Teams of the Decade #3: 2013 Mansfield Football

Mansfield football

Team: Mansfield Football
Year: 2013
Record: 13-0
2013 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2013 Division 2 State Champions


One of the signatures of the Mansfield football team over the past decade has been its ventures out of Massachusetts to play against top competition in other states. Not only do the trips allow the Hornets to see how they stack up on the field, but the off-field activities can also boost team morale and camaraderie.

Mansfield’s lone loss of 2010 came in New York when they visited Aquinas, who went on to win a state championship as well that season. A year later, the Hornets picked up one of their more impressive out-of-state victories with a decision over Christian Brothers of Syracuse inside the Carrier Dome.

Mansfield ventured out of state again to start the 2013 season, heading south to Maryland to take on three-time defending D1A State Champions Dunbar. After coming up short in the state final a year before, the Hornets entered the season with high expectations and put the rest of the Hockomock League and the state of Massachusetts on notice with their performance in the Old Line State.

“After those two experiences (in 2010 and 2011), we really felt like doing it was such a great experience, to see football in another part of the country,” said longtime Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “The Dunbar trip was really cool because we did a lot of touring in Washington D.C., we went to the U.S. Naval Academy so beyond football it was going to be a great trip. Our concern was, ‘Can we compete with them?. They were three-time defending state champs, they had kids back, their QB had committed to West Virginia…so we knew it would be a great challenge on the road.”

Mansfield built a 21-6 lead in the game but Dunbar quarterback William Crest, who went on to play at West Virginia, rallied the Owls to take the lead in the fourth, up 26-21. The Hornets didn’t panic, driving down the field and senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski connected with classmate Michael Hershman on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left to secure a 29-26 victory.

“We went down there and played one of the best games I’ve seen as a coach and win it on the road against a great team, I think that was definitely a sign for us…let’s go back to Massachusetts and keep this rolling,” Redding said. “If we can beat Dunbar at Dunbar, we can compete with anybody when we get back home.”

 

And not only did the Hornets compete with everyone back home, they blew most of the competition out of the water. They beat both Milton (21-0) and North Attleboro (35-14) by three scores each, scored over 30 points in wins over Attleboro, Taunton, and Franklin.

“Expectations were high, we had played a lot of seniors the year before as juniors,” Redding said. “We had kind of an up and down year in 2012, I think we were 2-2 before we went on a little run to win the league title. I think the highlight of that year, we knocked off Duxbury who had something like a 40-game win streak so it was a big upset. But then we ran into Reading in the final, which was probably an All-Decade team in the Middlesex League. But I think beating Duxbury and getting to a Super Bowl gave the senior group a lot of experience and a lot of motivation to try and finish the deal.”

The Hornets installed a new offense at the beginning of the season, going with the spread as Wisnieski worked mostly out of shotgun compared to the normal Wing-T/I-Formation approach Mansfield fans had become accustomed too.

As you can see, the offense worked just fine. Wisnieski set a handful of program records this season, including passing yards (2,541) and touchdown passes (27). Not only was Hershman (who finished with a total of 85 career receptions, third in program history) one of the most talented receivers around, junior Brendan Hill was a matchup nightmare and hauled in a program-record 54 receptions that season. Tight end Kyle Hurley and back Miguel Villar-Perez were both threats in the passing game as well.

To complement the passing game, Villar-Perez was a handful to deal with out of the backfield, finishing with 1,500 all-purpose yards that includes returns and a total of 18 touchdowns. Chris Buchanan helped lead the way from the fullback spot.

The team averaged 382 yards per game, which is second-most in program history, and it resulted in 428 total points, which came out to an average of 32.9 points per game.

The toughest game back in Massachusetts came a week before the regular season finale as the Hornets, the top-ranked team in the state, traveled to Wrentham to take on #8 King Philip.

With yards incredibly hard to come by, Villar-Perez broke free for an 88-yard touchdown in the second quarter that tied the game. Redding still recalls the play being a jet to the left side and the senior back made the play himself, cutting back up field when the first option wasn’t there. Wisnieski connected with Hurley in the second half to put Mansfield football ahead and Villar-Perez sealed it with his second score.

Mansfield’s defense pitched a second-half shutout to help pick up the win.

“When we played KP on the road, it was a different type of game, a physical, low-scoring, defensive battle…that really challenged the toughness of our group. I think winning on the road there gave our players a lot of confidence they could play a different style of game, We could score points but when push came to shove, we could line up and play tough physical defense to win a game.”

The defense was led by a strong group of linebackers featuring Alex Ruddy, Joe Moreshead, and Q’Ra Guichard. On top of that, the Hornets had a strong secondary with the likes of Aurian Dawkins and Mike Barresi.

“Defense was a lot like most of the defenses we’ve had,” Redding said. “[Defensive coordinator] Mark DeGirolamo got guys on the field that ran around and made plays for us. A real physical and fast group led by a group of good linebackers like Ruddy, Moreshead, Guichard…not a lot of size, we didn’t impress people when we lined up for stretching but when the game started, the kids played hard, played physical and were a real aggressive group on defense.”

This season also marked the start of the new tournament format. In years prior, only the league champion advanced to the tournament and needed to win only one or two games to reach the final. In the new format, eight teams qualified based on a rating system.

Mansfield football opened in style, taking down a good Wellesley at home before hosting Needham for what turned into one of the more entertaining contests of the postseason. The Hornets were their dominant selves as they raced out to a 28-7 halftime lead, and took advantage of an early second half turnover to push the advantage to 35-7.

But the Rockets refused to go away, scoring three straight, including a kickoff return and one after an onside kick recovery. The Rockets even got the ball back down just 35-28 but Barresi forced a fumble and recovered the loose ball to get possession back. On the next play, Wisnieski connected with Hill for a 51-yard touchdown to push it back to a two-score lead.

Mansfield won the South sectional title with a convincing win over #2 Barnstable, and went on the road up to Cawley Stadium in Lowell and destroyed Waltham, 41-0. The Hornets scored at will in the first half with Wisnieski connecting with Hill twice for scores. Villar-Perez also had a receiving score and Ruddy rushed one in as Mansfield held a 35-0 lead by halftime.

Mansfield took care of business against rival Foxboro on Thanksgiving but suffered a loss in the form of Hill, who went out with an injury and had to miss the state championship.

In the first-ever true state championship, the Hornets took on Central champion St. John’s of Shrewsbury. The Pioneers boasted a highly touted offense, scoring over 50 points in all three of their sectional wins, and ousting Springfield Central, 37-32, to reach Gillette Stadium.

As good as Mansfield had played all season long on the offensive side of the ball, the Hornets had one of their worst halves of the entire season. Not only were they limited to just one score, they had five turnovers in just the first two quarters alone. Those turnovers led to extra possessions for a St John’s team averaging nearly 50 points per game in the postseason.

But similar to the King Philip win, Mansfield’s defense was back in the spotlight, this time under the bright lights in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium. Despite plenty of chances, the Hornets held St. John’s to just a pair of touchdowns, both after a fumble from Mansfield. The other three turnovers, Mansfield got a turnover on downs, another a three-and-out, and Hershman came up with an interception to end the first half to keep the deficit at 14-7.

“I don’t know if it was nerves, being at Gillette for the first time, or guys trying to do too much but the first half was just a disaster. The key there was the defense. They were really talented on offense and we were handing them too many possessions. The defense played unbelievable…we gave up 14 but other teams, it could have been over.

“We couldn’t have played worse in terms of turnovers, and we were only down seven. If we just hold onto the ball, I don’t think they can stop us and we can score points. The second half was exactly what we hoped for.”

Barresi came up with another big postseason play, intercepting a pass three plays into the second half. Mansfield’s offense quickly capitalized with a touchdown run fro Ruddy but a rare missed extra point kept the Hornets down.

Nonetheless, Mansfield seemed to seize the momentum it needed. They didn’t turn the ball over at all in the second half and the offense orchestrated two real impressive drives to take the lead and add onto it. First came a 10-play, 59-yard series capped by an 8-yard rush from Hershman (six catches, eight carries, 138 total yards), and a two-point play from Villar-Perez gave Mansfield football a 21-14 advantage with just over three minutes to play in the third.

After another stop from the Hornet defense, Mansfield’s offense went back to work and made sure to take all the time it needed. The Hornets marched 80 yards on 14 plays, taking off nearly eight minutes of time off the clock before Villar-Perez (18 carries, 118 yards) punched it in from in close for a 28-14 lead with 2:38 to play.

“We played probably our best half of the year after playing probably our sloppiest half,” Redding said.

With the win, Mansfield football capped the perfect season at 13-0 and claimed the first-ever true D2 State Championship.






Listening Options:

                                        


Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Opponent
Result
Dunbar (MD)W, 29-26 (Preview)
MiltonW, 21-0
North AttleboroW, 35-14
AttleboroW, 49-42 (Recap)
TauntonW, 42-8
King PhilipW, 20-7 (Recap)
FranklinW, 35-13 (Recap)
WellesleyW, 31-14 (Recap)
NeedhamW, 42-35 (Recap)
BarnstableW, 41-16
WalthamW, 41-0 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 14-7
St. John's ShrewsburyW, 28-14 (Recap)






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Mansfield football

Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football


2013 Mansfield (MA) Hornets Football Highlights from Ryan Lanigan on Vimeo.

Teams of the Decade #9: 2019 Mansfield Football

Mansfield football

Team: Mansfield Football
Year: 2019
Record: 11-1
2019 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2019 Division 2 State Champions


Even though the Mansfield football team walked off the field at Lancer Stadium in Ohio with a loss to La Salle in Week 2, longtime head coach Mike Redding still had a good feeling about his Hornets.

“I was talking to some of our coaches after that game and I said ‘this team can win a state championship,'” Redding said. “Here we are, just lost by 22, but the way we competed out there against a high-level team. It was probably one of the more talented teams we’ve played in 32 years and we came up short on the scoreboard, but if you look at the film play by play, we stood up pretty equally to them.

“The feeling walking off that field…when we go back home and get everybody back on board, we could have a pretty special group that can play against anyone in Massachusetts.”

And that’s exactly what happened. The Hornets bulldozed through their league schedule, grinding out a tough win at KP while outscoring the other four Kelley-Rex opponents 152-28. The playoffs were more of the same as the Hornets limited tournament foes to a total of 15 points through four games played, including a 41-0 rout in the D2 State Championship over Lincoln-Sudbury.

The Mansfield football team opened the season with a convincing win over BC High before hitting the road for a trip to Ohio against La Salle. The Lancers featured at least a dozen Division I commits at the time of the game, including Northwestern bound running back Cameron Porter. While the scoreboard favored the hosts, Mansfield walked away with plenty of positives, including an edge in yardage on offense, and its swarming defense limited Porter to 30 yards on the ground.

The dominance back in Massachusetts wasn’t a gigantic shock as the Hornets entered the season as one of the favorites in both the Hockomock League and in the state. It felt like three years in the making as Mansfield football returned a boatload of returning players with either one or two years experience. Two seasons prior, the Hornets were swept by rival King Philip, who went on to win the state championship. A year prior, Mansfield won the regular season matchup and took home the division title but the Warriors got the last laugh in the playoffs. This season, Mansfield won both meetings, the latter earning a spot in the south final.

 

“I think it was back in January before the season, we were pretty honest with them and told them they had a chance to compete for the league title, which is challenging enough, but when you get in the playoffs, this is a team that can make a run towards a state title,” Redding said. “The last couple of years, we’ve lost a couple of high-level kids due to injuries.

“I think it was a big motivation for a lot of guys in this group because they had come so close before but couldn’t finish on the field because of injuries so they were a pretty hungry group. As coaches, we just hold our breath hoping they stay healthy because they have worked so hard and they deserve a chance to compete, win or lose, and you just don’t want them sitting on the sidelines watching.”

The offense started with senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who was like a coach on the field for the Hornets with his ability to manage the game. It was a pick-your-poison backfield that featured seniors Vinnie Holmes (895 yards, 8 TD), Michael DeBolt (402 yards, 6 TD), and Nick Marciano (334 yards, 6 TD) along with star junior Cincere Gill (979 yards, 10 TD). With the help of a strong, talented offensive line featuring Andrew Cowles, TJ Guy, Jake McCoy, Noah Jellenik, and Jason Comeau, the Hornets could break out a big run on any given play. Moussette (914 yards, 11 TD) connected with receiver Danny Rapoza (4 TD) for a team-high 20 receptions. On top of that, DeBolt was one of the best kickers in the area with nine field goals and 38 successful PATs.

“From the first practice we all knew we had the opportunity to be a special team,” Holmes said. “I think that the first two games prepared us for how we need to play for the rest of the season, fast and physical. We all knew we were going to be faster and more physical than whoever lined up across from us, and the La Salle game sparked that intensity. Bringing that intensity into the league paid off as we were able to get another league title.

“Going into the playoffs we knew we had a great shot at winning a state title if we can keep up our level of play. I think we soared over our original expectations by a long shot outscoring our opponents 121-15 in a four-game span on our way to a state championship season. One thing that stood out to me that I think clicked in the playoff run is that everyone knew their roles and did exactly what they were supposed to and we executed extremely well.”

As dominant as the Hornets were on offense (29.8 points per game), Mansfield’s defense was equally as powerful as they allowed under 10 points per game against some of the best competition in the state. Massachusetts foes averaged just over seven points per game with Mansfield holding opponents to seven points or less in seven contests. Similar to the offense, it all started up front with the line play, including Guy, Chris Graham, Mark DeGirolamo, and Nico Holmes. To complement that group, Mansfield football had a loaded group of linebackers (Holmes, Joe Plath, Paden Palanza) and a very talented secondary (Makhi Baskin, Nick Bertolino).

“I think it was definitely one of the more talented teams I’ve had in the three decades plus that I’ve coached,” Redding said. “It was one of those teams that had the rare combination of being really good up front on the o-line and the d-line, which is usually enough to be competitive, but then you throw in a very, very talented group of skill players on both sides. We had the running backs and receivers, and the linebackers and secondary on defense.

“Top to bottom, it was really hard to find a weakness. So many of them had contributed the previous year or two so they came in with a pretty high level of experience. In high school, if you can put that package of skill, physical and tough kids up front, and a group that’s battle tested and confident, that’s usually a recipe for a championship run.”






Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Opponent
Result
BC HighW, 31-10 (Recap)
La Salle (OH)L, 38-16
TauntonW, 31-6
King PhilipW, 15-13 (Recap)
FranklinW, 39-9 (Recap)
Oliver AmesW, 36-6
AttleboroW, 46-7
MarshfieldW, 24-6
King PhilipW, 34-6 (Recap)
NatickW, 22-3 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 22-12
Lincoln-SudburyW, 41-0 (Recap)






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Mansfield football

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Mansfield football

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Mansfield football


Teams of the Decade #10: 2017 King Philip Football

King Philip football

Team: King Philip football
Year: 2017
Record: 12-0
2017 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2017 Division 2 State Champions


Following an undefeated season and the program’s first state title, the 2017 King Philip football team entered the new year with some question marks. Only two starters were back on offense and just three on the other side of the ball. While those outside the program were understandably wondering how so many new faces would be able to cope with the pressure of being defending champions, the players knew that they had what it took to go back-to-back.

It turned out that the players were absolutely right.

“It wasn’t going undefeated again and going back to the Super Bowl,” KP coach Brian Lee admitted when asked about his expectation heading into the 2017 season. “I think these guys just wanted to show that they could do it too. Once they knew how to get there, that it’s possible, those guys fully expected to go back. They knew their potential better than I did.”

The foundation for the second straight state title was built in the offseason with lifting in the spring and then summer workout programs that saw players get to the field at 6 a.m. every morning. In the preseason, the team spent a week of three-a-days in Maine. The hard work and the shared commitment permeated the roster.

“It just built us all into the team we were that season,” said Shane Frommer, the team’s star running back and linebacker. Being there at 6 in the morning, tired, grinding together, just built so much character in us and bonds that carried into the season to just keep working, to never stop, because you’re fighting for your brothers.”

Frommer was one of the key returning players, along with quarterback Brendan Lydon, defensive back Andrew Dittrich, defensive end Evan Rice, and receiver Dylan Leonard. Over the course of the season, players like linebackers Jack Webster and Max Armour, receiver Tom Madden, lineman Anthony Vahue, and tight end Jack Piller were some of the players that emerged as standouts, most of them on both sides of the ball.

 

King Philip football is a defense-first program and on that side of the ball, under the guidance of Lee and defensive coordinator Matt Wassell, the Warriors put up numbers that were even better than the 2016 team. The defense allowed only five teams to score in the second half that season, no team scored more than once after halftime, and only two opponents in the final nine weeks avoided a second half shutout.

“That’s our emphasis,” said Lee. “Let’s put our best dudes on defense, let’s spend more time in practice on defense, let’s do all the things that make other people spend time on offense.” He continued, “The defense just got better every week. We really relied on them a ton in 2017.”

Frommer credited the coaches for getting the team in the right spots. He added, “If we all know our assignments every play then we can all fly around and tackle the ball. If we’re doing our own jobs, then it’s just going to happen.”

The undefeated season may have come to an abrupt end in week four if not for a big play on defense by Frommer. Mansfield was dominating, already up 10-0, and with the ball in the red zone with a chance to break the game open before halftime. Dittrich got his hand to a pass that Frommer picked off and took 96 yards for a score that cut the lead to three. KP would score 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a Frommer touchdown and rolled to a 28-10 win.

“We were up against the ropes right there,” Lee said. “Now, we’re only down three and we can play and we’re only going to get better. Getting that win really launched us into, maybe we’ve got something special here.”

Over the course of its three straight trips to the Super Bowl, KP became known for its ability to come back in games and make the plays it needed down the stretch to secure a win. Lee said, “We really got good at playing under pressure. We were comfortable in tough situations. It was great to see, the tighter the game got the more confident they felt.”

That resilience showed again the week after coming back against the Hornets when Cole Baker’s field goal pulled out a 17-14 win against Franklin. It was on display again in the Div. 2 South quarterfinal when a rematch against Mansfield went down to the wire and the Warriors pulled out a 13-11 victory at Macktaz Field with all the points coming in the first half.

After beating Bridgewater-Raynham to win the South title, KP was back at Gillette Stadium to take on Lincoln-Sudbury and its high-flying offense. This time, the coaches were prepared for the unique challenges of playing in a Super Bowl and tried to take advantage of the rule changes, such as the shorter quarters, to slow down the L-S offense.

On KP’s first possession of the second half, trailing 7-0, Lydon stretched a play out to get a first down and in the process suffered an injury that sent him to the bench. Sophomore Robert Jarest was forced to step in under center. Not surprisingly, there were some jitters and the first snap was fumbled. Two plays later, Jarest made the play that may have turned the game around when he hit Madden for 38 yards down to the L-S 23.

Three Frommer carries later, KP had tied the game.

“We didn’t really know what, at that time, Robbie was going to be,” said Lee. “What he had was the same skill set as Brendan, in that he expected to have success and the moments weren’t too big for him. Once we scored, everything changed in that game in terms of our ability to totally believe that we’re going to win.”

Frommer rushed for more than 100 yards in the Super Bowl, despite playing with a painful hip pointer. He was named the HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and Kelley-Rex division MVP.

“He just had such a will about him to win and to compete and making himself better,” said Lee about Frommer. “It was one of those rare combinations where your best player is also your hardest working player. He really carried us there.”

A strip sack by Webster put the Warriors in position to grab the lead late in the fourth quarter. Baker set aside an earlier miss and split the uprights from 31 yards to put KP ahead to stay. Lee said of his sophomore kicker, “I don’t think it was a coincidence that in KP history that the one time we have a dude who can kick field goals are the three years we were in the Super Bowl.”

Fittingly, the defense completed another second half shutout to close out the state title and extend KP’s win streak to 25 games.

Lee tried to put into perspective how difficult it was to go unbeaten for two years. He said, “Everybody lifts now, everybody watches film, it’s so hard to gain an advantage on an opponent because everybody is working so hard. You’ve got to have a few breaks obviously and the way the playoffs are it’s about staying healthy.”

For Frommer and the rest of the King Philip football seniors, the championship was the culmination of the work that started in the weight room in the spring.

“Just thinking back, it was the best time of my life,” said Frommer, voice cracking as he reflected on the final moments of his high school football career. “Going back to Gillette with my buddies that I played Pop Warner with and just seeing it all pay off that senior year and all the work we put in. It was an unbelievable feeling. The bonds we built between all the people, you’re going to have those forever.”






King Philip football
King Philip football

Teams of the Decade
Teams of the Decade

Opponent
Result
North AttleboroW, 24-14 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 16-7 (Recap)
AttleboroW, 42-14
MansfieldW, 28-10 (Recap)
FranklinW, 17-14
Oliver AmesW, 42-0
TauntonW, 35-7
BarnstableW, 35-20
MansfieldW, 13-11 (Recap)
Bridgewater-RaynhamW, 29-19
FranklinW, 28-0
Lincoln-SudburyW, 10-7 (Recap)






Teams of the Decade
Teams of the Decade
King Philip football

King Philip football

King Philip football

King Philip football


King Philip football
King Philip football

King Philip football

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King Philip football

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Teams of the Decade
Teams of the Decade


Videos via Tim Crowley

Attleboro’s Murphy Signs With NY Giants As An UDFA

Kyle Murphy
Former Attleboro Bombardier Kyle Murphy signed with the New York Giants on Saturday as an undrafted free agent. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
Attleboro graduate Kyle Murphy didn’t hear his name called during the 2020 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean the former Bombardier isn’t getting a chance to live out his dreams to play professional football.

Minutes after the seventh and final round concluded on Saturday evening, Murphy announced via his Twitter account that he had signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants.

Murphy shined for four years on the gridiron at Attleboro High, earning Hockomock League All Star honors as both a junior and a senior. He also played basketball at Attleboro High, earning all star honorable mention honors twice. He went on to play football for four years at the University of Rhode Island and was one of three Rams in consideration for this year’s draft along with receivers Isaiah Coulter and Aaron Parker.

Coulter was drafted by the Houston Texas and Parker reportedly signed with the Dallas Cowboys after the draft.

Murphy, a 6’3, 316-pound offensive lineman started at all three positions along the offensive line, including center, during his four-year career with the Rams. As a senior, he was selected as a team captain and was a two-time all-Colonial Athletic Association First Team selection. He was named to four All-America First Teams (Athlon Sports FCS Postseason, STATS FCS, Hero Sports, and Phil Steele FCS) and one All-America second team (Associated Press). He made 10 appearances as a freshman at URI and 11 in each of the past three seasons.

 

Check out some of Murphy’s highlights from this past season courtesy of ABC6.

Longtime Assistants Get First Head Coaching Jobs

Canton hired offensive coordinator Anthony Fallon and Milford hired former offensive coordinator Dale Olsen to be their respective head coaches next fall. (HockomockSports.com)

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A pair of longtime assistant football coaches will get their first chance at head jobs this fall, as Canton promoted offensive coordinator Anthony Fallon and Milford hired former offensive coordinator Dale Olsen to fill their respective head coaching vacancies.

Fallon called the offense for the Div. 5 South finalist Bulldogs last season under head coach Dave Bohane, who stepped down in January after his 14th season in charge (over two stints, from 1994-98 and 2011-19). Fallon is a Canton grad and a member of the 1987 Super Bowl-winning team. His first coaching job was as an assistant at Canton and he has also spent time with the Bellingham and Millis programs.

“I was with Dave through the whole process of him stepping down,” Fallon explained, adding that he spoke with other members of the staff, many of whom have been with the Bulldogs for years, before applying for the position. That continuity within the program is important to Fallon.

He said, “Dave and I kind of cut our teeth together when we first started, so there’s not going to be a whole lot difference in me putting my own stamp on this. I just want to carry on the traditions that have been established with maybe some new twists.”

While this will be his first stint as head coach, Fallon is counting on his experience to make the transition easier for himself and for the players. Fallon said, “I’ve coached with six or seven different head coaches and four of them were first-year guys, so I’ve seen what can go wrong in the first year. I know some of the pitfalls that can happen.”

“Knowing the kids, knowing the culture, and knowing the coaching staff,” he added, “that will give the kids some comfort, knowing what the expectations are already with just a few changes.”

Canton is coming off back-to-back Davenport division titles and back-to-back trips to the D5 South final, but will graduate a large, talented senior class and will have numerous spots to fill this fall.

 

“You can never replace a talented class like that,” said Fallon, “but we’ll have talented kids come through. If we keep building off the tradition of hard-nosed football and working hard, we’ll be fine and we’ll do well.”

Olsen has also spent two decades on the sidelines as an assistant coach, including four years with Fallon at Millis, where the Mohawks brought home a state championship. He spent the 2018 season at Milford as the offensive coordinator but stepped aside last season to spend time with his young son and to help former Millis and Milford standout Kevin Pyne prepare for playing offensive line at Boston College.

He is taking over for Anthony Vizakis, who stepped down after three years in charge. Olsen was on Vizakis’ staff two seasons ago. When he saw that the Milford job was open, Olsen spoke with his family, including his twin brother Dana, who he coached under at Millis.

“I knew I was going to get back into the game but I didn’t think it was going to be that quick,” he admitted. ”The opportunity arose and I sat down to talk with my wife and she said I should go for it, talked to my brother and from there it just happened.”

Like Fallon at Canton, Olsen is counting on his familiarity with the program and the players to hit the ground running. “I’d say 70 percent of the team knows my brother and I,” Olsen said. “So I think it will be a pretty smooth transition that way. They’ve been kind of running the offense that I ran there two years ago, so I don’t think we’ll skip a beat offensively.”

Milford has made the playoffs in four of the last six seasons, but has only advanced out of the first round of the postseason once and has never finished better than 3-2 in league play. It is a program with a history of success though and Olsen is looking forward to the challenge of “waking a sleeping giant.” One of the reasons for his confidence is the talented senior class that he has coming back in the fall.

“I’m super excited,” Olsen said. “Milford has had great football for a long, long time. There’s a big senior class there. They were junior-heavy last year and I think we lose three kids on offense, three kids on defense.”

The Hawks will face the difficult task of moving into the Kelley-Rex division next season and squaring off with teams in higher divisions.

We’re looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge. Milford is a Div. 3 school and six out of our seven opponents are D1 or D2. I look forward to it. There’s a special group of seniors next year, so I think we can more than hold our own.”

Fallon and Olsen are not only longtime assistants getting their first shot at running a program, but also longtime friends and both are proud to share the experience of being a first-time head coach in the same season.

“It’s kind of unique,” said Fallon about Olsen also getting a head coaching postion. “He’s been doing it a very long time and he’s a great friend and a great coach. He’ll do good things in Milford.”

Olsen added, “It’s well-deserved on his part. He’s done a lot for kids and he’s a great coach. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time and the only sad thing is that we won’t be able to play each other next year because we’re moving up.”

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.”