WRENTHAM, Mass. – Mansfield had Thursday night’s game in its grasp. It was only the second quarter, but the Hornets were on the verge of capping a dominant first half with another score and building a three-score advantage before the teams headed back into the locker room.
With 1:33 left in the half and the ball at the King Philip 10, Mansfield quarterback Damani Scott dropped deep and fired the ball towards Danny DeGirolamo (11 carries, 51 yards). The senior running back was well covered but almost pulled it in. The ball was deflected into the air and fell right into the hands of KP senior Shane Frommer.
The Yale University-commit hauled in the interception and took off down the suddenly energized KP sideline. He went 96 yards untouched to pull the Warriors back within three points and send the team into the half with a renewed purpose.
“It completely changed momentum for us,” Frommer explained after the game. “We were a little down, but right when I got the pick-six all of us got up again and we knew we had to finish it. We knew we were going to win.”
The interception turned the tide and King Philip never looked back. The Warriors scored 28 unanswered points, 21 of those in the fourth quarter, and pulled out a 28-10 victory over the Hornets at Macktaz Field, running the program’s win streak to 17 games.
Although it was not the game-winning score and it was a full quarter before KP added another point, both coaches highlighted the interception as the turning point in a battle between the two Kelley-Rex division favorites.
“We were up against ropes bad,” KP coach Brian Lee admitted. “We had nothing going and Shane…you have a dude for a reason. Everything was going wrong – pass interference and then we let them get a big run – and we had no answer. Then, bang, we get a play and we’re back in it.”
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “They’re good, they’re aggressive, but it’s just so frustrating when you play well for 22 minutes and one play completely flipped things.”
Even without injured senior Joe Cox, Mansfield went with the ground game right from the opening kick. It worked on the opening drive, as the Hornets marched 80 yards, all but nine on the ground, in 14 plays to take an immediate 7-0 lead. DeGirolamo capped the possession with a nine-yard run on a toss to the left.
KP ran only three plays before Brendan Lydon was intercepted by Hunter Ferreira, who returned the ball to the Warriors 30. After a pair of incomplete passes from Scott (4-21, 91 yards), Redding elected to go for the field goal and Mike DeBolt split the uprights from 37 yards.
The Warriors moved the ball on its next possession, but were forced to punt and Mansfield came right back down the field. Aidan Sacco (10 carries, 71 yards) converted one third down and Ferreira drew a pass interference call on a third and 10 to keep the possession alive. After Scott scrambled and found Ferreira for a spectacular 19-yard catch on the sideline, it looked like the Hornets were about to break it open, but Frommer stepped in and changed the storyline.
“Down 10, we knew we had to keep fighting,” he explained. “I knew I had to make a big play for the team. Luckily my teammate tipped it up for me and right when I picked it I knew I was going for six.”
Redding said, “The defense played great for the whole half and at minimum, if we get the field goal, it’s 13-0. It’s just a weird play. We go up and grab it and he ends up with it and we have no one to cover the pick. It’s just a huge flip.”
The second half was all KP. Although the first drive stalled at midfield, the defense held Mansfield to just six offensive plays in the third quarter (and 16 offensive plays in the entire second half). Evan Rice was involved in three sacks of Scott, including a big 15-yard loss in the fourth.
“The kids were just playing a little bit harder, again getting life with the big play,” Lee said. “I’m very pleased with the resiliency of the team.”
Mansfield had bottled up the KP rushing attack, but the Warriors turned to Lydon (8-18, 110 yards) to make plays. Jack Piller came up with a sliding grab for 25 yards and three plays later Lydon scrambled to bide time before hitting Dylan Leonard, who had come all the way across the field, for a 19-yard score and a 14-10 lead.
Following a Luke D’Amico interception, KP added another score. On fourth and 10 from the Mansfield 31, Lydon found Thomas Madden open in the middle of the field and the senior receiver broke tackles on his way to the end zone.
“We have to be more balanced,” said Lee. “We can’t just line up and do what we did last year. Going forward that’s something we’ll have to figure out. We’re still figuring out our pieces.”
Redding added, “They get a little momentum and they fed off it and we battled on ‘D’ but we gave them way too many plays. We couldn’t get any first downs.”
Another interception, this time by Jack Webster, gave KP back the ball at its own 39 with time winding down. The player who changed the game was also the one that ended it. Frommer burst through the middle of the line and broke off a 47-yard run for his second touchdown of the game.
He said, “It was a 25-power and I was going to be right behind my tackle, Anthony Vahue, he’s always been a leader for us and I knew right when the play was called this is going for six. I followed right behind him, saw him take out the linebacker, and I knew I was going for six.”
With the victory, King Philip (4-0, 2-0) extends its winning streak to 17 games, which is the longest active streak in the state. The Warriors will put it on the line next Friday with a trip to Franklin. Mansfield (3-1, 1-1) will look to bounce back and keep the pressure on KP when it hosts Taunton next week.
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