FRANKLIN, Mass. – As Stoughton fought its way through the ups and downs of the 2015 season to finish with a 6-5 record, there were plenty of positives and negatives.
One big positive was the experience the players got, mainly the young offensive line. That experience paid off big time on Friday night as the Black Knights dominated up front behind it’s five-senior offensive line en route to a 58-19 statement win over Franklin.
“They all played last year,” Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. “We played some tough games last year so having a senior line this year, senior lines usually win. They’re just a little stronger, have a little more experience. Now we have the seniors [on the line] so I’m hoping it carries us. The line is key, offensively and defensively.”
Stoughton opened the game on a seven play, 72 yard drive, capped with a two-yard rushing score from senior Ryan Sullivan (10 carries, 153 yards, four touchdowns, interception). Dave Cellucci’s (4/4, 60 yards) 20 yard pass to Izon Swain-Price and Sullivan’s 23 yard carry just prior to the score were highlights on the drive.
It didn’t take long for the Black Knights to double their lead as senior Jack Connelly ripped the ball free three plays into Franklin’s drive and Marselis Cox scooped the loose ball up and sprinted in from 45 yards out. Cellucci’s keeper for the two point conversion put Stoughton up 14-0 just over four minutes into the game.
The Black Knights forced a punt but were faced with 3rd and 20 on the ensuing drive. Cellucci floated one up and Connelly went up and grabbed it for a 27 yard completion and a first down. Two plays later, Swain-Price got around the edge for an eight yard touchdown, putting Stoughton up 21-0.
Sullivan came away with an interception on Franklin’s next possession and the Black Knights converted quickly. After a 28 yard gain from Sullivan on the ground, junior Justin Ly (11 carries, 137 yards, one touchdown) pounded it up the middle for a 10 yard touchdown, giving Stoughton a 27-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After Franklin was unable to convert on fourth down, Ly took the first carry of the next drive 39 yards. Six players later, Sullivan took the toss to the outside for a five yard touchdown run to make it 34-0.
The Panthers were able to get some life back right before halftime, using a couple of screen plays to cut into the lead. Facing 3rd and nine, Franklin QB Jake Noviello (14/33, 215 yards, 2 touchdowns) hit running back Jacob Wolowacki (128 all purpose yards) for a 48 yard completion on the screen. Two plays later, Wolowacki punched it in for the Panthers’ first touchdown.
Franklin got possession back quickly, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Brad Jarosz. On the first play, the Panthers went back to the screen, with Noviello hitting Wolowacki for a 40 yard touchdown to bring the score to 34-12.
Stoughton struck once more in the final minute of the first half, using three straight runs – Sullivan for 24 yards, Ly for 32 yards and then Sullivan for a 10 yard score – to go into the half with a 40-12 lead.
“Just like any year, you want to start off good,” Burke said. “[Franklin] is a young team, I don’t want to see them next year, that’s for sure, they’ll be tough. Our guys have worked really hard. I’m really happy with our seniors. And our strength, that’s all weight room stuff. We have a lot seniors, we have 20 this year and that makes a difference. Seniors win football games, it’s that simple.”
On Stoughton’s first play of their second drive in the second half, Sullivan bust through a hole up the middle and scampered in for a 52 yard touchdown to make it 46-12.
Franklin struck back with Noviello dropping a perfect pass into the hands of Kinley Baird on the sideline and the senior did the rest, sprinting in for a 68 yard touchdown for the Panthers.
Stoughton added a pair of scores in the final quarter with Swain-Price dashing up the middle for a 40 yard touchdown and David Bell getting around the corner for a 34 yard score for the Black Knights.
“Four touchdowns is nice for me but scoring 58 points as a team is better,” Sullivan said. “We like to call it the three-headed monster. Justin goes up the middle, and then me and Izon on the outside. The holes, you could drive a truck through, it was unreal. It’s an all senior line and they stepped up big time. They got a lot of experience last year and now they are ready to go this year.”
“Those two guys [Sullivan and Swain-Price], you have to worry about them but then we did a nice job on the inside on the traps,” Burke said. “We have a line that can block any other line as far as I’m concerned. You have to be able to go inside and you have to be able to go outside, that’s our offense. It might not be high spread, but that’s not who we are.”
Stoughton football (1-0) will welcome Marshfield to town next Friday in a rematch of week two from a season ago. Franklin (0-1) will look to get its first win of the season with a trip to another Davenport division team, Milford (0-1).
Outlook: After falling victim to the playoff system’s alignment and just missing out on a postseason berth, Canton will be relying on a mix of experience and youth to try and get back to the state tournament under the new alignment.
Davenport division MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jake Ragusa is off playing at Merrimack so that will be a major void for Canton to fill. However, the Bulldogs do return some players in key spots that will help them out of the gates. Senior Anthony Ross is back under center and could see an expanded role in 2016. Dan Alice is back after suffering an injury last season and should lead a stable of running backs, led by fullback Alec Ragusa. Joe Mulkay, Dan Pierre, Tony Harris and Mike Marino should all factor into the offense as well for Canton.
Defensively, Canton has some experience on the line in Brian Smith, who also plays as a tackle on offense, as well as Mark Whalen, who saw valuable minutes last year, and Ben Paolillo. Alec Ragusa will be the anchor in the linebacking corps alongside Thomas Monagle (also the team’s kicker) and Marino. Harris, Alice and Mulkay figure to be important pieces in the Bulldogs’ secondary this year.
“The kids have a strong work ethic and had a good offseason and now a good preseason,” head coach Dave Bohane said. “I think we’ll be strong up front on both sides and we have kids in key spots with experience.”
Outlook: Coming off the program’s first league title since 2010, the Foxboro Warriors are hoping to stay near the top of the Davenport division again this year. And with one of the top returning quarterbacks in Mark Clagg under center for another year, the Warriors will likely be in the thick of the division race.
Clagg threw for nine touchdowns last season, third most among returning quarterbacks. After splitting some time with Darren Kelly last year, it looks like it was be Clagg’s spot full time in 2016. Another positive for having Clagg back is the experienced wide receivers he will have to work with. Jamaine Few is a big, experienced target at 6’3 and will be a tough one on one matchup for defensive backs. Trey Guerrini also has experience with Clagg while Phil Dure and John Whitehouse could be viable options as well. Foxboro will have to fill the void at running back, after the stability of Ronnie Martin and Keeyon Neal in previous years. Eseosa Omuemu, Matt Mullally and Anthony Capachietti are all possible choices to start in the backfield.
Defensively, the Warriors will rely upon experience in the linebacking and defensive back corps. Junior Matt Pond and senior Brandon Corey will be key cogs among the linebackers while Paul Darcy and Guerrini will be key pieces in the Warriors’ secondary. Foxboro will look to develop solid options on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“As always, the senior leadership plays a key role in the success of the 2016 campaign,” head coach Jack Martinelli said.
Outlook: The Scarlet Hawks have posted back-to-back 7-4 seasons and are hoping to continue their winning ways in 2016. With 11 starters returning, Milford is on the right track to do so.
It all starts with Yale-commit Blake Hill, who will be a top player on both offense and defense this season. Offensively he can hurt you in many ways, including running with the ball or catching passes. Hill will have some space to run thanks to an experienced offensive line that includes Riley Burns, Ryan Gray and Pat Brogioli. Junior Matt Curran will take over under center for the Scarlet Hawks and will have Jack Cappelletti, Tony Mobilia and Tyler Joyce as pass catching options to work with.
Defensively, Hill is one of the top linebackers in the league. He’ll be flanked by Harrison Bliss, Asong Aminmentse and Joyce. Burns, Gray and Brogioli will all be two-way linemen for the Scarlet Hawks. Shapel Feaster, who will also see touches on offense, will be in the secondary along with Alec Salamone, Mobilia and Cappelletti.
Outlook: As with any defending league champion, the North Attleboro Rocketeers will have some holes they’ll have to fill this year. But Big Red also has a slew of talented, experienced players back as North Attleboro looks to make a splash in its first season in the Davenport division.
Junior Chad Peterson is back under center after a breakout sophomore season in which he tossed 13 touchdowns, second most in the Hockomock League. While Kelley-Rex MVP Nick Morrison has graduated, North Attleboro returns Bobby Mylod and Nick Rajotte, who will give the Rocketeers a variety of attacking options. Thomas Reynolds will anchor the offensive line from the center position while Peterson will look for Hacmoni Cuevas, David Engler, Mario Bresko and Nick Dean to emerge as receiving threats.
It will be a lot of the same faces making plays on the defensive side of the ball. Reynolds and senior Tom Kummer are two major pieces and will take up the center of the defensive line. Mylod emerged as one of the top linebackers in the Hockomock and in the state last season and will be complemented at the position by Ryan Kingston, Zach DeMattio and Cuevas. Rajotte and Kyle McCarthy both had solid years in the secondary last season and will be big pieces to the defensive puzzle again this season.
“It’s going to be an interesting year switching to the Davenport division,” head coach Don Johnson said. “It certainly isn’t going to be any easier.”
Outlook: A lot of the players listed as key and returning players for Sharon this season were also on last year’s list, and that’s a good thing for the Eagles, who are looking to take the next step forward in 2016.
Junior Drew Naisuler will step into the starting role at quarterback and will have some weapons at his disposal right away. Running back Juvan Elisma had a stellar 2015 campaign as a junior, rushing for eight touchdowns – tied for fourth most in the Hockomock League and tied for second in the Davenport. Now Elisma will look to cap a strong football career at Sharon by leading an Eagles’ rushing attack that will likely include junior Sam Spencer as well. Naisuler will have an experienced receiver as Josh Rotman is back for another year while junior Austin Dodes figures to be another target this season.
“Our season will be decided by how physical we can be and if our new varsity players can step up and make an impact,” head coach Dave Morse said.
The Eagles will also bring back some experience on both sides of the line. Nate Hirsh has been a key cog of the line on both sides of the ball for the Eagles. Ian Langol-Leonard and Wilhelm Bolt also will likely be key experience pieces up front for Sharon. Defensively, Rotman also is back as a talented defensive back. Xavier Hackett is another name to keep an eye on, as the senior has been able to make plays for Sharon in the past and looks to do more of the same in 2016.
Outlook: No matter what team, it’s always going to be difficult to replace a three year starter at quarterback. But with the talented offensive line Stoughton has back this season and senior Dave Cellucci taking over under center, the Black Knights’ offense is in good shape.
The offensive line returns starters Lino Azul, Ryan Pierre and Andrew Iverson while Harry Kimball and Brendan Walsh – who both started on the defensive line – will play on both sides of the ball now. That experience will help give Cellucci a little more time in the pocket when he’s called upon to throw. Meanwhile, Ryan Sullivan, Izon Swain-Price and Justin Ly all figure to be key pieces in the backfield. Sullivan and Swain-Price caused havoc for defenses last season with a combined 10 rushing touchdowns. Swain-Price will also be a receiving option while Jack Connelly is back for another year at tight end.
Stoughton will look to continue its tradition of having a staunch defense. The Black Knights have depth on the defensive line with Pierre, Azul and Kimball all seeing time there along with junior Jason Joseph. Iverson, Ly and Connelly will all see reps at linebacker and Sullivan and Izon Swain-Price will likely be two of the top defensive backs in the entire league.
“We hope to stay healthy and get into the playoffs,” head coach Greg Burke said. “This has been a great group in the weight room and conditioning, that will have to carry us in the league. We know it will be a tough league this year.”
By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
FOXBORO, Mass. – If there’s one thing that Stoughton football has been able to hang its hat on for the past couple of years, it’s been defense.
If there was a second thing, it’d be running the ball.
With New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on hand for part of the first half, Stoughton used those two signature traits to pick up a key 14-0 win over previously unbeaten Foxboro on Friday night, keeping their playoff hopes alive and throwing their hat into a three way tie for the lead in the Davenport with the Warriors and Canton.
“It was a great game,” Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. “We’ve got some tough kids and we finally got our running game going and we went back to our three or four plays, that’s all we need. I don’t know what they had for total offense [yardage]. I think we deserved the win, I really do. The kids played great defense. Foxboro ran around a little bit but we made sure the kids stayed in their zones. We worked on not running around and not losing guys.”
The defense set the tone for the Black Knights, forcing a fumble and recovering on Foxboro’s opening drive only for it to be erased by an offsides call. But just two plays later, Stoughton was stuffing the Warriors on a fourth down rush to force the turnover on downs.
That’s when Stoughton’s second signature – the running game – came into play. Of the 50 plays that Stoughton ran on offense (minus a pair of QB kneels), 46 if them were either counters, sweeps or bursts right up the middle.
The first 11 of those plays were all rushing plays with Ryan Sullivan, Jake Gibb, Jordan Taylor and Izon Swain-Price all contrubting. On the 11th play of Stoughton’s opening series, Swain-Price broke a tackle up the left side and ran in for a 19 yard touchdown. Gibb’s extra point was good the Stoughton took a 7-0 lead.
The Warriors moved the ball some to start their next drive but eventually stalled at the start of the second quarter near midfield and were forced to punt. Quarterback Mark Clagg started in shotgun before dropping all the way back to punt formation. He took the snap and then took off running but Stoughton’s defense was alert and made the stop to get the ball back on downs.
Once again Stoughton went to the ground and moved the ball, highlighted by a 15 yard run from Taylor (13 carries, 60 yards). The Black Knights faced 3rd and 2 from the Foxboro nine yard line but a false start pushed them back five yards and a tipped pass on third down went incomplete. Gibb attempted a 31 yard field goal but it was just wide to the right.
Stoughton’s defense forced Foxboro into a punt six plays later but the Black Knights would be forced to kick it back. With under a minute to play, Stoughton attempted to punt but Jamaine Few came flying in for the block to give the ball to Foxboro at the Black Knights’ 32 yard line.
The Black Knights’ defense came up with a play right away though as Xzavian Marrero used good vision on the first play to get an interception and put an end to any hope of the Warriors scoring in the first half.
Coming out at halftime the Black Knights were able to double the lead on the opening drive. Nine yards from Sullivan on first down was followed two plays later by a sneak from Gibb to move the chains. Sullivan ran for seven more then Guy Eddy added four. Swain-Price’s (10 carries 97 yards) speed was key on the next play as he raced 55 yards to get inside the Foxboro five yard line, only stopped by a great hustle play from Austin Ryan.
Two plays later, Sullivan (15 carries, 61 yards) dove into the end zone to make it 14-0 Stoughton with 7:13 left in the third quarter.
“We just couldn’t establish any rhythm,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said. “It was 7-0 at half and we’ve been there before. They came out and did what every coach wants his team to do. If you have the ball you want to score and make it a two score game and they did that. Give them a lot of credit.”
It was a much improved look for Stoughton’s offensive line, who had struggled in the opening game of the season weeks ago. Now with some changes, Matt Soto, Matt Medina, Brendan Walsh, Donnie Foley, Lino Azul and tight end Jack Connelly stood tall and helped Stoughton rack up 245 yards on the ground.
“It’s a whole new line and they’re strong kids,” Burke said. “They are tough and blood and guts and they don’t quit. They’ve done great and they’re getting better. We’re back in the hunt for the league title now but the big goal, our first goal is to get into the playoffs. We have to win next week. I’m just so proud of the Stoughton kids, we’re never going to quit. They are as tough as they come. They could have packed it in after last week but they didn’t, they worked harder.”
oxboro put together it’s longest drive of the game next, moving into Stoughton territory to the 36 yard line but an incompletion on second down was followed by a sack from Stoughton senior Devlin Carroll and the Warriors had to punt again. The Black Knights, who didn’t complete a pass on three attempts, were able to kill more of the clock on six running plays before having to punt.
Marrero was at it again just two plays later as he leaped up to haul in his second interception and gave the ball back to the Black Knights.
“Terrific, he had two huge interceptions,” Burke said.
With the win, Stoughton improves to 3-3 overall but more importantly, 3-1 in the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division. Foxboro suffered its first loss and missed out on a chance to clinch at least a share of the division title. The Warriors now sit at 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the division. Canton, a team that beat Stoughton but lost to Foxboro, is also 5-1 and 3-1 in the Davenport, meaning there could be a three-way tie for the title if all three teams win next week.
Stoughton will travel to Milford and Canton will take a trip to Sharon on Saturday the 24th while Foxboro travels to Oliver Ames on Friday the 23rd. Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.