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.”
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.
“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.”
CANTON, Mass. – At the final whistle, there wasn’t the type of celebration you would expect from a team that just played its first playoff game in decades, not to mention its first ever playoff game in front of its home fans. There was a quiet, subdued feeling as the Canton players surrounded their coaches to talk about a 27-13 win against no. 5 seed Hanover on Friday night at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.
“I think it was a learning experience,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “They are very excited about next week and believe me they are very happy but what you’re seeing there is more relief that the penalties and turnovers didn’t cost them.”
Junior running back Kyle Fitzgerald remarked, “Obviously, it was awesome. We came out here looking to win and we were confident. We had to overcome adversity, we had a whole lot of penalties and stuff, but we got it done. It feels good.”
While penalties slowed the game down, and cut short a couple of potential scoring drives for the hosts, Canton showed its resiliency in the second half. Hanover, which had struggled to sustain anything on offense, twice scored on big plays to cut the lead down to just a touchdown, but both times the Bulldogs answered with long possessions to extend the lead.
“It’s been the same thing all year, since the first game against D-R (Dighton-Rehoboth) when we were down at halftime, we came back,” Fitzgerald explained. “I know my team will come back after any adversity.”
Canton doesn’t have a lot of experience with the football playoffs, but the Bulldogs came out flying in the first quarter to jump in front by a couple scores.
After stuffing the Indians on the opening kickoff, the Canton defense forced a three-and-out and took over at its own 48. The offense went right to work with junior quarterback Johnny Hagan showing off his ability to make plays with his feet (15 carries, 87 yards) and his arm (7-of-17, 80 yards). He hit Gersom Rivera for a 23-yard completion on third down to get inside the five and then two plays later Brendan Albert punched it in from two yards out.
The Bulldogs were trying to send a message and they forced another three-and-out from the Hanover offense. On fourth down, punter Jack Delahunt rolled out to the far sideline and tried to make it to the sticks only to be cut down a yard short. Canton got the ball at the Indians 24.
Bohane said, “They wanted a finesse game and we wanted a power game and I thought we needed at the very beginning of the game we needed play on our terms. I thought for the most part we did, maybe to the point that we were a little over-aggressive and dealt with a lot of penalties.”
Hagan got 16 yards on second and 17 and then Rivera gained nine over a pair of carries. Fitzgerald (19 carries, 143 yards) took it from there, finding a seam from five yards out for a 14-0 lead at the end of the first 11 minutes.
“It kind of got the jitters out of our stomachs and gave us some breathing room,” said Fitzgerald about the quick start. “Obviously, they came back so if we didn’t have that lead early on then it could’ve been a different game.”
The game really could have been over by halftime. The defense continued to put pressure on Hanover quarterback Andrew Carroll, including a big pass rush from junior Jack Connolly and then a sack from Albert to get the ball back.
Canton marched right back into Hanover territory, with Hagan converting a fourth down play with a four-yard keeper. Fitzgerald then had the highlight of the night on a sweep to the left for 32 yards in which he hurdled a Hanover defensive back before being brought down at the Indians six. On the next play, the Bulldogs fumbled a handoff and lost possession.
After another defensive stand, the Bulldogs offense went on the move again. Fitzgerald had another big gain, this time for 35 yards, and Canton got as far as the Hanover 15 but then a holding call and a sack forced them back. A last-second pass to Rivera was tipped away and it was 14-0 at the break.
“I was very concerned that we didn’t put it away in the first half,” Bohane admitted. “We don’t commit a lot of turnovers but that was a turnover at the wrong time and it gave them a chance and we were fighting for the game into the fourth quarter.”
On its first possession of the second half, Hanover stunned the Canton crowd (and sideline) by finally finding a big play on offense. Despite Albert getting into the backfield and hitting Carroll as he threw, the Indians signal caller was able to get the ball downfield to Drew Berard, who beat his coverage for a 60-yard score.
The Bulldogs answered with a 17-play, 70-yard drive to regain the two-score advantage and eat up the final 8:44 of the third quarter. Hagan found Ryan Lentol on an eight-yard completion to convert a big third down and then Fitzgerald on a comeback route for nine yards on a fourth and eight. On third down, Hagan then connected with Jace Emma for a 13-yard score and a 20-7 lead.
“There were times that we didn’t move the chains when we needed it, like North Attleboro in the third quarter when we needed a big drive,” Bohane said, “So here we are a week later and we needed it and we got it. We had to make some adjustments but it was enough to win.”
Hanover came right back with a even more shocking play. On fourth and one, the Bulldogs had Evan Ritchie caught in the backfield, but he slipped out of the grasp of a would-be tackler and bolted up the Hanover sideline for a 66-yard score.
Rather than getting down, Canton just went back to work on offense, grinding out a 12-play, 72-yard, six-minute drive that sealed the win. Hagan gained 29 yards on a pair of keepers and had an 18-yard pass to Fitzgerald to get to the Hanover 20. After Fitzgerald got the Bulldogs got the ball to the two, Hagan was denied on a pair of sneaks, so the Bulldogs went back to Fitzgerald for the one-yard score to seal the win with three minutes to play.
Next Friday, Canton (7-1) will travel to Falmouth to face the top seeded Clippers. Fitzgerald was already looking forward to the trip. He said, “Foxboro almost did it tonight. (The Warriors lost 22-14 to Falmouth.) We know we can play with these guys. We were four points away from a potential one-seed, so we’re confident.”
In the final regular season game, with their backs against the wall and a chance to share the Davenport division on the line, the defense finally delivered.
With just over a minute to go, Canton found itself inside the red zone down by four. On second and eight from the 18, the Bulldogs went for the go-ahead score. Junior quarterback Johnny Hagan was forced to throw under pressure, and junior Gersom Rivera waited in the end zone with open arms, but North Attleboro senior Omar Jasseh made a terrific leaping interception to rob Canton of a touchdown, securing a 14-10 win for the Rocketeers.
“We’ve been all waiting all year [for that],” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “We really haven’t gotten a big play on defense all year. We’ve been hanging in and hanging in, and relying on our offense to chew up the clock. Tonight we needed our defense to step up and we finally got that big play.
“I was thinking it should have happened on three different plays, it felt like we could have picked it off. I think our kids were playing a little tentative and didn’t want to get burned deep when they probably could have made a play on the ball.”
Canton started its drive at the own 48 with 3:28 left in the game. After an incompletion and a three-yard rush, the Bulldogs quickly faced a third and seven scenario.
Hagan hit Ryan Lentol on a hitch route for eight yards to move the sticks, Rivera (seven carries, 35 yards) picked up six yards on the ground, and two plays later Hagan linked up with Jace Emma for 15-yards to get to the North 20-yard line. Two plays later, Jasseh made the play in the end zone to deny the Bulldogs the Davenport title outright.
“Credit to North, the pass rush started to get to us a bit,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “Johnny is a competitor, he tried to win the game, and he took a shot. North has good coaches, and they brought some kids, and I think they made Johnny get rid of the ball differently than he normally would. But I’m proud of my guys, they battled right to the wire as usual.
“We’ve come a long way. To be in a game of this magnitude, and still have some meaningful games to look forward to, that’s good for the program. I think we have a little rivalry with North Attleboro now. To win the Hockomock League is an accomplishment, and this was a pretty good game tonight. So I think this puts us in a good position heading into the playoffs.”
It was an exciting end to a second half that was dominated by both defenses. Before its final drive of the game, Canton’s first three chances of the second half all resulted in punts. The Bulldogs moved the ball 37 yards on their second drive, advancing into North territory but back-to-back negative plays forced a punt.
North Attleboro’s offense didn’t fare much better, but it was enough. The Rocketeers had a little success on their first drive of the second half, but a sack from Brendan Albert put North in a hole, and Canton forced a turnover on downs at midfield.
After getting the ball back, the Rocketeers hit the home run play they were looking for, but only after converting a fourth down. On 3rd and 16th, the Rocketeers spread things out but went with a QB draw and Nick Raneri (15 carries, 74 yards) sprinted up the middle for 15 yards. At their own 44, North went for it, and Raneri pounded his way for two yards and a first down.
On the next play, senior Brendan McHugh (12 carries, 106 yards) came across from the right side for a sweep but instead of going all the way across, the senior cut back up a gap on the right side and sprinted for a 54-yard touchdown to put North Attleboro up 14-10 with 54 seconds to go in the third quarter.
It was the only scoring play of the second half.
“We decided to try and spread them out a bit with our formation,” Johnson said of changes in the second half. “We were running a lot of double tight early, and we had success on the first drive of the game, but they have a hell of a defense and shut us down. At halftime, we thought we could loosen them up with the formation, and I think that helped free up McHugh a little.”
The Rocketeers had an ideal start to the contest. Canton’s first drive picked up 33 yards but stalled and was forced to punt. North’s offense went right to work, starting at its own 10-yard line.
North needed just five plays to go almost the entire length of the field. Raneri ran for 10 yards, McHugh went off for 14 yards, Raneri scrambled to find Ryan Gaumond for 42 yards and then went back to the ground for 20 more yards himself.
On first and goal, Raneri kept it himself and went in from four yards out for a 7-0 lead with 5:55 to go in the first.
“McHugh really has it all, he’s fast and he probably doesn’t get enough credit for his toughness,” Bohane said. “He runs hard and he’s a hard kid to bring down, especially with his speed. One of our coaches said he’s the best back in the league and at times he certainly looked like it. He’s good and Raneri is a handful, and they made some really nice play calls with him at the right time.”
The Bulldogs finally got things going offensively right at the end of the first quarter. Hagan ran for seven yards and hit Emma for a third down conversion. On the final play of the opening quarter, Hagan hit Kyle Fitzgerald (96 all purpose yards) up the seam for a 39-yard pass.
On the first play of the second quarter, Hagan pitched it to Rivera on the right side and the junior scampered in to make it 7-7.
Canton’s defense got a stop to get the ball back and used eight plays to move into North territory, gaining 43 yards. But a holding play hurt the drive and the Bulldogs settled for a 34-yard field goal from junior Owen Lehane, taking a 10-7 lead into halftime.
The win gives North Attleboro a share of the 2018 Davenport division title, marking the fourth straight year that the Rocketeers have won a league title. It’s the first time in program history that North has won four straight.
“It was big for us to still have a chance at the title,” Johnson said after losing to Stoughton last week. “This is our fourth consecutive title for us, no North Attleboro team has ever won four in a row. The loss last week was also our first loss in the league since 2014, so the kids were feeling down about that too. But they still had an opportunity in front of them to do what no other senior group has done, so that was a real motivator.
“[Canton] is a hell of a football team. We’re sharing the title with them, and they deserve that share of it. They have a great football team over there, and the scary thing is they are all juniors, but I’ll worry about that next year.”
“As high as we were for this game, we can kind of breath a little bit and focus on the playoffs,” Bohane said. “We’re really excited to be in the playoffs and I honestly can’t wait to find out who we’re playing and get to work. We wanted to win this game badly but we wanted to play competitive and come out healthy. And I think we’re in a good position moving forward.”
North Attleboro football (4-1 Hockomock, 5-2 overall) likely earns a home game in the D3 South playoffs with the victory, though final seeds aren’t announced until late in the weekend. The Rocketeers will also likely return to Community Field for the first round playoff game. Canton (4-1, 6-1) will also likely host a game in Division 5 South.
The Bulldogs forced the Black Knights to punt on each of their first seven drives, holding the visitors to negative yards on three of those drives. Stoughton had just one first down early on in the fourth quarter.
But with just under six minutes to go, Stoughton’s offense finally clicked. The Knights cut a 14-point deficit in half with 5:34 to go, and got the ball back down just one score with 1:56 to play.
A big pass play set the Black Knights up in striking distance, but the Bulldogs defense, as it had for the majority of the game, came up with a stop with under 30 seconds to play.
“I didn’t feel comfortable until Robbie made that play at the end,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “It reminded me of that 2014 game when [Stoughton] drove down the field and won it at the end. Robbie made the play, and he played great. This year, it seems like another kid steps up each game and it was Robbie’s week.”
Canton’s defense did a nice job bottling up Stoughton’s rushing attack. The furthest the Black Knights for prior to its final two drives was 10 yards over midfield — its lone time into Canton territory through three quarters.
A sack from Owen Lehane on first down forced Stoughton starting quarterback George Currier to the sideline. Burke, a sophomore, took over under center and the Knights had one of their biggest plays of the night — a 22-yard reverse from Ajahn Rue — to spark the offense.
After Rue’s run, sophomore Christopher Ais took a sweep and went for 19 yards to get into the red zone. After Canton’s defense stuffed a rush attempt, Burke floated one to the near pylon on the right side and senior Alex Iverson did a nice job fighting through contact and getting a foot down to get the Knights on the board, down 14-7.
Canton’s offense did its best to run time off the block with quarterback Johnny Hagan (5/9, 44 yards; 21 carries 121 yards) converting a third down with his legs. But a sack on the next play from Stoughton’s Jerry Brisson put the Dogs in a long distance scenario. Canton gained eight yards on the next to plays but had to punt with two minutes to go.
Stoughton’s final drive got off to a rocky start when Canton senior Ben Seaman (two sacks) came on a blitz from the blind side, taking Burke down for a loss of 7 yards.
But the Black Knights made things interesting on the next play as Burke lofted one down the left sideline and Rue used his speed to get under it for a 45-yard catch, down to the Canton 30-yard line with 1:09 to play.
But that’s when Canton’s defense came through again. A pass and catch from Burke to Ais was stopped at the line of scrimmage on first down, Burke was forced to throw it away on second down, and a pass over the middle was short on third down.
On fourth down, Burke was able to buy some time by getting out of the pocket but Gallery came flying in to make the tackle.
It was an impressive showing for the Bulldogs defense, which allowed a total of 122 yards while holding the Knights to 0-for-8 on third down. And they did almost all of it without junior linebacker James Murphy, who Bohane called the quarterback of the defense.
“Defense was the story for us,” Bohane said. “Murphy is our linchpin on defense so for our kids to play the bulk of the game without him, they were impressive. All the other key guys really stepped up like Brian Campagna, Brendan Albert, Ben Seaman, and of course Robbie Gallery, who kind of filled into Murphy’s shoes. I’m proud of them to keep plugging away, they are a resilient group.”
Stoughton’s defense also had a strong showing, forcing the Bulldogs to punt on six times and holding off another drive as the first half came to a close.
However, Canton’s offense was able to find the end zone twice — both on eight play, 65-yard drives.
After punting on its first drives, the Dogs moved the sticks when Hagan connected with Jace Emma for 11 yards. Hagan followed that with a 20-yard scramble on a broken play, and Gersom Rivera had runs of 10 and 23-yards, the latter converting a third down and getting the Dogs down to the 1-yard line.
Hagan took it in from there, following his line in for a 1-yard sneak and a 7-0 lead with 7:23 left in the first quarter.
Stoughton’s best drive of the opening half went for 41 yards, all on a run from Iverson. But an incomplete pass and two runs that netted no yards stopped the Black Knights from advancing.
Canton’s defense picked up where it left off, forcing Stoughton backward on its opening drive of the second half. After a three-and-out, Canton took over at its own 35-yard line and orchestrated what turned out to be the winning drive.
Hagan moved the sticks with a run of his own, connected with Ryan Lentol on second down, got a first down on a Stoughton penalty, and then finished the drive with three straight runs from different players: Rivera for 8, Hagan for 12, and Kyle Fitzgerald with a 9-yard touchdown run.
“We’ve been able to shift gears on offense,” Bohane said. “Some teams have been able to take away something we’ve been doing, and no one is better at that than [Stoughton] Coach [Greg] Burke. He’s going to take away what you do well. It was a game of just constantly finding a way.”
FOXBORO, Mass. – After losing on a last second field goal and twice in overtime over the last three years, Canton was finally able to end its nearly three-decade-long jinx against Davenport division rival Foxboro and the Bulldogs did it in dominating fashion.
Junior quarterback Johnny Hagan accounted for 285 yards of offense and three touchdowns and Canton pulled away with a pair of fourth quarter scores to record a 43-20 victory over the Warriors on Friday night at Jack Martinelli Field. It was Canton’s first win against Foxboro since 1990 and ended a 25-game losing streak in the series.
Canton also improved to 4-0 on the season, despite not yet having play a home game this fall.
Hagan was a menace throughout the game, tossing a pair of touchdown passes in the first half and rushing for 175 yards on 15 carries. Martinelli admitted that his defense had no answer for Canton’s signal caller.
“We had no answers for stopping No. 5 (Hagan) either on the ground or through the air,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said. “We couldn’t stop him. He’s a good player.”
“He’s just a special player,” added Canton coach Dave Bohane about Hagan. “Sometimes he’s so amped up that he calls the wrong formation and then he throws a touchdown. His receiver was on the wrong side of the formation, I’m thinking about calling timeout, instead he runs around a little, throws it, and it’s a touchdown.”
Canton also benefited from dominant play at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The offensive line, which included Brian Campagna, Lucas Bryant, Matt Connolly, and George Kent opened up a number of holes for Hagan and running backs Gersom Rivera (10 carries, 52 yards) and Kyle Fitzgerald (11 carries, 68 yards).
“I thought we had an advantage on the perimeter and some of the skill spots, but I think their line, a lot of them, were back from last year,” Bohane remarked. “I thought maybe getting outside and getting away from those guys, but our line played well. They’ve really worked hard.”
The Bulldogs jumped in front on their first possession. On third and eight, Hagan looked deep down the sideline to Jace Emma. The junior wideout leapt above the Foxboro defensive back and ripped the ball away. He then turned and sped upfield for a 75-yard touchdown that gave the visitors early momentum.
Foxboro answered right back just four plays later. Mike Luong (12 carries, 70 yards) broke a 30-yard run, bouncing out to the right and getting into space on the sideline. Two plays later, Liam Foley looked for Rob Fay in the front corner of the end zone and the senior pulled in a one-hand catch to tie the game.
This time it was Canton that responded. Hagan somehow got to the edge on another third and eight and raced 50 yards up the Foxboro sideline before being brought down at the Warriors 18. After another 12-yard Hagan keeper, Rivera punched it in from six yards out.
David Allen picked off a Foley pass to end Foxboro’s next drive and then returned it 40 yards down to the Warriors 33. Fitzgerald needed only one carry to get the Bulldogs a two-score lead, taking a pitch to the left and finding a seam to the end zone.
It looked like the game may get out of hand, but a special teams mistake by Canton, attempting to field a bouncing punt inside its own 20 only to fumble and have Zachary Jenkins recover, led to Foxboro having a short field. Keyshawn Sanders bullied his way through a bevy of tacklers for a 10-yard score that cut the lead to 21-14.
Canton had one last chance with the ball before halftime. After an intentional grounding call, the Bulldogs faced third and 18 from the Foxboro 36. Emma ran a go-route down the near sideline and Hagan dropped a perfect pass to him in stride for a score with only 36 seconds left until halftime.
Leading 27-14, the Bulldogs came out of the half with an impressive 15-play drive that ate up more than nine minutes off the clock. The Foxboro defense stiffened inside the red zone, but Owen Lehane booted a 27-yard field goal to make it 30-14.
The Warriors didn’t quit and answered with a 75-yard drive. Foley rolled out and threw a dart to Brian Derbafor 27 yards and then a couple plays later ran a perfectly-executed backside screen to Luong for another 24 yards down to the Canton eight. On third and goal, another screen to Luong turned into a touchdown, but the two-point conversion pass was batted down by Allen to keep the lead at two scores with 9:09 remaining.
“When we had to make big plays, we couldn’t, which has kind of been our M.O. all year,” Martinelli explained. “We hung in there, made it a game on the scoreboard…but they were in charge from start to finish.”
After the Bulldogs went three and out, the Canton defense made the play that essentially ended any hopes of a Foxboro comeback. Brendan Albert crushed Foley as he was throwing and Robbie Gallery was on hand to secure the interception. He returned the ball to the one-yard-line where Hagan was able to get six points with a sneak.
“At that moment, offensively, we were sputtering a little bit,” said Bohane. “Robbie Gallery’s pick was when we breathed and thought okay we’re going to beat these guys.” About Albert, Bohane added, “He’s one of the top defensive players in the league and the best thing is he’s playing like it every single week.”
Fitzgerald added a nine-yard touchdown inside the closing two minutes to make the score even more comfortable for the Bulldogs.
Martinelli admitted, “I think they wanted it maybe a little more than we did. We hung in there, but not enough. We couldn’t make enough good plays and they made all of them.”
Canton (4-0, 2-0) will finally head home next week when rival Stoughton pays a visit to WWII Veterans Memorial Field. Foxboro (1-3, 1-1) will try to bounce back at home against two-time defending division champ North Attleboro.
After a dominating win by Stoughton on Thanksgiving last year, and a shutout over Canton during the regular season earlier this year, the Black Knights had won seven of the past eight meetings, and for straight on the holiday.
“There was some local talk that this rivalry had lost some luster,” Bohane said. “I couldn’t disagree more.”
And by the the way the Bulldogs played on Thursday morning, neither could they.
In its best game of the season, Canton scored a 27-0 win over the Black Knights. It marked the first since on the holiday since 2012, and first win at Veteran’s Memorial Field against Stoughton on Thanksgiving since 2003.
A suffocating defense limited the Black Knights to less than 100 yards, and became the first group to shut out Stoughton since October 2010.
“This rivalry has respect on both sides and we love to play each other,” Bohane said. “This rivalry is going strong, and today we came to play. These kids talk about this game all year long, this is part of the voyage of being a football player at Canton, you play Stoughton on Thanksgiving”
The Bulldogs’ defense looked as though it had been ready for this game all year, allowing just 36 yards total in the first half, with 27 of them coming on one play. It forced Stoughton into a three-and-out to start the game and the offense came through right away.
Highlighted by a 25-yard run from senior Alec Ragusa (15 carries, 102 yards, touchdown) and a 10-yard pass from sophomore Johnny Hagan to Ryan Lentol on fourth down, the Bulldogs marched 67 yards on nine plays.
Hagan capped the drive, eluding a pair of Stoughton defenders on a 22-yard scramble into the end zone. Owen Lehane’s first of three successful extra points put Canton up 7-0 with 4:33 left in the first quarter.
After trading punts, Stoughton’s third drive of the game was halted by a turnover on just the second play. After Justin Ly scampered for 27-yards on first down, the Black Knights fumbled on their next play, and Ragusa quickly scooped it up and sprinted 45-yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with under a minute left in the first quarter.
“It had been eight quarters in a row that we were shutout by them so you start second guessing yourself but we stuck together as a team and as a staff,” Bohane said. “Coach Burke’s defenses are always among the best in the state, and we get to see it every year. We just stuck with what we do.”
Stoughton’s offense continued to struggle to move the ball against the Bulldogs. On third down of its next drive, junior Evan Gibb was sacked by Ragusa and the Knights were forced to punt.
Canton took advantage of a short field two series later. It took the Bulldogs just five plays to cover 34 yards, with Ragusa capping the drive with his first rushing touchdown of the day from four yards out. Junior Brendan Albert put an end to Stoughton’s final drive of the half with a sack on third down. Canton took the 20-0 lead into halftime.
The Bulldogs’ defense held Stoughton to just three first downs all game, and didn’t allow a third (0-for-8) or fourth (0-for-1) conversion. Canton took advantage of its defense right away, scoring on its first drive after Stoughton was forced to punt to start the game.
The Black Knights’ defense came up with a big three-and-out stop to open the second half but Canton’s defense responded with a huge stop on third and one and got the ball back for its offense.
The offense rewarded the defense with its longest drive of the game, covering 70 yards in nine plays before finding the end zone again. Sophomore Gersom Rivera (nine carries, 66 yards) got the drive started with a 32-yard dash, and, despite a holding penalty, Hagan moved the chains with a 21-yard run of his own.
The Bulldogs went with four straight running plays, the last a QB option that Hagan kept and extended over the goal line while being tackled to make it 27-0 late in the third quarter.
“I don’t like talking young, but we are young and I think we made our fair share of young mistakes during the year,” Bohane said. “The first game against Stoughton we made every mistake and we only lost 12-0, it was a frustrating game. We had a steady improvement all season. Today I thought we stayed clean and that helped us get the momentum. Stoughton is a real good team, but we just kept plugging away.”
Stoughton’s offense moved into Canton territory for the first time on the final play of the third quarter, but three plays into the final frame, the Black Knights were forced to go for it on fourth down. Canton senior Tony Harris jumped the quick out-route and intercepted the pass, returning it 29 yards to get the Bulldogs the ball back.
“We were up 20-0 on them a couple years ago and we managed to lose the game, so we’re always on edge…but the defense played phenomenal,” Bohane said. “Coach Carew does a great job for them with the offense but we just kept plugging away. He makes adjustments, we make adjustments. The kids played great. We don’t have a lot of mottos and we don’t use cliches, but we say Gang Green on defense and pursue the football. Overall we base everything on being tough and I thought our kids were tough today.”
Canton and Foxboro each scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 9:11 of play, sending the game to overtime for the second straight year.
Canton got the ball first but Foxboro’s Jake Addeche came up with an interception in the end zone on a third-down throw, giving the Warriors the ball.
Foxboro’s offense trotted on the field, gaining a total of four yards on the ground on its first two plays. The Warriors then sent out its field goal unit on third down. That’s when a bit of controversy took center stage.
The Bulldogs’ coaching staff was quick to protest, claiming the referees had told them that kicking wasn’t allowed in the overtime. A 15-minute plus discussion between refs, coaches and school administrators followed.
That conversation resulted in Foxboro not being allowed to kick a field goal either. The Warriors then sent the offensive unit back out, and on the first play, senior Devin Hassett (12/21, 140 yards) hit classmate Jack O’Donnell (five catches, 78 catches, 2 touchdowns) in the corner of the end zone for a six-yard touchdown and the win.
“He was doing it most of the night when we needed it,” Martinelli said of the decision to throw to O’Donnell. “So you have to go to your best guy there. Devin delivered and [O’Donnell] made a great catch. We had run a couple of slants so we went outside.”
The overtime period put an exclamation point on what was a wild and entertaining fourth quarter.
“They have a lot more ice water in their veins than I do I guess. It was a heck of a game,” Martinelli said. “I knew Canton would be tough, I knew they’d be tough. And I kind of thought it would be a trap game for us. That game could have gone either way.”
Canton head coach Dave Bohane said he not only asked once, but double checked with both the head ref and sideline ref about the field goal rule.
“Give [Foxboro] credit, they made the play at the end,” Bohane said. “I would have run on third down and then kicked it if we knew we could have.”
After a scoreless first quarter that saw three turnovers – two from the Warriors and one from Canton – Foxboro finally opened the scoring late in the second quarter. Facing a 3rd and 12 from the Canton 29 yard line, Hassett floated one down the right sideline that O’Donnell hauled in for a 26-yard catch.
Two plays later, Foxboro’s Mike Henri took the carry up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown. After the missed extra point, the Warriors held a 6-0 lead with 3:13 left in the first half.
Both teams had their next offensive series cut short as Foxboro forced a fumble but the Bulldogs came back and picked up their second interception of the game, this one in the hands of Marquise Montes.
Canton started the second half with a big stop, forcing a three-and-out from Foxboro’s offense. After 18 yards from sophomore Kyle Fitzgerald on two carries, senior Alec Ragusa (14 carries, 129 yards, TD) broke free and rumbled his way for a 59-yard touchdown. Owen Lehane’s extra point put the Dogs up, 7-6, with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
Foxboro strung together its longest series of the day, using 15 plays to cover 64 yards to re-take the lead. Hassett hit O’Donnell for 24-yards early on in the drive, one again for nine yards on a third down, and then on a slant route into the end zone for a 13-yard score. Hassett then hit O’Donnell for the two-point conversion and a 14-7 lead with 9:11 to play.
“Offensively in the second half, we did some good things,” Martinelli said. “First half we had opportunities and didn’t capitalize. We played better defense in the first half than we did in the second half but that’s credit to Ragusa and what they run for an offense.”
Canton came marching right back, moving the ball down field behind first down runs from Ragusa twice and sophomore Gersom Rivera (10 carries, 81 yards) once. Facing 4th and 2 from the 11, Canton quarterback Johnny Hagan floated one into the corner of the end zone where Tony Harris drew a pass interference call.
That put the ball on the two-yard line, and Fitzgerald took the sweep up the middle and into the end zone to tie the game with 4:54 left to play.
The score didn’t stay level for long. A nice kick return from Addeche (three returns, 32.3 average yards per return) set Foxboro at their own 38-yard line. On 2nd and 1, Hassett used a QB option to keep it himself, racing 52 yards down the left sideline before being pushed out at the one-yard line.
Two plays later, Hassett kept it himself and went in from one-yard out to make it 21-14 with 2:29 left.
But once again, Canton had a response. Two plays into the ensuing drive, Hagan hit Harris over the middle and the senior turned on the jets, racing 70 yards for a touchdown to tie it 21-21 with 2:01 left.
“These kids are resilient,” Bohane said. “They are young but they are playing hard. We needed this one, but so did Foxboro. The plays we made at the end, to get us into overtime, were amazing. But these kids have been phenomenal, I’ve loved coaching them so far this year.”
Foxboro moved back into scoring position in the final minute. With 12 seconds left, and no timeouts, the Warriors took a shot at the end zone but Canton’s Cordel Smith came up with an interception at the goal line and his return killed off the final seconds of the clock of regulation.
Foxboro football (3-1 overall, 2-0 Hockomock) returns to action next Friday night with a trip to Community Field to take on North Attleboro. Canton (1-3, 0-2) will try to bounce back when they take on Stoughton at Stonehill College at 7:30.
CANTON, Mass. – Stoughton coach Greg Burke said that his team liked to play “ugly and tough,” but on Friday night at World War II Veterans Memorial Field, against rival Canton, the Black Knights showed flashes of pretty football too, scoring 42 points and totaling four touchdowns of more than 60 yards apiece.
Canton scored a couple of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, but Stoughton rolled to a 42-22 victory that keeps it just a half-game back of North Attleboro in the Davenport division title race with two more league games to play (North plays Saturday at Sharon).
“That’s Black Knight football right there,” said Burke after the game. “It isn’t pretty, but I like it. I don’t care, I like the way we’re playing. That’s how we play. Our team wants to be ugly and tough.”
The opening kick-off bounced a couple times before the Black Knights covered it at their own 13-yard-line, but it took only one play to get on the board. An inside trap to fullback Justin Ly broke for 87 yards down the Stoughton sideline to make it 7-0. Canton answered back on one play of its own. Tony Harris took an end around and raced 65 yards down the Bulldogs sideline to tie the game.
Two plays from scrimmage, two touchdowns, and only 44 seconds had elapsed.
Canton was forced to punt on its second possession and Thomas Monagle drove Ryan Sullivan all the way back to his own 14, but the senior running back made the catch and then broke up field, splitting the coverage and putting Stoughton back on top with an 86-yard return.
“Personnel-wise we’re not very deep,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane about the punt coverage, “and we try to get guys off the field but even with guys like [Brian] Smith and Jude Albert we’ve had trouble the last two weeks on punt return. We’ll continue to work at it but it’s disappointing and disturbing to see two weeks in a row.”
Burke praised Sullivan for his ability to break open a game. He said, “He’s just phenomenal. He’s not only the nicest kid in America, he makes plays. He was sort of a skinny, little kid before and now he’s getting to be a grown man. His best days are ahead of him.”
Early in the second quarter, Stoughton struck again, this time through the air. On third and 14, sophomore quarterback Evan Gibb (3-5, 84 yards) saw busted coverage on the right side and hit a wide open Izon Swain-Price for a 60-yard touchdown.
“They put a lot of guys up at the line to take away the run and they did,” said Burke, “but you can hit a couple of passes and Izon had a couple long ones, but that’s Izon for you. You’ve got to be able to throw a couple play action and we did.”
Bohane admitted, “We just couldn’t give them easy ones and we did. Usually against Stoughton we make them earn everything. Tonight was a number of big plays…but they’re very good.”
With two minutes left until halftime, the Black Knights extended the lead. A nine-play, 52-yard drive, which included a five-yard scramble and dump off pass from Gibb to Sullivan to convert a fourth down, was finished off by Sullivan from three yards out for his second TD of the game.
While the Stoughton offense was making big plays, the defense was also controlling the game, particularly at the line of scrimmage with Andrew Iverson, Jason Joseph, and David Cellucci in on seemingly every play.
On the third play of the second half, Iverson hit Canton quarterback Dan Dillon to force a fumble that was recovered by Ryan Pierre at the Bulldogs 24. After an offsides call against Canton, Gibb threw his second touchdown of the game, hitting Jack Connelly for a 19-yard score. Cellucci, the holder on extra points, fielded a high snap and ran in the two-point conversion.
“He’s playing good, “ said Burke of Gibb. “He’s a young kid and we just have to protect him; he’s a sophomore, you can’t let him run around. Eventually he’ll be the fourth running back.”
Swain-Price (three carries, 112 yards) put an exclamation point on the game when it looked as though the Black Knights were buried deep in their own end. He cut inside on a sweep to the left and broke free for a 94-yard touchdown that made it 42-7.
Dillon had stepped in for Canton to replace Dennis Ross, who was unavailable for the game, and he was able to get the offense moving late in the fourth quarter. Despite the deficit, the Bulldogs kept fighting and put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that featured carries from Dillon, Dan Alice, Mike Marino, and Joe Mulkay, who finished it with an eight-yard option pitch for the score.
Alice broke the plane of the goal line for the conversion and Harris leapt above the Black Knights hands team to recover the onside kick. This drive was capped by Dillon, who punched it in from a yard out.
“I’m very proud of Dan,” said Bohane. “He comes down to practice every day and probably knew coming into his senior year that he didn’t expect to play much. It didn’t faze him, plays special teams, takes a lot of snaps, and he’s gotten his opportunity here.”
The win keeps Stoughton right behind current league leader North Attleboro, hoping that the Rocketeers could slip up in the final two weeks of league play. Burke explained, “Who knows what North’s doing, but we’re taking it one at a time and hopefully good things happen.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2016 Davenport Football Preview
2015 Record: 6-5
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Dave Bohane
Key/Returning Players: Dan Alice, Sr., HB/DB; Dennis Ross, Sr., QB; Alec Ragusa, Jr., FB/LB; Brian Smith, Sr., OL/DL; Mark Whalen, Sr., OL/DL; Joe Mulkay, Sr., HB/DB; Thomas Monagle, Sr., K/FB/LB; Dan Pierre, Sr., TE/DE; Tony Harris, Jr., WR/DB; Ben Paolillo, Sr., OL/DL; Mike Marino, Sr., HB/LB.
Outlook: After falling victim to the playoff system’s alignment and just missing out on a postseason berth, Canton will be relying on a mix of experience and youth to try and get back to the state tournament under the new alignment.
Davenport division MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jake Ragusa is off playing at Merrimack so that will be a major void for Canton to fill. However, the Bulldogs do return some players in key spots that will help them out of the gates. Senior Anthony Ross is back under center and could see an expanded role in 2016. Dan Alice is back after suffering an injury last season and should lead a stable of running backs, led by fullback Alec Ragusa. Joe Mulkay, Dan Pierre, Tony Harris and Mike Marino should all factor into the offense as well for Canton.
Defensively, Canton has some experience on the line in Brian Smith, who also plays as a tackle on offense, as well as Mark Whalen, who saw valuable minutes last year, and Ben Paolillo. Alec Ragusa will be the anchor in the linebacking corps alongside Thomas Monagle (also the team’s kicker) and Marino. Harris, Alice and Mulkay figure to be important pieces in the Bulldogs’ secondary this year.
“The kids have a strong work ethic and had a good offseason and now a good preseason,” head coach Dave Bohane said. “I think we’ll be strong up front on both sides and we have kids in key spots with experience.”
2015 Record: 8-3 (Davenport Division Champions)
2015 Finish: Reached D4 South Semifinal
Coach: Jack Martinelli
Key/Returning Players: Jamaine Few, Sr., WR; Mark Clagg, Sr., QB; Joe Bartucca, Sr., OL/DL; Trey Guerrini, Sr., WR/DB; Alex Parillo, Sr., OL/DL; John Cronin, Sr., K; Matt Mullally, Sr., LB; Brandon Corey, Sr., LB; Paul Darcy, Sr., DB; Matt Pond, Jr., LB.
Outlook: Coming off the program’s first league title since 2010, the Foxboro Warriors are hoping to stay near the top of the Davenport division again this year. And with one of the top returning quarterbacks in Mark Clagg under center for another year, the Warriors will likely be in the thick of the division race.
Clagg threw for nine touchdowns last season, third most among returning quarterbacks. After splitting some time with Darren Kelly last year, it looks like it was be Clagg’s spot full time in 2016. Another positive for having Clagg back is the experienced wide receivers he will have to work with. Jamaine Few is a big, experienced target at 6’3 and will be a tough one on one matchup for defensive backs. Trey Guerrini also has experience with Clagg while Phil Dure and John Whitehouse could be viable options as well. Foxboro will have to fill the void at running back, after the stability of Ronnie Martin and Keeyon Neal in previous years. Eseosa Omuemu, Matt Mullally and Anthony Capachietti are all possible choices to start in the backfield.
Defensively, the Warriors will rely upon experience in the linebacking and defensive back corps. Junior Matt Pond and senior Brandon Corey will be key cogs among the linebackers while Paul Darcy and Guerrini will be key pieces in the Warriors’ secondary. Foxboro will look to develop solid options on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“As always, the senior leadership plays a key role in the success of the 2016 campaign,” head coach Jack Martinelli said.
2015 Record: 7-4
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Joe Todd
Key/Returning Players: Blake Hill, Sr., RB/LB; Ryan Gray, Sr., OL/DL; Asong Aminmentse, Sr., RB/LB; Riley Burns, Sr., OL/DL; Harrison Bliss, Sr., RB/LB; Tony Mobilia, Sr., WR/DB; Jack Cappelletti, Sr., WR/DB; Alec Salamone, Sr., RB/DB; Pat Brogioli, Jr., OL/DL; Tyler Joyce, Jr., TE/LB; Shapel Feaster, Soph., RB/DB, Matt Curran, Jr., QB.
Outlook: The Scarlet Hawks have posted back-to-back 7-4 seasons and are hoping to continue their winning ways in 2016. With 11 starters returning, Milford is on the right track to do so.
It all starts with Yale-commit Blake Hill, who will be a top player on both offense and defense this season. Offensively he can hurt you in many ways, including running with the ball or catching passes. Hill will have some space to run thanks to an experienced offensive line that includes Riley Burns, Ryan Gray and Pat Brogioli. Junior Matt Curran will take over under center for the Scarlet Hawks and will have Jack Cappelletti, Tony Mobilia and Tyler Joyce as pass catching options to work with.
Defensively, Hill is one of the top linebackers in the league. He’ll be flanked by Harrison Bliss, Asong Aminmentse and Joyce. Burns, Gray and Brogioli will all be two-way linemen for the Scarlet Hawks. Shapel Feaster, who will also see touches on offense, will be in the secondary along with Alec Salamone, Mobilia and Cappelletti.
2015 Record: 9-2 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions)
2015 Finish: Reached D3 Southwest Semifinal
Coach: Don Johnson
Outlook: As with any defending league champion, the North Attleboro Rocketeers will have some holes they’ll have to fill this year. But Big Red also has a slew of talented, experienced players back as North Attleboro looks to make a splash in its first season in the Davenport division.
Junior Chad Peterson is back under center after a breakout sophomore season in which he tossed 13 touchdowns, second most in the Hockomock League. While Kelley-Rex MVP Nick Morrison has graduated, North Attleboro returns Bobby Mylod and Nick Rajotte, who will give the Rocketeers a variety of attacking options. Thomas Reynolds will anchor the offensive line from the center position while Peterson will look for Hacmoni Cuevas, David Engler, Mario Bresko and Nick Dean to emerge as receiving threats.
It will be a lot of the same faces making plays on the defensive side of the ball. Reynolds and senior Tom Kummer are two major pieces and will take up the center of the defensive line. Mylod emerged as one of the top linebackers in the Hockomock and in the state last season and will be complemented at the position by Ryan Kingston, Zach DeMattio and Cuevas. Rajotte and Kyle McCarthy both had solid years in the secondary last season and will be big pieces to the defensive puzzle again this season.
“It’s going to be an interesting year switching to the Davenport division,” head coach Don Johnson said. “It certainly isn’t going to be any easier.”
2015 Record: 4-7
2015 Finish: Reached D3 Southeast Quarterfinal
Coach: Dave Morse
Key/Returning Players: Juvan Elisma, Sr., RB; Josh Rotman, Sr., WR/CB; Nate Hirsh, Sr., OL/DL; Ian Langol-Leonard, Sr., OL/DL; Wilhelm Bolt, Sr., OL/DL; Xavier Hackett, Sr., OLB; Drew Naisuler, Jr., QB; Austin Dodes, Jr., WR; Sam Spencer, Jr., RB.
Outlook: A lot of the players listed as key and returning players for Sharon this season were also on last year’s list, and that’s a good thing for the Eagles, who are looking to take the next step forward in 2016.
Junior Drew Naisuler will step into the starting role at quarterback and will have some weapons at his disposal right away. Running back Juvan Elisma had a stellar 2015 campaign as a junior, rushing for eight touchdowns – tied for fourth most in the Hockomock League and tied for second in the Davenport. Now Elisma will look to cap a strong football career at Sharon by leading an Eagles’ rushing attack that will likely include junior Sam Spencer as well. Naisuler will have an experienced receiver as Josh Rotman is back for another year while junior Austin Dodes figures to be another target this season.
“Our season will be decided by how physical we can be and if our new varsity players can step up and make an impact,” head coach Dave Morse said.
The Eagles will also bring back some experience on both sides of the line. Nate Hirsh has been a key cog of the line on both sides of the ball for the Eagles. Ian Langol-Leonard and Wilhelm Bolt also will likely be key experience pieces up front for Sharon. Defensively, Rotman also is back as a talented defensive back. Xavier Hackett is another name to keep an eye on, as the senior has been able to make plays for Sharon in the past and looks to do more of the same in 2016.
2015 Record: 6-5
2015 Finish: Reached D3 Southwest Semifinal
Coach: Greg Burke
Key/Returning Players: Ryan Sullivan, Sr., RB/DB; Izon Swain-Price, Sr., RB/WR/DB; Dave Cellucci, Sr., QB; Nick Hardy, Sr., RB/DB; Jack Connelly, Sr., TE/LB; Harry Kimball, Sr., OL/DL; Lino Azul, Sr., OL/DL; Andrew Iverson, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Pierre, Sr., OL/DL; Justin Ly, Jr., FB/LB; Brendan Walsh, Sr., OL/DL.
Outlook: No matter what team, it’s always going to be difficult to replace a three year starter at quarterback. But with the talented offensive line Stoughton has back this season and senior Dave Cellucci taking over under center, the Black Knights’ offense is in good shape.
The offensive line returns starters Lino Azul, Ryan Pierre and Andrew Iverson while Harry Kimball and Brendan Walsh – who both started on the defensive line – will play on both sides of the ball now. That experience will help give Cellucci a little more time in the pocket when he’s called upon to throw. Meanwhile, Ryan Sullivan, Izon Swain-Price and Justin Ly all figure to be key pieces in the backfield. Sullivan and Swain-Price caused havoc for defenses last season with a combined 10 rushing touchdowns. Swain-Price will also be a receiving option while Jack Connelly is back for another year at tight end.
Stoughton will look to continue its tradition of having a staunch defense. The Black Knights have depth on the defensive line with Pierre, Azul and Kimball all seeing time there along with junior Jason Joseph. Iverson, Ly and Connelly will all see reps at linebacker and Sullivan and Izon Swain-Price will likely be two of the top defensive backs in the entire league.
“We hope to stay healthy and get into the playoffs,” head coach Greg Burke said. “This has been a great group in the weight room and conditioning, that will have to carry us in the league. We know it will be a tough league this year.”