MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Hornets won the coin toss and elected to defer possession to the second half. With senior Diogo DeSousa kicking with the wind at his back, Mansfield coach Mike Redding knew that he could pin the Bombardiers deep in their own zone.
The strategy worked perfectly. Mansfield started all but two first half possessions in Attleboro territory and the two that started in the Hornets’ half of the field were at the 49 and the 48. Mansfield cashed in every time, scoring each of the first five times it touched the ball and cruised to a comprehensive 38-7 victory at Alumni Field in the league opener for both teams.
“Diogo with wind is going to get it in the end zone and we get three and outs, we get good field position, we get big plays early,” Redding explained. “They gave us a couple of breaks and we took advantage.”
After a three and out to start the game, Mansfield started its first possession at the Attleboro 40. Kristian Conner rushed for 15 yards to the left, Nick Graham went for 11 up the middle, and Will Garvin broke a 15-yard carry on a counter. Joe Cox capped the short drive with a one-yard plunge to put the Hornets on top.
Attleboro got off to a good start on its next possession with Tyler McGovern (7-16, 61 yards) hit James Weir down the seam for 21 yards. But on the next play, Cam Furtado had the ball ripped loose by Julio Arevalo who kept hold of it and returned the fumble 34 yards to the one. Anthony DeGirolamo scored on a QB sneak on the next play and it was 14-0.
“That was a big turnover for us,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan admitted. “I think that was a big play in terms of momentum and it got kind of blustery there and it pinned us. We’ve got to regroup.”
Another three and out gave the Hornets the ball at their own 49. Four plays later, on fourth and three from the Attleboro 44, Graham took a toss sweep to the left and cut it back inside, finding a hole and taking it to the house for a 21-0, first quarter lead.
The mistakes continued for the Bombardiers with the next possession ending on a low snap that flew past McGovern and was recovered by Jareme Dilorenzo at the six. Two plays later, DeGirolamo hit Hunter Ferreira on the near sideline for a four-yard score.
“It was absolutely brutal for us,” Strachan said, “but we need to find a way as a team to fight through that adversity. We didn’t and they’re just that much more seasoned then us and we’re going to go through some growing pains.”
Ben Budwey returned an Attleboro punt 12 yards to the Bombardiers 27 where Mansfield started its fifth possession. Again the Hornets took advantage of the short field. Cox had two carries for 20 yards and Graham ended the drive with a seven-yard carry up the middle for his second touchdown of the game.
Redding credited the play of the offensive and defensive lines for the dominating performance.
“He’s just a one-man wrecking crew,” said Redding of Arevalo. “Andrew Ducharme, [Shayne] McCoyis playing great at d-end, the young kid [Colbey] Eason is playing well at tackle, [A.J.] Gibbs and [Colin] Gibbons are great guards and they’re just the hidden secret here on why we’re turning the corner.”
Redding continued, “We do have good skill guys but they’re only as good as the guys in front of them. I think our guys on the O- and D-line are very underrated, not real big but tough and athletic. They’re playing really good football now.”
The Bombardiers tried to get back into the game in the second half. McGovern hit Weir again down the seam for 21 yards to the Mansfield 19. After a six-yard gain by Marc Dieu, McGovern hit Elvin Sam for a 13-yard touchdown. The ensuing kick bounced in front of the Hornets’ returner and was recovered by Malik Mcalister-Pruitt. The comeback ended on a turnover on downs at the Mansfield 19.
“They’re a good football team and they’re better than us,” said Strachan. “I think it’s that simple. In every aspect of the game, they came to play and they caught us early.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids who played tonight and it’s going to be that way for us the rest of the year… We just need to get better as the season goes on.”
DeSousa tacked on a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring. Mansfield will head into next week’s showdown with King Philip clicking in all four phases and Redding was already thinking ahead to next Friday.
“We’ve got another huge one next week,” he said. “It won’t determine the league title but whoever wins is certainly in the driver’s seat moving forward. With North leaving the division, it’s kind of us and KP taking over as maybe one of the better rivalries.
“Buy a ticket early for next Friday. It should be a great atmosphere and a great game…As good as we’ve played, we need to bring our ‘A-plus’ game to stop King Philip.”
Mansfield football (2-1) will host King Philip (3-0), which beat Oliver Ames 42-6 on Friday, at Alumni Field next week. Attleboro (1-2) will look to end a two-game losing streak when it hosts Taunton (1-2).