One big positive was the experience the players got, mainly the young offensive line. That experience paid off big time on Friday night as the Black Knights dominated up front behind it’s five-senior offensive line en route to a 58-19 statement win over Franklin.
“They all played last year,” Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. “We played some tough games last year so having a senior line this year, senior lines usually win. They’re just a little stronger, have a little more experience. Now we have the seniors [on the line] so I’m hoping it carries us. The line is key, offensively and defensively.”
Stoughton opened the game on a seven play, 72 yard drive, capped with a two-yard rushing score from senior Ryan Sullivan (10 carries, 153 yards, four touchdowns, interception). Dave Cellucci’s (4/4, 60 yards) 20 yard pass to Izon Swain-Price and Sullivan’s 23 yard carry just prior to the score were highlights on the drive.
It didn’t take long for the Black Knights to double their lead as senior Jack Connelly ripped the ball free three plays into Franklin’s drive and Marselis Cox scooped the loose ball up and sprinted in from 45 yards out. Cellucci’s keeper for the two point conversion put Stoughton up 14-0 just over four minutes into the game.
The Black Knights forced a punt but were faced with 3rd and 20 on the ensuing drive. Cellucci floated one up and Connelly went up and grabbed it for a 27 yard completion and a first down. Two plays later, Swain-Price got around the edge for an eight yard touchdown, putting Stoughton up 21-0.
Sullivan came away with an interception on Franklin’s next possession and the Black Knights converted quickly. After a 28 yard gain from Sullivan on the ground, junior Justin Ly (11 carries, 137 yards, one touchdown) pounded it up the middle for a 10 yard touchdown, giving Stoughton a 27-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After Franklin was unable to convert on fourth down, Ly took the first carry of the next drive 39 yards. Six players later, Sullivan took the toss to the outside for a five yard touchdown run to make it 34-0.
The Panthers were able to get some life back right before halftime, using a couple of screen plays to cut into the lead. Facing 3rd and nine, Franklin QB Jake Noviello (14/33, 215 yards, 2 touchdowns) hit running back Jacob Wolowacki (128 all purpose yards) for a 48 yard completion on the screen. Two plays later, Wolowacki punched it in for the Panthers’ first touchdown.
Franklin got possession back quickly, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Brad Jarosz. On the first play, the Panthers went back to the screen, with Noviello hitting Wolowacki for a 40 yard touchdown to bring the score to 34-12.
Stoughton struck once more in the final minute of the first half, using three straight runs – Sullivan for 24 yards, Ly for 32 yards and then Sullivan for a 10 yard score – to go into the half with a 40-12 lead.
“Just like any year, you want to start off good,” Burke said. “[Franklin] is a young team, I don’t want to see them next year, that’s for sure, they’ll be tough. Our guys have worked really hard. I’m really happy with our seniors. And our strength, that’s all weight room stuff. We have a lot seniors, we have 20 this year and that makes a difference. Seniors win football games, it’s that simple.”
On Stoughton’s first play of their second drive in the second half, Sullivan bust through a hole up the middle and scampered in for a 52 yard touchdown to make it 46-12.
Franklin struck back with Noviello dropping a perfect pass into the hands of Kinley Baird on the sideline and the senior did the rest, sprinting in for a 68 yard touchdown for the Panthers.
Stoughton added a pair of scores in the final quarter with Swain-Price dashing up the middle for a 40 yard touchdown and David Bell getting around the corner for a 34 yard score for the Black Knights.
“Four touchdowns is nice for me but scoring 58 points as a team is better,” Sullivan said. “We like to call it the three-headed monster. Justin goes up the middle, and then me and Izon on the outside. The holes, you could drive a truck through, it was unreal. It’s an all senior line and they stepped up big time. They got a lot of experience last year and now they are ready to go this year.”
“Those two guys [Sullivan and Swain-Price], you have to worry about them but then we did a nice job on the inside on the traps,” Burke said. “We have a line that can block any other line as far as I’m concerned. You have to be able to go inside and you have to be able to go outside, that’s our offense. It might not be high spread, but that’s not who we are.”
Stoughton football (1-0) will welcome Marshfield to town next Friday in a rematch of week two from a season ago. Franklin (0-1) will look to get its first win of the season with a trip to another Davenport division team, Milford (0-1).