest of the way, it was an outstanding performance.”

Stoughton senior Savion Scott put an end to Canton’s next series with a terrific diving interception but the Bulldogs were back in business on their next series. Starting at their own 47-yard line, the Bulldogs needed just four plays to extend the lead.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Fitzgerald sprinted for a 19-yard gain, junior Cam Sanchez took a handoff for six yards, Hagan kept it himself for 20 yards, and Rivera capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown and a 23-8 lead with 1:41 left in the third.

The Bulldogs’ defense picked up a lot of contributions from linebackers James Murphy, Ben Guerini, and Robbie Gallery, as well as linemen Matt Connolly and Nnamdi Onyemelukwe. Senior Vicki Revanche earned time on the offensive line in the fourth quarter.

Canton started its next drive at the Stoughton 33-yard line, and back-to-back runs from Sanchez and Rivera moved the sticks. Back-to-back penalties put Canton into 1st and 26, but Hagan delivered a pass to Allen right to the marker for a first down. Three plays later, Hagan hit Allen on the slant for a 7-yard touchdown and a 30-8 lead.

“When we lost last year, it was tough,” Gallery said. “Throughout the year, we were all looking forward to the Thanksgiving game and getting payback, that’s what it’s all about. It was a good win and it’ s nice to go out on a high note.”

This article was updated on Saturday, November 30th to include the 1987 Canton team as a 10-win team.

Late Interception Secures Attleboro Thanksgiving Win

Attleboro football
Attleboro junior linebacker Michael Strachan (7) intercepts a pass in the end zone with just 20 seconds remaining to secure a 13-7 Thanksgiving Day win at North. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Attleboro scored twice in its first five plays from scrimmage but with less than a minute remaining on the clock North Attleboro (4-7) was driving with a chance to steal the 99th annual Thanksgiving Day meeting between the two neighboring rivals on the soaked grass at Community Field.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Rocketeers backup quarterback Casey Poirier, who took over from sophomore Tyler DeMattio (17 carries, 83 yards) in the fourth quarter, engineered a 15-play drive from his own 20 all the way down to the Attleboro five-yard-line.

Fellow quarterback Jason Weir pushed North back when he grabbed hold of Poirier and swung him down for a nine-yard sack back to the 14 and on third and goal junior linebacker Michael Strachan came through with a game-ending interception in the end zone, sealing a dramatic 13-7 victory for the Bombardiers.

“I think we prepared really hard for this game and I think it just goes to show, this rivalry, what it means,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan after his third win in this holiday series. “[North] played great, they’re always prepared, but this is what it’s all about.”

While Attleboro (6-5) made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in D1 South, neither team had big postseason plans this year, so both had weeks to prepare for Thursday’s game and it took on added importance, as Weir, who won the Balfour Trophy for Offensive MVP, succinctly explained.

“It means so much,” he said. “This is our Super Bowl. It’s phenomenal.”

 

North was able to move the ball on its opening drives, but couldn’t finish. The Rocketeers got to the Attleboro 39 on its opening possession but a bad snap on fourth and one ended the drive, while the second possession reached the Attleboro 35 but another turnover on downs meant no points.

Attleboro had none of those problems at the start of the game. The Bombardiers went 52 yards in three plays on the their first possession and then 65 yards on two plays on their second to build a solid lead.

On the first play from scrimmage, Weir (7-of-10, 104 yards) hit Ethan Cameron (five catches, 88 yards) in stride for a 43-yard completion to the North five. Two plays later, Strachan burst through the left side for a five-yard score. After completing a 13-yard pass to Cameron to start the second drive, Weir took it himself, breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage and breaking free for a 52-yard touchdown to make it 13-0.

“That was the whole game plan, come out and throw the first punch,” said Weir. “That works against any high school team, they’re going to back down right away and that’s what we did today. Our line stepped up huge today.”

Coach Strachan said of Weir, “I think we finally put him in a situation where he could make some plays for us, make him comfortable, roll him out a little bit more, and that was good.”

The visiting Bombardiers felt like they might break the game wide open and put things away, but the North defense started to stiffen, with Tom O’Neil, Ethan Friberg, and Jacob Silva all making plays that kept Attleboro from gaining more traction offensively.

Also, the North offense finally found a way to complete a drive. The Rocketeers marched 77 yards on 11 plays to cut into the lead. DeMattio led the way, with help from Tommy Whalen and a 27-yard run up the gut by Silva. Attleboro forced fourth an 10 after pressure by Trainor Sherck and a breakup by Adam Pearlstein, but then Demattio scrambled for 12 yards to keep the possession alive.

DeMattio added 16 more on a quarterback draw to get to the Attleboro four and two plays later Jared Penta took a jet sweep over the left side for a three-yard score to make it 13-7 with a minute left before the break.

“We gave up two touchdowns in the first five plays of the game and that’s been the story of our season,” said North coach Don Johnson. “We give up too many easy ones like that and all of a sudden we have to dig out of a hole.

Johnson was asked if he changed anything defensively after Attleboro’s two quick strikes and he answered, “We played a little bit of a different front, but I don’t think that was the difference. I think we just started playing a little bit better.”

The third quarter was largely a stalemate. Weir had a sack to effectively end North’s first possession of the half and Attleboro just missed out on extending the lead when Cameron was ruled to be out of bounds on a catch in the end zone on fourth and 11.

After just missing out on the touchdown, Attleboro had a chance to break the game open two plays later. Justin Daniels tipped a DeMattio pass that was picked off by Pearlstein, setting the visitors up at the North 20. The Bombardiers managed six yards on three plays and a low snap led to a missed 31-yard field goal by Colby Briggs with 9:43 to play.

Attleboro wouldn’t see the ball again for more than nine minutes.

Starting at its own 20, North took over going into the wind and put together a drive that gave it a shot at the win. Defensive MVP Isaac Gudiel stuffed Silva (nine carries, 53 yards) for a two-yard loss to force a third and 10, but then a pass interference call gave the Rocketeers a much-needed first down.

Poirier picked out Ethan Friberg for 10 yards to the 33. After a penalty backed North up five yards, Silva gained 13 on a draw. Gudiel stuffed Silva for a loss to bring up third and 11, but Poirier again had the answer with a 12-yard pass to Whalen for another first down to the nine.

Coming out of a timeout with 1:14 to play, North drew an illegal substitution penalty that backed it up to the 14, but Penta gained nine on first and goal to get the Rocketeers up to the five. Weir came flying through on second down, dropping Poirier for a nine-yard loss and forcing North into its final timeout with 27 seconds on the clock.

On third and goal, Strachan made amends for allowing an earlier completion by jumping the route and picking off a pass two yards deep in the end zone to end the game and bring Hilda back to Attleboro.

“I was on him because he missed the play before,” joked Coach Strachan about his son’s game-clinching play, “so they ran the same route and he undercut it and it was good.”

When asked about how much winning on Thanksgiving means, Strachan added, “It’s huge. We battled injuries just like everyone else has, but this was a big game for the program. Like I said to the kids, these games mean something and these kids responded.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.