By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – For the second time in three years, Hilda will be heading back to Attleboro High.
Brendan Nunes rushed for 205 yards and two scores and caught a third touchdown from sophomore Cam Furtado, who also added two rushing scores of his own, as Attleboro (7-4) rolled to a 34-21 victory to win its second straight Thanksgiving Day game against North Attleboro at Community Field.
Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan said, “North Attleboro is one of the best programs in the state and we had to play one of our best games to win this afternoon and I think we did. We executed offensively and defensively and in special teams we did.”
Nunes started his season with four touchdowns in the opening win against Bishop Feehan, but late in that game picked up a high ankle sprain. He missed 2-1/2 games due to the injury and was limited when he did take the field. With a healthy Nunes in the backfield, the Attleboro offense clicked into gear on Thursday.
“We did a great job up front,” said Nunes. “My guys did a great job and couldn’t have done it without them. They set it all up for me.”
Senior lineman Kyle Murphy added, “Nobody can stop that kid. I really think he should’ve won Hock MVP because he’s the best running back in the league.”
North Attleboro (9-2) took the early lead on its first possession with an impressive seven-play, 80-yard drive. Sophomore quarterback Chad Peterson hit Kyle Gaumond down the seam on North’s first play from scrimmage for a 44-yard gain into Attleboro territory. Peterson (12-23, 194 yards) capped the drive with the first of his two touchdown passes, hitting Ridge Olsen (five catches, 77 yards) over the middle for 18 yards.
The Rocketeers gifted Attleboro a chance to get back into the game with a short punt that allowed the Bombardiers to start at the North 27. Nunes broke free for a 16 yard sweep and three plays later punched it in from five yards to tie the game.
Another struggle in the punting game gave Attleboro the ball at the North 39 on its next possession. Nunes broke another 16-yard run through the middle and then on the next play Furtado pump faked short and threw the ball to the front corner of the end zone where Nunes made the grab for a 23-yard score. The extra point was wide left and it was 13-7.
“He’s a special athlete,” said Strachan about Nunes. “He’s just gifted. To do what he did – 1,000-yard rusher, Balfour Trophy, bringing Hilda back to Attleboro – I think for me it says everything about the kid. He’s a true leader.”
The mistakes continued for North Attleboro on its next possession. Bobby Mylod fumbled at the Attleboro 44 and Sam Iampierto jumped on it for the Bombardiers.
Attleboro marched down to the North 20 where it faced third and 10 with fewer than 20 seconds remaining. Running behind Kyle Murphy, Furtado (14 carries, 59 yards) took off down the near sideline and broke a tackle at the goal line for a touchdown with five seconds left in the half. The Bombardiers went for a trick play on the conversion with the holder flipping it to Furtado and he found Alex Silva for two.
“I thought in the first half in particular we really hurt ourselves,” said North Attleboro coach Don Johnson. “We weren’t good in the kicking game, so we didn’t have good field position the whole first half and then we made some mistakes.”
The Bombardiers tacked on another touchdown with 3:36 left in the third quarter. Davon Andrade sacked Furtado to force third and 18, but Nunes broke free for a 31-yard gain down to the North two-yard line. On the next play, Furtado faked a sweep to Nunes and walked in untouched for the score.
“He really stepped up,” said Murphy about Furtado, who took over midway through the season. “He has a lot of confidence; he’s a tough kid; and he’s going to make a big difference the next two years.”
North cut the lead to two scores on its next possession, when Peterson hit Gaumond on a fly pattern down the sideline. The 30-yard score made it 28-14, but the momentum only lasted four plays. Furtado and John Burns each gained 19 yards and then Nunes got the edge and broke away for 31 yards and another TD.
“We got a little momentum going but then we throw an interception,” said Johnson, “It seemed like it was one of those days that everything we tried we couldn’t really get going.”
Kyle McCarthy took over under center for North in the fourth quarter. He was 5-5 for 45 yards on his one drive and found Olsen for a 16-yard touchdown. The North receiver pulled in the pass against double coverage.
“I think overall we just got worn down at the end of the season,” said Johnson. “I think we got the most that we could get out of this team and i think we got a little worn down down the stretch.”
After snapping a 20-year drought against its arch-rival in 2008, Attleboro has now won two of the last three Thanksgiving Day match-ups and added a league win against North in 2013.
Strachan played at North Attleboro and has coached the Bombardiers since 2013. He understand the rivalry from both sides and he explained that it has always been about more than just the results on the field.
“This is the community,” he said. “We’re rivals, but at the end of the day we have a tremendous amount of respect for each other and for me that’s the most important thing.”
When asked how it felt to beat North, Nunes, who received the Balfour Trophy as the game’s offensive MVP, responded, “It’s the greatest feeling of my life. I’ll never forget it.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.