KP Relies on Special Teams, Grinds Out Win at Attleboro

King Philip Football
KP junior Crawford Cantave (2) scoops up a blocked field goal and breaks away from the attempted tackle by Attleboro’s William Runey. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – King Philip has developed a reputation for being able to grind out victories, relying on its defense and special teams to pull out close games. On Saturday afternoon at Attleboro’s Tozier-Cassidy Field, the Warriors bolstered that reputation.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

KP recorded only 43 yards of offense in the first half, had only one play from scrimmage in the third quarter (a fumble), and only had two drives in the game that lasted more than three plays, but they still walked off the field with a 17-3 victory and a 2-0 record.

“I don’t know how?” KP coach Brian Lee replied when asked about his team’s ability to win the game despite its struggles. “I don’t know if we deserved to. I don’t think those numbers are very good…we’re trying to get things organized and it doesn’t feel like it’s coming together for us yet.

“The kids did enough. They made a big play bringing it back and that’s the difference in the game. Special teams actually played well.”

Special teams was the spark that got the Warriors going on Saturday. Jake Silveria’s 52-yard punt pinned Attleboro inside its own 10. After a three-and-out, Jonathan Joseph’s punt return put KP at the Bombardiers 22 to start its second drive. Mike Malatesta dove for two yards on fourth and one to keep things moving to the Attleboro 11.

Charles Grant just missed a touchdown pass to Drew Danson towards one corner of the end zone (landed just out of bounds) and on third down Anthony Salviati made a great breakup on the other side of the field to keep KP, momentarily, off the board. Matthew Kelley stepped in and made a 28-yard field goal (the first of his varsity career) to make it 3-0.

After admitting that his team lost the physical battle up front in the season opener against Milford, Attleboro coach Mike Strachan was pleased with his team’s effort up front.

On their third possession, the Bombardiers started to pick up some first downs in the running game. Alexander Bakowski (23 carries, 67 yards) was the primary back on Saturday and he had success getting to the edge. Blake Garzaro’s two-yard sneak on third and one kept the drive moving and his hard count drew an offsides penalty on fourth and three for another first down.

After getting to the KP 33, Attleboro tried to look downfield with Crawford Cantave making a good play to knock away one pass to Christian Dame and two passes to Salviati falling incomplete. The Bombardiers moved the ball much better on Saturday, but still struggled to finish drives.

“That’s what we’re going to improve on,” Strachan said of his team’s improvement up front. “Bakowski did a good job and Michael got going a little bit more on offense but we just don’t have that team, breakaway speed and that’s the difference. We matchup [with KP] and that’s a battle right there.”

KP went three-and-out to give Attleboro back the ball in the closing minutes of the half. Michael Strachan broke a 19-yard counter to the Warriors 27. Three plays later, on fourth and two, Attleboro elected to go for a 36-yard field goal. Pat Zarba went up the middle and blocked the kick, which was grabbed in stride by Cantave and he had no one in front of him, racing 72 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

“In a game like this, it’s going to be about possessions,” said Strachan about the decision to go for the kick. “You saw what they did in the fourth quarter, they grind it and that’s what we do. Hindsight, I was trying to get back to the point where we could tie it up. I thought we had momentum at the time. We were moving the ball.”

Attleboro got the ball to start the second half and didn’t look like it was going to give the ball back until the quarter was over. The Bombardiers put together a 17-play, 64-yard drive that ate up more than 10 minutes off the clock.

Strachan powered ahead for two yards to convert a third down, another hard count drew an offsides call to convert a second third down, and Garzaro hit Salviati on a slant for 12 yards to convert on fourth and eight. It was his only completion of the game.

On third and five, Freddy Wheaton broke a 12-yard run up the middle to get down to the KP eight, but there the KP defense stiffened. Hunter Hastings stuffed Strachan for a two-yard loss back to the nine and a pass to Dame in the back of the end zone fell incomplete. Colby Briggs split the uprights with a 26-yard kick, cutting the lead to 10-3 and recording Attleboro’s first points of the season.

Malatesta returned the ensuing kick out to the 41, but the first snap of the drive was fumbled and recovered by Wheaton. KP had less than 20 seconds of possession in the third.

KP got the ball back at its own 10 and finally strung together a few plays to switch field position around. Cantave (17 carries, 66 yards) started to work between the tackles, powering the Warriors out to the 31. KP converted twice on third down (one on an offsides penalty) and moved 54 yards on 12 plays. After stalling at the Attleboro 36, they pinned the Bombardiers back to their own seven.

Down by a touchdown, Attleboro nearly hit a big play on first down, but the bomb to Salviati was just out of his reach with no KP player between him and the end zone. The Bombardiers tried four passing plays in a row, but none connected, giving the Warriors back the ball.

Cantave put the game out of reach just two plays later, finding a seam for a four-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with just 1:55 remaining.

Lee was happy to be undefeated while still trying to figure everything out, but admitted that they’re going to need to improve to keep racking up wins. He said, “It’s good to be 2-0 and we’re not there, but Milford looks really good. And then it’s Mansfield. It gets harder as we’re going here so we need to figure things out. At least let’s stop making mistakes at this point.”

King Philip (2-0) will go on the road again next week to face Milford for the first time in program history. Attleboro (0-2) will travel to Franklin on Friday night.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Football: 2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Mansfield can’t defend its D2 state title, but the Hornets will be looking to bring home a third straight league title when the new Fall II season kicks off. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Football Preview

Attleboro

2019 Record: 6-5
2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Christian Dame, Jr., TE/DE; Alvin Harrison, Jr., OL/DL; Chris Leonardo, Jr., OL/DL; Kaiden Murray, Jr., RB/FS; Trainor Sherck, Sr., OLB; Michael Strachan, Sr., LB/RB; Freddy Wheaton, Jr., LB

Outlook:
Attleboro was able to incorporate a number of underclassmen last season and will be hoping that experience pays off with the junior class being asked to step up all across the field this season, as the Bombardiers look to challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

Size won’t be an issue for Attleboro and the offensive line should be a strength this season led by junior tackles Chris Leonardo (6’3, 275 pounds) and Alvin Harrison (6’3, 255) along with seniors Trainor Sherck and Ryan Grover and junior Adam Struminski. The Bombardiers are going to use that line a lot this season with new quarterback Blake Garzaro, who saw some action as a sophomore, handing the ball off frequently to junior Kaiden Murray, who looks poised for a breakout season, and bruising fullback Michael Strachan. Junior Freddy Wheaton is another physical back who will get touches this year. In the passing game, Garzaro can look for 6’4 tight end Christian Dame, who leads a largely new cast of receivers.

The strengths on offense should mirror the strengths for Attleboro’s defense as well. Leonardo, Dame, and Harrison will be the core of the defensive line with junior Isaac Pereira another big body that will be tough for opposing teams to run against. Strachan leads the linebacking corps. The URI-commit is the program’s all-time leading tackler and he’s a four-year varsity player. Wheaton will join Strachan at inside linebacker and Sherck and Ryan Betts will be on the outside. The secondary will have several new faces, but Murray is a tough tackler at free safety and William Runey will be one of the more experienced cornerbacks on the roster.

Franklin

2019 Record: 7-4
2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Eian Bain

Key/Returning Players: Jared Arone, Jr., QB; Parker Cheuvront, Sr., K; Dan Cormier, Sr., LB; Brady Duncan, Sr., OL; Mike Griffin, Sr., WR/S; Mack Gulla, Jr., RB; Xander Honor, Sr., LB; Isaac Hughes, Sr., WR; Shane Kindred, Jr., WR; Vincent Lackey, Sr., T; Jonathan Martins, Jr., DE; Jake O’Brien, Sr., WR; Anthony Quintina, Sr., DL;

Outlook:

Franklin is coming off an impressive run to the Div. 1 South final but the Panthers also graduated a host of important pieces from last year’s team, particularly at the skill positions, and will need some younger players to step in to stay competitive in the Kelley-Rex this season.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

Junior Jared Arone will step in at quarterback this season, hoping to have the same level of success running Franklin’s up-tempo style as Thomas Gasbarro did last year. Junior running back Mack Gulla got some time in the backfield last season but will be getting the bulk of the touches this year. A new receiving corps will also have to learn on the job, including senior Jake O’Brien and junior Shane Kindred, and junior tight end Jonathan Martins, but there is potential for this to be an explosive group. Seniors Brady Duncan and Vincent Lackey will be counted on to provide leadership on the offensive line. The consistency of senior kicker Parker Cheuvront will be a huge boost to a Franklin offense that may have some growing pains early in the season.

Defensively, the Panthers return several players and will rely on that experience to combat the top offenses in the league and to allow time for the younger players to get up to speed. Seniors Xander Honor and Dan Cormier will spearhead the defense from their linebacker positions, while seniors Anthony Quintina and Lackey are stout in the middle of the line. Martins will be a force at defensive end and Griffin is a playmaker at safety.

“We need to focus on getting better every day,” said Franklin coach Eain Bain. “Appreciate, and focus on, the here and now. Don’t look ahead or behind, but stay in tuned to the task at hand. And always, Row the Boat.”




King Philip

2019 Record: 8-3
2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Crawford Cantave, Jr., RB/SS; Drew Danson, Jr., TE; Mike Malatesta, Sr., MLB; Kevin Pierro, Sr., C; Nick Viscusi, Jr., SS; Michael Zagrodney, Sr., WR; Patrick Zarba, Sr., G/DT

Outlook:
This is an atypical season in so many ways, not least of all because King Philip, one of the perennial powers in the Kelley-Rex, is going through a transition. The Warriors will have a lot of new faces this year, using a number of underclassmen who will have to quickly learn the KP style of play through a tough slate of divisional games.

KP returns only two starters on offense from last year’s team that reached the D2 South semifinal. Senior guard Pat Zarba and junior tight end Drew Danson will be the lone holdovers, although several other players did see action at times. Junior Crawford Cantave filled in for an injured Ryan Halliday at running back last year and has the potential to be next in a long line of standout backs at KP. Mike Malatesta will also be in the backfield at fullback and sophomore Ryan Gately is a newcomer to keep an eye on. Junior Charlie Grant is set to be the new quarterback and will have Danson, senior Michael Zagrodney, and junior Nick Viscusi as targets in the passing game. Senior Kevin Pierro will be the center to add some experience to what is otherwise a largely new group on the line.

Defense has always been a priority for KP and this year’s group has a lot of players who will be learning on the job. Zarba and Danson will be on the defensive line, along with junior Hunter Hastings and senior Harry Brown. Malatesta and Gately will be joined by junior Jake Sullivan at linebacker. The secondary is young but has some experience, as Cantave and Viscusi both are coming off strong sophomore seasons at safety.

“I am hoping that our weakness (inexperience and lack of seniors) will be a strength in the fall as we are forced to play a lot of juniors and sophomores now,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “I’m also worried about injuries, as we have not been in our weight room in a year.”

Mansfield

2019 Record: 11-1 (Kelley-Rex Division Champion)
2019 Finish: Won D2 Super Bowl
Coach: Mike Redding

Key/Returning Players: Nick Bertolino, Sr., CB/WR; Matt Boen, Sr., WR/QB/DB; Anthony Comer, Sr., RB/DB; Mark DeGirolamo, Jr., G/DT; Joe Forte, Jr., C/NG; Cincere Gill, Sr., RB/DB; TJ Guy, Sr., OT/DE; Nico Holmes, Sr., FB/LB;Everett Knowlton, Sr., TE/DE; Jake McCoy, Sr., G/DT

Outlook:
It has been 15 months since Mansfield rolled to a D2 state title at Gillette Stadium and the Hornets are excited to get back on the field, searching for a third straight league title and looking forward to a 90th anniversary game against Foxboro at Alumni Field to close out the season.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

While Mansfield graduated a number of key players from last year’s state championship-winning team, the Hornets return plenty of offensive firepower, especially in the backfield. Senior Cincere Gill will be the focus after racking up nearly 1,000 rushing yards last season, but he will get plenty of help from classmates Anthony Comer and Nico Holmes and newcomer sophomore Rocco Scarpellini. In addition, the Hornets will have Matt Boen and Nick Bertolino back at receiver and Everett Knowlton returns at tight end. Juniors Jake Wall and Dana Johnson will add to the depth in the passing game. The offensive line should be a strength for Mansfield this season with three returning starters, seniors TJ Guy and Jake McCoy and junior Joe Forte. Juniors Jimmy Gilleran and Braedon Veno will fill out the rest of the line.

The Hornets were dominant on defense last season and they remain solid on that side of the ball, particularly in the front seven. With Guy on the end and junior Mark DeGirolamo and McCoy in the interior of the defensive line, Mansfield will be stout up front. Holmes is a standout at linebacker and senior Sean Weber will be a player to watch in his outside linebacker position. The secondary has depth with a handful of players fighting for three defensive back spots.

“Toughest part is mentally, everything’s backward with the weather – feels like November and the end of a typical season, but it’s pre-season,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Just hoping Friday nights under the lights feel the same once games get going and it feels like we’re starting to finally get into a groove with execution. We’re all thankful to be playing and trying to enjoy every day we can go out and be a team.”




Milford

2019 Record: 4-7
2019 Finish: Reached D3 South First Round
Coach: Dale Olson

Key/Returning Players: Evan Hazard, Sr., SS; Josh Kravets, Sr., DL; Mario Lee, Sr., DL; Max Martin, Sr., WR; Sean Murray, Sr., OL; Kevin O’Connor, Sr., LB; Brady Olson, Sr., QB; Angelo Romero, Jr., LB; Dom Schofield, Sr., DE; Carter Scudo, Sr., WR; Grant Scudo, Jr., DB; Matt Varteresian, Sr., WR; Nick Yohn, Sr., OL

Outlook:
There are a lot of changes at Milford this season, with a new coaching staff taking over and the Hawks making the switch to the Kelley-Rex for the first time, but there is a lot of experience on the field to make that transition with nine starters returning on both sides of the ball.

One of the biggest changes for Milford will be under center, as Brady Olson takes over following his transfer from Bishop Feehan. The UMass-commit will have plenty of targets to aim for, as Milford returns arguably the deepest group of receivers in the league led by seniors Carter Scudo, Max Martin, and Matt Varteresian. They combine deep threat potential with the willingness to make the tough catches in traffic. Up front, Sean Murray and Nick Yohn will lead the protection for Olson and try to open up lanes for a new crop of running backs.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

Experience will be a strength on the defensive side of the ball as well. Dom Schofield highlights a tough defensive line. Another of the team’s UMass commits, Schofield will be a force at the defensive end position, while Mario Lee and Josh Kravets return in the heart of the line. Milford lost a couple of standout linebackers from last year’s squad, Luke Rosa and CJ Cerrella, but Kevin O’Connor and Angelo Romero are playmakers who should be ready for breakout seasons. Grant Scudo and Evan Hazard are back in what should be a strong secondary for the Hawks.

“I have a strong senior class that has played a ton of football and we’ll lean on them to help us compete in the Hock large this year,” said new Milford coach Dale Olson.

Taunton

2019 Record: 4-6
2019 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Tommy Ambrose, Sr., OL/DL; Nathan Arieta, Sr., TE/DE; Nigel Choate, Sr., WR/DB; Bretton Heggs, Sr., RB/DB; Josh Lopes, Sr., RB/LB; Dan Macdougall, Sr., QB/DB; Jorden Manning, Sr., OL/DL; Deandre McPhail, Sr., DL; Kedrick Santos, Sr., LB/WR; Trent Santos, Jr., WR/DB; Nolan Tomaszycki, Sr., WR/DB

Outlook:
With 10 returning starters and 18 returning lettermen, Taunton will be relying on its senior leadership to stay competitive against what has the potential to be a daunting Kelley-Rex division schedule.

The Tigers have plenty of athleticism on both sides of the ball and also versatile players who can line up in multiple positions, making it difficult for opponents to match up. Senior Danny MacDougall moves under center this season, although he has also lined up at receiver in the past. Seniors Josh Lopes and Bretton Heggs give Taunton a pair of dangerous backs, while Trent Santos, Kedrick Santos, Nigel Choate, and Nolan Tomaszycki are weapons in the passing game. Senior Nathan Arieta, at 6-foot-5, is a big target at tight end. Seniors Tommy Ambrose and Jorden Manning are two returning starters on the offensive line. The depth on the line will be tested, as Taunton has several underclassmen with the size to step in but not a lot of experience.

Defensively, Taunton relies on its quickness and athleticism, but also has plenty of size up front. Ambrose, Manning, and Arieta will all play on the defensive line, along with classmate Deandre McPhail and junior Faisal Mass. Lopes, Kedrick Santos, Caleb Nicholson, and Evan Perrotta have experience in the linebacking corps. The secondary is filled with playmakers, including Trent Santos, MacDougall, Heggs, Tomaszycki, and Choate.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview