MANSFIELD, Mass. – All Cincere Gill wanted was a second chance, and he didn’t have to wait very long to get one.
On the first offensive series after seeing a potential touchdown pass slip through his hands, Gill took the first handoff 64 yards for a touchdown to give the Hornets a two-touchdown lead and sparked Mansfield to a 31-10 win over visiting BC High.
Locked in a tight game, senior quarterback Jack Moussette delivered a perfect pass over the top to Gill, who had beat two defenders. But instead of a long touchdown pass, the Hornets had to punt.
As it did all night, Mansfield’s defense came through on the ensuing drive by forcing a three and out and getting the Hornets the ball back at thrown 36-yard line. Hornet head coach Mike Redding gave Gill the chance to redeem himself, and the junior back turned on the jets to get around the right side and sprinted to the end zone.
“I told the guys to go pat him on the back, get him back into it,” Redding said after the drop. “And the next series, he pops the big run. That’s a sign of maturity…last year he might have struggled to get the confidence back. But he got the big touchdown the next drive. I like the way he responded, had the big run which I thought was the turning point of the second half. We were struggling [offensively] but getting stops. It was still 10-3 or a close ball game there so popping that long run gave us breathing room.
“With Cincere, if you make a mistake and don’t have a guy to slow him down, he gets momentum and it’s going to be tough to track him down.”
Gill finished with 106 rushing yards and two touchdowns while senior Michael DeBolt (148 all-purpose yards) accounted for 19 points for the Hornets, scoring two rushing touchdowns, kicking a field goal, and connecting on four extra points.
While the Hornets finished with 31 points, it wasn’t until the second half that the offense really clicked. On the opening drive and on fourth down, Gill scored on a 29 yard run with a major assist to Nico Holmes, who came up with a huge block to create some space.
Mansfield only had two more drives in the first half: a 14-play, 52-yard drive ended with a missed field goal. And just before the half, Mansfield settled for a buzzer-beating field goal despite strong starting field position.
Meanwhile, the defense came up with some big stops to prevent the Eagles from tying the game. BC High’s second drive of the game even had a first and goal at the Hornet 2-yard line but had to settle for a field goal. Junior Matt Boen had a sack on first down and a pass break up on second down. After a rushed throw on third down, Cormac Kennelly connected on a 25-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
Two series later, BC High went for it on 4th and 4 from their own 41-yard line but junior Jake McCoy came through with an 11-yard sack. That allowed the Hornets to grab a field goal as time expired and a 10-3 lead at half.
“The defense had a great preseason,” Redding said. “People have talked about our skill guys on offense but the defense has a lot of guys back. We’re not very big at all but we get after the ball, we’re good tacklers. I thought [the defense] held us together because we had some offensive struggles at times, some bad series. When we did that, the defense got us the ball back until we got into a rhythm. That’s big, getting stops when you’re struggling on offense.”
After Gill’s big run put the Hornets ahead 17-3, the flood gates seemed to open up a bit for Mansfield.
The Hornets needed just five plays to score on their next drive. Vinnie Holmes helped the Hornets move the chains early in the drive, but facing 3rd and 10, Moussette hit DeBolt on a screen and he went the rest of the way, scampering 48 yards for a touchdown with Danny Rapoza coming up with a key block downfield.
After BC High found the end zone for the first time, Mansfield needed just two plays to respond. DeBolt cut into some space along the left side and raced past the defense for a 79-yard touchdown.
“We are [a big play offense], we might get stuffed a play or two but if you can get Cincere or Mike in open space, you can go 60 yards in a hurry,” Redding said. “We might not be able to grind it out on a regular basis, but if the defense makes a mistake, we’re able to pop one. I thought the offensive line played well tonight against a really big, physical front. We threw well enough to keep them honest. I didn’t think we’d score 31 against them but we had a pretty good night offensively.”
Mansfield football (1-0) hits the road for an out of state clash in Ohio next week, taking on LaSalle on Friday night at 7:00.