Franklin Clamps Down Defensively To Beat Attleboro

Franklin football Mack Gulla
Attleboro’s Trainor Shreck chases after Franklin’s Mack Gulla in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 FRANKLIN, Mass. – In all the key moments of Friday night’s contest against visiting Attleboro, the Franklin football team delivered.

The Panthers converted a fourth down for a touchdown inside the final minutes of the first half, landed a huge counter-punch score late in the third quarter, and its defense stood tall all game long. The result was a 17-3 decision in favor of the hosts.

While the defense was certainly the story for Franklin, the biggest play of the game came from the Panthers’ offense. Attleboro, which was held scoreless in the first half, made it a one-score game when senior Colby Briggs drilled a 41-yard field goal with just seconds left in the third.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

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But before the third quarter came to an end, Franklin delivered a game-changing response. Instead of starting the fourth hanging on to a seven-point lead, Panther senior running back Mack Gulla (21 carries, 172 yards) took the first carry of the ensuing drive to the end zone. The senior found a gap on the left side and then split a pair of defenders in the secondary, scampering for a 64-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with just four seconds left in the third.

“That wasn’t the game but it certainly allowed us to kind of take a deep breath and have some room,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “It allowed us to really focus on the little things to keep the lead. A lot of people wouldn’t peg us as a team with someone with over 20 carries a game but that’s two weeks in a row that we’ve been able to get the run game going a little bit and that opens things up for passing.”

Franklin’s defense then put a pair of finishing touches on its strong performance, denying the visitors twice inside Panther territory. The Panthers were set to give the ball back to the Bombardiers with a punt but it was blocked by a diving Anthony Salviati. Attleboro’s Alex Bakowski dove onto the loose ball and the Bombardiers were back in business with nine minutes left at the Franklin 28-yard line.

But a second down strip sack from Jay Gulla forced the Bombardiers back 12-yards and an incomplete pass forced Attleboro to punt. A high punt bounced in a sea of players, bouncing off a Panther, and Attleboro’s Chris Leonardo won the battle at the bottom of the pile to give the visitors a second chance, this time first down in the red zone at the Franklin 18-yard line.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

“We were not good in situational football last week and I thought we were definitely better tonight,” Bain said.
“We were in the right positions, I thought we were more comfortable with the calls. I thought coach Rosen did a nice job getting the gameplan tailored to our crew. Attleboro presents a lot of problems and they move Strachan around a lot and it’s hard to account for him and know where he is plus all their other talented players.”










The Panther defense was up to the task though, stuffing a runner for no gain on first down (after a false start backed Attleboro up 5 yards). An incomplete pass on second down was followed by a 7-yard run from senior Michael Strachan (14 carries, 41 yards) set up 4th and 8 from the 16. Attleboro went for it with a pass into the corner of the end zone but Franklin sophomore Luke Davis won the jump ball for the interception.

“We just can’t seem to put it all together, we haven’t been able to finish,” said Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan. “We’ve had chances, we’ve been in the right spots but we can’t seem to finish. We have something going, we shoot ourselves in the foot. We get a big run, there’s a hold…we block a punt and we don’t capitalize. It’s little things, and we’re young, and these are the growing pains. It’s a tough league to have growing pains.

“We felt like we were right there in this game. We’ve been in the last two games but we have to figure out a way to close out drives, to finish out drives. It’s a short year so it’s hard, there’s not much time to figure it out but we’re going to get right back to work and try to build off our defense and get our offense going.”

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

Attleboro’s defense got off to a strong start, forcing a three-and-out from the hosts on the opening drive of the game but Franklin’s defense was equal to the task, forcing the visitors to punt after six plays despite some good early runs from Kaiden Murray (17 carries, 47 yards).

Franklin had more success with its second drive, getting points on the board despite being held out of the end zone by the Bombardiers. Junior quarterback Jared Arone (8/12, 117 yards) hit senior Jake O’Brien on a hitch route on third to move the sticks, and then the two linked up again on the next play as Arone hit O’Brien on a quick slant over the middle and the receiver did rest, sprinting for 50 yards into Attleboro territory.

The Bombardiers buckled down inside the red zone though, holding the Panthers to just five yards on a pair of runs, sandwiched around an incomplete pass. Franklin settled for a 28-yard field goal from Parker Cheuvront with 1:54 left in the first quarter.

Attleboro grinded its way down field on the ensuing drive, moving the ball 57 yards on 14 plays (4.1 yards per play) — all on the ground. Murray and Strachan had the majority of the carries, and the Attleboro offense benefited from a pair of offside calls to move the sticks. The drive finally came to an end inside the red zone when Briggs’ 32-yard field goal was short.




Franklin went on another long drive, and this time found the end zone. A healthy dose of Mack Gulla early (27 yards on three straight carries) and a 16-yard pass-and-catch from Arone to Will Tracey helped move the Panthers into Attleboro territory. Gulla ran for five yards on third down to get inside the red zone but the Panthers had 4th and 5 from the 19-yard line. Instead of another field goal, Bain elected to go for it with under two minutes left in the half.

Arone dropped back and fired a pass over the middle, connecting with classmate Shane Kindred right at the goal line for a touchdown and a 10-0 advantage at halftime.

Besides the scoring drive for the Bombardiers at the end of the third quarter, Attleboro had three punts, the missed field goal, an interception, and a two-play drive at the end of the first half, totaling just under 150 yards of total offense.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

The Panthers got a lot of pressure in the backfield from Michael Griffin, Jacob Briggs, Xander Honor, and Nick Quintina and a strong push up front from Anthony Quintina.

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“I thought the defense came to play,” Bain said. “We have a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball but on defense, not only do we have new faces, but we’re young too. With a scrimmage and two games under our belt, I think it’s starting to show that we’re starting to earn our stripes.

“I know everybody is in the same boat with their offseason program but this year it really hurt us as we tried to get the young guys up to speed quicker, get them sharper mentally, get them some actual reps. But as we’ve gotten some experience under our belts and as we’ve stayed the course of what we’re trying to do, I think it’s starting to show.”

Franklin football (2-1) is back in action on Saturday when it hosts Milford for a 12:00 start. Attleboro (0-3) will try to get its first win when it hosts Taunton on Friday at 6:00.

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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