Trailing 14-7 to Holliston with just under 10 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs quickly moved into Panther territory and even converted a fourth down that seemingly put the momentum with the hosts.
But two plays later, Canton fumbled in its backfield and Holliston pounced on the loose ball to put an abrupt halt to the drive.
It was just one of those nights for the Bulldogs, who dropped a 27-14 decision to the visiting Panthers in the D5 South Sectional Final. Canton also hurt itself with nearly a dozen penalties.
“We kind of flirted with that all year, I take full responsibility, we were kind of an undisciplined team and got away with it for many games,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane on his team not helping themselves with penalties. “Tonight, in a game like this when you get to the sectional championship, we had some bad penalties and we paid for it. I don’t want that to take away from Holliston though, they executed very well like we thought they would. I thought our defense didn’t do a bad job, we just didn’t do enough to move the ball.
“[Holliston] is a good team and they’re going to do well going forward. I’m just super proud of my guys overall. Just an outstanding two years, it’s been great to be apart of it. It’s a sour taste to lose in the final twice but I don’t want to lose sight of all the accomplishments along the way.”
Canton’s fumble summed up a frustrating night on offense for the Bulldogs, who had to punt five times, turned the ball over on downs twice and finished with a pair of turnovers.
The Bulldogs had just forced Holliston’s high-powered offense (entered the game averaging over 30 points per game) to a three and out and started at their own 40 with 9:14 left in the game, trailing just 14-7.
Senior Johnny Hagan (11/26, 124 yards) hit classmate Jace Emma for eight yards on third down, and senior tailback Kyle Fitzgerald (18 carries, 101 yards; four catches, 26 yards) barreled his way for three yards on fourth and one to give the hosts the ball at the Holliston 44-yard line.
But after the fumble with 6:26 left, the momentum swung in favor of the Panthers and they cashed in on their chance. The Bulldogs defense did its part to force Holliston into a fourth and seven from the Canton 34-yard line, but the Panthers elected to go for it.
Matt Arvanitis dropped back and floated a pass up the middle to a wide-open Kevin Lyons, who had released off the line of scrimmage, and the play went for a touchdown to give Holliston a 21-7 advantage with just 3:58 left in the game.
In true Bulldog fashion, the hosts refused to go away without a fight. Canton orchestrated its best drive of the entire game, marching 73 yards on nine plays to find the end zone for the first time on the offensive side of the ball.
Hagan connected with Gersom Rivera for 32 yards on a fourth-down play to keep the drive alive early and then linked up with Cam Sanchez for 22 yards on third down to move deep into Holliston territory. Two plays later, Fitzgerald made a terrific diving catch in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown, bringing the hosts back within a score at 21-14 with 2:09 left in the game.
Canton elected a squib kick up the middle with their entire kicking unit charging but a Holliston player was able to handle the play and the Dogs were whistled for a penalty on the hit, giving the Panthers possession at the Canton 36-yard line.
Holliston running back Tristan Benson (14 carries, 138 yards, two touchdowns) put an exclamation point on a superb second half, running for 28 yards on first down to get inside the 10 yard line, and two plays later plunged into the end zone from three yards out to restore the Panthers’ two-score lead, up 27-14 with 1:44 to go, securing the D5 south crown.
“I think Holliston had a lot to do with the outcome of the game,” Bohane said. “I don’t think we played our best but I don’t want to take anything away from the opponent that played great tonight and deserved to go on to the next round.
“These kids that have played for us have left an incredible mark on the program. I can’t say anything but great things about all of them, it’s been a pleasure to coach them. It’s been such a fun ride for me personally. I’m a proud coach and I just feel bad because they are crushed. We thought we could move on.”
The majority of the game played out as a defensive chess match with the teams trading stops. Holliston had to punt on two of its first three drives and had its other series come to a screeching halt when Robbie Gallery read a screen pass and hauled an interception.
Canton’s offense didn’t fare much better, turning it over on downs on the opening series after starting in Holliston territory, and then had to punt on its second series. Canton moved the ball on its third series, using nine plays to cover 44 yards but there was another big momentum swing when Holliston blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt. The ball ended up in the hands of Holliston’s Teddy Ratcliffe and he returned it all the way to the Canton 32-yard line.
With good field position, Holliston’s offense went to work and found the end zone two plays later. Arvanitis dropped a perfect pass to Christian Schneeloch, who hauled the pass in despite strong coverage, for a 6-0 lead with 9:45 left in the second quarter.
Canton’s next drive was slowed down early by a holding call but Hagan hit Emma down the left sideline for 26 yards to keep the drive alive. The Bulldogs converted another fourth down and moved into the red zone but a pair of incomplete passes resulted in a turnover on downs at the 11-yard line.
Canton’s defense came up with a big response on the next series though. On 2nd and 10 from the 21, senior linebacker Ben Guerini came flying in and landed a monster sack, jarring the ball free. Senior Jahmi Aldin scooped the ball up at the 12-yard line and raced into the end zone for a touchdown. Owen Lehane’s extra point gave Canton a 7-6 lead late in the second, a lead the hosts took into the halftime break.
“That defense kept me up late all week long, a lot of hours,” said Holliston coach Todd Kiley of the Bulldogs’ defense. “There is no weakness on that team, they are a phenomenal football team, one of the best ever I’ve had to prepare for. We’ve been through a lot of games with this program. That team, that coaching staff has done a phenomenal job, we just made a couple more plays than them.
“Our guys dug down and we made a big play when we needed to. Tristan Benson was huge in the second half, he kind of just took it over. Our line did awesome, and how about our defense today? It was just a total team effort. I’m going through all of our kids that made plays tonight, and it’s a long list.”
The Bulldogs had a chance to add to their lead on the opening drive of the second but went backward and had to punt. Holliston started with good field position at the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line and once again took advantage of the strong starting spot.
After throwing for the majority of the first half, the Panthers turned to Benson. The tailback’s speed gave the Dogs trouble, as he had runs of 12 and 19 before plunging in for a 5-yard score, and then the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.
Canton’s ensuing series ended with a three and out after Hagan and Fitzgerald just missed linking up on third down. On the next Canton series, Hagan had a 14-yard scramble erased by a holding call but responded to move the sticks. However, four plays later, a 38-yard pass and catch to Fitzgerald on third down was taken off the board after another hold, and Canton had to punt two plays into the fourth.
“I think they were just a little better in the middle than we thought,” Bohane said. “We’ve been able to stay the course and stay the course, and eventually wear teams down. But in a game like this, kids dig real deep and I give [Holliston] a lot of credit, they are very well-coached. They played hard, and I thought our kids played hard too. It was a good game that got away from us a little bit. [Holliston] does a lot of things offensively to put pressure on you.”
Canton football drops its first game of the season to push its record to 9-1. The Bulldogs will host rival Stoughton (8-2) on Thanksgiving at 10:00 AM.
NATICK, Mass. – As the celebrations took place all around him at Natick’s Memorial Field, Mansfield coach Mike Redding was able to smile and joke about the old adage that an ugly win is so much better than a beautiful loss. That counts double this time of the year.
The Hornets racked up nearly 100 yards in penalties, had three first half drives stall inside the red zone, and didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of Friday night’s Div. 2 South title game, but still walked away with a 22-3 road win against top seed, and previously unbeaten, Natick.
It was the defense that carried Mansfield to its first Super Bowl since 2013. The Hornets allowed only 45 rushing yards, six yards passing, had three sacks, and held Natick to only two first downs on the night. Both first downs came on one drive in the first half, and one came by way of a penalty.
“As sophomores they lost in the semis, lost last year in the finals, this year we get there and win it, so every year they just go a step further,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said of his senior class. “They’ve overcome a lot of stuff, injuries, and it’s a great group and it will be a lot of fun taking them to Gillette. I told them they’ve been through a lot but it’s all worth it when you walk down the ramp at Gillette Stadium.”
Senior running back and linebacker Vinnie Holmes (18 carries, 131 yards) added, “This just means the world to everyone. We’ve just worked so hard for this. Winter, spring, in the weight room, we just knew that this was our goal. We wanted to get to Gillette and that’s exactly what we did.”
On its second possession of the game, Mansfield started to move the ball. Jack Moussette (6-of-11, 64 yards) hit Cincere Gill for a perfectly executed 16-yard completion to the near sideline on third down to jumpstart the drive. Gill (seven carries, 41 yards) then weaved his way for 17 to the far sideline and Michael DeBolt (six carries, 41 yards) added 10 more to the Natick 14.
A chop block penalty backed the Hornets up and, despite a completion and a draw play to Holmes making it a manageable third and four, the Natick defense held firm. DeBolt booted the Hornets into the lead with a 26-yard kick.
The hosts answered right back. Natick started at its own 40 and two plays later were given a boost on a 15-yard penalty to reach the Mansfield 37. Two five-yard runs, including one by quarterback Will Lederman, who had missed the last four games with a knee injury and wasn’t expected to start the final, and an offsides call made it first and five at the 22.
Holmes stuffed a play for a three-yard loss and a pair of incomplete passes forced Natick into a 41-yard field goal by Sam Waltzman to tie the game. It was as close to the end zone as the Redhawks would get all night.
Mansfield again marched into the red zone in the second quarter but an illegal push call backed them off the goal line and a hold backed them up to the 13. In the end, DeBolt was forced to come on and get Mansfield three more with a 21-yard kick.
Natick fumbled the ensuing kick and Mansfield appeared to recover it, but the officials ruled that the ball went out of bounds first. Lederman nearly hit Nick Ofodile on a bomb on the first play but it was dropped. Nico Holmes and TJ Guy stuffed the next play for no gain and on third down Everett Knowlton pressured Lederman into an incompletion.
Vinnie Holmes broke free for the first time on a 53-yard run to get the Hornets to the 32. After a nine-yard pass from Mousette to Danny Rapoza, Mansfield had first and 10 at the 17. Moussette tried two passes to the corner but both fell incomplete and DeBolt came out again to kick a 28-yard field goal and make it 9-3 at the half.
“We moved the ball but just couldn’t finish,” Redding explained. “They’ve got some big dudes and once we got in the red zone, they know we’re not going to throw and it just got tough and then we shoot ourselves in the foot with all the penalties. It felt like at the half we should’ve been up 14, 17-3.”
On the opening drive of the second half, Mansfield was struck by a controversial penalty on Gill. The junior running back was ruled out for the rest of the night, but Redding saw the ejection as adding even more fuel to his team’s second half push.
“I thought it was unwarranted,” he said, “but it rallied the troops for sure and emotionally everybody stepped up and everybody got more physical. Backs were running hard and it was like, this is our game and we’re going to take it.”
Late in the third quarter, Mansfield appeared to convert a third and 14 on a screen pass to Holmes only to have it called back on a penalty. On the next play, Mousette connected with Nick Marciano for a sliding, 15-yard grab. Facing fourth and one, Marciano gained eight on a draw play to keep things moving. Marciano (nine carries, 41 yards) got the call again at the three, running the wildcat and finding a hole on the right side for a touchdown.
“We couldn’t punch one in, settled for three field goals,” said Holmes about Mansfield offense. “In the locker room we were just saying we need to punch this next one in. We need to punch it in and that puts us in a good position to win.”
Chris Graham sacked Lederman to start the next drive and then he and Holmes pressured the quarterback into an incompletion for a three-and-out. Mansfield’s offensive line and running game seemed to have worn down the Natick defense. Holmes and Marciano combined for nine plays and 53 yards, with Holmes breaking an 11-yard rush, to make it 22-3 with just 4:45 to play.
“Defense played great all night,” said Holmes. “Everyone just played their hearts out, played with enthusiasm. It was a great game.”
The Hornets continued to make plays defensively. Graham got his second sack of the night, then combined with Nico Holmes to stuff Natick running back Jalyn Aponte for no gain. On third down, Nick Bertolino stepped up from his cornerback position to make a big hit and a fake punt came up short.
“Oh my God, it’s crazy,” said Graham following the trophy celebration. “It’s great to be able to go back to Gillette. We wanted it so bad, we’ve been working so hard, trying so hard. Every morning in the summer we were up early in the weight room.”
He added, “When we got into the locker room on Monday, we had a note taped on the locker that a Natick player said we weren’t going to score one point on them. That their defense was too god. Well, we came out 22-3.”
Mansfield (9-1) will take on North champion Lincoln-Sudbury in the D2 Super Bowl at Gillette the weekend of Dec. 7. The date and time of the state title game has not been set.
CANTON, Mass. – In a game filled with penalties, turnovers, and mistakes at the most inopportune times, two elite defenses were showcased in the Div. 5 South semifinal at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.
Canton’s defense tossed its fifth shutout in nine games this season and the Bulldogs did just enough on the offensive side to pull out a 15-0 win against Foxboro to remain unbeaten and to advance to is second straight sectional final.
“Our defense was outstanding, our special teams was very good tonight, and as usual these kids stepped up and got things done for us and I’m very proud of them,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “
The Bulldogs set the tone right from the start when Owen Lehane got into the backfield to stop a jet sweep for a five-yard loss on the game’s first play. Foxboro almost struck on a deep ball to Elijah Lewis on second down, but the Warriors went three-and-out.
Starting at its own 40, Canton moved the ball upfield quickly in search of an early lead. The Bulldogs got as far as the Foxboro 28, but then on second and short Johnny Hagan (7-of-11, 77 yards) was picked off on the one by Mike Devlin. Two plays later, the snap sailed over the head of Foxboro quarterback Shayne Kerrigan (7-of-22, 93 yards) and out the back of the end zone.
On the ensuing kick-off, Gersom Rivera (91 yards of offense) broke free down the near sideline for a 60-yard score only to have a penalty take the points off the board. The Bulldogs drove into the red zone but defensive linemen Anton George and Austin Read stuffed a second down play and Hagan’s third down pass to David Allen fell incomplete. Lehane booted a 22-yard field goal for a 5-0 lead.
Bohane said, “We’d get in that nice second and three and okay here we go, and then we’d jump offsides or on third down we’d take a bad penalty. We’d get momentum going, be on their side of the field, and find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The baseball score continued into halftime because both defense remained on top. Jahmi Aldin had a sack and recovered a Kerrigan fumble to end a pair of Foxboro drives, while TJ Perry had an interception in the red zone to stop a Bulldogs possession. With time winding down in the half, Foxboro got to the Canton 24, but a sack by Lucas Ragusa and Jack Connolly kept Canton in front at the break.
To start the third quarter, a Rivera kick return and a personal foul penalty put Canton at the Foxboro 48. The Bulldogs got to the 28, but on fourth and three Kyle Fitzgerald (17 carries, 63 yards) was stopped a yard short of the marker.
Foxboro’s next possession stalled and Robbie Gallery came flying off the edge to block the punt, putting Canton back in business at the 19-yard-line. A false start to begin the possession stymied the momentum and the Bulldogs had to settle for another Lehane kick, this one from 31 yards, to put another three points on the board with four minutes left in the third.
“They played great,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said about his defense. “I felt pretty good at halftime down 5-0, still a one-score game. The blocked punt hurt us to give them the eighth point on a field goal and then we responded and came up empty-handed.”
The Warriors finally put together a drive and gave themselves a shot at tying the game. Kerrigan hit Luis Sulham for 11 yards and then Ryan Hughes for 12. Back-to-back penalties made it third and 12, but Kerrigan hit Hughes in stride for a 41-yard completion down to the Canton three.
Kerrigan gained two yards on two plays against the Canton defensive line to set up third and goal at the one, but misfortune struck as a snap sailed over his head. He scrambled to recover it but lost 22 yards on the play. His fourth down pass fell incomplete.
“We couldn’t change field position at all and we held on as long as we could and if you don’t cash in on the one or the two then you don’t deserve to win the game,” said Martinelli. “They’re a great team but our kids played their hearts out.”
“We feel like w’re never down defensively,” said Bohane. “The quarter ended and one coach thought they were going for the conversion and it was like, no they haven’t gotten in yet, and it was like okay well let’s keep them out. Good fortune on the snap but good effort by the defense.”
After an Allen punt pinned Foxboro deep, Gallery and Connolly combined on a sack to force the Warriors to punt from their own end zone. Canton took over at the 28 and for the first time was able to make field position count.
Hagan finally found a seam on the right side, followed his blockers and burst into the end zone for a 15-yard score and a 15-0 lead. Aldin and Lehane capped the evening with a sack of Kerrigan with two minutes left to seal the shutout and the trip to the final.
“They had probably 10 guys in the box, the whole game,” said Martinelli. “They weren’t going to let [Shayne] run and they didn’t. They had the kids to do it and executed and hence no points on the board. We felt we needed three scores to win the game because we felt our defense was good enough to keep us in it and it did.”
“Couple guys said that to me over the off-season who’ve been through this and they were like you want to get that third game at home and we’ve done it,” Bohane explained, “but Holliston we’ve never played and I’ve only heard great things about them. So, we’re going to get to work on them now, probably tonight, and just try to crack that riddle.”
The Hornets weren’t going to let that happen again this year.
Mansfield senior quarterback Jack Moussette tossed four touchdowns in one of his best performances of the season and junior Cincere Gill accounted for four total scored to help the Hornets roll to a 34-6 win over #3 King Philip.
“I was just trying to make the most of my opportunities,” said Moussette, who completed 12-of-17 passes for 230 yards. “We run the ball the majority of the time but Coach Redding told me ‘I trust you, go out there and do your thing tonight.’ I just tried to do the best I could. We had a great game on the ground and in the air, it was overall a great team win, I’m really proud of the guys. The offensive line stepped up big when we needed them too.”
While the Hornets have won the past two regular season meetings (28-27 in 2018, 15-13 this season), the Warriors have been the ones with the last laugh. KP knocked off Mansfield 13-11 in the semifinals in 2017 and celebrated with the D2 South trophy on Alumni Field last season after a 10-7 triumph.
“We’ve won the last two regular season games to win the league title but back-to-back losses, when you’re this close to Gillette…the guys have been waiting a year for another chance,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “We got the monkey off the back in the league, the playoff thing was like a gorilla on our back. It would have been another long year if we blew this one. But being home, being healthy for a change in the playoffs has made a difference. We’re doing it in all three phases right now and with confidence.
“Every year we play them we seem to get seven and get stuck. Last year in the playoffs, we got seven early and didn’t score. This year we got seven and didn’t score until the end. We harped on that, get to 14, get the 14-point lead, build off that. Tonight we got more than that which is great but extending the lead was critical.”
Mansfield made it clear early on that repeating that feat would be a tough task. After a punt and a red zone turnover, the Hornets got on the board on their third series.
Moussette hit Danny Rapoza (three catches, 58 yards) for 32 yards on first down, and four plays later, used play action before connecting with Gill (five catches, 107 yards, three touchdowns) out in the flat and the junior used his speed to race inside the pylon for a 7-0 lead with 11:54 left in the second quarter.
The Hornets’ defense helped set up the next score. Nico Holmes and Chris Graham combined for a tackle for loss, and the front seven helped pressure King Philip quarterback Robert Jarest (8-for-23, 107 yards, touchdown) into a throwaway that was flagged for intentional grounding.
Stuck at their own 11, KP chose a quick kick from Jarest on third down trying to flip the field. Mansfield took over at the KP 46-yard line and quickly cashed in. Gill faked outside to shake his defender and Moussette delivered a pass on the mark for a 46-yard touchdown with 9:19 left in the second quarter.
“It’s a lot of people to cover and I think their quarterback has come along,” said King Philip coach Brian Lee. “He’s the one piece that’s the difference for them right now. He’s getting better and better, it was tough. It’s a lot to defend, and on a short field, you’re asking for trouble.”
Makhi Baskin broke up a third down pass on KP’s next drive and the Hornets took over at their own 32-yard line with 7:12 left to play in the half. Vinnie Holmes (12 carries, 70 yards) broke off a 17-yard run and Gill hauled in a 27-yard pass but Mansfield was faced with a third down when they entered the red zone.
Moussette faked to his right before dropping off a pass to the left on a screen to Everett Knowlton. Junior TJ Guy came up with a big block to spring Knowlton for an 18-yard touchdown, and Michael DeBolt’s third of four successful extra point attempts gave the hosts a 21-0 lead with 3:41 left in the quarter.
“We had a great night throwing, and I think that was the difference,” Redding said. “Jack was on, we had some good matchups with Cincere [Gill] out as a receiver, Danny [Rapoza] did a good job. I think that was the difference was our ability to throw the ball. We ran pretty well but we had to throw it.
“And our defense was lights out, and the field position was a pretty big factor with the kicking game. We fed off the field position, defense got stops. Now you can take chances on offense because you have four downs. Things went our way from the beginning.”
Mansfield nearly added more points before the break with runs from DeBolt and Nick Marciano helping get the Hornets inside the red zone. But a pass fell through a receiver’s hands in the end zone and KP sophomore Crawford Cantave snatched the interception with under a minute to play.
King Philip looked to have a bright start to the second half when Jarest connected with Alex Behling for almost 30 yards down the sideline but a holding call erased the completion and two plays later, Marciano came up with an interception to give Mansfield the ball back with good field position at the KP 23-yard line.
Four plays later, Gill took the handoff, cut up field and found the end zone with an 11-yard touchdown, and a 28-0 advantage with 7:59 left in the third quarter.
“One thing that was a little disappointing was that we got beat up, we got out-physicaled, out-played,” Lee said. “I’m not sure what was so different this time than last time but it definitely was a big difference. When they are out in front, they get on you. You have to keep it close with them. They are loaded, they have a lot of guys. They are coached well and they believe.”
The Warriors put together their best drive of the game in response. Jarest had a first down pass to Behling and Ryan Halliday (13 carries, 47 yards) barreled his way for a first down. Jarest linked up with Behling again for a 42-yard gain to get inside the red zone.
Sophomore Mark DeGirolamo recovered an onside kick attempt from the Warriors, and the Hornets needed just three plays to strike. DeBolt hauled in a 19-yard pass, Holmes grinded out nine yards, and Moussette connected with an open Gill for a 24-yard touchdown, and a 34-6 lead with 3:14 left in the third quarter.
“We have great receivers,” Moussette said. “Cincere is unbelievable, I worked all summer with Danny Rapoza, I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the league. We have guys on the sidelines like [Joe] Cappelletti that can come in and make plays. We’re loaded with weapons and coach is doing his best to get everyone involved.
“This means the world to me. We got up in the summer every day at 5 in the morning to work out. Our main goal is to win a state title and we wanted to beat KP. We were lucky enough to do it twice this year, I couldn’t be prouder of the team. We really battled and put it all together to show everyone what we’re all about.”
Mansfield football (8-1) will play at top-seeded Natick in the D2 South Final, but the date and time have yet to be posted by the MIAA. King Philip (7-2) will enter the non-playoff pool for one week.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for Oct. 27 through Nov. 2. Fitzgerald is the ninth player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2019-20 school year.
Fitzgerald put in a star performance in Canton’s impressive win against Scituate on Friday night, helping the Bulldogs get a measure of revenge over the team that beat them in the South final last season. Fitzgerald rushed for 167 yards, scored three touchdowns, and picked off a pass as the Bulldogs rolled to a 34-14 victory.
“He’s our leader, he’s the guy we lean on as much as anybody,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane said of Fitzgerald. “He was dialed in all week, as were all the kids, but Kyle he really appreciates the big stage. He’s an excellent student, a great kid, very well respected by the kids in the school. He gets it, he gets the magnitude of these games.”
Leading by just a touchdown in the third quarter, Fitzgerald intercepted a pass at the Scituate 40-yard-line. On the next play, he burst through the line and broke free for a 40-yard score. He bowled over a defender at the goal line for a seven-yard touchdown that made it 28-0 and then added a 56-yard TD after the Bulldogs recovered an onside kick. Fitzgerald is tied with teammate Johnny Hagan with a league-leading 10 rushing touchdowns this season.
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.