LOWELL, Mass. – Mansfield scored on their first six drives of the game and their defense allowed just three first downs as the Hornets cruised to a 41-0 win over Waltham in the Division 2 State Semifinal.
The Hornets cruised in the game but head coach Mike Redding was not expecting to be as easy as it was.
“Looking at them on film, they just seemed like a gritty team that found ways to keep games close, and were winning them in the fourth quarter,” Redding said. “I think to be honest they were just too banged up.”
Mansfield is now 11-0 on the season and are averaging just over 35 points a game while giving up just under 16 points a game. They have won their four playoff games by an average of 22.5 points.
“Obviously, we’re playing great football,” Redding said. “We executed really well on [offense]. I think the big thing is that we deferred and we wanted the wind early to try to jump on them, and we got the 21 early and kind of took the game away from them.”
This is Mansfield’s second shutout of the season – their first coming in just their second game, a 20-0 win over Milton. They have allowed over 20 points just three times – their opening 29-26 win over Dunbar, their shootout 49-42 win over Attleboro, and their 42-35 win over Needham in the playoffs.
“I think our defense early in the year was the question mark – could we stop people,” Redding said. “Second half of the year that question has been answered. We can stop almost anyone, whether they are in the spread or pounding it, we’ve handled a lot of different looks.”
Quarterback Kyle Wisnieski finished 14/20 for 187 and three touchdowns and rushed for 17 yards. Miguel Villar-Perez rushed for 63 yards on 7 carries and caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Aurien Dawkins had three rushes for 18 yards and an interception while Michael Hershman had two catches for 17 yards and a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown. Junior Brendan Hill had a huge day, hauling in 6 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
“The big thing with Brendan that we don’t get a lot are those yards after the catch,” Redding said. “Usually he catches them in stride, but today he fought hard after the catch and got us some big yards and had that great run for the touchdown. For a big kid, he’s very athletic obviously.”
Before the Hornets head to Gillette for the D2 Super Bowl, Mansfield will travel to Foxboro to take on the Warriors for their annual Thanksgiving game. With the new playoff system, some coaches have said they won’t be playing their starters at all. Mike Redding said the Hornets are aiming for a win.
“We’re going to play to win, that’s what we do,” Redding said. “We’re going to show up. Obviously we’d like to get our guys out early. We want to beat Foxboro. We don’t want to be 11-1 state champions. We want to be 12-0 and beat our rival but it would be in our best interest to score early and get some guys out and get them rested.
After Thanksgiving, Mansfield will have just over a week to prepare for the D2 Super Bowl against St. John’s (Shrewsbury). Last year, the Hornets lost in the Super Bowl to Reading, a feeling that is still fresh in the minds of many Hornets.
“I was devastated last year,” Wisnieski said. “I don’t want to kiss another one away.
Mansfield 7, Waltham 0 (7:26 1st Quarter) – The Hornet’s first possession started at the Waltham 33 yard line and the offense took just six plays to strike first. Wisnieski ran for 11 yards to start the drive and Chris Buchanon added another four. After two straight incompletions, Wisnieski hit Hershman for 10 yards to convert on 4th and 6. On first and goal, Villar-Perez took handle of the sweep, but cut up the middle for eight yards. It appeared he crossed the goal line but was pushed back out without a signal. The ball came loose and Hersman pounced on the loose ball and then a touchdown was signaled. Alex Thompson’s extra point was good.
Mansfield 14, Waltham 0 (1:23 1st Quarter) – After a quick three and out from Waltham, Mansfield took over at their own 33 and went 11 plays to double their lead. Facing 2nd and 20 from their own 20, Wisnieski hit Villar-Perez on a screen, after play action, for a 23-yard pick up. Two false starts put Mansfield back in 2nd and 20, this time from the Waltham 42. Wisnieski was able to buy some time in the pocket before finding Villar-Perez on a perfect touch pass for 17 yards. After Villar-Perez’s running attempt was stuffed for a loss of three, Mansfield was faced with another 4th down – this time 4th and 6 from the Waltham 28. Wisnieski hit Hill for 13 yards and two plays later, found Hill once again. Hill took the pass over the middle, spun around a defender before out muscling a handful of Waltham defenders, and reaching the ball over the goal line. Thompson’s extra point was good.
Mansfield 21, Waltham 0 (8:49 2nd Quarter) – The Hornets got the ball back just seconds before the end of the first quarter and an incompletion and a completion for a loss of six yards put the Hornets into 3rd and 16 to start the 2nd quarter. Wisnieski went play action and hit Hill over the middle for 31 yards to bring the ball to the Waltham 27. Three Aurien Dawkins runs – mixed with a Wisnieski to Villar-Perez 7-yard pick up – gave Mansfield 1st and goal at the 2-yard line. Senior Alex Ruddy took it towards the right side of the line and plunged through for a touchdown. Thompson’s extra point was good.
Mansfield 28, Waltham 0 (4:24 2nd Quarter) – Mansfield started their fourth drive at their own 32 but a 12 yard scramble from Wisnieski and an 18-yard toss and run from Villar-Perez put Mansfield into Waltham territory. Wisnieski then tossed a perfect pass along the sideline to Hill – who beat his defender with a double move – for a gain of 31 yards. After a sack and a dropped pass, the Hornets were faced with 3rd and goal from the 14, but Wisnieski hit a leaping Villar-Perez in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Thompson’s extra point was good.
Mansfield 35, Waltham 0 (0:48 2nd Quarter) – Another quick three and out gave Mansfield the ball back at their own 48 yard line. After a couple of rushing plays and a one-yard completion, Mansfield had 3rd and 8 at the Waltham 30. Wisnieski found Hill over the middle and the junior spun out of the initial tackle, weaved his way across field avoiding defenders. As he went to round the corner, Hershman had a huge block that cleared the way for Hill to find the end zone. Thompson’s extra point was good.
Mansfield 41, Waltham 0 (6:22 3rd Quarter) – The Hornets deferred after winning the opening coin toss and received to start the second half. With the majority of offensive starters on the sidelines, the Hornets offense didn’t miss a beat. Using seven straight run plays, the Hornets went 80 yards in 4:38 to score. Runs from Villar Perez (2 for 18), Chris Buchanon (2 for 37), Matt Bukuras (1 for 7), back up quarter back Steve Valeri (1 for 2), and Curtis Boisvert (1 for 28) set up the score. It was Buchanon scoring from 16 yards out, breaking through a couple of tackles before punching it in. Thompson’s extra point was no good.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hock
omocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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