But junior Tyler Stewart (23 points, 20 rebounds) cleaned up an offensive rebound for two and sophomore Trent Santos (11 points, five rebounds) drained a three, and just like that, all was right with Taunton.
Those buckets sparked a 10-0 spurt in the first quarter and Taunton dominated the third quarter to the tune of 21-4 to help the Tigers pin down a 64-44 upset of the Rams.
“We had tournament jitters for sure, I get that and kind of expected that,” Dacey said. “Defensively, [the third quarter] was excellent. Josh [Lopes] was leading the charge for us. He was on [Mike] Walsh, he’s their player, and josh did a nice job disrupting him all night long. That was the key because he’s there go-to guy and Josh did a nice job on him.”
Santos sank a second three and Stewart added another putback as Taunton quickly put the nerves in the backseat, taking a 10-4 lead just past the halfway mark of the first.
And then it was a three from junior Nigel Choate (seven points) off the bench, a triple from Lopes (13 points, four rebounds, three assists), and a spot up, contested three from straightaway from sophomore Faisal Mass (seven points) to beat the buzzer capped a 10-3 over the final 1:28 of the first to put Taunton ahead 20-8 after a quarter.
The Rams cut the deficit to seven when Trey O’Connor hit from deep and Evan Mallios converted an offensive rebound but Lopes answered for Taunton and Stewart went to work down low with four straight points. Mass added four more and the Tigers had a 31-22 lead at halftime.
Lopes opened the third with a three and Stewart converted off a feed from Danny MacDougall (five rebounds, three assists) to give the Tigers a good start on the offensive end. But the story was the Tigers’ defense, holding the hosts without a point for nearly four minutes.
The Rams went 0-for-2 from three-point – both contested well – and had a harder time attacking the basket with Stewart in the way. Both Lopes and Santos had steals in that span as well.
When Walsh, the Rams’ top offensive option, finally got his first shot off of the first half, MacDougall got a piece of it from behind. It wasn’t until O’Connor capitalized on a Tiger turnover that the Rams got on the board with 4:25 left in the third.
“It all started with the defense for us,” Stewart said, who also had three blocks. “We really tried to limit their three-point shots, close out hard, and make someone other than Walsh beat us. We focused a lot on him, we wanted to keep the ball out of his hands.
“We talked in the locker room and really emphasized our defense, we talked a lot about closing out on their shots and getting the rebounds. And then that defense led to offense for us.”
Taunton finished the quarter strong, closing on a 16-2 run after the Rams got on the board. Stewart cleaned up his own miss, Santos drilled a shot after a steal, and then Stewart showed some range with an elbow jumper.
Stewart hit two at the line then fought for an offensive rebound, feeding Choate for an easy two plus the foul. MacDougall had another block and linked up with Stewart again, and then Lopes pickpocketed a Ram and went in for a layup while being fouled, completing the three-point play in the final seconds of the quarter to seize a 52-26 lead.
Through three quarters, Lopes and the Tigers limited Walsh to 1-for-10 shooting, the lone make being a three in the final minute of the first.
“Tyler should be getting a touch every time down the floor, no matter what they are doing defensively, no matter how we are shooting good or bad…he can make things happen,” Dacey said. “He had the size [advantage] and he’s got some athleticism, he’s not a stiff down there. He can create once he gets the ball in the right place, and if they send a double at him he knows what to do and it’s helped discourage teams from doubling.
“Josh stepped up [on the offensive end] too, and Trent made some threes for us. Nigel had a big three for us too. When we settle down, we’re fine but a typical young team, we have our moments.”
The Tigers spent the majority of the fourth running the shot clock down before getting a look. Stewart added four more, Santos had three, Lopes and MacDougall two each, and sophomore Tristan Herry, who battled foul trouble in the first half, had a free throw.
Taunton boys basketball (15-5) will take a ride up Route 24 on Friday to take on #2 Brockton (16-4) at 6:30.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Each time the Taunton boys basketball team hits the court, the first option in the offensive game plan is to get junior Tyler Stewart the ball.
The Tigers didn’t need to look for a second or third option many times on Tuesday night as Stewart, a 6’5 center, delivered a career-high 34 points to lead the hosts to a 73-63 win over visiting Stoughton. With the win, Taunton punched its ticket for the postseason.
Stewart, who also hauled in 13 rebounds and had a pair of blocks, shot 16-of-24 from two-point range and came away with points after each of his nine offensive rebounds to lead the way for the Tigers.
“What a night,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey about Stewart’s performance. “When we’re practicing, there are all sorts of convolutions we expect people to do to him, and we were expecting doubles from all over the place and it just didn’t happen tonight. If you leave him alone down low, obviously he can do some business. He’s used to waiting for the double and he’s able to finish when he’s close to the rim like that.”
Taunton wasted little time getting Stewart the ball as he scored the first two buckets for the home team, including a three-point play on the first possession of the game.
Only five times in the game did a possession that included a shot from Stewart not result in points for Taunton. He had back-to-back misses early in the first quarter, and another one later that resulted in a missed putback from a teammate. He converted his only other miss of the first with a putback of his own.
He did the same with his lone miss of the second quarter and shot 5-for-7 in the third quarter, but one miss was a full-court heave to try and beat the buzzer. And in the fourth, he had just three shots but the one time he missed, he gathered the offensive rebound and scored himself.
“That’s always going to be the first look, getting Tyler a touch,” Dacey said. “If the double comes, we can kick it out but he’s our go-to guy. And the rest of the league has smartened up on Trent [Santos], Canton was denying him the ball and Mansfield is just Mansfield, they can deny anyone. But if they deny those guys, that leaves Tyler down low. And Danny [MacDougall] and Faisal [Mass] are doing a good job recognizing the double team.”
Stewart’s early success (14 points in the opening quarter) resulted in a big lead for the Tigers after eight minutes (18-6). Taunton added 19 more points in the second quarter, getting four apiece from sophomore Faisal Mass (14 points, seven rebounds) and junior Josh Lopes (eight points, four assists), and a pair of layups from sophomore Tristan Herry (nine points, six rebounds, four assists) and junior Nigel Choate.
But Stoughton’s offense showed signs of life as well, with senior guard Ahmad Jahed (eight rebounds, five assists) scoring half of his 16 points in the second quarter and Myles Grigalunas-Powell (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) and Donte Tyler hitting three-pointers to get the Black Knights within 11, down 37-26, at halftime.
Stewart scored eight points early in the third with Trent Santos (from Danny MacDougall), Mass, and Choate also chipping in as the Tigers stretched the lead to 17 points, up 49-32 with 3:30 to play in the third quarter.
Stoughton turned to the three-point line to get back into the game and found success, closing the third quarter on a 12-4 run. Grigalunas-Powell, Brett Pendenza, Jake Queeney, and Obinna Ugwuakazi (12 points, eight rebounds) all connected down downtown to cut the deficit to 53-44 entering the fourth.
Queeney and Ugwuakazi sandwiched three-pointers around a make from Stewart to open the fourth quarter and suddenly Stoughton was down just five with seven minutes to play. After Taunton missed on back-to-back three-point chances, they got the ball back down low to Stewart, who ended up grabbing his own miss and putting it off the glass.
Another stop preceded a free throw from Lopes to make it 58-50 with 5:26 to play and Mass drove the baseline with a strong take to push the advantage back to double figures, 60-50, with 4:39 left.
“He’s really improved over the course of the season,” Dacey said of Mass. “He was in football shape at the beginning of the year and now he’s got a little bit of quickness, he has the toughness…and he’s just a sophomore too. It was just important for us to get into a flow because we didn’t on Friday night.”
Mass scored twice more in crunch time with Herry and Lopes each adding buckets as Taunton increased its lead to 68-54. Queeney sank another three late to make it an 11-point game but Stoughton was unable to get the deficit within single digits again.
“We started to relax,” Dacey said. “And we’re not young anymore, that’s no longer an excuse. The sophomores have had a ton of experience now. There’s no such thing as relaxing in this league, especially against that team. They play on emotion and I didn’t want them to get going, because when they get going they are tough. They are so athletic, they can obviously hit the three, so they can get back into a game pretty quickly.”
Taunton boys basketball (7-4 Hockomock, 11-4 overall) will visit Oliver Ames on Friday. OA nipped Taunton with a three-pointer in the final seconds in the first meeting on December 18th. Stoughton (4-7 Hockomock, 7-8 overall) will travel to North Attleboro on the same night. The Black Knights handed Big Red a loss in the first meeting.
Attleboro, 81 @ Sharon, 61 – Final – Seven Bombardiers scored en route to a 24-point first quarter and Attleboro never looked back, securing a win on the road at Sharon. Tim Callahan, Nick McMahon, and Bryant Ciccio each connected on a three-pointer while Justin Daniels, Jason Weir, Lorenzo Wilson, and Qualeem Charles each added to the total to help the Bombardiers build a double-digit lead after eight minutes. Attleboro led 36-17 at halftime and went on to score 23 points in the third and 22 points in the fourth to pull away with the win. Charles had eight of his team-high 20 points in the third, Ciccio netted seven of his 19 points in the same frame, and Callahan drained two more threes and had eight of his 11 points in the third. Sharon junior Matt Baskin caught fire in the second half, hitting six threes and scoring all of his team-high 22 points in the second half. Andrew Burton added 16 points for the Eagles.
Taunton, 55 @ Canton, 43 – Final – Taunton’s defense held the Bulldogs to single digits in each of the first two quarters, building a 30-8 halftime lead that resulted in a big win on the road. The Tigers held Canton to three field goals in the opening half and then pushed the lead to 46-20 heading into the final quarter. Junior Tyler Stewart scored 14 of his 16 points between the second and third quarters while Josh Lopes added 13 points. Danny MacDougall chipped in with a career-high 10 points for Taunton. Canton’s Colton Mirliani hit a trio of three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help close the deficit.
Franklin, 67 @ Foxboro, 61 – Final – Franklin senior Brayden Sullivan converted a key traditional three-point play in the fourth quarter and the Panthers took care of business from the free throw line in the fourth quarter (7-for-10) to grab a close win on the road over Foxboro. It was a consistent night on offense for Franklin, scoring 17 points in three quarters while netting 16 points in the third quarter. Franklin led 17-12 after one, 34-31 at halftime, and took a 50-45 advantage into the final frame. Chris Edgehill scored a team-high 16 points while Sullivan finished with 15 points for the Panthers, who were held to just two three-pointers. Foxboro’s Donald Rogers scored a team-high 14 points, Kevin Gallagher added 11 points, and both Brandon Borde and Will Morrison chipped in with 10 points apiece.
King Philip, 71 @ North Attleboro, 53 – Final – North Attleboro used a 10-0 surge to close the first half to tie the game at halftime but the second half belonged to King Philip as the Warriors scored over 20 points in each of the final two quarters to run away with a win. George Ladd scored six of his team-high 18 points, Ethan Friberg (16 points) sank a pair of threes, and Edan Kelley had five points in the second as the Rocketeers knotted the score at 28-28 through two quarters of play. In the third, KP’s Alex Fritz connected on a trio of three-pointers while Robert Jarest, Andrew McKinney, and Owen Conlin each hit one and the Warriors went off for 22 points to build a double-digit lead. After a successful first half (13 points), the Warriors went back to senior Tommy Donahue (career-high 28 points) and he helped ice the game with 13 points in the fourth quarter. McKinney finished with 15 points and Fritz added 14 points in the win.
Mansfield, 60 @ Stoughton, 38 – Final – A close game for three quarters, Mansfield scored the final 14 points of the game and dominated the fourth quarter to pick up a win on the road at Stoughton. The Hornets held a 40-33 lead going into the fourth quarter, and extended that to 46-38 at the midway point before embarking on its 14-0 run to close the game. Junior Matt Boen recorded a team-high 17 points to go along with seven assists, seven steals, and five rebounds to lead the way for the Hornets. Sam Stevens (six rebounds, six steals) added 12 points and freshman Chris Hill went a perfect 4-for-4 from the field for nine points. Stoughton senior Myles Grigalunas-Powell netted a team-high 13 points while Tahkwan Gates Brown added 11 points for Stoughton.
Sharon, 42 @ Attleboro, 53 – Final – Attleboro got contributions from the whole team to pull out its third straight win and move back to .500 on the season. Meghan Gordon continued her solid play with 13 points and Liv McCall joined her in double digits with 10. Ryan Johnson, Gabby Bosh, and Nyah Thomas all chipped in with eight points for the Bombardiers, who led by only two at halftime (19-17) but extended the advantage to seven after three. Kaitlyn Wallace was the game’s high scorer with 17 for the Eagles and Trinity Payne added 14.
Canton, 56 @ Taunton, 49 – Final – The Bulldogs managed to pull out a back-and-forth win on the road, their fifth win in the last six games. Kameron St. Pierre and Sonya Fernandez paced Taunton with 14 points apiece and eighth grader Sam Lincoln scored a career-high 13 points in the loss.
North Attleboro, 58 @ King Philip, 84 – Final – The Warriors clicked on the offensive end, scoring 40-plus points in each half, knocking down nine threes as a team, and recording assists on 24 of the 36 made shots. Caroline Aaron led the way for KP with 19 points and six boards. Faye Veilleux added 15 points and eight rebounds and Faith Roy had 12 points and six steals. Brianna James filled the stat sheet with eight points, six assists, five steals, and five rebounds. Amanda Kaiser scored 15 to lead the Rocketeers, Regan Fein scored 11, and Summer Doherty had nine, but North struggled with KP’s speed and press. North coach Nikki Correia said, “We came out slow and they absolutely wanted it more than we did. KP never stopped hustling and went after every loose ball.”
Stoughton, 41 @ Mansfield, 55 – Final – Mansfield turned on the defense in the second quarter to grab the lead and never let up to hold off the Black Knights. The Hornets trailed 18-12 after one, as Stoughton’s Shyanne Trinh scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the quarter, but held the Black Knights to only four points in the second and scored 17 to pull ahead. Leading 33-30 in the third quarter, Mansfield knocked down three shots from beyond the arc (two by Kelly Doherty and one at the buzzer by Becca Hottleman) to extend the lead out to 12 heading to the fourth. Ashley Santos and Kayla Vine led the Hornets with 14 points apiece. Hottleman added 10 and Doherty finished with eight. Aliyah Wright added to Trinh’s 19 by scoring 17 of her own for Stoughton.
Milford, 19 @ Oliver Ames, 66 – Final – The Tigers bounced back from their first league defeat of the season with a strong defensive effort against the visiting Hawks. OA allowed only nine points in the first half to jump out to a 25-point lead and continued that effort in the second half, holding Milford to just 10. Caroline Flynn nearly put up a triple-double for the Tigers, scoring 18 points, grabbing 11 boards, and dishing out eight assists. Kelsey Yelle chipped in with 12 points and Jess Erlich added 10 in the win.
Canton @ Milford, 4:00
Attleboro @ Newton North, 5:00
Attleboro vs. Braintree, 5:00 (@ Newton North)
TAUNTON, Mass. – The Taunton boys basketball team delivered a message to the rest of the Hockomock League on Friday night.
At the expense of visiting Franklin, that message was sent loud and clear.
The Tigers, locked in at both ends of the floor from start to finish, had one of their best all-around games since joining the league nearly a decade ago, earning a dominating 83-52 win over the previously unbeaten Panthers.
“That was one of the best games we’ve played on both ends of the floor,” said longtime Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey.
Not that it was a hard decision for Dacey to make following a first half in which the Tigers were terrific on the defensive end of the court and a second half in which Taunton was nearly unstoppable on the offensive end.
“The underdog mentality the kids have…they are willing to work hard, they are great in practice,” Dacey said. “They’ve responded really well this year.”
Taunton set the tone with its active defense the featured steals from sophomore Tristan Herry (eight points, eight assists, five rebounds) and junior Danny MacDougall in the opening four minutes. The Tigers also stepped in to take a pair of charges (sophomore Trent Santos and MacDougall) in the opening minutes; Franklin finished with nine first half turnovers.
The energy on the defensive end translated to the offensive side for the Tigers, who raced out to a 10-4 lead in the game and took a 15-10 lead after one. Santos (21 points) had five points in the opening quarter while junior Tyler Stewart (21 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, two blocks) and Josh Lopes (23 points) had four points apiece in the first quarter.
“We worked on fighting through screens so we just had to stay focused, and we had to work on our close outs with their three-point shooting,” Dacey said. “It’s all fundamental stuff but these guys are willing to execute it come game time. It’s hard for 32 minutes to go through the Franklin grind. If you’re going to beat the best, you have to match what they do out there.”
Stewart, a 6’6 forward, remained a focal point of the Tigers’ offense, adding six more in the second quarter. The offense was contagious with Herry (four points), sophomore Faisal Mass, and MacDougall joining the scoring sheet in the second.
The Tigers held the Panthers to just 10 points in each the first and second quarters. Franklin senior Chris Edgehill (18 points, four rebounds) hit a pair of threes inside the final three minutes of the half to keep the visitors in the game, down 31-20 at halftime.
“We got beat in every aspect of the game of basketball tonight,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “Taunton had a group that played with a chip on their shoulder with a lot of to prove…that was a group of hungry kids that came out right from the start ready to play, ready to compete. They had a great gameplan, and defensively they really tightened up early and we struggled to score.
“Once we started to get a little something going, we came out for the second half feeling alright and scored on the first possession but they just had an answer for pretty much everything. The floodgates really opened up after that. We’re not really in the business of trying to manage the scoreboard so we got into some defenses that weren’t our style but we had to try something to get back into it, we got up and pressed a little.”
True to form, Franklin emerged from the locker room with renewed energy as Santos fouled Panther senior Brayden Sullivan (10 points). Not only did Sullivan make the two free throws, Santos — arguably the Tigers’ top shooter — went to the bench with his third foul.
Franklin couldn’t capitalize on a Taunton turnover and the Tigers made them pay as Lopes ignited a three-point parade with his (and Taunton’s) first trifecta of the game.
Thomas Gasbarro sank a pair from the line to make it a 10-point game at 34-24 but Stewart answered down low on a feed from Herry, who set up Lopes for another three on Taunton’s next possession.
“That’s our gameplan, we have to get Tyler touches early,” Dacey said. “[Franklin] was throwing guys at him tonight, a couple times he had three guys on him but he’s pretty good at kicking it out. Six assists doesn’t surprise me tonight. Josh is a shooter and he hits his first couple he’s going to have a good night and Trent is a shooter, he doesn’t lack confidence putting them up.”
Jack Rudolph kept the Panthers in it finishing off a layup after a nice cut but once against Stewart answered off a nice feed from Nigel Choate and then Stewart scored on his own miss. Gasbarro set Sullivan up after a steal but Lopes came back down and sank a three for a 46-28 lead with three minutes left in the third.
‘You have to be able to respond,” Dacey said. “That’s the mark of a mature team, and even though we aren’t a mature team on paper (two seniors), we matured tonight. To be able to respond to their energy…we figured the first four minutes they would press and try and make it a full court game. We were able to respond to it.”
Edgehill finished through contact and the Panthers got a stop but a pair of offensive rebounds, the second hauled in by Stewart and put back up for two. Edgehill sank a three to try and keep the Panthers close but Lopes answered with his fourth three of the third quarter.
Herry added Taunton’s fifth three of the quarter in the final minute and Choate drove the baseline for a nice finish to cap a strong offensive quarter, putting the hosts up 57-35.
If there was any hope for a comeback, Taunton’s hot start to the fourth quickly put it to rest. Santos, back after missing the third in foul trouble, drained a three on the first play of the fourth. Mass was money on a 12-foot pull up, Stewart converted a traditional three-point play, and Santos pulled up for a long two as the Tigers pulled off a 12-3 run over the first two minutes of the fourth quarter.
“We had to adjust with Stewart killing us inside, so we started to sink down on him a little more and that opened the three a little more and credit to them, they shot great from three, it felt like they were 8-for-8,” Neely said. “We’ve kind of developed an identity of being a defensive team and I didn’t see it tonight. When you start pressing a little bit, sometimes you forget what makes you good in the first place.”
Taunton finished the second half going 8-for-11 from three-point range and 20-for-28 (71%) from the field overall.
Taunton boys basketball (4-2 Hockomock, 8-2 overall) earned its eighth straight win and will be back in action on Tuesday when it welcomes Milford to town. Franklin (5-1, 8-1) entertains North Attleboro on the same day.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Coming off back-to-back heartbreaking losses to open the season, it’s understandable that Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey wasn’t comfortable until the final buzzer sounded.
In the opening two contests, the Tigers have led nearly wire-to-wire but for the final seconds of each contest. North Attleboro buried the go-ahead three with 6.7 seconds to go in the season opener and Oliver Ames drained a triple with 8.5 seconds to play for its first lead on Wednesday night.
Taunton found itself in a similar situation on Thursday night, having led for the entire second half with visiting Foxboro mounting a comeback. This time, the Tigers never allowed the lead to evaporate and held on for a 58-52 win over the Warriors, who were playing in their first game of the season.
“That’s a really good win for us,” Dacey said. “[Foxboro] is better than the two teams we’ve played. Coming off back-to-back games, missing Danny MacDougall (sick), it’s a short bench and we’re playing guys that might not normally be playing. We got a little something from everyone.”
With very little varsity experience on the current roster (two seniors, both new to varsity), the Tigers felt like they let two wins slip through their fingers. With Foxboro pushing hard to complete the comeback, Taunton showed some mettle to earn the win.
Foxboro senior Brandon Borde (11 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) converted off a Taunton turnover and then set up classmate Ryan Hughes (eight points) for an easy two on back-to-back possessions to cut the Tigers’ lead to 49-46 with just over two minutes to go.
Instead of allowing that momentum to carry over out of a timeout, Taunton sophomore Trent Santos (10 points) pulled up and sank a big three-pointer to answer with 1:44 to play. After trading turnovers, Taunton sophomore Tristan Herry (10 points, 5 assists, 2 steals) came up with a steal that led to an easy two and a 54-46 advantage with 1:02 to play.
Foxboro refused to go away as junior Kevin Gallagher (nine points, three assists) sank one of two free throws, senior Will Morrison (12 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals) picked off a pass that led to a three from Borde, and a full-court press resulted in an errant pass out of bounds by the Tigers to get the visitors the ball back.
Taunton got an important stop as Foxboro missed from downtown but the Tigers, holding a 54-50lead, missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Warriors missed another three attempt and both Herry and junior Tyler Stewart (14 points, 12 rebounds) sank their free throws to ice the game.
In the win, the Tigers had eight of the nine players that played score, and all nine players had at least one board to contribute to a 37-30 advantage on the glass.
“It has to take everyone,” Dacey said, as four Tigers reached double figures in scoring. “They all play hard, they all practice hard. They are a coachable group of kids that have been fun to work with.”
Taunton faced an early deficit (6-0 three minutes in and 9-6 with two minutes to go in the first) but took the lead by the end of the first quarter (13-9). The Tigers only fell behind one, at 19-18 with 2:51 left in the second, the rest of the way.
Any time the Warriors made it close in the second half, Taunton had an answer. The Warriors knotted the score 29-29 early in the third but Taunton senior Logan Lawrence finished through contact to regain the lead, sparking an 11-3 run.
During that run, Stewart converted in the post, junior Josh Lopes (10 points, four rebounds, three steals) had a steal for an easy layup, Stewart finished off a nice feed from Herry, and Santos drained another three for a 40-32 advantage late in the third.
Foxboro answered with a 7-1 burst between the end of the third and beginning of the fourth, Dylan Barreira (eight rebounds) battled for an offensive board and earned a free throw, Gallagher converted in the lane, Liam Devlin opened the fourth quarter with a basket on a nice pass from Morrison, and senior Donald Rogers scored off a turnover to make it a two-point game again at 41-39.
Sophomore Faisal Mass (five points, three rebounds) gave the Tigers a nice boost off the bench, coming in to convert an offensive rebound to help halt the Warriors’ momentum. Lopes followed with two, Herry sank two more free throws, and another finish from Stewart pushed the lead back to 49-42.
“I thought offensively it looked like our first game,” said Foxboro head coach Jon Gibbs. “We were just sloppy and out of sync offensively, and Taunton’s defense had a lot to do with that. But I thought early on we had too many sloppy turnovers with guys trying to do too much early and we couldn’t find our rhythm. Game speed and game atmosphere is obviously different than practice but it was good to get this first one under the belt, and I think we’ll get a lot better moving forward. At Taunton is a pretty unforgiving opener, and give Taunton credit because they capitalized on a lot of our mistakes.
“But I’m proud of the guys that they hung around too. We trailed for most of the game but they hung in there and fought to the end and put ourselves to maybe steal it down the stretch. I thought our defense was good overall but [Taunton] had some timely shots that broke our momentum.”
Herry scored seven of his points in the second quarter and Lopes netted half of his total in that frame to help Taunton take a 29-24 lead at halftime. Juniors Kedrick Santos, Nigel Choate, and William Rowan all came off the bench to provide valuable minutes in the first half.
Both Morrison and Gallagher had a pair of triples to make up half the Warriors’ first half scoring while Devlin came off the bench and had two blocks.
Taunton boys basketball (1-2 Hockomock, 1-2 overall) is back in action on Saturday when it takes on Bishop Stang at New Bedford High School. Foxboro (0-1, 0-1) is back in action against Bishop Feehan on Monday.
2018-2019 Record: 18-5 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Mark Houle
Attleboro fulfilled high expectations last year with a terrific regular season but had its postseason run cut short in the opening round of the tournament. With an experienced, battle-tested, and deep group of seniors, the Bombardiers are hoping to take the next step during the 2019-2020 season.
The Bombardiers have seven seniors on the roster with six having plenty of valuable minutes at the varsity level. It all starts with a pair of four-year varsity players and captains Bryant Ciccio and Qualeem Charles. Both have played over 60 games for head coach Mark Houle and earned HockomockSports.com First Team honors a year ago. Ciccio (14.7 ppg, 3.2 apg) is like a coach on the floor and Charles (13.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg) is a matchup nightmare and one of the most dominant post players in recent years.
But there is much more to the Bombardiers, such as senior captain Tim Callahan. Callahan had a strong junior season with 7.7 points per game and can change a game with his outside shooting. He will also be relied upon to anchor the defense. Guard Nick McMahon and forward Lorenzo Wilson provided a spark off the bench last season and will be key pieces this season. And senior Jason Weir is back in the mix after missing last year due to injury. Weir showed flashes during his sophomore season, a versatile player that can play in the post or step outside and knock down a three.
Attleboro has a variety of weapons on the offensive end and that will make them difficult to defend. They have a couple of good weapons that can score down low and then a handful of shooters, so the inside-out game will be a big part of the game plan. Charles gives the Bombardiers protection around the rim while all five players are the court will have to contribute on the boards to eliminate second-chance points.
“We will rely on a battle-tested group of seniors, but we will need our underclassman to continue to develop and be ready to step in and play important roles on the team,” said head coach Mark Houle. “We have a hard-working group of players who compete and challenge each other every day in practice.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-10 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Ryan Gordy
After winning back-to-back Davenport division titles, the Bulldogs know it will be a grind to try and get a third with a big target on their backs.
Gone is the program’s all-time leading scorer and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Devin Foster, who was one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league over the past two seasons. That means there is going to be a lot of opportunities for new players to step up for the Bulldogs. Canton head coach Ryan Gordy said this year’s team will be a “much more space and paced” orientated team. Gordy is expecting a more spread out opportunistic approach that will feature contributions from anyone who checks in.
While Foster graduated, the Bulldogs do have a handful of talented and experienced players back on the roster. Senior Kyle Fitzgerald is the top returning scorer from a year ago, netting double figures in six contests. He is also a workhorse on defense and will be one of the leaders on the court. Robbie Gallery, Matt Giglio, and Eric Mischler were all starters at some point during the 2018-2019 season so Gordy will have some veterans to lean on during the year. Gallery, Giglio, and Mischler all showed the ability to come up with a big shot at any time and will help space the floor.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are looking at their versatility and depth to give them flexibility. Gordy believes he has a strong mix of players that will allow him to switch things up and adjust each and every game. Sophomore Lanse Dorcelus earned minutes for the final month of last season and could be a key piece this season.
“We feel like our program is healthy and players have made a commitment to growth,” Gordy said. “This season we are going to focus on the process and maximizing the strengths of our players. Our culture and direction has been a bright spot as we focus on the player person and team development each practice and game. We’re excited to see where we are and where we can get too.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-9 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Jon Gibbs
There is good news and bad news when it comes to the Foxboro boys basketball team this season. The good news is that the Warriors expect to once again be one of the toughest defensive teams in the league. The bad news is for the rest of the Hockomock League as Foxboro boasts an improved offense, and combined with their traditional tough defense, has the Warriors in position for a Davenport division title.
With four of their five top scorers back this season, including senior Brandon Borde (team-high 15.3 ppg) and junior Kevin Gallagher (12.9 ppg), the Warriors are looking to ride a balanced approach on offense to improve their scoring after finishing 10th in scoring in the Hockomock League last season (54.4 points per game). Borde is one of the most experienced players back in the league and has the ability to create his own looks as well as lead the team as the floor general. Gallagher had a breakout sophomore season and can really fill up the scoring column, especially from deep.
Borde and Gallagher will also get help from senior Will Morrison, who can catch fire from deep, and senior Ryan Hughes, who can give opponents trouble in the paint. All four players are returning starters from a season ago, so that gives Foxboro an advantage, especially defensively. Head coach Jon Gibbs called the defense the “foundation” of the team. Foxboro has consistently been very fundamentally sound and disciplined on the defensive end.
Seniors Dylan Barreira, Michael Devlin, Liam Devlin, and Donald Rogers all played important minutes last season and will provide a lot of depth for Foxboro.
“We have been making progress each day,” Gibbs said. “Practices have been very competitive so far as guys work hard to carve out a role for themselves by earning the trust of their teammates and coaches. If we stay hungry, humble, and unselfish, it has the potential to be a very successful season.”
2018-2019 Record: 17-6 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 Central Quarterfinal Coach: CJ Neely
Ever since the Hockomock League split into two divisions, Franklin has entered each season as one of the top teams in the Kelley-Rex and that looks to be the case yet again this year.
As it does each and every season, defense comes first for the Panthers. Franklin was the best defensive team in the Hockomock League last year, allowing just 48.9 points per game. Not only did the Panthers lead the league in that category, they were the lone team to keep opponents under 50 points on average. It’s the second straight year they’ve had the best defense in the division and third straight year they are in the top three. There are a lot of talented individual defenders on the team but year in and year out, Franklin’s team defense gives them a chance to win.
Offensively, the Panthers boast the top returning scorer in the league in three-year starter Chris Edgehill. Edgehill, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark last season, is an absolute handful to deal with on the offensive end of the court. He can score in a variety of ways, and on top of that, he is very good at getting teammates involved (four assists per game last year). Seniors Jack Rudolph and Steve Karayan are also back after playing valuable minutes last season and will be relied upon on both ends of the floor.
“We have a lot of guys who worked really hard in the offseason to improve and are excited to get on the court,” said head coach CJ Neely. “It’s a great group of people who have a lot of fun together. We need to stay aggressive and share the ball. We hope that strong team defense will continue to be something that defines our program.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-13 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Dave DeStefano
With a solid group of players returning from last season, second-year head coach Dave DeStefano is hoping to guide his Warriors back to the state tournament for the first time since 2015.
The Warriors showed flashes throughout last year, including an upset win of Kelley-Rex champions Mansfield on the road. But they were also on the wrong end of a handful of close games, losing five games by five or fewer points. With a year of experience in DeStefano’s system, and for a lot of players their first year of varsity under their belts, King Philip is hoping to turn those close games into wins.
KP boasts two returning starters in Alex Fritz and Andrew McKinney, both standing at 6’3. Fritz had a breakout junior campaign and was the fourth-highest scorer in the Hockomock League with 15.5 points per game. He was able to score in a variety of ways, including through contact at the rim, and will be a vital piece this year. McKinney was fifth on the team in scoring last year, scoring in double-figures in five contests, including a career-high 19 points at Stoughton. Senior Tommy Donahue looks to give the Warriors a strong presence in the post while classmates Owen Conlin and Chris Roy look to be in the mix. Seniors Robbie Jarest and Tom Weir are back in the mix after a year away from the program.
Defensively, King Philip will be relying on its size and physicality. While Donahue (6’5) will be the main rim protector, having long guards and forwards will help KP make life difficult for opponents. The Warriors will need to improve on the defensive end after surrendering a division-high 63.7 points per game last year. DeStefano is looking to get some contributions from junior juniors Donte Barros, Cole Breen, Joe Cullen, Evan Stephens, Will Kinney, and Jake Silveria while sophomores Charlie Grant and Braeden Sottile will likely be in the mix too.
“The boys have really worked hard this offseason,” DeStefano said. “The practices have been really competitive and physical. For us to be successful we will need to make a big commitment on the defensive end of the floor. We want to make our opponents uncomfortable and focus on working together to get stops. On offense we are looking to have a balanced attack and create great scoring opportunities as a team.”
2018-2019 Record: 22-5 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Final Coach: Mike Vaughan
The Hockomock League continues to run through Mansfield.
The Hornets have won the Kelley-Rex division title in eight of its nine years, and it looks like Mansfield will be the team to beat again this year. Three players that burst onto the scene last year – Sam Stevens, TJ Guy, Matt Boen – are now three of the top players in the Hock heading into this season. Mansfield certainly graduated a lot of talent in Tommy Dooling, Damani Scott, and Khristian Conner, but with those three starters back plus seniors Drew Rooney and Makhi Baskin, as well as a handful of newcomers ready to make an impact, Mansfield is poised for another deep tournament run.
Stevens (11.2 ppg) will be one of the toughest players to stop with his ability to finish around the rim as well as deadly three-point shooting, Guy (10.9 ppg) is very good in the post on both ends of the floor, and Boen (9.5 ppg) can score in a variety of ways. All three are capable of filling up the stat sheet on any given night. Baskin provides a lot of energy and can change the game with his effort while Rooney showed last year that he can matchup with some of the top players in the league on the defensive end.
Juniors Brian and Jason See are both strong shooters that work tirelessly on both ends of the floor and should be in the mix for the Hornets this year. Juniors Jack Colby and Brendan Foley will be looking to bring a spark off the bench while sophomore Matt Hyland and freshman Chris Hill are promising young players that could contribute right away.
“I think our depth and ability to play different styles will be a strength of this team,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I’m excited to see where this team can get to as they continue to work hard in practice and mix their individual talents to form our team identity. Transition play, scoring inside and out will be strength on offense. Playing solid man to man and uptempo defense with our depth could create some issues for our opponents.”
2018-2019 Record: 9-12 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Paul Seaver
After a season of ups and downs, the Milford Scarlet Hawks are hoping last year’s growing pains transition into a playoff berth this season.
With a large group of returnees, the Hawks will certainly be in the mix for the Davenport division title. While head coach Paul Seaver returns the majority of his team, he will need some of the those players to step up on the offensive end the fill the void left by graduation. The Hawks graduated its top three scorers, including the second-highest scorer in the league in Brendan White (18.2 ppg). That means there will be a lot of opportunities for new players to step up and contribute.
Junior Jordan Darling (7.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and senior Colby Pires (6.1 ppg) are the top two point producers back this year while junior Dom Schofield also returns after starting as a sophomore. Darling started 19 games this year and was selected to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassman team after a strong season on both ends of the court. Pires is a leader both on and off the court and plays well in all aspects of the game, and Schofield gives Milford a strong post presence on the defensive end, recording a team-high 38 charges taken last season.
Ralph Franklin Jr., Matty Varteresian, Tyler Whetherbee, and Ben Blanchard all saw time throughout last season and could all be in line for bigger roles this season.
“Our depth will matter, our balance will matter, our chemistry is this group’s most important attribute,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver. “We were the youngest team in the league last season and this group has a lot of players back who are attacking this year with a chip on their shoulder. This group defines what Milford basketball is and that’s a testament to who these kids are hard workers and higher character individuals. I could not be any more excited to coach and work with these kids on a daily basis.”
2018-2019 Record: 9-11 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Sean Mulkerrins
There are going to be a lot of new faces dawning the Big Red uniform this winter. After losing nine seniors to graduation, head coach Sean Mulkerrins has just three players back from last year’s nine-win squad.
With a large amount of new players comes a large amount of opportunities. The Rocketeers graduated its two top scorers but bring back senior Ethan Friberg (7.0 ppg) and junior George Ladd (7.4 ppg) to lead the charge offensively this year. Friberg, standing at 6’5, can cause problems in the paint but also van step out and play along the perimeter. Ladd had a breakout sophomore season and was named to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassman team. He is a little of a throwback player that is very fundamentally sound on the offensive end. Senior Josh Porter, the third returner, saw an expanded role at the end of last season and played well.
Defensively, the Rocketeers will be focusing on limiting opponents to one shot per possession. With some size in the frontcourt, North will try to make it difficult to finish at the rim, and with all five players committed to rebounding, try and minimize second-chance points.
“There will be a lot of new faces with opportunities to make an impact on this year’s team,” Mulkerrins said. “There will definitely be some growing pains and the sooner the new faces adjust to the rigors of varsity basketball, the better we will be.”
2018-2019 Record: 10-12 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Don Byron
Last season, Oliver Ames came up just one game shy of the state tournament. Goal number one for the 2019-2020 season is to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
With a strong mix of experienced players and hungry new additions, Oliver Ames is ready for the grind that is the Kelley-Rex division and the Hockomock League.
“The expectation is to always get [to the tournament], that’s our first goal,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “We’re pretty optimistic but we know it’s going to be a grind, you have to show up every night, you can’t take a night off.”
Byron has been impressed with his guard play so far this preseason, and that will likely mean featuring three guards in the lineup for the majority of the time. Senior Jay Spillane is a returning starter while classmate Owen Friel and junior Amari Brown were top options off the bench a season ago. Spillane can score in bunches, especially from the outside, while Friel combines a solid shooting game with a hard-nosed defensive approach. Friel’s ability to guard a variety of position makes him a valuable piece in the lineup while Brown is a crafty player that does a nice job getting teammates involved.
Senior center Evan Craig (6’5) will be joined by classmate Ryan Burkett (6’2) in the frontcourt. Both picked up valuable minutes at the varsity level last year and Byron is hoping that will help with their expanded roles this year. Senior guard Adam Cann and junior forwards Trey Buggs and Drew Nickla will provide depth for the Tigers.
“It takes some time to get accustomed to the varsity speed and what we expect at this level,” Byron said. “All of these kids gained experience with us last year, and that year of experience is invaluable.”
2018-2019 Record: 3-17 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Andrew Ferguson
After a couple of down seasons, the Eagles will be making a strong push to get back into the state tournament for the first time since 2016.
Sharon boasts a number of players who gained varsity experience that will be looking to help the program bounce back. The first being senior Aidan Kane, the team’s leading scorer last season with 11.5 points per game. When he’s on from keep, Kane is one of the top three-point shooters in the league. He has the ability to change a game very quickly if he gets hot from deep. Senior Andrew Burton emerged as one of the Eagles’ top players last year and could be poised to have a breakout year. Sophomore John Baez will start at the point after joining the varsity team for the final month and a half last season.
The Eagles will be relying heavily on its frontcourt to step up on both ends of the court. Senior Caleb Gayle is a traditional post player that will compete hard on both ends of the court, senior Cam Baker is fundamentally sound and a reliable option and junior Hank Ward picked up valuable minutes as a sophomore and will be an important part of the rebound game as well as defensively. Senior Aaron Karten will be in the mix as well, giving the Eagles an athletic frontcourt.
Junior Jordan Barboza should give the Eagles a spark off the bench this year and head coach Andrew Ferguson will look for him as an important defensive piece. Kiran Chandrasekaran had flashes of the strong play off the bench last year and should see an expanded role this year, while junior transfer Matt Baskin could provide a needed scoring punch.
“This group has worked tremendously hard in the offseason and the preseason and is looking to translate that into success throughout the regular season,” Ferguson said. “Many of the players have gained valuable experience at the varsity level over the past two years and our senior class are tremendous leaders who provide a great example for our younger players.”
2018-2019 Record: 10-11 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Preliminary Round Coach: John Gallivan
Stoughton ended its playoff drought last season and with a good amount of those players back again this year, the Davenport division title and a deep playoff run could be in the forecast this season.
The Black Knights have their leading scorer back in 6’5 senior forward Obinna Ugwuakazi, who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per game with nine double-doubles last year. His athleticism and ability to finish through contact made him a tough matchup for opponents, and he will be at the forefront of the Stoughton offense again this year. Fellow senior Tahkwan Gates Brown, who also stands at 6’5, is also back and we could see the duo play together at times which will certainly make life tough for opponents.
Senior Myles Grigalunas-Powell is back for his third year on varsity. After improving each of the past two seasons, the 2019-2020 season could be a breakout year for Grigalunas-Powell, who can score from three-point range but is also a crafty finisher attacking the rim. Ahmad Jahed had flashes of strong play last year and will be back in the mix again this year, and the same goes for Tommy Sanda. Juniors Brett Pendenza and Jake Queeney are also back after earning some minutes last year.
“We feel like we can score this year both from downtown and from down low,” said Stoughton head coach John Gallivan. “And with our size in the paint, we hope to make it difficult for opponents to score consistently.”
2018-2019 Record: 15-9 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal Coach: Charlie Dacey
After a strong regular season, the Taunton boys basketball team flipped a switch in the tournament and made a run to the D1 South Semis, nearly knocking off powerhouse Mansfield. With a taste of postseason success, the Tigers are hoping to replicate that success this year with another impressive playoff stretch.
The Tigers boast speed, skill, and depth this season and will be in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division title this season. While Taunton lost a lot of production from last year (Lou Vendrell, Mike Quinn, John Martins, Wesner Charles), there are a handful of players battling to earn their chance at minutes in the Tigers’ lineup. One constant in that lineup over the past couple of years is senior Dante Law, who enters his fourth year with the varsity group. Law was Taunton’s leading scorer a year ago with 14.1 points per game but none of the other returners were over five points a game, meaning there will be plenty of opportunity for new players to step up.
Seniors Fabio Goncalves (6’6) and Aiden Pelot, as well as junior Tyler Stewart (6’6) make up the frontcourt for the Tigers. All three played at the varsity level last year and will be key pieces at helping the Tigers defend and win the battle on the boards. Law will be joined by junior Josh Lopes, who showed flashes during his sophomore season, DaeDae Kenion, and sophomore transfer Tristan Herry as key pieces of the offense.
The Tigers are also excited about the depth on the team this year. Junior Danny MacDougall earned starting minutes last year and is a reliable option in a variety of roles while Trent Santos, Logan Lawrence, and Jonathan Torres will all be in the mix for Taunton.
“With this team, press and run should be ‘Plan A’ although there are skills available to play at a slower pace,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey.
Football D1 South
#2 Franklin, 28 vs. #3 Brockton, 14 – Final 1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (B) Devonte Medley 10-yard pass to Ahmik Watterson, XP good; (F) Thomas Gasbarro 6-yard pass to Jack Nally, Parker Cheuvront XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 4-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good; (F) Owen Palmieri 32-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good.
3rd Quarter: (B) Isaiah Laguerre 68-yard touchdown, XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 62-yard pass to Cole Lakatos, P. Cheuvront XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
#3 King Philip, 6 @ #2 Mansfield, 34 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (M) Jack Moussette 9-yard pass to Cincere Gill, Michael DeBolt XP good; (M) J. Moussette 46-yard pass to C. Gill, M. DeBolt XP good; (M) J. Moussette 18-yard pass to Everett Knowlton, M. DeBolt XP good.
3rd Quarter: (M) C. Gill 11-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good; (KP) Robert Jarest 19-yard pass to Andrew McKinney, XP failed; (M) J. Moussette 24-yard pass to C. Gill, 2pt rush failed.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
#3 Stoughton, 12 @ #2 Duxbury, 38 – Final 1st Quarter: (S) Clayton Rahaman 72-yard pass to Jordan Emile, XP failed; (D) Will Prouty 5-yard rush, Brett Souza XP good.
2nd Quarter: (S) Oluwole Fabikun 23-yard fumble return, 2pt pass failed.
3rd Quarter: (D) B. Souza 24-yard field goal; (D) W. Prouty 1-yard rush, B. Souza XP good.
4th Quarter: (D) Tim Landolfi 1-yard rush, B. Souza XP good; (D) W. Prouty 25-yard pass to Brady Madigan, B. Souza XP good; (D) T. Landolfi 6-yard rush, B. Souza XP good.
#4 Foxboro, 0 @ #1 Canton, 15 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (C) Safety; (C) Owen Lehane 22-yard field goal.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: O. Lehane 31-yard field goal.
4th Quarter: (C) Johnny Hagan 15-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good.
Milford, 7 @ Hopkinton, 20 – Final
Taunton, 15 @ Weymouth, 14 – Final – Taunton scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to erase a 14-point deficit, winning on the final play of the game with a two-point conversion. Josh Lopes scored on a five-yard run and Collin Knorr drilled the extra point the half the Wildcats’ lead. After a penalty on Weymouth, the Tigers had one untimed play and Lopes plunged in from one-yard out to make it 14-13. The Tigers went for the two-point conversion and the win. Danny MacDougall took a jet sweep, escaped a swarm of tackles, and fired a pass back across the field to quarterback Trent Santos for the two-point conversion and the win.
Boys Soccer D2 South
#12 North Attleboro, 1 @ #4 Oliver Ames, 1 – Final (OA wins, 5-4 on PKs) – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. – Not much could separate the Tigers and the Rocketeers on the pitch in a D2 South quarterfinal matchup. The teams were tied 1-1 after 80 minutes of play, and then played a pair of scoreless 10-minute overtime periods to send the game to penalty kicks.
“North was outstanding today on the defensive side of the ball,” said OA head coach John Barata. “Their goalie [Kyle Briere] was simply amazing. He must have saved close to 20 shots and some were from three to six yards out. No doubt that is one of the best performances by a goalie I’ve ever seen.”
Junior Kevin Louhis finished off a cross from sophomore Mathias Taylor in the 15th minute to put Oliver Ames ahead. North Attleboro leveled the match with five minutes to go when Andrew Tolfa buried a free kick chance.
“Our boys played well and with lots of poise and control today,” Barata said. “We maintained possession of the ball on all three thirds very well and broke the lines often. However, we did not capitalize on all our opportunities. We need to find the back of the net on a few of those close range opportunities.”
In the penalty kicks, both sides converted on their first three chances. North Attleboro missed on its fourth chance but Briere came up with a save to keep it tied, and both teams scored on their fifth chance to send the game to the sudden death round of pens. Barata inserted Brendan Cross in goal for the sixth chance and North was off the mark. Junior Anthony DaCosta buried his shot into the top right corner to clinch the win. Colin Milliken, Taylor, Dillon Cupples, and Louhis converted PKs for OA.
“We are very happy,” Barata said. “Before the season started our goal was to get into the state tournament, win the Hockomock Kelley Rex and win at least one game in the tourney. At this point everything is just a bonus. We have to prepare now for the top team in the state and one of the top teams in the country. We look forward to moving on.”
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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
LOWELL, Mass. – It was fitting that the final out bounced to sophomore shortstop Ty Cali. He jumped into the lineup in the playoffs after starter Danny MacDougall suffered an injury in the first game of the postseason. Cali had two hits and an RBI in Saturday night’s Div. 1 state championship game at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park and was an example of the way the whole Taunton program came together to send the Tigers on an improbable championship run.
That run came to a climax on Saturday, as Taunton (21-7) got four hits and a pair of RBI from the bottom three in its lineup, got four strong innings from senior Josh Lajoie, who was making his first start of the playoffs, and rallied with a pair of runs in the final two innings after seeing a 3-0 lead slip away.
The Tigers found a way to win, a common thread throughout the tournament, pulling out a 5-3 victory against Shrewsbury to secure the program’s first-ever state championship.
“We knew it was going to be another tough game,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque. “That’s a great team over there and they gave us everything we could handle. We were able to put some at-bats together. It’s a team effort.”
Senior pitcher Logan Lawrence, who picked up the win with three innings of relief, said, “It almost feels too good. First time in history winning sectionals, never mind winning states.”
A state championship seemed farfetched in April. The Tigers stumbled out of the gates, going 4-4 in their opening eight games, but they stayed the course and eventually things turned around. Taunton finished the season by going 17-3 over its final 20 games. Its only losses in that span were to Super 8 participants Mansfield (twice) and Franklin.
“At the beginning of the year we all talked about it in the weight room about how nice it would be, but we also knew how difficult it would be and all the hard work it would take, and how much better we’d have to get throughout the year,” said senior Jack Moynihan.
“We knew we’d have to keep fighting and everyone in the program has busted their butts.”
Bourque said, “This season we had a lot of adversity early and I think that helped us down the road. Obviously, the Mansfields and the Franklins are the teams we want to compete with. This is a step in the right direction.”
On Saturday, the Tigers faced Shrewsbury ace John West. The 6-foot-8 junior has already committed to Boston College and he lived up to the billing the first time through the Taunton order. He struck out five, held the Tigers hitless, and allowed only one base runner over the first three innings.
West may have drawn the headlines prior to the game, but he was matched over the first three innings by Lajoie. The St. John’s University-commit got the ball for the final and allowed only two hits through four innings. An error and a walk gave Shrewsbury its only rally in that stretch, but Lajoie responded with a strikeout and induced a pop up to get out of the jam.
Taunton grabbed the lead in the fourth. Colby Lariviere drew a one-out walk and would come all the way around to score when Lawrence’s line drive skipped past the centerfielder and turned into a triple. Nolan Melo came in to run at third base and he would score on a perfectly placed safety squeeze by Jared Roderick.
The Tigers tacked on another run in the fifth. Evan Melo led off the inning by drilling a double into the corner in right and he was quickly brought home by a Cali single. Gavin Leahy drew a walk and Lucas Martins had an infield single to load the bases with one out but a double play ended the inning.
“It’s great because as a pitcher you look at the bottom of the order and you think just breeze through them,” said Lawrence about Taunton getting production from its full lineup. “When you know for a fact that other teams aren’t going to be able to breeze through the bottom of your lineup, that helps you a lot mentally. A lot of confidence comes from that.”
Shrewsbury did not go quietly. In the bottom of the fifth, the Colonials had three straight singles, including a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. Lajoie was pulled for Lawrence, who gave up an RBI-single on his first pitch.
The next batter hit a shot down the first base line but Lariviere made a diving stop and got the lead runner at home. The batter had slipped so a return throw to first turned into a double play. With a chance to get out of the inning with the lead, Lawrence gave up a single to West, which scored a pair and tied the game.
Rather than letting their heads drop, the Tigers got right back to the plate and promptly grabbed back the lead. Roderick reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a wild pitch, and then took third on an error that allowed Andrew Gomes to reach. For the second time in the game, Bourque called for a squeeze and this time it was Evan Melo who dropped it down, pushing it up the first base line for a single and an RBI.
“We have confidence in ourselves and our ability to generate a couple of runs here and there,” Bourque explained. “There was no panic, we’ve been down before. Last game, we were down twice, so we had the confidence in our ability to generate some offense.
Taunton loaded the bases with one out for the second straight inning but both times failed to score a run. Lawrence made sure that it wouldn’t hurt too much by throwing a perfect sixth inning.
In the seventh, Taunton added an important insurance run. Nic Notarangelo, who’s inclusion in the starting lineup coincided with the Tigers’ improvement, started the inning by drilling a triple to the wall in right. Two batters later, Lariviere made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly to left.
As it turned out, the Tigers didn’t need the extra run. Lawrence got back to the mound for the seventh inning and threw another clean inning. He got a grounder to second, a strikeout, and then a grounder to short to seal the win and the championship.
“Nothing, just strictly adrenaline,” said Lawrence about what was going through his mind in the seventh. “When it was a 3-2 [count] and everyone was screaming, oh my god…” Lawrence shook his head, chuckled, and smiled.
Lajoie added, “It’s a dream come true. You dream of this at the beginning of the season and then you go through the season with your team, battling, and you see the pieces falling together…It’s unbelievable; I’m speechless.”