STOUGHTON, Mass. – With small snowflakes swirling in the wind, the temperature hovering in the mid-30’s, and Canton Bulldogs and Stoughton facing off on the gridiron on a Thursday morning, it sure felt like Thanksgiving.
The holiday rivalry continued between the Bulldogs and the Black Knights, only this time it was on Earth Day and in the middle of April vacation for the final game of the Fall II season due to COVID-19.
It marked Stoughton’s first home game for the holiday meeting since 2016 and the Black Knights celebrated in grand style. The hosts put a bow on an impressive season with a 41-7 win at the new Veteran’s Memorial Stadium on the campus of Stoughton High.
Stoughton wasted little time to take the lead and found the end zone early and often. In fact, the Black Knights made four trips to the end zone — all in the first quarter — within its first 14 plays on offense. Three of the four drives started in Canton territory and the other just one yard into their own half.
“That was a good start,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “We’ve played hard the last three weeks, we’ve hung in and had some guys down. Every game has been tough. We might not be the most talented, but we work hard and the kids play tough.
“It’s been a tough year for Canton a little bit, they have some good kids over there. But they weren’t able to do much against our defense. I’m so happy for the seniors, it’s a great way to finish it up. It’s a weird time, been a weird year but overall I think we had a pretty good year, I’m very happy. I’m going to miss these guys.”
The Black Knights also put on a shutdown performance on the defensive side of the ball, shutting out the Bulldogs until the final play from scrimmage when senior Jack Albert, who was selected to wear #27 in honor of former Canton star Ricky Shannon, bullied his way in for a 1-yard touchdown.
Senior Jake Queeney set the tone right away for the hosts with a 58-yard return on the kickoff, only denied a touchdown on a tackle from kicker Will Keefe. From there, Stoughton needed just five plays as senior quarterback Brady Conlin dropped a pass to Christian Ais for a 12-yard score. Jonah Ly’s first of five successful point after attempts put Stoughton ahead 7-0.
The Black Knights got the ball back after a punt at their own 49-yard line. Four plays in, facing 3rd and 9, Conlin dropped back and dumped a screen pass off to junior Emmett Pearl, who got to the sideline and turned on the jets, racing the rest of the way for a 40-yard score with 4:07 left in the first.
Ais had a big return on Canton’s next punt and on the first play of the ensuing drive, Stoughton was back in the end zone again. Senior John Burke took over under center and kept it himself, first racing to the left before cutting back through a big gap and going in for a 19-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
It continued to go Stoughton’s way as the Bulldogs coughed up the football on the kickoff with Ly coming up with the loose ball. After a 17-year end-around rush from Queeney, Burke handed it off to senior Nivon Domoulin for a 7-yard touchdown and a 28-0 advantage with 0:48 left in the opening quarter.
Domoulin was starting in place of star senior running back Christopher Ais, who missed the game after being poked in the eye the week before. For Stoughton, it was another player on a long list of starters that missed time this season.
“The kids that stepped up for us were great,” Burke said. “We had seniors that came in and got to play and it just shows how they are tough kids. Nivouin was the one today [for Christopher Ais]. We just got Christian Georges back, who at full throttle he’s the best player in the league. But that’s the way it is, that’s high school football. You’re only as good as your backup. These days, you have to practice them almost harder than your starters because, at any time, they’ll be in.”
Canton’s final drive of the first half was its best of the first two quarters, marching 34 yards into Stoughton territory on seven plays but the Black Knights stuffed the Bulldogs on 4th and 2 to end the half with a 28-0 lead.
It was more of the same on the offensive side of the ball for Stoughton in the second half. The Black Knights used eight plays to cover 64 yards, highlighted by a 33-yard pass from Burke to Ais. Christian Georges, back from injury, capped the drive with a 2-yard plunge and a 35-0 advantage.
Stoughton forced a turnover on downs and its offense went to work, needing just three plays to find the end zone. After Ais went for 25-yards, Domoulin found the end zone for the second time in the game with an 8-yard rush.
“I’m really happy with the year,” Burke said. “[John] Burke had a busted finger from last week so Conlin came in, another great senior, and threw two touchdowns. We got Colby [Andrews] in there as well, he’s another senior. You try to play everyone when you can, it’s not easy but they are great kids. I’ll take these kids over anyone. We don’t have any problems, they play together as one and we’re very proud of that.”
Canton took advantage of a Stoughton fumble late in the fourth quarter to get on the board with junior Andrew Butler coming up with the fumble recovery. Butler got the drive going with an 11-yard carry and two plays later, Albert burst up the middle for a score from a yard out.
Stoughton football finishes the season at 5-2 while Canton wraps up the Fall II campaign at 2-5.
CANTON, Mass. – King Philip got off to the perfect start to Wednesday night’s Hock Cup semifinal at Canton. The Warriors jumped out to a 14-2 lead and cruised to the win in the opening set. From that point on, nothing came easy, as the battle of league champions went back-and-forth over the next three sets and both teams had to grind out every point.
KP was able to use its strength at the net, led on the outside by sophomore Ahunna James and in the middle by senior Nicole Coughlan, to power past the Bulldogs. The Warriors won 3-1 (25-12, 27-29, 25-22, 25-20) and advance to Friday night’s final.
“I was surprised [at the start],” said KP coach Kristen Geuss, “but I certainly knew they were going to come back so I didn’t want us to let our guard down at that point because they’re such a good team.”
She added, “It gave us a little bit of confidence. It gave us that cushion so I think we were able to be a little more comfortable out there.”
Canton coach Pat Cawley credited her 10 seniors for their resilience and leading the team back after that very tough opening set.
“These 10 seniors who are graduating couldn’t be better people to be in the gym with every day,” she said. “Obviously we had a really slow start. Those other three sets, I couldn’t be more proud of my kids, the way they played. They gave it everything they had. They went all out.”
Nothing went right for the hosts at the start. Serve-receive was off, passing was off, hitting was off and KP took full advantage.
Coughlan had a pair of kills and a pair of blocks in the early going, Lily Carlow had a pair of aces, and James got off to a quick start with a pair of kills, as KP jumped all over the Bulldogs to build a 14-2 lead.
Canton tried to get some momentum going with good swings by Shannon Malloy and Angie Elias, but Sami Shore’s accurate tip, back-to-back points for Coughlan, and a kill from Giovanna Fruci put and end to any thoughts of a comeback. Coughlan was dominant and she closed out the set with a pinpoint tip, her seventh point in the first, to put KP up 1-0.
Liz Bickett smashed Canton into the lead to start the second set and the Bulldogs looked intent on making sure the match was not a sweep. Their defense improved, turning many of the points into long rallies. Steph Trendell and Nikki Desjardins were able to chase down everything on the back row and keep balls alive.
“I just feel good that my kids gave it everything they had, especially after losing the first set by so much,” said Cawley. “It’s hard to come back in volleyball after that. I just told them to forget it, we’re starting over, and they did. We battled.”
KP continued to be strong defensively as well, with libero Emma Brooks and Carlow prominent on the back row, and started to mix things up offensively, getting James more and more involved on the outside. She had seven kills in the second set alone.
“She’s only a sophomore, so I look forward to see what she can do in the future,” Geuss said of James. “Her and Nicole are definitely our weapons, but I think our setters (Lauren Peterson and Stella Bailey) are doing a good job moving the ball around a lot more than we have to kind of mix it up a little bit and keep their blockers off-balance a little bit.”
After Brooks found an open spot with a kill from the back row and Coughlan smashed another spike down the middle, KP had opened up a 14-8 lead and it looked like the Warriors may start to pull away. Instead, Canton stormed back with seven of the next eight points, including a kill for Bickett and block for Anna Verille, to tie the set at 15-15.
A James kill made it 20-17 but Canton forced a long rally capped by an Elias swing and neither side seemed able to grab momentum, as the atmosphere got as loud as any match this season. Shore had a hit called on the line, but Verille answered. Then Coughlan hit the end line with a kill but a diving dig by Desjardins kept a point alive for Elias to somehow find an open area with a bump.
Canton had the first set point after a Bickett block at 24-23 and her tip gave the Bulldogs another chance at 26-25, but first Coughlan then James had the answer. James saved another set point to tie it 27-27, but Sydney Gallery came off the bench for a big block and Elias hit the line for an ace to close out a 29-27 win for the hosts.
“They were super scrappy,” said Geuss in praise of Canton. “We had to work for every point. That was not an easy match.”
The Bulldogs coming back to win in the second set the stage for two more hard-fought sets in which neither team could put the other away.
KP took a 15-6 lead in the third, following another kill by Fruci, but Canton continued to fight, winning 10 of the next 13 points to get back within two. After a couple of errors, Elias had a block and two kills to make it 20-19. After another kill and a KP shot into the net, the Bulldogs had come all the way back to tie it at 21-21.
But, another pair of errors put KP back in front and the Warriors were able to put themselves on the brink of the final with kills from Camryn Buckley and Coughlan.
In the fourth set, KP again was able to put together a run and grab the lead. An 8-0 run, including a pair of Coughlan kills, put the Warriors up 14-8. Canton never got closer than four points the rest of the set.
Behind a pair of kills from James down the stretch and a block and two kills from Coughlan, KP was able to keep Canton at arm’s length, despite the best efforts of Elias and Bickett. It was fitting that Coughlan, the senior closed out the match with yet another big swing off the Canton block.
“I’m grateful that we had a season and I’m grateful that we could all hang in there so we could have the Hock Cup,” said Cawley. Canton finished the season at 10-2. She added, “It is a little taste of the postseason for them. We don’t really peak until the last 10 matches and this season you blink and it’s over and we’re just raring to go and find our way.”
King Philip (11-1) advances to the Hock Cup final to face Kelley-Rex co-champion Franklin. The teams split their two regular season matchups.
Geuss said, “We’re thrilled to be here. This was great competition for us and hopefully it will set us up for Friday. Hopefully it’s going be a good match and hopefully we show up to play the way we’ve been playing.”
CANTON, Mass. – With leading rusher Cam Sanchez sidelined with an injury and facing a short week ahead of Thursday night’s visit from Sharon at WWII Veterans Memorial Field, Canton was searching for different ways of getting into the end zone.
For the first time this season, the Bulldogs found success in the passing game. Canton threw a pair of first half touchdowns, including one on a halfback pass by Jack Albert, and leaned on its defense during a scoreless second half to pull out a 17-6 win over the Eagles that moves the Bulldogs back to .500 on the season.
“We’re trying to find ways to replace Cam Sanchez, and it’s a difficult thing to do when you have someone that dynamic,” admitted Canton coach Anthony Fallon. “The guys are finding their way into different positions. Sometimes you give up some yards and then you can buckle down when you figure it out.”
Canton had good field position to start its opening drive and took advantage, going 59 yards in 10 plays to jump in front. The Bulldogs had good balance, with Colin Albert (15 carries, 59 yards), Jack Albert (nine carries, 65 yards), and quarterback Robert Botelho all getting positive yards on the ground.
After a false start on fourth and two back the Bulldogs up to the Sharon 33, Botelho (7-for-13, 77 yards) rolled out to his left and hit Vincent O’Brien in stride down the near sideline for the touchdown. It was Botelho’s first career touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs would started their third possession from their own 42 and again made the good field position count for points. Botelho found Jack Albert for a 23-yard gain down to the Eagles 26. Bahsor Mahn gained six on third and five down to the 15-yard-line, but the drive stalled there. Will Keefe made sure Canton didn’t leave empty-handed, kicking a 33-yard field goal.
Sharon needed a spark and found some life offensively on the ensuing possession. Kiran Chandrasekaran (11-for-20, 174 yards and 14 carries for 55 yards) rushed for 29 yards on a keeper to get the ball into Canton territory. On first down from the 20, Chandrasekaran fired a strike on the far sideline to PJ McManus. The extra point was blocked, but the Eagles cut the lead to 10-6.
It was Canton’s turn to answer and the Bulldogs needed only three plays to get back in front by double digits. Andrew Butler’s kickoff return out to the 44-yard-line set up the drive. Jack Albert took a toss for 11 yards to the left. Butler went around the right side for 13. Fallon called for a little trickery, as Albert took the toss to the left, pulled up, and lofted a perfect pass to Butler for a 32-yard score.
“A little jet pass from Mr. Albert,” said Fallon. “We ran that in practice and this afternoon I think he was all geared up and wanted to run it and we thought it was good time to do it. Senior night, you want the win but you also want them smiling and having fun and that was part of the fun tonight.”
The visitors had more than two minutes left in the half and tried for an instant response. A 40-yard pass to Owen Conway got them into Canton territory and a personal foul call added 15 more yards down to the 19. Carson Campbell made a big play to drop Ike Ogbannanze for a five-yard loss, on third down Ryan Richards sacked Chandrasekaran, and the Bulldogs forced a turnover on downs.
“Kiran had a great game,” said Sharon coach Dave Morse. “He helps us with both the run and the pass. The receivers did a great job with a couple of big catches. We’re moving it but then we’ve got to finish it off. It’s been the story of the last couple of years and the next three weeks we’ve got to figure out how to finish.”
Late in the third quarter, Canton went for it on fourth and three at the Sharon 41, but Albert was stripped of the ball and Jack Murphy jumped on the fumble for the Eagles. Nico Marrero picked up nine yards to convert a third and five and Chandrasekaran hit Ogbannanze for 13 on a fourth and six.
Sharon got as far as the Canton 24 but a Campbell sack on fourth down put an end to the drive.
“We really killed ourselves with penalties and field position, so that was the difficult part of moving the ball in the second half,” Fallon explained. “They had couple of sustained rives where we didn’t lock it down until they got deep into our territory.”
After a three-and-out by the Bulldogs, Sharon was on the move again. Chandrasekaran and McManus (four catches, 53 yards) combined for 24 to the Bulldogs 40 and then Conway made a grab down to the 27. A holding call backed the Eagles up but gains of seven, six, and eight yards brought up fourth and one from the 18. Chandrasekaran’s keeper was stuffed for a loss of one.
Penalties were an issue for the Bulldogs throughout the second half and a holding call pushed Canton back to its own eight. On third and 17, Butler came up with a huge play that effectively sealed the win, He took a sweep to the right, cut inside and broke a 22-yard run for a critical first down.
“He did a great job there,” Fallon said of Butler’s run. “He hit the seam really nice and covered up the ball when he had contact too.”
Morse added, “We had some guys up front, all did a great job and the linebackers were getting more aggressive. Defensively, I think we saw the progression we wanted. A couple mistakes and they bit us for it but I was very, very happy with the effort to the football.”
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Canton has been searching for the right lineup combination all season. Based on its performance in Monday evening’s battle of Davenport co-leaders in the Nixon Gym, it seems the Bulldogs might have finally found their best rotations.
The Bulldogs put together a complete performance, never trailing until late in the third set, and never allowing Oliver Ames to build momentum and get into the match. Canton won 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-23) and now has a one-game lead on the Tigers with three matches left in the season.
“We always try to get off to a good start,” said Canton coach Pat Cawley. “Whether you can or you can’t, it depends on the day. It’s a lot easier to play when you’re ahead and that was to our benefit but we did let them catch up in the second set and again in the third. To the kids’ credit they did buckle down and get it done.”
Canton showed off a balanced attack to build a lead in the first set. Liz Bickett (11 kills and 17 digs) had back-to-back hits to put the Bulldogs in front 10-7. After Caroline Flynn’s kill got OA back within two, the Bulldogs kept winning rallies, got an ace from Taylor Reynolds and pushed the lead to as many as five (15-10).
A block by freshman Sarah Hilliard and an ace from Amanda Barth kept the Tigers hanging around, but a pair of kills from outside hitter Anna Verille extended the lead back to four. Back-to-back blocks by Hadley Rhodes (21 assists and seven kills) and Tori Harneyy and then a tip by Flynn (11 kills) tied things up at 19-19.
Just when it looked like OA might be able to steal the first set, Canton ran off four straight, including an accurate tip by setter Jackie Morrissey and a big swing from Angie Elias (14 kills). Elias sealed the 1-0 lead with a well-placed tip, her fifth point of the first.
The visitors seemed to carry over the momentum into the second, continuing to win the battles at the net, led by Elias, Bickett, and Sydney Gallery (seven kills), who stepped into the middle in the absence of Shannon Malloy and had an impressive match on both sides of the ball. Her tip put the Bulldogs up 10-5.
“Syd’s first time playing middle and she did a great job,” said Cawley. “We didn’t even get to practice with her in the middle.”
Flynn capped a long rally with a cross-court kill, but Elias answered back with two of the next three points for an 18-11 lead. Down 20-13 and in danger of falling behind by two sets, OA managed to fight back and won nine of the next 11 points to tie it up at 22-22.
“We’ve made it interesting, but I want to make it count,” said OA coach Chelsea Cunningham. “Our lineup changes every single game, but it builds opportunities for everyone on the team, which I appreciate, and their willingness to try and give it their all.”
The Tigers were playing better defense in that stretch, although a block by Talya DeGraw and an ace by Nikki Desjardins slowed the comeback. Hilliard came through with another block in the middle and Harney found an angle for a big swing. An ace by Sarah Morley (23 digs) and quick tip by Rhodes tied the set and then Jordan Bennett made it 23-23 with a kill.
Again, the visitors had an answer. Bickett restored the lead with a tip down the line and then closed out the second with a kill to put the Bulldogs in control.
Cawley said, “I thought our ball control today was excellent. I thought our defense did a great job. We focused on being there to block, but I think our offense kept their defense off-balance. That’s a credit to our defense, which got the ball to our setter so we could put pressure on their defense.”
The familiar pattern continued in the third set, as Canton jumped out in front again. Down 14-8, OA started to climb back into it, following an ace by Alexandra Zwerle and a block by Courtney Raymond. Elias answered with an ace and the Bulldogs remained in front 16-12. The Tigers rolled off six of the next seven points to grab their first lead of the match.
Raymond added an ace to her earlier block and Flynn had a big swing on the outside. Bennett added another kill and OA led 21-19 in the third, looking to try and extend the match.
“These games are what will make us stronger,” said Cunningham. “They’re fighting. I get to give other kids the opportunity to play and they’re feisty. Them taking those risks definitely helps ignite a little bit of energy our team needs right now.”
Canton just seemed to make the big plays when it needed and found any openings in the OA defense. Verille dropped a shot in between a few Tigers and Bickett scored with a block to tie the set. Raymond had a kill to tie things back up at 23-23, but the Bulldogs won the final two points to seal the match.
“Their coverage was fantastic,” Cunningham added, “and that challenges us because we’re suffering on coverage right now. We’ve just got to bounce back. Hopefully it will be a quick turnaround.”
The Bulldogs have now won four straight after being swept by Sharon. Cawley saw that match as a good reminder to her team about how little separates the teams in the Davenport this season.
“Every loss is a learning experience,” she explained. “Last year we lost twice to North and I think it was the best thing for us to understand that you can lose. Every team out there is good and you can’t take anyone for granted. We’re not above the rest of the competition at all, we’re right there with everyone.”
FOXBORO, Mass. – Coming off its first loss of the season (to league-leading Stoughton), Foxboro was looking for a reaction when it hosted Canton on Friday night at Sam Berns Community Field. Thanks to a dominant defense and big plays on special teams, the Warriors answered the challenge and got right back on track.
Foxboro picked off a pair of passes, allowed only three first downs in the first half, scored on a punt return, and kicked three field goals, beating Canton 37-0 to stay within one game of the Black Knights (and North Attleboro, which plays on Saturday) in the Davenport division.
“I can’t say enough about the kids tonight,” said Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli. “They did a great job in a game they had to win. I always told them that I don’t judge them after a loss or a win, it’s when you get knocked down can you come back like they did tonight. That’s the true test of character.”
It was always going to be a tough road trip for the Bulldogs, but the task got considerably tougher when leading rusher Cam Sanchez was injured on the opening possession and didn’t return.
“Cam can go at any time and we didn’t have ability to have that weapon for us this week. We’ll find out if he’s healthy or not,” said Canton coach Anthony Fallon. Martinelli added, “Would’ve been a different kind of game. [Sanchez is] a home run hitter.”
Canton’s defense was looking tough to beat in the first quarter too, Jack Albert had a pair of sacks on Foxboro’s second possession, but the Warriors took advantage of a turnover to grab the lead. Dylan Gordon intercepted a Robert Botelho pass and returned it down to the Canton 13. Two plays later, Gordon took a counter 10 yards into the end zone. The conversion was no good after a bad snap, but the Warriors were up 6-0.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their next possession. Luis Sulham stepped up to receive the punt at his own 46 and weaved his way through the Canton cover team, reversing field twice on his way to the end zone. Gordon was able to punch in the conversion and Foxboro led 14-0 after one.
After another three-and-out, the Foxboro offense finally clicked into gear a little but Sulham was ruled to have lost the ball just before he was able to stretch it across the line for another score. He would step up on Canton’s next punt, again coming up with a big return to give Foxboro the ball at the Bulldogs 11.
“You either have it or you don’t,” Martinelli said about the speed he has on the roster. “You can coach quickness but you can’t coach speed and we have some speed.”
Although Foxboro went nowhere, sophomore Sam Carpenter came in and drilled a 27-yard field goal to make it 17-0. A Trent Rennie sack ended Canton’s next possession and then Rashaad Way returned the punt 50 yards to get it back down to the 24. Again, the Warriors went nowhere, but Carpenter split the uprights from 40 yards.
“I have all the confidence in that kid,” said Martinelli. “Thank god for the double season,” he added, referencing Carpenter’s ability to play soccer and football this year. “He wanted to give it a try and we watched two kicks and just kind of said you’re in. I was looking at the list and said, who’s Sam Carpenter? Well, now I know who he is.”
Carpenter was a difference maker for the Warriors. Foxboro started the second half with the ball and, after a 38-yard pass from Cam Prescott (6-of-15, 98 yards) to Way moved the Warriors into the red zone. Instead of leaving without points, Carpenter stepped up again and nailed one from 31 yards.
The Bulldogs were seeking answers on the offensive end. Colin Albert took over from Sanchez as the primary running back and finished with 100 yards on 17 carries, continuing to fight for extra yards even as the Warriors started to pull away.
“Colin did a great job filling in, running the inside zone,” said Fallon. “Colin’s a tough kid going both ways and grinding it out like that, especially against a good team like that who’s going to hit you on every play.”
Trying to make something happen, Canton called for a halfback pass but Tom Sharkey stepped in the way of Andrew Butler’s throw. On the first play of the drive, Prescott hit Sharkey for 30 yards down to the Canton four. On the next play, Mike Norvish burst up the middle for the touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Foxboro added one more score. Tom Marcucella took over at quarterback and broke a 23-yard run on third down. He had his pass to the end zone picked off by Vincent O’Brien, but a roughing the passer call negated the turnover and moved Foxboro to the 10. Four carries later Steven Petrillo was able to find a little seam on the right side of the line for a one-yard score.
“It killed us,” Fallon said about the struggles on special teams. “Our coverage was lacking tonight for sure and we’ll have to see if we can sharpen that up. Short turnaround, so we’ll put a game plan together and turn around and play on Thursday.”