Of course, both schools sport orange, black, and white and have the Tiger as their mascot, but the similarities carried onto the field as well.
Both OA and Taunton came in with one win overall and in search of their first Hockomock victory, their defenses allowing nearly identical points per game.
So it’s no surprise the teams had nearly identical stats when they clashed on the new turf field at Muscato Stadium.
But in the end, it was Taunton that made just enough plays — scoring on their opening drive of each half, and using a pick-six early in the game to earn a 21-6 over OA in the annual matchup dubbed The Tiger Bowl.
Taunton’s defense quickly forced a punt on the first series of the game and the offense rewarded them with a lengthy drive ending in six points. The visiting Tigers marched 63 yards on 13 plays, including the final seven coming in the red zone.
A healthy dose of Josh Lopes (18 carries, 76 yards) and Bretton Heggs (13 carries, 51 yards) on the ground helped Taunton moved the sticks. The drive included a pair of third down conversions from Lopes and a fourth down conversion from the 10-yard line from Heggs.
Sophomore quarterback Trent Santos (6-for-8, 42 yards) finished the drive with a sneak from one yard out. Taunton took a 7-0 lead following Collin Knorr’s extra point with 1:35 to go in the first quarter.
Oliver Ames looked to respond immediately but a personal foul backed the hosts up, and on third down Taunton junior Kedrick Santos jumped a route, intercepting the pass and taking it to the house for a 25-yard pick-six. Knorr’s point after put Taunton ahead 14-0 with under a minute to go in the opening quarter.
“It was huge, it was right after we had scored so the timing of it was big,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “We knew we needed to run the ball but [OA] did a good job getting guys up there so we were running into too many. So it was a big play for us to get a touchdown from our defense and go up two scores.
“We knew their quarterback could throw the ball but [Santos] was able to read it and get under it and make a play.”
That would be the only scoring for the opening half. OA had a nine-play drive in the middle of the second quarter stall at midfield when Taunton stuffed a fourth and one run to force a turnover on downs.
OA’s defense did its part for the remainder of the half, limiting the visitors to just six yards combined over its next two drives, both ending in punts.
Sam Stevens and Nick Gillis combined for a sack on third down on Taunton’s third drive, and Max Anderson and Nathan Cabral had back-to-back sacks on the next series, forcing the visitors to go backward.
Taunton opened the second half at its own 48-yard line after Nathan Arieta was alert to OA’s onside kick attempt. The visiting Tigers picked up key conversions again on this drive with Santos hitting Arieta for a first down, and Lopes rushing for two yards to convert a fourth down, putting Taunton into the red zone.
The visitors ran six plans inside the red zone this time, including an eight-yard scamper from Heggs that moved the chains on third down. Three plays later, Santos kept it himself from one yard out for another touchdown and a 21-0 lead. The 13-play, 52-yard drive took nine minutes off the clock.
“We had a couple of good conversions on third down that helped us move the ball, and it was big to get another touchdown to start the second half,” Sidwell said.
“I think having the two-score lead, which was the first one we’ve had this year, gave the kids some confidence. And I think the defense fed off of that too.”
OA’s first two drives of the second half both ended in a turnover on downs. The first lasted just four plays, giving Taunton the ball at the OA 36-yard line. But OA’s defense held strong and the visiting Tigers missed a 30-yard field goal.
The host Tigers got into the red zone on a 13-yard carry from Cabral (12 carries, 65 yards) but back-to-back negative plays preceded back-to-back incomplete passes with Javon Franklin batting down a pass in the end zone on fourth down.
On its second to last drive of the game, OA finally found the end zone, going 33 yards on five plays. Cabral had two straight carries that went for 20 yards, and Stevens broke free for seven yards to move OA inside the 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Perron kept it himself for a one-yard sneak, getting OA on the board with 1:47 to play.
Taunton’s Alyjah Marshall recovered the ensuing onside kick to help seal the victory.