Behind a pair of interceptions and a goal line stand that changed the complexion of the game, the Scarlet Hawks earned one of their biggest league wins since joining the Hockomock in 2013.
“Our kids get down hill and they play physical football,” said first-year Milford head coach Dale Olson. “We just went through the grinder… Attleboro, Mansfield, King Philip to open the season. We knew [today] wasn’t going to be pretty, and it certainly wasn’t at times, but we got a great defense. To hold that team…they’re big, physical, they have a tremendous running back. I don’t know how much they ran for today but it couldn’t have been a lot. KP hasn’t lost too much in the Hock [recently] so to beat them, I couldn’t be prouder of the kids.”
Not only did the Hawks keep the Warriors out of the end zone, they limited the visitors to under 200 yards of total offense and held KP to just 2-for-12 on third down. KP was forced to punt six times, had one turnover on downs, and two interceptions.
“We just can’t move the ball so it’s been difficult,” said KP head coach Brian Lee. “Overall I’m pleased with our defensive effort. For a team of 140-pound guys, I think we’re doing pretty good. We’re out there fighting. We had some momentum, we had the long drive and get all the way down and we don’t score…that really was difficult, could have been a boost for us. It’s just frustrating because we were in it.
“It doesn’t get any easier. Mansfield is a lot meaner and a lot more experience. For us not to be able to just go lean on our culture a little bit in this game was a little disappointing in this game.”
King Philip’s defense did its part to keep the Warriors in the game but the Scarlet Hawks hit on one big play in the first half and cashed in one good field possession in the second half to find the end zone twice. Senior quarterback Brady Olson (8/28, 190 yards, two touchdowns) hooked up with classmates Carter Scudo and Max Martin in the end zone for the two scores in the game.
For Milford, getting the ball to Scudo was a priority. Scudo lined up in the backfield (11 carries, 97 yards) and at receiver (two catches, 93 yards, touchdown) to get involved as much as possible. It was evident the Hawks were trying to get him the ball as much as possible and he rewarded them early, taking his first carry for 30 yards on the third play of the game.
In fact, neither team had much success on offense early on as the first quarter ended scoreless. KP’s first drive ended on an interception from Evan Hazard and the Warriors punted on their next two series. Milford turned it over on downs on its first series and went three-and-out on its next two drives.
Scudo was on the receiving end of Milford’s biggest play of the first half. On their fourth drive of the game, the Hawks were faced with 3rd and 13 but a penalty against the KP secondary gave Milford 10 yards and another chance at third down. Brady Olson hit Scudo on a quick slant and Scudo broke free of his man and sprinted his way to the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead (after the PAT was blocked) on the first play of the second quarter.
“We didn’t make a ton of plays in the passing game but we made a couple of big plays,” Olson said. “We tried to move Carter around because through the first two games, we weren’t getting our best kids enough touches. We got him in the backfield, and he’s an explosive kid and there were a couple of times he was so close to breaking it and being gone. So it was good to get him more involved.”
King Philip looked poised to respond with a scoring drive on its own, albeit in different fashion, but came up just inches shy. The Warriors relied on the ground game, giving carries to Crawford Cantave (17 carries, 56 yards) and Mike Malatesta (seven carries, 47 yards). Junior quarterback Charlie Grant (8/19, 69 yards) connected with Eli Reed for a key third down conversion, and Malatesta bulldozed his way inside the 10-yard line.
Milford’s defense held but on 4th and goal from the five, Grant fired a pass near the pylon but the receiver was held. With pass interference, not an automatic first down anymore, KP had a second chance but just 4th and goal from the 3-yard line. Grant kept it and the pile moved close to the goal line but the referees ruled he was down before crossing the line, giving Milford the ball back just an inch outside the goal line.
“What a huge stop,” Dale Olson said. “If they get in there, now it’s a tie game…but we’re big and physical too. I think that’s propelled this program and what we want this program to be moving forward, we want physical kids. To stop them down on the six-inch line like that? [King Philip] is even bigger than Mansfield is upfront so I couldn’t be prouder of our kids.”
King Philip received the opening kick of the second half but the Hawks stuffed the Warriors on a 3rd and 2 and forced the visitors to punt. A high kick went out of bounds at the KP 46-yard line, giving the Hawks good field position to start the second half.
The Hawks moved the ball but a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty backed Milford back up. That only delayed the drive as Brady Olson dropped a 30-yard pass down the sideline into the hands of Matt Varteresion to move the sticks. Two plays later, Olson went play action before hitting Martin on a slant to the right for another touchdown. KP’s Hunter Hastings blocked the extra point to make it 12-0 with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
The Warrior defense did its part to stay in the game. On the final four drives of the game, the Hawks were forced to punt twice after a total of 10 yards, and turned it over on downs inside the red zone on back-to-back possessions.
“We only gave up 12 points, we’re supposed to win with that,” Lee said. “We’re supposed to win that game only giving up 12 but we haven’t been able to figure out a constant response on offense yet. And we lost another starter so it’s only getting harder.”
Even as the KP defense put a stop to the Hawks’ offense, the Warriors couldn’t move the sticks in the second half. King Philip went three-and-out on its first three drives of the second half, punted after getting one first down on the fourth drive, and had its final drive of the game come to an end with Scudo hauled in an interception in the end zone during the final minutes of the contest.
Milford football (2-1) will hit the road for the first time this season when it travels to take on rival Franklin on Saturday at 12:00. King Philip (2-1) will look to bounce back from its first loss when it takes on league-leading Mansfield on Saturday at 6:30.
Team: King Philip football
2017 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2017 Division 2 State Champions
Following an undefeated season and the program’s first state title, the 2017 King Philip football team entered the new year with some question marks. Only two starters were back on offense and just three on the other side of the ball. While those outside the program were understandably wondering how so many new faces would be able to cope with the pressure of being defending champions, the players knew that they had what it took to go back-to-back.
It turned out that the players were absolutely right.
“It wasn’t going undefeated again and going back to the Super Bowl,” KP coach Brian Lee admitted when asked about his expectation heading into the 2017 season. “I think these guys just wanted to show that they could do it too. Once they knew how to get there, that it’s possible, those guys fully expected to go back. They knew their potential better than I did.”
The foundation for the second straight state title was built in the offseason with lifting in the spring and then summer workout programs that saw players get to the field at 6 a.m. every morning. In the preseason, the team spent a week of three-a-days in Maine. The hard work and the shared commitment permeated the roster.
“It just built us all into the team we were that season,” said Shane Frommer, the team’s star running back and linebacker. Being there at 6 in the morning, tired, grinding together, just built so much character in us and bonds that carried into the season to just keep working, to never stop, because you’re fighting for your brothers.”
Frommer was one of the key returning players, along with quarterback Brendan Lydon, defensive back Andrew Dittrich, defensive end Evan Rice, and receiver Dylan Leonard. Over the course of the season, players like linebackers Jack Webster and Max Armour, receiver Tom Madden, lineman Anthony Vahue, and tight end Jack Piller were some of the players that emerged as standouts, most of them on both sides of the ball.
King Philip football is a defense-first program and on that side of the ball, under the guidance of Lee and defensive coordinator Matt Wassell, the Warriors put up numbers that were even better than the 2016 team. The defense allowed only five teams to score in the second half that season, no team scored more than once after halftime, and only two opponents in the final nine weeks avoided a second half shutout.
“That’s our emphasis,” said Lee. “Let’s put our best dudes on defense, let’s spend more time in practice on defense, let’s do all the things that make other people spend time on offense.” He continued, “The defense just got better every week. We really relied on them a ton in 2017.”
Frommer credited the coaches for getting the team in the right spots. He added, “If we all know our assignments every play then we can all fly around and tackle the ball. If we’re doing our own jobs, then it’s just going to happen.”
The undefeated season may have come to an abrupt end in week four if not for a big play on defense by Frommer. Mansfield was dominating, already up 10-0, and with the ball in the red zone with a chance to break the game open before halftime. Dittrich got his hand to a pass that Frommer picked off and took 96 yards for a score that cut the lead to three. KP would score 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a Frommer touchdown and rolled to a 28-10 win.
“We were up against the ropes right there,” Lee said. “Now, we’re only down three and we can play and we’re only going to get better. Getting that win really launched us into, maybe we’ve got something special here.”
Over the course of its three straight trips to the Super Bowl, KP became known for its ability to come back in games and make the plays it needed down the stretch to secure a win. Lee said, “We really got good at playing under pressure. We were comfortable in tough situations. It was great to see, the tighter the game got the more confident they felt.”
That resilience showed again the week after coming back against the Hornets when Cole Baker’s field goal pulled out a 17-14 win against Franklin. It was on display again in the Div. 2 South quarterfinal when a rematch against Mansfield went down to the wire and the Warriors pulled out a 13-11 victory at Macktaz Field with all the points coming in the first half.
After beating Bridgewater-Raynham to win the South title, KP was back at Gillette Stadium to take on Lincoln-Sudbury and its high-flying offense. This time, the coaches were prepared for the unique challenges of playing in a Super Bowl and tried to take advantage of the rule changes, such as the shorter quarters, to slow down the L-S offense.
On KP’s first possession of the second half, trailing 7-0, Lydon stretched a play out to get a first down and in the process suffered an injury that sent him to the bench. Sophomore Robert Jarest was forced to step in under center. Not surprisingly, there were some jitters and the first snap was fumbled. Two plays later, Jarest made the play that may have turned the game around when he hit Madden for 38 yards down to the L-S 23.
Three Frommer carries later, KP had tied the game.
“We didn’t really know what, at that time, Robbie was going to be,” said Lee. “What he had was the same skill set as Brendan, in that he expected to have success and the moments weren’t too big for him. Once we scored, everything changed in that game in terms of our ability to totally believe that we’re going to win.”
Frommer rushed for more than 100 yards in the Super Bowl, despite playing with a painful hip pointer. He was named the HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and Kelley-Rex division MVP.
“He just had such a will about him to win and to compete and making himself better,” said Lee about Frommer. “It was one of those rare combinations where your best player is also your hardest working player. He really carried us there.”
A strip sack by Webster put the Warriors in position to grab the lead late in the fourth quarter. Baker set aside an earlier miss and split the uprights from 31 yards to put KP ahead to stay. Lee said of his sophomore kicker, “I don’t think it was a coincidence that in KP history that the one time we have a dude who can kick field goals are the three years we were in the Super Bowl.”
Fittingly, the defense completed another second half shutout to close out the state title and extend KP’s win streak to 25 games.
Lee tried to put into perspective how difficult it was to go unbeaten for two years. He said, “Everybody lifts now, everybody watches film, it’s so hard to gain an advantage on an opponent because everybody is working so hard. You’ve got to have a few breaks obviously and the way the playoffs are it’s about staying healthy.”
For Frommer and the rest of the King Philip football seniors, the championship was the culmination of the work that started in the weight room in the spring.
“Just thinking back, it was the best time of my life,” said Frommer, voice cracking as he reflected on the final moments of his high school football career. “Going back to Gillette with my buddies that I played Pop Warner with and just seeing it all pay off that senior year and all the work we put in. It was an unbelievable feeling. The bonds we built between all the people, you’re going to have those forever.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The past two seasons, the Mansfield football team has had its hopes of competing for a state championship dashed by rival King Philip.
The Hornets weren’t going to let that happen again this year.
Mansfield senior quarterback Jack Moussette tossed four touchdowns in one of his best performances of the season and junior Cincere Gill accounted for four total scored to help the Hornets roll to a 34-6 win over #3 King Philip.
“I was just trying to make the most of my opportunities,” said Moussette, who completed 12-of-17 passes for 230 yards. “We run the ball the majority of the time but Coach Redding told me ‘I trust you, go out there and do your thing tonight.’ I just tried to do the best I could. We had a great game on the ground and in the air, it was overall a great team win, I’m really proud of the guys. The offensive line stepped up big when we needed them too.”
While the Hornets have won the past two regular season meetings (28-27 in 2018, 15-13 this season), the Warriors have been the ones with the last laugh. KP knocked off Mansfield 13-11 in the semifinals in 2017 and celebrated with the D2 South trophy on Alumni Field last season after a 10-7 triumph.
“We’ve won the last two regular season games to win the league title but back-to-back losses, when you’re this close to Gillette…the guys have been waiting a year for another chance,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “We got the monkey off the back in the league, the playoff thing was like a gorilla on our back. It would have been another long year if we blew this one. But being home, being healthy for a change in the playoffs has made a difference. We’re doing it in all three phases right now and with confidence.
“Every year we play them we seem to get seven and get stuck. Last year in the playoffs, we got seven early and didn’t score. This year we got seven and didn’t score until the end. We harped on that, get to 14, get the 14-point lead, build off that. Tonight we got more than that which is great but extending the lead was critical.”
Mansfield made it clear early on that repeating that feat would be a tough task. After a punt and a red zone turnover, the Hornets got on the board on their third series.
Moussette hit Danny Rapoza (three catches, 58 yards) for 32 yards on first down, and four plays later, used play action before connecting with Gill (five catches, 107 yards, three touchdowns) out in the flat and the junior used his speed to race inside the pylon for a 7-0 lead with 11:54 left in the second quarter.
The Hornets’ defense helped set up the next score. Nico Holmes and Chris Graham combined for a tackle for loss, and the front seven helped pressure King Philip quarterback Robert Jarest (8-for-23, 107 yards, touchdown) into a throwaway that was flagged for intentional grounding.
Stuck at their own 11, KP chose a quick kick from Jarest on third down trying to flip the field. Mansfield took over at the KP 46-yard line and quickly cashed in. Gill faked outside to shake his defender and Moussette delivered a pass on the mark for a 46-yard touchdown with 9:19 left in the second quarter.
“It’s a lot of people to cover and I think their quarterback has come along,” said King Philip coach Brian Lee. “He’s the one piece that’s the difference for them right now. He’s getting better and better, it was tough. It’s a lot to defend, and on a short field, you’re asking for trouble.”
Makhi Baskin broke up a third down pass on KP’s next drive and the Hornets took over at their own 32-yard line with 7:12 left to play in the half. Vinnie Holmes (12 carries, 70 yards) broke off a 17-yard run and Gill hauled in a 27-yard pass but Mansfield was faced with a third down when they entered the red zone.
Moussette faked to his right before dropping off a pass to the left on a screen to Everett Knowlton. Junior TJ Guy came up with a big block to spring Knowlton for an 18-yard touchdown, and Michael DeBolt’s third of four successful extra point attempts gave the hosts a 21-0 lead with 3:41 left in the quarter.
“We had a great night throwing, and I think that was the difference,” Redding said. “Jack was on, we had some good matchups with Cincere [Gill] out as a receiver, Danny [Rapoza] did a good job. I think that was the difference was our ability to throw the ball. We ran pretty well but we had to throw it.
“And our defense was lights out, and the field position was a pretty big factor with the kicking game. We fed off the field position, defense got stops. Now you can take chances on offense because you have four downs. Things went our way from the beginning.”
Mansfield nearly added more points before the break with runs from DeBolt and Nick Marciano helping get the Hornets inside the red zone. But a pass fell through a receiver’s hands in the end zone and KP sophomore Crawford Cantave snatched the interception with under a minute to play.
King Philip looked to have a bright start to the second half when Jarest connected with Alex Behling for almost 30 yards down the sideline but a holding call erased the completion and two plays later, Marciano came up with an interception to give Mansfield the ball back with good field position at the KP 23-yard line.
Four plays later, Gill took the handoff, cut up field and found the end zone with an 11-yard touchdown, and a 28-0 advantage with 7:59 left in the third quarter.
“One thing that was a little disappointing was that we got beat up, we got out-physicaled, out-played,” Lee said. “I’m not sure what was so different this time than last time but it definitely was a big difference. When they are out in front, they get on you. You have to keep it close with them. They are loaded, they have a lot of guys. They are coached well and they believe.”
The Warriors put together their best drive of the game in response. Jarest had a first down pass to Behling and Ryan Halliday (13 carries, 47 yards) barreled his way for a first down. Jarest linked up with Behling again for a 42-yard gain to get inside the red zone.
On the next play, Mansfield’s Joe Plath broke up a pass intended for KP’s Drew Danson, but the loose ball was hauled in by Andrew McKinney along the back of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown.
Sophomore Mark DeGirolamo recovered an onside kick attempt from the Warriors, and the Hornets needed just three plays to strike. DeBolt hauled in a 19-yard pass, Holmes grinded out nine yards, and Moussette connected with an open Gill for a 24-yard touchdown, and a 34-6 lead with 3:14 left in the third quarter.
“We have great receivers,” Moussette said. “Cincere is unbelievable, I worked all summer with Danny Rapoza, I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the league. We have guys on the sidelines like [Joe] Cappelletti that can come in and make plays. We’re loaded with weapons and coach is doing his best to get everyone involved.
“This means the world to me. We got up in the summer every day at 5 in the morning to work out. Our main goal is to win a state title and we wanted to beat KP. We were lucky enough to do it twice this year, I couldn’t be prouder of the team. We really battled and put it all together to show everyone what we’re all about.”
Mansfield football (8-1) will play at top-seeded Natick in the D2 South Final, but the date and time have yet to be posted by the MIAA. King Philip (7-2) will enter the non-playoff pool for one week.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – With four of the last five meetings between King Philip and Mansfield football being decided by three or less points, it’s no surprise the teams were locked in another tight battle on Friday night.
And in games so tightly contested, it’s often a small play here or there that can make the biggest difference.
Mansfield senior Nick Marciano blocked an extra point attempt and later converted a two-point conversion rush to help the Hornets secure a 15-13 win on Macktaz Field over the host Warriors.
“It’s a great win, but its Mansfield-KP, it’s gotta go to the wire,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “Both teams are going to find a way to get points and it’s always great defensively. It’s business as usual between these two.
“They really battled, this is just such a great rivalry, there’s so much pride on both sides.”
The Hornets held a 15-6 advantage and took over on offense after Mahki Baskin hauled in an interception in the end zone with just 5:30 left. But Mansfield was unable to kill much of the clock, and in true fashion this rivalry, King Philip made a game of it.
Just two minutes after turning it over, the Warriors were in the end zone. Senior quarterback Robert Jarest (14/26, 194 yards) orchestrated a four-play, 64-yard drive that took little time off the clock. Jarest hit Alex Behling for a 16-yard touchdown, and suddenly the Warriors were down just 15-13 with 3:18 to go after Dylan Conti‘s extra point.
But KP’s onside kick attempt failed to travel 10 yards, and the Hornets took over in Warrior territory. Senior Vinnie Holmes (13 carries, 106 yards) did the rest, sealing the deal with a 23-yard first down rush that allowed Mansfield to kill the rest of the clock.
“It was circled on our calendar from the beginning of the season,” Holmes said. “We knew this was going to be our biggest game so far that counts. La Salle didn’t really count. This one counts for us and it was great to get this win.
“We always know that they can always inch back. They did it last year versus us, almost got that two-point conversion to win. We knew they could do it. We knew we had to put the pedal to the metal. Stop them. Get that first down at the end that was big and then eventually run out the clock.”
Mansfield got off to a perfect start, needing just four plays to cover 52 yards in 2:22 to take the lead. After three run plays, the Hornets went play action and senior quarterback Jack Moussette (6/10, 72 yards) found Danny Rapoza open down the right sideline. Michael DeBolt split the uprights for the extra point to make it 7-0.
That would be all of the scoring in the opening half. King Philip’s first drive went for 12 plays but only 35 yards, stalling around midfield. The Warriors’ two other possessions were three-and-outs with a total of four yards.
Mansfield had solid field position throughout but couldn’t solve the KP defense. The Hornets had to punt on their second and third drives of the game and failed to convert a fourth down as time expired in the first half.
King Philip lost star running back and linebacker Ryan Halliday (eight carries, 25 yards) to an injury early in the second quarter but the Warriors’ offense was able to overcome, putting together its best series out of the break. The Warriors marched 80 yards on 14 plays, converting four third downs on the drive. Jarest hit Brian Wassersug for 24 yards on one third down to move into Hornet territory, and two plays later, the senior quarterback connected with Drew Danson for 38 yards to get down to the one-yard line.
It took four tries from there, but sophomore Crawford Cantave was able to punch it across to get the Warriors on the board.
But Marciano came up with one of the biggest plays of the game, flying across to get just enough on the ball to block it and keep it low.
Mansfield failed to convert on fourth down on back-to-back possessions but the Hornet defense held the Warriors to a combined -11 yards on its next two series. DeBolt and TJ Guy (sack) had key stops to help Mansfield get the ball back.
This time the Hornets did cash in on the good field position. After converting a first down, Cincere Gill took the handoff to the left before cutting back to the right, getting around the defense and sprinting his way to a 20-yard touchdown.
After an injury timeout, the Warriors were whistled for too many men on the conversion attempt. Mansfield pulled its kicking unit off the field, and after a timeout, went with the wildcat offense. Marciano took the snap himself, ran forward and jumped over the pile and into the end zone to make it 15-6 with 7:18 left.
“We thought about it from the three [yard line] but they are so good defensively,” Redding said. “When they got the penalty, we felt we had to go for it then from the one-yard line. That was obviously big because it became a two-score game, that makes a big difference.
Andrew McKinney (five catches, 55 yards) grabbed a 19-yard catch, and Wassersug made a terrific catch on the ensuing drive, hauling in a 36-yard completion to set the Warriors up in the red zone before Baskin came away with an interception in the end zone.
“We’ve been more impressed with Robert with what he’s been able to do,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “He’s a senior, he’s been around. He brought us down there at the end.”
“I’ll tell ya, Jarest was unbelievable in the second half,” Redding said. “They lose Halliday and they just found a way to make completions, he can run and throw. They did a great job of getting the offense going without one for the best running backs in the state in the lineup. They made a game of it, their defense played tough.
“We blew some opportunities to extend the lead, and this is what [KP] does, they hang around and manufacture a drive. All of a sudden you’re an onside kick away from them having the ball again with the chance to win.”
This was Mansfield’s second win in the rivalry since 2013, earning their second straight regular season contest. The two teams have also played in the playoffs in two straight seasons.
“Our defense really battled in there,” Lee said. “Ryan is as good of a player and means just as much on defense as he does on offense. So everyone was stepping up for us. The overall takeaway…we made a ton of mistakes, a lot of new guys out there but we hung in there and battled as hard as we could. I think going forward if we can play well, and we’re fortunate enough to see them again, we know we’re not out-classed by them.”
Both teams are likely to make the playoffs again this year and could be on a collision course for a third straight postseason meeting.
“It’s great football, great defense, and I’m sure part two is coming in November,” Redding said.
“We have the utmost respect for KP, they are a great football team,” Holmes said. “They produce great players like Halliday, and we’ll probably see them again.”
Mansfield football (2-0 Hockomock, 3-1 overall) is on the road again next week at Pisani Field to visit Franklin for another key division showdown. King Philip (1-1, 3-1) will host Attleboro on Friday.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The King Philip offense has had some success from the new wrinkles it’s added this season, but when it mattered most, the Warriors turned to their signature ground and pound running attack.
Senior Ryan Halliday rushed for 150 yards on 33 carries, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and scored a pair of touchdowns to pace the Warriors to a 26-14 win over rival Franklin, KP’s 16th straight win over the Panthers.
After getting just one touch on each of King Philip’s first two drives of the second half — both quickly ended in punts — and Franklin playing with the momentum after cutting the deficit to six at 20-14, the Warriors turned to Halliday.
The senior back was the focal point in the game-clinching drive that spanned 75 yards over 13 plays, taking over eight minutes off the clock. Halliday ran behind an offensive line featuring senior Nolan Gunning, senior Wyatt Manzi, senior center Sean Piller, junior Pat Zarba, and senior Dan Mullen.
The senior back took 10 consecutive handoffs, picking up four first downs that included a fourth down conversion on 4th and 1 on the Panthers’ 28-yard line after an offside call on the defense.
After sophomore Crawford Cantave burst up the middle for nine years, the Warriors went back to Halliday for back-to-back carries, the latter an 11-yard dart up the middle that put the visitors ahead 26-14 with just 5:23 left. The drive started with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
“We’ve switched up the offense a bit this year and we’ve been passing a lot,” Halliday said. “But in the end, we kind of just played old KP football, played some nice defense and ran the ball.
“I’m gassed but I’m sure my hoggies are gassed too, I give a lot of the credit to them.”
Franklin ran just seven offensive plays after that King Philip drive and was limited to a total of 16 offensive snaps total in the second half.
“It worked for us last year,” said KP head coach Brian Lee of going back to the ground game. “[Franklin] is so explosive on offense, they have so many playmakers that you feel like if keep giving them chances…our defense was hanging in there but we just wanted to slow it down a little bit.”
King Philip’s defense did its part as well, holding the Panthers to 175 yards of total offense, 0-for-5 on third down, forcing three turnovers, and limited Franklin’s high-powered offense to just three plays over 20 yards.
“It’s hard to get pressure on them, the ball is out quick and they have a lot of playmakers,” Lee said. “Overall I’m very pleased with how the defense played.”
The Panthers didn’t help themselves much in the first half, fumbling on the opening possession after a completed pass. A quick three-and-out was followed by another fumble, giving KP great starting position at the Franklin 25-yard line.
It took KP just three plays to take advantage of the good field position as senior quarterback Robbie Jarest (11-for-17, 93 yards passing; 8 carries, 75 yards rushing) hit Brian Wassersug, who broke a tackle and sprinted up the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown. Dylan Conti’s point after attempt was good to put KP up 7-0.
Franklin had a quick response as senior quarterback Thomas Gasbarro (16-for-22,193 yards) scrambled to buy some time before finding a wide-open Cole Lakatos on the sideline, and the senior took it the rest of the way, getting a big block from Jake Davis, for a 51-yard touchdown. Parker Cheuvront connected on his first of two extra points to tie it 7-7.
Jarest got it done with his legs on KP’s ensuing drive, taking a QB option for 48 yards to get the Warriors’ offense going. A pass to Alex Behling got the Warriors into the red zone, and six plays later, Halliday followed Gunning into the end zone for a 1-yard score, converting a 4th and goal situation.
“He’s come a long way, he’s really bought in,” Lee said of Jarest. “For us to be throwing the ball as much, it’s different. But we have a new offensive coordinator [Cory Bailey] and he’s really stretching me to try and do some other things and take more risks. Robert’s making those plays with his arm and his legs, and in the end, I think that makes us more balanced.”
Franklin’s defense came up big two series later, stopping the Warriors on 4th and 1 from the Panthers’ 30-yard line with under a minute to go in the half.
But the momentum didn’t last long as KP’s Shawn Conniff applied pressure, forcing a fumble and sophomore Nick Viscusi came out of the pile with the ball.
Franklin nearly stopped the series when they grabbed an interception, but the Panthers were flagged for roughing the passer and KP kept possession. On the ensuing play, with just eight seconds left on the clock, Jarest delivered, finding an open Andrew McKinney for an 11-yard touchdown with only two seconds left on the clock, giving KP a 20-7 lead at halftime.
“We had the recipe of how to never play American football never again,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain of the first half. “I’m at a loss for words for how to describe that first half really. You can’t beat great teams like KP when you have that many self-inflicted errors. Credit to a good opponent, sometimes they make you do that. We felt comfortable with our game plan but you can’t win putting the ball on the turf.”
Momentum swung in favor of the hosts as Franklin forced a three-and-out on King Philip’s opening drive of the second half. The Panthers’ offense capitalized, driving 77 yards on nine plays to make it a one-score game.
Highlighted by a pass and catch from Gasbarro to Jack Nally, and a fourth down completion between the same pair, Franklin marched down the field to the KP 1-yard line. Sophomore Mack Gulla punched it in from there, making it 20-14 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
Franklin only ran seven more offensive plays the rest of the game.
“They took the fourth quarter,” Bain said. “That’s what they do well, and that’s what we don’t do well. And by that point, they made us one dimensional but we continued to make mistakes. I’m disappointed because I think we can play better and execute better.”
King Philip football (1-0 Hockomock, 3-0 overall) now turns its attention to Mansfield, as the two rivals will do battle on Macktaz Field on Friday night. Franklin (0-1, 2-1) will try to get back into the win column when it travels to Oliver Ames on Saturday.
Last week, KP held North Attleboro to only two first downs following the Rocketeers’ opening drive. On Friday night at Jack Martinelli Field, KP gave up 94 passing yards in the opening half against Foxboro but then after the break held the hosts to just 20 yards of offense (11 of those with seconds remaining) and intercepted three passes.
One of those interceptions came on the first possession of the second half and led to a KP touchdown that opened a two-score lead and was decisive in a 20-10 victory.
“We gave up some things and they had some wrinkles that we weren’t ready for and we had to make some adjustments,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “It got to the point that we thought, if we don’t make any more mistakes on ‘O’ and give them the short field then I think we’re going to be okay.”
KP’s offense scored three touchdowns in the second half of the opener against North and that momentum appeared to carry over to week two. The Warriors marched 68 yards on 10 plays on their opening drive to grab the lead. Senior Robert Jarest (4-10, 64 yards) hit Alex Behling on a 37-yard completion to get down to the Foxboro 20-yard-line. Jarest capped the drive with a four-yard keeper for a 6-0 advantage.
Jack Norberg ended the first Foxboro drive with a big sack of Shayne Kerrigan, but TJ Perry got the ball right back for the hosts when he read Jarest’s eyes as the QB rolled out and picked off the pass. Perry returned it to the KP two. Two plays later, Kerrigan punched it in from a yard out and Foxboro grabbed a 7-6 lead.
Foxboro struggled offensively last week against Norton, but things were clicking for the Warriors early on Friday night. Kerrigan (7-18, 94 yards) was causing problems with his ability to make throws on the run. He found Luis Sulham for a 17-yard completion and Ryan Hughes for 23 yards. On third down from the KP eight, Sam Callanan pressured Kerrigan and forced an incompletion.
Despite a low snap, Tyler James managed to split the arms of several KP players and split the uprights on a 25-yard field goal.
Needing a response, KP’s offense put together an eight-play, 58-yard drive that gave it a lead that the Warriors wouldn’t relinquish. Ryan Halliday (23 carries, 87 yards) got the ball four times on the drive, for 25 yards, and then Jarest hit Drew Danson for 15 yards down to the Foxboro five. Jarest (12 carries, 57 yards) kept it himself for his second touchdown of the night.
The hosts didn’t go quietly. Tommy Sharkey returned the ensuing kick out to the 35. On third down, Kerrigan connected with Sulham for 14 yards into KP territory. Two more completions got the ball down to the KP 35. Halliday and Callanan sacked Kerrigan and a spike gave Foxboro fourth and eight from the KP 38 with only eight seconds left in the half.
Kerrigan looked underneath the deep coverage to find Brian Derba down the far sideline. The play went for 23 yards and Derba went out of bounds with one second on the clock. James had a chance to tie the game heading into the break, but KP blocked the kick.
“We had a shot to tie it before the half and it shouldn’t have made an emotional difference but maybe it did,” said Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli. “We improved on a few things offensively in the first half but they dominated the second half.”
Foxboro got the ball to start the second half, but on third and 13 Kerrigan was picked off by Nick Viscusi. After completing 6-of-10 passes in the first half, Kerrigan would complete only 1-of-8 after the break for zero yards. Two plays after the interception, Halliday burst through the line and ran over a couple of defensive backs to score a 15-yard TD.
Lee said, “I think when happened we all felt, okay we’ve got the short field and we can execute. There’s plenty of good things there, but as I said to the guys we have a long way to go.”
KP started to control the line of scrimmage. Pat Zarba stuffed Bobby Yerardi as Foxboro was forced to punt. The visitors would put together a 12-play drive, including a pair of fourth down conversions, and marched to the Foxboro seven, but KP was unable to add to its lead. Sean Ferguson made a big stop on third down to keep KP out of the end zone.
“That was a good football game, a lot of good hitting in there, good plays either way,” said Martinelli. “We just couldn’t muster enough in the second half, gave them the short field, and that kind of spelled the difference.”
Three snaps later, Jack Collentro ended any momentum from that defensive stand when he picked off a deflected pass over the middle. Charlie Grant would add the third interception of the half with seconds remaining, as KP clamped down and Foxboro never got past its own 30-yard-line in the second half.
“We’re still working the kinks out with some of our offensive stuff but I think the upside is still there,” said Lee. “We just need to get better at executing and of course their kids had something to do with that.”
King Philip (2-0) will have a week off before opening league play at Franklin. Foxboro (1-1) will also have next week off and opens Davenport play the week later at North Attleboro.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – Everything started perfectly for North Attleboro on Friday night at Macktaz Field. A play-action deep strike on the first play of the game and an opening drive that marched 80 yards, used up more than half of the first quarter, and ended with a touchdown for sophomore quarterback Tyler DeMattio, who was making his first varsity start under center.
It was a statement of intent from the defending Davenport division co-champions. Of course, a team doesn’t get to three straight Super Bowls by being derailed from one touchdown. King Philip allowed four first downs on that opening drive. It allowed only two more first downs for the remainder of the game, and both of those were on penalties.
The Warriors turned the game on its head with two touchdowns either side of halftime and then put it away with two scores within 30 seconds of each other in the fourth quarter, pulling out a 25-7 victory.
“It looked like, ‘oh boy,’ on that first drive, but we’ve got some great coaches,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “We were able to settle down and he (defensive coordinator Matt Wassell) was able to recover and make some adjustment and stop them.”
DeMattio (2-of-9, 36 yards; 18 carries, 60 yards) made quite the impression on his first varsity snap as QB, faking a hand-off and dropping a dime into the arms of Ethan Friberg for a 33-yard gain. He then showed off his ability to make plays with his legs, running a zone read offense and moving North up the field. He finished off the 10-play, 80-yard drive with a nine-yard keeper to grab a 7-0 lead.
Since Lee took over the KP program, it has become known for its straightforward approach to offense. A lot of power I-formation and running backs that expect to get the ball 30-plus times a game. But on Friday, the Warriors showed far more variation with the ball, allowing senior quarterback Robert Jarest to move around in the pocket (8-of-15, 151 yards) and to call his own number on the ground (seven carries, 64 yards).
“Give them credit, they’ve got some new wrinkles in their offense over there,” said North coach Don Johnson. “There wasn’t the I-formation, smash-mouth football.”
Lee explained, “They’re bigger and more physical than us. I’d love to be the biggest, baddest kid on the block all the time, but just running it in there was not going to work for us.”
While senior Ryan Halliday (24 carries, 122 yards) still got his fair share of touches, the Warriors were able to get the ball away from the strong North Attleboro defensive line and attack North’s less experienced secondary on the edges.
It was a strategy that worked well in the opening half, as KP consistently took advantage of good starting field position and moved the ball deep into North territory. The Warriors just couldn’t finish a drive, three times having a possession stall in the red zone.
The first ended on a Jarest fumble inside the North 10. The next possession also ended at the 10, after Colby Feid denied a touchdown with a solid pass breakup and then Montrel Jackson pressured Jarest into throwing the ball away on fourth down. The third drive ended when Halliday came up inches short on a fourth and two carry.
With the clock winding down to just a minute left in the half, KP finally struck. John Kummer sacked Jarest back at the KP 46, but on the next play there was a breakdown in coverage on the far sideline allowing Alex Behling to run free and Jarest was on the mark for a 54-yard score. The extra point was no good, so North kept a lead, but the Warriors went into the break with the momentum.
“It was huge,” Jarest said. “He was wide open and when we went in the crowd was just pumped. That’s our base is the fans and then Coach Lee got us into it. Everyone was way more calm and everyone was like, okay we can go win this thing.”
The Warriors got the ball coming out of halftime and looked a different team, dominating the line of scrimmage. Jarest had a 33-yard keeper to get KP into North territory, but after Russell Dunlap tackled Halliday for a loss the Warriors faced fourth and long. Another breakdown in the secondary allowed KP to avoid another stalled drive, as Behling again was left wide open for a 20-yard score and a 12-7 lead.
“We’re trying new things,” Jarest said about the offense. “I don’t know if that’s how it’s going to be all season, but it looked good tonight and hopefully we can stay consistent.”
KP’s defense was manhandling North and not allowing DeMattio to find any seams to run into and the Rocketeers were unable to get anything going. Being pinned back in their own half was also causing issues because it limited how adventurous North could be with the ball.
“I thought they took over the line of scrimmage in the second half and throughout the game we had some unforced errors on defense,” said Johnson. “We gave them a couple of easy ones and I think that was the result of some young guys being out there for the first time. It’s just going to take us a little time.”
After a good Brian Wassersug punt return put KP in business at the North 39, KP broke the game wide open. Jarest hit Wassersug, who was too quick for the middle linebacker, down the middle for a 36-yard gain. Three carries later and Halliday punched in his first score of the night.
On North’s next play from scrimmage, DeMattio was hit as he threw and the pass was picked off by Sam Callanan. A delay of game penalty backed KP up five yards, but then Halliday found a crease on the left side and burst through for a 27-yard TD to put the game out of reach.
“It kind of smacked of that Mansfield game from a couple years ago,” Lee reflected. “We couldn’t get anything going, but we got a freebie (before halftime), bought us life, came back out and settled down.
King Philip (1-0) will continue its non-league schedule next week at Foxboro. North Attleboro (0-1) will have a week off before a short trip to rival Bishop Feehan.
Attleboro got off to a strong start to the 2018 season, jumping out to a 4-1 record with its only loss coming against eventual D2 South champ King Philip, and allowing only five points per game. But a last-minute loss in a shootout against Mansfield and a fourth quarter comeback by Franklin the following week sparked a six-game losing streak to close out the season. The Bombardiers come into 2019 looking to turn that around and use its experience to make a run at the Kelley-Rex title.
Offensively, the Bombardiers will be led by senior quarterback Jason Weir. At a bruising 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Weir is a punishing runner and has a big arm to make plays downfield in the passing game. Junior Justin Daniels will be the starting tailback with senior Isaac Guidel and a big offensive line trying to open holes for the running game, led by senior Qualeem Charles (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds), who has a host of colleges recruiting him. Senior Ethan Cameron will provide a weapon on the outside, while junior Michael Strachan offers another threat over the middle from his tight end position.
Charles will dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball as well, but the strength of the Attleboro defense will be its experienced linebacker corps. Strachan, a three-year starter who is getting looks from some Div. I colleges, will be joined by Guidel and senior Nolan Jaeger. Weir will play strong safety, after two seasons at defensive end, and will be counted on to step in to help stop the run. Cameron will be at free safety and giving the cornerbacks help over the middle. Attleboro has a large contingent of sophomores who could step in to contribute right away, including Alvin Harrison, Chris Leonardo, Adam Pearlstein, and Freddy Wheaton.
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “We are looking forward to the season getting underway and with the leadership of our four captains we are looking to be explosive on offense and very physical defensively. The Hockomock League is one of the best leagues in the state with some great teams. We will have to play our very best each week if we are going to compete at a high level.”
Franklin nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2018 season when the Panthers forced perennial power Xaverian to double overtime in the Div. 1 South semifinal. It was a big step forward for the program and head coach Eian Bain hopes it will be a building block for even more success in 2019.
Offensively, the graduation of quarterback Nick Gordon will be a big loss for the Panthers but senior Thomas Gasbarro saw a lot of time under center last year and he will step in and take the starting job. Gasbarro will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as the Panthers have plenty of speedy, athletic players in the skill positions. Senior Jack Nally is a threat out of the backfield or split out wide and his classmate Jake Davis is a solid receiver over the middle or downfield. Senior Matt Lazarek is a potential target from the tight end position and Owen Palmieri is another dangerous ball carrier. Junior Parker Cheuvront emerged last season as one of the top kickers in the Hock and is another weapon that the Panthers can count on if a drive does stall.
The defense is an experienced group. Senior Evan Wertz has been one of the league’s tackle leaders for the past two seasons and he is the team’s top playmaker from his linebacker position. Nally, Davis, Palmieri, and senior Ben Greco give Franklin a tough secondary to throw against and all are capable of coming up with the big turnover to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Luke Cunningham and Dom Natale will give the Panthers strength at the line of scrimmage.
“The challenge for this group is to continue to improve and build the program,” said Bain. “They need to add their own chapter and their own stamp on the program. We have the right people in the room. We need to play with the swagger and confidence of a contender, but be humble in our preparation. If we stay true to the process, we have great potential.”
Despite not winning the league title last year, the target on King Philip’s back continues to grow.
The Warriors might have missed out on the Kelley-Rex crown, but they won their third straight sectional title and made their this straight appearance in the state final, this time falling to North Andover (6-0). While this year’s senior class knows other than Super Bowl appearances, head coach Brian Lee says this group is focused on taking it one game, starting with the opener against North Attleboro. KP has a strong core of players back on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback Robbie Jarest and running back Ryan Halliday. Both players had really strong junior seasons and should be the leaders of the group this year. The offensive line includes returners Nolan Gunning (left tackle), Sean Piller (center), and Pat Zarba (right guard) while Wyatt Manzi, Jack Collentro, and Griffin MacKay are in the mix to fill the remaining spots. Having an experienced line bodes well for the KP run game that will heavily feature Ryan Halliday plus fullback Shawn Conniff and halfbacks Sam Callanan and Crawford Cantave.
The Warriors’ defense has been one of the best units in the state in recent years, and while the expectations remain high for the group, there will be a lot of new faces. KP graduated its entire secondary so the Warriors are turning to senior Brian Wasserug and Cantave, a sophomore, to take on starting spots. Halliday and Callanan, both captains, will handle outside linebacker duties with Mike Malatesta in the mix for the middle spot. Gunning and Manzi will also see action on the defensive line alongside Conniff. Dillon Conti takes over kicking duties for the departed Cole Baker.
“These kids know how much work, how much effort it takes to get where we want to be,” Lee said. “But it’s all about going game by game, starting this week with a team [North Attleboro] that we have a ton of respect for.”
Looking at the long list of returning players, it is no surprise that expectations around Alumni Field are sky high this fall. Mansfield enters the season with experience at just about every position and with the bitter taste of last year’s South final loss to rival King Philip still stinging. Despite a rash of injuries that forced running back Aidan Sacco to play as an emergency quarterback for most of the season, Mansfield still won a league title and this year’s team may be even more talented, which has ramped up the hype and put the target squarely on the Hornets’ backs.
The line of scrimmage will be a strength for the Hornets on the offensive side of the ball, as they return four of five starters from last year’s unit that allowed the team to rush for more than 2,600 yards. Senior Jason Comeau and reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year TJ Guy will be two key cogs in the line, while senior Noah Jellenik and junior Jake McCoy are also back. Senior Andrew Cowles will step into the fifth spot. They will seek to protect senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who had a cameo under center last year before an injury forced him to miss the bulk of the season. The skill positions will be loaded with athletes. Cincere Gill had a breakout sophomore season at running back and senior Nick Marciano is back after an injury cut short his junior season. Senior Michael DeBolt was one of the top kickers in the league but also gives Mansfield another weapon on the edges, while senior Vinnie Holmes adds a bruising presence coming out of the backfield.
Holmes is the headliner on the defensive side of the ball. Along with fellow linebackers Marciano, DeBolt, and senior Joe Plath, Holmes will be expected to make big plays all over the field. The defensive line will be strong with three returning players: senior Chris Graham, McCoy, and Guy. Junior Nico Holmes will step in as the fourth man on the line. Much like on offense, speed will be a strength and the secondary is loaded with playmakers, including Gill, junior Matt Boen, and senior Makhi Baskin.
“We have a bunch of experience all over the field, but we really have to develop depth with the second team to handle a tough schedule and challenges every week,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “This is one of the fastest group of skill guys we’ve ever had and we could be explosive on offense. We lack a little size up front on defense, but we should be able to overcome that by flying around with pursuit to the ball with our speed.”
There was no question that 2018 was a tough season for the Tigers. Oliver Ames lost by a point in the season opener to Concord-Carlisle and didn’t earn its only win until the penultimate game against Durfee. The Tigers will hope to turn things around quickly with an infusion of young talent under new head coach Ed DeWitt.
On offense, the players will be learning a new system, but there is experience in the backfield to try and implement different schemes. Senior running back Nathan Cabral figures to see plenty of the ball again this year after his breakout junior season in which he ran for more than 1,100 yards. He will be joined by senior quarterback Cam Perron and senior running back Sam Stevens to give the Tigers a strong core. Seniors Harrison Webster and Adam Cann (who is coming off an injury) will give Perron weapons to utilize on the outside.
There will be a lot of new faces on the defensive side, as DeWitt can call on three or four returning starters and will need a number of players to provide contributions on both sides of the ball. The linebacking corps was particularly hit by graduations, although senior Tyler Campbell can provide some experience and leadership in that position and Cabral brings athleticism to the role. Max Anderson and Anthony DeCosta will be important at the line of scrimmage, while Stevens will step into the secondary along with senior corner Nick Gillis and junior corner Jadon Ricci.
“The competition in camp has been great,” DeWitt said. “The players have committed to the program and bought into the day to day work that we need to do. We are focusing on making sure we treat every day as an opportunity to improve and string together some positive momentum.”
The Tigers started last season with three straight wins and then finished with three wins in their final four games to end 2018 with a winning record. Taunton enters this fall with a relatively inexperienced roster, but one that is looking to continue the momentum in the program and try to push forward so it can challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division.
One of the biggest changes for the Tigers will be under center. Noah Leonard was the starter for three seasons, but junior Danny MacDougall will take over this year. MacDougall will also see time at receiver to try and take advantage of his athleticism. He will be joined in the backfield by classmates Bretton Heggs and Josh Lopes, who both got time at running back as sophomores. Juniors Kedrick Santos and Devante McPhail will be the primary weapons at receiver. Up front, the Tigers have decent size. Senior Mike Murray will be at center, senior Hussein Kassab at one tackle, junior Marquis Dalomba at the other tackle, and junior Jordan Manning at guard.
Similar to the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers lack experience on defense and are still learning the schemes, but physical scrimmages have helped prepare them for the season. Senior Woudanly Danger is a force at the line of scrimmage and will require attention from opponents and senior Jackson Wellman has been one of the team’s top tacklers from linebacker. Junior defensive end Deandre McPhail adds to the strength of the line. Senior Curt Marshall and MacDougall will be the safeties and senior Cam Carroca will be at corner.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better and to be competitive in the league,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re definitely inexperienced, but physically we have guys who can do it and we need to coach them up so they’ll be ready to go once the season gets started.”
FOXBORO, Mass. – There were still many who expected North Andover, with its perfect record and high-powered offense, to be too much for King Philip in Friday night’s Div. 2 Super Bowl and the Warriors were going to struggle to stay with the Scarlet Knights.
You would think that at this point, after three straight trips to Gillette Stadium and 33 wins combined over the past three seasons, people would know better than to underestimate KP.
With 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Warriors got the ball back at their own 26 trailing just 6-0. Robert Jarest scrambled from one side of the field all the way back to his left and hit Tim Nault right on the sideline for a first down. On the next play the pair connected again for another 13 yards into North Andover territory. With the clock down to 11 seconds, Jarest found DDavid Morganelli in front of his own bench for 13 yards to the Knights 34.
With six seconds left on the clock, KP had one last chance to complete an unlikely three-peat. But, North Andover defensive back Michael Roche ruined the storybook ending by chasing down Jarest for a game-ending and title-winning sack that handed the Scarlet Knights their first Super Bowl title since 1994.
“They keep rallying back,” KP coach Brian Lee said of his team. He added that Roche impressed him on film in the build up to the game, calling him “a real dude,” and he was aware of the North Andover senior but couldn’t change the play at that moment. Lee said, “We were a little disjointed, not having another timeout to get it the way we wanted to and to realize he was on this side and we rolled out into him.”
There was certainly disappointment on the King Philip (9-3) side after the loss, having two long drives end just outside the red zone and having the lone North Andover touchdown come off the lone turnover for the Warriors, but Lee credited his players for beating all the expectations for the season.
Lee said, “They really weren’t supposed to be anything this year. To get back here with these guys and to play that way, I mean especially on ‘D’ to shut them down again, we play so well on ‘D’ on this field…”
He added, “It was just a great job competing by our guys. I’m so proud of them.”
KP got the ball first and put together exactly the type of drive that has become synonymous with the Warriors during Lee’s coaching tenure. Junior Ryan Halliday (29 carries, 97 yards) got the ball on all but one of the 12 plays and marched KP all the way to the North Andover 25. On fourth and four, the Warriors called for a fake field goal and Cole Baker found an open receiver on the far sideline but the ball couldn’t be pulled in.
Jack Webster leapt to bat down a third down pass attempt and end the Scarlet Knights first drive, but KP went three-and-out when it got the ball back.
On the North champion’s next drive, Jake McElroy started to get things going through the air, connecting with Gabriel DeSouza for 33 yards to the KP 32. Three plays later, on third and two, McElroy (10-16, 117 yards) appeared to have an open receiver but the ball slipped through his hands and Nault was on hand to pick it off.
The momentum from the interception lasted only two plays. Halliday was hit hard on a toss to the left and Darren Watson recovered the fumble at the KP seven. It took four plays before McElroy punched it in from one yard out, and it took a great second effort just to get the ball across the line. The extra point was blocked.
“That call was dumb,” Lee admitted. “That was my fault and it put the defense in a bad spot. Even so, fourth and one I thought we had them there. That call was the wrong call and put the defense in a bad way, but besides that they did everything they were supposed to do. I really think if we don’t make that mistake then we shut them out.”
North Andover started the second half with the ball, but Shawn Conniff ended the drive by busting into the backfield to stop Watson for a one-yard loss on third and one. KP got the ball at its own six and proceeded to grind out another long drive.
Halliday had been largely contained since the first possession but he broke runs of 17, 10, and 11 yards to get the Warriors going. A Jarest scramble turned into a 12-yard weaving run that got KP down to the North Andover 23. Facing fourth and 10, Jarest slipped as he rolled out and although he recovered his footing wasn’t able to hook up with Morganelli on a comeback route.
Again, the KP defense did its job to get the ball back quickly, including a big play by Morganelli busting up a screen pass for a seven-yard loss.
North Andover coach John Dubzinski said of the KP defense, “They were so good up front. They were good on the perimeter, they were good inside. They covered our receivers well, very well. They’re a good football team. We beat a good football team.”
After a pass was knocked away from Morganelli, the Warriors had fourth and eight from the Scarlet Knights 43. Lee elected to punt and Baker dropped one at the one-yard-line with 4:49 left to play.
McElroy was able to elude the KP blitz and hit Watson for a crucial 29-yard completion and then added a 17-yard pass to the KP 40. Watson jumped on a fumble for a four-yard loss and then Tyler Barrett sacked McElroy for a 10-yard loss that forced third and 24. The Warriors did their job and stopped the North Andover offense as it did all night, but it just wasn’t enough time for the offense to get on the board.
It says everything about this team that when KP got the ball back, there were plenty of people thinking that somehow the Warriors would be able to pull this out.
“A lot of things looked like they were going our way early and then we just stalled out on ‘O’ a couple times,” Lee said. “We were just a little short on a couple things tonight. Just a lot of little miscues on offense really prevented us from stealing this one.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The first game back in September was a surprising shootout, but the rematch in the pouring rain on Friday night at Alumni Field was more of what has come to be expected from battles between Mansfield and King Philip.
Defense was the story of the Div. 2 South final. The Hornets scored a touchdown on their opening possession but were held off the board for the remainder of the game, while the Warriors were held without a touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter.
King Philip came away with a hard-hitting 10-7 victory over its division rival, securing its third straight trip to the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
“There’s playing teams and then there’s playing Mansfield,” King Philip coach Brian Lee remarked. “You know what you’re going to get and it’s just how are you going to move the ball when they’re big and mean and tough and we’re just trying to find a way.”
Mansfield took the lead midway through the first quarter, taking advantage of a short punt to score its only touchdown of the game.
After a three-yard punt, the Hornets got the ball at the KP 37 but then backed up 10 yards on a pair of false starts. On third and 15, Aidan Sacco was able to pull the ball down and scramble for 16 and a first down. Two plays later, Sacco again found space to run and rumbled in untouched for a 16-yard score.
The ensuing kick was fielded at the one by Aidan Bender, but he returned it 47 yards out to midfield. The Warriors were unable to make it count, but the defense got the ball right back.
KP forced a Mansfield three-and-out and regained possession inside Hornets territory. Ryan Halliday (27 carries, 96 yards), with help from a defensive holding call, got the ball down to the 21, but Mansfield held firm and forced a 38-yard field goal from Cole Baker that cut the lead to 7-3.
Mansfield had a chance to add to its lead before halftime when it go the ball back at midfield. The drive started poorly, as Sacco was sacked by Halliday and Max Armour, but a personal foul following an incomplete pass gifted the Hornets 15 yards and a first down. Sacco then hit Cincere Gill for 20 yards down to the KP 18, but two plays later Gill fumbled and Bender recovered for the Warriors.
“When they didn’t score before the half, I thought we were okay,” said Lee. “We couldn’t have played any worse offensively and made some mistakes on defense, but if we could get into the half and make our adjustments and only be down four I thought alright that’s KP football, we’re fine.”
The third quarter continued the trend where defenses were in control of the game. Even without Vinnie Holmes at linebacker, Mansfield was getting big plays from Chris Copponi and T.J. Guy. KP was getting typically strong performances from Armour and fellow linebacker Jack Webster to stymie the Mansfield offense.
The score stayed the same heading to the fourth before KP finally got something going on the offensive side of the ball. The Warriors ate up six minutes with an 11-play, 51-yard drive to take the lead.
“We started just grinding it out, pounding it,” said junior quarterback Robbie Jarest about the go-ahead drive. “The line was doing really well, we were just grinding it out.”
Halliday continued to be the workhorse back, grinding out yards, including a two-yard burst to convert a fourth and one. On second and six, KP called for a bootleg from Jarest and he bounced it to the outside for 11 yards. On third and six, Jarest scrambled and managed to dive ahead for nine and another first down to the Mansfield 12.
On the next play, he hit David Morganelli just outside the goal line for a first and goal from about a foot, which Jarest finished off with a sneak.
The Hornets had 5:38 on the clock to try and get back the lead. Back-to-back nine-yard gains by Gill and Joe Plath got the ball out to the 43. After an eight-yard gain by Khristian Conner pushed the ball into KP territory, Mansfield took a chance downfield. Sacco tried to squeeze a pass in down the middle but it was picked off by Deric Casado at the 16.
On third and eight, again KP turned to its quarterback on a bootleg and Jarest weaved his way through the Mansfield defense for nine yards and a dagger first down that sealed the win.
“Robert gave us a little wrinkle at the end that was just enough,” said Lee. “That’s kind of what we do at KP, just enough. He’s really done a great job stepping up, taking the coaching, and I’m really proud of his efforts.”
No one was quite sure what to make of this KP team at the start of the season. With no returning starters on offense, this didn’t seem like a Warriors team that could make it back to the state title game, but here they are again booking a trip back to Gillette Stadium with eyes on a three-peat.
“It’s a very different team and it’s presented challenges along the way but they still have the same theme, which is keep believing, keep working,” Lee explained. “The one thing that stayed from the last two years is their work ethic and their belief that they can pull it off.”
He added, “We have heart, we have guts, we have teamwork, and we use it on this team better than anybody. Anybody can be a hero on a different play.”
King Philip (8-2) will face Franklin on Thanksgiving Day and then take on North champion North Andover in the Div. 2 title game. Mansfield also finished the season at 8-2 and will finish its season with its Thanksgiving Day rivalry game against Foxboro at Fenway Park.