By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
FOXBORO, Mass. – If there’s one thing that Stoughton football has been able to hang its hat on for the past couple of years, it’s been defense.
If there was a second thing, it’d be running the ball.
With New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on hand for part of the first half, Stoughton used those two signature traits to pick up a key 14-0 win over previously unbeaten Foxboro on Friday night, keeping their playoff hopes alive and throwing their hat into a three way tie for the lead in the Davenport with the Warriors and Canton.
“It was a great game,” Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. “We’ve got some tough kids and we finally got our running game going and we went back to our three or four plays, that’s all we need. I don’t know what they had for total offense [yardage]. I think we deserved the win, I really do. The kids played great defense. Foxboro ran around a little bit but we made sure the kids stayed in their zones. We worked on not running around and not losing guys.”
The defense set the tone for the Black Knights, forcing a fumble and recovering on Foxboro’s opening drive only for it to be erased by an offsides call. But just two plays later, Stoughton was stuffing the Warriors on a fourth down rush to force the turnover on downs.
That’s when Stoughton’s second signature – the running game – came into play. Of the 50 plays that Stoughton ran on offense (minus a pair of QB kneels), 46 if them were either counters, sweeps or bursts right up the middle.
The first 11 of those plays were all rushing plays with Ryan Sullivan, Jake Gibb, Jordan Taylor and Izon Swain-Price all contrubting. On the 11th play of Stoughton’s opening series, Swain-Price broke a tackle up the left side and ran in for a 19 yard touchdown. Gibb’s extra point was good the Stoughton took a 7-0 lead.
The Warriors moved the ball some to start their next drive but eventually stalled at the start of the second quarter near midfield and were forced to punt. Quarterback Mark Clagg started in shotgun before dropping all the way back to punt formation. He took the snap and then took off running but Stoughton’s defense was alert and made the stop to get the ball back on downs.
Once again Stoughton went to the ground and moved the ball, highlighted by a 15 yard run from Taylor (13 carries, 60 yards). The Black Knights faced 3rd and 2 from the Foxboro nine yard line but a false start pushed them back five yards and a tipped pass on third down went incomplete. Gibb attempted a 31 yard field goal but it was just wide to the right.
Stoughton’s defense forced Foxboro into a punt six plays later but the Black Knights would be forced to kick it back. With under a minute to play, Stoughton attempted to punt but Jamaine Few came flying in for the block to give the ball to Foxboro at the Black Knights’ 32 yard line.
The Black Knights’ defense came up with a play right away though as Xzavian Marrero used good vision on the first play to get an interception and put an end to any hope of the Warriors scoring in the first half.
Coming out at halftime the Black Knights were able to double the lead on the opening drive. Nine yards from Sullivan on first down was followed two plays later by a sneak from Gibb to move the chains. Sullivan ran for seven more then Guy Eddy added four. Swain-Price’s (10 carries 97 yards) speed was key on the next play as he raced 55 yards to get inside the Foxboro five yard line, only stopped by a great hustle play from Austin Ryan.
Two plays later, Sullivan (15 carries, 61 yards) dove into the end zone to make it 14-0 Stoughton with 7:13 left in the third quarter.
“We just couldn’t establish any rhythm,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said. “It was 7-0 at half and we’ve been there before. They came out and did what every coach wants his team to do. If you have the ball you want to score and make it a two score game and they did that. Give them a lot of credit.”
It was a much improved look for Stoughton’s offensive line, who had struggled in the opening game of the season weeks ago. Now with some changes, Matt Soto, Matt Medina, Brendan Walsh, Donnie Foley, Lino Azul and tight end Jack Connelly stood tall and helped Stoughton rack up 245 yards on the ground.
“It’s a whole new line and they’re strong kids,” Burke said. “They are tough and blood and guts and they don’t quit. They’ve done great and they’re getting better. We’re back in the hunt for the league title now but the big goal, our first goal is to get into the playoffs. We have to win next week. I’m just so proud of the Stoughton kids, we’re never going to quit. They are as tough as they come. They could have packed it in after last week but they didn’t, they worked harder.”
oxboro put together it’s longest drive of the game next, moving into Stoughton territory to the 36 yard line but an incompletion on second down was followed by a sack from Stoughton senior Devlin Carroll and the Warriors had to punt again. The Black Knights, who didn’t complete a pass on three attempts, were able to kill more of the clock on six running plays before having to punt.
Marrero was at it again just two plays later as he leaped up to haul in his second interception and gave the ball back to the Black Knights.
“Terrific, he had two huge interceptions,” Burke said.
With the win, Stoughton improves to 3-3 overall but more importantly, 3-1 in the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division. Foxboro suffered its first loss and missed out on a chance to clinch at least a share of the division title. The Warriors now sit at 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the division. Canton, a team that beat Stoughton but lost to Foxboro, is also 5-1 and 3-1 in the Davenport, meaning there could be a three-way tie for the title if all three teams win next week.
Stoughton will travel to Milford and Canton will take a trip to Sharon on Saturday the 24th while Foxboro travels to Oliver Ames on Friday the 23rd.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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