Football: 2019 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

King Philip football Ryan Halliday
King Philip’s Ryan Halliday carries the ball against Foxboro in the third quarter in 2018. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Kelley-Rex Football Preview

Attleboro

2018 Record: 4-7
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Qualeem Charles, Sr., OT/DT; Isaac Gudiel, Sr., OG/LB; Nolan Jaeger, Sr., WR/CB; Jason Weir, Sr., QB/DE; Michael Strachan, Jr., LB/TE; Ethan Cameron, Sr., WR/DB; Justin Daniels, Jr., RB/DB

Outlook:
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

2018 Record: 7-4
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Eian Bain

Key/Returning Players: Evan Wertz, Sr., LB; Jack Nally, Sr., WR/DB; Jake Davis, Sr., WR/DB; Dom Natale, Sr., OL/DL; Thomas Gasbarro, Sr., QB/DB; Owen Palmieiri, Sr., RB/DB; Ben Greco, Sr., WR/DB; Xander Honor, Jr., RB/LB; Austin Jordan, Sr., OL/LB; Luke Cunningham, Sr., TE/DE; Matt Lazarek, Sr., TE; Parker Cheuvront, Jr., K

Outlook:
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.”

King Philip

2018 Record: 9-3
2018 Finish: Reached D2 State Final
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Ryan Halliday, Sr., RB/LB; Sam Callanan, Sr., RB/LB; Nolan Gunning, Sr., OL/DL; Robert Jarest, Sr., QB; Sean Piller, Sr., OL/DL; Pat Zarba, Jr., OL/DL; Shawn Conniff, Sr., FB/DL; Brian Wasserug, Sr., WR/DB; Crawford Cantave, So., WR/DB;

Outlook:
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.”




Mansfield

2018 Record: 8-3
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Final (Kelley-Rex Champions)
Coach: Michael Redding

Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Jack Moussette, Sr., QB; Michael DeBolt, Sr., RB/LB/K; Vinnie Holmes, Sr., RB/LB; Makhi Baskin, Sr., RB/DB; Nick Marciano, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Graham, Sr., DL; Jason Comeau, Sr., OL/DL; TJ Guy, Jr., OL/DE; Cincere Gill, Jr., RB/DB; Dan Rapoza, Sr., SE/TE; Everett Knowlton, Jr., TE/DE; Matt Boen, Jr., WR/DB; Nico Holmes, Jr., TE/DL; Noah Jellenik, Sr., OC/NG; Andrew Cowles, Sr., DE/OG; Jake McCoy, Jr., OG/DT; Joe Plath, Sr., RB/LB

Outlook:
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.”

Oliver Ames

2018 Record: 1-10
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Ed DeWitt

Key/Returning Players: Cam Perron, Sr., QB; Sam Stevens, Sr., DB; Shane Kilkelly, Sr., WR; Nathan Cabral, Sr., RB; Harrison Webster, Sr., WR; Max Anderson, Sr., OL/DE; Anthony DeCosta, Sr., OL/DL; Nick Gillis, Sr., CB; Jadon Ricci Jr., CB; Tyler Campbell, Sr., LB; Noah White, Sr., OL

Outlook:
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.”

Taunton

2018 Record: 6-5
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Mason Frank, Sr., OL/DL; Danny MacDougall, Jr., QB/DB; Woudanly Danger, Sr., OL/DL; Marshall Curt, Sr., RB/DB; Mike Murray, Sr., OL/DL; Josh Lopes, Jr., RB/LB; Brett Heggs, Jr., RB/S; Everett Ferreira, Sr., WR/DB; Javon Franklin, Sr., WR/DB; Dylan Gookin, Sr., WR/DB; Kedrick Santos, Jr., LB/WR; Jackson Wellman, Sr., OL/LB

Outlook:
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.”

KP Wins Rematch With Mansfield, Advances to Final

King Philip football
King Philip senior Shane Frommer (25) scored a pair of touchdowns to lead the Warriors to a narrow victory over rival Mansfield and into the Warriors third sectional final in the past four seasons. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WRENTHAM, Mass. – Over the course of its 21-game win streak, King Philip has found a number of ways to come out on top, particularly in close games. Whether it is a big passing play, breaking a long run, or forcing an important turnover, the Warriors know how to grind out results week after week.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

There was a lot of turnover from last season’s state title-winning roster and head coach Brian Lee has admitted that he was not sure how good the Warriors could be this fall, but the new faces have stepped right in where the previous team left off and continued to win.

On Friday night at Macktaz Field, KP extended its winning streak by another game, pulling out a 13-11 win against rival Mansfield, beating the Hornets for a second time this season and advancing to the Div. 2 South final. This is the third sectional final in the past four years for the Warriors.

Lee explained, “The kids just battle. They’re tough. They’re not much to look at but they battle and compete. I didn’t know if we’d be any good this year and somehow we’re here again.”

“We’ve got a lot of guys who are just laid back and chill and they know when to perform,” said junior linebacker Jack Webster. “They perform at the right times. We’ve got good confidence on the team. We’re just calm, cool, and collected and we just play team ball.”

After pulling away with a strong fourth quarter in the first meeting between the two teams, KP carried the momentum into this game.

The Warriors called for a reverse on the opening kick-off and Shane Frommer took it up the sidelines for 42 yards to start near midfield. Brendan Lydon (5-14, 69 yards) hit David Morganelli for 16 yards and then Frommer for 21 to get the ball into Mansfield territory. Three plays later, Frommer (24 carries, 110 yards) bounced a run to the outside for six-yard score.

“We score the first drive, everyone’s smiling, and I was like, ‘Remember, it’s going to be a long game,’ “ said Lee. He added, “I told them before the game, ‘I don’t know how it’s going to play. I don’t know what they’re going to do different this time. All I know is that it’s going to take the entire game.’”

After a three-and-out by the Hornets, Aidan Bender’s return gave the Warriors great starting field position at midfield. The Mansfield coaches were imploring the defense to come through with a big stop and that is exactly what the Hornets got, forcing three-and-outs on back-to-back KP possessions to settle the game down.

The first meeting changed on a first half interception and it looked like Friday’s game might too. Lydon was flushed out of the pocket by Nick Marciano and his pass was picked off by Hunter Ferreira, who returned the ball down to the Warriors eight and gave the visitors momentum. Three plays later, Damani Scott (5-15, 55 yards) punched it in from the half-yard-line.

The Hornets surprised KP by running a trick play rather than an extra point with Ferreira pitching it to Mike DeBolt for the conversion and an 8-7 lead.

The excitement on the Mansfield sideline was short-lived, as the Warriors returned the ensuing kick out to the 45 for another great starting spot. As usual, KP turned to Frommer and the Yale University-commit carried the ball five times for 42 yards on the drive, including his second touchdown of the game, this time from 10 yards out.

The Hornets had gone practically nowhere on offense to this point, but with 3:25 left in the half and starting at their own 23 Mansfield put together its best drive of the game. Scott hit Danny DeGirolamo for a 14-yard completion and Khristian Conner for eight yards, while sophomore Vinnie Holmes (17 carries, 89 yards) gave the Hornets a threat up the middle. Mansfield got the ball to the KP 16 and DeBolt nailed a 33-yard field goal with 8.4 on the clock to cut the lead to two.

Deric Casado had an interception to start the second half for KP, but the Warriors were held to one first down, Chris Graham making a big stop on Frommer on second down. Mansfield’s next drive got on the edge of field goal range but Evan Rice had a big third down sack that forced a Hornets punt. It was one of three second half sacks for the Warriors, who ratcheted up the pass rush in the second half.

“The coaches just made up a great defensive plan this week,” said Webster. “We knew what we’re doing and we attacked it.”

Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “We played tough on Frommer, they did a great job on our run game, and we just needed to complete a few more passes. They’re as good a team as we play defensively every year, they make you work.”

The punt pinned KP down inside its own 10, but Webster managed three yards on third and three for a big first down then Lydon hit Morganelli for another third down conversion and Frommer picked up another with a nine-yard dive up the middle. The Warriors managed to get as far as midfield to switch the field position advantage.

“They got a lot of big first downs,” said Redding. “The Lydon kid hit a couple of outs, great throws on time. Field position was a killer. We always started in our end and gave them the ball at midfield way too much.”

The game seemed to be over when Makhi Baskin muffed a punt with about four minutes remaining, but again the Hornets held firm defensively with Conner making a big stop on Frommer on the sideline and Baskin redeeming himself with an interception at the goal line on fourth down.

Mansfield had one more shot. After a sack by Webster pushed the Hornets back five yards to their own 24, Scott hit Ferreira for his only catch of the game and the senior appeared to be out to the 40 for a first down. After some confusion, the officials marked him down at the 38, one yard short of the marker.

“I thought we completed the pass for 20 yards on [third down], someone’s got to explain that to me, but even with that I don’t know if we’ve got the time to get the field goal,” said Redding. “You just hate to see that in a big game, that kind of mismanaging of the stakes.”

On fourth down, Holmes tried to fight his way to the sticks but Webster was on the spot, as he had been all game, to make the stop that sealed the win.

“Fourth and one, I was daggering off the outside,” Webster explained, “and Jack Piller made a great play and everyone just collapsed on him and pushed him back. It was a great team effort.”

When asked what has made this KP roster continue to find ways to win, Webster said, “Shane Frommer and Andrew Dittrich, our two captains, have just made us play together, play great team ball, everyone’s made plays when we’ve had to…it’s just been a good team game.”

The respect for the Mansfield program and all that it has achieved is evident on the KP sidelines and Lee said that the strength of the Warriors’ rivals has pushed them to be even better.

“You know why I love Mansfield so much,” he said, “because they have made this program work so hard to compete against that and that’s how we’ve gotten better. You’re either getting crushed by them or you learn how to fight and our guys have responded.”

King Philip (9-0, 5-0), the top seed in Div. 2 South, advances to the sectional final and will host No. 3 Bridgewater-Raynham next Friday night. Mansfield (7-2, 4-1) has not set an opponent for next week.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield Snaps Skid Against Marshfield To Advance

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Mansfield sophomore Vinnie Holmes rushes past a Marshfield defender for a touchdown in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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MANSFIELD, Mass. – After a nearly flawless first 21 and a half minutes of the first half, it looked as though #4 Mansfield was going to head into the locker room with a comfortable 14-0 lead.

But #5 Marshfield had other plans, covering 63 yards in 32 seconds and scoring with no time left on the clock to cut the deficit in half. On top of that, the Rams received the opening kick and needed just four plays – plus a face mask penalty – to move to the Mansfield 32-yard line.

But all of Marshfield’s momentum was squashed when sophomore linebacker Nick Marciano sniffed out a quick pass from Rams’ quarterback Jackson Phinney and intercepted the pass, running it back 71 yards for a touchdown to give Mansfield a 20-7 lead with 9:34 left in the third quarter.

Mansfield never looked back after that, running away with a 34-14 win to snap a three-year losing skid to the Rams in the postseason.

“It’s been a tough run against those guys, sooner or later we had to get them,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “This was much closer than the score indicated. Obviously the pick six was a huge turnaround. They’re driving and I think at that point, to tie the thing up. That was a big play in the game.

“I thought we played great in the first half, but then they get the two-minute drill at the end of the half, and it just felt like the momentum shifted, a little bit of air came out of our sails. The pick six kind of got it back in our favor.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Hornets’ offense got off to a great start, needing just six plays to cover 69 yards, punctuated by a touchdown just over three minutes into the game. On third down, junior quarterback Damani Scott (7/16, 105 yards, touchdown) hit Khristian Conner on the right sideline and the junior used a nice spin to get free and raced for a 56 yard gain.

Three plays later, Scott rolled to his left and hit Hunter Ferreira in the end zone for a six-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 7:44 left in the first quarter.

“We were excited to see we had [Marshfield] again, we love the competition,” Ferreira said. Ferreira is one of the few three-year starters for the Hornets who has been on the wrong side of the Marshfield rivalry. “They run the ball very well, like King Philip does so it’s a good game to get prepared. It’s like a monkey off our backs to beat them, to stop the streak. Now we have a chance to stop the KP streak.

“It’s so huge to have all these guys step up. Vinnie [Holmes] has been great all season, he’s a missile out there. He plays like a senior out there. And Marciano stepped up big tonight for us He came in to my spot when I moved to Joe’s spot and that was an unreal play tonight.”

Mansfield’s defense was on point from the get-go. The Hornets allowed just two yards on Marshfield’s opening drive (three and out). The Rams ran an incredible 18 plays on their next series, converting three fourth downs before going for it on fourth and goal from the eight. But Mansfield sophomore Vinnie Holmes came flying in with pressure on Phinney, forcing an incompletion plus an intentional grounding call to get the ball back on downs.

The Rams had to punt after five plays resulted in just 23 yards, but Mansfield’s second, third and fourth drives on offense resulted in a punt, turnover on downs, and a punt as well.

Marshfield went backward on its next drive as Holmes stuffed Jack McNeil (eight carries, 49 yards) for a two-yard loss. Then Chris Graham and Ernany Pires combined for a six-yard sack on second down. On the Rams’ ensuing punt, Mansfield junior Philip Dinov came flying in and blocked the punt, tackling the Marshfield punter as well after he picked up the loose ball.

Mansfield took over at the Marshfield 23-yard line. After Holmes converted a 3rd and 10 with a 21-yard burst up the middle, he took a two-yard rush in for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with just 0:37 left to play in the first half.

“We talked at halftime about how we let it get away against King Philip, we can’t let it happen again,” Redding said. “We had to step up and play some defense. It takes a sophomore making a pick six in the biggest game of the year, but that was the play of the game.

“Offensively we did just enough to keep them at arm’s length. They are tough, they have great athletes all over like McNeil and Phinney. They did a great job containing their backs, not giving them the big play.”

The Hornets defense continued its stellar play in the second half. Marshfield’s next three drives in the third quarter totaled just 16 yards, with a pair of punts and a turnover on downs.

“We played great run [defense] all year and this was a big challenge because they have three good backs and the QB can run,” Redding added. “But we’ve been great defensively, [Chris] Capponi and Holmes at linebacker are great and Phil and Hunter at outside backer – we didn’t get Hunter the ball a lot but he made some plays on defense.”

Holmes put the Hornets up comfortably with a toss to the right for a 13-yard score with 9:18 left in the game, and Michael DeBolt iced the game with a six-yard rush up the middle with 3:42 to play.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Holmes finished as the Hornets’ leading rusher, going for 77 yards on 11 carries. Danny DeGirolamo also had a nice night on both sides of the ball, rushing for 69 yards on 11 carries while having a pair of key pass breakups.

“He went from having a role to being the go-to guy [tonight],” Redding said of Holmes. “Give him the ball, he’s going to get yards. He breaks tackles, he stays low…he’s not your typical sophomore and I’m glad we got him around for a few years, he stepped up and played great tonight. Chris [Copponi] was a great lead blocker for him.

“They did a good job taking Hunter out of the game. Damani made some throws when he had to. It was a battle, we had to work for everything we could. But defense played great and we did enough offensively to get points on the board. We’ll take it – Marshfield is a great program and it’s been a battle, and it’s good to finally get them. Now its back to a league rival here in the semifinals, that should be a good one.”

Marshfield added a late passing touchdown with Mansfield’s second unit in on defense.

Mansfield football (7-1 overall, 4-1 Hockomock) advances to the D2 South Semifinal and will face off with a familiar foe in King Philip. The Warriors scored 28 unanswered points in the first meeting, erasing a 10-point deficit to earn the win.

“They’ve beaten us the last three or four years. We thought we played pretty well for three quarters but the fourth quarter, they just wore us down, field position killed us, they made some plays. Now it’s our chance to turn it around and make some plays. I wish it was in the finals but we’ll take it in the semis and hopefully make it happen.

“I just feel like this team has something special, just something about them. When we lost Joe, they just have all stepped up and they find ways to compete and win. So we have to do it one more week and try and survive and move on.”

The Hornets and Warriors are set to kickoff on Friday, November 3rd at 7:00 at Macktaz Field on the campus of King Philip.

Hornets Turn Defense Into Offense in Win at Attleboro

Mansfield football
Mansfield forced four turnovers and scored off all of them, including this fumble return for a touchdown by Aidan Sacco (27) in the second quarter, to win on the road at Attleboro. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Before Friday night’s game at Tozier-Cassidy Field, Mansfield was given bad news on the injury front. Having already lost starting linebacker and running back Joe Cox for the season, tailback Danny DeGirolamo and lineman Colbey Eason were both ruled out for the meeting with Attleboro.

Mansfield coach Mike Redding admitted that he was concerned about the matchup with the Bombardiers and said that he knew his team would have to “make plays and win the turnover battle.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Hornets did just that. Mansfield forced four Attleboro fumbles, scoring points off all four turnovers, and rolled to a 31-7 road victory that puts the Hornets alone in second place in the division, keeps them just a game back of league-leading King Philip with one regular season game remaining, and gives them a stronger hold on a home game in the playoffs.

“It was kind of our night,” said Redding after the game. “Really gutsy effort.”

He added, “We talked the last 24 hours that we need to step up and fight together. We’re short a few key guys and everybody’s got to rally and…we know that this was a crucial win on the road and may make a big, big difference in where we sit going into the playoffs.”

Attleboro ran only four offensive plays in the opening 11 minutes, but the game was scoreless when the Bombardiers stuffed a Vinnie Holmes run on fourth and one (ending a 13-play drive) and took over at their own 16 with 49 seconds remaining in the first.

Center Matt Corrado, who also plays on the defensive line, was injured on the fourth down play and there was confusion between senior Cam Furtado and his new center. The ensuing snap was early, surprising the quarterback, and was recovered by Chris Graham at the Attleboro 10.

Again the Attleboro defense came through with a huge stop. Matt Jimenez and Josh Therrien combined to bring down Aidan Sacco four yards short of the goal line on third down. Mansfield settled for a 26-yard field goal by Michael DeBolt to take the lead.

The momentum that the defense gave to the home team was short-lived. A fumble on the second snap of the next drive was corralled by Sacco in front of the Attleboro bench and he took it 27 yards up the sideline for a touchdown to make it 10-0.

“Turnovers…You can’t give them possession, bottom line,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan mused. “I thought we played pretty well defensively, early, but we gave them short fields and you can’t give them short fields. They’re too experienced to do that and we just couldn’t recover.”

Another mishandled snap led to Mansfield taking over at its own 48. A run and a penalty later and the Hornets faced second and 11. The Bombardiers were crowding the line of scrimmage when Damani Scott (6-8, 156 yards) dropped back to pass. The junior fired a perfect strike over the top to DeBolt, who pulled in his first career catch without breaking stride for a 53-yard score.

“That was a big one,” said Redding. “Funny thing is we were going Hunter [Ferreira] first read on the drag and we weren’t even looking at Mike. I don’t even know how [Damani] saw him. He must have looked back to the drag and saw the post open, but that was a great throw.”

Strachan used the same words to describe the touchdown that put Mansfield ahead 17-0 at the break. He said, “I think that was the big one. Overall, we tried to do a good job on Ferreira, shut him down, and I thought we did a good job on that but at the end of the day you can’t turn the ball over four times. That’s it.”

Mansfield punted to start the second half, but again Attleboro put the ball on the ground. Ferreira was on hand to recover the loose ball and get the Hornets possession on the Bombardiers 23. Facing fourth and 11, Scott used his legs to scramble for 16 yards and keep the drive going. Two plays later he found Ferreira on the far sideline and the senior wideout somehow pulled it in while staying in bounds for an 18-yard touchdown.

“They had to go to other resources,” said Strachan about the defensive effort to try and slow down Ferreira (two catches, 28 yards). “He made a great catch down in the end zone, phenomenal catch, but other than that he had a pretty quiet day, but they’ve got athletes at different spots. You have to defend the whole field against them.”

After stopping Attleboro at midfield on fourth down, the Hornets tacked on another score to ensure a comfortable fourth quarter. The drive started with a flea flicker, as Scott threw another deep strike, this time to Khristian Conner for 44 yards inside the Attleboro five-yard-line. Sacco capped the drive with a two-yard run, spinning his way inside the pylon.

Sophomore Joseph Llanos (nine carries, 88 yards) ensured that Attleboro was not shut out with a 14-yard TD in the final minute of the game, but it was a strong performance by the Mansfield defense. Even without Cox at linebacker, the Hornets limited Furtado to just one completion and 38 yards on 12 carries.

“We’ll never replace him,” said Redding in reference to Cox, “but I think guys are rallying for him at this point and the only good news is that we have depth at the skill positions. We would love to have him, but I think we have enough talent to be a tough out once we get to the playoffs.”

Mansfield (5-1, 3-1) will try to keep the pressure on King Philip and sew up a home playoff game next Friday at Alumni Field against Oliver Ames. Attleboro (2-4, 2-2) will look to make sure of a playoff place when it hosts fellow Div. 1 South hopeful Franklin at Tozier-Cassidy.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.