The Stoughton football team was on the right side of the two biggest momentum swings on Friday night on its way to a 35-0 win over visiting North Attleboro. It marks the Black Knights’ first shutout of the Rocketeers since 1992.
Late in the second quarter, Stoughton haunted a North Attleboro drive with a goal line interception and scored two plays later. And with a chance to get back in the game on the opening kickoff of the second half, the Black Knights forced another turnover and returned it for another touchdown.
“The momentum in high school is huge,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “Those are two big plays. We work on pulling the ball away every day, and sometimes it happens, it was huge.”
Using Canton High’s field as their home turf for the night, the Black Knights made themselves right at home with an opening drive touchdown. Stoughton used 13 plays to cover 73 yards, using 7:31 of the clock before finding the end zone for an early lead.
The drive included a 23-yard pass and catch from Clayton Rahaman to Christian Ais to move the sticks into North Attleboro territory. The Black Knights got down to the Rocketeers’ 2-yard line before a holding penalty, an incomplete pass, and rush that lost yards forced Stoughton into third and goal from the 20-yard line.
Rahaman linked up with a wide-open Christian Ais up the middle, and Anthony Girolamo’s first of five success point after attempts gave the hosts a 7-0 lead.
It looked as though North Attleboro was primed for an answer on its first drive before the first big momentum swing hit.
The Rocketeers marched 77 yards on 19 plays, advancing all the way to the Stoughton 5-yard line in a drive that lasted 13 minutes. Facing a fourth and goal, sophomore quarterback Tyler DeMattio (20 carries, 121 yards) rolled out to his right, racing away from a pair of Stoughton defenders before firing a pass into the end zone. Stoughton junior safety John Burke read it perfectly, jumping in front to intercept the pass at the goal line and give the Black Knights the ball back with just under four minutes to play in the first half.
“We bend a little bit,” Burke said. “The problem in high school, you have to make adjustments quickly and fast. On offense, you have the ball and you can do whatever you want. Defensively we were trying to switch some things around, it just happens fast so you don’t have time to talk to every individual player, you can’t call each one over. We bend a little bit, but our speed and strength are coming through pretty good.
“[North Attleboro] is a good team, and unfortunately we’ll have to see that quarterback [DeMattio] for a couple of more years, he’s a tough kid, he’s a real good one. We were trying to blitz him but then we stopped and just kept the linebackers on him.”
The Black Knights wasted little time moving up the field. Christian Ais (six carries, 110 yards) broke off down the left side, making a move past a defender in a one-on-one situation for a 71-yard rush. On the next play, Christopher Ais (seven carries, 75 yards) broke a tackle and muscled his way to a 22-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead with 2:19 left in the half.
North Attleboro had some more success on its second drive, moving the sticks twice before time ran out in the first half. DeMattio picked up 83 yards on the ground in the first half and the Rocketeers were a play or two away from a tie game instead of a two-score deficit.
The Rocketeers didn’t have a chance to try and grab some momentum back as junior Mohamed Al-Halawahi knocked the ball free from a Rocketeer on the second half kick off. Christian Ais scooped the loose ball up and took off for a 48-yard fumble return, giving Stoughton a 21-0 advantage just 16 seconds into the second half.
“You just can’t make those kind of mistakes like we did against a good team like that,” said North Attleboro coach Don Johnson. “That’s exactly what can happen, they can bust it out in a second. You can’t give a team with talented guys like that extra opportunities to make plays because they can break one at any time.”
North Attleboro gained 46 yards on its first two plays of its ensuring drive with DeMattio rushing for 21 himself and Jacob Silva taking a handoff for 25 yards. But after a short gain on first down, Christian Georges and Carlvin LaGuerre came crashing in for a sack that pushed the Big Red back 11 yards, and North was forced to punt two plays later.
Stoughton’s showed its explosiveness on the next series as Christopher Ais broke off a 26-yard rush up the middle on a 3rd and two, and two plays later, Christian Ais used his speed to get to the outside and raced away for a 27-yard touchdown, his third score of the night.
“He’s something else, him and Christopher,” Burke said of Ais brothers Christian and Christopher. “They both got some long [runs] tonight. Christian, you give him a hole and he’ll dance through it. He’s big too, it’s hard to get a good hit on him, I haven’t seen anybody get one on him. Plus he can catch too, he’s got tremendous hands. Those guys are as good as you get athletically. I’ve seen a lot of great ones and they are right up there, and they are great kids too.”
North moved the ball to midfield on its next drive, including a fourth down conversion. On second and 11, Georges tracked down the ball carries, ripped the ball free, picked it up on one bounce and took it to the house for a 48-yard fumble return and a 35-0 lead with 9:44 left in the fourth quarter.
Playoff seeds won’t be officially released by the MIAA until Sunday. Based on the ratings from Jim Clark, formerly of the Boston Herald, the Black Knights are likely to have a home game in the first round, sitting in the third spot. North Attleboro is currently tied with Bishop Feehan for the eighth and final spot in the D3 South bracket as of Friday night. With games still to be played on Saturday, those rankings could change.
The first tiebreaker for seeding is head-to-head.