Defense Helps Canton Get Past Mistakes and Foxboro

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Canton players Robbie Gallery (32) and David Allen (1) celebrate a fumble recovery against Foxboro. The Bulldogs won 15-0 to advance to the D5 South final. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – In a game filled with penalties, turnovers, and mistakes at the most inopportune times, two elite defenses were showcased in the Div. 5 South semifinal at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.

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Canton’s defense tossed its fifth shutout in nine games this season and the Bulldogs did just enough on the offensive side to pull out a 15-0 win against Foxboro to remain unbeaten and to advance to is second straight sectional final.

“Our defense was outstanding, our special teams was very good tonight, and as usual these kids stepped up and got things done for us and I’m very proud of them,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “

The Bulldogs set the tone right from the start when Owen Lehane got into the backfield to stop a jet sweep for a five-yard loss on the game’s first play. Foxboro almost struck on a deep ball to Elijah Lewis on second down, but the Warriors went three-and-out.

Starting at its own 40, Canton moved the ball upfield quickly in search of an early lead. The Bulldogs got as far as the Foxboro 28, but then on second and short Johnny Hagan (7-of-11, 77 yards) was picked off on the one by Mike Devlin. Two plays later, the snap sailed over the head of Foxboro quarterback Shayne Kerrigan (7-of-22, 93 yards) and out the back of the end zone.

On the ensuing kick-off, Gersom Rivera (91 yards of offense) broke free down the near sideline for a 60-yard score only to have a penalty take the points off the board. The Bulldogs drove into the red zone but defensive linemen Anton George and Austin Read stuffed a second down play and Hagan’s third down pass to David Allen fell incomplete. Lehane booted a 22-yard field goal for a 5-0 lead.

Bohane said, “We’d get in that nice second and three and okay here we go, and then we’d jump offsides or on third down we’d take a bad penalty. We’d get momentum going, be on their side of the field, and find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

The baseball score continued into halftime because both defense remained on top. Jahmi Aldin had a sack and recovered a Kerrigan fumble to end a pair of Foxboro drives, while TJ Perry had an interception in the red zone to stop a Bulldogs possession. With time winding down in the half, Foxboro got to the Canton 24, but a sack by Lucas Ragusa and Jack Connolly kept Canton in front at the break.

To start the third quarter, a Rivera kick return and a personal foul penalty put Canton at the Foxboro 48. The Bulldogs got to the 28, but on fourth and three Kyle Fitzgerald (17 carries, 63 yards) was stopped a yard short of the marker.

Foxboro’s next possession stalled and Robbie Gallery came flying off the edge to block the punt, putting Canton back in business at the 19-yard-line. A false start to begin the possession stymied the momentum and the Bulldogs had to settle for another Lehane kick, this one from 31 yards, to put another three points on the board with four minutes left in the third.

“They played great,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said about his defense. “I felt pretty good at halftime down 5-0, still a one-score game. The blocked punt hurt us to give them the eighth point on a field goal and then we responded and came up empty-handed.”

The Warriors finally put together a drive and gave themselves a shot at tying the game. Kerrigan hit Luis Sulham for 11 yards and then Ryan Hughes for 12. Back-to-back penalties made it third and 12, but Kerrigan hit Hughes in stride for a 41-yard completion down to the Canton three.

Kerrigan gained two yards on two plays against the Canton defensive line to set up third and goal at the one, but misfortune struck as a snap sailed over his head. He scrambled to recover it but lost 22 yards on the play. His fourth down pass fell incomplete.

“We couldn’t change field position at all and we held on as long as we could and if you don’t cash in on the one or the two then you don’t deserve to win the game,” said Martinelli. “They’re a great team but our kids played their hearts out.”

“We feel like w’re never down defensively,” said Bohane. “The quarter ended and one coach thought they were going for the conversion and it was like, no they haven’t gotten in yet, and it was like okay well let’s keep them out. Good fortune on the snap but good effort by the defense.”

After an Allen punt pinned Foxboro deep, Gallery and Connolly combined on a sack to force the Warriors to punt from their own end zone. Canton took over at the 28 and for the first time was able to make field position count.

Hagan finally found a seam on the right side, followed his blockers and burst into the end zone for a 15-yard score and a 15-0 lead. Aldin and Lehane capped the evening with a sack of Kerrigan with two minutes left to seal the shutout and the trip to the final.

“They had probably 10 guys in the box, the whole game,” said Martinelli. “They weren’t going to let [Shayne] run and they didn’t. They had the kids to do it and executed and hence no points on the board. We felt we needed three scores to win the game because we felt our defense was good enough to keep us in it and it did.”

Canton (9-0) will host No. 2 seed Holliston in the South final next Friday night. Foxboro (5-4) will await its next opponent in the non-playoff bracket.

“Couple guys said that to me over the off-season who’ve been through this and they were like you want to get that third game at home and we’ve done it,” Bohane explained, “but Holliston we’ve never played and I’ve only heard great things about them. So, we’re going to get to work on them now, probably tonight, and just try to crack that riddle.”

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Canton Exacts Revenge With Big Win Over Scituate

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Canton’s Owen Lehane (left) and Nnamdi Onyemelukwe sack Scituate quarterback Matt Scibilio in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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CANTON, Mass. – Last season, the Canton football team had its dream of heading to Gillette Stadium vanish on a rainy night in Scituate in the D5 South Final.

With the same goal in mind for this year, the Bulldogs exacted revenge in the opening round of the 2019 tournament with a convincing 34-14 win over the defending state champion Sailors.

After a defensive battle in the opening half, Canton scored four touchdowns in the final 24 minutes of the game and put on another defensive showcase. The Bulldogs blanked the Sailors for three quarters before Scituate scored on a long pass play with under six minutes to play. Scituate’s second touchdown came in the final minute against the second unit.

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“It’s awesome [to get revenge],” said Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald, who rushed for 167 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns. “Last year they beat us 21-0 and go on to win the state championship and handle every other team. This year we knew we had to take care of business. And they aren’t [a typical] eight seed.”

While Canton talked about last year’s matchup, the focus was on fixing what went wrong in that game.

“We didn’t play particularly disciplined [last year], or fundamentally sound,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “We learned some lessons in that game, so it had to be talked about because we didn’t play great. But as far as revenge, motivation…I don’t know if that played into it too much. The kids know [Scituate] pretty well, they have respect for them. They were the state champions last year, they did it with class. I think there’s mutual respect and both teams played hard. Fortunately this year we came out on top.”

Canton’s defense yielded just 20 yards combined between Scituate’s first three drives, all resulting in punts. But the Dogs didn’t have much success on the offensive side either, turning it over on downs on the opening drive and then back-to-back punts.

Scituate’s first drive of the second quarter resulted in yards but not much else as the Bulldogs’ defense forced back-to-back incompletion to force a turnover on downs. The Canton offense was able to connect on its first play on the ensuing drive.

On the second play, senior quarterback Johnny Hagan (4/10, 102 yards passing; 12 carries, 32 yards, two touchdowns rushing) led Gersom Rivera perfectly with a throw down field, going for 57 yards all the way down to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Hagan plunged up the middle for a touchdown. Owen Lehane’s first of four successful extra point attempts made it 7-0 with 5:13 left in the second quarter.

Scituate’s fifth and longest drive of the opening half went for 39 yards on 10 plays but came to an end after failing to convert on third down and fourth down. The Sailors were 1-for-10 on third down in the game and 0-for-4 on fourth down.

A big return from Fitzgerald on the second half kickoff put the Dogs in good position, and four plays later they marched to the red zone. But on the first play from within the red area, Hagan’s pass ended up in the hands of Scituate’s Nate Gould at the 2-yard line.

Canton’s defense came up with a big answer though. After the Sailors moved out near midfield, a bad snap on third down resulted in a fumble and Jahmi Aldin raced to recover the loose ball and get Canton the ball back.

The Bulldogs weren’t able to capitalize and had to punt the ball back, but the Canton defensive line featuring Jack Connolly, Matt Connolly, Nnamdi Onyemelukwe and Aldin, along with linebackers Robbie Gallery, Lucas Ragusa, and James Murphy, continued to apply a lot of pressure.

That pressure paid off as Fitzgerald went up and hauled in an interception on the third play of the ensuing drive.

The turnover proved costly for the Sailors as Fitzgerald took the first play up the middle for a 40-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5:27 left in the third quarter.

“He’s our leader, he’s the guy we lean on as much as anybody,” Bohane said of Fitzgerald. “He was dialed in all week, as were all the kids, but Kyle he really appreciates the big stage. He’s an excellent student, a great kid, very well respected by the kids in the school. He gets it, he gets the magnitude of these games.”

Scituate’s next drive didn’t get off the ground before the Bulldogs’ defense had another takeaway. This time it was Gallery in coverage, keeping pace with his man down the sideline before leaping up and hauling in an impressive interception.

Canton marched 48 plays on nine plays (most plays in a series for the game) to extend the lead. Hagan connected with junior Jack Albert for 16 yards and Fitzgerald had an 8-yard run to make fourth down manageable.

The Bulldogs face fourth and four to open the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get the Sailors to jump offside with a hard count. But after sending a player in motion and going with another hard count, a Scituate defender did cross the neutral zone for a 5-yard penalty and a first down.

Three plays later, Hagan battled his way through a pile for a 2-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 10:26 left to play.

“The offense needed a jumpstart a little bit, we just couldn’t get a rhythm going,” Bohane said of the turnovers helping the offense get going. “I give [Scituate] a lot of credit, Coach Devine does a super job with his players. They were very prepared both last year and this year. We had to digest a lot and we have kids who can make big plays. A lot of guys contributed.”

Scituate’s offense continued to struggle gaining traction with four straight incomplete passes to give Canton the ball back. Five plays later, Fitzgerald was in for his second score on a 7-yard rush, bowling over a defender at the goal line for a 28-0 lead.

Up until this point, the Dogs limited the visitors to 146 yards of total offense. Sheskey, one of the top backs in the area, was held to 12 yards on seven carries.

“We were concerned, debating on how many guys we wanted to bring,” Bohane said. “And we were really concerned about [Will] Sheskey so we had to figure out how to get a pass rush. Coach [Jeff] Eckler, our defensive coordinator, dialed up some creative things. But we’re very fortunate to have Matt Connolly, Jack Connolly, Nnamdi [Onyemelukwe], and Jahmi Adlin, the defensive line did a great job. They created a lot of pressure on their own.

“We have 11 really good defensive players out there, to be honest, we don’t really have a weakness. Our secondary is very good, our linebacker play is outstanding, and our line has a lot of size. I think Coach Eckler does a really good job of preparing them every week. And the offense has helped too.”

The Sailors finally connected on a long pass play on their next series to get on the board. Matt Scibilio (14/36, 232 yards) connected with Nate Gould for a 65-yard touchdown with 5:41 to play.

Canton recovered the onside kick and answered Scituate’s first score with an immediate touchdown of its own. Fitzgerald found space up the middle and sprinted the entire way for a 56-yard touchdown.

Scibilio connected with Gould for a 48-yard touchdown against Canton’s second defensive group with under a minute to go for the Sailors’ second score.

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“This one felt a lot better than walking off that field in Scituate last year,” Fitzgerald said. “Obviously it was a much better outcome. Now it’s on to Foxboro, a rematch, it’s one of the only teams that gave us a really hard game. We have to correct a lot of mistakes [from that game], it starts by coming in at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning. So it’s a short memory on this win.”

Top-seeded Canton football (8-0) will now host Hockomock League Davenport division rival and fourth-seeded Foxboro, who knocked off Norton in their opener. The two teams clashed in league play in the second week of league action with the Bulldogs prevailed 26-20. It’s the most points Canton’s defense has surrendered to an opponent this year.

The game is set to kick off from Canton High on Friday night at 7:00.

Canton Romps Past Milford In Division Clash

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Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald carries the ball in the first half against Milford on Friday night in the rain. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – With just a couple of seconds left on the clock, and the result no longer in question, the Canton football team put an exclamation point on their victory over visiting Milford.

The Bulldogs’ defense stuffed the Hawks from the one-yard line on back-to-back plays, securing the team’s third shutout of the season in a 35-0 rout over Milford in whipping winds and constant rain.

With the win, Canton takes sole possession of first place in the Davenport division.

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Canton’s defense continued to shine, posting its second shutout in league play. The Bulldogs limited Milford to 53 yards of total offense and six first downs, with the majority of those yards and conversions coming on the final drive of the game with a running clock.

“We were looking at the weather all week and we were thinking it might work in our favor,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “[Milford] has such a good passing attack, they can throw the ball so well, so dynamic. Their slot [receivers] really got our attention. Sometimes our defense, we have to play the physical aspect against good running teams like Stoughton, and tonight we were challenged in the passing game. I’m very proud of the defense.”

The Bulldogs made life difficult for the Hawks, limiting the visitors’ potent passing game to just three completions in its first seven drives. But four of those drives ended in punts, another in an interception, a turnover on downs, and the end of the first half. The final drive, which spanned 66 yards on eight plays, was denied at the goal line to end the game.

“The conditions were advantageous with how we play defense,” Bohane said. “The defense has played any style we’ve asked them to play. I thought the coaches did a good job preparing, mimicking Milford’s offense and how they go about it — and they are very good, very explosive. We have some pretty big guys up front so we thought we’d be able to hold up against the run. It’s tough to get to their quarterback because he gets rid of it so fast, so we felt we had to have a body on a body, just accounted for everyone.”

Milford’s defense was equal to the task to start the game, forcing a turnover on downs on the opening series and then a three-and-out on Canton’s second offensive possession.

But Canton senior Jace Emma read a hitch route perfectly on Milford’s first play of their second series, jumping in front for an interception and giving the Bulldogs terrific field possession.

From there on out, Canton’s offense was unstoppable, scoring on its final five possessions of the game.

Following Emma’s pick, Canton needed just six plays to go 35 yards to take a first quarter lead. Highlighted by a 31-yard dash from senior Kyle Fitzgerald (19 carries, 109 yards), the Dogs punched it on fourth down when senior quarterback Johnny Hagan (11 carries, 56 yards, three touchdowns) kept it himself for a three-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 2:14 left in the opening quarter.

“Jace has been so good for us for so long,” Bohane said. “We lost one of our corners to injury and Jace stepped in. I was telling him that he belongs out there, I think he was up for the challenge. He stepped up and made that pick, and it was all him, he read it right in man coverage.”

After getting the ball back after a quick three-and-out, Canton marched 58 yards on 11 plays to double its advantage. An offside call shortened a fourth down and the Dogs gave the direct snap to Robbie Gallery on a fake punt to move the chains.

Fitzgerald converted another fourth down on the drive, and two plays later Hagan kept it himself and got around the edge to find the end zone for a 21-yard score.

Canton wasn’t done in the half though, with its defense once again forcing a three-and-out while pushing the Milford defense backward.

This time it took just seven plays to go 44 yards for the Bulldogs, After a healthy mix of Fitzgerald, Hagan, and Gersom Rivera (nine carries, 39 yards) on the ground, Canton caught the Hawks’ defense with a pass play as Hagan delivered a perfect pass to Emma on a slant for 22 yards.

On the next play, Hagan kept it himself for another three-yard touchdown, giving Canton a 21-0 lead heading into halftime.

Bohane and his staff were well aware the game was far from over, and with the firepower that Milford possesses, the Bulldogs’ put a big emphasis on the opening drive of the second half.

With its defense on the field, everything continued to go the Dogs’ way. An incomplete pass was followed by a second down sack from junior Matt Connolly, and a tackle from Jahmi Aldin for no gain on third down.

“We felt like the first series in the third quarter was going to be very important,” Bohane said. “The kids came out and played hard. I can’t remember how exactly it went down but we continued to play well on both sides of the ball. Everyone stepped up and contributed, it was overall a good night for us.”

The first offensive possession of the second half didn’t go exactly as the Bulldogs had planned but still ended up in points nonetheless. Hagan dumped a screen pass off for Fitzgerald, and he took it 45 yards to the end zone but the Bulldogs were whistled for a hold.

That meant Canton had to punt for the first time all night, but the Milford returner couldn’t field it cleanly and the Dogs pounced on the muffed ball.

Again, Fitzgerald found the end zone on a rushing play but again, a holding call negated it. Canton took advantage of a personal foul on the Hawks’ defense, as Rivera took it up the middle from three yards out to make it 28-0 with 5:12 to go in the third quarter.

Milford quarterback Colby Pires connected with Carter Scudo and Matt Varteresian on passes, the latter a fourth down conversion that gave the Hawks their first first down of the night.

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But a couple plays later, Jack Connolly, Lucas Ragusa, and Gallery combined for a big sack on first down. And Ben Guerini delivered a third down sack two plays later, and the Bulldogs forced an incompletion on fourth down to get the ball back.

It took eight plays to cover the 35 yards, the longest play of the drive coming on Rivera’s 13-yard run up the middle as he bounced between defenders for a score and a 35-0 lead with seven minutes left in the game.

Canton football (5-0 overall, 3-0 Hockomock) visits North Attleboro next week while Milford (3-2, 2-1) hosts Stoughton in a potential playoff preview.

Canton Draws on Experience to Hold Off Foxboro

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Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald tries to find running room against the Foxboro defense. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – The Canton roster is filled with holdovers from last year’s Davenport division champions. These are players who have taken part in big games, title-deciding games, and have found ways to come out on top. The Bulldogs needed every ounce of that experience on Friday night against Foxboro at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.

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Three times the Warriors had the ball down by just six points in the fourth quarter, twice getting into the red zone, but all three times the Canton defense found another gear to make a crucial stand and preserve the unbeaten start.

“Our defense is one of the best in the Hock for sure,” senior linebacker OOwen Lehane explained. “They were kind of rolling on us for almost three quarters just about, but I think we pieced it together at the end, started picking each other up and I think we just knew deep down that we were better than we were playing.”

Thanks to its defensive effort in the fourth, Canton was able to overcome a rash of penalties and two turnovers in the final quarter to pull out a 26-20 win and stay unbeaten through two weeks of the league campaign.

“They were jacked up, we had some success, and then bam we’re in a football game,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “Our kids stayed poised and made key plays.”

Foxboro quarterback Shayne Kerrigan got the Warriors within a score when he found a seam and burst into the end zone from six yards out with 10:46 remaining in the game. Gersom Rivera blocked the extra point to keep it a six-point margin, but the momentum was with the visitors.

Canton tried to put the game away on its next possession by going for it on fourth and one from the Foxboro 48. Kyle Fitzgerald (20 carries, 132 yards) pushed up the middle for first down distance but as he stretched for a couple extra feet the ball popped loose and was recovered by Elijah Lewis.

Kerrigan (12 carries, 75 yards) got to work with 13 yards on two keepers and then Chris McNamara broke a 22-yard run to the Canton 25. A penalty against the Canton coaches (for encroaching on the field) handed Foxboro a first down at the 12. A loss of one on first down was followed by an incomplete pass and then James Murphy managed to get a fingertip to another pass on third down. On fourth and 11, Kerrigan was held to just a yard to end the drive.

Two plays later, the Warriors were in business again. Canton quarterback Johnny Hagan (13 carries, 55 yards), who had been limited by an injury, couldn’t lost the ball going up the middle and Michael Norvish jumped on the loose ball.

The Foxboro drive lasted three plays before Lehane stepped in and picked off a pass, returning it out near midfield. Lehane also kicked a pair of field goals and had an onside kick recovered in the first half.

“He just never lets you down,” Bohane said of Lehane. “You guys are bringing up things from the game and I’m thinking wow he hit a key field goal, touchbacks, the onside kick, and then to step in and get the interception. An outstanding night for Owen and I’m glad because he’s a super kid.”

After a Canton punt, Foxboro had one last chance with 1:27 remaining. Jace Emma had good coverage on the first pass from Kerrigan (6-of-21, 121 yards) and the second was tipped by Jack Connolly. The third and fourth passes also fell incomplete and Canton was able to kneel down to secure the victory.

“We spotted them a couple points, not that they didn’t earn them, they made great plays, and we could never close that gap,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said. “We had a couple chances down here to tie it up, but two good teams and neither team quit when they were ahead or behind.”

Canton opened the scoring on its second drive of the night. After Fitzgerald broke free for 19 yards, Hagan (7-of-12, 99 yards) tossed a perfect pass into the arms of Rivera down the near sideline for a 33-yard touchdown.

The lead was short-lived, as Foxboro answered right back. Kerrigan hit Ryan Hughes on the near sideline and he made a cut to the inside, shaking off the corner, and then raced 46 yards to the corner for the tying score.

It was the passing game that helped Canton regain the lead on its next possession. Again Hagan was able to find the target deep down the sideline, this time connecting with Emma for 33 yards to the Foxboro five. Hagan would call his own number on the next play for his second score of the night.

A penalty on the touchdown moved the kickoff up 15 yards so the Canton coaches called for an onside kick, which Lehane laid right down the middle and Jahmi Aldin tracked down to immediately give the Bulldogs back the ball. The Foxboro defense managed to keep Canton out of the end zone, but Lehane tacked on a 24-yard field goal to make it 17-7.

Kerrigan and the Foxboro offense, despite missing junior playmaker Luis Sulham, managed to again find big plays against a Canton defense that had not allowed a point since the opening week of the season. The Warriors were helped by two of Canton’s four first half personal foul penalties, but marched down the field to get back within three. Kerrigan capped it off with an 11-yard run.

“We had it last week too,” Martinelli replied, when it was noted how far the offense has come since the season opener against Norton. “Canton is a good football team, we knew that, and we were hoping that we wouldn’t give up the big plays, which we did a couple times tonight.”

Canton added to its lead right before the break. Penalties stalled a drive that had gotten as close as the Foxboro 12, but Lehane was on target with a 32-yard kick. After stuffing Foxboro on the opening drive of the second half, Canton took advantage of the short field, Hagan punching it in from a yard out for his third score to make it 26-14.

It proved to be just about enough to get the win.

“Our coach always says it’s the best league in the state,” said Lehane about the challenge of playing in the Davenport division. “Definitely the seniors, we’ve all been there and we know how tough it is. We’ve got a tough crew too.”

Bohane added, “No weeks off in the Hockomock League. They’re so well-coached and the kids play so hard and there’s so much football tradition. It’s a great league to be in but much better when you have a good team like I do right now that’s physical and tough. It was a lot of fun tonight, as stressful as it was.”

Canton (4-0, 2-0) will be back home next Friday night to take on another potential league title contender in Milford. Foxboro (2-2, 1-1) will look to bounce back with a tough home game against Stoughton.

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Canton Defense Pried Away Win from Stoughton

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Canton recovered three fumbles in a shutout of Stoughton that gave the Bulldogs a win in their Davenport division opener. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – The teams were so similar that it was destined to be a close game. Canton and Stoughton both have speed in the backfield, strong offensive and defensive lines, and athletes all over the field. It was like looking in the mirror. So, it came down to turnovers and one drive that decided the game.

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Having managed only five first downs to that point, including one drive stuffed inside the Stoughton 10, the Bulldogs took over possession with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. The drive started at their own 35 and nine plays later resulted in the game’s lone touchdown.

Senior quarterback Johnny Hagan (17 carries, 125 yards on the ground and 9-of-18 for 80 yards passing) had the big play on what turned out to be the game-winning drive, breaking free of the Stoughton defense for a 31-yard gain down to the one. Two plays later he got the last yard to give the Bulldogs the lead with just 14.4 seconds to go before halftime of their 10-0 victory in the 100th meeting between the Thanksgiving Day rivals.

“It was definitely a long two weeks,” said Hagan about having a bye last week. “We were itching to play last week, but just to get out here with the crowd and everyone was very fun.”

“I thought they’d be good,” Canton coach Dave Bohane said about his defense, which has now allowed only seven total points in three games. “To beat these guys 10-0, to play well against a very quality team, they maybe exceeded my expectations but we have good speed and some experienced guys. Experience really showed up tonight.”

The Canton defense allowed only three first downs and no points to a Stoughton offense that came into the night averaging 41 points per game. The Bulldogs held talented running backs Christopher and Christian Aiss to a combined 46 yards, while recovering three fumbles. Linebackers Owen Lehane, Lucas Ragusa, Robbie Gallery, and James Murphy were all over the field, making plays from sideline to sideline.

“We play five of them and that’s the strength of our team,” Bohane explained. “There was one play where Ais had the ball and Murphy came out of nowhere. Sometimes James finds another gear on big plays and he was really impressive on that. A lot of kids have had those guys tackled this year and it takes two or three people to bring them down so really credit to our kids tonight getting those guys on the ground.”

On its second possession, Canton came close to making the breakthrough. Hagan had the big play, a 47-yard keeper down the far sideline that got the Bulldogs to the Stoughton 24. They got as close as the two, but Carlvin LaGuerre stuffed Kyle Fitzgerald (21 carries, 64 yards) on third down for a one-yard loss and then Jerry Brisson and Oluwole Fabikun stuffed him again on fourth down.

“We battled,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke. “They did a good job. Their big player is the quarterback, no doubt. He’s the key and we practiced all week trying to get him but it’s hard to duplicate him.”

It took until its fourth possession for Stoughton to manage a first down. Christian Ais finally got a seam and he broke a 33-yard run down to the Canton 15, but two plays later quarterback Clayton Rahaman couldn’t get a clean hand-off away and Matt Connolly pounced on the loose ball to end the drive.

Burke said, “I thought we hung in there but we fumbled down here and then fumbled down there. Without having the ball, you can’t score. We got the ball back a bunch of times but we didn’t do anything, so back to the drawing board.”

The game seemed destined to be scoreless at the break until the Bulldogs finally succeeded in finishing a drive. It was a huge momentum swing coming in the final seconds before halftime.

“It was huge because it wasn’t really materializing there and then all of a sudden we hit a couple plays and I was like we may put one in here,” said Bohane. “Obviously, we’ve got to work on our short-yardage stuff because that was frustrating to not put them in but Johnny kind of stepped up there.”

He added, “But, we were up 7-0 on Thanksgiving, so that came up a lot in the locker room.”

Canton got the ball to start the second half and marched into Stoughton territory, but stalled at the 36. Bohane elected to punt and David Allen’s effort was dropped at the 10. Murphy dove on top of the fumble to give the Bulldogs new life. A holding penalty denied Hagan his second touchdown, but Canton came away with points on a 27-yard field goal by Lehane.

Hagan said, “That was huge going into half and then coming out third quarter we needed to have a big third quarter. Making it a two-score game was definitely huge for momentum.”

It wasn’t what the hosts were hoping for, but a two-score lead felt insurmountable with the defense continuing to shut the Black Knights down.

The biggest play of the second half for Stoughton was a screen pass from John Burke to Christopher Ais for 15 yards but the ball was pried loose and Lehane recovered. Ais would answer by recovering a Gersom Rivera fumble eight plays later, but by then the clock was winding down and there was no chance for Stoughton to come back.

Canton (3-0, 1-0) will continue its league title defense next Friday night against Foxboro, while Stoughton (2-1, 0-1) will try to bounce back on Thursday night in Sharon.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Football: 2019 Davenport Division Preview

Stoughton football
Stoughton’s Christopher Ais carries the ball after hauling in a pass in the second half against Canton on Thanksgiving. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Davenport Football Preview

Canton

2018 Record: 8-3
2018 Finish: Reached D5 South Final (Davenport Division Champions)
Coach: Dave Bohane

Key/Returning Players: Robbie Gallery, Sr., SE/LB; Johnny Hagan, Sr., QB; Kyle Fitzgerald, Sr., HB/FS; Matt Connolly, Jr., OL/DL; Gersom Rivera, Sr., RB/HB; Lucas Bryant, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Connolly, Sr., OL/DL; James Murphy, Sr., LB; Derrell Brown, Sr., OL/DL; Owen Lehane, Sr., OL/LB; David Allen, Sr., SE/DB; Jace Emma, Sr., SE/DB; Cam Sanchez, Jr., HB/DB;

Outlook:
Canton had its best season in recent memory a year ago, but the 2019 squad is aiming to take it one step further.

With starters back at almost every position, Canton is aiming to defend its Davenport division title and get back to the sectional final for the second straight season. Johnny Hagan is back under center this season and has all of his weapons back. The Bulldogs ran a mix of Wing-T and spread offense a year ago so Hagan is comfortable running whatever is needed this year. Kyle Fitzgerald, Gersom Rivera, and Cam Sanchez are all talented backs that can help grind down opposing defenses while Hagan makes a lot of plays with his feet as well. Jace Emma was one of Hagan’s favorite targets last year and he will be joined by David Allen as options in the passing game. The offensive line will be anchored by senior Jack Connolly, who missed a good amount of last season with an injury. Matt Connolly, Derrell Brown, and Lucas Bryant return to the line as well while Carson Campbell and Brandon Baran are in the mix for the final spot.

A lot of the same names will make plays on the defensive end as well with Jack Connolly and Matt Connolly teaming up with Nnamdi Onyemelukwe to provide size on the line. The strength of the defense will once again be with the linebackers as the Bulldogs have James Murphy back in the middle alongside junior Lucas Ragusa. Owen Lehane and Robbie Gallery both had strong seasons coming from the outside. The entire secondary is back for the Bulldogs with Rivera and Sanchez handle the corners and Fitzgerald and Allen provide physicality from the safety spots. And for special teams, Lehane handles kicking duties, Allen returns as the punter, and Rivera and Fitzgerald handle return duties. The Bulldogs will look to build some depth with so many two-way players in the lineup.

“We have a lot of experience with a lot of guys that have played at this level, and we had the playoff run so that should definitely help us down the road,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “We are focused on Dighton-Rehoboth, focusing on one game at a time. We have a lot of competitors that don’t quit.”

Foxboro

2018 Record: 5-6
2018 Finish: Reached D5 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Jack Martinelli

Key/Returning Players: Anton George, Sr., DL; Mike Sheehan, Sr., LB; Brian Derba, Sr., WR/DB; Shayne Kerrigan, Sr., DB; Michael Devlin, Sr., DB; Zach Jenkins, Sr., OG; Aidan Dow, Sr., OG; Austin Read, Sr., DT; Elijah Lewis, Sr., SE; Ryan Hughes, Sr., SE;

Outlook:
Foxboro’s biggest win of the season came in its final game, a thrilling overtime win over rival Mansfield at Fenway Park two days before Thanksgiving. If the Warriors are able to carry any of that momentum into the 2019 season, Foxboro will certainly be in the mix for the Davenport division title.

The Warriors return a good amount of talent from last year but will need to find a replacement for Liam Foley, who came on strong at the end of last season. Senior Shayne Kerrigan and junior Cam Prescott have both taken reps this preseason so longtime coach Jack Martinelli and his staff will have two good options to work with under center. Last year’s leading rusher Mike Luong also graduated so there will be an opportunity for someone to take on carries out of the backfield. The Warriors have good skill options in Brian Derba (three touchdown catches last year) and split ends Elijah Lewis and Ryan Hughes. Foxboro has some experience on the line as well as Zach Jenkins and Aidan Dow are both returning starters at the guard position.

Foxboro’s defense has returning players at all three levels so the Warriors will likely rely on that side of the ball, especially early on against two strong non-league foes. Anton George, a HockomockSports Hock 5 selection for defensive line, is back and will be a force to deal with for opponents. Austin Read will be key in Foxboro’s run defense from the defensive tackle spot. Mike Sheehan returns to anchor the linebackers group after a standout junior season. The secondary should be one of the top units in the league with a lot of experienced playmakers. Derba and Kerrigan made a lot of plays defensively last year and Michael Devlin could be poised for a big year for the Warriors.

“With a challenging scrimmage schedule and formidable non-league opponents, we should be prepared for the Hock grind,” Martinelli said “We have several key components returning to make this possible, but it’s one game at a time.”

Milford

2018 Record: 6-5
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Anthony Vizakis

Key/Returning Players: Colby Pires, Sr., QB; Luke Rosa, Sr., RB/LB; CJ Cerrella, Sr., RB/LB; Nick Yohn, Jr., OL/DL; Dom Schofield, Jr., OL/DL; Mario Lee, Jr., OL/DL; Carter Scudo, Jr., WB/DB; Dom Stallbaum, Jr., OL/DL; Max Martin, Jr., WR/CB; Matt Varteresian, Jr., WR/DB; Herrick Louis, Jr., WR/LB; Kevin O’Connor, Jr., WR/LB; Xavier Hilton, Sr., WR/DB;

Outlook:
Milford just missed out on the playoffs last season but the 2019 Scarlet Hawks are determined to get back to postseason play.

There is a lot of experience on both sides of the ball, and maybe most importantly, at key positions both offensively and defensively. The Hawks have Colby Pires back at quarterback after a big junior season that saw him toss 22 touchdowns, second most in the Hockomock League. But the challenge will be developing chemistry with a brand new set of receivers. Brendan White (12), Sean Lehane (5), and Shapel Feaster (5) all graduated so Milford is looking for new names to step up and make plays offensively. Junior Carter Scudo is a terrific athlete and will be one of the top options while Max Martin, Matt Varteresian, Herrick Louis, Kevin O’Connor, and Xavier Hilton are all battling to get reps on the field. Milford does bring back its leading rusher in Luke Rosa (seven rushing touchdowns), a very powerful back that will help the Hawks pound the ball. Juniors Nick Yohn, Dom Schofield, Mario Lee, and Dom Stallbaum provide a physical yet athletic offensive line.

The linebackers will be the heart of the Hawks’ defense this season. CJ Cerrella had a breakout junior year and will be on the top linebackers in the Hockomock League this season. He will be joined by Rosa, Louis, and O’Connor. A lot of the offensive line will see action on the defensive side of the ball as well while Scudo returns as a top defensive back at the safety position. Look for Martin, Varteresian, and Hilton to factor into the secondary as well for Milford this season.

“We have a very focused, determined, and excited team this season,” said head coach Anthony Vizakis. “They are a hard working group of guys with their eyes on one goal, one mission, and they are determined to do it together.”




North Attleboro

2018 Record: 8-3 (Davenport Division Champions)
2018 Finish: Reached D3 South Semifinals
Coach: Don Johnson

Key/Returning Players: Ethan Friberg, Sr., TE/DE; John Kummer, Sr., OL/DL; Tom O’Neill, Sr., RB/LB; Ethan Mottinger, Sr., OL/DL; Matt Penta, Jr., QB/DB; Trevor Hewett, Sr., OL/DL; Montrel Jackson, Sr., OL/DL; Russell Dunlap, Sr., SE/DB; Owen Harding, Sr., TE/LB; Duane Bryant, Sr., RB/LB; Tyler DeMattio, So., QB/K;

Outlook:
The Rocketeers have won four straight league titles, the last three in the Davenport division, and will be looking to make it five straight this year.

If North Attleboro does make it five straight, they will need some new players to step up into new roles to do so. The Big Red graduated a lot of talent in almost every position but the Rocketeers are a program that doesn’t rebuild, they reload. The strength of the offensive will start with the offensive line as there are three returning starters. Ethan Mottinger (6’6, 294), who committed to UMass over the offseason, and John Kummer (5’11, 256) man the tackle positions while Ethan Friberg (6’5, 252) adds additional protection from the tight end position. Senior Casey Poirier, junior Matt Penta, and sophomore Tyler DeMattio are locked in a healthy battle at quarterback with each bringing a unique skill set to the offense. North lost almost all of its skill position players but there are a variety of versatile junior backs battling for time. Friberg, Russell Dunlap, and Robbie Donovan will be options in the passing game.

The strong suit of the Rocketeers’ defense will be in the front seven with several returning lineman and senior captain Tom O’Neill anchoring the linebackers. Friberg will be on one end while Montrel Jackson will see time at the other defensive end position. Kummer is joined by Trevor Hewett at defensive tackle to give North a strong, experienced defensive line. Owen Harding and Jacob Silva are in the mix to join O’Neill at linebacker while North will look for some new names to step up in its secondary alongside Jared and Matt Penta. DeMattio returns as the kicker after a standout freshmen campaign (32-for-35 PAT, 3-for-4 field goals).

“We will need to find a way to stay healthy and quickly develop some depth,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “With the inexperience in the skill positions, we expect there to be some early growing pains, but we are hopeful that the great attitude and work ethic that has been displayed in the preseason will help us overcome the lack of experience.”

Sharon

2018 Record: 3-8
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Dave Morse

Key/Returning Players: Jaden Williams Thomas, Sr., OL/DL; Alec Filipkowski, Sr., WR/DB; John Saab, Sr., RB/LB; Nico Marrero, Jr., RB/LB; Ike Ogbonnanze, Jr., TE/LB; Kiran Chandrasekaran, Jr., QB; Owen Conway, Jr., WR/DB; Shea Letendre, Jr., OL/DL;

Outlook:
Sharon might not have as many players as some of the other programs in the league and might not match up in terms of size, but the Eagles have plenty of fight and are looking to showcase that this year.

The Eagles are going to look to capitalize on their team speed this year. Junior Nic Morrero was strong on both sides of the ball last season and will likely feature in the backfield this season for the Eagles. John Saab is another returning play that should pick up carries for the Eagles this year. Junior Kiran Chadrasekaran looks set to take over under center for the Eagles and will have a couple of experienced players to work with in senior receiver Alec Filipkowski and junior tight end Ike Ogbonnanze while junior receiver Owen Conway will likely see an expanded role this season.

Senior Jaden Williams-Thomas returns to anchor both the offensive and defensive lines and will be joined by junior Shea Letendre. Williams-Thomas will handle defensive tackle duties and should be a big part of the Eagles’ defense this year. Marrero anchors the linebackers alongside Saab and Ogbonnanze while Filipkowski and Conway will see time in the secondary.

“We have a great group of relentless players that have the right attitude and understand that they have a ton to prove,” said Sharon head coach Dave Morse.

Stoughton

2018 Record: 4-7
2015 Finish: Reached D3 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Greg Burke

Key/Returning Players: Anthony Pizzano, Sr., TE/DB; Clayton Rahaman, Sr., QB/DB; David Peters, Sr., WR/DB; Oluwole Fabikun, Sr., OL/DL; Jaden McCall, Sr., OL/DL; Carlvin LaGuerre, Sr., OL/DL; Jerry Brisson, Sr., OL/DL; Kevlen Rodrigues, Sr., OL/DL; Christopher Ais, Jr., RB/LB; Christian Ais, Jr., RB/LB; Christian Georges, Jr., HB/LB; John Burke, Jr., QB/DB;

Outlook:
Stoughton didn’t have the season it wanted in terms of record, but the Black Knights were competitive in just about every game last year and are hoping to get back in the hunt for the Davenport crown this year.

Despite finishing 4-7, Stoughton beat both Davenport champions in North Attleboro (21-10) and Canton (28-7 on Thanksgiving) during the year. If the Black Knights are able to string together those type of performances throughout the year, they will definitely be competing for their first division crown since 2015. Offensively, Stoughton has a good battle at quarterback with junior John Burke and senior Clayton Rahaman. Both saw time last year so head coach Greg Burke has two experienced options to start under center. The offensive line should be a strength for Stoughton with a good group of seniors that includes Oluwole Fabikun, Jaden McCall, Carlvin LaGuerre, and Jerry Brisson. Having a strong and experienced line will set things up nicely for the Black Knights strong run game, which will feature Savion Scott, Christopher Ais, and Christian Ais. Tight end Anthony Pizzano, junior Jake Queeney, and track star David Peters will provide options in the pass game.

Stoughton is often known for its defense and will be looking for that to continue during the 2019 season. Kelven Rodrigues will be a big part of the defensive line for the Black Knights, joined by Brisson, LaGuerre, and Fabikun. Georges had a very strong season on the end last season but will mostly line up as a linebacker this year, alongside Scott and Christopher Ais. Stoughton will have a hard hitting secondary once again this season with Burke, Pizzano, Christian Ais and Kamari Grant all likely to see time.

“We hope to stay healthy and be competitive in the league, all of our athletes improved their strength and conditioning,” Burke said. “We have many juniors also playing and will be a big part of the team. We will need help from all players and try to improve depth.”

Perfect Night for Erti, North Clinches Title at Canton

North Attleboro softball
North Attleboro junior pitcher Bella Erti was perfect over five innings, as the Rocketeers clicnhed at least a share of their first title since 1990. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


CANTON, Mass. – With an opportunity to make history for the program, North Attleboro put together a near perfect performance on Friday night under the lights at Walsh Field. The Rocketeers shut down division rival Canton, with junior pitcher Bella Erti throwing a five-inning perfect game, and the bats came alive, pounding out 17 hits and 13 runs.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

It all came together for Big Red, which rolled to a 13-0 victory and secured at least a share of the program’s first league title since 1990. On top of that, it was also the 250th win of head coach Bill Wallace’s 20-year career (18 at North and two at Walpole).

After the game, the team presented Wallace with a ball signed by all the players and they gathered in the outfield and at home plate with a sign that had 1990 crossed out on one half and 2019 written on the other.

“We had a team meeting before the bus and we said, this is it,” Wallace explained after the game. “This is the homestretch and we need to get our focus and start winning every pitch. Not win every inning, every game, it’s got to be every pitch and the kids were really dialed in today.”

Canton freshman pitcher Sophia Santos threw a perfect top of the first, but the Rocketeers got to the Bulldogs starter in the second. Annabelle Hebard (4-for-4) led off with a double to left center and Katie Daby (3-for-3) followed with a single. Emily Nardelli walked to load the bases and then Alex Moulson lined a two-run single to left.

After a sac bunt moved two runners into scoring position and a walk to No. 9 hitter Mandi Hanewich (2-for-2), Olivia Capobianco drilled a base hit to center, aggressively taking second just ahead of the throw, to plate two more. A sac fly from Abby Gallagher made it 5-0, but the inning ended with Canton centerfielder Liz Bickett throwing out Capobianco as she tried to advance to third.

Erti started the game strongly, striking out two in each of the first two innings. In the third, North tacked on three more. Ashley Cangiano (2-for-3) singled and took second on a wild pitch before scoring on a hit by Hebard. After Caroline Hughes took over in the circle for the Bulldogs, Daby drilled a triple over the head of the right fielder. Daby scored on a groundout by Nardelli.

The Bulldogs continued to struggle at the plate, but started making contact against Erti, striking out only once after the second inning. North’s infield defense made no mistakes to keep Canton off the base paths.

“They played so clean and I look at all nine positions they play the game the right way,” said first-year Canton coach Dave Bohane.

He added, “Against some girls you can try to be patient because they might have a wild streak to them but with Bella Erti, she’s in control out there. But, our kids went up there not overwhelmed. We can play better than that but again no shame in losing to them.”

North sealed the win in the fourth with five more runs. Hebard drove in her second run of the night, Moulson brought in her third run with a hard grounder off the third baseman and Hanewich cleared the bases with a double pulled straight down the line and right over the first base bag.

“I thought Hughes came in and did well,” Bohane said. “She’s a veteran and battled. I know it’s a lot of runs, but they’re a good hitting team. The bottom of the order has gotten us in both games too.”

In the bottom of the fifth, the Rocketeers clearly wanted to finish off the perfect game for Erti. She induced grounders from SSteph Trendell, Jackie Morrissey, and Hughes. The last one went to first baseman Alivia Byrne, who took it to the bag herself and set off the team’s celebration.

“They’re so happy,” said Wallace about the team pulling for Erti to get the perfect game. “That means a lot to me. At the end of the day, that is what’s important and they really pull for each other.”

When asked about what it meant for the program to get over the hump (North had a stretch of three straight seasons that it finished one game out of first place) and claim an elusive league title, Wallace pointed out that his team has made the playoffs 11 out of the last 12 years, reached two South semifinals, and one South final.

As he explained, North’s 29-year wait for a league crown was more a product of the level of competition that the Rocketeers faced within the league.

“Part of it was that we were in the Kelley-Rex division with Taunton and King Philip,” Wallace said. “And then there was Milford, which lost like three games in two seasons. It shows how strong the league is. Since 2008, we’ve missed the tournament just once and yet this is our first league title.”

North Attleboro (12-3, 10-2) can clinch the outright Davenport division crown on Monday with a win at Foxboro. Canton (6-10, 5-9) will host Milford on Tuesday and needs a win against Dedham on May 23 to secure a playoff spot thanks to the Sullivan rule.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

2019 Hockomock League Softball Preview

2019 Hockomock League Softball Preview
Taunton won the D1 state title last spring and comes back as one of the favorites for a league title as another competitive Hockomock softball season kicks off. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Hockomock Softball Preview

Attleboro

2018 Record: 9-12
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Mark Homer

After back-to-back playoff appearances, the expectations are high around the Attleboro program this spring. The Bombardiers return eight of nine starters from last year’s team and the lineup should be loaded with good hitters, as well as multiple players who can step into the circle and produce a good start. With the depth on the roster this season, Attleboro will be eyeing another postseason berth.

Senior McKenzie Bergdoll is one of the top power hitters in the league and will be back for another spring in the heart of the Attleboro lineup. She will be joined by classmates Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti as starters. Junior Makenzie Killough will be back at shortstop and also batting cleanup and providing protection for Bergdoll in the order. Sophomore Lora Woyton returns behind the plate, sophomore Autumn O’Connell will be in center and batting second and junior Ashley Macia will be out in left. Sophomore Brenna Morse will be taking over in rightfield. In the circle, Attleboro has plenty of depth with juniors Emily and Jenna Gittle and Bergdoll all able to step in. The Bombardiers will try to take advantage of their overall team speed and head coach Mark Homer said there are a few freshmen who may see playing time right away.

“The bar was set high from last season,” said Homer. “So the girls are onboard to perform well again this season with high hopes of competing in every game they play. They have set some goals to achieve one a\t a time. I am cautiously optimistic with our chances of winning more games this season than we have in the past. Knowing that there are no easy games on our schedule so we have to come to play every night.”

Canton

2018 Record: 8-13
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Dave Bohane

Canton had quite the turnaround in 2018 under second-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, winning eight games, seven more than in 2017, and making a return to the state tournament. Robillard, last season’s HockomockSports.com Coach of the Year, has moved on to a position at Bentley and football coach Dave Bohane has taken over a team that has seen an influx of young talent and has momentum on its side heading into the spring.

Junior pitcher Caroline Hughes is one of the reasons for optimism in the program, as she is looking to build off a strong sophomore season in which she pitched almost every inning. Hughes was also one of the team’s top hitters and she will be at the heart of the lineup along with sophomore outfielder Liz Bickett, who batted .409 last season. Bickett is just one of several sophomores who the Bulldogs will be counting on, including infielders Olivia Lanci and Sarah Kelly, catchers Steph Trendell and Amanda Vrabel. Junior catcher Jackie Howard and seniors Haley Donovan and Ally Chin will provide leadership for this young group to try and get the Bulldogs right back into the state tournament mix.

“I am very excited to be coaching this team,” said Bohane, who has previously served the program as an assistant coach. “They are extremely hard working and devoted to the program. I think they will set the standard for our future players who come through the program. It’s a very tough league, but we will take it one game at a time and try to improve each game”.

Foxboro

2018 Record: 11-12
2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mark Maguire

Foxboro made a run in the Div. 2 tournament last season, winning a pair of games before being knocked out in the quarterfinals, and the Warriors will hope to build on that exciting finish to 2018 by making a run at the Davenport crown this spring. Even with the loss of catcher Hannah Davis, who was instrumental in the team’s playoff run, Foxboro has a strong returning core and some talented young players stepping in to give head coach Mark Maguire confidence ahead of the new season.

Senior Emma Rohan will be back in the circle for her fourth year as the Foxboro starter and she has the experience of pitching in a number of big games and against the top teams in the league. Senior Cam Willis will play first this season, but can also step in and pitch if needed along with junior Amelia Stowell. The pitchers will have a rookie to throw to, as freshman Allie Willis will be stepping in behind the plate. Sophomore Morgan Sylvestre returns at shortstop after a strong first season on varsity and will be one of the leaders of the infield. Senior Chelsea Gibbons is at third base and freshman Peyton Feldman takes over at second. Sophomore Nicole Theriault will be in centerfield but can play a number of positions, senior Riley Martignetti gives the team pop from the right side of the plate, and senior Jill Finn can play all three outfield positions.

“Preseason is going great as the girls are working very hard to be ready for the season,” said Maguire. “We have a group of girls who work hard. I think team defense should be good with our senior leadership, and the younger players who aggressively look to make plays in the field. I have high expectations for this team, as we look to compete for a Davenport title and gain a state tournament berth.”

Franklin

2018 Record: 9-11
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Kate Fallon

Franklin has consistently been right behind perennial league leaders Taunton and King Philip in the Kelley-Rex division standings but has narrowly missed out on the playoffs by a single win in each of the past two seasons. This year, the Panthers have eight seniors coming back with the goal of getting the team back into the postseason and use a typically tough schedule to prep for a tournament run.

Pitching will be a strength for the Panthers this year with seniors Jackie Cherry and Emily Valentino giving the team depth and different options in the circle. Throwing strikes will be the key for both and limiting opposition base runners. Behind the plate, Franklin has plenty of experience as well with seniors Ally Shea and Maggie Hobby both capable of stepping in and handling the pitchers as well as providing power at the plate. Senior Tara Hartnett will be back at shortstop and provides strong defense up the middle. Junior Anna Balkus will be in centerfield and will set the table for the offense as the lead-off hitter. Junior Maddy White will be at third base and joins Shea and senior Kylie-Jade Bouzan as the team’s primary run producers.

“We are excited to see the Panther players on the field again,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon-Comeau. “Overall our tough league and non-league schedule will keep us focused for tournament and we will rely on our solid pitching and defense.”

King Philip

2018 Record: 21-4
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Norm Beauchemin

Every season King Philip loses important players and every season the Warriors seem to be right back in the mix for the league title. This spring should be no different. KP will have several important players to replace in the lineup, but it expects to challenge for a 12th title in the past 13 seasons and also make another tournament run, following last year’s South final loss to Kelley-Rex rival Taunton.

Meghan Gorman is the player to watch for the Warriors this season, as the senior shortstop is one of the top defensive players in the state and also the spark plug at the top of the lineup. Senior Faith Turinese will move from the outfield into the circle and will split time with classmate Heather Nix as the top pitchers for the Warriors. Turinese also batted over .400 last year and will be an important bat in the middle of the order. Junior Destiny Goyco will step in behind the plate, after overcoming an injury from basketball season, and fellow junior Liliana Rolfe will take over at third. Grace Kelley will be at second base and Anna Bradley will be at first. The outfield will be filled with speed, including Kara McWhinnie in left, sophomore Paige Berdos in center, and either Ryan Stagg or junior Reaegan Simeone in right.

“One to nine, everyone hits the ball,” said KP coach Norm Beauchemin. “I’m looking forward to another solid season. The league overall is going to be very competitive, so it should be fun.”

Mansfield

2018 Record: 7-13
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lori Letendre

Mansfield is looking to bounce back from a tough 2018 season in which the Hornets struggled in the Hockomock (going 4-12 in league play) and missed the playoffs. This year, Mansfield hopes for a quick turnaround and return to the state tournament with an experienced roster that brings back 11 players, seven starters, and seven seniors from last season.

The battery of senior pitcher Sarah Cahill and senior catcher Caty DeMassi is back and should give the Hornets a good foundation on which to build on this season. Seniors Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo will hold down the left side of the infield and provide pop in the middle of the lineup, while Mady Bendanillo returns in centerfield to give Mansfield a dynamic defensive player and another strong bat. There is an influx of youth as well with two sophomores and a freshman jumping into varsity and having the chance to contribute right away.

“Our goal is to make it back to the tournament this year and with strong leadership from our captains and our seniors, I think we will have a good shot at it!” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre.

Milford

2018 Record: 18-3
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Steve DiVitto

The biggest question for Milford is how do the Hawks move on from a group of 10 seniors that won a combined 79 games, four league titles, and the 2017 state championship? Milford has been the team to beat in the Davenport division for six years and a relatively inexperienced group will have to face a season in which the target for every team in the league is squarely on their backs.

Junior Megan Hart is one of the primary options to replace Kelley Reichert in the circle to start the season, with freshman Olivia Morelli showing potential to step in and contribute innings right away. Senior Lucy Creedon can step in at first or in the outfield. Junior April Swain will jump into the outfield along with classmate Taylor Waldrup, while junior Amanda Wenckus can play either position on the left side of the infield and sophomore Carly Ferreira can play either corner infield spot. Sophomore Elise Fauerbach can play behind the plate or in the outfield, while her classmate Natalie Casilli will take an outfield spot. There are a lot of spots to fill this year, but head coach Steve DiVitto is talking about that as an opportunity for a new group of players to step into.

“We understand that lack of experience is something that we will need to combat with, however the bar will continue to be set high!” DiVitto said. “Each year a new page is turned over, and as always the focus is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season. We’re excited for the challenges of playing in the best league in the state!”

North Attleboro

2018 Record: 16-5
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Bill Wallace

Two seasons ago, North Attleboro was a young team that made a surprise trip to the South semifinal, but this year the Rocketeers will have much higher expectations. North is now the experienced team in the Davenport division and has aspirations of unseating Milford and winning a first league title since 1990 and adding to the league’s recent history of strong tournament performances with another deep run.

Junior pitcher Bella Erti will be one of the league’s top pitchers again this season, after a 15-5 sophomore season in which she struck out 137 batters. She also hit .357. Junior Ashley Cangiano is also back for her third year as a starter and is one of the top catchers in the league. Abby Gallagher returns to the North outfield after hitting .500 last season as a sophomore and senior Olivia Capobianco will be back in centerfield and the middle of the North lineup. Freshman Mandi Hanewich and sophomores Emma Bailey and Belle Clarkin will compete for the third outfield spot after impressive preseasons. Senior Katie Daby is at first, while sophomore Emily Nardelli moves from shortstop to second base. Junior Alex Moulson takes over at short and her classmate Annabelle Hebard will be at third. Emily Bedard and Makenzie Nardelli add to North’s infield depth and Alivia Byrne will give Erti a rest in the circle and is another big bat in the lineup.

“We will need to be more multi-dimensional, as late in the year we couldn’t sustain our offensive start to the season,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “This group really wants to make their mark on the league and they know how much work that is going to take.”

Oliver Ames

2018 Record: 3-17
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lindsey Allison

Last season was a struggle for the Tigers, with only three wins and head coach Lindsey Allison is hoping that a group of younger players can add to the returning core and make a push to get Oliver Ames back into the state tournament. Allison is confident that the offense will get into the swing of things for the Tigers after scoring only 66 runs last season, second-lowest in the league.

Senior Kayla Georgeu will be back in the circle for OA and in the heart of the lineup. The Tigers will count on sophomore Emma Varella to provide some innings at pitcher, as well as playing in the infield. Senior first baseman Katie Mills is a big bat for the Tigers and junior Katie Abreu can step in at either shortstop or centerfield depending on the game to provide vocal leadership. Sophomore Grace Simone will be behind the plate this season.

“Every spot is open for the taking and there are many young players who are hungry to be on the field,” said Allison. “This group of players seem like a team – not just a group of individuals. They compete with one another for positions, but also support each other. They hold each other accountable and communicate. I am excited to see what hard work can accomplish this season.”

Sharon

2018 Record: 0-20
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Heather Poliferno

It was definitely a rough debut season for Sharon coach Heather Poliferno, but it was also a chance for a number of young players to get experience at the varsity level. This spring, there is renewed enthusiasm with a crop of underclassmen joining the experienced players to give Poliferno and the Eagles confidence for a much better spring.

Freshman Trinity Payne is the player to watch for the Eagles this season as she takes over as the starting pitcher and has already drawn the attention of coaches in the Davenport division. She will be used at a couple of different positions and gives the Eagles versatility in the lineup. Senior Alli Small will be back at shortstop this season, while classmate Jody Goldenberg is back at first, and senior Rebecca Clayman will be the leader of the outfield group. As the program is growing, Sharon is hoping for much different results this season.

“We are very excited for this season!” said Poliferno. “We have many returning players leading our varsity team, as well as the addition of a very talented freshman class. Though we have only had a handful of practices, one of our clear strengths is our desire to be the best on the field.”

Stoughton

2018 Record: 7-13
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Deb Parker

Stoughton struggled to find a groove in 2018 and ended up missing the playoffs under first-year head coach Deb Parker, who had made the switch from Sharon before last season. This year, the Black Knights bring back starters in key positions and once again have the potential to make a run at a state tournament berth and even challenge for the Davenport title.

Seniors Nikki Coppola (second base) and Jordan Lyons (shortstop) give Stoughton a strong combination up the middle and senior Karly Estremera brings plenty of experience at third base. Sophomore pitcher Nicole Baker will take over full-time in the circle this season and Parker is impressed by the work that she put in during the off-season to get ready. Baker will be throwing to an experienced catcher, as senior Brianna Ferrandiz is back behind the plate for the Black Knights. Junior Lexi Baptista will lead the outfield crew in center and could also be one of Stoughton’s top hitters this season. Freshmen Melody Casna and Sydney Menz will give the Black Knights versatility by playing multiple positions.

“This team has come together so quickly, it is a real tribute to the leadership of our captains,” said Parker. “This team knows what they are playing for this year and we have high expectations going into the season. Softball in the Hockomock League is incredibly competitive but if we continue to work hard, we should have a great season.”

Taunton

2018 Record: 26-2
2018 Finish: Won D1 State Championship
Coach: Dave Lewry

How do you follow up a state championship? For Taunton, it just may be to make a run at a repeat. The Tigers lost the second, third, and fourth hitters in the lineup (including league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Kya Enos), who combined for 88 RBI, but there is a ton of talent coming back from last season, all of whom contributed at one point or another during Taunton’s run to the title.

It starts in the circle where sophomore Kelsey White will be the starter again this season after going 16-2 as a freshman and pitching every inning during the playoff run (not to mention batting .418). Her sister Alexa will also see time at pitcher, along with freshman Olyvia Mendonca, but will also play most of the season in centerfield. The infield will be a strength for the Tigers, with all four players back. Senior Jaime Brown (batted .469) is back for her fifth year at third base and is one of the top hitters in the league, sophomore Hanna Aldrich (.385 average with four homers and 30 RBI) is in her third year at shortstop and was this site’s Underclassman of the Year in 2018, sophomore McKenzie McAloon returns at second base for her third season, and junior Paige Silvia is back at first. Silvia and junior Riley Murphy are also in the running to replace Enos behind the plate, while junior Abbie McDonough takes over in left and eighth-grader Ava Venturelli could start the season in right.

“While we lost three outstanding players to graduation, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “We have a good nucleus of returning players looking to defend our D1 state championship.”

2018 HockomockSports Football Awards

Bulldogs Blanked By Scituate In D5 South Final

Canton football
Canton’s Kyle Fitzgerald carries the ball early in the second half against Scituate. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
SCITUATE, Mass. – A lot of the focus leading into Friday night’s Division 5 South Final between Scituate and Canton revolved around the Sailors’ high-power offense.

But the story of the night ended up being Scituate’s defense.

The Sailors pitched a shutout, limiting Canton’s offense to just over 100 yards and six first downs, to earn a 21-0 decision and the D5 South title, the first in program history.

“Our guys were prepared, motivated, and fired up to play defense tonight,” said Scituate head coach Herb Devine. “We did a great job all night long playing defense. We tried to take away what they wanted to go. We knew [Johnny Hagan] and [Kyle] Fitzgerald are just great players so we tried to limit what they do. Our defense played outstanding.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Scituate came into the game averaging over 40 points in its two playoff games, putting up an impressive 57 points in a semifinal win over Holliston. While Scituate’s defense gave up a total of 61 points in its first two playoff games, its defense allowed a total of 69 points all of regular season (including 35 to Duxbury).

“They gave us a lot of trouble,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “We have so many playmakers…maybe we leaned on them too much and got away from the fundamentals. We just didn’t execute at a high level. I tip my hat to Scituate, they had a good plan, their kids played good, and they are a good team.”

The Sailors flexed their offensive muscles early on, taking the first drive of the game down the field for a score. It turned out to be Scituate’s second longest drive of the game as they moved 77 yards on eight plays to take an early lead.

Facing a third down early in the drive, Scituate quarterback Aidan Sullivan (10/15, 219 yards) completed a 10-yard pass for a first down. The Sailors didn’t face a third down the rest of the drive and Will Sheskey (24 carries, 135 yards) punched it in from 5 yards out for a 7-0 lead just over three minutes into the game.

The next three series – two from Canton – resulted in punts, but the Bulldogs nearly had a chance to change the game. After punting, Scituate tried to field the kick on the bounce but a nice play from the Bulldogs knocked the ball free. Canton had two shots at it – one player diving on top but the ball jumping free, and other a chance right before the sideline – but neither player could get a hold of the ball in the pouring rain and it went out of bounds, keeping possession with Scituate.

The Sailors made to take advantage of the lucky bounce and needed just three plays to find the end zone. On second on 5, Canton brought a lot of pressure but Scituate had the perfect play call on as Sullivan dumped a screen pass off to Sheskey and he went virtually untouched for a 63 yard touchdown, giving Scituate a 14-0 lead with 9:35 left in the second quarter.

“We knew they like to blitz in some situations and our quarterback absolutely made a great read.” Devine said. “It can be either a little hitch route or a screen and he made the right read and Sheskey went for the touchdown.”

Canton responded with its best drive of the opening half. A unsportsmanlike conduct penalty helped move the ball 15 yards, and Johnny Hagan (86 all purpose yards) hit Gersom Rivera for an 18-yard gain to the Scituate 34-yard line. The Dogs had a chance to complete a pass down field but the receiver was held, giving Canton first and 10 at the 22-yard line.

But a false start, a two-yard rush, and a run for no-gain put the Dogs in a 3rd and 13 situation at the 25-yard line. Hagan tried to make a play but was intercepted at the goal line.

Scituate nearly tacked on another score before half, driving all the way down to Canton’s 23-yard line but Ben Seaman came up with a big sack on third down and Canton forced an incompletion on fourth, keeping the deficit at 14-0 heading into half.

A holding call on the first play of the second half put Canton’s offense in a whole and it was forced to punt quickly thereafter.

Canton’s defense continued its strong play on Scituate’s ensuing drive. The Sailors got inside the red zone, all the way down to Canton’s 8-yard line. But Seaman came up with a big sack on third down and David Allen broke up a pass on fourth down to keep the Sailors out of the end zone and the lead at 14-0.

The Bulldogs offense moved the ball forward on seven straight plays, but faces a 4th and 3 at their own 40. With little time left in the third quarter and a two-score deficit, Canton went for it but Hagan’s pass was picked off just over midfield.

Scituate killed a lot of the remaining time with its next drive, needing nine plays to cover 47 yards. It was’t until a 1-yard sneak from Sullivan on fourth down that Scituate added its third touchdown of the game to go up 21-0 with 8:46 to go.

“The defense gave us a chance,” Bohane said. “Ultimately we didn’t do enough offensively. We just never got that rhythm that we need so badly. We didn’t find it today. The defense kept plugging away even though they gave up an early score which has been a little bit of an Achilles heel. We needed to make plays offensively and we didn’t but they didn’t make it easy for us.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We just didn’t find any consistency, we never got comfortable in our offense. We didn’t find a play or two that we can hang our hat on but credit to Scituate, they didn’t give us an inch on offense.”

Canton football drops to 8-2 with one game left on Thanksgiving against rival Stoughton. While the future for the Bulldogs looks bright with the majority of its lineup made out of juniors, Bohane stressed how important this senior class has been to this season.

“Scituate played in this game last year, it shows.” Bohane said. “But I can’t get beyond the fact our seniors really poured their heart and souls into this season, into the playoffs, everything. Right now I really feel for this guys. It’s a learning experience for sure but it’s so difficult for the seniors.”