Mansfield’s 'Down Season' Good Enough for Postseason

Matt Carafa

Matt Carafa attempts a pass against Franklin on Friday night. (Dave Redding/MansfieldFootball.org)
By Lance Reynolds, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
MANSFIELD, MASS. – After going undefeated with a 13-0 record including a State Championship victory at Gillette Stadium last December, the expectations were high for Mansfield this season However, with the departure of many key seniors and so many injuries to key starters, the Hornets definitely have had their ups and downs this season. They came out on Friday night against Franklin firing on all cylinders as the Hornets beat the Panthers 28-7, helping them clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Matt Carafa played his best game of the season as he threw for 194 yards with two touchdowns and his play was a big reason why the Hornets were able to walk away with the victory.
Mansfield head coach Mike Redding talked about his quarterback’s play, “The completions were great. Maybe more importantly, three or four of those incompletes were throwaways where I didn’t make a good play call, no one was open and he got rid of it, got it out of bounds and lived for another day. Earlier in the year, I think he might would have had forced it in traffic. His interceptions are way down and he’s playing his best football. He’s running the offense great.”
Carafa shined during the second quarter, which had an impact on the rest of the game. Mansfield went on a 13 play, 89 yard drive which lasted from the end of the first of the quarter into the middle of the second quarter. Carafa orchestrated the offense as he found Brian Lynch for an 18 yard pickup on the right sideline. He then found Matt Hogan twice for a combined 22 yards and Michael Boen once for eight yards. After the Hornets started the drive at their own 11, they managed to get to Franklin’s 15-yard line, where Carafa hooked up Lynch for a four yard pass but the sophomore running back was able to get around a Franklin missed tackle and found the end zone, putting the Hornets up 7-0 with 6:12 in the first half.
The Panthers answered right back as they went on a lengthy drive of their own: 11 plays for 59 yards. A Mansfield penalty set Franklin up at the Hornets 42-yard line. Kyle Skidmore had an impressive drive as he completed all three of his passes to Andrew Parent, Connor Anderson and Ben Chaffee which went for 28 yards. Senior running back Daevon Weathers finished it with a four yard rushing touchdown leading to a tie score, 7-7.
However, the touchdown did not seem to bother the Hornets as they responded right away with a nine play drive that went for 71 yards, setting the tone for the second half. Mansfield started the drive at their own 21-yard line, but they drove down the field with ease. Carafa found Boen twice combining for 20 yards and then the senior quarterback was able to scramble away, finding Hogan for a pickup of 15 yards putting the Hornets at the Panther 34.
Carafa completed a pass to Josh Schafer, who found room after a missed tackle going for 23 yards Connor Finerty, getting his first action of the season at running back, found space on the left edge which put the Hornets at the two. Carafa finished the drive with a one yard keeper putting Mansfield up 14-7.
“It was huge just to get the momentum back after they had such a great drive to tie it. We had a minute and had four timeouts, Matt was making great decisions which was big,” Redding said.
At the beginning of the third quarter, Mansfield drove the ball comfortably downfield. However, the Hornets faced fourth down at the Franklin 17 and Redding decided to give Diogo DeSousa a chance at a field goal. The kick was blocked, setting the Panthers at their own 34. It seemed like a momentum changer but their drive lasted only two plays as Joe Bukuras had his second interception of the season as he picked up Skidmore’s pass to the left. Mansfield cashed in right away as CJ Daniel and Lynch had strong rushes setting the Hornets up at the two yard line. Lynch sealed it with his second touchdown of the game as he got space on the left corner giving them a 21-7 lead with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.
“The first drive of the second half we get the field goal blocked but we made progress. I thought we played in their end the whole second half, field possession was in our favor the whole game,” Redding said. “The King Philip game was the opposite. We were in our own end the whole game but we flipped that around tonight which was a big difference.”
Q’Ra Guichard added his fourth touchdown of the season with a one yard rumble into the end zone which put the Hornets up 28-7 with 2:54 remaining after a 10 play, 61 yard drive. The Panthers failed to get anything going in the final 12 minutes of the game.
With the win, the Hornets are now headed to the playoffs. Redding discussed how he feels about his team going on the road through the postseason.
“I like it,” Redding said, “We’re going to be on the road, playing the underdog role. Last year, we had home field advantage but everyone was shooting for us. We’re sneaking in late and I think we’re playing some good football. We’ve got depth in the backfield with Finerty, Q’Ra, Lynch, Garvin and Daniel. Matt Carafa had the best game of his career, he was throwing bullets, making great reads, made big passes. The way we run and throw the ball, we’re playing better defense, the special teams were much better tonight. I think we’re a dangerous team right now. If I’m one of those teams, I would not want to draw us in the first round.”
“It feels awesome,” Carafa said. “There was a lot of pressure on us, big loss last week against KP, everyone was down about. We came in here with huge momentum, throwing the ball, running the ball real effectively and then we pull out the win. There’s so much confidence after a big win like that going into the playoffs.
“This has been anything but disappointing to see these guys battle,” Redding said. “Last year, things came a little easier with playing an undefeated season, but these guys are learning some big values of perseverance, unity and sticking together. It’s just a great accomplishment. It might look from the outside as a down year in Mansfield but it has been anything but.”
Ryan Lanigan
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