NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The weather was a little warmer and the crowd was a little smaller, but when North Attleboro (6-0) squared off with Attleboro (1-5) on Saturday morning at Community Field the usual emotions of the Thanksgiving Day rivalry were still there.
North capped off an undefeated season and avenged a loss from Thanksgiving 2019, rallying from an early deficit to win 28-7 in the “Century Game” (marking the 100th “holiday” meeting between the programs). Seniors Matt Pentaand Jacob Silva scored two touchdowns apiece for the Rocketeers.
As his team celebrated in the background with “Hilda”, North Attleboro coach Don Johnson explained what the victory, and the chance to play the game at all, meant to his team.
“I think it gives our seniors a sense of completion,” he said. “I think up to this point our seniors have felt a little bit robbed of the usual senior experience and adding this game and the significance of it completes it for them and they can walk away quite satisfied.”
The dynamics of the game changed on Thursday night when, according to Johnson, North’s starting quarterback Tyler DeMattio had a cast put on a wrist injury he suffered in the Davenport title decider against Foxboro. North turned to Penta and fellow senior Dylan Eberle and inevitably the Rocketeers looked a little out of rhythm offensively in the first quarter.
Attleboro took advantage. The Bombardiers stopped North on its first possession and a short punt gave them the ball at the North 34. Attleboro was also on its backup quarterback, as sophomore Aiden Hochwarter started for the second week in a row, but the Bombardiers turned to its power running game.
Michael Strachan gained five yards on fourth and two to keep the drive moving and then Alexander Bakowski found a seam on a counter for a 16-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
North went three-and-out on its next possession but Nathan Shultz recovered a muffed punt to give the Rocketeers a second chance. Again, Attleboro’s defense held. Ryan Betts and Kaiden Murray both made nice plays to break up passes and turn North over on downs.
The game changed early in the second quarter. After Attleboro went three-and-out, North blocked a Colby Briggs punt and took over at the Bombardiers 13. It was the momentum and field position shift that the North offense needed.
“It just changed the feel of the game,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan explained. “It was a big play for them and they were able to capitalize and they have a bunch of good kids over there. We’ll learn from this.”
Two plays later, Penta saw a hole and burst up the middle on an 8-yard keeper to tie the game.
Attleboro’s issues on offense have been a familiar theme this season. The Bombardiers have only scored touchdowns in two of their six games and they recorded only four first downs on Saturday.
“They have a good football team,” Strachan said. “I thought we did a good job in the first half, but we had a couple mishaps on special teams that turned the momentum a bit and we just weren’t able to regain it.”
After a tough start, the North offense started to click into gear. On the first play of its next drive, Eberle hit Silva right in front of the North bench and the running back broke a couple of tackles, stayed inbounds and broke free for a 46-yard score, putting North ahead for good.
The Rocketeers had a chance to break the game open before halftime. A short punt gave them the ball at the Attleboro 26 and they marched down inside the 10. With time running out, Attleboro’s defense was able to stop three plays from inside its own three to keep it a one-score game.
That only lasted until North’s first drive of the second half. The Rocketeers went 60 yards on 12 plays, eating the clock and grinding out a touchdown drive that gave them a little cushion. Penta ( 13 carries, 113 yards) was making big plays with his legs and DeMattio (13 carries, 48 yards), cast and all, was able to give North a change of pace. Silva capped the drive with a one-yard plunge.
Johnson said, “In our three biggest games, Stoughton, Foxboro, and Attleboro, we failed to get that third touchdown at an opportune time that would’ve made you relax and maybe put the game away. That’s all we talked about [at halftime], not how we screwed up at the end of the first half but what are we going to do in the first drive.”
Attleboro was looking for a spark and thought it might have one in the fourth quarter when Freddy Wheaton recovered a Penta fumble to stop North’s drive with 6:14 to play. The Bombardiers got one first down, but North’s defense was flying, particularly Tyler Bannon and Greg Berthiaume, who snuffed out a screen to force a punt.
Penta left no doubt about the winner when he took off on yet another keeper, broke it to the outside, stayed on his feet, and found the end zone from 39 yards out, making it 28-7 with only 1:16 to play.
“Our special teams were good and our defense was good and I think that was enough to give our offense the field position we needed,” said Johnson. “The plays that Penta was running, he’s good at, and the things Eberle was doing, he’s pretty good at, so it worked out okay…two seniors who stepped up.”
When asked what it meant for his team, result aside, to finish up this unusual season with a game against North, Strachan replied, “At the end of the day, to be out here, with what these kids have been through this year, it’s unbelievable. That’s what it’s about. For the communities to come together at Community Field, this is what it’s about.”
Attleboro, 7 @ North Attleboro, 28 – Final 1st Quarter: (A) Alexander Bakowski 16-yard rush, Colby Briggs XP good.
2nd Quarter: (NA) Matt Penta 8-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good; (NA) Dylan Eberle 46-yard pass to Jacob Silva, T. DeMattio XP good.
3rd Quarter: (NA) J. Silva 1-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
4th Quarter: (NA) M. Penta 39-yard rush, Evan Vigorito XP good.
It’s a new era in Canton as Anthony Fallon takes over for longtime head coach Dave Bohane, who stepped down from his second stint in charge of the Bulldogs at the end of last season.
While it’s a new era, all of the players and coaches are hoping that the success from the past two seasons continues going forward. If that success is going to continue, it’s going to be by a host of new faces. The Bulldogs graduated a historic class that won back-to-back Davenport division titles and reached the D5 South Sectional final in 2019. While competing for the Davenport division title this year, Canton will lean heavily on its few returners while new players take advantage of the new opportunities.
Senior Matt Connolly is a force on both sides of the ball, protecting the quarterback on the offensive line and leading the way for the ground game with his blocking. And defensively, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound senior who is committed to play at Assumption College, is an absolute handful and requires a lot of attention. Cam Sanchez is another experienced player back for the Bulldogs and will be involved in the running game offensively and apart of the secondary defensively. Carson Campbell started all 11 games for Canton last year at right tackle and will add defensive line duties this season. Jack Albert should see an expanded role on both sides of the ball and will be one of the main targets in the receiving game.
“Our team has great speed in our secondary, we are big and strong upfront and our linebackers are tough and fast,” Fallon said. “We have a solid mix on our varsity of juniors and seniors. I am also excited with our numbers on the sub-varsity level with 30-plus players. With a tough-minded defense and a fast offense, I know we will compete in every game.”
There is a lot of optimism in Foxboro for the Fall II season, and with a strong group of returning starters in different spots all over the field, there is good reason for it.
The Warriors seem to be in the mix for the Davenport division title each season, coming in third in 2019 and 2017. With talent back in key spots, Foxboro could be a serious contender for their first crown since 2015. The offense starts with the line and Foxboro has some experience and size to work with. Senior Sean Ferguson is a towering presence at 6’5, 315-pounds and anchors the line from the center position and he will be joined by junior Dylan Kerrigan (6’0, 205) at tackle. Senior Cam Prescott will start under center and will have a bevy of options to work with including playmaker Luis Sulham and junior Rashaad Way. Look for Chris McNamara to pick up where he left off carrying the ball.
Foxboro has an equal amount of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball with the strength of the team coming from the linebackers and the secondary. Seniors Mike Norvish and James Stamatos return with plenty of varsity experience under their belts and will anchor the linebacker position while senior James Kraus will start at safety and will be accompanied in the secondary by Way and Tom Sharkey, both juniors. One player to keep an eye out for is senior Jon Moses, a 6’4 defensive end that really improved over the course of last season and could be a handful for opposing offenses to deal with.
“The heart and soul of team this year is the senior leadership and experience along with a strong and talented junior class,” said Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli.
North Attleboro was ravished by injuries during the 2019 season and the result was the program’s first sub-.500 season in 27 years. It speaks volumes to how consistent the Rocketeers are year in and year out that it had been that long but the Big Red are ready to turn the page and begin a new streak.
The Rocketeers are getting a lot of players back that missed time last year and also have a bunch of players back that were thrown into the fire last year and now have varsity experience. With that combination, North Attleboro is hoping the end result is the Davenport division title. Junior Tyler DeMattio is back under center for his second year as the starter after making a big splash on Thanksgiving his freshman season. DeMattio can get it done with both his arm and his legs (and his foot in the kicking game). He has a lot of weapons at his disposal this year with Jared Penta and Alex McCoy in the slots, Coby Feid and Matt Penta at split end, and 6-foot-5 Endicott-commit Robbie Donovan at tight end. Jacob Silva returns at tailback and will be complemented by senior Tommy Whalen while sophomores Nathan Shultz and Greg Berthiaume could be in the mix as well. Harry Bullock will anchor the offensive line alongside classmates Danny Hayes and Justin Vecchiarelli and juniors Jared Vacher and Keysun Wise.
On top of the eight returning starters on offense, the Rocketeers boast eight returners on the defensive side of the ball as well. North Attleboro has a lot of depth at the linebacker position with Silva, a team captain, being a key part of the group. He’ll be joined by Berthiaume, Vecchiarelli, Whalen, senior Dylan Eberle, and junior Tyler Bannon. Jared and Matt Penta are both very experienced safeties while McCoy and Feid return at corner, so the secondary will certainly be a strength for the Big Red. The Rocketeers don’t have the biggest defensive line but the likes of Donovan, Vacher, and Bullock provide speed from the edge.
“The extended off season has provided extra time for tremendous growth in the weight room,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “The depth at the skill positions on both sides of the ball will be the strength of this team. The key will be how quickly and effectively we can put together our offensive and defensive lines.”
Oliver Ames is back in the Davenport division and is looking to make a splash in its first season back.
The Tigers had a lot of success when the league first split into two divisions, winning the Davenport title in 2011 and 2013 before making the jump up to the Kelley-Rex. With a strong group of players back, OA is looking to take the next step forward during the Fall II 2020 season. Senior captain Gavin Morrison is a two-way lineman and will anchor the offensive group from the center spot. He’ll be joined by senior Dante Cocivera and Max Tower, both returning players from last season. Junior Collin Williamson burst onto the scene last year and should see an expanded role in the backfield during this abbreviated season while sophomore Chad Silva should be in the mix as well.
Speed will be a strength on the defensive side of the ball for the Tigers, who boast a lot of the same faces on the defensive line as their offensive line. Tower anchors the linebackers and will be one to keep an eye on, using his speed and strength to make plays, and he’ll be joined by the sophomore Silva. Senior captain Jaden Ricci is one of the best defensive players on the team, a fast, physical player with a nose for the ball that will start at corner. He’ll be joined by senior Jaden Krowski in the secondary.
2020 (Fall II) Davenport Division Preview
“We are excited about where our program is heading and are really ecstatic and thankful to get an opportunity to play this season,” said head coach Ed DeWitt.
Sharon had a very young squad a season ago and went through plenty of growing pains. The Eagles are hoping to turn some of that experience into success on the field this season.
Not only do the Eagles have their quarterback and top receivers back, but they are also getting a big boost with a return from injury. Senior Kiran Chandrasekaran returns under center and has weapons in PJ McManus, Owen Conway, and Conor McLaughlin in the passing game. Nico Marrero, who showed flashes of great play as a sophomore, had to miss all of last year due to injury but is back this year and will be a key two-way player for the Eagles. Marrero is a powerful runner that will look to find space created by an improved offensive line. The Eagles’ offensive line is anchored by senior center Shea Letendre while junior Jack Murphy and sophomores Miles Clay and Daniel Davis help round out Sharon’s line.
Defensive the Eagles are always a competitive group, the challenge will be doing so for four quarters against some top offenses in the Davenport. Ike Ogbonnanze, who is also a big receiving target on offense, will start at linebacker alongside Marrero and Letendre, giving the Eagles a very experienced group in the heart of the defense. McManus and Conway will play on both sides of the ball, starting in the secondary defensively.
“Our kids know our numbers are not strong but they have a great attitude and are playing like their backs are against the wall,” said Sharon head coach Dave Morse.
Stoughton head coach Greg Burke always leans heavily on his senior class and he has a real talented group this year.
The Black Knights have a handful of very talented and experienced seniors that have played a lot of snaps over the past two seasons and that has Stoughton primed for a run a the Davenport division title. Senior John Burke is back under center at quarterback for the Knights and it’s likely we’ll see Brady Conlin take some snaps similar to how Burke split with Clayton Rahaman last season. Both quarterbacks will have plenty of options to work with, especially on the ground. The Knights have a “home run” type offense with any given handoff capable to break off a big run. Senior brothers Christopher and Christian Ais recently committed to the University of New Haven and both bring speed and power when running the ball. Christian Georges is another workhorse out of the backfield while juniors Anthony Girolamo and Jonah Ly could see some carries as well. What makes Stoughton’s run game so dangerous is all of the backs do a great job of blocking when they don’t get carries. Jake Queeney will be the main target in the passing game for the Knights. Sproul Derolus is one of the few returners on the offensive line so Stoughton will need some players to step up there.
Defense is always a staple for the Knights and that looks to be the case again this year. A lot of the same faces that make plays on the offensive side will be the ones making plays on the defensive side. Georges is an absolute monster coming off the edge and uses his speed and strength to cause havoc in the backfield. Christopher Ais will be joined by Ly and Girolamo at linebacker while Christian Ais, Queeney, and Burke are all returners in the secondary for the Knights.
“Hopefully without a ton of injuries we can have a good year,” Burke said. “We have some experience and the kids have worked hard in the clubs for weight training. We need the juniors to step up and contribute fast while still learning varsity speed. The league is always tough and hopefully, we can survive tough crossover games.”