TAUNTON, Mass. – Heading into Friday night’s contest against Taunton, Franklin head coach Eian Bain wanted to get as many of his skill players involved as possible to keep the Tigers’ defense guessing.
Senior quarterback Nick Gordon delivered with a near flawless performance, going 11-for-14 for 243 yards, connecting with six different receivers, and tossing four touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a dominant 42-7 win over Taunton.
Franklin was essentially perfect in the first half with Gordon completing all of his passes (7-for-7) and the team recording 254 yards of offense, scoring on all four of its drives for a 28-0 lead at the break.
“We got off to a very fast start and I thought we executed the game plan really well,” Bain said. “We try to think about players not plays so we wanted to get certain kids to touch the ball. We had a lot of different kids touch the ball tonight and that wasn’t by accident.
“Taunton does a nice job of changing up their looks, they don’t use the same coverages and fronts a lot. It’s a fun cat and mouse game to play but it’s tough. But we were ready, made some audibles, and when the run game hits, everything is easier and we had some nice runs.”
It was all Panthers from the get-go. After forcing Taunton to punt on its opening drive, Franklin needed just four plays to find the end zone. Owen Palmieri (10 carries, 50 yards) took the first play for 20 yards and the third for four more, sandwiched around a pass from Gordon to Jack Nally (75 all-purpose yards). On the fourth play, Gordon hit Ryan Driscoll (two catches, 88 yards) on a short bubble screen, and the senior got the block he needed to race for a 32-yard touchdown.
Parker Chevrant (6-for-6 extra points) drilled the point after for a 7-0 lead with 6:58 to play in the first quarter.
After another defensive stop that resulted in -5 yards for Taunton, Franklin needed just three plays this time around. On a broken play, Gordon scrambled to the left sideline and waited until the last second before linking up with Driscoll. After a nice block, Driscoll was able to cut inside and raced across the field for a 56-yard score and a 14-0 advantage with 2:59 left in the first quarter.
“We came out flat, we didn’t answer the bell at all to start the game,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “They are a good, athletic team and I know we’d have a tough matchup with them at spots defensively. I thought we might have been able to do a little more offensively but we didn’t. We had one good drive to start the second half running the ball, but we have to do that for all four quarters.
“We thought we’d be able to do some things but they did a nice job of getting the ball to their playmakers, they’re a skilled team.”
Taunton moved the ball some on its next drive but a tackle for loss from junior Austin Jordan put the Tigers in a hole and they were forced to punt. Franklin responded with its most methodical drive of the game, rattling off 10 plays to cover 50 yards. The longest play on the drive was from Gordon to Nally for 16 yards, and Palmieri finished with a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-0 with 5:31 left in the second quarter.
Franklin’s defense stuffed Taunton on a 3rd and 1 attempt to force another punt and get the ball back. And the offense wasted little time to move the ball yet again.
Nally and Gordon ripped off back-to-back runs that combined for 25 yards and then Gordon found Jake Davis in stride down the right sideline for a 45-yard touchdown and a 28-0 advantage heading into halftime.
“Keeping the offense on the field in a rhythm is a big part of it,” Bain said of his defense forcing quick three-and-outs. “Last week against KP, they had a lot of third and short opportunities. Tonight we were able to get ahead and get them into second and longs. When you can force a team to be one dimensional, it shrinks the playbook. Our staff is really good at creating different pressures. Noah is really dangerous, he can throw and run so you have to have smart pressure and I thought we did that this week.”
Taunton looked like a new team coming out in the second half, forcing its first three-and-out of the game to get the ball early in the third quarter. The Tigers offense rewarded the defense with its best drive of the game.
With a boost from senior fullback Damian Manning, who had two carries for 16 yards and one catch for five yards — two of those plays resulting in first downs, Taunton got on the board. On the eighth play of the drive, quarterback Noah Leonard used a QB sneak – with a push from Manning – to score from 1-yard out and cap an 80-yard drive to make it 28-7.
The momentum carried over to the Taunton defense, which again came up with a stop, including a big pass breakup from Curt Marshall. The Tigers got the ball back with 2:59 left in the third with a chance to make it a two-score game, but Franklin’s defense had other plans.
On third and 6, Franklin put pressure on Leonard and forced a quick throw on a screen attempt, and Taunton had to punt.
“It could have been closer there, but the defense did a nice job,” Bain said.
“We don’t scoreboard watch, we don’t care about what happened the previous drive or the previous play, we have to focus on the current play. We can’t worry that they scored the drive before, we have to make the stop on this series. That was huge for us.”
Franklin’s offense got back into gear, marching 71 yards on six plays, the big play a pass and catch from Gordon to Sean Leonard over the middle for 24 yards. Nally came across in motion and took a simple touch pass forward while on the run and went around the left edge for a 15-yard score and a 35-7 lead with 9:55 to play. It was Gordon’s fourth touchdown pass of the day.
“He’s like Ricky Bobby, he just wants to go fast,” Bain said of Gordon. “When I slow the game down in my play calling, I take away what he does well. He has that ability to go on the fly. The touchdown pass to Driscoll, the second one, that was a bad call and he made it a good one with his athleticism and vision. He does a lot of smart things too. He knows the situations and makes good decisions.”
Sean Hofferty added a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the final minutes.
Franklin football (4-2 overall, 2-2 Hockomock) returns home next Friday to take on Attleboro in what could be a potential playoff preview. Taunton (3-3, 1-3) will try to bounce back when it hits the road to take on King Philip.
TAUNTON, Mass. – In the final minute of the first half, Oliver Ames found the end zone to cut Taunton’s lead in half, taking the momentum into the break.
But Taunton stole the momentum back, sandwiching a pair of 60-yard plus drives around an OA three-and-out to begin the second half. The hosts never looked back from that point on, earning a decisive 30-6 victory in the HockomockSports.com Game of the Week, dubbed the “Tiger Bowl.”
“I thought their offense did a good job of mixing it up on us,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “I’ve run a no-huddle spread offense before and it’s different for the defense when you haven’t played against it, our guys had to adjust. But coming out in the second half, that first drive was a big deal. And then it was nice to get a stop and do it again on offense.”
Taunton was looking to add onto its 13-0 lead when it stopped Oliver Ames on fourth down just over midfield late in the second quarter. But the host Tigers fumbled just two plays into the series with OA’s Andrew Fraser falling onto the loose ball.
OA took advantage, marching 57 yards on nine plays to end the first half on a high note. Junior quarterback Cam Perron (7/18, 99 yards) scampered for 15 yards to begin the drive and back-to-back carries to junior Nathan Cabral (20 carries, 103 yards, touchdown) moved OA up the field 30 yards. An encroachment penalty on Taunton allowed Cabral to convert a fourth down inside the red zone on a short run, and two plays later, Cabral took a pitch to the left and ran in for a 9 yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 13-6.
Taunton’s offense was unfazed but its deficit shrinking. Senior Tryton Zavala (18 carries, 117 yards) had four rushes on the drive while senior quarterback Noah Leonard (15/19, 213 yards, three touchdowns) went 3-for-3, hitting Wesner Charles (six receptions, 79 yards two touchdowns) for a 26-yard touchdown over the middle. Coby Adams’ extra point made it 20-6 with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
The defense did its part, highlighted by a sack from Taunton senior Max Moitoso on second down. OA ended up without a yard on the drive and had to punt quickly.
After OA’s three and out, the host Tigers once again worked their way down field. Facing a 4th and 7 at the OA 19-yard line, Leonard hit Cam Carroca, who fought his way past the first down maker. On the next play, sophomore Josh Lopes (seven carries, 59 yards) found a big hole on the left side and went in for a 10-yard touchdown and a 27-6 lead with 1:15 left in the third.
“Our guys battled across the board,” said OA head coach Mike Holland. “I thought our guys fought and it was a competitive game at half. Coming out in the second, we had a chance to do a couple of things. We didn’t and they capitalized to pull ahead. They finished strong and we didn’t.
“Football comes down to who can control the line of scrimmage, who can sustain long drives, and who doesn’t come out and go three and out offensively. They came out and drove the field, and offensively we sputtered and had to punt. They got the ball back, ate up some clock with a long drive and finished.”
To start the game, the teams traded punts and then Oliver Ames’ second drive ended on downs. On Taunton’s second drive, the hosts went 76 yards on 10 plays. Danny MacDougall (six catches, 96 yards) had an 11-yard reception and fullback Damian Manning grabbed a 15-yard pass on the drive. Three plays later, Leonard connected with Charles on a fade route for a 7-0 advantage.
Oliver Ames looked to respond, moving the ball into Taunton territory. Perron’s pass to sophomore Jeremy Clark went for 40 yards early in the drive and the junior quarterback also hit Sam Stevens for 12 yards to inch closer to the red zone.
It looked Perron had a man down the left sideline on the ensuing play but Taunton safety Javon Franklin came flying over and made the interception in the end zone.
Taunton took advantage of the turnover, needing just five plays to go 75 yards. MacDougall laid out to haul in a 34-yard pass, OA was hit with a dead ball foul to move the ball half the distance to the goal, and Leonard his Sean Quinlan in the corner of the end zone for a 13-0 lead.
After Taunton went up 27-6, a 39-yard kickoff return from Stevens put Oliver Ames in good position on the ensuing drive. The visiting Tigers got into the red zone when Perron hit Shane Kilkelly (three catches, 30 yards) for 11 yards and a first down. On fourth and goal from the 5 yard line, Taunton brought pressure and Sebastien Celestin came up with a big sack to keep OA out of the end zone.
It marked the third straight game Taunton has allowed just six points.
“We’ve been a little bit bend but don’t break on defense,” Sidwell said. “We got a big turnover in the first half in the end zone. We had a few more man rushes tonight so he couldn’t get comfortable back there. He had some scrambles on us but we were able to get to him a couple of times.”
Adams added a field goal in the fourth, connecting on a 21-yard field goal to cap Taunton’s only drive of the quarter (10 plays, 76 yards).
Taunton football finished with over 400 yards of offense, with 213 coming off the arm of Leonard and 205 yards on the ground. For Sidwell, it was a welcome sight to see after failing to get the ground game going consistently a week prior.
“I was frustrated last game against Durfee because in the second half, we couldn’t run the ball against similar type defense with everybody up in there,” Sidwell said. “You have to find ways to run the ball and I’m pleased with how we did tonight.”
Taunton football (1-0 Hockomock, 3-0 overall) is on the road next week when it visits Attleboro (0-1, 2-1) on Friday night at 7:00. Oliver Ames (0-1, 0-3) will try to bounce back when it visits Franklin.
Injuries hampered Attleboro right from the start of the 2017 season, but the 2018 Bombardiers are healthy and hoping for a big turnaround this fall to compete with the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division and make a return to the postseason.
The graduation of quarterback Cam Furtado is a significant loss on offense, but the Bombardiers will hand the ball to junior Jason Weir, who has a big arm and a lot of potential at the QB position. Size and strength won’t be a problem for Weir, who played defensive end as a sophomore. Seniors Justin Cote and Alex Rodriguez will be the primary backs for Attleboro this year and give the Bombardiers dynamic weapons out of the backfield. The offensive line is bolstered by 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior Qualeem Charles and 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior Nick Evans. At 6-foot-3, junior Nolan Jaeger will be a weapon at receiver along with senior Josh Therrien and sophomore tight end Michael Strachan.
Evans battled injuries at the start of last season, but he is one of the top defensive linemen in the league and is drawing Div. I college offers. Attleboro will be a tough team to run against this season with Evans on the end and Charles (who is also getting DI looks) and 6-foot-3, 365-pound senior Eddie Porreca on the inside. Strachan and junior Isaac Gudiel will be starting at inside linebacker, while senior Desmond Woodson will be starting on the outside. Therrien is capable of making plays downfield at his free safety position and will be the leader of the secondary.
“I am looking forward to the 2018 season,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have a strong senior class and we have strong leadership on our football team. Our team worked out hard in the off-season and I am looking forward to that hard work paying off this season.”
Third-year head coach Eian Bain is optimistic about the 2018 season, and the long list of players returning with plenty of experience is a big reason why. The Panthers have over a dozen players back that started or saw significant time on offense and the same goes for the defense, include a very seasoned secondary.
Franklin must replace three-year starter Jake Noviello at quarterback but Bain is confident that a healthy competition between senior Nick Gordon and junior Thomas Gasbarro will result in a strong option starting under center for the opening week. While Franklin has to replace its quarterback, they return a ton of skill players on offense including senior tight end Sean Leonard, who hauled in a league-best eight touchdown passes last season. Ryan Driscoll (five touchdowns), Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Jake Davis will fill out the receiving corps while Sean Hofferty and Owen Palmieri man the backfield. Seniors Riley Downing and Liam Arsenault are experienced and will anchor the offensive line.
Junior Evan Wertz will be a key piece in the middle of the Panthers’ defense after having a breakout campaign last year with nearly 100 tackles from his linebacker spot. Senior Spencer Briggs and sophomore Alex Honor will also see time at linebacker while Downing is joined by Jack Jarosz, Dom Natale, and Keenan Bassma on the defensive line. The Panthers boast a seasoned secondary with Nolan McLaney and Driscoll both back, along with Palmieri, Jake Davis, and both Gasbarro and Gordon.
“We have experience on both sides of the ball,” Bain said. “It is a cohesive group that has been working hard together for our first two years and they are eager to the turn the corner with our program.”
The target on King Philip’s back is bigger than ever as the Warriors pulled off a second straight undefeated season and another state championship.
So how will head coach Brian Lee get this year’s team to focus on 2018 and not the past two seasons?
“The work and preparation have been the same but now it’s up to this season class to leave their legacy,” Lee said. “The previous two classes had their moments, now it’s up to these seniors to make their own moment. This team will go as far as these seniors lead them.”
The seniors will have plenty of opportunities to make their mark because King Philip doesn’t have a returning starter on offense. The Warriors need to replace quarterback Brendan Lydon, who didn’t lose a game as a starter. Junior Robbie Jarest looks poised to take over under center this season. While it isn’t a lot of experience, Jarest took over in the second half of the state final after Lydon got hurt and helped the Warriors finish off Lincoln-Sudbury. The toughest shoes to fill will be those of Shane Frommer, who will go down as one of the best players in KP history.
Junior Ryan Halliday will be the feature back while Aidan Bender and Sam Callanan will be in the mix as well. Jack Webster and Jack Collentro will be keys to the offense from the fullback position. Senior Terrell Jacobs Bastons has some experience on both sides of the ball and will likely start at guard while classmate Josh Fice will fill in the other guard spot. Junior Nolan Gunning is likely to get a starting spot as well, either at center or tackle.
Defense has been a staple for the Warriors throughout their successful run over the last couple of years, and that’s what KP will count on again this season. The strength will come from the linebackers with Webster back in an outside spot and Max Armour returning in the middle. Jacobs Bastons will be a big presence in the middle of the defensive line while the secondary will have familiar faces back in Aidan Bender, Timmy Nault, and safety Luke D’Amico.
And as we saw in the state final, having a reliable kicker is priceless. Cole Baker, who booted the winning field goal in the final, is back for his third year. Not only will he be a big help on offense, his kickoffs will be a weapon for the defense.
Mansfield has finished second in the Kelley-Rex in each of the past three seasons and the Hornets will be counting on experience under center and depth at the skill positions to end King Philip’s two-year reign atop the division and return to the top of the league standings for the first time since 2013.
Senior Damani Scott will be the starter at quarterback for the second straight season and he will be backed up by the capable Jack Mousette, giving the Hornets plenty of experience and reliability from their signal caller. Scott will also have a ton of weapons to call on this year with a skill position group that head coach Mike Redding calls one of the best that Mansfield has had in a while. Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco will be weapons in the passing game while junior Vinnie Holmes is back in the backfield. Juniors Makhi Baskin, Michael DeBolt (who was also an outstanding kicker last year), and Nick Marciano will provide depth in the slot/running back positions. Senior Daenin Walker and junior Jason Comeau will add experience to the offensive line.
Defensively, Holmes will return to the linebacking corps after setting a program record for tackles in a season as a sophomore. Seniors Chris Copponi and Philip Dinov also return and can play as linebackers or as defensive ends depending on matchups. The secondary will be strong for the Hornets this year with Conner and Sacco at the corners and Marciano and Baskin at the safety positions. The only new additions on the defense are Anthony Capece at noseguard and junior Joe Plath at linebacker.
Redding said, “We have an experienced, athletic, aggressive defense that should be tough to score on and we’re young on offense, but have a ton of depth and talent at skill positions. Just need to gain some experience up front with our new guys on OL and DL.”
The 2018 version of the Oliver Ames Tigers have already had to make an audible after star running back Anthony Berksza suffered a season-ending injury over summer. Berksza had a breakout year last season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and finished with 16 total touchdowns, 15 of those rushing.
With Berksza out, Oliver Ames will rely heavily on the rest of its returning starters to carry the load. Junior Cam Perron returns under center after taking over the starting job during the regular season last year. While Perron looks to find some of his options, he has an offensive line protecting him that has some experience but will be looking to form cohesiveness throughout the year. Dean Pacini, Shane Murphy, Billy Tat, Luke Thibeault, and Garrett Wood all return with experience playing on the line. One challenge will be finding someone to step up and be a leader of that group after the graduation of two-time all star Jack Mills.
Nathan Cabral takes over as the feature tailback and OA head coach Mike Holland is confident the junior can get the job done. Holland says Cabral runs hard and is a tough player. Perron will also have the likes of Shane Kilkelly, Jake Erlich, and Evan Craig to work with as targets.
The heart of the defense will be at the linebacker position. Both Pacini, Murphy, and Darnele Ryan return after starting there last year and Holland will count on both senior captains to lead the way for the Tigers. Sam Stevens is back in the secondary at the safety position but OA will need some new faces to emerge alongside him.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season,” Holland said. “We have a great group across the board. We have some experienced players back and some talented players competing for jobs.”
Taunton started last season with a 3-0 record, one of the program’s best starts in years, but then lost five straight games, including a playoff game against BC High, the top seed in Div. 1 South. The Tigers turned it on again from that point, winning the final three games of the season, including an impressive win against Brockton, to finish with a winning record under second-year head coach Brad Sidwell.
Experience will be a key for the Tigers this season, as Taunton tries to build on that playoff appearance and the momentum from a strong closing stretch. Senior Noah Leonard will be the starting quarterback for the third straight year and is now fluent in Sidwell’s offensive system. Leonard will have familiar targets in senior wideouts Brayden Merrill, Tryton Zavala, and Wesner Charles, while junior Cam Carroca looks to step in as a feature running back and junior Javon Franklin is a new target in the passing game. On the line, Taunton returns plenty of size in 6-foot-3, 337-pound tackle Christian Tourinho and his fellow senior Cam Correiro. Senior Ryan Williams will be the center, while junior Mason Frank, listed at 6-foot-2 and 274 pounds, will be back to battle at the line of scrimmage.
Size and athleticism will be strengths for Taunton on the defensive side of the ball as well. Tourinho, Correiro, and Frank can bottle up opposing running games and will be joined on the line by seniors Corey Pintabone and John Rockwood. Williams will lead the linebacking corps along with classmates Max Moitoso and Kyle Cuoto. Senior Prince Brown will be back at corner and senior Sebastien Celestin looks to step into the safety position.
“Taunton football is progressing forward,” said Sidwell. “Like all teams, we’d like to gain some confidence early in the season and carry it on. The Kelley-Rex division is challenging with great programs, coaching staffs, and communities. We are happy to be a part of it and want to represent Taunton High well by competing at the high standard set by the other league members.”
TAUNTON, Mass. – It had been a rough opening three weeks of the season for the Attleboro football team, losing all three games against strong opposition (two by a combined seven points) and seeing the roster decimated by injuries.
But on Friday night at Aleixo Stadium, the Bombardiers got healthy and got on the board with their first win, beating Taunton 45-21 to end Tigers’ perfect start to the season.
Senior quarterback Cam Furtado led the way for Attleboro once again, running for a pair of touchdowns and throwing for two more while amassing nearly 250 yards of offense. The Bombardiers also showed off an array of skill position players, with seven players getting at least one carry and six players having at least one reception.
“He had great poise tonight,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said of Furtado. “He handled things, getting guys lined up, and I thought that was really important for him. He’s a had a good year for us and he’s done it with really not the full cast of characters, so hopefully we can build off this.”
Penalties killed Attleboro’s first possession of the game, which got as far as the Taunton 15 before stalling and ending in a punt. The Tigers immediately took advantage and took the lead. T.J. Mendes gave warning with an 11-yard draw up the middle and then broke through the line again on the next play, racing 53 yards for the opening score.
Attleboro bounced right back with a 73-yard drive, keeping the ball on the ground almost the entire way. Junior Alex Rodriguez (eight carries, 73 yards) had three rushes on the drive, senior Marcus Blaise had three and Furtado (16 carries, 86 yards) had back-to-back keepers that totaled 31 yards.
He capped the drive by hitting senior tight end James Weir (just back from injury) for a seven-yard score. Furtado then completed a pass to Justin Cote for the conversion.
Nathan Barboza picked off Leonard on the first play of Taunton’s next possession and returned it to the Tigers eight-yard-line. Two plays later, Furtado’s six-yard keeper and ensuing two-point conversion made it 16-7.
Taunton was not going away in the first half and answered right back. A 55-yard kick-off return by Tryton Zavala gave the Tigers ideal field position at the Attleboro 20. On fourth and 11, Leonard threw a receiver screen to Collin Hunter on the near sideline and the senior wideout broke tackles on his way to the end zone.
The game changed on Attleboro’s last possession of the half. Starting in Taunton territory, it looked like the Bombardiers were going three-and-out, but a running into the punter penalty on fourth and four kept the drive alive. On fourth and six from the 22, Furtado and Barboza hooked up for a seven-yard completion.
Again the Taunton defense held and had the Bombardiers on the edge. Senior Billy DeRosa sacked Furtado on third down for a 12-yard loss pushing the visitors back to the 26 and facing fourth and 21. Attleboro tried a trick play with wideout Elvin Sam tossing a pass, but it was incomplete. Taunton celebrated and both teams walked to the sidelines thinking the drive was over. No one noticed the flag sitting next to the Tigers sideline.
The call was unsportsmanlike conduct on the Taunton bench. The official explained later during a timeout that he had warned the Taunton coaches to give him room on the sideline, but during the fourth down play he ran into a coach and gave a penalty. Taunton was stunned and Attleboro made it worse on the next play as Furtado threaded the needle to Sam (three catches, 68 yards) for a 13-yard score and a 24-14 lead.
“That was a difficult call,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “On a fourth down, when we’re getting the ball back…but even that, the roughing the punter we had before that was killer.”
Strachan said, “I don’t know what happened, I just know that we had opportunities all half and we just kept getting a penalty here and a penalty there. We just couldn’t seem to get going and then we settled in and that gave us a lot of momentum. That was a huge moment for us.”
Attleboro came out of the locker room fired up and took control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Sophomore Qualeem Charles (also back from an injury) blocked a Taunton punt to give the Bombardiers the ball at the Tigers 29. After a 20-yard screen pass from Furtado to Cote, Rodriguez went up the middle for a seven-yard touchdown.
Taunton scored on its next possession with Leonard (4-11, 78 yards) finding Brayden Merrill underneath the coverage and the junior breaking it for a 41-yard touchdown. But that renewed energy was short-lived, as the Tigers had no answer for Furtado.
The senior signal caller kept a third and nine play alive, scrambling to his left, and then firing a perfect deep ball to Josh Therrien for a 50-yard completion. Cote punched it in from a yard out. Barboza added a one-yard run on the next Attleboro possession and Nolan Jaeger added an interception in a dominating second half for the Bombardiers.
“Attleboro is a good team,” said Sidwell. “They had a couple games that they should’ve won and they’re a big, strong team and they took it to us in the second half. We’ll keep working.”
Strachan was happy to welcome a few of his key players back, including junior Nick Evans who had a cast on his arm, and also to have players that could make plays and take some of the pressure off Furtado.
“We’re getting some kids healthy in the backfield,” he explained, “and it takes a lot of pressure off him and we’re throwing the ball and getting Elvin on the outside. We just had to be patient. It’s been a frustrating three weeks but this was good for us.”
When asked if this might be a turning point for the season, Strachan replied, “I just told the seniors that it gets the monkey off our backs. We just have to keep working hard. There’s a good team every single week.”
Attleboro (1-3, 1-1) will try to build on the first win of the season when it hosts Oliver Ames next Friday. Taunton (3-1, 1-1) will look to get back on track next Friday when it travels to Alumni Field to take on Mansfield.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Whatever Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell was selling at halftime, his defensive unit was buying.
Taunton posted a second half shutout, limiting Oliver Ames to negative yardage on each of its first two drives and then stopped a late red zone attempt to seal a 13-12 win.
“Our defense hung in there for us in the end,” Sidwell said. “We had to keep them in front of us to make the play. We turned the ball over too much on offense. And even though our defense didn’t force a turnover, they didn’t give up too many big plays.
“I give [Oliver Ames] a lot of credit. The back they have there [Anthony Berksza] is an unbelievably hard runner. They do a good job of getting him the ball and doing some formational things that make it difficult for us on defense.”
Oliver Ames had an ideal start to the game, scoring on each of their first two drives while Taunton had just 10 yards of offense on its first two series of the game.
With the wind at its back, Oliver Ames’ defense came out blazing, forcing a three and out. Because of the wind, Taunton’s punt went just eight yards giving the hosts great field position at the Taunton 35-yard line.
OA used eight plays to cover the 35 yards, with junior Anthony Berksza (19 carries, 94 yards, two touchdowns) cutting up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown. A two-point attempt was stuffed in the backfield by Taunton’s Nuno Camara but OA took a 6-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first.
The hosts were back on offense just three plays later. Facing a third down, Taunton went to the air for the first time in the game but OA’s Michael Mulrean came away with the interception, giving the home team a first down at the Taunton 42-yard line.
OA took advantage of good field position once again, using just six plays to double its lead. Highlighted by a 25-yard rush from Noah Fitzgerald on third down, the home-Tigers moved into the red zone. Three plays later, Berksza took the toss to the right and plunged across the goal line inside the pylon. Another two-point attempt was stopped but OA had a 12-0 lead with less than 10 minutes gone in the game.
“Our kids came out strong,” said OA head coach Mike Holland. “The weather definitely impacted both teams, especially with what we were both doing offensively. We played a good first quarter but we just have to be able to put together an entire game. They made two big fourth down conversions and had a huge third down conversion too. They made plays when they needed to.”
Taunton’s offense finally got in gear behind three straight runs from TJ Mendes (16 carries, 41 yards). Facing a fourth down at OA’s 20-yard line, Taunton went back to the air and junior Noah Leonard (4-for-11, 62 yards, two total touchdowns) hit classmate Wesner Charles for an 11 yard gain and a first down.
Three plays later, Leonard used a QB sneak from two yards out to get Taunton on the board. A dropped snap on the extra point try resulted in a failed attempt, cutting the deficit to 12-6 with 4:19 left in the second quarter.
OA received the kickoff to start the second half, but a chop block penalty on second down set the offense back and resulted in a punt into the win for just 16 yards.
Taunton’s offense capitalized on the momentum its defense created and took a shot on the first play. Leonard dropped back and floated a perfect pass down the right sideline to senior Collin Hunter, who hauled in the pass and raced just inside the pylon for a 36-yard touchdown. John Teixeira‘s extra point put Taunton up 13-12 and ended up being the winning kick.
“I thoroughly am enjoying coaching these kids,” Sidwell said. “Each day, we’re coaching hard, the kids are working hard. Tomorrow morning the kids and my coaches will be working on how to get better and it’s awesome for the kids and the city of Taunton.”
The team’s traded punts after OA’s next drive went for negative yards (with big tackles from Edgardo Navarro-Cruz and Coryn Nompleggi) and Taunton’s drive stalled after a key third-and-one stop by OA.
OA moved the ball into Taunton territory on its next drive, highlighted by a 28-yard burst by Berksza. But Taunton’s defense stopped OA for a loss, then a fumble on the handoff went for no gain. On fourth down, Taunton’s defense was able to stop the rush and force a turnover on downs.
Taunton’s next drive didn’t result in points but did take nearly seven minutes off of the clock. Malik Richardson (nine carries, 37 yards) rushed for back-to-back first downs before Mendes took two straight carries for another first.
“In a game when the weather is like this, you have to be stubborn and stick with the run,” Sidwell said. “Even though they were crowding the line, we had to stick with it. There was a drive toward the end that we leaned on [the running backs] heavily and they came through.”
Facing fourth and nine from OA’s 30-yard line, Leonard (six carries, 56 yards) took the carry himself, bolting for 12 yards to move the chains and keep Taunton’s drive alive.
“He had two huge runs for us,” Sidwell said of Leonard. “He’s a real threat. He can really throw the ball but if he can be a dual-threat quarterback by running the ball, that will be huge for us.”
The visitors almost put the game away on a play action play but Leonard’s pass into the wind to senior lineman Alex Simon held up and the pass ended up incomplete despite a diving effort. Taunton tried to throw for the first on fourth down but OA’s Cobey Williamson came up with an interception and returned it to the OA 29-yard line.
With just over five minutes to play, Berksza went for 28 yards on OA’s second play of the drive. Jay Fruci (13 carries, 56 yards) followed it up with a 29-yard dash, putting the ball at Taunton’s 11-yard line.
Taunton’s defense then held OA for runs of four, one and two, setting up fourth down. OA elected to try a 21-yard field goal but it was just wide right with 1:45 to play.
The visitors ran out the rest of the time as OA had no timeouts left.
“We talk to the kids to just live in the week that we’re in, focus on the team we’re playing that week,” Sidwell said. “Right now we just have to get them ready for Attleboro.”
Taunton football (3-0 overall, 1-0 Hockomock) returns home to Aleixo Stadium next week to welcome Attleboro (0-3, 0-1) on Friday night. Oliver Ames (1-2, 0-1) will welcome Franklin (1-2, 0-1) to Muscato Stadium on Thursday night.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
TAUNTON, Mass. – It was a play Taunton’s Adam McLaughlin has practiced over and over again this year.
With the Taunton Tigers holding a 12-7 lead and Oliver Ames using its longest drive of the game to near the end zone in the fourth quarter, the senior defensive back watched as Oliver Ames dropped back to pass on first down. As the throw came out, McLaughlin didn’t hesitate and jumped the route, stepping in front of the receiver for an interception at his own 8 yard line.
Taunton went on to score six plays later and added an insurance score in the final minute to pick up a 25-7 win, snapping an 18 game division winless streak and registering the team’s first Hockomock League win since November 2012.
“Me and Britton [Clinton], the other safety, we were watching the comeback, watching the seam,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve been doing it every week in practice, coming up on that seam and I just read it well and came up and picked it off.”
And after he caught it?
“Run as fast I could and get down the field, it was a great feeling,” McLaughlin said with a big smile.
McLaughlin brought the ball back to Taunton’s 45 yard line. Back to back runs from Brevan Walker (18 carries, 122 yards) and then a 16 yard rush from TJ Mendes gave Taunton a pair of first downs. After OA limited Taunton to just a yard on its next to plays, Taunton faced a 3rd and 9 from the OA 28 yard line.
The Tigers used play action with sophomore quarterback Noah Leonard (7/10, 87 yards, two touchdowns; five carries, 31 yards) rolling to his right. He then fired, hitting a wide open Mike Fernandez in the end zone for 28 yard touchdown and an 18-7 lead for Taunton with 3:33 to play.
“We just missed it on the drive before on the incomplete out of bounds,” Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell said of the third down call. “[He was] wide open, so we knew we could come back to it. Teams have been doubling Adam [McLaughlin], we had a chance early on his touchdown when he wasn’t doubled. We have that route he can go up and get it he’s so big.”
It was McLaughlin that opened the scoring in the game on the aforementioned play by Sidwell. After OA was forced to punt on its first drive, Taunton marched down the field on seven plays, covering 81 yards. A pass interference call kept the drive alive early on and Walker had runs of 19, six and 16 yards to help the Tigers move down field.
On first and 10 from the 19 yard line, Leonard floated one to the corner of the end zone where McLaughlin was able to leap up and haul in the touchdown to make it 6-0.
Oliver Ames had its next drive ended when Sam Krajewski picked off a halfback pass on the first play of the second quarter. OA’s defense did its part though, forcing a punt from the hosts on a three and out.
Kyle Gagliardi led OA on its most successful drive of the game, covering 43 yards on 10 plays before finding the end zone. The combination of running backs Liston Funai (17 carries, 94 yards) and Anthony Berksza (five carries, 37 yards) proved to be tough to stop on the drive. Gagliardi hit Brandon Timulty on a fourth down to keep the drive alive and two plays later, connected with Berksza on a screen for a 15 yard score. Leandro Moro’s‘s extra point gave Oliver Ames a 7-6 lead at the break.
Taunton had an ideal first drive of the second half, retaking the lead just three plays into the stanza. Walker was able to find some space on second down and then made a pair of nice moves downfield and raced for a 66 yard touchdown. OA stopped Taunton short on the two-point attempt but Taunton held a 12-7 advantage with 9:21 left in the third quarter.
“He’s a good runner, he had a really good game against Mansfield too,” Sidwell said of Walker. “We just have to keep him going. When you can run the ball late in the third quarter and the fourth quarter, it can wear on teams so that’s what we were trying to do.”
Oliver Ames next drive ended in a punt but the defense held Taunton at bay, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down. That led to Oliver Ames’ 10-play, 48 yard drive that was ended by McLaughlin’s interception with five minutes to play.
“Oliver Ames had a good plan tonight to slow the game down a little bit,” Sidwell said. “We had a good drive early but then they played a lot of guys up at the line of scrimmage and we had to be patient. It was a good overall fight, we ended up wearing them down there at the end. That pick was big though.”
After Fernandez’s touchdown, Taunton’s Billy DaRosa recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. On third down, Mendes (four carries, 39 yards) broke free for a 21 yard touchdown with less than a minute to play to ice the game.
After Taunton nearly upset Mansfield a week ago – a two point loss – Sidwell knew the program was headed in the right direction.
“We were really emphasizing how we were playing better,” Sidwell said. “The Attleboro game we played better, the Mansfield game we obviously played better, we’re just trying to build on it.”
Taunton football improves to 2-4 overall and 1-3 in Kelley-Rex play. The Tigers will try to make it two in a row when they travel to Macktaz Field to take on the Kelley-Rex champs, King Philip. Oliver Ames (2-4, 1-3) will try to bounce back when they host Mansfield next week.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Last year, then sophomore Cam Furtado made an instant impact when he took over the starting quarterback position. His ability to make plays with his feet gave Attleboro’s offense a different dynamic. With senior Tyler McGovern back as the starter this season, Furtado is being used in a variety of ways, but regardless of which position he lines up at the Bombardiers are trying to get the ball in his hands.
On Friday night, in the wind and rain at Tozier-Cassidy Field, Furtado carried the ball 17 times for 209 yards (148 in the first half alone), caught two passes for 17 yards, returned a punt for 40 yards, and scored a pair of touchdowns.
Behind Furtado’s all-around game, the Attleboro offense clicked into gear and the Bombardiers earned a 37-20 victory over Taunton to record their first league win of the season.
“I think they complement each other,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan of McGovern and Furtado. “We’re starting to get into a rhythm with two quarterbacks, but [Cam’s] a special athlete and he can do a lot.
“We need to build off this. It was nice coming back after the last two weeks against Dartmouth and Mansfield.”
Taunton running back T.J. Mendes (25 carries, 67 yards) was stopped on fourth and one by Andrew Gingras and sophomore Nick Evans. Attleboro took advantage of the big defensive stand. Furtado broke a 44-yard sweep down the near sideline, but stepped out at the two. One play later, he had his first touchdown and the Bombardiers had the lead.
The Tigers responded right away, marching 63 yards on nine plays to tie the game. The drive was helped by an Attleboro pass interference call, but was finished when sophomore Noah Leonard hit Adam McLaughlin for a 17-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
Lining up at quarterback, Furtado took the first play of Attleboro’s next drive for 12 yards. The following play went for 51 all the way down to the Taunton 10. On first and goal, Marc Dieu broke an inside hand-off to the left and scored to regain the lead.
Again the Tigers responded and again it was the combination of Leonard and McLaughlin that got Taunton on the scoreboard. Leonard threw a perfect strike over the defensive back to the sideline and McLaughlin pulled it in, stayed in bounds and raced for a 70-yard touchdown to cut the lead to one score heading into halftime.
“Adam’s really played even better than I thought,” said first-year Taunton coach Brad Sidwell about his senior receiver. “He’s a competitor.”
The game changed on the opening kickoff of the second half. The ball was dropped by the Tigers and Joshua Therrien came up with the recovery for the Bombardiers at the Taunton 28. Three plays later, McGovern walked in with an 11-yard keeper to build the lead to 28-14.
Sidwell said, “We did some dumb things on special teams, which we worked on, but we’ve obviously didn’t work on them hard enough and we’ve got to find a way to make it all better.”
The Attleboro defense continued to make big plays, stopping Taunton twice on fourth down. Steve Hamerski, Matthew Potter, James Weir, and Evans all making plays to bottle up the Tigers offense. Again special teams came back to haunt Taunton, as a holding call took away a decent punt and when the Tigers lined up to kick it again the snap flew out the back of the end zone for a safety.
Mendes scored a two-yard touchdown to cap off a drive that was highlighted by Leonard hitting Mike Fernandez for 26 yards down the seam. The two-point conversion was incomplete and the Tigers trailed 30-20 with 4:32 left.
Furtado essentially ended the game after the onside kick bounced out of play. He bounced to the outside on a toss right and seemed to cross the goal line but was marked down at the one. McGovern (5-11, 37 yards) finished it with a play action pass to Hamerski.
After two tough losses in a row, Strachan credited his team for dominating the line of scrimmage to get back on track. He said, “Tonight, I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage. We worked on those things this week in practice, the kids really worked hard, and we’ve got to build off this now.”
Both coaches threw a number of underclassmen on the field, many of whom are spending their first seasons on varsity. While both Strachan and Sidwell admitted their were mistakes that need to be ironed out, both also recognized that the programs are in good positions to build for the future.
“We’re not talking about next year or anything like that, but there’s a good core of young players and hopefully we can develop,” said Sidwell. “At some point it’s going to pop for us. They’re working hard and they’re good kids and we’ve just got to keep coaching them better.”
Strachan added, “You look at the number of sophomores we played tonight and it’s good but we’re still making too many mental mistakes that we need to clean up.”
Attleboro (2-2, 1-1) will travel to Muscato Stadium to face Oliver Ames next week. Taunton (1-3, 0-2) will host Mansfield at Aleixo Stadium.
Attleboro has developed as a program under head coach Mike Strachan and continues to be one of the teams contend with for the Kelley-Rex title even with a number of new faces on the roster heading into this fall. Even with the loss of standout lineman Kyle Murphy, the Bombardiers will have size on both sides of the ball and use that to control the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, senior quarterback Tyler McGovern returns after an injury knocked him out of the starting lineup midway through last season. He gives Attleboro the chance to look downfield, while junior Cam Furtado stepped in at QB last year and proved to be a dynamic athlete who opened up defenses with his legs.
The offense will flow behind senior lineman Andrew Gingras. At 6’5 and 285 pounds, Gingras will be counted on to open holes for senior running back Sam Corrado and also provide a stout run stopper on defense. Corrado will also provide help at linebacker and on special teams.
“The 2016 Bombardiers are a young team with many players that will be competing for time both offensively and defensively,” said Strachan, who is confident that despite the youth on the roster that Attleboro will be a team to watch this fall.
There is a lot of energy in the Franklin camp over the past couple of weeks, as new head coach Eian Bain takes over from longtime coach Brad Sidwell and looks to give the Panthers a boost after three straight one-win seasons in the Kelley-Rex division. Bain said that he expects there to be a “different vibe” from the team this season.
The Panthers have a lot of experience coming back this season starting in the backfield with quarterbacks Jake Noviello (junior) and Alex Cregg (senior), who both saw action last season. Whoever is starting will have a host of experienced receivers to look for with Eddie Scannapieco, Packie Watson, and Joey Blasie on the outside and 6’5 Connor Peterson at tight end. The bulk of the offense will run through senior tailback Jacob Wolowacki, who emerged last year as a go-to back with three touchdown runs.
Defensively, Franklin has a lot of talent returning in the back seven led by senior safety Jake Lyons, who will also help out as a running back on offense. The secondary also includes Kyle McInery and Nick Gordon with Justin O’Callahan, Bruce Johnson and Khyler Colella manning the linebacker positions. Brad Jarosz will add size to the defensive end position.
Bain said, “It has been an uptempo, high energy camp in Franklin. Players have answered the bell every step of the way to learn both new offensive and defensive systems. While still a work in progress, the team is making strides every day.”
King Philip got off to a rough start last season, but managed to turn things around with a dramatic victory at Mansfield and won three out of four to get back into the postseason. The Warriors could be inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball in 2015, but with experienced skill position players coming back KP could be ready to challenge for the league title.
It begins in the backfield with senior quarterback John DeLuca, who is ready for his third year as the starter and is one of the toughest signal callers in the league. This season, DeLuca will have a number of weapons to help put points on the board. Senior running back Sean Garrity will add speed to the edge for the Warriors, while his classmate Giovanni Fernandez is a power back to add another dimension inside the red zone. Senior Michael Mello returns to add experience to the receiving corps.
The strength of the Warriors under head coach Brian Lee has been defense and line play and this season should be no different. Seniors Paul Macrina, Michael Sullivan, and Daniel Loewen will be major factors on both sides of the ball. Senior Alex Olsen has the potential to be the defensive MVP this year taking over the role of graduated linebacker Cory Lombardo. Fernandez and fellow senior Brett Mazur will add strength to the linebacker position as well.
Mansfield’s defense held teams to 15 or fewer points in all but two games last year. Only St. John’s Prep and Marshfield (two teams ranked in the top five in the state when they faced the Hornets) were able to get any rhythm going offensively against the Hornets. Despite strength on that side of the ball, Mansfield struggled to find consistency on offense and ended up one point short of a share of the Kelley-Rex division title.
This season, the Hornets offense could be a huge strength with a number of playmakers returning. Senior quarterback Anthony DeGirolamo will be the starter for the second season in a row and will have a strong backfield around him with senior Brian Lynch as the power back and Nick Graham giving Mansfield speed to the edges. DeGirolamo will be able to aim for junior Hunter Ferreira, who has emerged as one of the top receivers in the league, and senior Ben Budwey.
On defense, the front seven will once again be a strong feature for the Hornets. A.J. Gibbs, Colin Gibbons, and Andrew Ducharme add size and strength on both sides of the ball, while senior linebacker Travis Sjoberg is a leader with the potential for hitting triple digits in tackles this fall. Senior placekicker Diogo DeSousa is a weapon in special teams after being recognized at kicking camps over the summer.
“We are a senior team (30 seniors),” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding, “but we have some very talented juniors and sophomores that will help us win this year and give us some great depth”
Oliver Ames head coach Mike Holland is entering his second season in charge of the Tigers and will also be managing the program’s first fall in the Kelley-Rex division. In the last three games of 2015, OA beat Norwell and North Quincy and battled Sharon in a three-point loss on Thanksgiving Day, building momentum heading into this season.
The Tigers are excited about the potential of the offense with two quarterbacks who can make plays with their feet or their arms. Kyle Gagliardi and Travis Campbell are in the mix to be the starter and Holland expressed confidence in both of his seniors. OA also has a strong running game with senior Liston Funai leading the way for a group of backs that provide the Tigers with toughness and the ability to find open space.
OA has a lot of experience returning on the defensive side of the ball. Jack Mills will be a force on both the offensive and defensive line, while Jay Fruci and Leandro Moro will provide a spark from the linebacker spot. The secondary has also been boosted by Noah Fitzgerald and Michael Mulrean. “[We] have an excellent group of seniors and younger guys,” said Holland. “Kids are working hard and putting in strong efforts in all phases.”
The Tigers have a new coaching staff this fall, but it will be one that is very familiar to fans of the Hockomock League. Brad Sidwell moved to Taunton after 20 years in charge of the Franklin program. Sidwell comes into his new position with plenty of experience in the league and an experienced roster that has 14 returning starters, but the Tigers enter 2016 without a Kelley-Rex win since 2012.
There is optimism in the camp this preseason because of the large number of returning players and because of the size that Taunton boasts on the front line. Senior Zakim Harrow checks in at 6’2 and 335 pounds, his classmate Sylvester English is 6’1 and 290 pounds and junior Paul Carrao is 6’3 and 270 pounds. Those players will open holes on both sides of the ball and create space for playmakers such as senior linebacker Mike Fernandez and senior running back Brevan Walker.
There is a battle for the quarterback position this season. Junior Collin Hunter threw 11 touchdown passes last fall but sophomore Noah Leonard has impressed in camp and could snag the starting spot for Friday night’s opener at New Bedford. Whoever is under center will have a couple of strong targets to aim for with senior receivers Adam McLaughlin and Sam Krajewski and senior tight end Andrew Wellington all back.
“We’re just looking for improvement everyday,” Sidwell said. “Hopefully with a little confidence we can get off to a good start.”
Franklin High School has hired Tom Angelo as its new Athletic Director, new FHS Principal Paul Peri confirmed to HockomockSports.com. Angelo replaces Brad Sidwell, who stepped down following the conclusion of the school year after 15 years in the role.
Angelo has coached a variety of sports at various levels, including baseball, soccer, football, softball, basketball and tennis. He has two years of experience as an AD, with previous stops at Somerset-Berkley and Plymouth North. Angelo served as Athletic Director at SB during the 2014-2015 school year and spent this past school year as AD at Plymouth North.
Sidwell spent 15 years as the AD at Franklin High and was the head coach of the football team for 20 years. He stepped down from his coaching duties in December and then was hired as the new head coach and K-12 Wellness Coordinator at Taunton High.