Buoyed by five different touchdown scorers, Mansfield clinched the Davenport division title with a convincing 33-0 win over rival Foxboro, also notching its first shutout on Thanksgiving since 2009.
“We had a heck of a year winning the division and winning nine games,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “I think both teams have a lot to be proud of. And both teams have a lot of good players back and it will be fun next year for sure.
“I thought we had good balance. Just everything went our way in the first half…this was a great way to wrap it up against a good Foxboro team, and to play dominate. Especially coming off a tough playoff loss, this flips this season. Finishing at 9-2 is a lot better than 8-3 and losing your last two. We had two weeks to get ready, we worked hard on the field and in the weight room, just a great effort by our seniors.”
Senior linebacker Kyle Murphy was named the Don Currivan MVP for the Hornets while senior captain Jephte Jean earned the Matt McCue Lineman of the Game for Mansfield. Foxboro’s Lincoln Moore (Vin Igo MVP) and Andrew Finn (Jeff Parker Lineman of the Game) earned the honors for the Warriors.
“I’ve been playing with these kids since second grade, and we’ve worked year in and year out, and it’s a brotherhood really,” said Murphy, who missed last season recovering from an injury. “It means a lot for it to end in a satisfying way. We won’t get this chance to play together again but I’m grateful to share the field with these boys one last time.
“We were physical and we had a lot of energy. I think we wanted it more than them on every single play, it meant more to us.”
“He’s a great story,” Redding said of Murphy. “He didn’t play varsity last year coming off a knee injury. He had a phenomenal year on defense for us and I’m so happy for him to get the MVP today because he worked so hard to get back on the year.
“He came in this year like a man possessed. He was one of our best defensive players and played great football for us.”
Mansfield took control in the first quarter and never surrendered it the rest of the way. On the first series of the game, the Hornets only needed four plays before finding the end zone. Junior backup quarterback Connor Curtis came in after three plays, and although he’s been called on mostly to run with the ball, he slung a deep pass down the middle. Foxboro’s defensive backs were able to get their hands up, but the ball bounced back in the air and junior receiver Trevor Foley hauled it in with one hand and went the distance for a 47-yard touchdown. Travis Hennessy’s point after put Mansfield ahead 7-0 just over two minutes into the game.
Foxboro looked to mount a response with a lengthy drive and marched into Hornet territory. But on the 11th play of the drive, Mansfield junior Brandon Jackman read the play and jumped on a short pass, and took it to the house for a 77-yard interception return with 3:15 left in the opening quarter.
Mansfield’s defense delivered again, forcing a quick three and out. The offense was quick to reward the defense. Junior Tommy Smith, who started the year on JV but was called up due to injury after two weeks, broke free up the left sideline, following a great block from right tackle Jason Riley, who pulled to the left, and Smith raced away for an 80-yard touchdown, boosting Mansfield’s advantage to 20-0 with 40.5 seconds left in the first quarter.
“Things just snowballed early and we took control and made some great plays,” Redding said. “Tommy Smith stepped up big this year and ended up as our leading rusher and one of the best stories of the season.”
Foxboro had its best drive of the game in the second quarter, covering 59 yards on 15 plays to move inside the Mansfield 10-yard line after a 9-yard pass and catch from Mike Marcucella to Tony Sulham.
The Warriors tried to get the run game going with Moore (58 yards on nine carries) and sophomore Ben Angelini, but Mansfield’s front seven controlled the line. Jean and senior Colton Johnson combined for a tackle for a loss on first down, and then Hennessy, Murphy, and Ryan DeGirolamo combined for a third down stop. Foxboro’s 23-yard field goal attempt was just wide with 3:05 left.
“It felt really good to win this game,” Jean said. “We had a tough loss to Milford but we bounced back and it’s great to get a big dub on my final game in the Mansfield jersey.”
That was plenty of time for Mansfield to find the end zone again. Conner Zukowski (11/12, 167 yards) hit Drew Sacco for 15 yards on first down, then linked up with Foley for the first time for 35 yards. Zukowski hooked up with CJ Bell for 14 yards down to the 2-yard line. Despite some big tackles from Moore and junior Brandon Mazenkes-O’Grady on first and second down, Zukowski scrambled just inside the pylon for a 6-yard touchdown with just 17.8 seconds left in the half to make it 26-0.
“They were the better football team, pure and simple,” said Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli. “They were a lot hungrier than we were. I guess we never really recovered from losing in the playoffs [on Saturday]. Give them all the credit, they executed better. We had some chances to make some plays early on but we didn’t make any plays.”
Both Mansfield and Foxboro entered the game undefeated through three games in the Davenport division, but the Hornets really didn’t have a blemish as they outscored their first three division foes 115-0 — yes, three games and three shutouts.
That trend continued as Mansfield continued the shutout in the second half. Foxboro started the second half with the ball but just two plays in, Bell hauled in an overthrow for an interception to get Mansfield the ball back.
That led to an eight-play, 66-yard drive from the Hornets. It started with a mix of Smith and Sacco, and then a 38-yard pass to Bell moved the sticks. Moore once again had a tackle for loss inside the five for the Foxboro defense, but Sacco plunged in from 2 yards out two plays later for the final score of the game.
“It was an emphasis at halftime that we didn’t want to give up any points,” Redding said. “We don’t really care if we score another point in the second half but let’s play defense. We haven’t gotten a shutout in this game in a long time. I don’t think we were aware of not being scored on in the division but it was more about getting a shutout on Thanksgiving against a really good team.
“Their film in September, they looked young but talented…their film in November, they looked really good,” Redding said of Foxboro. “They have a lot of good pieces, they’re going to be very, very good a year from now. And it’ll be another battle on Thanksgiving. They had a great year, Jack did an unbelievable job after they started 0-3 to turn it around and get to the final four.”
Mansfield football finishes 9-2 overall and 4-0 in the Davenport while Foxboro finishes at 6-6 overall and 3-1 in league action.