Mansfield Leans On Defense To Deny Scarlet Hawks

Mansfield football Cincere Gill
Mansfield’s Cincere Gill tries to break free from the grasp of Milford’s Tyler Lane in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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 MILFORD, Mass. – In last week’s season-opening win, Mansfield’s explosive offense was on full display with five touchdowns.

In week two, it was all about the Hornets’ defense.

Going up a powerful Milford offense that put up 34 points in their first game of the season, Mansfield’s defensive group was near perfect. The Hornets forced four turnovers, limited the Hawks to under 200 yards of offense, and pitched a shutout for the final three quarters to earn a 20-7 win on the road.

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It marked the first meeting between the two squads since Milford joined the Hockomock League for football in 2013 with the Hawks making the switch to the Kelley-Rex division at the start of the 2020 school year.

“Story of the day, the defense played lights out,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “Scoring a touchdown for us, which in this game, was huge. Instead of just a six-point lead, it’s 13. The defense did a great job against a very good collection of receivers and [Brady] Olson can throw the ball. We gave them a few but nothing big, they popped the one run but after that, we were lights out, and thank goodness because this was really one of our sloppiest offensive performances in a long time.”

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Mansfield forced a turnover on Milford’s first possession of the game, Anthony Comer grabbed back-to-back interceptions with the first returned for a touchdown, and Hornets added another pick in the early moments of the fourth quarter.

The Hornets opened the game in style with freshman CJ Bel giving the visitors good field position at midfield after a good return. From there, Mansfield needed just six plays to find the end zone. Cincere Gill (20 carries, 117 yards) broke free for a 16-yard run on third down (his longest carry of the game), and three plays later, Gill — out of the wildcat — handed it off to Comer on a sweep to the left for an 18-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead less than four minutes in.

Milford completed a third down pass on its opening drive but Mansfield corner Nick Bertolino punched the ball free and recovered the fumble, giving the Hornets the ball back at the Hawks’ 20-yard line. But as good as Mansfield’s defense was throughout, the Milford defense had a strong outing as well.

Hampered by a fumble and a holding call (Mansfield was flagged 10 times in the game), the Hornets offense stalled and Milford forced an incompletion on fourth to get the ball back. The momentum carried over to the offensive side of the ball and the Hawks cashed in just two plays later. With the offense spread out with four receivers, Milford handed it off to senior Dom Schofield up the middle and he found a hole and went the distance for a 69-yard touchdown, tying the game 7-7 with 3:45 left in the first quarter.

From that point, there weren’t many offensive highlights for either squad.










Mansfield had to punt on its next two possessions, but the second one off the foot of Gill took a favorable bounce for the Hornets and was downed at the Milford 5-yard line. On second down, Mansfield’s Caden Colby and Mark DeGirolamo came flying in at Milford quarterback Brady Olson (9/28, 91 yards), who fired a short pass to the right side. Comer read the play, stepped in front and intercepted the pass, and sprinted into the end zone for a 14-yard return.

“It was a hard game, it was hard with our penalties, and they have a very good offense but we just executed on defense,” Comer said. “We held our guys to short-yardage and covered our guys. On the pick-six, I saw green. I was just running for the hills, I wanted the touchdown. We watched a lot of film, watching how they execute so we were ready.”

Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson

Milford started to orchestrate a response as Olson hit Max Martin for 13 yards on first down, and then a late hit on the Hornets moved the ball 15 more yards to the Mansfield 39-yard line. TJ Guy stopped the Hawks for a loss in the backfield but a holding call in the secondary once again moved the chains for the hosts, getting to the Mansfield 24-yard line.

Guy helped stuff another Milford run on first down, and on second down Olson’s pass hit off a receiver’s hands and Comer was able to come down with the deflection for his second straight interception, putting an end to another Milford drive.

Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson

“Anthony played a great two-way game for us,” Redding said. “We felt we really needed him on defense today to cover, he’s one of our quicker guys and made some big plays for us. We’ve played two good spread teams and held them each to 7. We still have to get sharper on offense but the next couple of weeks it will be more about defending the running game. Taunton and KP are big, they’re going to try and bang, run the ball.”

Mansfield capitalized on the interception with its best drive of the game. The Hornets traveled 82 yards on 10 plays, taking off five minutes of game clock, and cashed in with another touchdown with under a minute to play in the half.

Gill had three straight runs that combined for over 20 yards early in the drive, and when the Hornets were backed up by a delay of game call, Gill hauled in a 21-yard pass from quarterback Matt Boen, just eluding the Milford defender along the sideline.

Comer turned a broken play into 18 yards, Nico Holmes burst up the middle for 7 yards, and on second and goal from the three, Boen sold the option and kept it himself, leaping across the goal line for a touchdown, giving Mansfield a 20-7 lead with 0:49 left in the first half.

Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson

“That was big, I thought we wasted [an opportunity] before that…we came down and scored, got the ball back but we didn’t convert and they come down and tie the game,” Redding said. “We fortunately got a couple of more before half, and I thought the one right before halftime was a big turning point.

“When we do things right, we’re good but we didn’t do things right very often today. We’re getting way too many penalties and we just really have to work hard on offense getting sharper and executing because we’re too good not to score in a half no matter who we’re playing.”




Carter Scudo had a big return to the Mansfield 33-yard line to give the hosts a final shot before the break, but the Hornets forced four straight incompletions.

“All we ask for today is for them to give us 48 minutes and I thought they did that,” said first-year Milford head coach Dale Olson. “A couple of plays didn’t go our way today, that should have been 7-7 game in the fourth quarter and anybody’s game. But you live and you learn. But this is what Milford football is going to be from here on out, we’re going to contend. We have to get back on the horse because we have to play a very good KP team next week.”

Olson connected with Keithly Sutton on a bubble screen to move the chains on Milford’s first drive of the second half but the Hawks couldn’t capitalize as the Hornets shut the hosts down on the next three plays, including a perfectly-timed pass breakup by Bertolino.

“We feel Milford is as talented as anybody in the Kelley-Rex so if we didn’t beat them here today, they were going to run the table so, for us, it was basically a must-win game,” Redding said. “We want to be in the league race when we’re playing KP and Attleboro so you have to win today. I don’t Milford loses again moving forward, they have good linemen, I think the best QB in the league, great receivers. We’ve won [the Kelley-Rex division] a couple of times in a row but we felt pressure that it was a must-win for us against them on their field.”

Milford’s defense continued to do its part as Mansfield managed just two total yards on its first two drives, both resulting in punts including a third down kick to try and flip field position. The Hawks did a good job bottling up the Mansfield rushing attack, getting key tackles and pushes up front from the likes of Schofield, Scudo, Evan Cornelius, Grant Scudo, Alex McColl, Evan Hazard, Nick Yohn, Mario Lee, and Tyler Lane.

“I think we struggled a little bit today getting off jams at the wide receiver spot, I thought [Brady] pressed a little bit today,” Olson said. “Instead of standing in there a few times, he got out of the pocket when he didn’t need to. But listen, that’s a great football team we just played. I couldn’t be prouder of how our kids handled themselves today.

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“Realistically, I look up at the scoreboard and it should have been 7-7. We had our opportunities, could have had 1st and goal but instead, it was an interception. They ball-controlled us but our defense was outstanding today. All of the film I’ve watched, I haven’t seen a team hold Gill like that. They didn’t really hurt us today with their offense, I thought it was more a matter of our offense couldn’t get going.”

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However, the Hawks’ offense just could never get going, punting twice to start the second half and then had its third drive of the second half come to a sudden stop when Gill intercepted a pass at his own 30-yard line.

Mansfield was able to move the ball enough to kill a lot of clock in the fourth quarter and Milford’s final drive ended on downs.

Mansfield football (2-0) is on the road for the second straight week when it travels to Taunton for a 4:30 kickoff on Friday. Milford (1-1) will face another stiff test next week when it hosts King Philip (2-0) on Saturday at 1:00.

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Mansfield Doesn’t Miss a Beat, Rolls Past Franklin

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Mansfield senior Nico Holmes was fired up after making a tackle in the season-opening win against Franklin at Alumni Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – It had been 15 months since Mansfield last walked off the field, at Gillette Stadium, holding the 2019 Div. 2 state championship trophy. When the lights came on for Friday night’s Fall II season opener at Alumni Field, the Hornets showed no rust after such a long layoff and, in fact, it looked like they hadn’t missed a beat.

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Mansfield scored after just three plays, had six first half touchdowns, half of them by senior running back Cincere Gill, scored twice on defense, and rolled to a 49-7 victory against Franklin.

“It’s been a long, long wait,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “All fall everybody just held their breath that we maybe would get a chance to play and it was almost surreal you walk out here and it’s 60 degrees on a Friday night and it felt like September.

“Lights go on, it’s Friday night, we don’t care what month it is, it felt like Friday night lights.”

It took no time for the Hornets to show how dynamic they can be on offense. Gill (167 total yards) proved to be unstoppable, going for 21 yards on the first play and 34 on the second to get the Hornets down to the Franklin six. On the next play, Nico Holmes (81 total yards) bullied his way into the end zone and James Gilleran added one of his seven extra points for an early 7-0 lead.

On its next possession, Mansfield showed different facets of its offense. Matt Boen, who Redding said was playing quarterback for the first time since seventh grade, hit Gill for 19 yards and Anthony Comer (81 total yards) took a draw for 17. After Gill missed Boen on a deep pass, he took the next snap right up the middle and raced for a 52-yard score.

“Everybody thinks they run a 4.3…and when you get out there and see a real 4.3, 4.4 kid, you know it,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain about Gill. “Super talented and you combine that with the beef that they have, you know, a lot of times we sort of pride ourselves on having speed and that’s maybe our neutralizer and tonight it wasn’t. They had the best of both worlds.”

Not to be outdone, the Mansfield defense got into the act. On a second and 11 play, the Hornets blew up and attempted screen pass and Sean Weber got a hand on Jared Arone’s attempted pass. The ball fell to Rocco Scarpellini, who took the interception 25 yards for a touchdown.

Despite trailing 21-0, Franklin’s offense was finding some success in the passing game. Arone (21-of-32, 193 yards), a first-year starter, connected with Shane Kindred nine times and with Jake O’Brien six times. On their third possession, the Panthers were able to finish a drive.

Arone hit O’Brien for 20 yards out near midfield. After getting into Mansfield territory, Franklin faced a fourth and one. A well-executed roll-out screen pass to Kindred gained eight yards and kept the drive going. A screen pass to Mack Gulla put the Panthers in the red zone and on the next play Will Tracey went up and got a pass at the front pylon for a 19-yard touchdown.

The momentum was short-lived because the Hornets just had too much on offense. CJ Bell’s return gave Mansfield good starting field position and Boen fired a pass to Comer for 33 yards down to the Franklin 14. After a low snap pushed the Hornets back a few yards, Boen threw a perfect pass to hit Holmes on the wheel route for a 17-yard score and a 28-7 lead.

A fumble recovery handed Mansfield back the ball at its own 45 and the Hornets made quick work of the short field. Boen hit tight end Everett Knowlton on the run for 34 yards and, after a holding call, followed it with an 11-yard keeper. Gill got the hand off, went straight up the middle, and made a quick cut to the right, walking in untouched with a 20-yard TD.

Mansfield forced a three-and-out and got the ball back at its 33. Jake Wall took a jet sweep to the left and rushed for 20 yards into Franklin territory. Comer had a pair of carries to get the ball to the five. Gill got the call. He started left towards the Mansfield sideline but was blocked off, turned back and reversed around to the far side, found a tiny seam, and cut it upfield to find pay dirt for a third time.

“I think everyone was worried about such a long layoff that we’d be sloppy but we’ve got a lot of experience back,” Redding explained. “We executed and then when we didn’t execute you give the ball to Cincere and he runs to daylight. He makes a lot of bad plays look good.”

Jack Colby tacked on a second defensive touchdown when he picked off a pass right in front of his bench and ran it back 35 yards. Caden Colby added Mansfield’s third interception in the fourth quarter.

After reaching the Div. 1 South final last year, Franklin graduated all of its starting skill position players. Many of the Panthers were seeing their first significant varsity minutes and getting that experience against the league’s top team.

“It was a learning curve, but we knew what we were getting,” Bain admitted. “Yes, they are really, really good. I told my guys, TJ Guy is going to play on Sunday, there’s not a doubt in my mind…but a lot of it was just little details in our assignments, our techniques, in our eyes, and little things I think we can correct. A lot of things we had to work out of our system tonight.”

Redding acknowledged the advantage Mansfield has in terms of offensive firepower. He said, “Cincere and Anthony are just so explosive. We didn’t get the ball to Jake Wall but he can fly. Everett is a good tight end, Nico can get tough yards up inside. We’re not a typical high school football team in terms of skill and then the front five up front blocking are very, very good.”

Mansfield (1-0) will be on the road next week to face Milford for the first time. Franklin (0-1) will be on the road again when it travels to Taunton.

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