North Comes Out on Top Against Attleboro in Finale

North Attleboro Football
North Attleboro senior Matt Penta rushed for a pair of touchdowns to lead the Rocketeers to a 28-7 win against Attleboro in the Century Game. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The weather was a little warmer and the crowd was a little smaller, but when North Attleboro (6-0) squared off with Attleboro (1-5) on Saturday morning at Community Field the usual emotions of the Thanksgiving Day rivalry were still there.

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North capped off an undefeated season and avenged a loss from Thanksgiving 2019, rallying from an early deficit to win 28-7 in the “Century Game” (marking the 100th “holiday” meeting between the programs). Seniors Matt Pentaand Jacob Silva scored two touchdowns apiece for the Rocketeers.

As his team celebrated in the background with “Hilda”, North Attleboro coach Don Johnson explained what the victory, and the chance to play the game at all, meant to his team.

“I think it gives our seniors a sense of completion,” he said. “I think up to this point our seniors have felt a little bit robbed of the usual senior experience and adding this game and the significance of it completes it for them and they can walk away quite satisfied.”

The dynamics of the game changed on Thursday night when, according to Johnson, North’s starting quarterback Tyler DeMattio had a cast put on a wrist injury he suffered in the Davenport title decider against Foxboro. North turned to Penta and fellow senior Dylan Eberle and inevitably the Rocketeers looked a little out of rhythm offensively in the first quarter.

Attleboro took advantage. The Bombardiers stopped North on its first possession and a short punt gave them the ball at the North 34. Attleboro was also on its backup quarterback, as sophomore Aiden Hochwarter started for the second week in a row, but the Bombardiers turned to its power running game.

Michael Strachan gained five yards on fourth and two to keep the drive moving and then Alexander Bakowski found a seam on a counter for a 16-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

North went three-and-out on its next possession but Nathan Shultz recovered a muffed punt to give the Rocketeers a second chance. Again, Attleboro’s defense held. Ryan Betts and Kaiden Murray both made nice plays to break up passes and turn North over on downs.

The game changed early in the second quarter. After Attleboro went three-and-out, North blocked a Colby Briggs punt and took over at the Bombardiers 13. It was the momentum and field position shift that the North offense needed.

“It just changed the feel of the game,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan explained. “It was a big play for them and they were able to capitalize and they have a bunch of good kids over there. We’ll learn from this.”

Two plays later, Penta saw a hole and burst up the middle on an 8-yard keeper to tie the game.

Attleboro’s issues on offense have been a familiar theme this season. The Bombardiers have only scored touchdowns in two of their six games and they recorded only four first downs on Saturday.

“They have a good football team,” Strachan said. “I thought we did a good job in the first half, but we had a couple mishaps on special teams that turned the momentum a bit and we just weren’t able to regain it.”

After a tough start, the North offense started to click into gear. On the first play of its next drive, Eberle hit Silva right in front of the North bench and the running back broke a couple of tackles, stayed inbounds and broke free for a 46-yard score, putting North ahead for good.

The Rocketeers had a chance to break the game open before halftime. A short punt gave them the ball at the Attleboro 26 and they marched down inside the 10. With time running out, Attleboro’s defense was able to stop three plays from inside its own three to keep it a one-score game.

That only lasted until North’s first drive of the second half. The Rocketeers went 60 yards on 12 plays, eating the clock and grinding out a touchdown drive that gave them a little cushion. Penta ( 13 carries, 113 yards) was making big plays with his legs and DeMattio (13 carries, 48 yards), cast and all, was able to give North a change of pace. Silva capped the drive with a one-yard plunge.

Johnson said, “In our three biggest games, Stoughton, Foxboro, and Attleboro, we failed to get that third touchdown at an opportune time that would’ve made you relax and maybe put the game away. That’s all we talked about [at halftime], not how we screwed up at the end of the first half but what are we going to do in the first drive.”

Attleboro was looking for a spark and thought it might have one in the fourth quarter when Freddy Wheaton recovered a Penta fumble to stop North’s drive with 6:14 to play. The Bombardiers got one first down, but North’s defense was flying, particularly Tyler Bannon and Greg Berthiaume, who snuffed out a screen to force a punt.

Penta left no doubt about the winner when he took off on yet another keeper, broke it to the outside, stayed on his feet, and found the end zone from 39 yards out, making it 28-7 with only 1:16 to play.

“Our special teams were good and our defense was good and I think that was enough to give our offense the field position we needed,” said Johnson. “The plays that Penta was running, he’s good at, and the things Eberle was doing, he’s pretty good at, so it worked out okay…two seniors who stepped up.”

When asked what it meant for his team, result aside, to finish up this unusual season with a game against North, Strachan replied, “At the end of the day, to be out here, with what these kids have been through this year, it’s unbelievable. That’s what it’s about. For the communities to come together at Community Field, this is what it’s about.”

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Saturday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 04/24/21

Today’s game is listed below.

Football
Attleboro, 7 @ North Attleboro, 28 – Final
1st Quarter: (A) Alexander Bakowski 16-yard rush, Colby Briggs XP good.
2nd Quarter: (NA) Matt Penta 8-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good; (NA) Dylan Eberle 46-yard pass to Jacob Silva, T. DeMattio XP good.
3rd Quarter: (NA) J. Silva 1-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
4th Quarter: (NA) M. Penta 39-yard rush, Evan Vigorito XP good.

KP Relies on Special Teams, Grinds Out Win at Attleboro

King Philip Football
KP junior Crawford Cantave (2) scoops up a blocked field goal and breaks away from the attempted tackle by Attleboro’s William Runey. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – King Philip has developed a reputation for being able to grind out victories, relying on its defense and special teams to pull out close games. On Saturday afternoon at Attleboro’s Tozier-Cassidy Field, the Warriors bolstered that reputation.

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KP recorded only 43 yards of offense in the first half, had only one play from scrimmage in the third quarter (a fumble), and only had two drives in the game that lasted more than three plays, but they still walked off the field with a 17-3 victory and a 2-0 record.

“I don’t know how?” KP coach Brian Lee replied when asked about his team’s ability to win the game despite its struggles. “I don’t know if we deserved to. I don’t think those numbers are very good…we’re trying to get things organized and it doesn’t feel like it’s coming together for us yet.

“The kids did enough. They made a big play bringing it back and that’s the difference in the game. Special teams actually played well.”

Special teams was the spark that got the Warriors going on Saturday. Jake Silveria’s 52-yard punt pinned Attleboro inside its own 10. After a three-and-out, Jonathan Joseph’s punt return put KP at the Bombardiers 22 to start its second drive. Mike Malatesta dove for two yards on fourth and one to keep things moving to the Attleboro 11.

Charles Grant just missed a touchdown pass to Drew Danson towards one corner of the end zone (landed just out of bounds) and on third down Anthony Salviati made a great breakup on the other side of the field to keep KP, momentarily, off the board. Matthew Kelley stepped in and made a 28-yard field goal (the first of his varsity career) to make it 3-0.

After admitting that his team lost the physical battle up front in the season opener against Milford, Attleboro coach Mike Strachan was pleased with his team’s effort up front.

On their third possession, the Bombardiers started to pick up some first downs in the running game. Alexander Bakowski (23 carries, 67 yards) was the primary back on Saturday and he had success getting to the edge. Blake Garzaro’s two-yard sneak on third and one kept the drive moving and his hard count drew an offsides penalty on fourth and three for another first down.

After getting to the KP 33, Attleboro tried to look downfield with Crawford Cantave making a good play to knock away one pass to Christian Dame and two passes to Salviati falling incomplete. The Bombardiers moved the ball much better on Saturday, but still struggled to finish drives.

“That’s what we’re going to improve on,” Strachan said of his team’s improvement up front. “Bakowski did a good job and Michael got going a little bit more on offense but we just don’t have that team, breakaway speed and that’s the difference. We matchup [with KP] and that’s a battle right there.”

KP went three-and-out to give Attleboro back the ball in the closing minutes of the half. Michael Strachan broke a 19-yard counter to the Warriors 27. Three plays later, on fourth and two, Attleboro elected to go for a 36-yard field goal. Pat Zarba went up the middle and blocked the kick, which was grabbed in stride by Cantave and he had no one in front of him, racing 72 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

“In a game like this, it’s going to be about possessions,” said Strachan about the decision to go for the kick. “You saw what they did in the fourth quarter, they grind it and that’s what we do. Hindsight, I was trying to get back to the point where we could tie it up. I thought we had momentum at the time. We were moving the ball.”

Attleboro got the ball to start the second half and didn’t look like it was going to give the ball back until the quarter was over. The Bombardiers put together a 17-play, 64-yard drive that ate up more than 10 minutes off the clock.

Strachan powered ahead for two yards to convert a third down, another hard count drew an offsides call to convert a second third down, and Garzaro hit Salviati on a slant for 12 yards to convert on fourth and eight. It was his only completion of the game.

On third and five, Freddy Wheaton broke a 12-yard run up the middle to get down to the KP eight, but there the KP defense stiffened. Hunter Hastings stuffed Strachan for a two-yard loss back to the nine and a pass to Dame in the back of the end zone fell incomplete. Colby Briggs split the uprights with a 26-yard kick, cutting the lead to 10-3 and recording Attleboro’s first points of the season.

Malatesta returned the ensuing kick out to the 41, but the first snap of the drive was fumbled and recovered by Wheaton. KP had less than 20 seconds of possession in the third.

KP got the ball back at its own 10 and finally strung together a few plays to switch field position around. Cantave (17 carries, 66 yards) started to work between the tackles, powering the Warriors out to the 31. KP converted twice on third down (one on an offsides penalty) and moved 54 yards on 12 plays. After stalling at the Attleboro 36, they pinned the Bombardiers back to their own seven.

Down by a touchdown, Attleboro nearly hit a big play on first down, but the bomb to Salviati was just out of his reach with no KP player between him and the end zone. The Bombardiers tried four passing plays in a row, but none connected, giving the Warriors back the ball.

Cantave put the game out of reach just two plays later, finding a seam for a four-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with just 1:55 remaining.

Lee was happy to be undefeated while still trying to figure everything out, but admitted that they’re going to need to improve to keep racking up wins. He said, “It’s good to be 2-0 and we’re not there, but Milford looks really good. And then it’s Mansfield. It gets harder as we’re going here so we need to figure things out. At least let’s stop making mistakes at this point.”

King Philip (2-0) will go on the road again next week to face Milford for the first time in program history. Attleboro (0-2) will travel to Franklin on Friday night.

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Milford Airs It Out, Beats Attleboro in Kelley-Rex Debut

Milford Football
Milford senior receiver Carter Scudo dives to the goal line for the opening score of the game against Attleboro, which the Hawks won 34-0. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

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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.

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