By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
CANTON, Mass. – After surrendering a touchdown on Canton’s opening possession, Foxboro’s defense didn’t break again.
The Warriors’ offense scored 10 unanswered points in the second half and the defense tossed a shutout in the second frame as Foxboro beat Canton, 10-7, in the HockomockSports.com Game of the Week.
The Bulldogs took the opening drive of the game 77 yards on 14 plays, running the ball every single down to take over eight minutes off the clock. A four yard toss to the right to Woanyen Mahn with 2:48 left in the first quarter put Canton ahead 7-0.
Foxboro’s defense bent a little on a handful of Canton drives throughout the rest of the game, but never broke.
The Warriors nearly responded right away, getting to 2nd and goal from the Canton two yard line but a rush for a two yard loss, a sack from Canton’s Brian Smith and a pass breakup in the end zone from Mahn forced a turnover on downs.
Canton went back to work on the ground, this time running 18 plays and getting all the way to the Foxboro 23 yard line. Facing 3rd and 7, Foxboro’s Allston George got into the backfield for a sack to force Canton into a 46 yard field goal that just fell short.
At the half, Canton was up 7-0 and had had run over triple the plays (32 to 9) that Foxboro’s offense had.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli said. “We couldn’t get off the field on third down. Two or three yards here, up inside and then they’d get to the edge. I have to give them credit but I have to give my guys credit too, bouncing back in the second half and shutting things down. It made it more difficult for them to pick up yardage.”
Foxboro started the second half with bang, as junior Mark Clagg connected with Connor McNamara over the middle and McNamara turned it into a 29 yard gain. A defensive penalty moved the ball up five more yards and then Foxboro was able to find the end zone. Clagg took the snap and was able to dance his way around two would-be tackles in the backfield and eventually dumped the pass off to running back Ronnie Martin. Martin took the pass, broke through a tackle and raced his way in for a 43 yard touchdown along the right side.
Canton’s offense started to move the ball yet again on the ground behind the combination of Jake Ragusa (21 carries, 125 yards), Mahn (nine carries, 40 yards) and Joe Bires (25 yards), moving into Foxboro territory. But a five yard penalty, a four yard loss and then a sack pushed Canton into 3rd and 23. Quarterback Dennis Ross nearly completed a long pass to Michael Harris for the first down but the ball just slipped through Harris’ one hand attempt.
The punt was nearly a disaster but Thomas Monagle was able to track down the high snap and still get a punt away.
Clagg then took a QB option for 39 yards to the Canton 15 yard line but the Bulldogs defense would stand tall. A three yard rush from Austin Ryan (81 all purpose yards) was followed by an incompletion and then a rush for no yards. Foxboro junior John Cronin then drilled a 29 yard field goal, his league leading fifth of the season, with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
“The little ice man, he has ice water in his veins,” Martinelli said of Cronin. “He’s been clutch for us.”
Canton was forced to punt again (and another great play by Monagle to snag a high snap) but the Bulldogs defense forced Foxboro to do the same. This time it was a high snap from Foxboro that went over Clagg’s head. Canton’s Dijmon Harding was able to get to Clagg before he could get anything off and forced a 21 yard loss and a turnover on downs.
Canton took control in the Foxboro red zone at the Warriors’ 18 yard line with 7:10 left.
That’s when Foxboro’s defense had it’s best stand of the game. On first down, Foxboro’s front four got a great push and caused a loss of six yards on a rush. An incomplete pass over the middle was followed by a 10 yard run from Ragusa. Canton’s field goal attempt from 31 yards just sailed wide and Foxboro kept its lead with 5:34 to play.
From there, it was heavy dose of Ronnie Martin (13 carries, 46 yards). Martin took the first two hand offs for a total of four yards before Clagg connected with McNamara for nine yards and first down. Another carry from Martin was followed by a QB option run by Darren Kelly that went for 21 yards and a first down. Four straight carries from Martin set Foxboro up for 3rd and 7 and that’s when Ryan took a sweep up the left side for eight yards and a first to ice the game.
“The two quarterback [Clagg and Kelly] situation, I have to give me coaches Mike Bordieri and AJ Dooley a lot of credit for working their magic with that,” Martinelli said. “They both understand their role and root for one another and today’s day and age, that’s hard to do.
“And Ronnie had a good game, I thought he ran hard. He’s starting to get to his peak performance level right on schedule. It will make life easier if we can run the ball a little more.”
Canton finished with an advantage in first downs, time of possession and rushing yards but Foxboro came away with the win to move to 4-0 overall.
“That’s a great football team,” Martinelli said of Canton. “I knew they were and I knew they could run the ball and that’s just what they did. I think maybe we wore them down in the second, maybe a little I don’t know. I would never take anything away from Canton. The last three or four years, they have played as hard as anyone on the schedule. We knew they would be tough, we knew they would be tough running the football and defensively. We’re happy to escape with a 10-7 win, believe me.”
The Bulldogs suffered their first setback of the season but were able to push the Warriors, who are just one of two remaining undefeated teams in the Hockomock and just one of three in D4 South, to the limit.
“I feel like it was a tale of two teams,” Canton head coach Dave Bohane said. “They’re kind of a finesse team and can throw the ball very well with two good quarterbacks and good receivers and we’re more, come at you on the ground team. I thought both teams did exactly that. But Martin is a good runner and I have a lot of respect for him and I knew he would play a factor at some point. They are good but I thought our kids played very well, I think we limited their plays as much as we could. I think we did what we set out to do but we came up short.
“I think penalties got us in some key spots and we got into some positions where we had to get out of our comfort zone. We were in a position to maybe win the game though but we just couldn’t quite do it.”
Foxboro (4-0, 2-0 in the Davenport) will look to continue its perfect start when they host Milford (2-2, 1-1), which is fresh off a 42-8 win over Oliver Ames. Canton (3-1, 1-1) will look to bounce back when they travel to neighboring Stoughton (2-2, 2-0) on Friday night.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.