MILFORD, Mass. – Milford didn’t get the chance to scrimmage in the abbreviated preseason, so the Hawks needed to work out some of the kinks early in Saturday afternoon’s season opener against Attleboro. Luckily for Milford, its defense was in mid-season form right from the opening kick, giving its offense time to get settled in.
Once things clicked into gear, Milford proved unstoppable, overcoming three first half turnovers by scoring on four straight possessions between the second and third quarters to beat Attleboro 34-0 in the program’s first Kelley-Rex division game.
Attleboro couldn’t have asked for a better start. Alexander Bakowski recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff to give the visitors the ball at the Milford 32, but the Bombardiers went backwards and three plays later punted.
The ball rolled down to the Milford two-yard-line and Attleboro’s defense forced a three-and-out. Milford’s punt hung up in the wind, so Attleboro regained possession at the 23-yard-line. Again Attleboro went nowhere, as Michael Strachan was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on fourth and three.
“The offense didn’t help us out there,” said first-year Milford coach Dale Olson, “and put the defense behind some tough situations but I think the defensive game plan that my brother (Dana Olson) and Coach (Eric) Riley put together, I’d be hard-pressed to think they had over 100 yards of offense today. Defense was lights out today for sure.”
Two more times in the first half Attleboro would get the ball deep in Milford territory, after Milford fumbles recovered by Strachan and Ryan Betts. They started possessions at the Hawks’ 36 and 26, but ran four plays combined after the turnovers and gained no yards.
Attleboro had only two first downs in the game and one came in the final minute of regulation. Dom Schofield, Mario Lee, Tyler Lane, and Angelo Romero, among others were winning every battle at the point of attack and the Bombardiers struggled to find a way through.
“You can’t make the mistakes,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said. “I just thought they were more physical than us up front. [Being physical] is our game but they’re good up front. They’re a good football team.”
Milford’s offense was hardly lighting up the scoreboard early, but at the end of the first quarter the Hawks started to move the ball. Brady Olson, who transferred from Bishop Feehan, was able to connect with his talented crop of receivers. He hit Carter Scudo, Schofield, Max Martin, and Keithley Sutton to move into the red zone.
Two plays into the second quarter, he swung a pass to the near sideline for Scudo (six catches, 38 yards), who cut upfield and dove for the goal line. The ball came loose as he landed and Attleboro was sure that he had come up short, but the officials ruled it a touchdown and Milford took a 7-0 lead.
The score stayed the same until late in the half. After Attleboro lost the handle on a snap to give the Hawks back the ball just one play after Milford had themselves turned it over, the Hawks put together a 14-play, 73-yard drive to grab control of the game.
Olson (18-of-33, 296 yards) found Martin sliding across the middle for a 14-yard gain on third and eight inside Attleboro territory. The duo connected again on an out route to the sideline for another 14 yards on fourth and eight down to the Attleboro 25. A personal foul call moved the ball to the 10 and Olson showed off his poise in the pocket, biding time until Jaden Agnew came open in the back of the end zone and then he fired a strike for a 14-0 lead just before halftime.
“They’re big up front, they can sling it, they’ve got good athletes, and you can’t get caught not capitalizing on the turnovers early in the first half,” Strachan said. “That was our chance to really do something. I think defensively we played pretty well…just spent too much time on the field.”
Momentum carried over in the third quarter. Nick Yohn sacked Attleboro quarterback Blake Garzaro (5-of-19, 17 yards) on the first play of the second half and the Bombardiers were forced to punt. Milford struck just two plays later. Olson fired a deep ball to Agnew, who went up between a pair of defenders to pull down a 48-yard completion to the seven and Schofield punched it on the next play.
After completing only 12-of-25 passes in the first half, Olson would complete 6-of-8 in the second. He completed passes to six different receivers in the game. A 15-yard screen to Schofield converted a third and five. Matt Varteresian was next with a 23-yard grab down to the Attleboro 15. After a two-yard run by Kevin O’Connor, Sutton got open on the far sideline for a 13-yard touchdown.
Olson explained, “Both [Attleboro’s] inside linebackers are good football players, the down-four are good football players, and we knew they were young, inexperienced in the secondary so we knew we’d have some opportunities in the pass game. Early, Brady was just off and obviously he got on. That makes us dangerous offensively if we can keep spreading the wealth.”
Attleboro ran nine plays on its first three possessions of the second half. Milford only ran 11 on its first three possessions but scored all three times it had the ball. The third was the highlight, as Sutton beat his man down the seam and Olson hit him in stride for a 62-yard score and a 34-0 lead with 1:15 left in the third.
After earning its first win in the Kelley-Rex division, Milford (1-0) will now get its biggest test. The Hawks will host defending league (and state) champion Mansfield next Saturday. It will be the first-ever meeting between the teams. The Hawks are aware of the challenge ahead and relishing this opportunity.
“We get to see what we’re all about,” said Olson. “That’s it, it’s the opportunity to play a top team in the state, the defending Div. 2 Super Bowl team. To tell you the truth, these kids were ready to play Attleboro but they’re excited to play week two, week three, week four too, and they’re just excited for the opportunity.”
Attleboro (0-1) will host King Philip in its home opener at Tozier-Cassidy Field next Saturday.