MILFORD, Mass. – Across the Hockomock League, there are Thanksgiving Day rivalries that stretch back decades. On Thursday morning, the two newest programs in the league squared off in the league’s newest holiday rivalry, kicking it off with a game that went right down to the wire.
Milford (9-3) pulled ahead by two scores in the fourth quarter but then had to hold on in the final minute, watching a deep pass drop incomplete to seal a 34-28 victory over Taunton (5-6) in their inaugural Thanksgiving Day game. It was Milford’s third win in three meetings between the two teams and during the trophy presentation both athletic directors spoke about their hopes that this will develop into a great end-of-season rivalry.
“A great program like Taunton, they’re going to continue to get better and better,” said Milford coach Dale Olson. “Milford had a great Thanksgiving opponent here back in the Mid-Wach days with Shrewsbury, hopefully we can turn that game into this game with Taunton.
Taunton coach Brad Sidwell added, “It’s great. If it’s anything like this one then it’s going to be a little bit of stress on Thanksgiving. It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth.”
Taunton had an extra week to prepare for the game, as the Hawks were playing a state semifinal last Friday, and the Tigers put that extra work into practice on the opening drive. Jacob Leonard ( 20-of-28, 202 yards) threw a perfect strike to Trent Santos (seven catches, 118 yards) for 19 to get to the Milford 37. Three plays later, Leonard’s sneak converted on fourth and inches and then he hooked up with Santos again for 25 yards and a touchdown.
The Hawks looked sluggish at the start, needing an emotional boost after the disappointment of the loss to King Philip. After a halfback pass went incomplete and Nathan LaPlante stuffed a play for a loss of five, Olson called timeout and gave his team a much-needed wakeup call.
“We sensed it. Only having a few days to prepare for a very good Taunton team, there’s a ton of skill on that team and the kids get after it, we knew we were going to have our hands full,” Olson explained.
Evan Cornelius (17-of-24, 154 yards) swung a pass to Tyler Lane for 17 and a first down. A 12-yard pass to Grant Scudo got the ball down to the Taunton 32 and Lane (16 carries, 108 yards) did the rest. The senior running back barreled through the line, breaking tackles, and then broke free in the secondary for a game-tying score.
After forcing a three-and-out, thanks to a sack by Cornelius (who was named Defensive MVP), the Hawks went right back to work. A completion to Jayden Agnew got the ball to the goal line, but then Taunton stuffed back-to-back runs, with Kasaan Jean-Baptiste and Ryan MacDougall combining to drop Lane at the four. On third and goal, Cornelius looked to the right and Faisal Mass tipped, picked off, and returned the pass 97 yards to put the Tigers back in front.
Milford’s offense was still moving the ball well and the Hawks marched right back down the field on the following possession. John Castillo sacked Cornelius for a loss of seven but on third and 17, Cornelius connected with Isaiah Pantalone (seven catches, 56 yards) for 18 and the first. Another third down and long pass hit Scudo for 25 to the one. This time, Cornelius was able to punch it in for the TD and tied it at 14-14.
Pantalone also provided a defensive spark, as his hit forced an Evan Perrotta fumble that was recovered by Alex McColl at the Taunton 41. Lane got an inch more than he needed on fourth and two to keep the drive moving but the Tigers were able to hold and force a field goal. Nicholas Araujo booted a 41-yard kick to make it 17-14.
“We get the deflection and the kid goes back 97 yards and changed the whole outlook on the game,” said Olson, “but I’m thankful we have a sophomore kicker who can kick the ball like that, he’s a huge weapon.”
The Tigers thought they had a chance to take the lead with a two-minute drive. Leonard scrambled for 21 yards on two plays to get to the Milford 22. On third and three from the 15, Leonard hit Jose Touron for 10 yards to the five and the Tigers scrambled to spike the ball and stop the clock with six seconds left. Sidwell was adamant the clock should’ve stopped seven seconds earlier on the first down and given Taunton two shots at the end zone. Instead, the Tigers got one and Scudo tackled Troy Santos a couple yards short as time expired.
Sidwell said, “The clock should stop on a first down, which it didn’t. I thought there were 12 seconds left, there were six. It was bad. It was awful. We had a timeout in our pocket to save. I’m very frustrated by the way that happened.”
Things went from back to worse at the start of the second half. Milford was forced to punt, but the ball appeared to bounce up off the leg of Nathan Keenan and was recovered by Eric Landry at the 32. On third and goal from the three, Cornelius was able to power into the end zone over the right side of the line for a 24-14 edge.
A three-and-out gave Milford the ball back with a chance to make things comfortable heading into the fourth quarter, but Taunton’s defense held again, stopping the Hawks at the 28. Araujo made sure that Milford got at least three points with a 45-yard field goal.
The visitors needed a break and Trent Santos gave them some momentum with a 31-yard return out to the 48. Two plays later, Santos was able to get separation on the near sideline and pulled in a 46-yard touchdown that cut the lead to six with 12 minutes to go.
Araujo was unable to hit from 51 yards, which gave Taunton the ball at its own 20. Leonard scrambled away from pressure but then attempted an underhand pass that Scudo was able to pick off and give the Hawks the ball at the 23. Pantalone followed the block of Marco Monteiro on a sweep, scoring from 10 yards out and seemingly putting the game away.
It only appeared to be over, as Taunton roared back into the game with a huge drive. Leonard moved the chains with a 13-yard scramble and then hit Santos for 16 yards to the Milford 31. On the next play, he threw a strike to Touron, who had gotten behind the secondary. Keenan’s extra point cut the lead to six.
“Our kids fight hard all the time,” Sidwell said. “It is hard on a younger quarterback when you have to throw it and they know it. He gave us a chance to win there at the end.”
The onside kick attempt was recovered at the Taunton 48 and the Tigers had one last chance. On third and two, Cornelius and Angelo Romero combined on a sack to force fourth and nine from the Taunton side of the 50. Leonard bought time in the pocket and looked deep for Santos, who beat his man, but the throw was a yard too far and Milford took home the win.
“That’s kind of been our M.O.,” said Olson. “We haven’t done anything easy over these past two seasons. We’ve played in a lot of tight games.
“When the kids needed to dig in, they dug in today. It’s been a great ride these last two years and to finish 9-3 the future is bright here in Milford.”
MILFORD, Mass. – When it comes to Hockomock League football, one of the first things you learn is to expect the unexpected.
Such was the case on Friday night as Milford and Franklin, the top two offenses in the Kelley-Rex division, ended up locked in a defensive battle. Both the Hawks and the Panthers entered the contest averaging just north of 30 points per game, but Friday’s contest featured just one trip to the end zone.
In the end, it was the Franklin defense that stood tallest, limiting the hosts to just four first downs and pitched a second half shutout to grab a 13-3 win to improve to 7-0 on the season.
The Kelley-Rex division title won’t be decided until Thanksgiving when the Panthers take on King Philip in a winner-take-all showdown. But first, the playoffs.
“I think sometimes just dictate themselves early,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “There was a lot of feeling each other out early in the game. I thought we had a couple of chances to score in the first half and we only walked away with the three [points].
“In the second half, we had a really nice drive to get that score, which was huge. And we had a nice drive late [for the field goal]. It was two great defenses tonight, I think we’ve both done well against our opponents so I thought that might be the case…but it could have gone the other way too.”
Franklin had success on its early drives but its first foray into Milford territory — a nine-play drive — ended up with a turnover on downs just outside the red zone. The Panthers’ second drive lasted eight plays and got all the way down to the Milford 1-yard line, but the visitors had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Garrett Portesi after a false start.
Milford didn’t have much success early on, punting on its first two drives. But the Hawks were able to orchestrate a response after Franklin took the lead. The hosts took advantage of a good kick return from Jack Veo, covering 39 yards on nine plays.
Facing a 4th and 2 at the Franklin 32-yard line, the Hawks elected to go for it and quarterback Evan Cornelius scampered for 19 yards to move the sticks. But the drive stalled from there as the Franklin defense limited the Milford offense to just two yards over the next three plays and the Hawks went with a 28-yard field goal from Nick Araujo with 7:21 left in the quarter.
After trading punts, Franklin marched into Milford territory late in the first half but Milford’s Angelo Romero and Mason Baldic combined for a sack, and Jared Arone’s (11/17, 129 yards) third down pass to Will Tracey was ruled incomplete, despite what looked like a good circus catch over the middle between two defenders, and the teams went into halftime knotted 3-3.
Franklin started the second half with a big bang, going with some misdirection to the left before Arone went back to the right and hit Shane Kindred in stride. Kindred used his speed to race away for a 71-yard completion down to the Milford 11-yard line.
Three plays later, Arone went with a bootleg and hit Tracey streaking across the back of the end zone for the lone touchdown of the game and a 10-3 lead less than a minute into the second half.
“We definitely want to make sure we’re getting our playmakers touches, and I think everyone had a touch or at least a target,” Bain said of going to Kindred early in the second half. “We had set up a lot of things but we didn’t get to them because of some situations in the first half.”
Franklin relied heavily on running back Mack Gulla (35 carries, 200 yards) for the majority of the game, but even more so in the second half. Of their 31 plays run in the second half, the Panthers handed the ball off to Gulla on 21 of them. Although he didn’t find the end zone in the game, his work rate and ability to get positive yards on almost every play helped the Panthers dominate the time of possession.
He carried the ball nine times for 48 yards on Franklin’s second possession of the second half which, after a costly false start, finished just an inch short of a first down after a 19-yard pass and catch from Arone to Kindred on fourth down.
“It’s awesome to get those carries but that’s my job, I only play one way so I think I’m conditioned enough to do that,” Gulla said. “It definitely feels like a special season. No one expected us to do this this year, no one saw us coming undefeated against one of the hardest schedules in the state. Now we just have to keep pushing going forward.”
“Most of their passes are out in about 2.2 seconds,” Bain said. “We wanted to try and do is try to elongate the drop back game. It hurt us early because he’s scrambled and he’s a good runner, got an early first down. But with any quarterback, you’re just trying to get him off their spot, doing things they don’t like to do. I think something like 88% of their passes are in the pocket so we tried to design some pressure to try and spill that out, set some things up. They are tough to defend and they do a good job of putting their quarterback in successful situations.”
Gulla went right back to work when the Panthers got the ball back. This drive, Gulla had eight carries that went for 50 yards and took up a lot of clock between the end of the third and nearly half of the fourth quarter.
“I think it speaks to having talent but also working hard,” Bain said of Gulla’s large workload. “You put your body in a good position to last for four quarters, seven games into the season, eight weeks into the season. There’s a lot of kids out there that work hard but when one of your best players is your hardest worker, those things happen. He’s kind of built that up for himself and that’s through all of his hard work and dedication and setting the example.”
Franklin’s third down pass was knocked down on a jump ball in the end zone and Portesi delivered his second field goal of the game, this time a 25-yard boot to make it a two-score game with 4:44 left.
“I think you saw two of the best kickers around,” Bain said, also recognizing Milford’s Araujo. “[Portesi] was a soccer guy, came out in the spring for the first time. He’s worked hard, he comes to practice every day and he’s always working, working, working, and you have to trust the kids that put the work in.”
Milford showed some life as Cornelius hit Jaden Agnew over the middle for a 41-yard gain on third down to move into Franklin territory on the ensuing drive but two plays later, Franklin junior Luke Davis hauled in an overthrown pass in the end zone for a touchback, putting an end up any comeback hope.
“They got us on that deep ball and that was alright because that’s going to happen, they’re going to make plays,” Bain said. “But a lot of it is that when the big play happens, you have to bounce back. We gave up a couple of completions that were good plays but eventually that pressure, that frustration we created, I think that disrupted the passing game as a whole.”
Franklin will likely enter the playoffs as the top seed in the Division 1 bracket while Milford will likely be one of the top seeds in the Division 2 bracket. The MIAA will release official ratings and playoff information on Sunday.
Attleboro struggled on the offensive side of the ball last year, scoring only 44 points in six games and not scoring a touchdown until the fifth game of the season. The Bombardiers will need to improve on that side of the ball to try and move up the standings and challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex. With eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, Attleboro can rely on an experienced roster to try and turn things around this fall.
It will be obvious where Attleboro’s strength lies. The Bombardiers run 6’3 285, 6’3 255, 6’2 285, and 6’3 305 at the guard and tackle positions. They are going to try and overpower teams. The leader of that group is senior Chris Leonardo, who is a force on both sides of the ball. Seniors Alvin Harrison, Jacob Struminski, and Isaac Pereira are a formidable front and junior Isaiah Miranda will be back at center. Experience and size are important, but the Bombardiers will need its array of running backs to take advantage. Seniors Ryan Betts, Freddy Wheaton, Keigan Conley, and Kaiden Murray will all get the chance to carry the ball. Junior Aiden Hochwarter returns under center after taking over midway through last year and he will have classmate Anthony Salviati to throw to out wide and senior tight end Christian Dame.
The Attleboro defense will also rely on its strength up front with Leonardo and Harrison controlling the middle. The linebackers have plenty of experience, with Dame, Wheaton, Betts, Conley, and senior Hayden Hegarty all coming back after seeing significant time last year. The secondary has a lot of athleticism. Junior Ethan Lako, Salviati, and Murray are all capable of making big plays and forcing turnovers.
“It is great to have some normalcy back this fall,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have eight returning starters on each side of the ball this season and we have great senior leadership. We are looking to a great fall season.”
All eyes are on Mansfield and King Philip as the favorites in the Kelley-Rex and that’s how coach Eian Bain likes it. The Panthers are certainly flying under the radar a bit but that might not last very long, especially after their success during the preseason has turned some heads.
Having a lot of familiar faces in key positions will be an early advantage for the Panthers, who have a strong non-league schedule that starts with Wachusett and features perennial state powerhouse Duxbury. Senior Jared Arone gained a lot of experience at quarterback during the Fall 2 season and could be poised for a big year with a full schedule on tap. Part of the reason why is because of all the weapons around him. Both Shane Kindred and Will Tracey developed a lot of chemistry with the QB in the abbreviated season and will be his main two targets this year.
And while the Panthers have developed a reputation for a pass-heavy offense, we saw a much more balanced approach during the spring and with senior running back Mack Gulla ready for a breakout season, it’s likely that balance continues. Gulla is a tough runner that will keep defenses honest; he isn’t just going to help set up the passing game, he’s a true threat to run all over defenses. It will all start up front and the Panthers have center Ethan Aeillo and tackle Jack Porkorny back in starting roles.
Senior Joe Tirrell and junior Luke Davis give the Panthers a veteran presence in the secondary. Franklin allowed over 20 points per game last season but will be looking to bring that number down some this year as they try and establish themselves as a contender in the division. Senior Jonathan Martins impressed last season and will be a key piece on the defensive line while the linebackers will be anchored by senior Cullen Pek.
“The Panthers return many familiar faces but face a tough task of replacing some key positions,” Bain said. “Many players have stepped up but there is still a lot to be answered before the home opener against Wachusett.”
King Philip has a strong core of returning players set to compete for the Kelley-Rex crown this Fall season but the Warriors are hoping to develop some depth along the way as they navigate through one of the state’s toughest schedules.
KP is still hurting from the Fall 2 season, when they lost six players to season-ending surgery, four of which were starters. With a quick turnaround to this season, the Warriors will still be without those players but there is still lots of excitement around those who will be on the field this year. Senior Charlie Grant returns as the starter at quarterback and has some weapons to utilize around them, starting with receivers Danny Clancy, Nick Viscusi, and Jonathan Joseph. All three have varsity experience and are seniors. Junior Rudy Gately and senior Crawford Cantave give the Warriors a thunder and lightning running back combination. Senior Drew Danson was set to be one of the top tight ends in the league but is out due to injury. Sophomore Thomas McLeish will also be in the mix to play at quarterback and Grant could see time at receiver.
Hunter Hastings and Chris Sesay are the returners on the offensive line and will start at the tackle positions while Dan Nineve will be the center and Amro Ismail and Sean King man the guard positions. It will be a lot of the same names on the other side of the ball with Hastings, King, and Sesay all playing both ways. Junior Nate Kearney will also be in the mix as a pass rusher.
The veteran group on defense will be the KP secondary, which features a lot of familiar faces. Both Cantave (safety) and Viscusi (corner) had really strong junior seasons and will lead the way alongside junior Thomas Brewster, senior Eli Reed, and Joseph, who has really impressed so far this preseason. There will be a little inexperience at linebacker but the Warriors have Gately back in the fold alongside senior Jake Sullivan and junior Will Astorino. Matt Kelley is back as the starting kicker.
“I love my team, great kids,” said KP head coach Brian Lee. “We just have to make sure ready to go every single week. It’s been kind of a burn, playing in the Spring. It feels like we’ve been going, going, going, but now we have to focus on staying healthy and getting through Thanksgiving. It’s been fun to be around them, they are good kids that work hard. Hopefully, we can turn that into being successful.”
Mansfield won the 2019 state title, is riding a 16-game win streak, hasn’t lost a game in league play since September 2017, and hasn’t lost an in-state game since a triple-OT thriller against Foxboro at Fenway to close out 2018, so the Hornets have earned the target that is on their backs this fall. Everyone will be aiming to be the first Hock team to hand the Hornets a loss and try to end a three-year run as the top team in the Kelley-Rex. Although there are some guys in new spots, especially at the skill positions, Mansfield returns 10 starters and several players who saw significant action off the bench last year.
The offense will be powered by an experienced line. Four of five starters return from last year with only junior center Colton Johnson added. Seniors Mark DeGirolamo, Joe Forte, and James Gilleran, and junior Jephte Jean are all back and should give the Hornets an edge up front. Junior Conner Zukowski will be the new starting quarterback and he will have several new weapons to call on. Juniors Drew Sacco and Rocco Scarpellini are new starters in the backfield, but both were called on plenty last season. Senior Dana Johnson and sophomore Trevor Foley will get the start out wide.
Defense has been Mansfield’s calling card during its run, as the Hornets allowed only 23 points in six games last year. DeGirolamo and classmate Braeden Veno are back on the defensive line along with Jean and senior Pedro Cruz. All three starting linebackers returned, as seniors Zander Holmes and James Fichera are paired with Scarpellini. Junior safety Ryan DeGirolamo is the only starter back in the secondary and will need to provide leadership for sophomores Foley and CJ Bell. Senior Jared Fraone will start at the other corner spot.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding is counting on a tough preseason, against state powers Everett and Central Catholic, to help the Hornets prepare. He is also excited about the new statewide playoff system that could pair Mansfield with a new set of tournament opponents as they seek to make it a three-peat in Div. 2.
Milford made a successful move into the Kelley-Rex last season. Under first-year coach Dale Olson, the Hawks earned a first-ever win over perennial league power King Philip and finished second in the division. This year, the Hawks will try to make another title challenge despite having several new faces stepping into important roles.
On offense, the Hawks will be transitioning from the pass-first offense that Brady Olson ran last year. Junior Evan Cornelius is a very different quarterback, who will bring a lot of size and strength to the position (which makes sense, since he also plays defensive end). Graduation took away a lot of dynamic playmakers from last year’s offense but seniors Tyler Lane, Angelo Romero, and Grant Scudo will give Milford a deep backfield and last year senior Jaden Agnew emerged as a major threat in the passing game.
The Hawks will be tough up front again this year on both sides of the ball. Seniors Alex McColl and Marco Monteiro are big and tough and will open holes on offense while clogging running lanes on the other side. Cornelius will add a threat on the edge defensively and the linebacking corps continues to be a factor, led by Lane and Romero. Scudo seeks out the ball at safety and is always a threat to force a turnover.
Olson admits that his team lacks experience at the skill positions, but he added, “Having three scrimmages will help prepare the first-year varsity kids to play week one.”
Taunton didn’t have the best record during the Fall 2 season but the opportunity to just get on the field and play was incredibly valuable for the Tigers. There are less than a dozen seniors (eight) on the roster for the Tigers this season so head coach Brad Sidwell will be looking for a strong class of juniors, as well as some sophomores, to make up the majority of the lineup this Fall.
A good chunk of those juniors were inserted into the starting lineup or played a large number of snaps just five months ago when the Tigers played six games. That allowed the Tigers to build some depth for the upcoming season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Junior Jake Leonard got a jump start to his career when he took over for an injured Danny MacDougall. That experience will be key as he begins his first full season as the starter under center. Leonard will have three veteran options to work with in senior captains Trent Santos and Nate Keenan — two receivers — and tight end Nick Lima. Senior Faisal Mass will be a big target as a tight end, also providing key blocking on the line, while seniors Jon Castillo (receiver), Jack Moitiso (offensive line) and Evan Perrota (running back) will be in the mix as well.
Junior Ryan MacDougall started on the offensive line last season and will be joined by classmates Nate Laplante, William Guachiculca-Torres, and Logan Frank while sophomore Bryan Joanis will also be in the mix so some playing time. Keenan could also get some carries out of the backfield while junior Bryan Batista could emerge as a go-to option carrying the ball. Juniors Tyler Wynn, Isaiah Williams, and McKyen Gonsalves are three names to watch as receiving options for Leonard.
Taunton has a lot of experience in its secondary with both Santos and Keenan playing on both sides of the ball, and that experience will be a big strength for the Tigers. There is also a lot of depth in the linebackers, starting with Lima, who uses his speed to attack the ball. He can also step out and play in coverage or drop back into a safety role if needed. Lima will be joined by Frank, MacDougall, and Perrota as linebackers. On the line, Laplante had a strong sophomore season and could be poised for a breakout year.
Taunton will prepare for the ever-challenging division slate with non-league games against New Bedford, Durfee, and Middleboro in its first three weeks. It also marks the first year of its new Thanksgiving rivalry with Milford.
“We’re excited to begin the season with this group after productive preseason practices and scrimmages,” said head coach Brad Sidwell. “Although we only have eight seniors, many of our players gained experience in the spring season. We need to improve through the non-league start of the season as the Hockomock Kelley-Rex is always a challenge for any of the teams involved.”
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.
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.
Attleboro was able to incorporate a number of underclassmen last season and will be hoping that experience pays off with the junior class being asked to step up all across the field this season, as the Bombardiers look to challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Size won’t be an issue for Attleboro and the offensive line should be a strength this season led by junior tackles Chris Leonardo (6’3, 275 pounds) and Alvin Harrison (6’3, 255) along with seniors Trainor Sherck and Ryan Grover and junior Adam Struminski. The Bombardiers are going to use that line a lot this season with new quarterback Blake Garzaro, who saw some action as a sophomore, handing the ball off frequently to junior Kaiden Murray, who looks poised for a breakout season, and bruising fullback Michael Strachan. Junior Freddy Wheaton is another physical back who will get touches this year. In the passing game, Garzaro can look for 6’4 tight end Christian Dame, who leads a largely new cast of receivers.
The strengths on offense should mirror the strengths for Attleboro’s defense as well. Leonardo, Dame, and Harrison will be the core of the defensive line with junior Isaac Pereira another big body that will be tough for opposing teams to run against. Strachan leads the linebacking corps. The URI-commit is the program’s all-time leading tackler and he’s a four-year varsity player. Wheaton will join Strachan at inside linebacker and Sherck and Ryan Betts will be on the outside. The secondary will have several new faces, but Murray is a tough tackler at free safety and William Runey will be one of the more experienced cornerbacks on the roster.
Franklin is coming off an impressive run to the Div. 1 South final but the Panthers also graduated a host of important pieces from last year’s team, particularly at the skill positions, and will need some younger players to step in to stay competitive in the Kelley-Rex this season.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Junior Jared Arone will step in at quarterback this season, hoping to have the same level of success running Franklin’s up-tempo style as Thomas Gasbarro did last year. Junior running back Mack Gulla got some time in the backfield last season but will be getting the bulk of the touches this year. A new receiving corps will also have to learn on the job, including senior Jake O’Brien and junior Shane Kindred, and junior tight end Jonathan Martins, but there is potential for this to be an explosive group. Seniors Brady Duncan and Vincent Lackey will be counted on to provide leadership on the offensive line. The consistency of senior kicker Parker Cheuvront will be a huge boost to a Franklin offense that may have some growing pains early in the season.
Defensively, the Panthers return several players and will rely on that experience to combat the top offenses in the league and to allow time for the younger players to get up to speed. Seniors Xander Honor and Dan Cormier will spearhead the defense from their linebacker positions, while seniors Anthony Quintina and Lackey are stout in the middle of the line. Martins will be a force at defensive end and Griffin is a playmaker at safety.
“We need to focus on getting better every day,” said Franklin coach Eain Bain. “Appreciate, and focus on, the here and now. Don’t look ahead or behind, but stay in tuned to the task at hand. And always, Row the Boat.”
This is an atypical season in so many ways, not least of all because King Philip, one of the perennial powers in the Kelley-Rex, is going through a transition. The Warriors will have a lot of new faces this year, using a number of underclassmen who will have to quickly learn the KP style of play through a tough slate of divisional games.
KP returns only two starters on offense from last year’s team that reached the D2 South semifinal. Senior guard Pat Zarba and junior tight end Drew Danson will be the lone holdovers, although several other players did see action at times. Junior Crawford Cantave filled in for an injured Ryan Halliday at running back last year and has the potential to be next in a long line of standout backs at KP. Mike Malatesta will also be in the backfield at fullback and sophomore Ryan Gately is a newcomer to keep an eye on. Junior Charlie Grant is set to be the new quarterback and will have Danson, senior Michael Zagrodney, and junior Nick Viscusi as targets in the passing game. Senior Kevin Pierro will be the center to add some experience to what is otherwise a largely new group on the line.
Defense has always been a priority for KP and this year’s group has a lot of players who will be learning on the job. Zarba and Danson will be on the defensive line, along with junior Hunter Hastings and senior Harry Brown. Malatesta and Gately will be joined by junior Jake Sullivan at linebacker. The secondary is young but has some experience, as Cantave and Viscusi both are coming off strong sophomore seasons at safety.
“I am hoping that our weakness (inexperience and lack of seniors) will be a strength in the fall as we are forced to play a lot of juniors and sophomores now,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “I’m also worried about injuries, as we have not been in our weight room in a year.”
It has been 15 months since Mansfield rolled to a D2 state title at Gillette Stadium and the Hornets are excited to get back on the field, searching for a third straight league title and looking forward to a 90th anniversary game against Foxboro at Alumni Field to close out the season.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
While Mansfield graduated a number of key players from last year’s state championship-winning team, the Hornets return plenty of offensive firepower, especially in the backfield. Senior Cincere Gill will be the focus after racking up nearly 1,000 rushing yards last season, but he will get plenty of help from classmates Anthony Comer and Nico Holmes and newcomer sophomore Rocco Scarpellini. In addition, the Hornets will have Matt Boen and Nick Bertolino back at receiver and Everett Knowlton returns at tight end. Juniors Jake Wall and Dana Johnson will add to the depth in the passing game. The offensive line should be a strength for Mansfield this season with three returning starters, seniors TJ Guy and Jake McCoy and junior Joe Forte. Juniors Jimmy Gilleran and Braedon Veno will fill out the rest of the line.
The Hornets were dominant on defense last season and they remain solid on that side of the ball, particularly in the front seven. With Guy on the end and junior Mark DeGirolamo and McCoy in the interior of the defensive line, Mansfield will be stout up front. Holmes is a standout at linebacker and senior Sean Weber will be a player to watch in his outside linebacker position. The secondary has depth with a handful of players fighting for three defensive back spots.
“Toughest part is mentally, everything’s backward with the weather – feels like November and the end of a typical season, but it’s pre-season,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Just hoping Friday nights under the lights feel the same once games get going and it feels like we’re starting to finally get into a groove with execution. We’re all thankful to be playing and trying to enjoy every day we can go out and be a team.”
There are a lot of changes at Milford this season, with a new coaching staff taking over and the Hawks making the switch to the Kelley-Rex for the first time, but there is a lot of experience on the field to make that transition with nine starters returning on both sides of the ball.
One of the biggest changes for Milford will be under center, as Brady Olson takes over following his transfer from Bishop Feehan. The UMass-commit will have plenty of targets to aim for, as Milford returns arguably the deepest group of receivers in the league led by seniors Carter Scudo, Max Martin, and Matt Varteresian. They combine deep threat potential with the willingness to make the tough catches in traffic. Up front, Sean Murray and Nick Yohn will lead the protection for Olson and try to open up lanes for a new crop of running backs.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Experience will be a strength on the defensive side of the ball as well. Dom Schofield highlights a tough defensive line. Another of the team’s UMass commits, Schofield will be a force at the defensive end position, while Mario Lee and Josh Kravets return in the heart of the line. Milford lost a couple of standout linebackers from last year’s squad, Luke Rosa and CJ Cerrella, but Kevin O’Connor and Angelo Romero are playmakers who should be ready for breakout seasons. Grant Scudo and Evan Hazard are back in what should be a strong secondary for the Hawks.
“I have a strong senior class that has played a ton of football and we’ll lean on them to help us compete in the Hock large this year,” said new Milford coach Dale Olson.
With 10 returning starters and 18 returning lettermen, Taunton will be relying on its senior leadership to stay competitive against what has the potential to be a daunting Kelley-Rex division schedule.
The Tigers have plenty of athleticism on both sides of the ball and also versatile players who can line up in multiple positions, making it difficult for opponents to match up. Senior Danny MacDougall moves under center this season, although he has also lined up at receiver in the past. Seniors Josh Lopes and Bretton Heggs give Taunton a pair of dangerous backs, while Trent Santos, Kedrick Santos, Nigel Choate, and Nolan Tomaszycki are weapons in the passing game. Senior Nathan Arieta, at 6-foot-5, is a big target at tight end. Seniors Tommy Ambrose and Jorden Manning are two returning starters on the offensive line. The depth on the line will be tested, as Taunton has several underclassmen with the size to step in but not a lot of experience.
Defensively, Taunton relies on its quickness and athleticism, but also has plenty of size up front. Ambrose, Manning, and Arieta will all play on the defensive line, along with classmate Deandre McPhail and junior Faisal Mass. Lopes, Kedrick Santos, Caleb Nicholson, and Evan Perrotta have experience in the linebacking corps. The secondary is filled with playmakers, including Trent Santos, MacDougall, Heggs, Tomaszycki, and Choate.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview