Late Interception Secures Attleboro Thanksgiving Win

Attleboro football
Attleboro junior linebacker Michael Strachan (7) intercepts a pass in the end zone with just 20 seconds remaining to secure a 13-7 Thanksgiving Day win at North. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Attleboro scored twice in its first five plays from scrimmage but with less than a minute remaining on the clock North Attleboro (4-7) was driving with a chance to steal the 99th annual Thanksgiving Day meeting between the two neighboring rivals on the soaked grass at Community Field.

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Rocketeers backup quarterback Casey Poirier, who took over from sophomore Tyler DeMattio (17 carries, 83 yards) in the fourth quarter, engineered a 15-play drive from his own 20 all the way down to the Attleboro five-yard-line.

Fellow quarterback Jason Weir pushed North back when he grabbed hold of Poirier and swung him down for a nine-yard sack back to the 14 and on third and goal junior linebacker Michael Strachan came through with a game-ending interception in the end zone, sealing a dramatic 13-7 victory for the Bombardiers.

“I think we prepared really hard for this game and I think it just goes to show, this rivalry, what it means,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan after his third win in this holiday series. “[North] played great, they’re always prepared, but this is what it’s all about.”

While Attleboro (6-5) made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in D1 South, neither team had big postseason plans this year, so both had weeks to prepare for Thursday’s game and it took on added importance, as Weir, who won the Balfour Trophy for Offensive MVP, succinctly explained.

“It means so much,” he said. “This is our Super Bowl. It’s phenomenal.”

North was able to move the ball on its opening drives, but couldn’t finish. The Rocketeers got to the Attleboro 39 on its opening possession but a bad snap on fourth and one ended the drive, while the second possession reached the Attleboro 35 but another turnover on downs meant no points.

Attleboro had none of those problems at the start of the game. The Bombardiers went 52 yards in three plays on the their first possession and then 65 yards on two plays on their second to build a solid lead.

On the first play from scrimmage, Weir (7-of-10, 104 yards) hit Ethan Cameron (five catches, 88 yards) in stride for a 43-yard completion to the North five. Two plays later, Strachan burst through the left side for a five-yard score. After completing a 13-yard pass to Cameron to start the second drive, Weir took it himself, breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage and breaking free for a 52-yard touchdown to make it 13-0.

“That was the whole game plan, come out and throw the first punch,” said Weir. “That works against any high school team, they’re going to back down right away and that’s what we did today. Our line stepped up huge today.”

Coach Strachan said of Weir, “I think we finally put him in a situation where he could make some plays for us, make him comfortable, roll him out a little bit more, and that was good.”

The visiting Bombardiers felt like they might break the game wide open and put things away, but the North defense started to stiffen, with Tom O’Neil, Ethan Friberg, and Jacob Silva all making plays that kept Attleboro from gaining more traction offensively.

Also, the North offense finally found a way to complete a drive. The Rocketeers marched 77 yards on 11 plays to cut into the lead. DeMattio led the way, with help from Tommy Whalen and a 27-yard run up the gut by Silva. Attleboro forced fourth an 10 after pressure by Trainor Sherck and a breakup by Adam Pearlstein, but then Demattio scrambled for 12 yards to keep the possession alive.

DeMattio added 16 more on a quarterback draw to get to the Attleboro four and two plays later Jared Penta took a jet sweep over the left side for a three-yard score to make it 13-7 with a minute left before the break.

“We gave up two touchdowns in the first five plays of the game and that’s been the story of our season,” said North coach Don Johnson. “We give up too many easy ones like that and all of a sudden we have to dig out of a hole.

Johnson was asked if he changed anything defensively after Attleboro’s two quick strikes and he answered, “We played a little bit of a different front, but I don’t think that was the difference. I think we just started playing a little bit better.”

The third quarter was largely a stalemate. Weir had a sack to effectively end North’s first possession of the half and Attleboro just missed out on extending the lead when Cameron was ruled to be out of bounds on a catch in the end zone on fourth and 11.

After just missing out on the touchdown, Attleboro had a chance to break the game open two plays later. Justin Daniels tipped a DeMattio pass that was picked off by Pearlstein, setting the visitors up at the North 20. The Bombardiers managed six yards on three plays and a low snap led to a missed 31-yard field goal by Colby Briggs with 9:43 to play.

Attleboro wouldn’t see the ball again for more than nine minutes.

Starting at its own 20, North took over going into the wind and put together a drive that gave it a shot at the win. Defensive MVP Isaac Gudiel stuffed Silva (nine carries, 53 yards) for a two-yard loss to force a third and 10, but then a pass interference call gave the Rocketeers a much-needed first down.

Poirier picked out Ethan Friberg for 10 yards to the 33. After a penalty backed North up five yards, Silva gained 13 on a draw. Gudiel stuffed Silva for a loss to bring up third and 11, but Poirier again had the answer with a 12-yard pass to Whalen for another first down to the nine.

Coming out of a timeout with 1:14 to play, North drew an illegal substitution penalty that backed it up to the 14, but Penta gained nine on first and goal to get the Rocketeers up to the five. Weir came flying through on second down, dropping Poirier for a nine-yard loss and forcing North into its final timeout with 27 seconds on the clock.

On third and goal, Strachan made amends for allowing an earlier completion by jumping the route and picking off a pass two yards deep in the end zone to end the game and bring Hilda back to Attleboro.

“I was on him because he missed the play before,” joked Coach Strachan about his son’s game-clinching play, “so they ran the same route and he undercut it and it was good.”

When asked about how much winning on Thanksgiving means, Strachan added, “It’s huge. We battled injuries just like everyone else has, but this was a big game for the program. Like I said to the kids, these games mean something and these kids responded.”

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Stoughton Scores Big Win Over Big Red

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North Attleboro’s Tyler DeMattio (left) tries to run away from Stoughton’s Christian Georges (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – Throughout the 48 minutes of a high school football game, there is usually one or two momentum swings that can change the direction of the contest.

The Stoughton football team was on the right side of the two biggest momentum swings on Friday night on its way to a 35-0 win over visiting North Attleboro. It marks the Black Knights’ first shutout of the Rocketeers since 1992.

Late in the second quarter, Stoughton haunted a North Attleboro drive with a goal line interception and scored two plays later. And with a chance to get back in the game on the opening kickoff of the second half, the Black Knights forced another turnover and returned it for another touchdown.

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“The momentum in high school is huge,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “Those are two big plays. We work on pulling the ball away every day, and sometimes it happens, it was huge.”

Using Canton High’s field as their home turf for the night, the Black Knights made themselves right at home with an opening drive touchdown. Stoughton used 13 plays to cover 73 yards, using 7:31 of the clock before finding the end zone for an early lead.

The drive included a 23-yard pass and catch from Clayton Rahaman to Christian Ais to move the sticks into North Attleboro territory. The Black Knights got down to the Rocketeers’ 2-yard line before a holding penalty, an incomplete pass, and rush that lost yards forced Stoughton into third and goal from the 20-yard line.

Rahaman linked up with a wide-open Christian Ais up the middle, and Anthony Girolamo’s first of five success point after attempts gave the hosts a 7-0 lead.

It looked as though North Attleboro was primed for an answer on its first drive before the first big momentum swing hit.

The Rocketeers marched 77 yards on 19 plays, advancing all the way to the Stoughton 5-yard line in a drive that lasted 13 minutes. Facing a fourth and goal, sophomore quarterback Tyler DeMattio (20 carries, 121 yards) rolled out to his right, racing away from a pair of Stoughton defenders before firing a pass into the end zone. Stoughton junior safety John Burke read it perfectly, jumping in front to intercept the pass at the goal line and give the Black Knights the ball back with just under four minutes to play in the first half.

“We bend a little bit,” Burke said. “The problem in high school, you have to make adjustments quickly and fast. On offense, you have the ball and you can do whatever you want. Defensively we were trying to switch some things around, it just happens fast so you don’t have time to talk to every individual player, you can’t call each one over. We bend a little bit, but our speed and strength are coming through pretty good.

“[North Attleboro] is a good team, and unfortunately we’ll have to see that quarterback [DeMattio] for a couple of more years, he’s a tough kid, he’s a real good one. We were trying to blitz him but then we stopped and just kept the linebackers on him.”

The Black Knights wasted little time moving up the field. Christian Ais (six carries, 110 yards) broke off down the left side, making a move past a defender in a one-on-one situation for a 71-yard rush. On the next play, Christopher Ais (seven carries, 75 yards) broke a tackle and muscled his way to a 22-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead with 2:19 left in the half.

North Attleboro had some more success on its second drive, moving the sticks twice before time ran out in the first half. DeMattio picked up 83 yards on the ground in the first half and the Rocketeers were a play or two away from a tie game instead of a two-score deficit.

The Rocketeers didn’t have a chance to try and grab some momentum back as junior Mohamed Al-Halawahi knocked the ball free from a Rocketeer on the second half kick off. Christian Ais scooped the loose ball up and took off for a 48-yard fumble return, giving Stoughton a 21-0 advantage just 16 seconds into the second half.

“You just can’t make those kind of mistakes like we did against a good team like that,” said North Attleboro coach Don Johnson. “That’s exactly what can happen, they can bust it out in a second. You can’t give a team with talented guys like that extra opportunities to make plays because they can break one at any time.”

North Attleboro gained 46 yards on its first two plays of its ensuring drive with DeMattio rushing for 21 himself and Jacob Silva taking a handoff for 25 yards. But after a short gain on first down, Christian Georges and Carlvin LaGuerre came crashing in for a sack that pushed the Big Red back 11 yards, and North was forced to punt two plays later.

Stoughton’s showed its explosiveness on the next series as Christopher Ais broke off a 26-yard rush up the middle on a 3rd and two, and two plays later, Christian Ais used his speed to get to the outside and raced away for a 27-yard touchdown, his third score of the night.

“He’s something else, him and Christopher,” Burke said of Ais brothers Christian and Christopher. “They both got some long [runs] tonight. Christian, you give him a hole and he’ll dance through it. He’s big too, it’s hard to get a good hit on him, I haven’t seen anybody get one on him. Plus he can catch too, he’s got tremendous hands. Those guys are as good as you get athletically. I’ve seen a lot of great ones and they are right up there, and they are great kids too.”

North moved the ball to midfield on its next drive, including a fourth down conversion. On second and 11, Georges tracked down the ball carries, ripped the ball free, picked it up on one bounce and took it to the house for a 48-yard fumble return and a 35-0 lead with 9:44 left in the fourth quarter.

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Playoff seeds won’t be officially released by the MIAA until Sunday. Based on the ratings from Jim Clark, formerly of the Boston Herald, the Black Knights are likely to have a home game in the first round, sitting in the third spot. North Attleboro is currently tied with Bishop Feehan for the eighth and final spot in the D3 South bracket as of Friday night. With games still to be played on Saturday, those rankings could change.

The first tiebreaker for seeding is head-to-head.

Stoughton football finishes the regular season at 6-1 while TauntonNorth Attleboro comes in at 2-5.

Foxboro Holds On For Win At North Attleboro

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North Attleboro’s Tom O’Neill tackles Foxboro’s Shayne Kerrigan at Community Field. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – After controlling the game for over three quarters, the Foxboro football team was on its way to a rare comfortable win over North Attleboro.

The Warriors held a 21-0 lead and had just forced their second turnover of the game, this one an interception just before the goal line, to halt another North Attleboro drive. With under 10 minutes to go, Foxboro was well on its way to its first win over the Rocketeers since 2012.

But suddenly, the hosts had life. North Attleboro scored a pair of touchdowns in just 2:03, the latter coming with just under five minutes left in the game to make it a one-score game. And after another defensive stand, the Rocketeers had the ball back with three minutes left with a chance to tie or win the game.

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In the end, Foxboro’s defense delivered — as it had done all game — by getting a fourth down stop with under a minute to go to secure a 21-14 win at Community Field.

“Not too many people beat North so we’ll take it any which way that we can,” said Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli. “I thought we dominated, the first three quarters, but it doesn’t take much to throw off the applecart, whether it’s a penalty or a miscue. And North isn’t going to quit.”

It marks the 273rd career win for Martinelli, which moves him into a tie for eighth all-time in Massachusetts history according to the Boston Herald’s Danny Ventura.

Foxboro scored on its second drive of the game, again just before halftime, and once more midway through the third quarter. The Warriors’ defense held the Rocketeers to just over 100 yards of offense through the first three quarters, forcing the hosts to punt on three of their first four drives and getting fourth down stops on two others.

A Foxboro fumble recovered by North Attleboro’s Tommy Whalen set the Rocketeers up with terrific field position at the Warriors’ 38-yard line. But the momentum was short-lived when Elijah Lewis leaped to intercept a pass on the goal line just a minute into the fourth quarter.

Foxboro’s offense stalled and sent out the punting unit, but a high snap sent the ball into the end zone and a group of Rocketeers came crashing down onto punter Michael Devlin. North Attleboro’s Dan Hayes ended up with the loose ball and a touchdown, getting North on the board. Evan Vigorito hit the first of his two point after attempts to bring North within 21-7 with 6:48 to go.

This time, the momentum stuck with the Rocketeers, who forced a quick three-and-out. On the punt, Foxboro was whistled for catch interference and North Attleboro started with its best field position of the day at the Foxboro 31-yard line.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler DeMattio (6-for-11, 66 yards passing; 11 carries, 60 yards rushing) wasted little time, lofting a pass down field that senior Ethan Friberg went up to get above a pair of defenders for a 30-yard catch. On the next play, DeMattio scored from one-yard out and suddenly the Rocketeers were down just one score, 21-14, with 4:45 to play.

Foxboro’s Dylan Gordon fell on top of the onside kick attempt, and the Warriors killed 1:45 of clock before punting back to North Attleboro with 3:00 to go. DeMattio had a long run negated by an illegal shift call, and on fourth and four, a completion to Russell Dunlap nearly converted a first down. But after a measurement, the ball was an inch shy and Foxboro took over on downs to seal the win.

“It definitely felt like the momentum swung there but we had that eerily feeling all along that it was too little, too late,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson.

“I think [it’s a lesson learned]. We’ve known all along we’re a pretty immature football team, so this is the stuff that’s going to happen. We have a lot of guys still learning, a lot of juniors playing their first varsity action. We’re just a terribly inconsistent football team right now in every phase. We just have to keep working to get better and I think it will come in time.”

Foxboro took the lead in the first quarter on its second drive of the game. The Warriors went 77 yards on 11 plays that including a pair of first down passes from Shayne Kerrigan (14-for-24, 135 yards passing; nine carries, 85 yards rushing) to Luis Sulham (eight catches, 77 yards). On third and 10 inside the red zone, Kerrigan connected with senior Ryan Hughes for a 12-yard touchdown. Tyler James’ extra point made it 7-0 with 1:18 left in the first quarter.

The Warriors orchestrated an eight-play, 64-yard drive just before halftime to double their lead. Highlighted by a first down run from Bobby Yerardi (11 carries, 38 yards) and ridiculous catch from Lewis that went for 22 yards, the visitors advanced into the red zone. On third and 11, Kerrigan floated one to the corner of the end zone and senior Brian Derba came down with the catch for a 13-yard score and a 13-0 lead with just eight seconds to go in the first half.

“I think our offense came alive today,” Martinelli said. “Kids did what we felt they were capable of doing like Luis, Shayne, who had a great game, Ryan Hughes, Derba…they all made some great plays, some great catches. They did a great job. To me, that was the difference in the game that we were able to move the ball and get some points.”

North Attleboro opened the second half with a successful drive with sophomore Tyler Bannon moving the sticks on a 15-yard rush, and DeMattio taking off for 18 yards of his own. A run and late hit call moved the ball all the way to the Foxboro 19-yard line but with the new rules, the hosts didn’t get an automatic first down. Instead, on fourth and 2, Foxboro’s Mike Norvish and Anton George got to the Rocketeer runner in the backfield for a loss and a turnover on downs.

“We played seven in the box and took our chances,” Martinelli said of defending DeMattio. “Next year and the year after, I’m sure [DeMattio] is going to be a triple threat, not that he throws a bad ball now, but we had to stop him running first, before we could do anything else and I thought the kids did a nice job, I’m very proud of them.”

Three plays into the ensuing Foxboro drive, Kerrigan fooled the defense by keeping the option himself, broke through a tackle in the secondary, and darted his way for a 64-yard touchdown. A two-point pass from Kerrigan to Sulham made it 21-0 with 6:25 left in the third quarter.

“I thought Foxboro did a good job pressing our quarterback and not letting us get comfortable doing anything on offense,” Johnson said. “We never really got that run game going because they were good inside. And then when we had to throw the ball, they did a nice job getting pressure off the edge. DeMattio is still young and not quite comfortable in every phase of the game but he’s getting better every game.”

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Foxboro finished with 279 yards offensive, a strong balance between passing (127) and rushing (152) while picking up an impressive 15 first downs.

“The game got moved so many times, we had two weeks of practice which made Thanksgiving break look [short],” Martinelli said. “So I’m just happy for the kids. But we have to get right back at it. This is the best the league has ever been from top to bottom. Each week there seems to be an implication no matter what the matchup is so this was a key for win us.”

Foxboro football (1-0 Hockomock, 2-1 overall) travels the other defending Davenport division champion in Canton (3-0) on Friday night. North Attleboro (0-1, 1-2) takes a trip to visit Milford (2-1).

Rocketeers Start Quick But KP Settles Into Big Win

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Ryan Halliday (34) celebrates his first of two fourth quarter touchdowns, as KP pulled away late and earned a season-opening win against North. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


WRENTHAM, Mass. – Everything started perfectly for North Attleboro on Friday night at Macktaz Field. A play-action deep strike on the first play of the game and an opening drive that marched 80 yards, used up more than half of the first quarter, and ended with a touchdown for sophomore quarterback Tyler DeMattio, who was making his first varsity start under center.

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It was a statement of intent from the defending Davenport division co-champions. Of course, a team doesn’t get to three straight Super Bowls by being derailed from one touchdown. King Philip allowed four first downs on that opening drive. It allowed only two more first downs for the remainder of the game, and both of those were on penalties.

The Warriors turned the game on its head with two touchdowns either side of halftime and then put it away with two scores within 30 seconds of each other in the fourth quarter, pulling out a 25-7 victory.

“It looked like, ‘oh boy,’ on that first drive, but we’ve got some great coaches,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “We were able to settle down and he (defensive coordinator Matt Wassell) was able to recover and make some adjustment and stop them.”

DeMattio (2-of-9, 36 yards; 18 carries, 60 yards) made quite the impression on his first varsity snap as QB, faking a hand-off and dropping a dime into the arms of Ethan Friberg for a 33-yard gain. He then showed off his ability to make plays with his legs, running a zone read offense and moving North up the field. He finished off the 10-play, 80-yard drive with a nine-yard keeper to grab a 7-0 lead.

Since Lee took over the KP program, it has become known for its straightforward approach to offense. A lot of power I-formation and running backs that expect to get the ball 30-plus times a game. But on Friday, the Warriors showed far more variation with the ball, allowing senior quarterback Robert Jarest to move around in the pocket (8-of-15, 151 yards) and to call his own number on the ground (seven carries, 64 yards).

“Give them credit, they’ve got some new wrinkles in their offense over there,” said North coach Don Johnson. “There wasn’t the I-formation, smash-mouth football.”

Lee explained, “They’re bigger and more physical than us. I’d love to be the biggest, baddest kid on the block all the time, but just running it in there was not going to work for us.”

While senior Ryan Halliday (24 carries, 122 yards) still got his fair share of touches, the Warriors were able to get the ball away from the strong North Attleboro defensive line and attack North’s less experienced secondary on the edges.

It was a strategy that worked well in the opening half, as KP consistently took advantage of good starting field position and moved the ball deep into North territory. The Warriors just couldn’t finish a drive, three times having a possession stall in the red zone.

The first ended on a Jarest fumble inside the North 10. The next possession also ended at the 10, after Colby Feid denied a touchdown with a solid pass breakup and then Montrel Jackson pressured Jarest into throwing the ball away on fourth down. The third drive ended when Halliday came up inches short on a fourth and two carry.

With the clock winding down to just a minute left in the half, KP finally struck. John Kummer sacked Jarest back at the KP 46, but on the next play there was a breakdown in coverage on the far sideline allowing Alex Behling to run free and Jarest was on the mark for a 54-yard score. The extra point was no good, so North kept a lead, but the Warriors went into the break with the momentum.

“It was huge,” Jarest said. “He was wide open and when we went in the crowd was just pumped. That’s our base is the fans and then Coach Lee got us into it. Everyone was way more calm and everyone was like, okay we can go win this thing.”

The Warriors got the ball coming out of halftime and looked a different team, dominating the line of scrimmage. Jarest had a 33-yard keeper to get KP into North territory, but after Russell Dunlap tackled Halliday for a loss the Warriors faced fourth and long. Another breakdown in the secondary allowed KP to avoid another stalled drive, as Behling again was left wide open for a 20-yard score and a 12-7 lead.

“We’re trying new things,” Jarest said about the offense. “I don’t know if that’s how it’s going to be all season, but it looked good tonight and hopefully we can stay consistent.”

KP’s defense was manhandling North and not allowing DeMattio to find any seams to run into and the Rocketeers were unable to get anything going. Being pinned back in their own half was also causing issues because it limited how adventurous North could be with the ball.

“I thought they took over the line of scrimmage in the second half and throughout the game we had some unforced errors on defense,” said Johnson. “We gave them a couple of easy ones and I think that was the result of some young guys being out there for the first time. It’s just going to take us a little time.”

After a good Brian Wassersug punt return put KP in business at the North 39, KP broke the game wide open. Jarest hit Wassersug, who was too quick for the middle linebacker, down the middle for a 36-yard gain. Three carries later and Halliday punched in his first score of the night.

On North’s next play from scrimmage, DeMattio was hit as he threw and the pass was picked off by Sam Callanan. A delay of game penalty backed KP up five yards, but then Halliday found a crease on the left side and burst through for a 27-yard TD to put the game out of reach.

“It kind of smacked of that Mansfield game from a couple years ago,” Lee reflected. “We couldn’t get anything going, but we got a freebie (before halftime), bought us life, came back out and settled down.

King Philip (1-0) will continue its non-league schedule next week at Foxboro. North Attleboro (0-1) will have a week off before a short trip to rival Bishop Feehan.

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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.”

DeMattio Sparks Big Red to Comeback at Attleboro

North Attleboro football
North Attleboro players lifted freshman quarterback Tyler DeMattio onto their shoulders after he sparked the Rocketeers with three touchdowns in the second half of their win against Attleboro. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The North Attleboro players looked around for Hilda, the trophy awarded to the winner of this Thanksgiving rivalry, but the trophy was nowhere to be found. So, instead, the Rocketeers lifted freshman kicker and quarterback Tyler DeMattio to celebrate another win in the long-running series with Attleboro.

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It was fitting that DeMattio’s teammates would lift him up after the game, since he stepped up in the second half and propelled North to the victory.

In his first snaps as varsity quarterback, DeMattio scored three touchdowns and accounted for all of North’s points on Thursday morning at a bitterly cold Tozier-Cassidy Field, sparking North to a come from behind 20-7 win over the Bombardiers.

“Tyler is a talented player, who has had a great year as a freshman and we’ve been watching him all along and felt like he was the next best available quarterback, so got him ready,” said North coach Don Johnson about DeMattio stepping in for the second half. He joked that DeMattio was North’s “secret weapon” and agreed that he was the “spark” that the Rocketeers needed.

Attleboro came close to adding to its 7-0 halftime lead on its first possession of the second half. Justin Cote (24 carries, 114 yards) and Jason Weir (14 carries, 95 yards) continued to find seams in the North defense and moved the ball down to the Rocketeers eight, using up almost the entire third quarter in the process.

Ethan Friberg stuffed Alex Rodrigues for a four-yard loss, Tom O’Neil stopped Weir for no gain and on fourth and nine John Kummer caught Cote after just a yard to get the ball back.

DeMattio took over from sophomore quarterback Matt Penta (nine carries, 43 yards), who replaced Nick Raneri as the starter following Raneri’s shoulder injury against Duxbury. After a pair of keepers, the freshman dropped back and heaved a ball down field. It avoided a group of Attleboro defenders and fell into the hands of Ryan Gaumond, who raced the rest of the way to the end zone for an 85-yard score that tied the game with just 59 seconds left in the third.

“That was the momentum changer no question,” said Johnson. “That was a pop-up thrown by the freshman but that’s pretty good that your first varsity pass is a touchdown on Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter what it looks like.”

Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “The catch that Gaumond made in the wind, I think that turned the game for us. It really did and DeMattio gave them a spark.”

Attleboro’s next possession ended with a turnover. Brendan McHugh (nine carries, 38 yards) took advantage of a slip by Michael Strachan and picked off Weir’s pass to get the ball back at the Attleboro 30. Three keepers later and DeMattio slipped through the middle of the Bombardiers defense for a seven-yard score and the lead.

The game had turned around for the visitors in just three minutes.

“I’m proud of the way we played,” Strachan said, “we just got away from a few things, fundamentally, in the second half and I think DeMattio did a good job.”

The Bombardiers had a chance to tie the game. After a Strachan carry, Attleboro was as close as the North four-yard-line, but Duane Bryant got into the backfield and stuffed Cote for a six-yard loss on third down. On fourth and nine, Cote’s pass to Ethan Cameron was tipped aside by Bryan Engler.

“A couple turnovers down inside and we just can’t do that,” said Strachan. “I said turnovers would play a big part in this and ended up being a huge part of it in the end.”

North still needed a first down to seal the win. The Rocketeers got that and a lot more, as DeMattio broke through the middle and raced 90 yards for his third touchdown of the game and the cue for the Attleboro crowd to head to its cars.

“They were running Weir on the quarterback follows, so we had trouble with that, and Cote was doing a great job bouncing the powers outside and we weren’t getting good force,” said Johnson about the change North made defensively in the second half. It was mentioned that the defensive line, led by Kummer and Davenport division MVP Ryan Clemente, dominated after the break and Johnson responded, “They did, but I thought the secondary did a good job coming up and making plays in the run game.”

Attleboro was on its heels at the start of the game, as North drove into the wind all the way to the Bombardiers 10. On first and goal, the Rocketeers fumbled the hand-off and Raneri dove on the ball for a loss of two. Penta was stopped by a host of Bombardiers on second down, including Nick Evans, and gained only one. Isaac Guidel pressured Penta into an incomplete pass on third down and then the fourth down pass to McHugh was inches out of the back of the end zone.

“It was disappointing, I think it would’ve changed the complexion of the game,” said Johnson of the first drive. “But, give Attleboro credit, they played good defense and stopped us.”

The Bombardiers flipped the momentum by driving down field and taking the lead. Cote gained 18 yards on a third-down toss to the left and Weir broke free for 44 yards on a pair of keepers to get inside the North five. Cote punched it in from two yards out to make it 7-0.

The teams traded turnovers for the remainder of the half. Desmond Woodson recovered a fumble, but Attleboro went three-and-out to give it back. Then Cameron picked off a Penta pass, only for Engler to intercept a Weir pass inside the 10. Weir got the ball back with a fumble recovery just before halftime to keep the Bombardiers in the lead at the break.

North Attleboro closes the season at 8-3 and won its 61st game in the series, which had its 98th Thanksgiving Day installment on Thursday. Attleboro closes the season at 4-7.

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Big Red Knocked Out in Defensive Struggle at Duxbury

North Attleboro football
North Attleboro junior Ethan Friberg dives for the pylon to score a late touchdown in the D3 South semifinal loss to Duxbury. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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DUXBURY, Mass. – For the fourth straight year, perennial Div. 3 powers North Attleboro and Duxbury squared off in the playoffs. After the Rocketeers dominated the 2017 matchup, on their way to a Super Bowl appearance, the Dragons were out for revenge in the South semifinal on Friday night at Raymond Chandler Field.

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In a game between two strong programs that know each other well, the little things can be decisive. Duxbury converted two North Attleboro turnovers into 10 points, including the decisive touchdown with four minutes remaining, to pull out a 17-14 victory and advance to the sectional final.

North coach Don Johnson said, “When you get into these games against good teams, all it takes is a couple mistakes to swing it. They’re just too good to make those kind of mistakes against.”

The Dragons opened the game by spreading North out with multiple receivers and finding seams in the middle of the line for senior quarterback John Roberts (17 carries, 81 yards) and junior tailback Tim Landolfi (13 carries, 59 yards).

“Our guys were back on their heels a little bit because we were so concerned about the pass,” Johnson explained. “They throw the deep ball so well, so they kept picking us apart with some hitches in there. They get you in your nickel defense and then they can run the ball up inside on you.”

Duxbury moved the ball to the North 35, but on fourth down and inches Roberts’ pass to Will Prouty got caught in the wind and was knocked down by Ryan Gaumond.

North took advantage of the wind on its second play from scrimmage with senior Nick Raneri hitting Andy DeMattio on a wheel route down the North sideline for 38 yards. Raneri, who was also active at the start of the game in his middle linebacker position, then burst through the middle for 16 yards to the Duxbury nine-yard-line.

Three plays later, Brendan McHugh bullied his way in from five yards out for a 7-0 lead.

The lead was short-lived. Duxbury answered with a 11-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game early in the second quarter. Roberts (10-20, 126 yards) was 3-for-4 passing on the drive and also carried it four times, including the six-yard touchdown run.

North’s offense was dealt a blow at the end of the first when Raneri was forced to the sideline with a shoulder injury he sustained while making a tackle. Sophomore Matt Penta jumped in at quarterback, and got off to a good start with 26 yards rushing on his first two plays. The Rocketeers were forced to punt and got the ball back on a fumble recovery by Omar Jasseh but were forced to punt again.

Duxbury’s offense was also struggling and was forced into a three-and-out on a good play by Trevor Hewett and Ryan Clemente, who closed up the middle on a third down draw. The ensuing punt carried in the wind and Jared Penta was unable to pull it in. Duxbury recovered at the North 25.

The Dragons had to settle for a 26-yard Brett Souza field goal but went into halftime leading 10-7.

Raneri tried to come back in the second half and he split snaps with Matt Penta, but the North offense struggled to get any momentum. The defense came out of halftime determined to clog the middle of the line and put pressure on Roberts. Twice North forced a turnover on downs inside its own territory and Clemente was staring to assert himself at the line of scrimmage along with John Kummer.

“I think we did enough on defense to keep us in the game,” Johnson said. “Getting Nick banged up there, we kind of stalled on offense in the second half. We gave them the ball a few too many times because we just couldn’t move it on offense.”

When asked what the Dragons did to limit North’s production, Johnson replied, “They got everyone within five yards [of the line of scrimmage] and, you know, we’re limited in the passing game, so they can gang up on the run and outnumber you at the point of attack.”

With 7:34 left in the game, North took over at its own 38. Penta (6-15, 74 yards) tried to look downfield, but his pass was intercepted by Seamus Johnston. The Dragons made the turnover count thanks to a remarkable catch in the front corner of the end zone by Prouty, who somehow managed to snag possession while on his back after Gaumond got a piece of the throw.

The North bench was incensed because the Rocketeers believed Prouty had pushed off to deny Gaumond an interception.

Trailing by 10 points with 4:19 to play, North put together its best offensive series of the second half. Penta found Jasseh for 25 yards over the middle to the Duxbury 41. On third down and 10, Penta threw the ball away and was gifted 15 yards when Quinn Murphy hit him late. A 16-yard swing pass to McHugh and nine-yard keeper got the ball to the Duxbury 20.

A short pass got a first down but then a pass was dropped in the end zone, Prouty made a diving play to deny Jasseh a touchdown, and Penta was sacked back to the 26. Facing fourth and 18, the sophomore dropped back and threw a strike to Ethan Friberginside the five and junior dove to the pylon for the score.

“Penta is a promising sophomore,” Johnson said. “He’s got playmaker ability and he’s a tough kid. I thought he did a great job in the circumstances to get in there and give us a chance to win the ballgame.”

Tyler DeMattio made it 2-for-2 on extra point attempts to get North back within three, but his onside kick attempt was smothered by Duxbury to seal the win.

North Attleboro (6-3) heads into the non-playoff round next week.

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Late Stop Lifts North Attleboro To Share Of Davenport

North Attleboro football
North Attleboro’s Nick Raneri dives forward as Canton’s Kyle Fitzgerald (left) and Gersom Rivera attempt to bring him down. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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CANTON, Mass. – The North Attleboro football team has waited all season for its defense to come up with a game-changing play.

In the final regular season game, with their backs against the wall and a chance to share the Davenport division on the line, the defense finally delivered.

With just over a minute to go, Canton found itself inside the red zone down by four. On second and eight from the 18, the Bulldogs went for the go-ahead score. Junior quarterback Johnny Hagan was forced to throw under pressure, and junior Gersom Rivera waited in the end zone with open arms, but North Attleboro senior Omar Jasseh made a terrific leaping interception to rob Canton of a touchdown, securing a 14-10 win for the Rocketeers.

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“We’ve been all waiting all year [for that],” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “We really haven’t gotten a big play on defense all year. We’ve been hanging in and hanging in, and relying on our offense to chew up the clock. Tonight we needed our defense to step up and we finally got that big play.

“I was thinking it should have happened on three different plays, it felt like we could have picked it off. I think our kids were playing a little tentative and didn’t want to get burned deep when they probably could have made a play on the ball.”

Canton started its drive at the own 48 with 3:28 left in the game. After an incompletion and a three-yard rush, the Bulldogs quickly faced a third and seven scenario.

Hagan hit Ryan Lentol on a hitch route for eight yards to move the sticks, Rivera (seven carries, 35 yards) picked up six yards on the ground, and two plays later Hagan linked up with Jace Emma for 15-yards to get to the North 20-yard line. Two plays later, Jasseh made the play in the end zone to deny the Bulldogs the Davenport title outright.

“Credit to North, the pass rush started to get to us a bit,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “Johnny is a competitor, he tried to win the game, and he took a shot. North has good coaches, and they brought some kids, and I think they made Johnny get rid of the ball differently than he normally would. But I’m proud of my guys, they battled right to the wire as usual.

“We’ve come a long way. To be in a game of this magnitude, and still have some meaningful games to look forward to, that’s good for the program. I think we have a little rivalry with North Attleboro now. To win the Hockomock League is an accomplishment, and this was a pretty good game tonight. So I think this puts us in a good position heading into the playoffs.”

It was an exciting end to a second half that was dominated by both defenses. Before its final drive of the game, Canton’s first three chances of the second half all resulted in punts. The Bulldogs moved the ball 37 yards on their second drive, advancing into North territory but back-to-back negative plays forced a punt.

North Attleboro’s offense didn’t fare much better, but it was enough. The Rocketeers had a little success on their first drive of the second half, but a sack from Brendan Albert put North in a hole, and Canton forced a turnover on downs at midfield.

After getting the ball back, the Rocketeers hit the home run play they were looking for, but only after converting a fourth down. On 3rd and 16th, the Rocketeers spread things out but went with a QB draw and Nick Raneri (15 carries, 74 yards) sprinted up the middle for 15 yards. At their own 44, North went for it, and Raneri pounded his way for two yards and a first down.

On the next play, senior Brendan McHugh (12 carries, 106 yards) came across from the right side for a sweep but instead of going all the way across, the senior cut back up a gap on the right side and sprinted for a 54-yard touchdown to put North Attleboro up 14-10 with 54 seconds to go in the third quarter.

It was the only scoring play of the second half.

“We decided to try and spread them out a bit with our formation,” Johnson said of changes in the second half. “We were running a lot of double tight early, and we had success on the first drive of the game, but they have a hell of a defense and shut us down. At halftime, we thought we could loosen them up with the formation, and I think that helped free up McHugh a little.”

The Rocketeers had an ideal start to the contest. Canton’s first drive picked up 33 yards but stalled and was forced to punt. North’s offense went right to work, starting at its own 10-yard line.

North needed just five plays to go almost the entire length of the field. Raneri ran for 10 yards, McHugh went off for 14 yards, Raneri scrambled to find Ryan Gaumond for 42 yards and then went back to the ground for 20 more yards himself.

On first and goal, Raneri kept it himself and went in from four yards out for a 7-0 lead with 5:55 to go in the first.

“McHugh really has it all, he’s fast and he probably doesn’t get enough credit for his toughness,” Bohane said. “He runs hard and he’s a hard kid to bring down, especially with his speed. One of our coaches said he’s the best back in the league and at times he certainly looked like it. He’s good and Raneri is a handful, and they made some really nice play calls with him at the right time.”

The Bulldogs finally got things going offensively right at the end of the first quarter. Hagan ran for seven yards and hit Emma for a third down conversion. On the final play of the opening quarter, Hagan hit Kyle Fitzgerald (96 all purpose yards) up the seam for a 39-yard pass.

On the first play of the second quarter, Hagan pitched it to Rivera on the right side and the junior scampered in to make it 7-7.

Canton’s defense got a stop to get the ball back and used eight plays to move into North territory, gaining 43 yards. But a holding play hurt the drive and the Bulldogs settled for a 34-yard field goal from junior Owen Lehane, taking a 10-7 lead into halftime.

The win gives North Attleboro a share of the 2018 Davenport division title, marking the fourth straight year that the Rocketeers have won a league title. It’s the first time in program history that North has won four straight.

“It was big for us to still have a chance at the title,” Johnson said after losing to Stoughton last week. “This is our fourth consecutive title for us, no North Attleboro team has ever won four in a row. The loss last week was also our first loss in the league since 2014, so the kids were feeling down about that too. But they still had an opportunity in front of them to do what no other senior group has done, so that was a real motivator.

“[Canton] is a hell of a football team. We’re sharing the title with them, and they deserve that share of it. They have a great football team over there, and the scary thing is they are all juniors, but I’ll worry about that next year.”

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“As high as we were for this game, we can kind of breath a little bit and focus on the playoffs,” Bohane said. “We’re really excited to be in the playoffs and I honestly can’t wait to find out who we’re playing and get to work. We wanted to win this game badly but we wanted to play competitive and come out healthy. And I think we’re in a good position moving forward.”

North Attleboro football (4-1 Hockomock, 5-2 overall) likely earns a home game in the D3 South playoffs with the victory, though final seeds aren’t announced until late in the weekend. The Rocketeers will also likely return to Community Field for the first round playoff game. Canton (4-1, 6-1) will also likely host a game in Division 5 South.

Rocketeers Edge King Philip in Season-Opening Thriller

North Attleboro football
North senior Brendan McHugh (29) scored a pair of touchdowns, including one with 1:33 left in the game to lift the Rocketeers to a 14-7 win.

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – One team came into the game having won three straight league titles, making a Super Bowl appearance, and was inaugurating a new turf field, while the other team came in after back-to-back league and state titles and was riding a 25-game win streak. These were the two most successful programs in the Hockomock League over the last two seasons.

It was a game that was destined to come down to one play; to be decided by inches. That was exactly what happened.

Brendan McHugh broke a few tackles and tiptoed down the sideline to put North Attleboro in front for good with 1:33 remaining in the fourth quarter but King Philip drove inside the Rocketeers red zone and had two shots at the end zone before a last second pass was broken up at the goal line. North held on for the 14-7 victory to christen the newly-upgraded Raymond E. Beaupre Field and hand KP its first defeat since the penultimate game of 2015.

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“I have no idea what happened,” McHugh admitted when asked about the game-winning touchdown. “I was staring at the ground and I thought I was going to fall, but I just stayed on my feet and just got to the end zone. I was close but I wasn’t out of bounds.”

When asked what this win meant for the team, he replied, “My senior year, we wanted to get them and we got them. So much confidence, that’s a hell of a team, that defense is legit and we grinded out a win.”

It was a battle of attrition, which both coaches had expected coming into the game. Both defenses were in control and both offense were finding their feet with a number of new faces. In the end, both coaches saw the positive from facing tough competition to kick off a new season.

“They came to play today against a very, very good team,” said KP coach Brian Lee. He joked, “I don’t know why we thought of playing them instead of scheduling someone easy a long time ago, but the truth is we learned so much about our team tonight. Playing a team like that in these conditions, they grew up fast tonight.”

North coach Don Johnson added, “We had to earn it. We had to work hard and earn it on both sides of the football. I think it’s a good confidence booster for those guys who are playing in their first game tonight.”

North took the lead just before the end of the first quarter with an eight-play, 67-yard drive. Senior quarterback Nick Raneri got the Rocketeers going with a 34-yard keeper that moved the ball down to the KP 29. Three plays later, Raneri barely eked out two yards on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Two plays after that, McHugh took a jet sweep to the right side of the line and was untouched for a 16-yard score.

The Rocketeers scored with 19 seconds left in the first. The Warriors scored 19 seconds later. Junior tailback Ryan Halliday (22 carries, 181 yards) bounced back from a fumble on his first carry of the game, bursting through the left side of the line, keeping his feet despite a diving attempt at a tackle by Luke LaBonte, and racing 80 yards for the tying score.

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KP tried to keep the momentum going when senior corner Deric Casado made a highlight-reel, one-handed interception right in front of his bench, but the North defense was just as strong, forcing a three and out.

The game stayed tied coming out of halftime. KP started the half by continuing to put the ball into the hands of its new workhorse back, running Halliday into the North defensive line that was led by senior Ryan Clemente and junior Trevor Hewett.

North finally managed a long drive against the KP defense at the end of the third quarter with Raneri narrowly missing Ethan Friberg in the end zone after the junior got free down the seam.

“We felt pretty confident on that one and I think Raneri saw him so wide open that he just didn’t get enough on the football,” Johnson said of the missed opportunity. “He lofted it instead of just putting it on his hands and it seemed to take forever to come down.”

On the first play of the fourth quarter, freshman kicker Tyler DeMattio missed a 32-yard kick wide left and the game remained even.

KP’s next drive stalled at its own 46 after a holding call on third down. Cole Baker’s punt drove Ryan Gaumond back to his own 10, but the North senior scrapped for 24 yards on the return to give North at least a little cushion with which to start the drive.

After working a first down near midfield, North turned to McHugh (16 carries, 95 yards) again. The senior went for six yards to the right and then broke a sweep to the left for 14 yards down to the KP 33. After a timeout, McHugh took the ball around the left side in front of his own bench and the Warriors appeared to have him wrapped up only to stop thinking he had gone out of bounds. McHugh kept going, inches from the sideline for the go-ahead score.

“He’s that kind of guy,” Johnson said of McHugh. “He doesn’t even know he’s doing it half the time but he’s a threat to break anything at any time so there are times we say just give it to McHugh because he can create so much on his own.”

The Warriors took advantage of a new rule on the ensuing kickoff, calling a fair catch inside the 10 and automatically getting the ball at the 25. Junior Robbie Jarest rolled out to the far side and hit David Morganelli for 12 yards. Andy DeMattio nearly had a game-ending interception but could not hold on and the drive extended on a pass interference call on third down.

A 10-yard screen pass to Casado was followed by a 21-yard pass to Morganelli and suddenly KP was down to the North 17-yard-line with and the clock was stopped with eight seconds remaining. A false start backed KP up five yards, but Jarest just missed Morganelli in the back of the end zone on second down.

As the final horn sounded, the last gasp pass was picked off by Matt Penta at the goal line to seal the North win.

“I told them the second series is going to be better for you than the first and the third series will be better and the fourth and you settle down and confidence grows,” Lee said about what his team learned from that final drive regardless of whether or not it ended in a score. “They definitely believed they were going to win it at the end.”

North Attleboro (1-0) will be back on the Beaupre Field turf next week when it hosts rival Bishop Feehan. King Philip (0-1) will play another Davenport division team next Friday in its home opener, as Foxboro travels to Macktaz Field.

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North Attleboro Falls Just Short In D3 State Final

North Attleboro football
North Attleboro’s Nick Raneri (left) stiff arms a defender in the second half of the D3 State Final. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter

FOXBORO, Mass. – It nearly had the makings of a terrific comeback.

North Attleboro had just cut the deficit to nine, closing the gap to 35-26 behind junior Brendan McHugh‘s third touchdown of the day. Now the defense was tasked with somehow forcing a turnover against a red-hot St. John’s Shrewsbury offense.

With 5:32 left in the game, on 3rd and 12, St. John’s Shrewsbury quarterback Steve Bucciaglia hit his receiver over the middle for what looked to be a first down, and possibly the play that would end North’s comeback attempt. Instead of a first down though, Thomas Lockavitch ripped the ball free for a fumble, recovering it himself and North Attleboro took over at the SJS 48-yard line with a chance to get back in the game.

After an incomplete pass on first down, Chad Peterson (23-30, 218 yards, two touchdowns) hit Marion Bresko for an 18-yard completion to get down to the St. John’s 29-yard line. On the next play, St John’s pressure resulted in an intentional grounding call and on 2nd and 22, Ian Schade brought pressure and picked up St. John’s first sack of the day, a five-yard loss, which pushed North back to the St. John’s 46.

Then, a false start on the Red Rocketeers pushed them back even further. On 3rd and 32 from their own 49, Peterson found Ryan Gaumond for a nine-yard gain, but North’s fourth down attempt was incomplete and St. John’s took back possession with a nine-point lead and just three minutes to play.

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North hung tough and got their first stop on downs of the night against St. John’s explosive offense. Back on offense, they found the end zone on a Peterson 14 yard strike to Nate Pearce, but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Pioneers, securing a 35-33 decision over the Rocketeers in the D3 State Final.

The turning point in the game came with 1:39 left in the third quarter, with North Attleboro trailing 28-20. St John’s was facing a 3rd and 12 from its own 26 yard line after back to back negative plays, and North sent a blitz but the offensive line picked it up just long enough for Bucciaglia (17-22, 224 yards, three TD) to deliver a perfect strike down the middle to an open John Brunelle on a post route for a 74-yard touchdown and a 35-20 lead.

“I felt like the momentum had started to swing on those first couple of downs and we had them back on their heels a little bit, and that’s what great teams can do, they come up with big plays in those crucial situations,” North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson said about the play.

“They were in zero coverage, man to man, sent the blitz, and our receivers are just so knowledgeable, they know what to run, and John [Brunelle] just got wide open and made it easy for me, that was all him,” Bucciaglia said about the game-breaking play.

St. John’s no-huddle offense got to work immediately, as their opening drive lasted just 2:32 and was capped off with a ten-yard Bucciaglia touchdown pass to Coleman Drugotch.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve seen an offense with that kind of tempo, ironically I think the last time was the last Super Bowl we were in, against Swampscott, and we came out on top of that one 44-40, but this one I think was even faster in their tempo,” Johnson added about the St. John’s offense.

Despite the prowess of North Attleboro’s defense, the plethora of weapons and up-tempo style that St. John’s ran proved hard to stop. Still, the Red Rocketeers made plays on offense to stay in the game and never let it get out of hand.

North responded immediately, marching down the field before Peterson hit senior Zach DeMattio out in the flat for a three-yard touchdown.

In the see-saw affair, SJS struck again before the end of the first quarter behind a four-yard rush from Colin Deso. But once again, North’s offense was there with an answer as McHugh took the jet sweep to the right for a nine-yard score and a 14-14 score just before the midway point of the second quarter.

“We came in and were fairly confident we could move the ball against them, and I thought the key to the game was going to be could we get a couple of stops on defense, and we just didn’t get enough,” Johnson added.

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SJS took a 20-14 lead on its next drive, and North Attleboro ran out of time at half before it could respond. Big Red was unable to get things going on the first drive of the second half, resulting in the game’s first punt. The Pioneers made North pay, taking it down before Eamonn Dennis found the end zone from 15-yards out and a 28-14 lead.

McHugh got his second touchdown of the game, a three yard-rush, late in the third quarter to make it 28-20. Just over a minute later, Bucciaglia had his 74-yard touchdown.

“The defensive game plan going in, we knew they could run the ball, they have a couple 300 pounders up front so we were worried about that, but there’s only so much you can do to commit to that run game because those guys can throw all over the place,” Johnson said.

North cut it to nine with 6:38 left int he game when Peterson threw a pass to Nick Raneri behind the line of scrimmage, and the junior running back and backup quarterback floated a pass to McHugh right on the goal line for the touchdown.

For St. John’s Shrewsbury, the win caps off an undefeated 13-0 season that saw Bucciaglia have a record-setting season at quarterback. The Pioneers beat Doherty Memorial, Shrewsbury, and Springfield Central on their path to the state title game. It marks their first state title since 2010, when they were in Division 1.

North Attleboro finishes its season at 11-2.

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