Overtime Heroics Carry Canton to Win At Stoughton

Jake Ragusa
Jake Ragusa (20) rushes for his second touchdown of the game to give Canton a lead in overtime at Stoughton on Friday night. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

STOUGHTON, Mass. – The Bulldogs are becoming used to dramatic finishes and overtime battles, but there was something special about Friday night’s 22-21 victory over rival Stoughton at Anthony L. Sarno Field.

When Jake Ragusa stopped Guy Eddy at the two-yard line on the final play of overtime, preventing the Black Knights from getting the two-point conversion that would have won the game, the Bulldogs stormed onto the field, cheering a win that keeps them in the Davenport title race, possibly clinches a spot in the postseason, and avenges last year’s heartbreaking defeat. 

Still, this felt like more than all of that.

Even 20 minutes after they had cleared the field, with the players piled into two buses for the short ride back to Canton, the cheering had not abated. It felt like the Bulldogs had officially arrived and earned the marquee win to prove that this is a program to watch.

“We’re just on top of the world,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “To have those moments like that, you cherish them.”

“I told them before the game that I think our program is heading in the right direction,” he explained. “I think we’re going to be pretty good down the road, but I think tonight is going to be a night you remember as the night that it turned.”

As has been the case all season and as would be expected against a rival and a team that has been in the running for the Davenport title each year since the league split, the victory was not easy.

The first half was ugly for the Bulldogs with the offense sputtering in the rain. Penalties and a pair of turnovers gave Stoughton the ball in Canton territory on its first three possessions. The Black Knights opened the scoring with 5:27 left in the first when Christian Hill’s 19-yard run set up a 1-yard Guy Eddy touchdown.

But that was all Stoughton would get in the first half. Ragusa sacked Stoughton quarterback Jake Gibb twice, sophomore Jude Albert showed the ability to stick with receivers downfield and the aggressive Bulldogs defense bottled up the ground game at the line of scrimmage.

“Our defense kept us in the game,” said Bohane. “Our defense gave us a chance to win that, no doubt.”

Canton finally got something going on its final possession of the half. Ragusa was the main man with nine carries for 59 yards on the drive and finished it with a two-yard dive that gave Canton the lead with 16 seconds before the break.

The lead barely lasted to halftime. Steven Elice took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to paydirt only to have his celebration cut short by a holding call at midfield.

After the break, it was more of the same. The rain may have cleared but the field was still slick and the defenses were in control. Donnie Foley, Devlin Carroll, and Josh Czuba on the Stoughton side and Woanyen Mahn, Joe Bires, and Djimon Harding for Canton were all dominating play and neither side could find any rhythm offensively.

The Black Knights finally got a spark when Elice recovered a Bires fumble at the Canton 35 with the clock winding under five minutes to play. Gibb hit Ryan Sullivan for 11 yards and a first down and then four plays later he hit Eddy in the flat and the running back took it 18 yards for the go-ahead score. The two-point conversion was no good and the lead was 12-7 with 2:41 left to play.

Canton answered right back. The drive started at the Bulldogs’ 43 and was kept alive by junior quarterback Dennis Ross, who kept a fourth down play alive long enough to find Ragusa on the sideline for the first down. Three plays later, Ross looked downfield and found Michael Harris for a 35-yard touchdown pass into double coverage.

Mahn added the two-point conversion and it was 15-12 Bulldogs with just 1:18 left.

“He didn’t get a lot of reps last year,” said Bohane of his starting QB, Ross. “We just need to get better throwing the ball so we spent a lot of time doing it this week and we did it.”

“I don’t know how pretty that play was but I’ve been on the other end of that so many times, I’ll take it.”

Stoughton coach Greg Burke was still wondering how it was that Harris got open on the play. He said, “I thought we should’ve batted it down at least. Two guys were on him, but, you know, what can I tell you.”

The Black Knights were not done. Similar to the game against Milford two weeks ago, the Canton defense let up for just a second and Gibb was able to hit Elice on a slant that went for 43 yards down to the Bulldogs seven with :32 seconds left. Gibb (8-17, 105) threw incomplete on first down, gained two yards on second and missed Eddy in the flat on third.

Facing a fourth down decision, Stoughton received a delay of game penalty that backed the Knights up to the 10. From there, Burke made the choice to go with the field goal.

“It was 10 yards and we didn’t have any timeouts left,” he said. “You just go with the percentage there. I’m going to take the chance that we kick it through. We screwed it up on the pass before that…but we had to go for that.”

Stoughton went for it and Gibb’s kick was hit by at least one Canton player (possibly two) but went through the uprights with 11 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

On its first possession, Canton faced fourth down from the two and rather than go for a Thomas Monagle field goal, Bohane went to Ragusa (24 carries, 116 yards) and the senior plowed into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night.

Gibb scored for Stoughton with a two-yard run of his own. Burke decided to go for two rather than try an extra point and the Knights gave the ball to Eddy on a sweep right but Ragusa read it all the way and made the stop that gave Canton the win.

“We’re going for the win,” said Burke. “I called a timeout and the [ref] didn’t listen to me. I called a timeout; we were going to change and pass the ball. We just wanted to see how they lined up.”

“I thought we did a good job defensively…I just figured we could win it.”

About his senior captain, who made plays on both sides of the ball in overtime, Bohane remarked, “He’s like the straw that stirs the drink. Him and Joe (Bires), they’re the guys that we rally around. Hopefully we keep winning and those guys will be in discussion for MVP of the league.”

Bohane took a moment to reflect on where he was and the emotions of the evening. The Bulldogs have won four times this season and three of those were in OT, but Bohane admitted that this one felt a little different.

“Last year’s game was an absolute kick in the stomach to us, coaching staff and players, so to have this happen just…it’s just a great feeling and I’m so proud of my guys.”

Canton will go on the road to face Oliver Ames next Friday, while Stoughton will travel to Davenport leader Foxboro.

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

Cardiac Kids Strike Again, Canton Beats Milford in OT

Jake Ragusa
Jake Ragusa (20) celebrates his third quarter touchdown that tied the game with Milford at 14-14. Canton would eventually win in OT. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

CANTON, Mass. – The official walked over to the sidelines with 45 seconds remaining on the clock and commented on how great the game was and that he was impressed that Canton was going to be 3-0. He laughed when it was suggested that maybe he was speaking too soon. He joked, if Milford came back that he would take the blame from the Canton coaches. 

Forty-five seconds later, the game was heading to overtime and the official could only shake his head about his earlier statement.

Canton recovered and pulled out the win, despite giving up a touchdown with just eight seconds left in regulation. The Bulldogs defense held Milford to just one yard gained on three plays in overtime (in which each drive starts at the 10 yard line).

After Hawks kicker Sean Lehane sent his 25-yard field goal narrowly wide of the right upright, Canton had the chance to end the game. Jake Ragusa went five yards on a toss sweep and then, on second and goal, fellow captain Joe Bires took the handoff up the middle and into the end zone to send the sidelines charging onto the field for a raucous celebration.

Canton coach Dave Bohane admitted that he was thinking about a field goal when the Bulldogs got the ball, but added, “We had great fan support and a lot of Joe’s friends were up there so I knew he’d be hard to tackle.”

The 27-21 victory was the second straight overtime win for the Bulldogs and, remarkably, six points is the largest margin of victory in any of their three games thus far.

“Coming off last season, we were worried,” admitted Ragusa when asked how it felt to be 3-0. “We weren’t sure about quarterback and other spots…We just try to come out here and work hard every day; learning something new every day.”

Milford (1-2) was on the verge of putting the game away in the first half. Blake Hill (119 yards of offense) had scored on a four-yard run in the first quarter to give the Hawks the lead and he pulled in a 28-yard strike from Zach Lanzetta (10-23, 208 yards) with 1:02 left in the half to make it 14-0.

The crowd was quiet, the bench was down, and Canton was in desperate need of life. Ragusa provided it on the ensuing kick-off. He took the kick to the left and raced 70 yards before being dragged down at the Milford 15. Three plays later, Dennis Ross hooked up with Michael Harris in the back of the end zone to cut the lead in half.

“I don’t usually return kicks,” explained Ragusa, “but I got great blocking. I just saw the opening and took the shot. Again it all goes out to my teammates; teammates win games.”

Bohane added, “I felt like we needed that to let us know we’re still in this. We got the score and we could go into halftime, take a deep breath, and figure some things out.”

Canton punted on its first possession of the third, but Hill fumbled on the first play of Milford’s drive, as he was fighting for extra yards, and it was recovered by Woanyen Mahn at the Hawks 20. Ragusa (20 carries, 120 yards) went 13 on first down and then got seven yards, and six points, on the next play to tie the game at 14-14.

The score stayed the same until late in the fourth quarter when Canton got the ball back at its own 10. Bohane could be heard telling his assistants that he did not want to take a shot and risk a turnover, so the Bulldogs stayed on the ground. Ragusa and Bires got a first down, then it was Mahn with a 17-yard sweep.

After taking a shot downfield, Ragusa again went for 12. Mahn followed it up with 11 back to the near sideline. On the 10th play, Mahn again got the call and took it 16 yards to the Milford 15 forcing the Hawks into a timeout with 1:51 remaining in the game.

“Woanyen Mahn has turned the corner in the last few weeks and he had some key runs and of course Jake and Joe,” said Bohane. “Our line is very good and I think our conditioning played a role there in the end.”

On third and three from the eight, Ragusa went around the left side and carried the pile across the goal line for the go ahead score. The drive lasted 13 plays and covered 90 yards and put the Bulldogs up 21-14 with just 45 seconds left on the clock.

The drama was just beginning.

Milford got the ball back at its own 37. Lanzetta, who was under pressure from Djimon Harding and Kymauny Roland most of the game, threw three straight incomplete passes. But on the third, a flag was thrown for defensive holding to give the Hawks another first down.

After an eight yard completion to Jack DeSantis got the ball in Canton territory with 18 seconds left, Lanzetta found Leonardo Moronta on a deep crossing route and one broken tackle on the far side later he found paydirt on a 45-yard touchdown that stunned the crowd and the Canton sideline.

Rather than allowing the disappointment of that play cost the Bulldogs the game, Canton’s defense went right back out and made the plays it needed to give the offense a chance to win it.

“I just said let’s keep working,” said Ragusa of the conversation in the huddle before the start of overtime. “We have a good defense right here, keep believing and do your job. That’s what they did.”

Bohane noted, “The defense let up a big play to tie the game up and they went right back out there, much like they’ve been doing all year, they’ve faced adversity, rolled up their sleeves, and got the stop.”

The Bulldogs move to 3-0 and head into a showdown with fellow unbeaten Foxboro next week at World War II Veterans Memorial Field. Bohane joked that maybe it would be the HockomockSports.com Game of the Week, but he also said that beating Milford will give his team confidence that it can play with the top teams in the Davenport.

“People around here are like, do you have to [win] like that every week?” he joked. “But, to beat Milford for us is huge. A league win is just…monumental for us.”

“I think we can now look at the next games and say, hey we can play with these games. I think the kids will have confidence.”

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