WRENTHAM, Mass. – Mansfield had Thursday night’s game in its grasp. It was only the second quarter, but the Hornets were on the verge of capping a dominant first half with another score and building a three-score advantage before the teams headed back into the locker room.
With 1:33 left in the half and the ball at the King Philip 10, Mansfield quarterback Damani Scott dropped deep and fired the ball towards Danny DeGirolamo (11 carries, 51 yards). The senior running back was well covered but almost pulled it in. The ball was deflected into the air and fell right into the hands of KP senior Shane Frommer.
The Yale University-commit hauled in the interception and took off down the suddenly energized KP sideline. He went 96 yards untouched to pull the Warriors back within three points and send the team into the half with a renewed purpose.
“It completely changed momentum for us,” Frommer explained after the game. “We were a little down, but right when I got the pick-six all of us got up again and we knew we had to finish it. We knew we were going to win.”
The interception turned the tide and King Philip never looked back. The Warriors scored 28 unanswered points, 21 of those in the fourth quarter, and pulled out a 28-10 victory over the Hornets at Macktaz Field, running the program’s win streak to 17 games.
Although it was not the game-winning score and it was a full quarter before KP added another point, both coaches highlighted the interception as the turning point in a battle between the two Kelley-Rex division favorites.
“We were up against ropes bad,” KP coach Brian Lee admitted. “We had nothing going and Shane…you have a dude for a reason. Everything was going wrong – pass interference and then we let them get a big run – and we had no answer. Then, bang, we get a play and we’re back in it.”
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “They’re good, they’re aggressive, but it’s just so frustrating when you play well for 22 minutes and one play completely flipped things.”
Even without injured senior Joe Cox, Mansfield went with the ground game right from the opening kick. It worked on the opening drive, as the Hornets marched 80 yards, all but nine on the ground, in 14 plays to take an immediate 7-0 lead. DeGirolamo capped the possession with a nine-yard run on a toss to the left.
KP ran only three plays before Brendan Lydon was intercepted by Hunter Ferreira, who returned the ball to the Warriors 30. After a pair of incomplete passes from Scott (4-21, 91 yards), Redding elected to go for the field goal and Mike DeBolt split the uprights from 37 yards.
The Warriors moved the ball on its next possession, but were forced to punt and Mansfield came right back down the field. Aidan Sacco (10 carries, 71 yards) converted one third down and Ferreira drew a pass interference call on a third and 10 to keep the possession alive. After Scott scrambled and found Ferreira for a spectacular 19-yard catch on the sideline, it looked like the Hornets were about to break it open, but Frommer stepped in and changed the storyline.
“Down 10, we knew we had to keep fighting,” he explained. “I knew I had to make a big play for the team. Luckily my teammate tipped it up for me and right when I picked it I knew I was going for six.”
Redding said, “The defense played great for the whole half and at minimum, if we get the field goal, it’s 13-0. It’s just a weird play. We go up and grab it and he ends up with it and we have no one to cover the pick. It’s just a huge flip.”
The second half was all KP. Although the first drive stalled at midfield, the defense held Mansfield to just six offensive plays in the third quarter (and 16 offensive plays in the entire second half). Evan Rice was involved in three sacks of Scott, including a big 15-yard loss in the fourth.
“The kids were just playing a little bit harder, again getting life with the big play,” Lee said. “I’m very pleased with the resiliency of the team.”
Mansfield had bottled up the KP rushing attack, but the Warriors turned to Lydon (8-18, 110 yards) to make plays. Jack Piller came up with a sliding grab for 25 yards and three plays later Lydon scrambled to bide time before hitting Dylan Leonard, who had come all the way across the field, for a 19-yard score and a 14-10 lead.
Following a Luke D’Amico interception, KP added another score. On fourth and 10 from the Mansfield 31, Lydon found Thomas Madden open in the middle of the field and the senior receiver broke tackles on his way to the end zone.
“We have to be more balanced,” said Lee. “We can’t just line up and do what we did last year. Going forward that’s something we’ll have to figure out. We’re still figuring out our pieces.”
Redding added, “They get a little momentum and they fed off it and we battled on ‘D’ but we gave them way too many plays. We couldn’t get any first downs.”
Another interception, this time by Jack Webster, gave KP back the ball at its own 39 with time winding down. The player who changed the game was also the one that ended it. Frommer burst through the middle of the line and broke off a 47-yard run for his second touchdown of the game.
He said, “It was a 25-power and I was going to be right behind my tackle, Anthony Vahue, he’s always been a leader for us and I knew right when the play was called this is going for six. I followed right behind him, saw him take out the linebacker, and I knew I was going for six.”
With the victory, King Philip (4-0, 2-0) extends its winning streak to 17 games, which is the longest active streak in the state. The Warriors will put it on the line next Friday with a trip to Franklin. Mansfield (3-1, 1-1) will look to bounce back and keep the pressure on KP when it hosts Taunton next week.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2017 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
2016 Record: 4-7
2016 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan
Key/Returning Players: Cam Furtado, Sr., QB/CB; Elvin Sam, Sr., WR/CB; Justin Cote, Jr., RB/OLB; Matthew Corrado, Sr., OL/DL; Matthew Jimenez, Sr., OL/DL; Dan Perry, Sr., OL/DE; James Weir, Sr., LB/TE; Nate Barboza, Sr., LB/FB; Nick Evans, Jr., TE/DE; Kyle Walsh, Jr., OL/DL; Jacob Weatherford, Jr., LB/FB; Josh Therrien, Jr., FS/WR
The Bombardiers started the season 3-2, but closed with only one win in the final six games, including a pair of losses to league rival and eventual Super Bowl champion King Philip. Injuries piled up for Attleboro in 2016, but it gave a number of players the chance to gain valuable varsity experience and the Bombardiers have high hopes for improvement this fall.
Experience at the skill positions is one of the reasons for optimism at Attleboro. Senior Cam Furtado is slated to start the season at quarterback and has proven to be a dynamic playmaker. Classmate Elvin Sam emerged as a big play weapon last fall, whether in the backfield or split out wide, and tight end James Weir gives Attleboro an option in the middle of the field. Wideout Josh Therrien and running back Justin Cote could also play bigger roles with running back Marcus Blaise adding depth.
Attleboro also has a strong returning core on defense with Furtado, Sam, and Therrien in the secondary and Weir joining senior Nate Barboza and junior Jacob Weatherford at linebacker. Matt Corrado, Matt Jimenez, and Kyle Walsh will give the Bombardiers strength on both sides of the line and junior Nick Evans could be poised for a breakout year after moving from linebacker to defensive end. Sophomore Qualeem Charles is also a player to watch on the line.
“I am extremely excited about our senior group of players,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have some dynamic players in Cam Furtado and Elvin Sam and hopefully they can maximize their athletic talents. We have many returning starters from last season so we hope to build on that experience.”
2015 Record: 2-9
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Eian Bain
The first season for the Panthers under new head coach Eian Bain was a struggle at times for a young roster that was adapting to new systems on both sides of the ball, but there is hope that the experience gained last fall will pay dividends in 2017. Franklin will have a number of returning players to count on this season.
Offensively, Franklin will have to find ways to make up for the production of graduated running back Jacob Wolowacki, who was a go-to weapon in the ground and passing games. Senior quarterback Jake Noviello will be counted on to lead the offensive unit after more than 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall. Junior wideout Sean Leonard started all 11 games last year and will be a tough matchup for defenses along with fellow receivers Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Evan Wendell and running back Sean Hofferty. Three-year starter Brian Kosicki will be the leader of the offensive line and tight end Patrick Morrison will be a weapon in the passing game.
On defense, the Panthers have depth in the secondary, including junior safety Nolan McLaney, who was second on the team in tackles last year. Junior Ryan Driscoll has speed on the corner and Bain called him the “focal point” of the defense. Nick Gordon will hold down the other corner spot. Senior defensive end Jackson Gilbert is coming back from injury that cut short his junior season and will add strength on the edge. Junior Riley Downing gives Franklin size and speed in the middle of the line.
“We are in year two of our process,” said Bain. “We are in a different place than we were a year ago…Fans should expect to see a better team in 2017. We have a roster full of experience and had great participation through the Franklin speed and conditioning program. In a league this good we have to bring our best every week.”
2016 Record: 12-0
2016 Finish: MIAA D1A State Champions
Coach: Brian Lee
Key/Returning Players: Brendan Lydon, Sr., QB; Evan Rice, Sr., RB/LB; Shane Frommer, Sr., RB/DB; Dylan Leonard, Sr., RB/LB; Cole Baker, Soph., K; Andrew Dittrich, Sr., WR/DB; David Morganelli, Jr. WR/DB; Anthony Vahue, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Webster, Jr., LB.
What will the Warriors do for an encore? King Philip won its third league title in the past five years, second outright Kelley-Rex title in the past three seasons, and completed an unbeaten season with a win over Reading in the Div. 1A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
Despite losing a large and influential senior class, the Warriors are being picked by some to repeat at champs this fall. One reason for continued belief is the return of senior quarterback Brendan Lydon, who showed poise in the pocket and the ability to make accurate passes downfield in his first year under center in 2016. Yale-commit Shane Frommer is also back for his senior season and will be the feature back for the Warriors in a system that prides itself on pushing teams around on the ground. Beyond that, it will be up to a group of rookies to make an impact. KP will boast an entire new offensive line, anchored by senior Anthony Vahue, and all new receivers. Junior David Morganelli will be one of the options for Lydon.
The Warriors boast a bit more experience on the defensive side of the ball. Even though a good chunk of starters are gone, KP’s rotation last year allowed for players like Evan Rice (defensive end), Jack Webster (linebacker) and Dylan Leonard (safety) to see action. Frommer will be back opposite Webster while Vahue will also play on the defensive line. Andrew Dittrich returns as a starting corner back to anchor the secondary.
Although there are a lot of new faces on this year’s roster and a lot of leadership missing from last season’s championship squad, head coach Brian Lee has instilled a toughness that permeates the program and expectations are that KP will have a decent chance at lifting a trophy again this fall.
“We don’t get any points for last year, we don’t get spotted a touchdown because we went undefeated last year,” Lee said. “When it comes to high school football, it’s about taking those rookies and getting them ready for varsity speed, they have to be able to handle the bright lights on Friday nights. If we can get them up to speed, we should be okay.”
2016 Record: 8-3
2016 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Michael Redding
Key/Returning Players: Will Shield, Sr., OL/DL; Colbey Eason, Jr., OL/DL; Jareme DiLorenzo, Sr., DE/TE; Hunter Ferreira, Sr., WR/OLB; Danny DeGirolamo, Sr., RB/DB; Joe Cox, Sr., RB/OLB; Khristian Conner, Jr., RB/DB; Chris Copponi, Jr., FB/LB; Aidan Sacco, Jr., RB/DB; Mike Shannon, Sr., TE/DE
The Hornets finished second in the Kelley-Rex division last year, with the only Hock loss coming by three points to league champ King Philip. Mansfield was stunned in a playoff thriller against Marshfield, but then bounced back to beat Div. 1 playoff teams Needham and Newton North and will enter 2017 with typically high expectations, as the Hornets look to win their first league title since 2013.
A strength for Mansfield this fall will be the experience it returns at the skill positions led by senior wideout Hunter Ferreira, who has emerged as one of the area’s top receivers. The backfield will once again be loaded for the Hornets, who will count on seniors Danny DeGirolamo and Joe Cox and juniors Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco. New quarterback Damani Scott will try to make use of that talent and the 6-foot-3 junior has a big arm to make plays downfield.
Cox and Ferreira will add strength and speed to the linebacking corps, while seniors Mike Shannon and Jareme DiLorenzo will provide a pass rush at the defensive end positions. Conner, Sacco, and DeGirolamo will all return in the secondary. If there are questions for the Hornets, it will be at the line of scrimmage; senior Will Shield and junior Colbey Eason have returned and will be the players to build around on the offensive and defensive lines.
“After one week, we are happy with work ethic and development of linemen,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding, who is in his 30th season with the Hornets. “If we can get pieces of the puzzle sorted out up front on OL and DL, we’ll be a tough out. We have a very good collection of playmakers that can run and catch and we should score some points this year.”
2015 Record: 2-9
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Holland
The Tigers got off to a promising start to 2016, winning two of the opening three games including a dramatic one-point win over Franklin, but Oliver Ames struggled down the stretch against a difficult schedule. Now entering his third year, head coach Mike Holland is confident the program is heading in the right direction this fall.
According to Holland, the Tigers’ strength on the offensive side of the ball is the experience of playing in the system for several seasons and a greater understanding of the concepts. Senior Curtis Cann will lead the attack after taking over as the starting quarterback last season and he has several talented weapons on the outside in seniors Michael Mulrean and Noah Fitzgerald. Jay Fruci will be one of the returning players in the backfield, lining up behind a big offensive line.
Jack Mills will be a mainstay in the middle on both sides of the ball and is one of the top lineman in the league. He will be paired with fellow senior John-Michael Cole on the line, giving the Tigers depth in the trenches. Fitzgerald and Mulrean will also be important contributors in the secondary, while Fruci will bring athleticism to the linebacking corps. Holland wants his defensive scheme to take advantage of the team’s speed.
“Looking forward to the start of a new season. Our guys’ preparation and approach leading up to the season has been excellent,” Holland said. “We have guys with experience that need to play big, as well as some new guys that are in the mix to compete for spots.”
2016 Record: 5-6
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Brad Sidwell
Key/Returning Players: Noah Leonard, Jr., QB; Brayden Merrill, Jr., WR/DB; Collin Hunter, Sr., WR/DB; Paul Corrao, Sr., T/DT; Cam Correiro, Jr., G/DT; Antonio Mendes, Sr., RB; Zakim Harrow, Sr., DT/NG; Nuno Camara, Sr., LB/FB
The Tigers narrowly missed out on a winning record in their first season under head coach Brad Sidwell and showed signs of improvement, including a narrow, three-point loss to Mansfield. In year two, Sidwell is hoping for even more and Taunton has potential on the roster to be a tough out in the league.
Losing wide receiver Adam McLaughlin to graduation will certainly impact the offensive attack, but junior quarterback Noah Leonard returns for his second season under center and will look to build on the experience he gained last fall. With a number of athletes at the skill positions, including senior Collin Hunter and junior Brayden Merrill at wideout and T.J. Mendes in the backfield, Taunton will use a number of formations and styles to cause matchup problems. Sidwell expects the passing game to be a major strength for the Tigers.
Defensively, Taunton will have a number of new faces, but has size and experience at the line of scrimmage. Seniors Paul Corrao and Zakim Harrow and junior Cam Correiro will all make a significant impact on the battle in the trenches. Senior Nuno Camara provides experience to the linebacking corps, while Merrill and Hunter will be important in the secondary.
“Moving into the second year, the players, coaches and fans are excited for the season but there is lots of work to be done,” Sidwell said. “Hopefully we can get off to a good start and provide some confidence to gain momentum into the difficult Hockomock League season.”