Milford, Taunton Announce New Thanksgiving Rivalry

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Taunton and Milford announced their football programs will begin a new Thanksgiving Day rivalry starting in 2020. (Ryan Lanigan & Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
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The two newest members of the Hockomock League are set to begin the league’s newest rivalry. Milford and Taunton, who both joined the Hock for the 2012-2013 season, announced a new and permanent Thanksgiving Day Football matchup that will begin in 2020 in a joint statement released last week.

The Scarlet Hawks and Tigers are currently the only two teams in the league that do not play another league opponent on the holiday.

“We’re excited to have a new Thanksgiving opponent that is also apart of the Hockomock League,” said Taunton football coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re excited for the kids moving forward and to create a new rivalry. We’re looking forward for it to continue for a long time.

“It’s good that all the teams in the league are playing each other on Thanksgiving.”

Taunton football played crosstown city rival Coyle & Cassidy for 88 years (with a break from 1981-1996) before the Warriors ended “The Game” this past fall due to low numbers in the program. Coyle was unable to provide sub-varsity games over the past couple of seasons according to the Taunton Gazette. The Tigers have dominated the varsity game over the past decade.

The Scarlet Hawks have had five different opponents on Turkey Day since leaving the Mid-Wach and joining the Hockomock League. Milford completed its long rivalry with Shrewsbury in 2012 (the football team played one final season in the Mid-Wach during the school’s first season in the Hock), had a two year series with Holy Name, swept Randolph in back-to-back years, and dominated KIPP Academy, 42-20, in 2017.

“That’s really what we’re excited about, starting a rivalry with Taunton and a rivalry that will stick,” said Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “Its’ another Hock team so we get to keep it in the league. We look forward to playing Taunton for many years to come and we know it’s going to be competitive year in and year out.”

Milford began a new two year series with Maynard last season. The Hawks put on a dominating performance, winning 33-0 over Maynard, who entered the contest at 8-2 and were the top seed in the D6 Central playoffs. The Scarlet Hawks will wrap up that series this fall and begin its rivalry with Taunton on Thanksgiving in 2020. Taunton is without an opponent this season on the holiday.

While there isn’t a rich history between the programs yet, there are some connections. Vizakis coached under Sidwell for two years while at Franklin, and Sidwell played the Hawks for many years before they joined the Hockomock League.

On top of that, the two teams have met each August over the past three seasons for a preseason scrimmage.

Since both sides joined the league, they have met once on the gridiron. In 2015, the Tigers hosted the Hawks at Aleixo Stadium in a non-playoff game. Zach Lanzetta threw six touchdowns to lead Milford to a 49-30 win. Taunton quarterback Collin Hunter accounted for three scores, two in the air and one on the ground.

Below is the official release from the Milford and Taunton Athletic Departments:

Milford and Taunton are excited to announce a new and permanent Thanksgiving Day Football match-up that will begin in November of 2020. Taunton and Milford are the lone 2 teams of the 2 Hockomock League schools who do not currently play each other on Thanksgiving while the other 10 schools all play each other in long-standing Hockomock Thanksgiving Day rivalries. Milford has struggled to find a consistent Thanksgiving opponent since leaving the Mid-Wach League and joining the Hockomock League over 8 years ago while Taunton was recently informed by Coyle-Cassidy that their long-time Thanksgiving rivalry would be coming to a conclusion due to low numbers in the Coyle-Cassidy football program. Encouraged by the Hockomock League, the timing was therefore perfect for Milford and Taunton to merge to form a permanent agreement starting on Thanksgiving of 2020 and remaining T-Day opponents as long as Thanksgiving football remains viable and meaningful in Massachusetts. Taunton will have a sabbatical this Thanksgiving Day 2019 while Milford will finish their 2-year home and away agreement with Maynard and travel to Maynard in 2019 to close out that series. The host of the 2020 inaugural Taunton vs. Milford Thanksgiving football game is yet to be determined.

White, Milford Haul In Thanksgiving Win Over Maynard

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Milford senior Brendan White grabbed four touchdown passes and intercepted a Maynard pass as the Hawks pulled out a big Thanksgiving eve victory. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MILFORD, Mass. – Maynard got the ball to start Wednesday night’s Thanksgiving eve game and marched down the field behind quarterback Tommy Smith. The Tigers got the ball down to the Milford 25, but on third down Smith fired to the front corner of the end zone only to have sophomore defensive back Carter Scudo cut in front of the receiver, make the interception, and manage to keep a toe in bounds.

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After a discussion between the officials, Scudo’s pick stood and the Hawks took over for the first time at their own one. Seventeen plays and 99 yards later, Milford had a lead that it would never relinquish.

Senior Brendan White (nine catches, 119 yards) closed out his football career with four touchdown catches and an interception and classmate Shapel Feaster added a punt return score, as Milford finished its season with a 33-0 victory over the Tigers in the first game of this new Thanksgiving rivalry.

The win ensured that Milford (6-5) ended its season with a winning record, closing out the year with six wins in its final seven games.

“It’s huge not just for the seniors, but for the program in general,” Milford coach Anthony Vizakis said after the game. “We have a lot of sophomores that played, we’ve got a lot of young juniors that played. All credit to the kids for being coachable and taking it one game at a time like we’ve talked about all year, and finishing strong.

“It’s not how you start, but how you finish and these kids finished strong.”

Following Scudo’s interception, Milford came out with its power look with senior QB Ryan Pearl and moved the ball out across the 10 before turning to its spread look and junior signal caller Colby Pires (19-30, 287 yards). On third and 13, Pires hit Sean Lehane (four catches, 56 yards) underneath the coverage and he burst forward for 19 and the first down.

After having a Lehane 65-yard touchdown called back because of a hold, Pires completed a third and 15 pass to Hugo Lopes (four catches, 101 yards) for 35 into Maynard territory. The Hawks marched down to the 20 where they faced fourth and one, but a false start backed them up five yards. Pearl caught the Tigers crowding the line of scrimmage against the Milford bunch set and hit White in the end zone for a 25-yard score.

“It was a definitely a momentum shift and our kids really fed off that,” said Vizakis about the turnaround from the interception to the go-ahead score. “Credit to the defense for the turnover and then our offense really clicking tonight. It was really just a great team win.”

Maynard had a long first drive, but the Milford defense settled in and limited the Tigers for the remainder of the game. Vizakis explained, “All night our defense just played fundamentally sound. They gang-tackled and I thought we were in the right positions at the right time. It was just a great team effort.”

After forcing a punt, Milford turned its second possession into another score. Pires connected with White to convert a pair of third downs, including a 23-yard completion on third and eight that got the ball down to the Maynard 23. Three plays later, Pires tossed his first touchdown of the night, hitting White one-on-one at the front corner of the end zone for a 20-yard score.

When asked what made Milford so successful on third down on Wednesday, Vizakis replied, “Execution, the kids executing their plays. We had a great week of practice and the seniors really had a big hand in the success we had not just tonight but the whole season.”

The Hawks forced a three and out but a booming punt pushed them back to their own 18 with less than a minute to play in the half. Pires hit Lopes across the middle for 57 yards and then Feaster for 16 to get into position for a Lehane kick. His 36-yard attempt appeared to sneak inside the left upright but was called no good and the score stayed 13-0 at halftime.

Milford wasted no time breaking the game wide open in the third quarter. Twice more the Hawks converted on third down, including a well-designed screen pass to Lopes that had the Maynard defense leaning to the strong side before throwing back across the grain for the first down. Pires found White on a receiver screen and he followed his blockers for the 14-yard touchdown.

Although the two-point conversion was denied by the Tigers, Milford had a 19-0 lead. The Hawks defense held again, forcing another three-and-out. Dominic Scholfield crushed another punt that forced Feaster all the way back to his own 18, but the senior got a good bounce and took off. He broke to his left and found a seam near the Milford bench, made a good cut back towards the hashmark, and raced for an 85-yard, back-breaking touchdown.

The teams traded turnovers on downs, but White got the ball back when he picked off Scholfield on Maynard’s attempted trick play. Milford came right back down and added to its lead. Luke Rosa (14 carries, 52 yards) had four carries and a catch to get the ball to the Milford 24. Pires and White connected for seven yards on fourth and two and then on the next play they hooked up again for 17 and a touchdown.

“The kid’s put the time and the effort in for four years and I’m just so proud of him ending that way,” Vaizakis said about White, who was named the team’s offensive MVP after the game. “It puts a great exclamation point on such a great career.”

Feaster capped the game with an interception to preserve the Hawks shutout and a strong finish to his football career and the Milford season. Junior Kevin Pyne took home the Tiger D’Amico Trophy for the team’s best lineman and senior Josh Ligor was named defensive MVP in a ceremony after the game.

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Milford Sneaks Out Win Against Stoughton in Finale

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Milford senior Brendan White (4) had an interception, a fumble recovery, and scored a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, as part of the Hawks’ win at Stoughton in the regular season finale. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – When the final whistle sounded at Stonehill College’s WB Mason Stadium, Milford had no idea whether or not it had done enough to secure a spot in the Div. 3 South playoffs but Hawks coach Anthony Vizakis was sure that they had done all they could on Friday night.

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“These kids never quit,” Vizakis said. “A couple of weeks ago the seniors took it upon themselves to take control of the ship and steer it and they’ve done a really good job of getting the team to where they wanted to go. I can’t say enough about that group right there.”

Milford closed out its regular season with a come from behind, 18-15 win at division rival Stoughton in a game that felt like the postseason for both teams. At the start of the night, unofficially, the Black Knights held the final spot in the South bracket with Milford a spot behind and now both teams will have to wait and see how this result impacts the MIAA’s formula.

For the Hawks, it is a third straight win after losing the opening four games of the season. Senior Brendan White, who scored a touchdown, intercepted a pass, and recovered a fumble against the Black Knights, admitted that Friday’s win meant a lot to the upperclassmen.

“It really means a lot to these guys,” White said. “We’ve been through everything together going back to middle school. The way we responded, the way we came back from the hole we dug ourselves into, really shows how good this group of guys is and how Milford football culture is coming back.”

Milford knew it needed a win to have any shot at the postseason and the Hawks had several opportunities to get off to a great start and take the lead in the first half.

Shapel Feaster intercepted John Burke on third down on Stoughton’s first possession, returning it to the Black Knights 33. But the Hawks failed to take advantage. Four plays later, Colby Pires’ fourth down pass to Brendan White fell incomplete and the hosts took back over.

Stoughton was held without a first down on its first three possessions, while the Hawks drove into Black Knights territory on each of the first three times they had the ball. Each time, Milford saw its drive stall, including a touchdown that was called back due to a block in the back penalty.

On the third drive, Sean Lehane (four catches, 70 yards) lined up a 42-yard field goal attempt. The Black Knights blocked the kick with enough force that it ricocheted all the way to the Milford 30 where Christian Georges pounced on it.

Despite having only 13 yards of offense to that point, Stoughton found itself with a chance to take the lead. On third and seven, Burke (9-16, 111 yards) rolled out to the near sideline and he found Alex Iverson open. The senior running back turned and bowled his way through a couple of would-be tacklers for a 26-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

It was the one of only two first downs that Stoughton would get in the first half.

The Hawks needed a spark and finally put together a complete drive right before halftime. Pires (13-22, 183 yards) hit Hugo Lopes for a 30-yard gain to get things started. He then connected with Lehane on a bubble screen for 40 yards down to the one, where Jeff Grier hustled to make the touchdown-saving tackle. On the next play, Pires found Feaster wide open for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked and Stoughton went into the break ahead 7-6.

The Hawks started the third quarter by driving into Stoughton territory but were forced to punt. The Black Knights finally looked to get something going on offense when Burke was able to find Iverson, despite being hit by Josh Ligor, for a 28-yard gain. On fourth down, Burke’s pass was picked off by White to end the drive.

After another Milford punt, Stoughton turned the ball over for the third time. Again it was White that made the play, diving in to recover a botched hand-off at the Black Knights 19. Three plays later, Pires slipped a pass to White underneath the coverage and he dove into the end zone for Milford’s first lead, 12-7.

“That kid…he’s just heart and soul,” Vizakis said about White. “He gives every single thing he has every day and that kid is the definition of a tough football player and a great leader.”

Trailing for the first time on the night, Stoughton put together its best drive. The Black Knights marched 75 yards on 10 plays, mixing up the run and pass and getting Burke outside the pocket. Grier (11 carries, 56 yards) got it going with a 20 yard sweep and a pass interference call on a third down bomb helped keep the drive alive. Christopher Ais would give Stoughton back the lead when he found a seam on the left side and scored from 12 yards out.

Burke rolled to the near sideline and threw a strike to Malachi Green-Hightower, who just managed to keep his feet inbounds, for the two-point conversion and a 15-12 lead with 5:20 to play.

The Milford offense had been struggling at the start of the season, but scored 40-plus points in each of its last two games and seemed to have turned a corner.

The offense came through again in the fourth quarter, going 64 yards on seven plays in just under four minutes to earn the victory. Lucas Rosa (13 carries, 63 yards) had a run of 14 to get the ball to midfield and then Pires went deep to Feaster for 27 yards on the right sideline. After Rosa went 21 yards on two carries, Milford had the ball at the one. Ryan Pearl came off the bench and ran two sneaks to get the ball across for the score.

Vizakis said, “They scored, we expected them to score a few touchdowns tonight, but we also expected to score some more points at the end. That’s a great football team over there…but our kids don’t quit.”

Stoughton had 1:40 left to try and salvage the win. On third and six from his own 33, Burke looked deep down the sideline to Ajahn Rue and the junior receiver went up with Feaster. Both players came down with the ball, but the Milford defensive back ripped possession away, earning his second interception of the night and sealing the win.

“Clutch, clutch,” Vizakis said about Feaster. “He’s the emotional leader and just does the right things at the right time. Talk about a kid who’s overcome adversity in his own life to come out and play football with his friends on Friday nights, you can’t ask for much more than that.”

White added, “I think it was just our attitude from the beginning of the game. We had an attitude that we’re the best team on the field. Stoughton is a really good team and they played really hard but I think we just won the battle tonight.”

Milford (3-4, 3-2) and Stoughton (3-4, 2-3) will now wait and see how the playoff standings work out. The MIAA will announce its official brackets this weekend.

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Franklin Scores Shutout Win at Rival Milford

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Evan Wertz (25) celebrates a fumble on Milford’s opening possession of the game. Franklin scored either side of halftime and held the Hawks scoreless to win 21-0. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MILFORD, Mass. – On its opening three possessions of the game, Franklin managed about 30 yards of offense and turned the ball over twice. But the Panthers got one more chance to break the scoreless deadlock before halftime and made it count, scoring on the final play of the second quarter.

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The momentum carried over into the second half, as Franklin would score on both of its possessions in the third quarter to break Friday night’s rivalry game with Milford wide open and pull away for a 21-0 victory that sends the Panthers into league play with a 2-0 record.

“It’s a big win for us,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “This is a tough place to play. To get out of here 2-0, and more importantly 1-0 this week and focused on this task, we’re going to enjoy it for 24 hours.”

The game did not get off to a start that either team would have hoped for, with turnovers on the opening two plays. Shapel Feaster fumbled on the first play from scrimmage for the Hawks, but he made up for it on defense by forcing a Jack Nally fumble at the one-yard-line on Franklin’s first play.

Both defenses were in control for most of the opening half.

A Brendan White sack of Franklin starting quarterback Thomas Gasbarro ended one drive and Ryan Pearl picked off a pass by Nick Gordon, Franklin’s second quarterback, to end another. Milford was trying to mix things up, spreading out the Panthers on one play and bunching up on a power set on another, but the Panthers defense stood tall.

With under two minutes remaining in the half, Franklin took possession at its own 42. Gordon (6-11, 147 yards) hit Nally down the sideline for 21 yards and then found Ryan Driscoll (four catches, 115 yards) for nine yards to the Milford 28.

After an incomplete pass, Franklin had eight seconds left in the quarter. Gordon dropped back and again looked down the far sideline where Driscoll had gotten open in between two defensive backs for the game’s opening score.

Milford coach Anthony Vizakis admitted that it was a deflating moment for his team. He said, “It was because they knew we were close to going in with a 0-0 ballgame and that’s a totally different mentality. It’s a totally different feeling. I thought we came out [for the second half] with a little energy but it just wasn’t enough for tonight.”

The Panthers took control with the opening possession of the second half, marching 75 yards on seven plays to make it a two-score game. Gordon again hit Driscoll on a go-route down the sideline for 38 yards into Milford territory and then found Will Davis for another 11 yards. Three plays, including two Gordon keepers, later, Gordon was able to scramble and keep a play alive before finding a seam for a seven-yard score.

The Milford offense had to try and speed up, focusing on the spread formation and the passing game to try and cut into the lead, but that also played right into the strength of the Franklin defense – its secondary.

“With a two touchdown lead, you sort of take war off the table,” said Bain about Milford’s run-first set. “Our strength of the defense is our speed…whereas the war is what they do best and they can dictate to an opponent. To get them out of that was a big step in the second half.”

Milford’s junior quarterback Colby Pires completed three of his four passes in the first half, but with the Panthers dropping back into coverage then he was only able to complete two of 14 passes in the second half. Driscoll and Nally both broke up passes in coverage and Nolan McLaney was able to bat a pass down at the line of scrimmage.

“We had the clock against us and sometimes when you’re down two scores you try to speed things up a little bit,” Vizakis explained. “It was frustrating because we just couldn’t hit anything over the top.”

Franklin’s success defending the pass was largely done without getting much pressure on Pires. Adam McMorrow had the only sack of the game for the Panthers and it came on Milford’s possession.

Franklin made it three straight possessions with a touchdown and sealed the win before the end of the third quarter. The Panthers went 57 yards on 11 plays, including a 40-yard pass from Gordon to Driscoll. On third and goal from the six, Gordon took a keeper to the left side and snuck inside the pylon with a leap over the goal line.

Parker Chevrant made it three for three on extra points for a 21-0 lead.

Bain said, “We do spend some time talking about scramble drill and Nick’s able to that. It was a great night for the boys.”

“They run the spread very well,” Vizakis said. “Their quarterback runs the ball very well and we’ve just got to stay in our assignments, stay disciplined.”

Franklin (2-0) will open Kelley-Rex division play next Friday night at Alumni Field against Mansfield. Milford (0-2) will look for its first win when it starts Davenport division play with a visit from Canton.

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Cote, Weir Pace Attleboro Past Milford In Opener

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Attleboro senior Justin Cote tries to get past a Milford defender in the first quarter. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The combination of Attleboro quarterback Jason Weir and running back Justin Cote is going to be a handful for opposing teams this season. Milford found that out firsthand on Friday night.

Weir and Cote combined for over 200 yards on the ground, helping the Bombardiers open their season with a 21-7 win over the visiting Scarlet Hawks.

“We want to run the ball first,” said Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan. “Jason is big and tough and Justin is a dynamic running back. We’re able to move some things around and we’re still trying to find our identity a bit but I think what you saw tonight is what we’re going to be.”

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The Bombardiers had 28 rushing plays in the second half compared to just one passing attempt.

Weir accounted for 139 yards of offense, going 6-for-8 for 41 yards and one passing touchdown while picking up 98 yards and one rushing touchdown on 17 carries. Meanwhile, Cote had 125 rushing yards on 15 carries and scored once.

Both defenses stood tall to start the game but a mistake of special teams opened the door for Attleboro to cash in. A punt from Attleboro’s Nolan Jaeger was dropped at the 10-yard line and Bombardier Isaac Guidel pounced on the loose ball to get possession back for the hosts.

Milford’s defense stood tall for the first three plays, including dropping Cote for a loss on third down but Attleboro decided to go for it. On the first play of the second quarter, Weir hit junior Ethan Cameron as he faded to the corner of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.

Colby Briggs’ extra point put Attleboro up 7-0 with 10:54 left in the second quarter.

Milford’s offense stalled at its own 28-yard line but senior punter Sean Lehane drilled a deep kick that just rolled into the end zone for a touchback, forcing Attleboro to drive 80 yards.

Attleboro got halfway there before having to punt. The Bombardier defense came up with a big stop again, forcing Milford to punt from its own 33-yard line. Lehane once again came up big as his punt was downed at the Attleboro 12-yard line.

With little time left in the half, Attleboro couldn’t get much further than midfield and a strip sack from Ryan Hazard ended the drive as time expired on the first half.

The Bombardiers’ offense set the tone for the second half with its first drive, going 80 yards on 10 plays.

Cameron had a 9-yard rush, Weir had a 12-yard run and Cote rattled off a 28-yard rush during the drive. A 9-yard rush from Cote got Attleboro to the 1-yard line and Weir did the rest from there, using a sneak to squeeze up the middle for a score and a 14-0 advantage with 5:42 left in the third quarter.

Milford ran its only three plays of the quarter but Attleboro’s defense came up with a stop on third and short and had to punt.

“Defensively we’re pretty physical up front, the front four is a pretty good group,” Strachan said. “I’m proud of our kids and we just have to build on this one and now we have Dartmouth next week and that’s where the focus has to be on.”

Starting at its own 28-yard line, Attleboro used 13 plays — all rushing — to cover 72 yards. Weir converted the first three third downs on the drive before the Bombardiers were faced with fourth from the 33-yard line.

Cote burst out to his right, hesitated to fake out a defender, and then took off again, racing through defenders for a 33-yard score and a 21-0 lead with 7:02 in the fourth quarter.

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“The defense was on the field far too long,” said Milford head coach Anthony Vizakis. “We had a couple of missed opportunities but we’ll work on them and try to get better tomorrow. Attleboro is a big, strong, and physical team and they use it to their advantage.”

Milford put together its best drive of the game in response to Attleboro’s third touchdown. Junior Colby Pires (16-for-23, 101 yards) hit Lehane and Hugo Lopes on back-to-back nine yard completions, earning Milford’s first first-down of the second half.

Brendan White (six catches, 60 yards) hauled in an eight yard pass, and one play later, went for 23 yards on fourth down. Four plays later, Luke Rosa broke through two tackles in the backfield and plunged through the defense for a 1-yard touchdown.

Lehane hit the extra point and then used a perfect chip that allowed Dylan Ortiz to go up and catch the onside kick. Milford began to move the ball again, picking up back-to-back first downs but Pires was hit as he threw on the next play and Cameron hauled in the pass for an interception.

Although Milford’s defense stopped Attleboro on three straight plays, Attleboro’s defense got the ball right back when Jaeger intercepted the Hawks’ first play of the next drive.

“[Milford] played us really tough, they did a good job defensively,” Strachan said. “That’s a good football team with a lot of good players, I think they’re going to do well in their division.

Attleboro football (1-0) is back in action on Friday when it travels to Dartmouth. Milford (0-1) has its home opener next week when it hosts Franklin.

Black Knights Clamp Down on the Hawks for Road Win

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Malachi Green-Hightower (52) leads the way for Justin Ly (3) on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown late in the first half against Milford. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MILFORD, Mass. – Twenty minutes into Friday night’s regular season finale at Milford High, Stoughton had only managed three first downs. Another short drive came to a close after Jonathan Medina was sacked by several Hawks and offensive lineman Malachi Green-Hightower was forced to jump on a fumble to keep the possession alive.

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Paul Feeney hit a towering punt downfield towards Ryan O’Toole, who was unable to come up with it cleanly. Matthew Hadley pounced on the loose ball and put the Black Knights at the Milford 25. On the next play, Justin Ly bounced outside the tackle and raced down the Milford sideline for a 25-yard score with 1:31 left in the first half.

The score turned out to be the game-winner, as the Black Knights defense smothered the Milford offense, limiting the Hawks to only eight first downs in the game (only three in the second half), in a 14-3 victory that sets up a three-way tie for second place in the Davenport division and most likely a home game for Stoughton in the Div. 3 South playoffs.

“That’s a good team,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke, “they played very hard, and they’ve been excellent the last couple weeks and luckily we got them and I’m glad we did it by running the football.”

The Black Knights were without starting quarterback Evan Gibb, who was injured in the loss to North Attleboro, and Burke praised Medina (2-6, 25 yards) for managing the game. Burke said, “You’ve got to make some tough plays and the toughest job, he did a great job for us, was our quarterback. The kid hasn’t played a lot and…everything’s a little different.”

Milford started the game in a spread formation with sophomore Colby Pires (7-16, 118 yards) in the shotgun. On the first possession of the game, Pires hit Shapel Feaster for 20 yards and the Hawks moved the ball into Stoughton territory, but on fourth and nine Pires scrambled and hit Lucas Rosa for eight yards and the drive stalled at the Black Knights 29.

On the second possession, backed up to their own 11, the Hawks hit their biggest play of the game. Pires looked deep down the near sideline to Joey Everett, a senior who transferred in from St. George’s School (Newport, R.I.) midway through the season, and the wideout made an incredible 41-yard catch just keeping a foot in bounds. On the next play, Pires was intercepted by Ryan Semler.

“When you have three turnovers and a muffed punt deep in your own end, it’s hard to get anything going,” said first-year Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “We tried our spread, we tried our war, they did a really great job. They have a great defense.”

Vizakis admitted that the touchdown before halftime was a turning point. He said, “Unfortunately, sometimes all it takes is one play. We were hoping to put a drive together and we had some things ready to go, but you could feel the momentum shift. Against a tough team like that, it’s hard to come back from it.”

The Black Knights went into the locker room with energy after the late touchdown, but in the end both defenses were too strong to keep the momentum going. A sack by Josh Ligor ended the second Stoughton possession of the third quarter and gave Milford the ball back at its own 30.

The Hawks turned to junior Ryan Pearl at quarterback in a compact power set that worked the week before in the comeback win over Foxboro. A six-yard completion to Will Pointer got a rare third down conversion for a first down and Pointer followed it with a 20-yard burst around the end. Once again the drive stalled, but Milford turned to junior kicker Sean Lehane, who split the upright with a 46-yard boot (with room to spare) that cut the lead to 7-3.

“He’s unreal,” said Vizakis of Lehane. “That’s automatic for him. He kicks 50-55 [yards] in practice and I think we have to utilize him even more when we’re close. He’s clutch.”

The home crowd was starting to get into it, especially after Ruben Gonzalez was stopped on the kick-off return at his own 17, but the Black Knights settled down and put together the best drive of the game.

Alex Sjoquist (15 carries, 91 yards) was the main threat, getting the ball eight times during a 13-play, 83-yard march that took seven minutes off the clock and sealed the win. The big play was a 41-yard burst straight up the middle from Sjoquist that Tyler Joyce kept from being a touchdown with a diving, shoestring tackle. In the end, Sjoquist plunged into the end zone with a three-yard score.

Any hope of another late comeback by the Hawks was dashed by a Colin Sanda interception.

Burke said of the team’s ability to matchup with Milford’s bunch sets, “We got hurt a little bit but…we worked very hard at that all week. It’s a very effective offense, if you get one long play. You’re in tight, so they’re hoping someone cracks one and gets out. So, you have to really protect against the bounce out.”

Despite the defeat, it looks like Milford (3-4, 3-2) has qualified for the Div. 3 South playoffs and could face possible trips to North Attleboro, Duxbury or Hingham. Vizakis is proud of how far the Hawks have come from the opening game of the season.

He said, “We’re 100 percent getting better every week and that’s what we tell them, get better every day. The kids are improving, they’re getting more comfortable in the system, and once we see where we fall in the playoff bracket we’ll be ready to go next week.”

Stoughton (5-2, 3-2) appears to be in line for the third or fourth seed in Div. 3 South.

Burke said, “We’re 5-2 with a couple of our starters out…and I’m just happy we’re getting in the playoffs for our fourth consecutive year. I don’t know, if you had said at the beginning of the year that we’d be 5-2 I would’ve called you crazy, but that’s the type of kids I have, tough kids.”

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North Attleboro Rides Strong Start Past Scarlet Hawks

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North Attleboro’s Nick Raneri carries the ball in the first half against Milford. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
MILFORD, Mass. – After turning the ball over on each of its first two drives a week ago, North Attleboro had a high priority on getting off to a better start this week in Milford.

The Rocketeers delivered in a big way.

Big Red scored on both of its first two drives, combining to run 19 plays in the first quarter compared to just four for the hosts, and seized a 13-0 advantage after 11 minutes of play.

North’s strong start paved the way for a 27-6 win over the Scarlet Hawks.

“That was the plan going in because [Milford] runs that double-wing offense,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “They can take control of the football and clock and really put you behind the eight ball. So we really thought it was important to get ahead and make [Milford] play from behind.

“It was really good to see, I felt good after seeing our offense bring the ball down the field like that.”

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After Milford deferred, North Attleboro marched 68 yards on 11 plays on the game’s opening drive. A 23-year gain from Brendan McHugh (13 carries, 79 yards, two touchdowns) and 10-yard rush on fourth down from Nick Raneri (12 carries, 91 yards) helped Big Red move into the red zone.

McHugh took a sweep to the left and walked his way in for a two-yard touchdown. North’s attempt at a two-point conversion was caught but out of bounds.

Big Red’s defense was ready to go to start the game, allowing Milford’s offense to gain just two yards on its first three plays and forced a punt.

Nathan Pearce (63 total yards) started the next drive with a quick 15-yard first down run and two plays later Raneri rumbled his way for 30 yards. Facing a 3rd and 10 from the Milford 22-yard line, senior quarterback Chad Peterson (7/15, 96 yards, rush touchdown) hit junior Ryan Gaumond for a 12-yard gain and a first down.

Three plays later, Peterson kept it himself and took off to the right, sprinting inside the pylon for a four-yard touchdown. Geoff Wilson’s extra point made it 13-0 with 34 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Milford’s offense couldn’t move the ball forward on its next drive and had to punt, but the Scarlet Hawks’ defense came up with a big stop. Patrick Brogioli forced a six-yard loss on a second down play, and after a hold on third down, the Rocketeers were forced to punt.

But once again, North’s defense held Milford to negative yards and the Hawks had to punt.

Peterson connected with Pearce for 25-yards to help the drive get started and then kept it on a QB option, galloping all the way to the one-yard line with a 43-yard rush. McHugh plunged up the middle for the touchdown on the next play and a 20-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first half.

“I think we might have gotten over the hump tonight, I really do,” Johnson said. “Especially the way we performed offensively in the beginning of the game. I think we left some opportunities out there, a couple of guys that were open that didn’t get the ball. But I think we’re pretty close to where we need to be on offense, but there’s still room for improvement on both sides.”

Milford elected to switch its offense, moving from the double-wing to its spread formation, bringing in sophomore quarterback Colby Pires (7/19, 84 yards).

Although the Hawks’ drive stalled before the half, Pires completed a pass to junior Shapel Feaster (five catches, 65 yards) for the team’s first first down.

The home side seemed to feed off the bit of momentum it gained before the halftime break and used it to open the second half with a touchdown. Ryan O’Toole opened the half with a 13-yard run and a first down.

Then the Scarlet Hawks used a little trickery, having running back Will Pointer take the toss but instead of running, he heaved a pass that senior Tyler Joyce hauled in for a 46-yard completion.

Two plays later, Pires floated one into the end zone and Joyce was able to leap up and make the catch for a 14-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 20-6.

“We made an adjustment to get out of our war set and go spread and I think that worked a little bit for us,” said MHS head coach Anthony Vizakis. “We have to do better and learn from this and regroup from this.

“It was good experience for our sophomore quarterback who I thought stood in there and played very well. When we watch the film tomorrow, we’ll get better from this. It’s there in spurts and the kids battled. We had a couple of negative plays that really hurt us but I think those are correctable.”

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Milford’s defense delivered on North’s first drive of the second half, forcing the Rocketeers to punt after gaining two first downs on its first two plays.

Pires hit Feaster for a first down to begin the drive, but North Attleboro’s Zach DeMattio come up with a 12-yard sack on first down, and a host of Rocketeers forced an 11-yard loss on Milford’s next run. Milford had to punt two plays later.

“The same thing happened last week,” Johnson said. “Sharon had the long kickoff return and the defense came out and held them to a field goal, and we blocked that field goal. I think the defense is maturing pretty well and coming up with some big stops.

“We hadn’t seen them in that spread formation very much on film. We really didn’t have a scouting report to go on for that offense. We just wanted to get some pressure on him as best he can. But he’s a good athlete and made some plays.”

North put an exclamation point on the game with its next drive. Taking the rest of the time in the third quarter, and over a minute of the fourth quarter, Big Red marched 68 yards on 10 plays and scored its fourth touchdown.

Peterson hit McHugh for 15-yards and a first down, Raneri had a two-yard run for a first down and then Peterson hit a wide-open Nolan Buckley up the middle for a 20-yard score and a 27-6 lead with 9:59 to play.

North Attleboro (3-1 overall, 2-0 Hockomock) will have its first big test of division play when it hosts Foxboro in a battle of Davenport unbeatens. Milford (1-3, 1-1) will travel to Sharon on Saturday for a 3:30 kickoff.

“The schedule has worked in our favor so far,” Johnson said. “We really challenged ourselves with our scrimmage schedule, then opened up with King Philip. It’s worked out pretty good because we’ve been a team that’s slow to develop. And I think we have developed and gotten better every week. Now the question is ‘are we good enough now to beat a good Foxboro team?’”

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Strong Second Half Propels Franklin to Win at Milford

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Franklin senior Jake Noviello threw three touchdown passes, as the Panthers outscored Milford 21-0 in the second half to pull out their first win of the season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MILFORD, Mass. – Heading into halftime, Franklin was frustrated. The Panthers had made a series of mistakes from turnovers to missed blocks to dropped passes to using up timeouts early in the half and Milford had taken advantage, playing the game at its pace and grinding out a three-point lead.

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After the break, Franklin turned the game around, scoring 21 straight points and forcing Milford to abandon the power running game that it prefers. Behind three touchdown passes from senior Jake Noviello, Franklin pulled out a 28-10 victory in Friday night’s Game of the Week and evened its record at 1-1.

“They’re tough and we knew that. They compete and those kids don’t quit,” Franklin coach Eian Bain said about Milford. “We gave them the ball in great field position, we allowed them to execute their game plan, and we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”

He added, “Once we got out of our own way, that’s all it took. Milford is a very good, competitive, and tough team. You can’t do that kind of stuff and expect to beat them.”

Things started perfectly for the Panthers, who marched down the field on the opening possession of the game. Franklin went 78 yards in 11 plays and no-huddle offense was clicking in perfect rhythm. Noviello (15-26, 180 yards) was 5-for-8 on the drive and capped it with an eight-yard strike to Jack Nally (who caught four of the five completions on the drive) for the game’s first score.

Special teams got Milford right back into the game. Junior Shapel Feaster returned the ensuing kick-off 66 yards to start the Hawks at the Franklin 20. The Hawks made it count with junior Brendan White (11 carries, 26 yards) tying the game with a four-yard run that was aided by a big push from his teammates that carried him and several would-be tacklers across the goal line.

Ryan Driscoll coughed up the ball on the kick return and again Milford started well into Franklin territory; this time at the Panthers 16. A holding call denied Ryan Pearl a touchdown on a keeper and a Jackson Gilbert tackle on third down and goal forced Milford to settle for a 20-yard Sean Lehane field goal to take the lead.

Milford continued to grind out yards on the ground, running out the clock with a balanced attack that featured Will Pointer (13 carries, 65 yards), Ryan O’Toole (eight carries, 32 yards) and White.

The Hawks got the ball out of halftime and there was a lot of energy on the sidelines, but Franklin forced a punt on the first possession and then its offense got back into gear. The Panthers put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive and took the lead for good. Noviello was 4-for-6 on the drive and threw a perfect pass to hit Evan Wendell in the far corner of the end zone for a 14-10 lead.

“Once we got rolling in the second half, the kids settled down,” said Bain. “They knew they were in a fight, but we also knew what we were doing wrong. It’s not hard to fix mistakes that are self-inflicted and we were able to correct them and get back on track.”

On Milford’s next possession, Evan Wertz ripped the ball away from White and returned it inside the 20, with a penalty getting Franklin down to the six. Two plays later, Noviello hit Driscoll for the six-yard score and a crucial two-possession lead.

“We’ve got a really young quarterback and anytime, with our offense, when we get behind it’s tough,” admitted Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “We like to ground and pound, but that can only go so far.”

With the Hawks needing to up the tempo, Vizakis turned to sophomore quarterback Colby Pires and a spread formation, but Franklin picked off a pair of passes, including a sliding interception on the far sideline by Nolan Mclaney that gave the Panthers a chance to put the game away.

“We see a bright future with Colby Pires and we’re definitely working towards that,” Vizakis explained. “Nothing against (last year’s starter) Matt Curran, he’s a good kid and we’re using him in other spots, but we see Colby being a starter here for a few years, so he’s getting some good experience.”

Facing fourth and one on the next drive, Noviello used a hard count to draw Milford offsides and, although his pass was intercepted by Feaster, Franklin got the first down. Sean Hofferty(15 carries, 39 yards) finished the drive with a two-yard dive to wrap up the scoring.

Bain said, “As soon as we could get them out of their comfort zone, that’s what you want to do is make your opponent play left-handed. Once we tipped the scales, we were able to switch the match-ups into more of our favor.”

Despite the loss, Vizakis, who is in his first year in charge of the program, saw plenty to build on going forward. He said, “We started six sophomores tonight, offense and defense, so young kids getting good experience. We’re definitely going to be teaching every day.”

When asked about the importance of picking up a win before league play kicks off next week, Bain joked, “My car would be on blocks right now if we were 0-2.”

He continued, “The kids have worked so hard for this. It hasn’t been like that around here in a while where we go in and expect to win and I feel like we’re there now. To start 0-2, it’s hard to keep preaching that mantra.”

Franklin (1-1) will try to keep the momentum going next week against unbeaten Mansfield in what the Panthers are expecting will be the first game on the new turf at Pisini Field. Milford (0-2) will open Davenport division play against Canton at World War II Veterans Memorial Field.

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