Franklin Wins Back-to-Back Titles After Comeback at KP

Franklin Football
Franklin senior Luke Davis (6) hauls in a two-point conversion with 2:46 remaining, which lifted the Panthers to a come from behind win at rival King Philip and to a second straight Kelley-Rex title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WRENTHAM, Mass. – King Philip got the ball back up by seven points with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter of Thursday morning’s holiday matinee at Macktaz Field and went back to work with the ground game that had been nearly unstoppable for most of the game.

After running more than seven minutes off the clock, KP had first down from the Franklin 30 and looked like it was maybe one or two plays away from clinching the title-deciding showdown.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Rudy Gately (21 carries, 116 yards) was stopped for a loss of three by Emmett Lackey. Quarterback Tommy McLeish took the next snap and went on a sweep around the left side, but Franklin read the play and pried the ball loose. Devine Johnson pounced on it at the 34 to give the visitors a chance with 6:11 on the clock.

Mike Davide (11 carries, 40 yards) broke free for a 13-yard gain into KP territory and Jase Lyons (20-of-27, 232 yards) hit Josh Ribeiro on the sideline. Ribeiro refused to go out of bounds, cutting back infield and eventually gaining 17 to the KP 28. After back-to-back completions to Luke Davis, Lyons kept it himself, looking for contact in the secondary and being brought down at the three. Davide finished the drive to bring the Panthers within one.

Instead of lining up for a Garrett Portesi extra point and potentially playing for overtime, Franklin coach Eian Bain rolled the dice and kept the offense on the field.

“Not for a second,” Bain said later, when asked if he thought about kicking. “We were going for two and then just onside kick it if we have to. We were going for the win right there and then make them have to make a decision too, do they stick with the offense they ran the whole game?”

Lyons dropped back and looked for Davis on a quick out-route a couple yards into the end zone. Davis (nine catches, 153 yards) made the diving grab and put the Panthers up 29-28 with only 2:46 left on the clock. The Franklin defense was able to limit KP to just one first down, sealing a win and a share of its second straight Kelley-Rex division title.

“We just had a good matchup,” Bain said. “We had a play call for both sides and when they adjusted from the empty backfield, we had Luke one-on-one, which is what we wanted.”

Davis was thrilled at his coach’s decision to stick with the offense in that situation. He said, “I was hoping for him to say that. Obviously, KP is a good team and they have their drives, so just to get that extra point was huge. I had full confidence in Jase and the offense to make the play, so it was a great call. Trust coach.”

KP coach Brian Lee rued uncharacteristic turnovers from his team that led to two Franklin touchdowns, including the eventual winner, but also praised Bain for his call to go for two at the end.

“We were just about another first down away from giving (Matthew) Kelley a chance for a field goal and kudos to them,” Lee explained. “Bottom line, we’ve got to hold onto the ball. We turned it over twice. Once on an exchange – points, and down here – points.”

He added, “The guts on coach to go for two. That’s a great call. I love that stuff, going for that win here. It shows that program is in good hands.”

Franklin came into Thanksgiving an underdog against KP, which is heading back to its fifth Div. 2 Super Bowl in six seasons, but the Panthers were riding the confidence of beating the Warriors last year (ending a decade without a win in this series) and got off to a roaring start. On third and five, Lyons went deep down the sideline to Davis, who hauled in the pass then cut back towards the hash mark and raced past a pair of defenders for a 69-yard TD.

“He does everything,” Bain said about Davis. “He’s going to be impossible to replace. I don’t think the kid ever gets tired, I don’t think he ever doesn’t smile, he always goes and he does it right way too.”

Davis noted, “Being on that team last year, we got that feeling of success. We’ve been working at it all year, had KP in the back of the mind all year until it was finally Thanksgiving week. Having that success last year, helped us know what it meant and know what the feeling is to win this game.”

KP responded like it usually does, but lining up behind its big offensive line and running right at the heart of the defense. On their first drive of the day, KP marched 64 yards on nine plays, all of them runs between the tackles. Gately had five carries on the drive, including a 16-yard rush inside the Franklin 10. William Astorino (14 carries, 109 yards) punched it from the two to tie it.

Kyle Abbott and Christopher Sesay each sacked Lyons to end Franklin’s next possession. KP got the ball back and went 57 yards on eight plays, again all runs right up the middle, to take the lead. Astorino and Gately split the carries on the drive, with Astorino finding the end zone on a 12-yard run. Kelley’s extra point made it 14-7.

Franklin drove into KP territory, but David Constantine’s interception ended the drive at the Warriors 12. On third and 17, a fumbled hand-off was recovered by Jack Nutter to give the Panthers the ball at the 18. The Panthers took advantage, as Lyons recovered from being sacked twice (by Carson Meier and Astorino) to hit Davis for a six-yard score, tying the game with 46 seconds left in the half.

Coming out of the locker room, the Warriors took control. A seven-play, 65-yard drive kicked things off. Abott broke free for 16 yards into Franklin’s half of the field and then Astorino ran over defenders on a 32-yard rush down to the 13. Four plays later, Astorino got his third score of the day from two yards out.

The KP defense stepped up to stop Franklin. Gately was playing centerfield and he read a deep ball to Davis on the sideline, coming across to pick it off and return it down to the Panthers 26. On second down, McLeish went play-action and hit Astorino in the right flat. The running back did the rest, weaving his way to the end zone for a 28-14 lead.

Momentum was swinging back-and-forth and this time it was Franklin’s turn to steal it back. The Panthers went 69 yards in nine plays to get back into the game. A pass interference call got the ball to the 27. After and eight-yard pass to Derek Dubriske (five catches, 32 yards), Lyons fired a strike to Davis, who went up and over the defensive back to pull in the 19-yard score.

Killing the clock and killing off the game is usually KP’s forte, but the Panthers found a way to force the turnover and give themselves one last chance to retain the Kelley-Rex crown. When they found the end zone, there was no question of going for the tie, only for the win.

Bain said of the comeback that earned Franklin (7-3) its first back-to-back league titles since 1971, “King Philip makes you play a certain way. You’ve got to get a little grimy, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and you’ve got to bang with them. Today we got hit in the mouth plenty, there were any number of times where we could’ve said, ‘You know what, we had a good run,’ but these guys never gave up.”

King Philip (9-2) will play Catholic Memorial in the D2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night at 8:00. It is a rematch of last year’s title game, but Lee was adamant that the upcoming final had no impact on his team’s play on Thursday.

“Up 14, that’s something where you feel like you should be able to control it and we just couldn’t,” Lee said. “No. 6 (Davis) is a dude and the quarterback gets the ball out on time and that puts you under pressure. They kept making plays, kept fighting, and kept believing and that’s a hard thing to combat.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Football: 2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Milford and King Philip will both be contenders for the Kelley-Rex division title this season. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
By HockomockSports.com Staff

2022 Kelley-Rex Football Preview

2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Attleboro

2021 Record: 4-6
Coach: Jim Winters

Key/Returning Players: Matt Harvie, Jr., QB; Ethan Lako, Sr., LB; Isaiah Miranda, Sr., OL/DL; Ayden Ramirez, Sr., WR/CB; Adrian Rivera, Jr., RB; Anthony Salviati, SR.; WR/S; Spencer Sherck, Sr., S

Outlook:
In a loaded Kelley-Rex division, Attleboro has largely been on the outside of the title race and the Bombardiers enter this season with an eye to the future, as they have a relatively inexperienced roster. First-year coach Jim Winters, who came from Silver Lake to replace Mike Strachan after his move to North Attleboro, will lean on a talented crew of skill position players and an aggressive mindset to be competitive with the league’s top teams.

Offensively, the Bombardiers have a lot of depth and athleticism at receiver. Senior Anthony Salviati is a dynamic playmaker who can line up in multiple positions, whether out wide or in the backfield. He was also the team’s kicker last year. Junior Matt Harvie gets the nod at quarterback to start the season after seeing time under center as a sophomore. His strong arm and ability to read the defense will be key. Senior Ayden Ramirez will be another threat on the outside and junior Adrian Rivera will be the team’s go-to back at the start of the season. Senior center Isaiah Miranda is the team’s only returning lineman, on either side of the ball, and his leadership is going to be critical to the offense’s success.

Athleticism is going to be important on defense as well. Salviati will bring his playmaking to the secondary as a safety. Winters called Ramirez one of the best corners that he has coached, while senior linebacker Ethan Lako is a ball hawk who led the team in interceptions last season. Senior safety Spencer Sherck is recovering from a preseason injury and the Bombardiers will be hoping to have his leadership back on the field as soon as possible. The defensive line remains a question mark with young players getting their first taste of varsity action this season.

“We should be fast and aggressive at the skill positions,” Winters said. About the challenges on the line, he added, “We will be very inexperienced and do not have the size of Attleboro teams of the past.”










2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Franklin

2021 Record: 10-1 (Kelley-Rex division champions)
Coach: Eian Bain

2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Key/Returning Players: Jase Lyons, Sr., QB/S; Luke Davis, Sr., WR/CB; Grayson Hunter, Sr., TE; Ben Papa, Sr., OL; Ben Ryan, Jr., OL; Leo Meuse, Soph., OL; Jay Gulla, Sr., DL; Emmett Lackey, Sr., DL; Julian Rampino, Soph., DL; Nick Quintina, Sr., LB; Luke Sidwell, Sr., CB; Devine Johnson, Sr., CB;

Outlook:
Franklin was not only the best team in the Kelley-Rex division last year, winning its first league title since 2009, but also proved to be one of the top teams in the state. The Panthers were a win away from a spot in the Super Bowl, going toe-to-toe with Springfield Central in the state semifinal. This season, the Panthers will have to overcome the graduation of a lot of skill position players to keep the positive momentum that the program has shown over the past few seasons.

Last year’s offensive group was as good as any in the state and it showed. This season, Franklin will have a lot of new faces and a lot of versatile athletes that will be part of the game plan. Senior Jase Lyons will take over at quarterback and is a dual threat with his legs and his arm. Senior Luke Davis will be one of the primary targets out wide along with junior wideout Derek Dubriske and senior tight end Grayson Hunter. The graduation of Mack Gulla opens space for new running backs to step up. Juniors Mike Davide and Cody Howard are backs to watch out for this year. Senior Ben Papa will lead the offensive line with junior Ben Ryan and sophomore Leo Meuse adding depth and size. Senior Garrett Portesi will be back on kicking duties and gives Franklin a consistent source of points.

While the offense got a lot of attention last season, Franklin’s defense allowed fewer points than anyone else in the league. The secondary was one of the biggest strengths in 2021 and should be again this year. Senior Devine Johnson is a lockdown corner, while classmates Luke Sidwell, Bobby Padula, and Davis all are playmakers in the passing game. Junior Connor Klawson will add depth in that position. The linebacking group is led by senior Nick Quintina, who will make plays in the middle, and Howard will be a new face in that position. Senior Emmett Lackey will control the defensive line, while senior Jay Gulla is a constant threat on the edge and sophomore Julian Rampino gives another big athlete at defensive end.

“We are taking this one day at a time,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “Last year was a whirlwind, and culmination of many years of hard work. It is important not to lose sight of the process that got us to such great accomplishments. It remains all about the process.”




2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

King Philip

2021 Record: 9-3
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Will Astorino, Sr., FB/LB; Thomas Brewster, Sr., WR/DB; Rudy Gately, Sr., RB/DB; Nathan Kearney, Sr., RB/DE; Sean King, Jr., OL/DL; Chris Sesay, Sr., OL/DL; Matt Kelley, Sr., K/WR/DB; Tommy McLeish, Jr., QB;

Outlook: Last season was another banner year for the Warriors, reaching another Division 2 state final and took second in what was one of the most talented years in the Kelley-Rex division.

Certainly, the Warriors have plenty of holes to fill in due to graduation like at quarterback (Charlie Grant), running back (Crawford Cantave), Jonathan Joseph (defensive back), and on both the offensive and defensive line. But head coach Brian Lee has to like the weapons he does have back this season.

It starts with one of the best two-way players in the state in senior Rudy Gately, who will be a workhorse in the backfield and a reliable option at linebacker. He’s been making plays for KP for two years and that’s likely to continue again this year. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Will Astorino (full back) and Nathan Kearney, and they’ll work with junior Tommy McLeish (6’3), who takes over at quarterback. McLeish has weapons in Matt Kelley, who is not only one of the best kickers around but will also line up at receiver and defensive back, as well as Thomas Brewster.

The strength of the squad likely lies where it usually does: in the trenches. The Warriors are big up front on both sides of the ball and return two of the best linemen in the state in 6’6 265-pound Chris Sesay, who holds D1 offers from Eastern Michigan and Brown among others, and 6’0, 260-pound junior Sean King.

Defensively, Astorino will be one of the key pieces at linebacker while Sesay looks to be a force to reckon with on the defensive line.

“As far as strength and weaknesses go, we lost a lot of players from all different positions so we are just in the process of still figuring out what we are, who we are, and if we have all the right guys on the field and in the right spot,” Lee said. “Despite what we’ve lost, our goal is to be prepared and focused each week so that we can be competitive.”




2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Milford

2021 Record: 9-3
Coach: Dale Olson

Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Nicholas Araujo, Jr., LB/K; Jayden Archeval, Sr., DB; Damien Carter, Jr., WR/DB; Evan Cornelius, Sr., QB/DE; Keith Lee, Jr., G/DT; Isaiah Pantalone, Sr., WR/DB; Tyler Potter, Sr., T/DT

Outlook:
Milford has come a long way in the past couple of seasons, earning wins over its Kelley-Rex division rivals, putting in a challenge for the league title, and making a run to the Div. 2 semifinals. The Hawks will try to continue building on that momentum this fall with the hope of a talented and experienced lineup bringing home a first Kelley-Rex title.

Senior quarterback Evan Cornelius is back to run the Milford offense after a strong junior campaign. Cornelius gives the Hawks a threat with either his strong arm or his ability to make plays with his legs and he helped Milford put together one of the league’s top offensive units last year. Senior wideout Isaiah Pantalone had a breakout junior season and emerged as one of the most dangerous receivers in the Hock. Junior Damien Carter can line up in multiple positions and classmate Nicholas Araujo can make an impact at receiver or as one of the league’s top kickers. Junior Keith Lee and senior Tyler Potter will be two of the top returning lineman and the Milford line got a huge boost by the transfer of Ryan O’Connor from Lawrence Academy.

Cornelius is just as impactful on the defensive side of the ball with his speed and size at defensive end. Lee, Potter, and O’Connor add strength to the interior of the Milford line. Araujo will be one of the key returning players at linebacker. Milford’s athleticism at receiver translates into a strong secondary as well. Carter and Pantalone are both playmakers on the edge and senior Jayden Archeval emerged as one of the top one-on-one cover guys in the league last year.

“We don’t have great numbers and will have to stay healthy,” Milford coach Dale Olson explained, “but have a talented group that has worked hard to rebuild this program.”




2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

North Attleboro

2021 Record: 8-4
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Greg Berthiaume, Sr., RB/LB; Zack Gallagher, Sr., OL/DL; Nate Shultz, Sr., RB/DB; Kaden Leary, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Munley, Sr., OL/DL; Chase Frisoli, Soph., QB; Lucas Mattson, Jr., OL/DL; Nolan McLaughlin, Sr., OL/DL; Aidan Conrad, Sr., RB/DB;

Outlook: The 2022 season marks a new chapter in the very rich history of North Attleboro football. Coming off a narrow loss in the Division 3 state championship, the Rocketeers have a brand new head coach along with a slew of new faces in new positions.

Mike Strachan is now at the helm of the Big Red. Strachan, who played for the Rocketeers in high school for legendary coach Ray Beaupre, had been the head coach of rival Attleboro since 2013 before switching in his Bombardier blue back to Rocketeer red.

He’ll have the tough task of finding replacements for a very talented senior class from last year, including star Tyler DeMattio – who played a handful of positions over the past four years, including quarterback, running back, linebacker, and kicker – as well as fellow league all star Tyler Bannon. But the cupboard is far from empty for Strachan, who is looking to uphold the high standards and tradition of North Attleboro football.

Sophomore Chase Frisoli returns at quarterback after an impressive freshman season. He will have a lot of new weapons to work with this year, and Strachan is leaning heavily on a big offensive line to not only protect Frisoli but set the tone with a strong running game. The line is anchored by Zack Gallagher (6’3, 280) and North will look to run behind him as well as Kaden Leary, Lucas Mattson, Jack Munley, Nolan McLoughlin, and Danny Locke. Nate Shultz will be the primary ball carrier and brings an explosive run game to the table.

“Nate will lead the defense at free safety [too],” Strachan said. “Nate brings breakaway speed to the offense and has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In addition, Nate is a tremendously smart player and gives us the on-field leadership required to have a great team.”

On the defensive side, the Rocketeers will turn to veteran linebacker Greg Berthiaume, who lead the D3 finalists in tackles last year. With Berthiaume in the mix, North’s strength defensively will be its linebackers, with Ryan Bannon, Aidan Conrad, and Julian House also in the mix.

2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Photos

Taunton

2021 Record: 5-6
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Ryan MacDougall, Sr., OL/LB; Nathan Laplante, Sr., OL/DL; William Guachichulca-Torres, Sr., OL; Logan Frank, Sr., OL; Jacob Leonard, Sr., QB; Bryan Batista, Sr., RB; Tanner Brannon, Sr., OLB; Dom Kessel, Sr., DL; McKyen Gonsalves, Sr., WR/DB; Jose Touron, Jr., WR/DB; Bryan Joanis, Jr., OL/DL; Ethan Harris, Jr., RB/LB;

Outlook: Taunton took a step in the right direction during the 2022 season with five wins and a trip to the state tournament, but the Tigers went without a win in league play. With an experienced and talented group back in the fold this year, head coach Brad Sidwell and his Tigers will look to make a splash in the league and continue to move the program forward.

It will all start up front for Taunton because of a big and talented group of linemen that have a lot of varsity experience. The team’s three captains are all members of the offensive line: seniors Ryan MacDougall (center), Nathan LaPlante (guard), and William Guachichulca-Torres (tackle). They’ll be joined by senior Logan Frank (guard) and junior Bryan Joanis (tackle). All five register above 6’0 and have a lot of varsity experience under their belt.

Behind them will be returning quarterback Jake Leonard, who is in his third year as the starting quarterback for the Tigers. While Leonard lost some of his top targets from last year, he has some dangerous weapons at his disposal still, including Jose Touron (fresh off an impressive sophomore campaign), seniors Mckyen Gonsalves and Braden Mullen, and speedy junior Dmitrius Shearrion. After a promising start to last year was cut short due to injury, Bryan Batista is back in the mix at running back along with Etha Harris and Malachai Johnson.

Defensively, the Tigers boast an athletic secondary, a big defensive line, and a mix of veteran and new linebackers. Laplante will be among the most disruptive defensive linemen in the league and will be joined by Frank, Joanis, and senior Dom Kessel. MacDougall had a great year at linebacker last year and will be flanked by Harris, senior Tanner Brannon, junior Ryan Keenan, and sophomore Elijah Prophete.

“We have a solid nucleus of experienced players that have worked hard during the off-season,” Sidwell said. “As always, we look to play well, improve, and gain some momentum during our non-league battles to prepare us for the highly competitive Hockomock Kelley-Rex Division.”

Franklin Holds Off KP To Clinch Kelley-Rex Crown

Franklin senior Shane Kindred hauls in a one-handed grab against King Philip on Thanksgiving. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 FRANKLIN, Mass. — Before the main course of turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce, the Franklin football team helped themselves to an early serving of stuffing.

Franklin senior Jack Marino denied King Philip on a 4th and 1 situation just beyond midfield with two minutes left in the game to help the Panthers secure a 27-20 win over the Warriors in the 61st Thanksgiving clash between the two teams.

With the win, Franklin clinches its first-ever Hockomock League Kelley-Rex division title and first league crown since 2009. It also snaps a 10-game Thanksgiving skid and an 18-game overall streak to the Warriors, their first win over KP since the same year they won their last title.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“It’s incredibly satisfying, and I’m obviously proud as the coach but I’m just happy for the kids and the town,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “The last couple of years, this game has been good and there’s been some close ones and not so close ones. Eventually, these are games we have to win to move our program forward.

“This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully, our young kids realize what they can do if they keep working. But as awesome as this is, I hope they realize this took a lot of work from a lot of young men. I’m just really happy for the kids to see that hard work pay off today.”

The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, the latter — plus a two-point conversion — had the hosts ahead 27-20 going into the final quarter of play.

The Warriors were marching into Franklin territory as the final minutes ticked off the clock. KP punted on its second drive of the second half and then fumbled in Panther territory on its previous drive.

A heavy dose of junior Rudy Gately (24 carries, 162 yards) and Crawford Cantave (14 carries, 72 yards) had the Warriors over midfield, but Will Astorino’s third down run was stopped a yard shy of the marker on a tackle from Luke Davis and Cullen Pek.

On fourth down, Marino came flying through the offensive line and met Gately in the backfield for a loss of yards and a turnover on downs.

Mack Gulla (16 carries, 109 yards) ran for back-to-back first downs and the Panthers ran the clock out to secure their first win in the series in over a decade.

“Me and [Nick Quintina], we knew it was going to be either me or him that had to make the play, we needed to make a play and make a tackle,” Marino said. “Rudy is a hard runner, I’m good friends with him but I was able to get through the gap and he was there for me to make the play.

“It’s great to get this win…the rivalry between Franklin and KP has always been there all the way back to Pop Warner. They’ve had our number for a decade or so, but it’s great to get the last one, especially for the seniors.”

“Jack is one of the savviest athletes out there,” Bain said. “Coach [Zach] Brown would say the same thing with baseball…looking back at any big win, there’s a moment when Jack Marino turned the tide.”

While it was the perfect end for Franklin, it was far from the perfect start.

King Philip’s defense forced a quick three-and-out and its offense needed little time to find the end zone. Gately broke free up the middle for 64 yards and three plays later, senior quarterback Charlie Grant (4/9, 84 yards) went play action and hit classmate Drew Danson in the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.

Things went from bad to worse for the Panthers as they fumbled on their first carry of the ensuing drive and KP pounced on the loose ball, taking over in Franklin territory.

The Warriors needed just four plays again, helped along by a 33-yard pass and catch from Grant to Danny Clancy down the right sideline down to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Grant kept it himself on the sneak and Matthew Kelley booted the point after for a 14-0 lead with 5:55 left in the first quarter.

“You’re up 14-0 and you keep trying to tell the kids it’s not going to last,” KP head coach Brian Lee said. “You want to try and jump on them as much as possible early. I think if we had maybe one more there…but it just comes back to the little things.

“The quick reaction is jeez, we made a lot of mistakes but how much of that is from the pressure [Franklin] was bringing on us? It makes you a little antsy, jump offside, lineup wrong, just little things like that…you like to think it’s us self-destructing but I think it’s the pressure they put on us. That’s what happens playing against a very good team.”

Franklin had to punt on its third drive but the Panther defense delivered a big stop, cooling some of KP’s momentum.

After a first down run from Gulla, Bain dipped into his bag of tricks and the Panthers executed a perfect flea flicker. Gulla took the handoff but tossed it back to Jared Arone (11/17, 231 yards, 3 TD) and he hit Shane Kindred (5 catches, 159 yards, 3 TD) in stride for an 85-yard touchdown with just over a minute left in the first. Sean King blocked the point after for KP but Franklin was on the board, down 14-6.

Helped by a holding call, KP’s offense went backward on its next series. A third-down pooch punt didn’t travel as far as the Warriors’ hoped and Franklin took over at the KP 45-yard line with 9:19 left in the second.

Arone broke free from a facemask hold and weaved his way to a 45-yard score, only for a block in the back to offset the penalties and nullify the play. But the Panthers’ offense carried on as Arone hit Will Deschenes to convert a fourth down and on the next play, Arone hit Kindred up the left hash for a 17-yard touchdown, making it 14-13 after Garrett Portesi’s extra point.

A false start and a tackle for loss from Marino stalled KP’s next drive, and a sack from Jay Gulla ended it as the Warriors had to punt it back.

Franklin’s offense capitalized on the momentum as Arone hit Kindred to convert an early third down, and the duo hooked up two plays later on the right side and Kindred managed to stay inbounds, racing up the right sideline and diving into the end zone. Hunter Hastings blocked another point after attempt but the Panthers had a 19-14 lead at halftime.

“I think we’ve been in that situation a couple of times, and even though you might get your confidence rattled a little bit, we’re still a pretty good football team,” Bain said of facing an early deficit. “And as long as we kept believing, I think the biggest thing was just having our kids settle down. You want them to play with emotion but they had to settle down and once we hit the big play to Shane at the end of the first quarter, and then we got a stop that we needed and we settled in.

“KP did an awesome job, they’re going to Gillette for a reason. Kind of like last week, we knew they’d score points and make big plays, we just had to take it one series at a time. You can’t hit fast forward to the fourth quarter and the game is over, we had to work for it and earn it.”

KP opened the second half in typical Warrior style: a 9-play, 70-yard march down the field to retake the lead. Gately and Cantave alternated carries, and Grant hit Gately for 25 yards out of the backfield on a third and long. Cantave capped the drive by backing his way across the goal line for a 6-yard touchdown.

The two-point pass was broken up in the corner of the end zone by Franklin’s Devine Johnson.

Franklin went three-and-out on its first drive of the second half after a pass break up on third by KP’s Kelley. But the Panthers’ defense bounced back and stuffed the Warriors, who went for it on 4th down from the Franklin 32-yard line.

“I think it was good to get back to our identity and our reality,” Bain said of the defense. “Certainly, Springfield Central can take anyone out of their comfort zone and King Philip does it in a totally different way, and that’s hard. It’s hard to keep getting hit in the mouth and then you’re down 14. You have to ask yourself, do I want to keep getting hit in the face over and over and over again. Our guys didn’t back down…it was hard, and they’ll be sore tomorrow but they kept answering the bell time and time again, getting off the mat. In the fourth quarter, they made a couple of plays that were key to winning the game.”

Gulla made a nice catch on the left sideline for 19 yards to move the sticks and then bulldozed his way for 10 yards on the ground and another first down. Four plays later, he ran up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown.

On the two-point try, Arone went to the right on the bootleg but didn’t have anyone open so he raced back to the left and into the end zone for a successful conversion and a 27-20 lead.

“I don’t want to think if we did lose, but I think they still would have had a great career but I think this was needed for them,” Bain said of his senior class. “I think a couple of classes before them, I think they feel a part of this too but this group pushed us over the hump. Everyone got screwed out of a normal experience last year but to bounce back and to have this, for this to be their last high school football memory, it couldn’t be more fitting for this group of kids.

It was the first time in nearly a decade that Thanksgiving games counted towards division titles in the Hockomock League. With the new rating system, the league elected to have Thanksgiving count as a league game with holiday rivals only playing once in the season, rather than twice as they had for the past eight years.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

King Philip still has one game left as the Warriors are headed to Gillette Stadium to play Catholic Memorial in the Division 2 State Championship game. But the Warriors weren’t focused on next week just yet. KP played all of its starters.

“We were focused on this game…you have to respect their seniors, that’s a great team and they want to know they beat us with our guys,” Lee said. “They deserve that shot, that opportunity after the season they’ve had. And we wanted our guys to have a shot at the league title. Yeah, we’re going to the Super Bowl but who knows what’s going to happen? We’re playing against an absolute animal of a team. But with a chance at the Hock title, we wanted to try and go get it.”

Franklin finishes the season at 10-1 and a perfect 5-0 in Kelley-Rex division play. King Philip enters its showdown with CM next week at 9-2.

Franklin Beats Methuen to Get Another Shot at Gillette

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Franklin running back Mack Gulla rushed for a pair of touchdowns in a 24-7 win over Methuen in the D1 quarterfinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – During its undefeated run to the Div. 1 quarterfinal, Franklin’s high-powered offense has gotten a lot of the attention but there are exceptional athletes on both sides of the ball and in Friday night’s visit of Methuen to Pisini Stadium the defense showed off its speed and athleticism in slowing down the Rangers.

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After giving up a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, Franklin scored 24 unanswered points to pull out a 24-7 victory and for the second time in three seasons is one game away from a trip to Gillette Stadium and a Super Bowl appearance.

“We just have to play good football,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “You’re not going to win at this level if you don’t play good football. You have to be very sound in that phase of the game and we did a good job tonight minus maybe one or two miscues.

Senior linebacker Nick Quintina added, “We weren’t really communicating the first drive. Once we all started communicating, calling the routes out, where the receivers were placed at, that’s what really helped us out.”

Methuen, fresh off an opening-round win against perennial power Everett, is a tough offense to pin down with all of its pre-snap motion, the variety of its sets, and the speed that it brings to every position. The Rangers got off to a very quick start, taking the opening drive 76 yards in eight play.

On fourth and one from near midfield, Jaetel Gomez got two yards for a first down. On the next play, Drew Eason fired a strike to Will McKinnon for 48 yards down to the Franklin five. CJ Muniz did the rest, getting to the corner for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead. It looked like it might be a long night for the Panthers defense, but that ended up being the only score that Methuen could muster.

The lead didn’t last long either. Franklin answered right back with a 77-yard drive. Mack Gulla (19 carries, 122 yards) was the focal point for the Panthers, getting seven carries on the opening possession. After an 11-yard completion from Jared Arone to Will Deschenes into Methuen territory, Gulla broke runs of 14 and 23 yards to get inside the 10. He punched it in from five yards to tie the game.

“That’s kind of been what we’ve done all year, just pick our moments, pick our marks, and attack but also not get out of the game plan,” Bain explained. “We went right down the script, some of it worked great, some of it didn’t and we saw that, and when we had to have the moments our kids made plays.”

When it got back on the field, Franklin’s defense started to turn things around. Quintina and Jay Gulla stuffed Eason for a loss of one, a flea flicker sailed over the receiver, and then Luke Davis made a play on the ball to break up the third down pas. On the next possession, it was Luke Sidwell in coverage making a play to get off the field.

Franklin got the ball back for its third possession at its own 49 and took advantage of the short field to grab the lead for good. A 13-yard pass to Will Tracey got Franklin down to the Rangers 27. Two plays later, Arone went back to Tracey on the far sideline and the 6-foot-2 receiver was able to go up and haul the pass in while getting a foot down inbounds. The 23-yard score made it 14-7.

Methuen moved the ball on its next drive, with Eason finding Braeden Carter for 10 yards to convert on fourth and three and get into Franklin’s half of the field. Quintina and Cullen Pek stuffed a second and two run for no gain and Pek and Jonathan Martins made a stop on third down, but the Muniz got three on fourth down to move the chains.

Pek came up with another big stop, dropping Eason for a loss of four. Sidwell and Devine Johnson combined to break up a halfback pass and then Jack Marino sacked Eason back at the 38 to force fourth and long and a punt.

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and Deschenes made sure they started in a good spot, returning the kick off 41 yards out to the 46. A pair of passes from Arone (8-of-15, 133 yards) to Tracey (four catches, 56 yards) got the ball to the Methuen 32. From there, Gulla did the rest. He burst through the line of scrimmage, raced past the linebackers into the secondary and was gone for his second score of the night.

“He’s the starting point,” Bain said of Gulla. “Everything we do kind of starts with him and how can we branch off that and we’re fortunate because we have a lot of good players and a lot of guys got involved tonight with different parts of the game plan. But, when he goes, we go a little bit better.”

Pek, Quintina, Jay Gulla, Emmett Lackey, and the rest of the Franklin front seven was flying around making plays and giving Eason no time in the pocket.

“We really just feed off the play and whoever gets open in the gap,” Quintina said. “Coach has been doing a great job getting calls in, double blitzing. When we double blitz usually it opens up a big gap and whoever is on that blitz has a free run.”

Bain added, “They’re relentless. They’re tough to handle and they have motors and they’re a lovable group of kids but they don’t stop. They would drive you nuts if you were their parents. They don’t stop and their pursuit of the quarterback and of excellence is contagious and I think it fuels our defense.”

Franklin put the game away four minutes into the fourth quarter. Facing second and 15 from the Panthers 38, Arone looked deep down the near sideline to Davis, who managed to pull in the catch and stay just inbounds right in front of the Franklin bench. The 32-yard catch got the hosts to the 30.

On fourth and eight, Arone was able to hit Shane Kindred for a 15-yard catch near the sideline to keep the drive moving. It would lead to a 22-yard kick from Garrett Portesi and a 24-7 lead.

“We’re just playing our role as underdogs all season,” said Quintina. “Every team that looks at us, we look small, but we’re just the underdogs and we love that role.”

Franklin (9-0) will put its perfect record on the line next week against No. 5 Springfield Central, which crushed Xaverian 40-15, at a time, date, and location to be determined.

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Franklin Continues Perfect Start By Beating Mansfield

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Jonathan Martins celebrates after catching a fourth quarter touchdown pass to seal Franklin’s first win against Mansfield since 2009. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – It was only seven months ago that Franklin traveled to Alumni Field to open the Fall II season. The Panthers were a young team learning the ropes against a senior-laden, highly-experienced Mansfield squad filled with Super Bowl-winning talent.

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When the two teams met on Friday night at Pisini Stadium, the roles were reversed. Now it was the Panthers that had the experience and they took advantage at every opportunity. Jared Arone (9-for-13, 206 yards) tossed four touchdown passes and the Panthers beat Mansfield 28-10. in front of a packed house.

It was Franklin’s first win against the Hornets since going undefeated in the 2009 regular season. It also ended Mansfield’s 19-game win streak, which had been the longest active streak in the state.

“We had a normal summer, a normal weight program, a normal training camp where we could meet and walk through and do all the things that you’re supposed to do and we let our kids just be kids this year finally,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain about the growth of his team over the past few months. “I think they’ve grown a lot as people, as men, as students, as players.”










Despite being 3-0, Mansfield has struggled early in games and had to come from behind in each of the past two weeks. The pattern repeated itself on Friday, as the Hornets hurt themselves with penalties, regularly finding themselves in long-yardage situations, missed a field goal, and were unable to finish drives.

Mansfield coach Mike Redding admitted that was too much to overcome against a team as good as Franklin. He said, “So sloppy and I think tonight was the first time that we played young almost the whole night. Tonight it was like we could never be consistent. We just kind of took a step back in terms of execution on both sides of the ball.”

After forcing a three-and-out, thanks to pass breakups by Jase Lyons and Devine Johnson, Franklin took over for its second possession at its own 32. Two plays and a first down later, Arone went deep right down the middle of the field, hitting Shane Kindred (five catches, 106 yards) in stride for a 54-yard touchdown. Garrett Portesi’s extra point made it 7-0.

“You want to always play with a lead,” said Bain. “It gives you a little flexibility, allows you now to panic, and we hit those big plays early. It also put some pressure on them to get out of their comfort zone.”

Another Mansfield three-and-out gave Franklin a chance to double its lead, but Trevor Foley intercepted Arone at the Hornets 39. Mansfield’s offense finally started to get things going.

Conner Zukowski (13-of-27, 141 yards) hit CJ Bell for 27 yards down the sideline to get into the red zone. A sack by Nick Quintina (one of five Franklin sacks in the game) pushed the Hornets back eight yards and Luke Davis made a nice play on the ball to deny a touchdown pass to Foley. The Hornets were forced to try a 32-yard field goal by James Gilleran, but it slid wide right.

Franklin fed off the defensive stand, putting together a 14-play, 84-yard scoring drive. Three times Arone found Kindred for first downs and Mack Gulla (32 carries, 164 yards) had nine rushes on the drive. On third and goal from the eight, Arone was able to buy time in the pocket, eventually rolling out to his right and spying Grayson Hunter open in the back corner of the end zone.

The visitors needed a spark to try and get something going before halftime. On third and seven, Foley made a nice sliding grab to get a first down. A pass interference call helped get Mansfield to the 24 and then Zukowski hit Bell for 21 more to get inside the five. Drew Sacco would get Mansfield on the board, taking a big hit at the goal line but squeezing across to make it 14-7.




Mansfield got the ball coming out of the break with a chance to tie the game, but once again the Hornets struggled to finish off a drive. Sacco broke an 18-yard run around the left side and a screen pass to Rocco Scarpellini went for 23 down to the Franklin 11. That’s where things stalled. Sacco dove on errant toss for a loss of a couple and on third down Jonathan Martins pressured Zukowski into an incompletion. Gilleran nailed a 30-yarder and the lead was down to four.

A mistake on the ensuing kick pinned Franklin back at its own four. It looked like a turning point in the game where, in the past, Mansfield would suddenly turn things around and find a way to win. Instead, the Panthers went 96 yards and extended the lead.

The drive started with an offsides penalty and then eight straight carries by Gulla. The Panthers were controlling the line of scrimmage, winning the battle in the trenches and marching downfield. After converting on third down into Mansfield territory, Franklin went for the home run. Arone threw a strike to Will Tracey on the far sideline and he hauled in the 41-yard score.

Redding said, “Gulla was as advertised. He’s a solid kid, but I think he was faster than we expected. We handled him okay but they did enough to set up the pass game and, when they did throw, they got some huge pass plays out of it. They had a good little combination going.”

A Gulla fumble would give Mansfield one last chance to try and get back into the game with 8:24 to play, but the Franklin defense continued to cover well and to pressure Zukowski. A sack by Jack Marino and another pass breakup by Davis helped the Panthers get the ball back at the Hornets 39.

“We’ve got a lot of really good athletes playing on defense,” said Bain. “They run well and they’re aggressive and they’re smart and we’re able to get in and out of a lot of looks and packages and keep the offense off-balance.”

Three plays later, on fourth and four, Franklin caught Mansfield in a blitz. Martins was free down the seam and Arone picked out his wide open tight end for a back-breaking 34-yard score.

“This a huge moment, Mansfield is a great program, but wins are not our goals,” Bain said when asked about staying focused on the schedule ahead. “It’s an elite result but we can’t forget that reaching our goals every day got us this result, so tomorrow and then Sunday and Monday we’ve got to keep achieving greatness every day.”

For Redding and the Hornets, they face undefeated Milford next, knowing that a second loss would effectively end their chances at claiming another league title. He explained, “I don’t know if anyone can run the table. So, next week is do or die. If we bring our ‘A’ game then we have a shot to win. If we stay sloppy, then we’re going to struggle. But I like our kids’ character and I think we’ll be back next Friday.”

Franklin (4-0) will try to keep its perfect season going next week with a visit from Taunton. Mansfield (3-1) will host Milford at Alumni Field.

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