Both Stoughton and Milford entered Saturday’s Davenport division dual averaging over 25 points per game and known for their big play ability. The Hawks have tormented teams through the air while the Black Knights have a plethora of backs capable of breaking a big run on any play.
With that in mind, it became a defensive chess match between the two sides.
The Black Knights loaded the secondary and didn’t allow Milford quarterback Colby Pires (29/42, 207 yards) to complete a pass for more than 30 yards. On the flip side, the Hawks limited Stoughton’s longest run of the day to just 21 yards.
In the end, Stoughton’s bend-don’t-break defense proved enough and the Black Knights got a big boost from its passing game to prevail 14-10 on the road.
“We just didn’t want them to hit any home runs,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke. “You have to try and get pressure, and we got some. I’m mostly a zone [defense] guy, and I’m not saying that’s the only way to play defense. But I know at this level, as long as no one beats you over the top you can live for another play. I’m not saying it’s the best, and then you have to tackle. Their quarterback is tough, [Luke Rosa] is tough, they hurt us but we adjusted to it better in the second half.”
The biggest play of the game came in the form of a third down conversion that helped the Black Knights kill the rest of the clock to hold onto the win.
Savion Scott had a 61-yard touchdown erased on a holding call — the second straight flag on the Black Knights — and Stoughton was forced into a 1st and 35 from its own 28-yard line with 4:39 left in the game.
Junior quarterback John Burke (5/11, 109 yards passing; seven carries, 33 yards) scampered for 11 yards, and junior Christian Ais (eight carries, 33 yards) picked up three yards on second down putting Stoughton in 3rd and 21 from its own 42-yard line.
Burke lofted a pass down the right sideline that got caught up in the wind. Milford’s safety floated over to try and make a play on the ball but Stoughton junior Jake Queeney cut in, jumped up to grab the ball before the defender, took a hit that spun him to the ground, and held on for a 31 yard gain and a first down with 3:38 to go.
Queeney also hauled in a second quarter touchdown over terrific defense to put the Black Knights on the board.
“He’s a great player, he made two big catches for us today,” Burke said. “We had two penalties in a row but it was a huge catch for us. It was a quality opponent to get a win over. I think we’re in good shape, we just want to get a home game wherever that will be.”
Two plays later, Burke scrambled for a first down that forced Milford to take its last timeout with 1:43 left and the Black Knights were able to run the clock out with its final three plays.
“They are tough, they are physical, and this was a game with where the team with the least amount of mistakes, the team that makes one more play comes out on top,” said Milford coach Anthony Vizakis said. “That’s a great team, we tip our hats to them and hopefully we’ll see them in the playoffs.”
Milford’s opening drive was a sign of things to come throughout the game. The Hawks ran 14 plays but covered just 45 yards. The longest play of the drive came when Pires hit Rosa (eight catches, 87 yards) for 15 yards out of the backfield, and the Hawks even converted a fourth down on the drive.
But when they got close to the red zone, Stoughton’s defense clamped down. A two-yard pass from Pires to Matt Varteresian preceded back-to-back runs from Rosa for six yards. On fourth and two, Pires hit Carter Scudo (eight catches, 34 yards) but Christian Ais made a tackle for a two-yard loss and a turnover on downs.
Stoughton’s offense didn’t fare any better as they lost 10 yards in a quick three-and-out.
Milford orchestrated another lengthy drive, moving 44 yards on nine plays. But the drive stalled again as it approached the red zone. This time the Hawks settled for a 37-yard field goal from CJ Cerrella to take a 3-0 lead with 11:10 left in the second quarter.
The Black Knights finally got their offense going on their third drive of the game. Stoughton marched 80 yards on six plays to find the end zone. Christopher Ais (15 carries, 72 yards) had the longest run of the day for Stoughton with a 21-yard run on first down. Four plays later, Burke kept it himself to convert a fourth and one with a 16-yard rush.
On the next play, Burke delivered a pass down the middle that Queeney was able to haul in with a defender in his face. After catching the pass, Queeney fought his way for extra yards and stretched the ball into the end zone. Anthony Girolamo’s extra point put Stoughton up 7-3 with 3:10 left in the second quarter.
Milford opened the second half with its most complete drive of the game, covering 55 yards in seven plays to find the end zone for the first time. The Hawks opened with a halfback pass as Scudo hit Rosa for 32 yards, which was the longest play of the day for the hosts.
Pires hit Xavier Hilton three plays later to convert a third down and get inside the 10-yard line. On third and goal from the two, Pires connected with Rosa in the flat and he went in for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead with 7:40 left in the third quarter.
Stoughton wasted little time responding, using nine plays to go 51 yards to get the lead back. Christopher Ais started the drive with a 14-yard run and converted a third down with a two-yard plunge up the middle three plays later.
Senior quarterback Clayton Rahaman took over under center for the drive and connected with Christian Ais for a nine-yard gain to convert another third down and move inside the red zone. Christian Ais picked up seven on the ground on the next play and Christopher Ais followed his blocking to the left following that, just reaching the ball across the goal line for a five-yard touchdown.
After Girolamo’s extra point, the Black Knights held a 14-10 lead with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
Milford’s first drive of the fourth quarter ended with a turnover on downs after an incompletion on fourth and one from the Stoughton 21-yard line. The Hawks’ second drive of the final quarter yielded just five yards and ended in a three and out.
“Their defense is solid, they are very well-coached and have a ton of athletes over there,” Vizakis said. “They didn’t want to get beat deep, so we knew we’d have to sustain drives with shorter yardage gains and more plays. After long drives like that, you have to put it in for points. We just didn’t capitalize enough today.
“We just couldn’t execute when we got down towards the red zone. That’s a big difference in the game, you have to be able to get points out of those drives.”
Stoughton football (3-1 Hockomock, 5-1 overall) closes its Hockomock schedule on Friday when it hosts North Attleboro at Canton High School. Milford (2-2, 3-3) will try to secure its spot in the tournament and push for a home game when it hosts Foxboro on the same night.