NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Even down by eight points and with a zero on the score board midway through the third quarter, Foxboro had confidence that its offense could figure things out. The top scoring team in the league, averaging more than 42 points per game heading into Friday night’s visit to Community Field, it felt like only a matter of time until the Warriors hit a big play.
It turned out that the confidence was far from misplaced. Foxboro scored on three straight possessions, needing only four plays combined, to flip the game around and beat North Attleboro 21-14, putting the Warriors in the driver’s seat to win its first league title since 2015 and first outright league title since 2010.
“They weren’t down,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli. “They weren’t doubting themselves. We just kind of had the will to hang in there and rely on the kids who’ve done it all year.”
He added, “Those kids (North) played their hearts out too. It was kind of a game that nobody should’ve lost and nobody should’ve won, but I’m sure glad we did.”
Leading 2-0 coming out of halftime, North tried to put together one of its patented long scoring drives to take control, but things stalled around midfield and the Rocketeers were forced to punt. On Foxboro’s first play of the third quarter, Dylan Gordon coughed up the ball trying to extend a play and Kaiden Leary recovered for North at the Warriors 25.
Two plays later, freshman Chase Frisoli (7-of-17, 71 yards) hit Gavin Wellss, who started on the opposite side of the field and worked his way across the entire secondary, at the front pylon for a 24-yard score. The extra point was no good.
On the first play of Foxboro’s next possession, Gordon (17 carries, 142 yards) finally broke free, bursting through the line for 30 yards into North territory. The next play finished in the end zone. Tom Marcucella, who only completed three passes on the night, fired the ball out to Rashaad Way (three receptions, 146 yards) on a receiver screen. Way somehow tiptoed down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown. The same duo combined on a two-point conversion to tie it.
North’s momentum may have been stalled, but the Rocketeers followed that with their best drive of the night. The hosts went 72 yards on 11 plays to regain the advantage. It was all done on the ground, as Tyler Bannon (17 carries, 97 yards) and Tyler DeMattio (21 carries, 109 yards) pounded out six first downs. DeMattio capped the drive with a one-yard plunge, taking a hit that sent his helmet flying in the process.
There was a long injury break before North lined up for the conversion and Bannon was stuffed at the one to keep the score 14-8.
Foxboro took over at its own 28. Just 13 seconds later, the Warriors had their first lead. Gordon flashed through the middle of the line untouched and sailed past the North secondary for a 72-yard touchdown run. Sam Carpenter’s kick put Foxboro ahead.
After forcing a three-and-out, the visitors took over at their own 42. A holding call backed them up an additional 10 yards, but that just added extra yards for Way to burn through. Another screen pass from Marcucella got Way into space and he did the rest, blowing past the secondary for 68 yards.
“That was our fear going in, they have that big-play capability,” North coach Don Johnson said. “Every single play Rashaad can score on the edge and Gordon inside. We didn’t give them any big plays in the first half and they hit them in the second half.”
North’s next drive reached Foxboro territory, but Bannon was dropped for a loss of one on second and six from the 40. Frisoli was then brought down on a keeper for no gain by Ryan Addeche and Steve Bridges. On fourth and seven, Frisoli went deep but Way made an acrobatic interception. North would get one more chance starting at its own 42, but this time it was Dylan Kerrigan stepping in to make the pick and seal the win.
It was appropriate that the defense got to make the final play for the Warriors because it was the defense that kept Foxboro in the game in the first half. North was getting pressure in the backfield from the opening kick, with DeMattio flying through for a sack to end Foxboro’s first drive and Bannon getting one on the second. Bannon turned the game around with a booming 50-yard punt that pinned Foxboro inside its own 10 to start the second quarter. Three plays later, Bannon got through on the punt block, knocking the ball out the back of the end zone for a safety.
“We hung around,” Martinelli said. “We bent defensively, but it didn’t hurt us on the scoreboard. It could’ve been a lot worse at halftime, not only on the scoreboard but emotionally and that didn’t happen.”
The Rocketeers had chances to break the game open, starting each of the next three possessions in Foxboro territory. Andrew Finn’s sack and a holding call stymied the first drive. Good pressure from Addeche helped slow down another drive in the red zone, which ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down. A good tackle by Gordon and more penalties helped keep the third drive from ending in points.
“We shot ourselves in the foot too often,” Johnson explained. “We had more holding calls in the first half then we’ve had all season. That was a big difference maker. We should’ve had more points and had a little lead to work with.”
He added, “We gave them too many opportunities.”
Foxboro nearly grabbed the lead heading into the locker room. Marcucella nearly was intercepted by Garrett Ingelese on first down but Gordon followed with a nice run and Way caught his first pass of the night and broke it 38 yards to set up a short Carpenter kick. The Rocketeers were able to get a tip on it and it stayed 2-0 at the break.
“At halftime, we just said it’s 2-0,” Martinelli said. “It’s a long game, especially with the 12-minute periods. The big play kids made the big plays. Gordon, Marcucella to Rashaad, then Kerrigan on defense all with big plays.”
Foxboro (5-1, 2-0) will travel to Canton next week looking to secure at least a share of the league title. North Attleboro (2-3, 1-1) will try to keep the pressure on Foxboro and keep alive hopes for a split with a trip to Oliver Ames.