It turned out to be worth the wait.
The Hornets tied the game with under a minute to go and then scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion in both overtime periods to upend the Rocketeers, 31-29, in double overtime at Community Field.
It marked the first time the rivals played one another in overtime.
“It was a special environment here at Community, one of the last old school places. I have such respect for their coaches, we knew they were going to be ready to play,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “I thought we just hung on in the second half. It wasn’t going our way, we couldn’t get much going. We did just enough.”
North Attleboro was close to putting the game out of reach with just over four minutes to play. Nathan Shultz sliced through the Mansfield defense to the tune of 65 yards to put the Rocketeers in prime position near the red zone. North got a first down but nothing more as Mansfield’s defense held, forcing the Big Red into a field goal attempt.
The Hornets got a second life when the 28-yard attempt went wide, but they had just 4:11 to play with no timeouts and 80 yards to gain.
Junior Conner Zukowski (18-for 29, 302 yards, four touchdowns) led the game-tying drive for the Hornets. After converting a third down early in the drive, the Hornets went on to march 80 yards on 10 plays, finished off when Zukowski floated one to sophomore Trevor Foley (7 catches, 113 yards, three touchdowns) in the corner of the end zone. Zukowski also hit Dana Johnson three times on the drive for 63 yards.
Foley hauled in the two-point conversion pass right at the goal line, was hit back, stayed on his feet, and then stretched out over the line to tie the game, 15-15, with 0:49 seconds to play.
“I felt like we really played young in the first half but in the second half we showed a lot of character, they really stepped up and played like veterans,” Redding said. “Every week I think we’ll make progress but we just have to learn to play for four quarters.”
Mansfield started on offense for the first overtime and on the first play, Zukowski went right back to Foley, floating one to the back right corner and the 6’4 sophomore did the rest, out-leaping the defender to grab the score. Zukowski found Drew Sacco cutting across the middle for the two-point conversion and the Hornets jumped ahead 23-15.
North got the ball down to the 1-yard line on its first three plays and senior Tyler DeMattio — who made the switch from quarterback to running back this week — bulldozed his way in on fourth down to keep North alive. Freshman quarterback Chase Frisoli (6-for-9, 86 yards) fired a low bullet and Gavin Wells made a nice catch for the two-point conversion to knot it 23-23 and send it to double overtime.
The Rocketeers took their turn on offense first and despite a big push from the Hornet defensive line, DeMattio (19 carries, 65 yards) was able to bounce it outside and scamper into the end zone. A false start pushed North back five yards and the conversion pass was swatted away by Foley at the goal line.
On Mansfield’s first play, Zukowski backpedaled before dumping off a screen pass to Rocco Scarpellini, who broke free of a pair of tackles to get into the end zone. On the two-point try, Zukowski lofted a pass to the back left of the end zone to Foley for the win.
“It was a great game, both teams played tough and it’s tough for any team to walk away from a game like this with a loss,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “We’d rather but on the other side of it but I’m proud of our kids, especially after the disappointing loss last week. I thought our kids worked really hard to bounce back.
“We played better. We didn’t play good enough to win but we played better this week than we did last week so we’re happy about that. And with the new rating system, a two-point loss isn’t so bad anymore.”
Mansfield opened the game with a touchdown on the first drive. The Hornets went 3-for-3 on third down on the drive, moving the ball all the way down to the 2-yard line after Zukowski linked up with Foley for 26 yards. A high snap forced Mansfield into a 3rd and goal from the 24 but Zukowski found Foley in one-on-one coverage on the left side. James Gilleran’s point after put the visitors up 7-0 with 7:16 left in the first quarter.
North was forced to punt but DeMattio pinned the Hornets at their own 2-yard line. The ball came free on a handoff attempt and it was ruled DeMattio recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. A scramble on the point after attempt ended up intercepted and Mansfield held its advantage at 7-6 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
“We had used him last year at back in the Century Game so it’s always been in the package but it gives us the ability to do some different things on offense, and it also lets us play him on defense,” Johnson said of moving DeMattio from quarterback to running back and linebacker. “We haven’t had the luxury to have him play both ways but he’s a senior now, sometimes you have to roll the dice and just get your best players on the field.”
Wells put an end to another Mansfield drive with an interception and the Rocketeers forced a punt on the next series. Tyler Bannon converted a third down with a 12-yard run, and Shultz followed suit with a 12-yard run on his own, followed by a late hit call to get the hosts inside the 10-yard line.
Mansfield drove into North territory late in the first half, going 65 yards on eight plays but Danny Curran read the pass perfectly and stepped in front for an interception in the end zone to prevent any further damage, keeping a 15-7 lead at halftime.
The defenses were the stars for the majority of the second half. North was forced to punt after a three-and-out to start the second half, fumbled on its second possession, and had to punt again at the end of the third quarter after a big sack from Mansfield’s Aidan Devlin.
Meanwhile, Mansfield had a turnover on downs due to a fourth down sack from Tyler Bannon and had back-to-back punts. On its first three drives of the second half, Mansfield had a total of 62 yards before the final drive of 80 yards to tie the game.
“They didn’t play great against Feehan but we knew they were better than that,” Redding said of the Rocketeers. “They came out with a whole different look with DeMattio at running back and he runs really hard. The quarterback played well for a freshman, they were much better tonight than they were on film. They had us on our heels with their blitzing, with DeMattio coming, with Bannon coming off the edge — he’s a big, fast kid. We’re fortunate Zuk stepped up and had a heck of a night throwing the football, that was the difference.”
It marked Mansfield’s first win over North since 2013, although the team’s hadn’t played since 2014. It was the first overtime game in the rivalry; games previous ended in a tie at the conclusion of four quarters but that rule was changed about a decade ago.
“That was a classic, just about as good as high school football gets,” Redding said. “I’m glad the rivalry is back and we’ll see them at Alumni next year but maybe we’ll go up to Memorial [Park] and keep playing on the old-school fields.”
Mansfield football (2-0) will have its first home game of the season next week when it welcomes another member of the Hockomock League’s Davenport division in Stoughton. North Attleboro (0-2) hits the road for the first time to take on another Kelley-Rex division foe in King Philip.
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