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.”

Eagles Grounded By Late Spellman Comeback

Sharon football
Sharon senior Jake Romanow (34) and junior Coleman Loftus (54) try to bring down a Cardinal Spellman runner on Saturday afternoon. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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SHARON, Mass. – The Sharon defense had held firm for more than 40 minutes without allowing a point, shutting down Cardinal Spellman twice inside the red zone, but as the fourth quarter wound down the Eagles were feeling the impact of the heat and humidity.

Spellman spread the ball around on offense, using four different running backs behind a sizable offensive line, and it started to pay dividends. The Cardinals were not trying to be tricky, just pounding the ball straight ahead and suddenly they were in the end zone with three minutes remaining. Only a minute later, they had the ball back again deep in Sharon territory and took advantage.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

After 40 minutes without an offensive point, Spellman scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 3:21 of the game and stunned Sharon by pulling out a 21-14 victory on Saturday afternoon, denying the Eagles a perfect record heading into the start of Davenport division play next weekend.

“I thought we played well, we did a lot of good things,” said Sharon coach Dave Morse, “but it’s my fault not having these guys in shape and we wore down at the end. It’s something we’ve got to correct in the next week at practice and develop over the course of the season. It;s something we can control and we should have been in more control of that.”

It was the home team that struck first. Sharon faced third and 10 from its own 10 and junior Jeremy Ruskin (7-21, 240 yards) looked down the far sideline for sophomore Alec Filipkowski, who went up and pulled the pass away from the Spellman defensive back. He raced 67 yards before being pushed out at the Cardinals’ 23.

On the next play, Ruskin got his pass over the top of an outstretched defender and into Austin Dodes, who made a diving grab just across the goal line with fewer than 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

“We’ve got our guys and we think that’s a strength of our team,” said Morse. “We’ve got to be a little more balanced, a little more consistent, but we like our guys out there and we think all of them can make plays.”

Spellman drove deep into Sharon territory on its next possession, getting as far as the Eagles’s 10, but Dodes broke up a pass play that would have set up first and goal and then Drew Naisuler (who also blocked a punt and was a constant menace on the edge) and Ahmed Sean stuffed the running back for a three-yard loss. On fourth down, Sean stopped a keeper for a short gain.

The momentum from the defensive stand only lasted six plays before the Cardinals tied the game. Ruskin’s second down pass was a little behind Naisuler, who got a hand to it but could not haul it in. The deflection fell to Spellman’s Jack Kingston and he returned the interception 40 yards for a touchdown.

The score stayed tied into the third quarter. Sharon’s first possession started at its own six-yard-line and Aaron Strong lost a yard on first down. Facing third and 11 from the five, Morse called for a middle screen and the Eagles executed it to perfection. Ruskin hit Chris Gong in a ton of space and the junior running back took off up the field, getting a couple of key blocks along the way, and scoring a 95-yard touchdown that shocked the Cardinals.

“It was definitely the best screen pass we’ve ran since I’ve been here,” said Morse. “We’ve got some kids and that’s an example of taking that step forward. We had linemen down field blocking, which is tough for those young linemen.”

Spellman put together a long drive early in the fourth quarter, once again reaching the Sharon red zone. Jaden Williams-Thomas and Jake Romanow stopped a run at the 18, setting up third and four. Naisuler stuffed a keeper for no gain and on fourth down, the Eagles stopped a pass play just short of the marker.

Unfortunately, the offense could only run a couple minutes off the clock before giving the ball right back. The defense looked winded as Spellman broke off runs of 15 and 11 yards straight up the gut and Jovan Marrero bounced a run off-tackle to the right and beat the Sharon defenders to the goal line to tie it 14-14.

Sharon went three-and-out on its next possession and the punt went only two yards, setting up the Cardinals at the Eagles’ 26. Marrero was again the primary back and five plays later he pushed the ball across from the one with just 38 seconds remaining.

Ruskin completed passes to Dodes and Filipkowski but then a spike and two incompletions ended the game.

“I told the guys we took two steps forward throughout the game but always took one step back,” said Morse, “and we are a young team and the quicker we can eliminate that step back than the better shape we’ll be in to move forward and get more wins.”

Sharon (1-1) will open league play next week by hosting defending league champion North Attleboro on Saturday afternoon.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Sharon Holds Off Foxboro To Record Third Straight Win

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Sharon’s Nate Hirsh (left) tackles Foxboro’s Mark Clagg. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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SHARON, Mass. – Sharon scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter and denied a late two-point conversion attempt from Foxboro to hold on for a 14-12 win on Saturday afternoon.

After a scoreless first half, the Eagles scored on a pair of runs in the third quarter. Foxboro responded with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter but saw their two-point attempt with 1:41 come up short as Sharon moved to 3-0 on the season. Sharon senior Juvan Elisma proved to be a big difference maker, rushing for 186 yards on 23 carries.

“We knew they had athletes so we knew they’d get first downs and chunks of yards, but we didn’t want to give up big plays and until the very end, we didn’t,” Sharon head coach Dave Morse said. “And I thought we actually played with a higher level of physicality, we had some big hits on the perimeter and that might make skill players a little reluctant. Our d-line and linebackers stepped up and played well, I was very happy about it.”

All four of Sharon’s drives in the first half ended with punts, including their second drive that spanned 52 yards on seven plays. But even as the Eagles’ offense stalled, their defense was strong and kept Foxboro at bay. The Warriors punted on their first drive, missed a 43-yard field goal on their second drive, fumbled possession away on the third drive and their late drive in the second quarter ended with an interception.

Foxboro was set to receive the opening kickoff of the season half, but a bouncing kick was muffed and Sharon junior Brett Litner emerged with the ball at the Warriors’ 43 yard line. Sharon moved the sticks right away with a 12 yard run from Elisma and three plays later, quarterback Drew Naisuler used a sneak to move the chains again.

Back to back runs from Elisma moved the ball to the 5 yard line and Xavier Hackett ran it down to the 1 yard line. Naisuler kept it again for a touchdown, putting Sharon up 6-0. The two-point conversion was stuffed but Sharon had a lead with 7:17 left in the third.

“[The recovery] wasn’t by design but that’s basically six points you pull out of nowhere,” Morse admitted.

The Eagles forced a three and out on Foxboro’s first possession of the second half and then rattled of its longest drive of the game. Sharon used nine plays to cover 58 yards to find the end zone again. Elisma moved the chains with a 14 yard gain and then Naisuler connected with Austin Dodes for a 15 yard reception. Elisma converted a fourth down with a six yard rush, getting Sharon inside the 10 yard line. Elisma went for four more yards and Naisuler used a QB draw to dive up the middle for a 3 yard touchdown.

Elisma took the handoff and plunged into the end zone for the two point conversion, putting Sharon up 14-0 with 1:54 left in the third quarter.

“Juvan is a competitor, he’s an unbelievable player to coach, one of the better guys that I’ve been around,” Morse said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday or Friday night, he’s the most prepared player on the field. In big games, you need guys like that to step up and he put us on his back and made huge plays. He was the difference in the game.”

Foxboro was finally able to get its offense in gear on its second drive of the final quarter. After punting on its first drive, the Warriors used a 12-play, 72-yard drive to get on the board over halfway through the fourth quarter. Senior Mark Clagg hit Trey Guerrini for a 17 yard reception to start the drive and Anthony Capachietti converted a 3rd and 2 just before midfield. Clagg hit Jamaine Few on third down for 8 yards to move the chains and then hit Phil Dure for 15 more yards.

On 2nd and goal from the four, Capachietti darted up the middle for a touchdown. Foxboro’s extra point was wide as Sharon had a 14-6 advantage with 3:25 to go.

After a touchback, Sharon was facing a 3rd and 5 from its own 25 yard line. Elisma looked like he iced the game, getting around the edge and sprinting ahead for a 42 yard gain. But on the next play, an option resulted in a fumble and Foxboro recovered with 2:16 left.

On second down, Clagg his Capachietti for a circus 18 yard gain, catching in the flat on the left side before racing back across to the right sideline. On the next play, Clagg bought some time in the pocket and then found a wide open Devin Hassett downfield for a 47 yard touchdown with 1:41 to play.

Clagg completed his pass on the two point attempt but Sharon’s defense kept the ball out of the end zone to preserve a two point lead. On the onside kick attempt, Naisuler came away the recovery. Elisma ran for 10 yards on second down to move the chains and from there, Sharon was able to kill the clock with kneel downs.

The Eagles had plenty of players make contributions on both sides of the ball. Naisuler, the quarterback, recovered a fumble and handled the onside kick. Dodes had a pair of catches on offense and an interception on defense. Senior Nate Hirsh was not only a big factor on both the offensive and defensive lines, he had a strong day punting, averaging nearly 40 yards per punt and a long of 58 yards.

“We try to condition at a very high level because numbers wise, we’re Sharon – this is what we are. Sometimes you just need the right 40 instead of the wrong 80 and we got two way guys, we get them to believe in it and condition because for four quarters, we need legs. Look at Elisma, he’s still breaking tackles in the fourth quarter. That’s conditioning.”

Foxboro had the advantage in yards (299-240) and held Sharon to a poor third down conversion rate, but three turnovers hurt immensely.

“[Sharon] played great, you can’t take anything away from them,” Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli said. “But you just can’t play seven minutes out of 44 and expect to win a game. [Elisma] was tough today, he ran good. It’s been kind of a sore spot for us this year on the edge.

“You have to play more than seven minutes of the game. It’s pretty cut and dry – too little too late.”

While Sharon nearly gave up its lead in the fourth quarter, Morse was happy that his young squad was able to make just enough plays to hold on.

“We’re still young so to give up those big plays but make a couple more and keep us in the lead, it’s good for a young team,” Morse said. “We’ll keep growing but we’re hoping that’s something that can pay big dividends in November when you’re playing in a big game.”

Sharon football (3-0, 1-0) will try to remain unbeaten when they host Stoughton on Saturday while Foxboro (1-2, 0-1) will host Canton on Friday night at the Ahern Middle School.

Football: 2016 Davenport Division Preview

2016 Davenport Football Preview
North Attleboro, the defending Kelley-Rex champions, will look to make a splash in its first season in the Davenport. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2016 Davenport Football Preview

Canton

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.”

Foxboro

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.

Milford

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.

North Attleboro

2015 Record: 9-2 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions)
2015 Finish: Reached D3 Southwest Semifinal
Coach: Don Johnson

Key/Returning Players: Thomas Reynolds, Sr., OL/DL; Bobby Mylod, Sr., RB/LB; Nick Rajotte, Sr. RB/DB; Kyle McCarthy, Sr. QB/DB; Chad Peterson, Jr., QB; Thomas Kummer, Sr., OL/DL.

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.”

Sharon

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.

Stoughton

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.”

Sharon Comeback Spoils Canton Title Hopes

Matt Cancian
Matt Cancian (27) rushed for a pair of second half touchdowns and had one of Sharon’s four interceptions in a 30-14 victory on Saturday. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

SHARON, Mass. – Coming into Saturday afternoon’s regular season finale, the conversation between fans from Canton and Sharon centered on seedings, rankings, and coefficients. The uncertainty of the playoff system loomed over the proceedings, even overwhelming the fact that a win would give the Bulldogs their first league title since 1990.

Canton stormed out of the gates and led by two scores in the first half, but the Eagles were intent on spoiling the moment and rattled off 30 straight points, while intercepting four passes and allowing only one Bulldogs first down in the second half of a 30-14 victory.

Sharon coach Dave Morse insisted it was the best half of football that his team had played all season and he believed that it was enough to get the Eagles into the tournament.

“That’s about it man,” he said. “You come out and shut out a team that’s feeling it, they’re rolling, it was an unbelievable half of football for us. When you come out and prepare correctly, we can execute correctly.”

Canton knew that it needed a win to share the Davenport crown with Foxboro, which had won on Friday night, and the Bulldogs were fired up at the start.

An interception by Jude Alpert near the end of the first quarter gave Canton possession at the Sharon 37. Eight plays later, Jake Ragusa (15 carries, 83 yards) punched it in from five yards out and Thomas Monagle added the kick to make it 7-0.

On Sharon’s next possession, the Bulldogs forced a three and out. Woanyen Mahn burst through the line and blocked the punt, which was recovered by Kymauny Roland and returned to the Sharon 32. Two plays later, Dennis Ross (3-11, 71 yards) looked for Michael Harris at the front corner of the end zone. Harris out-jumped two defenders to haul in the pass and make it 14-0.

“I thought there was blood in the water for us at 14-0,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “We knew they were good so 21-0, if we could get it would be the type of thing that you can make a good team question themselves, but we didn’t and they came back.”

Sharon needed a response and got it on its next drive. Juvan Elisma had two carries to get it to midfield followed by a Rob Bayha pass to Joey Dowler down to the Canton 33. Elisma (15 carries, 81 yards) did the rest, bursting through the line and sprinting to the far sideline for a 33-yard touchdown that cut the lead in half and gave the Eagles momentum heading into the break.

“It’s almost like in hockey when you go down 3-0 you’re screwed but you go down 2-1 then you’re okay,” explained Morse. “In OA we went down and came back, against Sandwich we went down and came back…mentally we are pretty tough and our guys keep fighting.”

Canton got the ball first and was forced to punt. On its possession, Sharon moved the ball to the Bulldogs 10, with the help of a horse collar and a late hit penalty, but was forced to settle for a 27-yard Josh Rotman field goal that made it 14-10.

Sensing that the Eagles had the upper hand, Morse called for an onside kick. The Eagles were quickest to the loose ball and recovered at their own 47. Canton’s defense held and forced a punt, but the energy was clearly on the home sideline in the third quarter.

Sharon stopped Ragusa for two short gains and then Bryce Smith intercepted Ross’ pass to give the Eagles ball at the Canton 11. Three plays later and Matt Cancian pushed it across from seven yards out to give Sharon its first lead at 17-14.

After another Canton punt, Bayha (7-17, 112) hit Tyler Smith for a 26-yard completion and the Eagles offense was in business again. Following a pass interference call against Canton, Cancian got the corner and went 15 yards for his second touchdown of the half.

“I thought we made the right adjustments at halftime,” said Bohane, “but just never got field position. I thought there were a couple times in the game that we looked a little bit slow but we can attribute that to they had some quick kids.”

With five minutes remaining in the game, Bryce Smith picked off Ross for the second time in the game and would have returned it for a score only to be denied by an illegal block call. Cancian nearly had his third touchdown only to have the ball pop out at the one, which Canton recovered for a touchback.

Rather than be dismayed by the turnover, the Sharon senior captain immediately got the ball back for his team when he picked off Ross’ pass on Canton’s first play. Bayha made sure that the turnover counted when he found Bryce Smith down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown with just 2:40 on the clock.

“We’re more comfortable moving the ball on the ground,” admitted Bohane. “We thought that we had some mismatches in there and the kids played well for Sharon and it is hard when you’re not getting those plus yards on first down, second down.”

Morse said, “The secondary was exceptional. Four picks is four picks; that’s tough to do.”

He added, “We did on any individual player even though [Ragusa] is great. Scheme-wise we put something together that we liked and our guys executed.”

Not to be outdone by his brother, Tyler Smith picked off the final pass to seal the Eagles victory and give Sharon a chance to look ahead to a possible playoff opponent.

Morse said, “I’m pumped up. We won against a good team to put us in. It’s a great win; it’s a great feeling. I bet our kids will have a real pep in their step this week at practice.”

Bohane was left deflated, as the Bulldogs were left without the league title and possibly left out of the playoffs on the final day for the second straight season.

When asked if he though that the postseason was still a possibility, Bohane responded, “I hope so. We’d love to get in the playoffs and represent the Hockomock League.”

Playoff brackets will be released by the MIAA on Sunday.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Milford Picks Off Sharon, Gets Back to .500

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By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

SHARON, Mass. – A week after giving up 42 points to league leading Foxboro, the Milford defense came into Saturday afternoon’s game at Sharon on a mission to give the Hawks a chance to play next week for a Div. 3 Southwest tournament berth.

Mission accomplished for the Hawks (3-3, 2-2), who forced three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) and held the Eagles (2-4, 1-3) scoreless until the final three minutes of the fourth quarter. Milford took advantage of the turnovers to pull out a 17-7 win that keeps the Hawks in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs.

“We had the tough loss last week and our kids knew that we needed this game for us to play meaningful football in November,” said Milford coach Joe Todd. “We played good defense all game to the very end…our emphasis all week was to play better defense and I think we got that done.”

Sharon took its opening possession all the way to the Milford 22. Junior running back Juvan Elisma carried the ball nine times on the drive for 24 yards and senior Rob Bayha (16-25, 197 yards) completed all three of his passes, but the Eagles could not finish and were stopped a yard short on fourth down.

Milford immediately marched downfield to open the scoring. Zach Lanzetta (9-12, 60 yards) was 3-3 on the drive, including an 11-yard completion to Leonard Moronta to the Sharon 16, and also ran for 12 yards. Junior Blake Hill had four carries for 31 yards and punched it in straight up the gut from four yards out.

Sharon’s second possession ended in a fumble by Elisma that was recovered by Milford’s Alec Salamone at the 25. But, the Eagles defense held strong and, with help from a holding call, forced Milford to punt.

“We gave up the turnover and gave them a short field and held them out, got the ball back,” said Sharon coach Dave Morse. “But Milford did a pretty good job when they had the ball of not getting too many three and outs, if any, and just moving the ball.”

He added, “They punted the ball real well and that was a big factor in the game.”

Once again the Eagles moved the ball and got into Milford territory. Bayha continued to be accurate with his underneath passes and spread the ball around to four different receivers, but he tried to go up top and underthrew his receiver down the middle and was picked off by Ryan Nesta at the Milford 33.

Morse explained, “It’s also bad when you have turnovers when the guy’s open. Overthrows or underthrows and you’re right there, it’s a little disheartening but it’s a game of inches and we’ll work on it.”

The Hawks marched 67 yards in nine plays, including a 23-yard completion to Hill that converted a first down, even with a block in the back penalty down the field. After an eight-yard run by Shapel Feester to the four, Lanzetta completed the drive with a four-yard keeper.

“That’s a good football team right there and without those turnovers, it’s a whole different game,” said Todd. “Hats off to our defense being in the right place, reading their keys, making plays when they had the opportunity and not dropping interceptions.”

On Sharon’s first possession of the second half, the Hawks defense again made a play to end a drive that had Milford on its heels. Hill made a leaping, twisting interception on a pass deep down the middle to get the ball at the Hawks 20.

“That was a huge play by Blake,” said Todd. “I think that was one of the biggest plays all game on defense.”

In the fourth quarter, Sharon was forced to go for it on fourth down at its own 24 and turned it over on downs. Four plays later Sean Lehane kicked a 33-yard field goal that put the Hawks ahead 17-0 with 3:25 left and seemingly wrapped up the win.

The Eagles needed a big play and, after narrowly missing on several deep throws, finally found the connection with Bayha hitting Craig Titus in stride on a post route for a 64-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 17-7 with 3:01 left.

“From week one we’ve certainly improved in the passing game,” said Morse. “Usually, the running game is there too but Milford did a great job of taking that away from us in large part.”

The Hawks ran out the clock and gave the ball back with only a few ticks left on the clock.

“We’re back to where we need to be,” said Todd. “We have a big challenge coming up this week with Stoughton…but we’re ready to go. Given the circumstances of our records, we couldn’t ask for a better situation. It’s going to be a good battle next week.”

Sharon will also be facing one of the three teams currently tied for the Davenport lead when it hosts Canton next week.

“They’re having a great season, they’re well coached, they have a lot of fight in them, a lot of toughness, and we’re going to give them our best shot,” said Morse. He added, “I don’t mind playing spoiler.”

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Defense Sparks Sharon in Win Over Sandwich

Juvan Elisma
Juvan Elisma (20) ran for a pair of touchdowns to lead Sharon to a 20-14 victory over Sandwich. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Click HERE for photo gallery from the game.
By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
SHARON, Mass. – Sharon’s offense moved the ball each of their first three drives but a turnover on downs and a pair of turnovers halted the momentum each team.
But the Eagles’ defense stood tall and got that momentum back. Sandwich got the ball back via an interception shortly after taking a 7-0 lead Facing a 4th and 1 situation, the Blue Knights elected to go for it but quarterback Tyler Cairns lost the ball in the push forward and Sharon senior Joey Dowler scooped up the loose ball and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
Sharon was in control from there on out and pick up its first win of the season, 20-14, over Sandwich.
Sandwich took the lead on its third drive of the game after taking over at Sharon’s 11 yard following their first interception of the game. The Blue Knights used two plays to punch it in to go up 7-0 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Dowler’s fumble return tied the game and kept spirits high for the Eagles. Sharon allowed only 17 yards on Sandwich’s ensuing drive and forced a punt. The offense wasted little time to move up the field as Juvan Elisma took the first play 44 yards up the right sideline and then quarterback Rob Bayha hit Bryce Smith for a 23 yard completion. Back to back hand offs to Elisma result in the Eagles’ first lead of the game as he punched it in from six yards out to make it 14-7.
Sandwich’s offense came back out shortly before the halftime break looking to try and level things but Sharon’s defense was stout and the Eagles took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
“They scored seven points when they had a pick and put them in the short field so I don’t put that one on the defense,” Sharon head coach Dave Morse said. “So we really didn’t give up a defensively touchdown until the second half late on a botch play by us. I was very confident in our defense. They knew their assignments and they were executing very well so I was very happy with them.”
Click HERE for photo gallery from the game.
Sharon started the second half with the ball and used 10 plays to go 65 yards to extend their lead, helped along by a couple of Sandwich penalties. After gaining just four yards on the first three downs, Sharon punted but punter Craig Titus was practically tackled after his kick and the Blue Knights were flagged for roughing the punter. A 15-yard completion from Bayha to Bryce Smith helped move the ball up field. Facing 4th and 8 at the Sandwich 29, the Eagles were able to use a hard count to draw the Blue Knights offside. On 4th and 3, Bayha hooked up with Titus for a 5 yard completion and a first down.
Elisma then took the next two plays, the first for 14 yards and the second for a 5 yard touchdown to make it 20-14.
“[Juvan] did a good job, he always seems to be falling forward,” Morse said. “He apologized for the late fumble but that’s an inexperienced kid and that stuff is going to get eliminated. All the good things he did, he’ll just keep improving on.”
Sandwich’s offense couldn’t get anything going on their ensuing drive while Sharon tried to chew up some clock on their next drive but had to punt it back to the Blue Knights. Both teams traded punts one more time as clock continued to tick away in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Knights once again fumbled away possession and it was Sharon’s Tyler Smith that pounced on the loose ball. Sharon was able to get a first down but then had to punt three plays later.
Facing a 3rd and six just over halfway through the final quarter, Sandwich was able to pull within a touchdown. A broken play allowed Cairns to evade a pair of Sharon defenders and then launch a pass to Jake Carter. Carter found himself open after the Eagles’ defender tripped up and he went all the way for a 66 yard touchdown.
Sandwich tried an onside kick with 5:33 left but Sharon’s Mitchell Liberman fell onto the ball after it was kicked directly at him.
Sharon moved all the way into the red zone and on 4th and 2 tried to convert but Elisma had the ball knocked out as he tried to push for the first down. The Blue Knights were able to into Sharon’s half to the 41 but constant pressure from the Eagles front line forced Cairns into numerous situations where he either was sacked or had to throw it away (twice flagged for intentional grounding). Bryce Smith had a big pass break up while Peter Banks had a sack on the second to last play.
“We showed up physically up front on both sides of the ball and that was a big difference,” Morse said about the difference from last week to this week. “We had a couple of lapses but we’re going to improve on those. But football is pretty simple, it doesn’t matter how many receivers you have on the field, if you can’t win up front you’re not going to win.”
Sharon (1-1) will open its Davenport Division schedule on Friday night when they take a trip to Ahern Middle School to take on Foxboro (2-0).
Click HERE for photo gallery from the game.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.