ATTLEBORO, Mass. – There are few teams in the Hockomock League that can call on as many offensive weapons as North Attleboro and when everything clicks into gear then it can feel like the Rocketeers are capable of moving the ball up and down the field at will.
Everything clicked on Thanksgiving morning at Tozier-Cassidy Field in the 96th annual holiday meeting (and 100th overall) with rival Attleboro.
North Attleboro (9-2) scored on each of its first six possessions, spreading the ball around and proving unstoppable for the Attleboro (4-7) defense. Behind three touchdowns from Offensive MVP Bobby Mylod and two scores from Defensive MVP Nick Rajotte, the Rocketeers rolled to a 41-13 victory and won back “Hilda.”
“Last year was disappointing,” said Mylod of North’s loss to the Bombardiers at Community Field. “We disappointed our seniors. We came out here and we didn’t want that to happen to us. It all paid off.”
North Attleboro coach Don Johnson said, “We’re multi-dimensional. Chad [Peterson] can throw the ball as well as anybody. Nick and Bobby complement each other so well and they’re effective in the passing game too.
“I wouldn’t want to defend us, I know that.”
Attleboro moved the ball on its opening possession but was forced to punt, pinning North back at its own seven-yard-line. The Rocketeers put together a methodical, 15-play, 93-yard drive to open the score and set the tone for the game.
The Bombardiers had a chance to get the Rocketeers off the field, but Kyle McCarthy hit Mylod (six receptions, 119 yards) for 14 yards on a fake punt to keep the drive going. Rajotte (17 carries, 73 yards) led the way with eight carries on the drive, including a 23-yard burst up the middle to get the ball inside the 10 and then the two-yard dive to give North the 6-0 lead.
After another Attleboro punt, forced by a big play by Jay Loring on a screen pass from Tyler McGovern to Cam Furtado for a nine-yard loss, North took over and went right back to work. On third and nine from the North 27, Peterson (11-15, 159 yards) kept the drive alive with a 19-yard completion to Mylod, who would eventually finish it off on an eight-yard sweep. Peterson hit McCarthy for two and a 14-0 lead.
“I thought the offense did a good job controlling the game,” said Johnson, “and that’s what we needed to do, keep them off the field a little bit and just move the ball.”
North were gifted great field position when Attleboro had back-to-back snaps skid across the ground, one recovered by Nathan Barboza on third down and the other a 12-yard loss recovered by McGovern on the punt attempt. Peterson hit McCarthy to for 13 yards and two plays later he hit Mylod for another 13 and the touchdown.
“They’re a great football team,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “They’ve got athletes everywhere. There is a reason why they’re Hock champs this year. When you get them, you need to take opportunities. You can’t take offsides on third and short and you can’t give up a fourth down conversion.”
Attleboro gave itself hope of a comeback right before the break. Elvin Sam broke a 10-yard run and then McGovern hit Furtado for 24 yards down to the North 26. Another completion to Furtado (seven receptions, 66 yards) got the ball inside the North five-yard-line and Furtado punched it in with no time remaining in the half for a 21-6 deficit.
“We reminded them of two years ago,” said Johnson of the conversation in the North locker room, “because we went up by three scores, they got one right at the end of half and that went into overtime. As far as we were concerned at halftime, it was 0-0 and we were starting over again.”
Rajotte nearly stole the momentum right back when he took the opening kick of the third quarter 70 yards for a score, only to have a holding call bring the touchdown back. It did not slow down North though, as the Rocketeers would still extend the lead. Peterson had three straight completions, one each to Hacmoni Cuevas, McCarthy, and Mylod and then Mylod closed out the drive with two carries for 25 yards and a 27-6 lead.
Strachan said, “You go into halftime and you know you’ve got to stop the run and if your coverages aren’t exactly right then you’ll take advantage of it. They were the better team today.”
Attleboro would answer back with a little help from the Rocketeers. Sam pounced on a muffed punt to give the Bombardiers the ball back at the North 22. After a couple of completions from McGovern (9-22, 75 yards), Furtado would push it across on a sweep right to cut the lead to 27-13.
Rajotte returned the ensuing kick 20 yards and McCarthy (eight carries, 86 yards) broke a 38-yard run to set North up again. Rajotte would get his second touchdown from one-yard out to make it 34-13. On North’s next possession, Peterson threw a perfect swing pass to Mylod on the far sideline for 40 yards and then McCarthy got his first score from two-yards out.
“There is very little margin for error,” said Strachan, “and they’re so good at distributing the ball around. They’re not one-dimensional, so if you start taking away the jet, they hit you with the power. If you take away the power, they hit you in the seam.”
For Mylod and the other North seniors, last season’s loss motivated them to ensure they went out on top. He said, “It’s a great ending to my high school career. We had the best team, I felt, and lost to two Super Bowl contending teams. No shame in that. We came out, played our tails off and won.”
Although this was a big victory for the Rocketeers, the series has tightened up in recent years with the teams splitting the last four Thanksgiving Day meetings. While he wants to win every season, Johnson admits that it is better for the rivalry to have it be more balanced.
He said, “I think it just makes it all the more meaningful. Mike and those guys over there, we all know those coaches well, they’re a great staff. They’ve done a great job every year, so we know we’re in a ball game every year on Thanksgiving and I think that’s what makes it special.”
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