NORTH EASTON, Mass. – With a chance to secure a home playoff game, Mansfield was able to execute in all facets of the game in a convincing 41-6 win over Oliver Ames on Saturday. It was the first meeting between the two teams since 2011.
After having to punt on the opening drive, the Hornets scored a touchdown on the next three series, and then three of the next five to get the win and in all likelihood, lock up the fourth seed in the Division 1A South.
“The big thing is to keep playing at a high level,” Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said. “We played well last week. We wanted to get out of this healthy and get the home – I think we did everything we wanted to. I think we secured a home game, we’ll see how the math works out but I think we have some confidence and momentum going into the playoffs.
“I think we’ll have everyone back and it looks good for Brian Lynch next week so we become a very tough out going into the playoffs. We’re healthy, and with our full group we’re pretty good on both sides of the ball.”
Both the Hornets and the Tigers had to punt on the opening drive but Mansfield made quick work of its second offensive series. A 15 yard pass from Anthony DeGirolamo (6/11, 100 yards) to Hunter Ferreira (two catches, 31 yards) preceded an 18 yard run from Nick Graham (five carries, 47 yards).
On the third play of the drive, DeGirolamo found Mike Shannon up the middle for a 33 yard touchdown. A high snap forced DeGirolamo to attempt a pass for a two-point conversion but the catch was deemed out of bounds, giving Mansfield a 6-0 lead.
Oliver Ames’ next five drives resulted in a turnover on downs and four punts.
On Mansfield’s third drive, Joe Cox (77 yards) busted free for a 28 yard gain on the first play. On the second play, Graham went nearly untouched through the right side for a 22 yard score and a 13-0 lead.
The Hornets used their longest drive of the game, spanning the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter to get their third touchdown. Mansfield used seven plays to cover 76 yards to expand its advantage over the Tigers. Highlighted by DeGirolamo completions to Kristian Conner (13 yards) and Ferreira (16 yards) and a 26 yard rush from Will Garvin, Mansfield pushed the lead to 20-0.
DeGirolamo used an option on a jet sweep to take it in himself for a 12 yard score.
Mansfield added two more touchdowns before the first half came to a close. Cox rattled off a 49 yard touchdown run with 3:35 left in the second quarter and then DeGirolamo found sophomore Aidan Sacco for a 14 yard score with just over 30 seconds to play in the half.
Oliver Ames had its best drive of the game to open the second half. Sophomore Anthony Berksza (163 all-purpose yards) got things started with a 54 yard kickoff return and then hauled in a 32 yard pass from Kyle Gagliardi to help the Tigers move the ball up the field. Liston Funai punched it in from a yard out for OA’s touchdown and Berksza fought his way in for a two-point conversion.
The Hornets’ final touchdown came in the third quarter with Sacco running it in from 12 yards out.
“Even at 5-1, I think we’re the four seed. If Milton beats Wellesley we could be the three seed so still a lot of division and math to go,” Redding said. Wellesley ended up beating Milton later in the day. “But we’re in, and I think we’re home. We could get Marshfield or B-R, which is a tough first round game. But it’s the playoffs, you’re not going to have any easy ones. I like the way we’re playing on both sides of the ball and our special teams are good. We just have to make it happen next Friday night.”
Mansfield, which is 5-2 overall, will likely host Marshfield next Friday based on The Boston Herald’s ratings. Official seeds and matchups will be announced by the MIAA on Sunday. Oliver Ames (2-5) will miss out on the playoffs and will find out their next opponents on Sunday as well.