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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Rocketeers Rout Dragons In D3 South Sectional Final

North Attleboro football
North Attleboro’s Nathan Pearce (25) eludes a tackle from Duxbury’s Jake Quilty in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Not many teams have been able to slow down North Attleboro’s offense this season, and not many squads have been able to solve Big Red’s defense.

You can add Duxbury to both lists.

The top-seeded red hot Rocketeers cruised to a D3 Sectional title, routing the second-seeded Dragons, 35-0, under the lights at Community Field.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

It was the third straight year the programs met in the postseason, with Duxbury prevailing in the previous two contests including last year’s sectional final.

“We had a better feel for them this year I think, and the kids worked hard to get here,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “This senior class, they’ve lived through it. They’ve lost to [Duxbury] the last two years, they put an end to our season. So our guys were determined to have a different ending this year.”

North Attleboro advances to the D3 State Semifinal and will play the D3 North sectional champion, which will be decided on Saturday afternoon between Lynn English and Tewksbury.

Big Red wasted little time imposing its will on the offensive side of the ball, taking the opening kickoff and marching 55 yards on 12 plays — all rushing plays — to take an early lead. Brendan McHugh (10 carries, 47 yards, two touchdowns) took his fifth carry of the drive in from three yards out and Geoff Wilson’s extra point put North up 7-0 with 4:04 left in the first quarter.

“I think the offense did a great job,” Johnson said. “We’ve thrown the ball a lot this year, Chad Peterson is a great quarterback. But we felt like we could move the ball against them [on the ground] and to beat them we felt like we had to have good balance. I think establishing that run game early made the difference.”

Duxbury’s offense — which averaged 30 points per game coming into the contest — looked like it was primed to respond, possibly setting up a shootout between the two sides. But after moving into North territory, the Dragons saw what could have been a touchdown dropped over the middle, and then a fourth down passing attempt ruled incomplete on the sidelines.

After focusing on the run on its first drive, North shifted to its pass game as Chad Peterson (6-for-7, 98 yards, touchdown) hit Mario Bresko deep for a 46-yard gain on the second play of the drive. Two plays later, Peterson hit Jonathan James in the flat and the junior charged his way in for an 11-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 13 seconds left in the first quarter.

“I thought we came out on offense and executed well, our defense played great too,” Peterson said. “I thought we executed in all facets of the game tonight.”

Once again, Duxbury’s offense moved the ball, this time with a 53-yard drive to get into the red zone. But on the 15th play of the drive, Dragons quarterback John Roberts attempted to throw into the end zone, but Bresko stepped in front of the receiver for the interception and touchback.

Between lengthy drives, North’s third drive of the game stalled in enemy territory and had to punt just as time expired in the first half.

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North’s defense had one of its biggest stops of the game to open the second half, forcing the Dragons to go three and out and get the ball back.

The offense didn’t skip a beat though, rattling off its second-longest drive of the game to begin the second half. Peterson completed passes to Bresko and Devin Slaney on the drive and converted a third down with his legs. McHugh converted a fourth and short down, and three plays later, got into the end zone on a second effort to make it 21-0.

“That’s all we talked about at halftime,” Johnson said, “We knew we had to kick to them so we needed our kickoff team to do a good job and then we needed our defense to get the ball back in the hands of our offense, and they did it.”

“We had excellent field position all night, the kickoff team did a good job pinning them deep,” Peterson said. “When you know you have a defense like ours, it takes a lot of pressure off of the offense.”

As if that sequence – a quick three and out from Duxbury and lengthy touchdown drive from North – didn’t put North in complete control, the next sequence did.

On the first play of Duxbury’s ensuing drive, Roberts dropped back to pass in shotgun and fired a quick pass to his left, but North Attleboro senior linebacker Zach DeMattio stepped right in front and galloped his way for an 18-yard interception return.

“Coach Johnson has been talking all week about how us linebackers have been struggling against the past the last couple of weeks so we really had to insert ourselves into the pass coverage,” DeMattio said. “We knew that play was coming so I just turned open and he threw it and I took it.

“We’ve had the last two years in our memories, them beating us at our place two years ago, and then beating as at their place last year. We had our game plan coming in, we knew what we had to do and we just executed on both sides of the ball.”

Duxbury picked a first down on its next drive, but then went four straight plays without positive yardage and turned it over on downs.

“When you get to this point, you better be good on both sides of the ball,” Johnson said. “I was happy to see our defense step up there a couple of times.”

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Nick Raneri took over at quarterback, used an option play and raced his way up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown and a 35-0 lead.

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Duxbury once again turned it over on downs and North Attleboro’s reserves, led by Luke Labonte (five carries, 33 yards), ran the rest of the clock off.

“I’m happy for them,” Johnson said. “We’ve had so many teams over the years that have been so close. Sometimes its just a matter of matchups. You run up against a really good team, it might not work out for you that year. So I’m really happy for these kids.”

North Attleboro football (9-1) will find out its opponent for the D3 State Semifinal on Saturday. Lynn English and Tewksbury kickoff at 2:00PM.

Rocketeers Roll In Rematch With Black Knights

North Attleboro football
North Attleboro’s Nathan Pearce (25) and Geoff Wilson (53) sack Stoughton’s Evan Gibb in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Playing a team for a second time in the season presents plenty of obstacles, and more often than not its a tighter game than the first time around.

That makes North Attleboro’s dominant 35-12 win over Stoughton in the D3 South Semifinals that much more impressive.

Big Red’s defense limited Stoughton’s starting unit to under 100 yards of total offense, and its offensive unit took advantage of strong field position to advance to the sectional final for the second straight year.

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Four of North Attleboro’s five touchdown drives required five plays or less, all four of them under 50 yards. Only one drive – the third scoring drive of the game at the end of the first half – was a lengthy possession (seven plays, 65 yards).

“I think this team has really matured as the year has gone on and really developed that business-like attitude,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “You get to this point in the year, and you know what you’re supposed to do…you just have to go out and do it. It’s a sign of maturity.”

It wasn’t an ideal start for the Rocketeers, who were forced into an early punt that was blocked by Stoughton’s Jason Joseph and recovered by David Bell. That set Stoughton up at the North Attleboro 20-yard line.

But North Attleboro’s defense stood tall with senior Geoff Wilson sacking Stoughton quarterback Johnny Medina on third down. Medina’s throw into the end zone on fourth fell incomplete and North escaped unscathed.

Stoughton’s defense did its part again, forcing another punt from North but this time the Rocketeers had a big break. Devin Slaney’s long kick got a kind roll and Stoughton’s returner wasn’t able to cleanly field it, allowing North junior Cam Cornetta to pounce and give the Rocketeers the ball at Stoughton’s 10-yard line.

Big Red took advantage of their opportunity and senior quarterback Chad Peterson (5/9, 68 yards – seven carries, 33 yards, three touchdowns) used an option play to keep it himself and run it in from five yards out. North led 7-0 after Wilson’s extra point with 3:05 left in the quarter.

“Sometimes it takes a bad play to kind of spark the team, offense or defense either one,” Johnson said of the blocked punt. “And I think that’s exactly what happened there.

“It felt like on that turnover [muffed punt], the game started over at the point.”

Slaney’s deep kickoff forced Stoughton to start inside its own 20-yard line. And North’s defense did its part, forcing losses on both first and second down. After a punt, North started at the Stoughton 45-yard line.

Peterson hit Nick Raneri for 11 yards then ran for eight yards with a late hit tacked on. Two plays later, North faked the jet sweep and Peterson kept it himself, going in from three yards out and a 14-0 lead with 10:20 to play in the second.

Ryan Gaumond put a halt to Stoughton’s next drive with an interception but the Black Knights’ defense allowed just one yard on North’s ensuing drive and got the ball back with a punt.

Junior Evan Gibb, who was hurt in the first meeting between the two teams and missed the past two weeks, took over under center to start the second quarter. On Stoughton’s next drive, he rushed for eight yards, then hit Alex Iverson for a 19-yard gain and a first down.

Two plays later, Gibb hit Ruben Gonzalez on a hitch route and the senior slipped through a tackle and attempt and raced 41-yards for a touchdown, bringing Stoughton within 14-6 with 3:47 left in the first half.

But that was enough time for North to orchestrate its longest drive of the game. Back-to-back passes from Peterson toMario Bresko moved the chains, and two plays later Peterson hit Raneri out in the flat and he raced 29-yards.

Two plays later, Nathan Pearce (eight carries, 53 yards) followed a great block up the middle and burst his way through two Stoughton defenders at the goal line for a 16-yard touchdown and a 21-6 lead with 90 seconds left in the first half.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Pearce led the Warriors in carries and rushing yards. With Stoughton’s defense bottling Raneri up, and Brendan McHugh without a carry, Pearce provided a spark for the Rocketeers.

“Pearce is kind of a combination of those others [Raneri and McHugh],” Johnson said. “You get to this time of year and guys are getting banged up. Pearce has come along – he was banged up early of the year – so he’s really given us that extra depth we were lacking at the beginning of the year.”

Stoughton got the ball to start the second half but another nice kick from Slaney, plus a block in the back, forced the Black Knights to start from their own six-yard line. After gains on first and second down, Wilson and Pearce combined for the sack on third down and the Black Knights had to punt from their own end zone.

“When you prepare for [Stoughton], you really have to prepare for two offenses,” Johnson said. They run the Wing-T offense so well, and then [Jeff Grier] was in there who didn’t play last time, and he’s a legitimate threat because of his speed. So you have to prepare for that and then they go with the spread offense and throw the ball. And Gibb’s a tough kid when he’s in there. So there’s a lot of things you have to prepare for so I was pretty happy with the defensive effort.”

That meant good field position for Big Red once again, starting at the Stoughton 28-yard line. Pearce had three carries for a total of 26 yards, and Peterson capped the drive with a two-yard plunge on fourth down with 6:10 to play.

North’s defense again held court and even though Stoughton got off a strong punt, Gaumond had a 33-yard return and North started at the Black Knights’ 17-yard line.

With Raneri at quarterback, he ran for 10 yards on first down, and then McHugh burst around the edge for a seven-yard touchdown on his first carry. North led 35-6 with 3:10 left, spelling the end of playing time for its starters on both sides.

“We couldn’t get the field position, we couldn’t move the ball…and they sort of stuck it to us,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “We have to be able to keep it close so we can run the ball. We got plenty of yards the last time, this time they did a couple of different things.

“Hats off to [North Attleboro], that’s a good team. I think they can win this sectional.”

Stoughton’s Justin Ly scored on an 11-yard run with 8:56 to play to cap the scoring.

With the win, the Rocketeers get a rematch with Duxbury in the sectional finals. It’s the third straight year that Big Red has faced off with the Dragons, with the latter coming away with wins both times.

“It’s always great to get an opportunity to go back and play someone you lost to,” Johnson said. “We’ve lost to them in the playoffs the past two years so it’s an opportunity to get another shot at them. They’ve sent us packing so its time to do something about that.”

The game is scheduled for Friday night, November 10th at Community Field at 7:00.

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Peterson Helps Rocketeers Advance Past Walpole

North Attleboro football
Senior quarterback Chad Peterson (7) accounted for four touchdowns, two rushing and two passing, to lead North Attleboro to a first round win over Walpole at Community Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – After a slow start to the game, North Attleboro put the ball in the hands of senior quarterback Chad Peterson and the Amherst College-commit came through with four touchdowns, two through the air in the first half and two more on the ground in the second, to lead the Rocketeers to a 28-14 first round win against Walpole.

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North was able to survive and advance, despite the defense allowing more than 200 passing yards against Walpole’s spread formation, including 163 receiving yards (on 11 receptions) by wideout Chase Conrad.

“We knew they could throw the ball, so defensively we wanted to put pressure on the quarterback, which I thought we did a decent job of earlier but then they did a good job picking the pressure and we didn’t do a particularly good job covering the guys behind it,” said North Attleboro coach Don Johnson. “So, that kept them in the game.”

The North defense showed its ability to get pressure straight up the middle on the first Walpole series when Ryan Clemente dislodged the ball from Rebels running back Drew Van klock, hitting him just as he received the ball.

North returned the favor with a fumble five plays later but again the defense kept the pressure up on Walpole senior quarterback Brett Lavanchy (17-32, 223 yards). Geoff Wilson, Sam Bullock, and Zach DeMattio all forced Lavanchy into rushed throws and Wilson’s sack led to a Rebels punt.

North took over on its own 15-yard-line and proceeded to put together a 12-play, 85-yard drive to open the scoring. Nathan Pearce (11 carries, 96 yards) got the drive going with a 28-yard jet sweep to the far sideline and North kept advancing into the red zone until Peterson was sacked to force a third and 18. Peterson hit Pearce on an eight-yard screen and, on fourth and 10, found Ryan Gaumond on the near sideline for 16 and a first down.

Two plays later, Peterson bought time and found Nolan Buckley open in the back of the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown.

Walpole responded quickly. Conrad returned the kick to the Walpole 45 and it took the Rebels only six plays to get on the board. DeMattio and Adam Eberle combined on a sack to force third and 13 from the North 47, but Walpole caught the Rocketeers in an all-out blitz. Lavanchy’s screen pass found Conrad in space and he took it the distance.

A missed extra point kept North in the lead, but the Rocketeers failed to take advantage on the next drive, turning it over on downs at the Walpole 16.

“Walpole played tough,” said Johnson. “I thought they did a great job on defense and worked hard to make us earn it.”

He added, “We thought we’d be able to move the ball on the ground, but I thought they played really well on defense in the first half. They did some different things that we hadn’t seen on the film. They jumped into a 50 double eagle look there and we hadn’t seen them do that all year long.”

Jonathan James and Bullock combined on a sack to end Walpole’s drive and get the ball back for North with just 51 seconds remaining in the half. The Rocketeers took over at the 50 and Peterson proceeded to march the hosts down field, needing just five plays to add a big score before the break. All three completions on the drive went to Devin Slaney, including the 26-yard touchdown.

The Rocketeers got the ball back to start the third quarter and promptly extended the lead. Pearce broke a 31-yard run to get the ball into Walpole territory. Peterson would take it the final 16 yards on a pair of carries to make it 21-6.

“I thought that was key, coming out get that first drive and score in the second half,” said Johnson. “I thought that was a big momentum swing there.”

He continued, “I never felt like we were out of control, but I just never felt like we could finish things. It just took a while for us tonight.”

Walpole’s ability to move the ball through the air meant that the game was far from over and the Rebels immediately responded to cut the lead back to one score. Conrad had another big return to get the ball near midfield. A 26-yard catch moved the drive inside the North 30 and then it was finished with a 16-yard catch in the back corner. Lavanchy and Conrad connected on the conversion as well.

“At halftime, they definitely went in there to pick up the middle blitz,” said DeMattio, “so we tried coming off the edge to try and stop the sprint out.”

After a North punt, the Rebels were on the move again, getting the ball inside the Rocketeers’ 10. Lavanchy was forced to throw a pass away on first and goal then was stuffed for a four-yard loss on a keeper by Jason McNeany and Marc Burns. On third and goal, Clemente got loose in the backfield for North’s fifth sack of the game. With Gaumond in coverage, the fourth down pass went out the back of the end zone.

North took over on its own 17. The Rocketeers put together a 13-play, 83-yard drive that put the game away. While the bulk of the drive consisted of runs by Peterson (13 carries, 88 yards), Pearce, and Nick Raneri (13 carries, 54 yards), there were also two big completions from Peterson to Gaumond on the far sideline. Peterson capped the possession with a seven-yard keeper to seal the win.

“It was a tough first game, but it was fun,” said DeMattio. “You can definitely see a lot more people coming out, bigger crowds, lot more intense.”

When asked about the prospect of hosting league rival Stoughton next week, DeMattio added, “They’re definitely a run-heavy team, so it will be good for them to come back to Community Field and get a good game for everyone.”

North Attleboro (7-1), the top seed in Div. 3 South, will host the Black Knights (6-2) on Friday night at Community Field.

Johnson said of what was at the time only a potential rematch with Stoughton, “I don’t like playing anybody a second time. They get to know all your secrets.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Peterson, Rocketeers Clinch Third Straight League Title

North Attleboro football
North Attleboro quarterback Chad Peterson eludes a track from a Stoughton defender in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – It’s been a week to remember for North Attleboro senior quarterback Chad Peterson.

Just days after giving a verbal commitment to play college football at Amherst College, Peterson scored three touchdowns to lead the Rocketeers to a 35-21 win over Stoughton at W.B. Mason Stadium on the campus of Stonehill College.

The win clinches at least a share of the 2017 Hockomock League Davenport title, the third straight league title for the program and Peterson, a three-year starter. The Rocketeers can clinch the title outright with a win against Canton next week. If Canton wins, North can still win the title outright if Stoughton beats Milford.

“He’s a special player,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “I think it’s safe to say we might not have won those three championships if Chad Peterson wasn’t our quarterback. He’s a difference maker.”

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With a chance to three-peat on the line, Peterson and the North Attleboro offense put together one of its best performances of the season, scoring 35 points on a defense that had previously allowed just 41 points total through the first five games.

“I thought we had a great week of practice,” Peterson said. “We knew what this game meant, we knew it’d be a physical game. We came out and ran the ball and turned out well for us.”

Big Red’s offense scored on two of its first three drives but a late touchdown from Stoughton in the second quarter kept the teams level at halftime.

But in the second half, after its first drive ended in a punt, Peterson led the offense on three consecutive scoring drives to put the Rocketeers ahead for good.

“I think [our offense] was probably the difference in the game,” Johnson said. “Our offense, particularly up front, taking over the game.”

“It says a lot about the coaching staff and how they approach each season,” Peterson about the three straight league titles. “We graduate guys each year, I’m playing with different players each year but each year guys step up and we just have a championship culture.”

Despite both defensive units being the top two stingiest in the league, both offenses came out strong. A big return from Stoughton sophomore Ajahn Rue set the Black Knights up with good field position. Eight plays later, senior Alex Sjoquist took the toss to the left side and in for a two-yard score and a 7-0 lead.

North’s offense had an immediate response, driving 66 yards on eight plays to tie the score. The Rocketeers didn’t face a third down all drive and junior Nick Raneri (16 carries, 107 yards) punched it in from six yards out to knot it 7-7 with 2:45 left in the first quarter.

The defensive units settled in as Stoughton went three and out and punted, but the Black Knights’ defense forced the same from North.

North’s defense stuffed Sjoquist on third and shot scenario to get the ball back and its offense took the field, driving 63 yards for a score. Stoughton’s defense nearly shut the drive down early but on third and 10, Peterson (7/12, 88 yards) hit Mario Bresko with a beautiful 47-yard long ball to move the chains.

Four plays later, Peterson kept it himself and powered up the middle for a four-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.

Stoughton nearly had an immediate response when junior Evan Gibb (4/5, 83 yards) hit Ruben Gonzalez for 42 yards, and two plays later again for 16 yards. The Black Knights got inside the 10-yard line but on fourth down, the Rocketeers sent a blitz and junior Ryan Clemente came up with the big hit and get the ball back.

“I thought he did a great job in his pass rush,” Johnson said of Clemente. “I thought the whole defensive front did a good job in the pass rush, I think that made a difference in the game. And Clemente and some other guys were getting it done on offense too.”

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North’s offense stalled, giving Stoughton the ball back with just 25 seconds left in the first half. After a holding call pushed the Black Knights back, they elected to run. Senior Justin Ly took off to the right side, cut back through a gap in the defense and sprinted his way for a 65-yard touchdown just before half, tying the game 14-14.

Big Red moved into Stoughton territory to start the second half but punted, making Stoughton start at their own 20-yard line. Not only did Clemente’s sack at the end of the first half stop Stoughton’s scoring threat, it also knocked Gibb from the game.

Stoughton senior Johnny Medina (8/18, 95 yards, touchdown) took over under center and hit Rue for 11-yards and a first down. But two plays later, Medina was hit as he threw, causing the ball to flutter in the air and Bresko came down with the interception.

“It really didn’t alter our game plan because I think [Medina] throws the ball pretty well too,” Johnson said of the quarterback change. “I was actually watching him in pregame and thinking he was just as good. So when he came in it didn’t really change our game plan, I think our kids just did a nice job of getting to the quarterback.”

North was quick to turn the interception into points. Peterson converted a third down with a pass to Bresko over the middle and five plays later, Peterson kept it himself for a one-yard score and a 21-14 lead with 0:29 left in the third quarter.

Big Red’s defense brought the pressure again, forcing a quick three and out. Starting with a 27-yard scamper from Brendan McHugh (nine carries, 70 yards), North went 69 yards on eight plays to extend its lead to two scores. Nathan Pearce capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown on a jet sweep.

“They just pushed us around up front in the second half,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “We had to stop them and we didn’t. They didn’t do anything they hadn’t done before. Their big guy, the right tackle [Clemente] they went behind him each time.

“It’s high school, you get down by two scores it can be tough for the kids. Losing Gibb hurt tremendously, but that’s high school. You’re only as good as your next player.”

Stoughton moved the chains once on its next drive, but three straight incompletions resulted in a turnover on downs, and great field position for North. The Rocketeers took just five plays to drive the 33 yards, with Peterson punching it in from two yards out for a 35-14 lead.

Peterson finished with 49 yards on 11 carries, the second most carries by a Rocketeer.

“Chad’s been a little banged up the last couple of weeks so we haven’t been able to do that much with him,” Johnson said. “But when you’re successful running the edge like we were with Raneri and McHugh, defense loosens up and starts to widen and that opens things up for the quarterback running.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Black Knights added a score with under a minute to play when Medina hit a wide open Ly up the middle for a 51-yard touchdown.

North Attleboro football (5-1 overall, 4-0 Davenport) has a chance to clinch the Davenport title outright when it entertains Canton at Community Field on Friday night. North Attleboro will likely clinch a home playoff game with a win over the Bulldogs.

“We don’t talk about the playoffs until today, we’ll start talking about it,” Johnson said. “We’ve got our share of the championship, that’s number one. Now we talk about the chance to win the outright championship and here’s what it means for the playoffs. We want to get that home game.”

Stoughton (4-2, 2-2) will try to bounce back when it hits the road to take on the Scarlet Hawks.

“Next week is a big week for both of us for position the playoff,” Burke said. “But we have to play a lot better than we played in the second half today.”

North Attleboro Edges Foxboro In Key Davenport Clash

North Attleboro football
Foxboro quarterback Devin Hassett (10) is pressured by North Attleboro’s Marc Burns (74) in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It should be no surprise that a battle between two of the top teams in the Hockomock League came down to just a handful of big plays.

North Attleboro ended up on the fortunate side of the final big play, holding on for a close 14-13 win over visiting Foxboro to take sole place of the Davenport division with two games to play.

It looked as though the Rocketeers had a chance to finish the game when Mario Bresko came up with an interception with 2:57 to play and a seven point lead. But Foxboro’s no-quit attitude helped the Warriors force a quick three and out and get the ball back with 2:20 to play.

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Starting at the North Attleboro 35-yard line, Foxboro quickly moved into the red zone. A pass from Devin Hassett (9/17, 88 yards, two touchdowns) to Jack O’Donnell and a QB keeper moved the chains. Hassett found O’Donnell for 10-yards and then Anthony Capachietti (14 carries, 65 yards) moved the chains again with a seven-yard burst.

Facing third and goal from the five, the snap was bobbled and North Attleboro’s Sam Bullock and Geoff Wilson swarmed for an eight-yard sack. The Warriors had just one play left – 4th and goal from the 13-yard line – with 18 seconds to play.

Hassett fired over the middle, connecting with O’Donnell on the slant. It looked as though North had him stopped just before the goal line, but the senior dove forward, stretching out the ball across the goal line for a touchdown to make it 14-13 with 0:10 to play.

However, Foxboro’s connection between snap and hold was just off, forcing the extra point kick to be low and into the line, giving the Rocketeers a one-point win.

“I’m really proud of the effort of the kids,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “We hung tough and made some plays. But I’m not sure if I’m ready to call us good yet, that was your word. Foxboro was a good team though, I know that.

“I think on both sides of the ball we just had a lot of kids who hung tough and didn’t crumble under the pressure. They worked their asses off, some of those guys playing both ways, especially inside. They hung tough and didn’t give it an inch.”

North Attleboro took the lead on the possession prior to Bresko’s interception. It was the second time that the Rocketeers ran 10-plays in a series (the other time was in the second quarter that also resulted in a touchdown). This series was the longest drive of the game for Big Red, spanning 73-yards.

It looked as though the drive was going to stall early when Foxboro’s Martin McElroy blew up a second down run. Facing 3rd and 13 from their own 24-yard line, North quarterback Chad Peterson (9/11, 110 yards, two touchdowns) was flanked out to the right and hit Brendan McHugh (16 carries, 54 yards, four receptions, 76 yards) right at the first down marker to move the chains.

McHugh then rattled off runs of seven, four and nine yards before Nick Raneri (11 carries, 36 yards) moved the chains with a three-yard burst up the middle. Three plays later, North was faced with 3rd and six at the 36-yard line.

Peterson dropped back to pass, firing to his left as McHugh came towards him. Nolan Buckley, who was lined up in the slot, turned out wide to start and then came up with a perfectly timed block when McHugh hauled in the pass. The junior was able to break a tackle up field and scampered his way for a 36-yard score. Wilson’s extra point made it 14-7 with 4:43 to play.

Foxboro had a strong start to the game. They forced a turnover on downs when North Attleboro’s fake punt from its own 40-yard line fell incomplete. Seven plays later, the Warriors were in the end zone when Hassett hit Jake Addeche (four receptions, 35 yards) on a seam route up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

North Attleboro tied the game on its first drive of the second quarter. The drive spanned 61 yards on 10 plays, with the Rocketeers getting into the end zone with less than a minute to play in the first half. On second and goal from the seven, Peterson hit Raneri out of the backfield and he muscled his way into the end zone to make it 7-7.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Big Red’s defense was at its best in the second and third quarters, forcing Foxboro to punt on all four of its drives in those two quarters. Foxboro had moved towards the red zone but on second down, Zach DeMattio and Jason McNeany forced a 10-yard loss on a sack and the Warriors had to punt two downs later.

In an early drive in the fourth quarter, Foxboro had a second down at the North 30-yard line, but Bullock’s sack dropped the Warriors back 15-yards. Pressure from Adam Eberle and Wilson on third down forced an incompletion and Foxboro once again had to punt.

“I think the defense really stepped up and did a good job,” Johnson said. “But even when you think you have them buried on that third or fourth down, they stepped up to make a play, they have some good players.”

North also had an early third quarter drive stalled when Addeche and Louis Piccolo forced a fumble after a completion. Big Red had to punt on its next drive as well after getting just two yards in three plays.

“We had a hard time handling Foxboro up front,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of negative yards or negative plays in the run game. They really crowded the line scrimmage, they were flying to the football and just matching up man-to-man with everybody else. That’s a situation where you have to get a body on a body and block everybody and we were losing some one-on-one battles.”

North Attleboro football (4-1 overall, 3-0 Davenport) now moves into a position to clinch a league share with a win next week when it travels to Stonehill College to take on Stoughton. The Rocketeers have a chance to clinch a share of their third straight league title. The last time North Attleboro did that was 1997-1999.

“We made a reference that a win tonight would put us in the position to be playing for a share of a championship.

“[A three-peat] hasn’t happened too many times so there is a lot of incentive there. The problem is that the other team is pretty good too. I think Stoughton is going to be just like Foxboro, it’s going to be a battle.”

Foxboro (3-2, 2-1) will look to bounce back when it hits the road to take on Milford next Friday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.