Franklin Holds Off KP To Clinch Kelley-Rex Crown

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

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

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

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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

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

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

Franklin Falls To Springfield Central In Offensive Showdown

Franklin football Will Tracey
Franklin’s Will Tracey tries to break free from a tackle in the second half against Springfield Central.
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Springfield Central’s offense delivered punch after punch all throughout its D1 State Semifinal clash with Franklin.

The Panthers kept getting back up.

The Golden Eagles and its high-flying offense came as advertised, scoring eight touchdowns with over 500 yards of total offense. Central scored on five straight drives in the first half and then three straight in the second half. A lot of teams would have folded, at least at some point.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

But not this Franklin team. Not these Panthers.

The top-seeded Panthers had four first half touchdowns of their own and three more in the second, cutting the deficit to just three at 44-41 in the fourth quarter.

There was no denying the Golden Eagles though, who were nearly flawless on the offensive side of the ball. Central junior quarterback William Watson (20-for-23, 398 yards, five touchdowns) needed just four plays to respond, tossing his fourth touchdown of the day less than two minutes later and the Golden Eagles went on to secure a 60-49 win and a spot in the Division 1 State Final.

“That’s a great team,” Franklin head coach Eian Bain said of his opposition. “I’m so proud of our kids, their preparation, and just how much they care. It was a tough game plan that we tried to put in…we had to be as perfect as we could and part of that was putting in a great effort because we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Our kids believe in what we do and they competed for four quarters.

“This is the time of year that you want to be playing. There’s a lot of teams at home that wish they were playing still. Whether you win or lose today, as long as you put your best foot forward and compete your butt off — and I think we did that. That’s what we want, just to play meaningful games in November. We’re one of the last handful teams in the state and that’s something to be proud of.”

Central just had too many weapons for Watson to work with. Even when the Panthers had great coverage, Watson made things happen with his feet, either taking it himself or moving around long enough until someone got open.

Joseph Griffin had nine catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns, Tykarryon Daniels hauled in six passes for 98 yards and a score, and freshman Mattias Barbour grabbed three second half passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.

But anytime it looked like the Eagles might pull away, Franklin responded.

Central had a 30-14 lead midway through the second but the Panthers quickly answered three minutes later. The Golden Eagles made it 38-21 with just 1:59 left in the first half before the Panthers answered 90 seconds later. Even down 44-34 in the second half, faced with a fourth down, Franklin answered the call and made it a one-score game.

“We knew there was a really good chance they would score some points today…we just had to ignore the scoreboard,” Bain said. “It’s hard to say that…it’s always our philosophy, even if you’re up, or it’s tight, or you’re behind, you have to stick with your plan. But we really had to do that today. The game could sway really quick on a mistake but the difference was their offense didn’t really make any mistakes.”

Franklin’s ideal start quickly soured as Central scored less than two minutes into the game. The Panthers’ defense forced a three-and-out on the first series of the game but two plays into their own first drive, senior Cory Coward ripped the ball free and returned it into the red zone. Two plays later, Tariq Thomas (12 carries, 51 yards) got around the edge for a 6-0 lead.

The Panthers responded with a 13-play, 73-yard drive — converting three third downs along the way — as senior quarterback Jared Arone (37-for-50, 315 yards, four touchdowns) sent Shane Kindred (11 catches, 138 yards, touchdown) in motion from left to right before firing it to him for an 8-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead with 5:40 left in the first quarter.

After a 33-yard pass on second down, Central was back in front after just four plays. Watson fired a 16-yard pass to Daniels while Kymari Latney ran the two-point conversion.

Back-and-forth they went as Franklin answered just five plays later as senior back Mack Gulla (18 carries, 132 yards, two touchdowns) broke free for a 41-yard scamper up the left side to make it 14-14.

Even with less than three minutes later in the quarter, that was enough for Central who scored despite a holding call. The Golden Eagles had a 42-yard touchdown taken off the board because of a hold but on the next play, Watson dropped a 54-yard dime to Griffin for a 22-14 lead after the first quarter.

Franklin had its only three-and-out of the game and its lone punt, a great boot off the foot of Garrett Portesi (5-for-6 on extra points). His punt pinned Central at its own 11-yard line and the Panthers’ defense got two stops including a tackle from Nick Quintina on one play and a combined stop from Cullen Pek and Jack Marino, forcing the Golden Eagles into 3rd and 9, but Watson found Griffin for 45 yards to move the sticks. Seven plays later, Thomas rushed in from four yards out for a 30-14 lead.

The Panthers went with some razzle-dazzle on its next play with receiver Will Tracey (16 catches, 131 yards, three touchdowns) passing it to Arone for 26 yards. Four plays later, the duo connected again with Arone tossing it to Tracey for a 6-yard touchdown to make it 30-21.

There was only 2:57 left in the half but in this game, that was enough time for both teams to score.

Thomas scored from 24 yards out to cap a 3-play, 57-yard drive for the Golden Eagles to go up 38-21 with 1:59 to go.

“I think the biggest thing is what we had to try and maximize every possession we had and we had to try and take one or two away from them on defense, and we were close,” Bain said. “We both only punted once, we knew it was going to be that type of game. We drove down the field multiple times, ran a lot of plays, set a lot of things up. As far as executing the game plan, our offense certainly did for the most part. Defensively, we had our hands full…we knew that going in.

“We needed to get a play or two and have a break go our way. In some ways we were close and in some ways we weren’t very close. We knew it was going to be a dogfight and that we would have to play near perfect. We played pretty well but just shy of perfect.”

The next stretch was key for the Panthers, who somehow got 11 plays off in less than two minutes. Arone hit Kindred for a pair of first downs on the drive as the clock ticked under a minute to go. Even a 15-yard spot holding call that pushed the Panthers back to the 40-yard line couldn’t slow the offense. Arone hit Kindred for 20 yards and then 19 yards, the latter a heck of a catch down to the 1-yard line. From there, Gulla bullied his way in to make it 38-27.

Franklin received the second half kickoff and orchestrated the exact drive it needed. Arone hit Tracey over the middle to move the sticks on fourth down and then hooked up with Arone for 25 yards. Two plays later, Arone floated one to the corner of the end zone and Tracey won the battle for a 20-yard touchdown as the Panthers pulled within four, 38-34, with 8:28 left in the third.

The momentum was short-lived as Central responded seven plays later. On second down, the Panthers stuffed the run for a 2-yard loss with help from Jay Gulla, Emmett Lackey, and Jonathan Martins, to force the Golden Eagles into 3rd and 10 but Watson connected with Barbour over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown.

“They’re always attacking,” Bain said of the Central offense, which faced just five third downs but converted four of them. “They might throw three straight incompletions and it’s fourth and 10 and then they just hit a big one. They have a lot of faith in the guys that they have, as do we…but it doesn’t matter what the situation is, they just go. And that creates issues for sure. Some teams you get into third and long and you’re going to get off the field but today it didn’t matter if it was third and a mile, they’re capable.”

There was no quit in the Panthers, who overcame a 9-yard loss on first down of its next series to score and make it a three-point game. Back-to-back catches from Tracey moved the sticks, and the combo of Arone to Tracey converted a fourth down on the first play of the fourth quarter. Three plays later, Gulla got around the edge on the left side and Portesi drilled the point after — helped by a great hold from Jase Lyons on a high snap — and it was 44-41 with 10:32 to play.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

There was a big swing of the next two minutes. First, Watson hit Daniels over the middle for a 33-yard touchdown, plus a two-point rush from Latney. And on Franklin’s second play of the ensuing drive, the ball popped free and the Golden Eagles recovered. One play later, Watson hit Griffin — who made a spectacular catch in the end zone — for a 35-yard touchdown and a 60-41 edge with 8:18 to go.

Franklin answered one final time, marching 75 yards on 10 plays to get into the end zone. Kindred had a pair of first down catches, Gulla broke free for 13 yards and a first, and Arone hit Tracey on third and goal from 5 yards out to make it 60-49 with 4:12 to go.

Central was able to run out the clock the rest of the way.

Franklin football drops to 9-1 on the season but has one more game left as the Panthers will take on rival King Philip for the Kelley-Rex division title on Thanksgiving.

Undefeated Franklin Bests Milford In Defensive Struggle

Franklin football Jonathan Martins Devine Johnson
Franklin’s Jonathan Martins (left) and Devine Johnson (right) tackle Milford quarterback Evan Cornelius in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 MILFORD, Mass. – When it comes to Hockomock League football, one of the first things you learn is to expect the unexpected.

Such was the case on Friday night as Milford and Franklin, the top two offenses in the Kelley-Rex division, ended up locked in a defensive battle. Both the Hawks and the Panthers entered the contest averaging just north of 30 points per game, but Friday’s contest featured just one trip to the end zone.

In the end, it was the Franklin defense that stood tallest, limiting the hosts to just four first downs and pitched a second half shutout to grab a 13-3 win to improve to 7-0 on the season.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Kelley-Rex division title won’t be decided until Thanksgiving when the Panthers take on King Philip in a winner-take-all showdown. But first, the playoffs.

“I think sometimes just dictate themselves early,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “There was a lot of feeling each other out early in the game. I thought we had a couple of chances to score in the first half and we only walked away with the three [points].

“In the second half, we had a really nice drive to get that score, which was huge. And we had a nice drive late [for the field goal]. It was two great defenses tonight, I think we’ve both done well against our opponents so I thought that might be the case…but it could have gone the other way too.”

Franklin had success on its early drives but its first foray into Milford territory — a nine-play drive — ended up with a turnover on downs just outside the red zone. The Panthers’ second drive lasted eight plays and got all the way down to the Milford 1-yard line, but the visitors had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Garrett Portesi after a false start.

Milford didn’t have much success early on, punting on its first two drives. But the Hawks were able to orchestrate a response after Franklin took the lead. The hosts took advantage of a good kick return from Jack Veo, covering 39 yards on nine plays.

Facing a 4th and 2 at the Franklin 32-yard line, the Hawks elected to go for it and quarterback Evan Cornelius scampered for 19 yards to move the sticks. But the drive stalled from there as the Franklin defense limited the Milford offense to just two yards over the next three plays and the Hawks went with a 28-yard field goal from Nick Araujo with 7:21 left in the quarter.










After trading punts, Franklin marched into Milford territory late in the first half but Milford’s Angelo Romero and Mason Baldic combined for a sack, and Jared Arone’s (11/17, 129 yards) third down pass to Will Tracey was ruled incomplete, despite what looked like a good circus catch over the middle between two defenders, and the teams went into halftime knotted 3-3.

Franklin started the second half with a big bang, going with some misdirection to the left before Arone went back to the right and hit Shane Kindred in stride. Kindred used his speed to race away for a 71-yard completion down to the Milford 11-yard line.

Three plays later, Arone went with a bootleg and hit Tracey streaking across the back of the end zone for the lone touchdown of the game and a 10-3 lead less than a minute into the second half.

“We definitely want to make sure we’re getting our playmakers touches, and I think everyone had a touch or at least a target,” Bain said of going to Kindred early in the second half. “We had set up a lot of things but we didn’t get to them because of some situations in the first half.”

Franklin relied heavily on running back Mack Gulla (35 carries, 200 yards) for the majority of the game, but even more so in the second half. Of their 31 plays run in the second half, the Panthers handed the ball off to Gulla on 21 of them. Although he didn’t find the end zone in the game, his work rate and ability to get positive yards on almost every play helped the Panthers dominate the time of possession.

He carried the ball nine times for 48 yards on Franklin’s second possession of the second half which, after a costly false start, finished just an inch short of a first down after a 19-yard pass and catch from Arone to Kindred on fourth down.

“It’s awesome to get those carries but that’s my job, I only play one way so I think I’m conditioned enough to do that,” Gulla said. “It definitely feels like a special season. No one expected us to do this this year, no one saw us coming undefeated against one of the hardest schedules in the state. Now we just have to keep pushing going forward.”




A second down sack from Joe Tirrell stunted any momentum the hosts had. Jonathan Martins and Emmett Lackey also had sacks on the day while it seemed Franklin was able to pressure the passer on almost every drop back with linebackers Nick Quintina and Cullen Pek finding their way into the backfield often. Cornelius tried getting the ball into the hands of Nick Schuler and Grant Scudo, as it looked like junior wideout Isaiah Pantalone battled through an injury.

“Most of their passes are out in about 2.2 seconds,” Bain said. “We wanted to try and do is try to elongate the drop back game. It hurt us early because he’s scrambled and he’s a good runner, got an early first down. But with any quarterback, you’re just trying to get him off their spot, doing things they don’t like to do. I think something like 88% of their passes are in the pocket so we tried to design some pressure to try and spill that out, set some things up. They are tough to defend and they do a good job of putting their quarterback in successful situations.”

Gulla went right back to work when the Panthers got the ball back. This drive, Gulla had eight carries that went for 50 yards and took up a lot of clock between the end of the third and nearly half of the fourth quarter.

“I think it speaks to having talent but also working hard,” Bain said of Gulla’s large workload. “You put your body in a good position to last for four quarters, seven games into the season, eight weeks into the season. There’s a lot of kids out there that work hard but when one of your best players is your hardest worker, those things happen. He’s kind of built that up for himself and that’s through all of his hard work and dedication and setting the example.”

Franklin’s third down pass was knocked down on a jump ball in the end zone and Portesi delivered his second field goal of the game, this time a 25-yard boot to make it a two-score game with 4:44 left.

“I think you saw two of the best kickers around,” Bain said, also recognizing Milford’s Araujo. “[Portesi] was a soccer guy, came out in the spring for the first time. He’s worked hard, he comes to practice every day and he’s always working, working, working, and you have to trust the kids that put the work in.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Milford showed some life as Cornelius hit Jaden Agnew over the middle for a 41-yard gain on third down to move into Franklin territory on the ensuing drive but two plays later, Franklin junior Luke Davis hauled in an overthrown pass in the end zone for a touchback, putting an end up any comeback hope.

“They got us on that deep ball and that was alright because that’s going to happen, they’re going to make plays,” Bain said. “But a lot of it is that when the big play happens, you have to bounce back. We gave up a couple of completions that were good plays but eventually that pressure, that frustration we created, I think that disrupted the passing game as a whole.”

Franklin will likely enter the playoffs as the top seed in the Division 1 bracket while Milford will likely be one of the top seeds in the Division 2 bracket. The MIAA will release official ratings and playoff information on Sunday.

Football: 2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview
King Philip could be the favorite to challenge Mansfield for the Kelley-Rex division title this season. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2021 Kelley-Rex Football Preview

2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Attleboro

2020 Record: 1-5
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Ryan Betts, Sr., RB/LB; Keigan Conley, Sr., RB/LB; Christian Dame, Sr., TE/LB; Alvin Harrison, Sr., OL; Hayden Hegarty, Sr., TE/LB; Aiden Hochwarter, Jr., QB; Ethan Lako, Jr., RB/DB; Chris Leonardo, Sr., OL/DL; Isaiah Miranda, Jr., C; Kaiden Murray, Sr., RB/DB; Isaac Pereira, Sr., OL/DL; Anthony Salviati, Jr., WR/DB; Jacob Struminski, Sr., OL/DL; Freddy Wheaton, Sr., RB/LB;

Outlook:
Attleboro struggled on the offensive side of the ball last year, scoring only 44 points in six games and not scoring a touchdown until the fifth game of the season. The Bombardiers will need to improve on that side of the ball to try and move up the standings and challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex. With eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, Attleboro can rely on an experienced roster to try and turn things around this fall.

It will be obvious where Attleboro’s strength lies. The Bombardiers run 6’3 285, 6’3 255, 6’2 285, and 6’3 305 at the guard and tackle positions. They are going to try and overpower teams. The leader of that group is senior Chris Leonardo, who is a force on both sides of the ball. Seniors Alvin Harrison, Jacob Struminski, and Isaac Pereira are a formidable front and junior Isaiah Miranda will be back at center. Experience and size are important, but the Bombardiers will need its array of running backs to take advantage. Seniors Ryan Betts, Freddy Wheaton, Keigan Conley, and Kaiden Murray will all get the chance to carry the ball. Junior Aiden Hochwarter returns under center after taking over midway through last year and he will have classmate Anthony Salviati to throw to out wide and senior tight end Christian Dame.

The Attleboro defense will also rely on its strength up front with Leonardo and Harrison controlling the middle. The linebackers have plenty of experience, with Dame, Wheaton, Betts, Conley, and senior Hayden Hegarty all coming back after seeing significant time last year. The secondary has a lot of athleticism. Junior Ethan Lako, Salviati, and Murray are all capable of making big plays and forcing turnovers.
 
“It is great to have some normalcy back this fall,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have eight returning starters on each side of the ball this season and we have great senior leadership. We are looking to a great fall season.”










2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Franklin

2020 Record: 3-4
Coach: Eian Bain

2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Key/Returning Players: Jared Arone, Sr., QB; Shane Kindred, Sr., WR; Will Tracey, Sr., WR; Mack Gulla, Sr., RB; Ethan Aeillo, Sr., OL; Jack Porkorny, Sr., OL; Jonathan Martins, Sr., DL; Cullen Pek, Sr., LB; Joe Tirrell, Sr., DB; Luke Davis, Jr., DB.

Outlook:
All eyes are on Mansfield and King Philip as the favorites in the Kelley-Rex and that’s how coach Eian Bain likes it. The Panthers are certainly flying under the radar a bit but that might not last very long, especially after their success during the preseason has turned some heads.

Having a lot of familiar faces in key positions will be an early advantage for the Panthers, who have a strong non-league schedule that starts with Wachusett and features perennial state powerhouse Duxbury. Senior Jared Arone gained a lot of experience at quarterback during the Fall 2 season and could be poised for a big year with a full schedule on tap. Part of the reason why is because of all the weapons around him. Both Shane Kindred and Will Tracey developed a lot of chemistry with the QB in the abbreviated season and will be his main two targets this year.

And while the Panthers have developed a reputation for a pass-heavy offense, we saw a much more balanced approach during the spring and with senior running back Mack Gulla ready for a breakout season, it’s likely that balance continues. Gulla is a tough runner that will keep defenses honest; he isn’t just going to help set up the passing game, he’s a true threat to run all over defenses. It will all start up front and the Panthers have center Ethan Aeillo and tackle Jack Porkorny back in starting roles.

Senior Joe Tirrell and junior Luke Davis give the Panthers a veteran presence in the secondary. Franklin allowed over 20 points per game last season but will be looking to bring that number down some this year as they try and establish themselves as a contender in the division. Senior Jonathan Martins impressed last season and will be a key piece on the defensive line while the linebackers will be anchored by senior Cullen Pek.

“The Panthers return many familiar faces but face a tough task of replacing some key positions,” Bain said. “Many players have stepped up but there is still a lot to be answered before the home opener against Wachusett.”




2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

King Philip

2020 Record: 4-3
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Charlie Grant, Sr., QB/DB; Crawford Cantave, Sr., RB/DB; Nick Viscusi, Sr., WR/DB; Jonathan Joseph, Sr., WR/DB; Hunter Hastings, Sr., OL/DL; Chris Sesay, Jr., OL/DL; Rudy Gately, Jr., RB/LB; Danny Clancy, Sr., WR/DL; Matthew Kelley, Jr., K.

Outlook:
King Philip has a strong core of returning players set to compete for the Kelley-Rex crown this Fall season but the Warriors are hoping to develop some depth along the way as they navigate through one of the state’s toughest schedules.

KP is still hurting from the Fall 2 season, when they lost six players to season-ending surgery, four of which were starters. With a quick turnaround to this season, the Warriors will still be without those players but there is still lots of excitement around those who will be on the field this year. Senior Charlie Grant returns as the starter at quarterback and has some weapons to utilize around them, starting with receivers Danny Clancy, Nick Viscusi, and Jonathan Joseph. All three have varsity experience and are seniors. Junior Rudy Gately and senior Crawford Cantave give the Warriors a thunder and lightning running back combination. Senior Drew Danson was set to be one of the top tight ends in the league but is out due to injury. Sophomore Thomas McLeish will also be in the mix to play at quarterback and Grant could see time at receiver.

Hunter Hastings and Chris Sesay are the returners on the offensive line and will start at the tackle positions while Dan Nineve will be the center and Amro Ismail and Sean King man the guard positions. It will be a lot of the same names on the other side of the ball with Hastings, King, and Sesay all playing both ways. Junior Nate Kearney will also be in the mix as a pass rusher.

The veteran group on defense will be the KP secondary, which features a lot of familiar faces. Both Cantave (safety) and Viscusi (corner) had really strong junior seasons and will lead the way alongside junior Thomas Brewster, senior Eli Reed, and Joseph, who has really impressed so far this preseason. There will be a little inexperience at linebacker but the Warriors have Gately back in the fold alongside senior Jake Sullivan and junior Will Astorino. Matt Kelley is back as the starting kicker.

“I love my team, great kids,” said KP head coach Brian Lee. “We just have to make sure ready to go every single week. It’s been kind of a burn, playing in the Spring. It feels like we’ve been going, going, going, but now we have to focus on staying healthy and getting through Thanksgiving. It’s been fun to be around them, they are good kids that work hard. Hopefully, we can turn that into being successful.”




2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Mansfield

2020 Record: 6-0 (Kelley-Rex division champions)
Coach: Mike Redding

Key/Returning Players: Mark DeGirolamo, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan DeGirolamo, Jr., TE/DE; James Fichera, Sr., WR/LB; Joe Forte, Sr., OL/DL; James Gilleran, Sr., OL/DE; Zander Holmes, Sr., RB/LB; Jephte Jean, Jr., OL/DE; Dana Johnson, Sr., WR/DB; Drew Sacco, Jr., RB/DB; Rocco Scarpellini, Jr., RB/LB; Braeden Veno, Sr., OL/DL; Conner Zukowski, Jr., QB/DB

Outlook:
Mansfield won the 2019 state title, is riding a 16-game win streak, hasn’t lost a game in league play since September 2017, and hasn’t lost an in-state game since a triple-OT thriller against Foxboro at Fenway to close out 2018, so the Hornets have earned the target that is on their backs this fall. Everyone will be aiming to be the first Hock team to hand the Hornets a loss and try to end a three-year run as the top team in the Kelley-Rex. Although there are some guys in new spots, especially at the skill positions, Mansfield returns 10 starters and several players who saw significant action off the bench last year.

The offense will be powered by an experienced line. Four of five starters return from last year with only junior center Colton Johnson added. Seniors Mark DeGirolamo, Joe Forte, and James Gilleran, and junior Jephte Jean are all back and should give the Hornets an edge up front. Junior Conner Zukowski will be the new starting quarterback and he will have several new weapons to call on. Juniors Drew Sacco and Rocco Scarpellini are new starters in the backfield, but both were called on plenty last season. Senior Dana Johnson and sophomore Trevor Foley will get the start out wide.

Defense has been Mansfield’s calling card during its run, as the Hornets allowed only 23 points in six games last year. DeGirolamo and classmate Braeden Veno are back on the defensive line along with Jean and senior Pedro Cruz. All three starting linebackers returned, as seniors Zander Holmes and James Fichera are paired with Scarpellini. Junior safety Ryan DeGirolamo is the only starter back in the secondary and will need to provide leadership for sophomores Foley and CJ Bell. Senior Jared Fraone will start at the other corner spot.

Mansfield coach Mike Redding is counting on a tough preseason, against state powers Everett and Central Catholic, to help the Hornets prepare. He is also excited about the new statewide playoff system that could pair Mansfield with a new set of tournament opponents as they seek to make it a three-peat in Div. 2.




2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Milford

2020 Record: 5-2
Coach: Dale Olson

Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Evan Cornelius, Jr., QB/DE; Tyler Lane, Sr., RB/LB; Alex McColl, Sr., DE/OT; Marco Monteiro, Sr., DT/OT; Angelo Romero, Sr., RB/LB; Grant Scudo, Sr., RB/SS

Outlook:
Milford made a successful move into the Kelley-Rex last season. Under first-year coach Dale Olson, the Hawks earned a first-ever win over perennial league power King Philip and finished second in the division. This year, the Hawks will try to make another title challenge despite having several new faces stepping into important roles.

On offense, the Hawks will be transitioning from the pass-first offense that Brady Olson ran last year. Junior Evan Cornelius is a very different quarterback, who will bring a lot of size and strength to the position (which makes sense, since he also plays defensive end). Graduation took away a lot of dynamic playmakers from last year’s offense but seniors Tyler Lane, Angelo Romero, and Grant Scudo will give Milford a deep backfield and last year senior Jaden Agnew emerged as a major threat in the passing game.

The Hawks will be tough up front again this year on both sides of the ball. Seniors Alex McColl and Marco Monteiro are big and tough and will open holes on offense while clogging running lanes on the other side. Cornelius will add a threat on the edge defensively and the linebacking corps continues to be a factor, led by Lane and Romero. Scudo seeks out the ball at safety and is always a threat to force a turnover.

Olson admits that his team lacks experience at the skill positions, but he added, “Having three scrimmages will help prepare the first-year varsity kids to play week one.”

2021 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

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Taunton

2020 Record: 2-4
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Trent Santos, Sr., WR/DB; Nate Keenan, Sr., WR/RB/FS/K; Nick Lima, Sr., WR/TE/OLB; Nate Laplante, Jr., OL/DL; Ryan MacDougall, Jr., OL/LB; William Guachiculca-Torres, Jr., OL/DL; Faisal Mass, Sr., TE/WR/DL; Tyler Wynn, Jr., WR/DB/P; Evan Perrota, Sr., RB/LB; Jake Leonard, Jr., QB; Isaiah Williams, Jr., WR/DB; Logan Frank, Jr., OL/LB; Bryan Batista, Sr., RB; Jon Castillo, Sr., WR/SS; Jack Moitoso, Sr., OL/DL; McKyen Gonsalves, Jr., WR/DB;

Outlook:
Taunton didn’t have the best record during the Fall 2 season but the opportunity to just get on the field and play was incredibly valuable for the Tigers. There are less than a dozen seniors (eight) on the roster for the Tigers this season so head coach Brad Sidwell will be looking for a strong class of juniors, as well as some sophomores, to make up the majority of the lineup this Fall.

A good chunk of those juniors were inserted into the starting lineup or played a large number of snaps just five months ago when the Tigers played six games. That allowed the Tigers to build some depth for the upcoming season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Junior Jake Leonard got a jump start to his career when he took over for an injured Danny MacDougall. That experience will be key as he begins his first full season as the starter under center. Leonard will have three veteran options to work with in senior captains Trent Santos and Nate Keenan — two receivers — and tight end Nick Lima. Senior Faisal Mass will be a big target as a tight end, also providing key blocking on the line, while seniors Jon Castillo (receiver), Jack Moitiso (offensive line) and Evan Perrota (running back) will be in the mix as well.

Junior Ryan MacDougall started on the offensive line last season and will be joined by classmates Nate Laplante, William Guachiculca-Torres, and Logan Frank while sophomore Bryan Joanis will also be in the mix so some playing time. Keenan could also get some carries out of the backfield while junior Bryan Batista could emerge as a go-to option carrying the ball. Juniors Tyler Wynn, Isaiah Williams, and McKyen Gonsalves are three names to watch as receiving options for Leonard.

Taunton has a lot of experience in its secondary with both Santos and Keenan playing on both sides of the ball, and that experience will be a big strength for the Tigers. There is also a lot of depth in the linebackers, starting with Lima, who uses his speed to attack the ball. He can also step out and play in coverage or drop back into a safety role if needed. Lima will be joined by Frank, MacDougall, and Perrota as linebackers. On the line, Laplante had a strong sophomore season and could be poised for a breakout year.

Taunton will prepare for the ever-challenging division slate with non-league games against New Bedford, Durfee, and Middleboro in its first three weeks. It also marks the first year of its new Thanksgiving rivalry with Milford.

“We’re excited to begin the season with this group after productive preseason practices and scrimmages,” said head coach Brad Sidwell. “Although we only have eight seniors, many of our players gained experience in the spring season. We need to improve through the non-league start of the season as the Hockomock Kelley-Rex is always a challenge for any of the teams involved.”

King Philip Stuns Franklin With Late Touchdown

King Philip football Danny Clancy
King Philip junior Danny Clancy comes down with the game-winning touchdown catch with just over a minute left in the game. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
WRENTHAM, Mass. – For three quarters, Franklin and King Philip were locked in a rock fight on Mactaz Field.

Then came the fourth quarter fireworks.

After neither team found the end zone in any of the first three quarters, there were three touchdowns in the final period including two in the final five minutes. Franklin took the lead with just over three minutes to go but King Philip answered with a game-winning drive, scoring with just over a minute to go to secure a 14-10 win.

King Philip football

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I don’t know [how we won it], there were so many ups and downs in that one,” said King Philip head coach Brian Lee. “It was the type of game that we’ve had success in the past, the type of game we’ve competed in but this group, we’re very young and we don’t have many seniors out there, and throughout this year we were having trouble in the close games. But they kept coming back, it was just awesome to see.

“It wasn’t a beautiful game but I’m proud of the kids. We got seven games, I’m not sure I like this season but I like tonight. I saw a little bit of Warrior of football for the first time.”

Neither team scored in the first half and the only points of the third quarter came off the foot of Franklin senior Parker Cheuvront as the Panthers carried a 3-0 led into the final 12 minutes of action. King Philip took the lead with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and was in position to close it out with just over five minutes to go.

But a penalty and an incomplete pass on third down forced KP to punt, and a low snap forced a scramble. Franklin was able to track the punter down, eventually forcing the ball free and senior Damon Carmignani, who had the initial pressure on the punter, came away with the ball and the Panthers were suddenly in business with the ball at the KP 34-yard line with just over five minutes to play.

King Philip football

Five plays later, including one of five hookups between quarterback Jared Arone (11/19, 102 yards) and receiver Jake O’Brien (five catches, 58 yards), the Panthers went to the ground and Mack Gulla (17 carries, 69 yards) burst up the middle, going airborne before falling on the goal line for a touchdown. Cheuvront’s point after gave the hosts a 10-7 lead with 3:17 to play.

As quickly as the momentum swung in favor of the visitors, it came right back for the hosts. Sophomore Rudy Gately (31 carries, 157 yards), who had the majority of carries with senior back Crawford Cantave out injured, moved the sticks with a 10-yard gain.

Facing 3rd and 7, junior quarterback Charlie Grant found senior Michael Zagordny as he fell out of bounds but it was ruled he got a foot down for a complete catch. The Panthers were also whistled for a personal foul for a late hit, moving the 38 yards (23 on the catch, 15 on the penalty) all the way down to the Franklin 19-yard line with 1:33 to play.

Franklin’s Jay Gulla and Xander Honor stopped Gately for a loss on first down so the Warriors went to the air on second down. Grant floated one to the corner of the end zone and junior Danny Clancy used his size to go up and get it despite good positioning from the defensive back, getting his feet inbounds for a 10-yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead with 1:08 to go.

“Those guys have been doing that a long time together, we just really haven’t been able to maximize it this year,” Lee said. “I’ve been jabbing at Clancy, asking when he was going to make the big plays we saw him make on JV on varsity. The kid had position on him and he was still able to pull it down, it was unreal.

“I thought Charlie played well for us and showed a lot of poise and leadership for us when we needed it.”

The Panthers didn’t get a chance at a final drive after fumbling on the ensuing kickoff with KP’s Nick Viscusi coming away with the loose ball.

“As a coach, you want to see competition and you want to see your guys compete to the end and I think we did that,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “We certainly didn’t help ourselves tonight with penalties, miscues, putting the ball on the ground even if we got it back. End of the day, I thought we were our own worst enemy. King Philip is a good program, they played a really good game don’t get me wrong. This year felt like four years ago when we were in a lot of close games, learning how to win.

King Philip football

“You never want to let that adversity go to waste, hopefully, we learned a little bit about what it takes to close games in the Hockomock League. They are young too so hopefully both our programs are rising together and next year, when we see them on Thanksgiving, hopefully we’ll be right back here battling it out with them.”

There was a total of six drives in the first half, each team getting the ball three times. Franklin got the ball from the opening kickoff and moved the chains once but had to punt, which happened again on its next drive. The Panthers’ final drive of the opening half resulted in a turnover on downs. Franklin nearly had a touchdown on a pass from Arone into the end zone but Viscuti made a great play to knock the ball free and prevent six.

Things didn’t go much better for the Warriors on the offensive side of the ball. KP’s first drive went 15 plays and covered 74 yards but stalled in the red zone. The Warriors tried a fake field goal but Franklin was ready and junior Joseph Tirrell forced a fumble and classmate Jonathan Martins grabbed the loose ball. KP’s second and third drive combined for just seven yards on eight plays, taking the game to halftime.

The Warriors started to move the ball on its first possession of the second half but it came to a halt on a fumble, recovered by Franklin’s Jacob Briggs. The turnover resulted in points for the Panthers, who moved 31 yards on 8 plays. Cheuvront split the uprights from 32-yards out for a 3-0 advantage.

King Philip responded with a 9-play, 66-yard drive to take its first lead of the game less than two minutes into the fourth. Lining up with two fullbacks — senior Mike Malatesta and sophomore William Astorino — and with a tight end on either side of the line — Nathan Kearney and Harry Brown — the Warriors continued to pound the ball on the ground.

Gately had a trio of runs for 22 yards on this drive, following the blocking of Hunter Hastings and Dan Nineve on the left side, Kevin Pierro up the middle, and Amro Ismail and Chris Sesay on the right side, Gately racked up 157 total rushing yards on 31 carries.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

KP mixed things up on the next play as Grant dropped a perfect pass into Clancy’s hands down the right sideline for a 38-yard gain. Four plays later, Malatesta went up the middle on fourth down for a 2-yard touchdown, and Matthew Kelley’s point after made it 7-3, setting up the wild finish.

“[Gulla] is a dude so I was very pleased with the overall effort and the battle,” Lee said of the KP defensive effort, which held Franklin to 1-of-7 on third and 1-of-3 on fourth down and under 200 total yards of offense. “I was nervous, Crawford is our safety and has been playing really well on defense and now we’re going against a pretty good passing attack without him. But I was happy with the effort from the guys.”

King Philip finishes the year at 4-3 while Franklin closes out the Fall II season at 3-4.

King Philip football

Franklin Clamps Down Defensively To Beat Attleboro

Franklin football Mack Gulla
Attleboro’s Trainor Shreck chases after Franklin’s Mack Gulla in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 FRANKLIN, Mass. – In all the key moments of Friday night’s contest against visiting Attleboro, the Franklin football team delivered.

The Panthers converted a fourth down for a touchdown inside the final minutes of the first half, landed a huge counter-punch score late in the third quarter, and its defense stood tall all game long. The result was a 17-3 decision in favor of the hosts.

While the defense was certainly the story for Franklin, the biggest play of the game came from the Panthers’ offense. Attleboro, which was held scoreless in the first half, made it a one-score game when senior Colby Briggs drilled a 41-yard field goal with just seconds left in the third.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

But before the third quarter came to an end, Franklin delivered a game-changing response. Instead of starting the fourth hanging on to a seven-point lead, Panther senior running back Mack Gulla (21 carries, 172 yards) took the first carry of the ensuing drive to the end zone. The senior found a gap on the left side and then split a pair of defenders in the secondary, scampering for a 64-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with just four seconds left in the third.

“That wasn’t the game but it certainly allowed us to kind of take a deep breath and have some room,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “It allowed us to really focus on the little things to keep the lead. A lot of people wouldn’t peg us as a team with someone with over 20 carries a game but that’s two weeks in a row that we’ve been able to get the run game going a little bit and that opens things up for passing.”

Franklin’s defense then put a pair of finishing touches on its strong performance, denying the visitors twice inside Panther territory. The Panthers were set to give the ball back to the Bombardiers with a punt but it was blocked by a diving Anthony Salviati. Attleboro’s Alex Bakowski dove onto the loose ball and the Bombardiers were back in business with nine minutes left at the Franklin 28-yard line.

But a second down strip sack from Jay Gulla forced the Bombardiers back 12-yards and an incomplete pass forced Attleboro to punt. A high punt bounced in a sea of players, bouncing off a Panther, and Attleboro’s Chris Leonardo won the battle at the bottom of the pile to give the visitors a second chance, this time first down in the red zone at the Franklin 18-yard line.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

“We were not good in situational football last week and I thought we were definitely better tonight,” Bain said.
“We were in the right positions, I thought we were more comfortable with the calls. I thought coach Rosen did a nice job getting the gameplan tailored to our crew. Attleboro presents a lot of problems and they move Strachan around a lot and it’s hard to account for him and know where he is plus all their other talented players.”










The Panther defense was up to the task though, stuffing a runner for no gain on first down (after a false start backed Attleboro up 5 yards). An incomplete pass on second down was followed by a 7-yard run from senior Michael Strachan (14 carries, 41 yards) set up 4th and 8 from the 16. Attleboro went for it with a pass into the corner of the end zone but Franklin sophomore Luke Davis won the jump ball for the interception.

“We just can’t seem to put it all together, we haven’t been able to finish,” said Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan. “We’ve had chances, we’ve been in the right spots but we can’t seem to finish. We have something going, we shoot ourselves in the foot. We get a big run, there’s a hold…we block a punt and we don’t capitalize. It’s little things, and we’re young, and these are the growing pains. It’s a tough league to have growing pains.

“We felt like we were right there in this game. We’ve been in the last two games but we have to figure out a way to close out drives, to finish out drives. It’s a short year so it’s hard, there’s not much time to figure it out but we’re going to get right back to work and try to build off our defense and get our offense going.”

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

Attleboro’s defense got off to a strong start, forcing a three-and-out from the hosts on the opening drive of the game but Franklin’s defense was equal to the task, forcing the visitors to punt after six plays despite some good early runs from Kaiden Murray (17 carries, 47 yards).

Franklin had more success with its second drive, getting points on the board despite being held out of the end zone by the Bombardiers. Junior quarterback Jared Arone (8/12, 117 yards) hit senior Jake O’Brien on a hitch route on third to move the sticks, and then the two linked up again on the next play as Arone hit O’Brien on a quick slant over the middle and the receiver did rest, sprinting for 50 yards into Attleboro territory.

The Bombardiers buckled down inside the red zone though, holding the Panthers to just five yards on a pair of runs, sandwiched around an incomplete pass. Franklin settled for a 28-yard field goal from Parker Cheuvront with 1:54 left in the first quarter.

Attleboro grinded its way down field on the ensuing drive, moving the ball 57 yards on 14 plays (4.1 yards per play) — all on the ground. Murray and Strachan had the majority of the carries, and the Attleboro offense benefited from a pair of offside calls to move the sticks. The drive finally came to an end inside the red zone when Briggs’ 32-yard field goal was short.




Franklin went on another long drive, and this time found the end zone. A healthy dose of Mack Gulla early (27 yards on three straight carries) and a 16-yard pass-and-catch from Arone to Will Tracey helped move the Panthers into Attleboro territory. Gulla ran for five yards on third down to get inside the red zone but the Panthers had 4th and 5 from the 19-yard line. Instead of another field goal, Bain elected to go for it with under two minutes left in the half.

Arone dropped back and fired a pass over the middle, connecting with classmate Shane Kindred right at the goal line for a touchdown and a 10-0 advantage at halftime.

Besides the scoring drive for the Bombardiers at the end of the third quarter, Attleboro had three punts, the missed field goal, an interception, and a two-play drive at the end of the first half, totaling just under 150 yards of total offense.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

The Panthers got a lot of pressure in the backfield from Michael Griffin, Jacob Briggs, Xander Honor, and Nick Quintina and a strong push up front from Anthony Quintina.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I thought the defense came to play,” Bain said. “We have a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball but on defense, not only do we have new faces, but we’re young too. With a scrimmage and two games under our belt, I think it’s starting to show that we’re starting to earn our stripes.

“I know everybody is in the same boat with their offseason program but this year it really hurt us as we tried to get the young guys up to speed quicker, get them sharper mentally, get them some actual reps. But as we’ve gotten some experience under our belts and as we’ve stayed the course of what we’re trying to do, I think it’s starting to show.”

Franklin football (2-1) is back in action on Saturday when it hosts Milford for a 12:00 start. Attleboro (0-3) will try to get its first win when it hosts Taunton on Friday at 6:00.

Franklin Defense Grinds Out Win Against Attleboro

Franklin football
Jake Davis (23) and the Franklin offense struggled to get going against Attleboro but managed to score twice in the second half to secure a 14-0 win. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin has made a name for itself this season with a high-powered offense that is capable of a big play at any time, but in Friday’s Div. 1 South quarterfinal at Pisini Stadium the Panthers showed that there is another side to their game as well.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Franklin defense only allowed Attleboro to cross midfield once all night, allowing the Panthers to grind out a 14-0 victory on a pair of second half touchdowns and book a second straight appearance in the sectional semifinal.

“What I told the kids at halftime is this is going to be a character test,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “We’re going to define out character right here and you have to win these types of games this time of year.”

He added, “We needed to call a better game and get our guys in better positions, but I think once we went into the half we felt more comfortable with what they were in so we felt better about the calls we were making and had a better idea of how to attack them.”

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and they put in their best drive of the game to score what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. Franklin marched 66 yards on 13 plays, showing off a balance between the ground game with Owen Palmieri (14 carries, 65 yards) and its typically potent passing game.

It was a methodical drive. Until the Panthers got inside the red zone, no play went for more than 11 yards and they converted four third downs. Thomas Gasbarro (20-of-31, 187 yards) hit four different receivers on the possession, including Palmieri, who finished with more than 100 yards of total offense, Jake Davis (eight catches, 82 yards), and Jack Nally.

It was Nally (five catches, 48 yards) who made the big play, grabbing a pass on the near sideline and shaking the grasp of an Attleboro tackler to get into the end zone from 16 yards out.

“I think we were really good on third down in the second half and in the first half a couple times we got bogged down on the other end of the field,” Bain explained. “Part of that was trying to get us in better third down situations so it wasn’t third and eight all game and maybe more third and fours and fives.”

Attleboro quarterback Jason Weir was injured while playing defensive back on that drive, possibly after nearly sacking Gasbarro on the play preceding the touchdown, and sophomore Blake Garzaro stepped in to replace him.

Garzaro was one of several underclassmen that got significant playing time due to injuries. With regular starters like Michael Strachan, Isaac Gudiel, and Justin Daniels out, Kaiden Murray (13 carries, 59 yards), Adam Pearlstein, Freddy Wheaton, and Alvin Harrison all had the chance to take on bigger roles and Attleboro coach Mike Strachan was pleased with what he saw from the younger guys.

“I can’t be prouder,” he said. “We had five sophomores out there and went toe-to-toe for three quarters and a little more tonight. I thought we played physical, we didn’t quit, and they’ve got athletes everywhere but I thought we contained them. It’s something to build off for our young kids for sure.”

Franklin moved the ball well on its second possession of the half as well, but Gasbarro was sacked at the Attleboro 24 to end the third quarter and Qualeem Charles put pressure on the quarterback to force an incompletion on third down. Kicker Parker Cheuvront, who had missed from 27 yards in the first quarter, had his kick blocked and it remained a one-score game.

Again it was the Panthers defense that came through to get the ball right back. Austin Jordan sacked Garzaro for a 10-yard loss and on third down they were able top wrap Murray up on a 14-yard gain that came up four yards short of the marker.

“We knew if we have points, the way our defense has been playing we could do a lot of great things,” Bain said. “We just needed to get over the hump and get on the board. It also put more pressure on them because they were happy to grind the tempo down. “

Starting at midfield, Franklin put together a drive to seal the victory. Palmieri and Gasbarro each rushed for five yards for a first down and then Nally followed with back-to-back six yard sweeps for another. A seven-yard draw to Nally with 10 yards tacked on because of a personal foul got the Panthers to the Attleboro 11.

Charles came through with a big stop on Palmieri for a four-yard loss. Two penalties and a loss of yards on a Gasbarro scramble pushed Franklin back to the 17 for fourth and 16. Gasbarro tried to get to the marker with his legs and appeared to have the first down only for a holding call to bring the play back to the 23.

Again Franklin went for it and this time found the end zone. Gasbarro picked out Davis at the two-yard-line and the senior receiver twisted and stretched his way to pay dirt.

Davis then wrapped up the win with two minutes remaining when he made an acrobatic, juggling interception.

“We didn’t know what they were going to come out in because they could’ve gone a lot of different ways today,” Bain said of the Bombardiers. “I thought they had a great game plan on both sides of the ball and really gave us a hard time tonight.”

Franklin (6-2) advances to the sectional semifinal for the second straight season and will host Brockton in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal that the Panthers won. Attleboro (3-5) will wait for the identity of its next opponent.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin Bounces Back with Big Win at Attleboro

Franklin football
Franklin linebacker Austin Jordan (3) chases down an Attleboro running back during the Panthers’ 37-7 win at Tozier-Cassidy Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – If there is a question about whether or not Franklin can challenge the top teams in Div. 1, it centers on the line of scrimmage and whether the Panthers are capable of winning the battle in the trenches. On Saturday afternoon at Tozier-Cassidy Field, Franklin may have provided an answer.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Panthers bounced back from last week’s loss to Mansfield, dominated the line on both sides of the ball, held Attleboro off the scoreboard for almost the full 48 minutes, and improved their chances at a home playoff game with a convincing 37-7 victory.

“With the guys that they have, I knew it would be tough,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “It was a key to our game to try and out-quick them, out-technique, because just the sheer size and ability they have we had to find another gear. We had a lot of success up front today.”

Attleboro tried to show off its power running game, led by junior Michael Strachan (12 carries, 37 yards), on the opening drive and got down to the Franklin 34-yard-line. A snap slipped through quarterback Jason Weir’s hands for an 11-yard loss, senior Austin Jordan stuffed Strachan for a two-yard loss, and the Panthers forced a turnover on downs. That set the tone for the game.

“Coming into the game, we knew they had a big O-line,” Jordan explained, “so we knew we had to get a knock back on them and change the line of scrimmage and I think our D-line did that very well.”

Franklin’s big-play offense got going on its second possession. Senior quarterback Thomas Gasbarro was given plenty of time to throw by the guys up front and he just missed on three attempts to look deep, but the third drew a pass interference call that kept the drive alive. The fourth attempt was on target, as he hit Jake Davis in stride for a 28-yard score.

In the second quarter, Gasbarro (16-of-27, 271 yards) completed back-to-back passes to Matthew Lazarek for a combined 41 yards to get the ball inside the Attleboro 10. A fumble on the next play was recovered by Adam Pearlstein to give the Bombardiers the ball back, but any momentum shift was ended abruptly as Sammy Morris was spun down in the end zone by Anthony Quintina for a safety.

“They beat us up front,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “At the end of the day that’s what happened. They were more physical than we were up front. They just decided to take it to us in the second quarter and we couldn’t recover.”

Getting the ball with a short field, Franklin stretched its lead. Gasbarro connected with Davis for a 21-yard completion down to the Attleboro 18 and then to running back Owen Palmieri (15 carries, 71 yards) to the four. Cole Lakatos made a leaping grab on the next play to put the Panthers ahead 16-0.

The Panthers kept their foot on the gas and added another score before halftime. Gasbarro found Jack Nally for a 23-yard grab to get inside the 10 again and then two plays later he rolled out and found Nally in the flat for a two-yard touchdown. It was the third passing touchdown of the afternoon and league-leading 15th of the season for Gasbarro.

“We just have to be who we are and I think that’s our identity,” said Bain. “We found balance today in the run game too because they challenged us to run the ball and we did. Our offensive line, I think Tommy was clean most of the game. It just kind of clicked.”

If Attleboro was hoping that halftime would allow it to regroup, Franklin came out with the first drive of the second half and put the game away. Palmieri had a pair of runs totaling 29 yards that quickly got Franklin into Attleboro territory and then Gasbarro found Nally in space for a 27-yard completion to the five. The Bombardiers nearly held out, forcing fourth and goal from the one, but Gasbarro was able to keep it himself for his first rushing TD of the season.

After forcing the hosts into a three-and-out, Franklin’s defense was forced to stay on the field when Kaiden Murray recovered a muffed punt at the Panthers 43. Luke Cunningham blew up a jet sweep for a six-yard loss, then Jordan had back-to-back sacks of Weir to push Attleboro back to its own 48.

A second straight muffed punt, recovered this time by Anthony Hoyt at the 22, gave Attleboro another shot at getting its first points. Again, Franklin held. After a false start, Jordan got into the backfield to drop Strachan for a three-yard loss. A pair of incompletions meant a turnover on downs.

“When we came out for the second half, we just wanted zero points on the scoreboard at the end of the game,” Jordan said. “It was unfortunate, the punt situation, but the defense showed up and we just didn’t let them in.”

Bain added, “The defense just kept coming up big, answering the calls. Every time we needed them to do the thing for us, they did it, so they were awesome today.”

The defense stepped up to get the ball back and the offense made it count. Gasbarro hit Nally (seven catches, 131 yards) down the sideline for 61 yards into Attleboro territory. Nally completed the drive with a 10-yard rush to make it 37-0.

“We did not come to play. Very disappointed in our effort,” Strachan admitted. “We had to do some things early because we knew we had some match-up issues and they exploited it.”

Attleboro’s only score came as the clock wound down to zero, Isaac Gudiel put the Bombardiers in position with a couple of carries and then Weir (6-of-17, 52 yards) found Ethan Cameron in the corner of the end zone.

“Last year, when we beat Attleboro in that dogfight at our place, it spring-boarded us into the playoffs,” said Bain about the importance of this bounce back win. “We control our own destiny, we know that, and it feels good to get back on track and get that confidence back that we are a premier Div. 1 program in the state.”

Franklin (4-2) will try to make it two wins in a row to close out the regular season and secure a home playoff game when it hosts Taunton next week. Attleboro (3-3) will try to bounce back, and maybe get a home playoff game as well, when it hosts Mansfield next Saturday.

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Mansfield Takes Sting Out of Panthers Offense

Mansfield football
Vinnie Holmes was a force on both sides of the ball for Mansfield in a dominating 39-9 victory at Franklin. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – An early turnover gave Franklin the ball in Mansfield territory and the Panthers gained a couple of first downs before kicking a field goal to grab the lead. Then the Hornets took control with their defense, not allowing the Panthers another first down until inside five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

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Using a three down linemen look, Mansfield consistently got into the backfield without needing to blitz and, with a little assist from Mother Nature, disrupted Franklin’s typically potent passing attack on Friday night at Pisini Stadium. The Hornets scored 26 straight points to take control and rolled to a 39-9 victory that keeps them unbeaten in league play and alone atop the division standings.

“We’ve got a very, very good defense,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “They’re as athletic a team as we’re going to play but fortunately we’re pretty loaded in the secondary, but it’s a combination of us playing great ‘D’ and terrible weather conditions for them.

“We can run to the ball, we can cover, we can pressure, you throw in the conditions on top of that and it’s going to be hard for anyone to move the ball against us.”

The Panthers came in knowing that they still had a chance at possibly sharing the league title and the energy on the sideline was palpable. It got even louder when Jack Nally picked off Jack Moussette’s third-down pass on the opening series of the game and gave Franklin the ball at the Mansfield 37.

A 15-yard run by Owen Palmieri got the offense going and then a pair of completions from Thomas Gasbarro (18-30, 125 yards) to Jake Davis (seven catches, 92 yards) got Franklin down to the seven-yard-line. After going nowhere on three plays, Franklin got on the board with a 24-yard Parker Cheuvront kick.

It would be Franklin’s only possession of the half with the wind at its back.

Mansfield’s running attack was better suited for the blustery conditions and the Hornets used Michael DeBolt, Vinnie Holmes, Cincere Gill, and Anthony Comer on the opening drive to get into Franklin territory. A personal foul against the Panthers got the ball as far as the 18, but the Hornets went backwards and had to settle for a 41-yard kick by DeBolt to tie the game early in the second quarter.

The teams traded punts and Mansfield made its field position advantage pay off. Starting at its own 49, Mansfield would use five plays to grab the lead for good. Nick Marciano lined up at quarterback on the drive to give a different look and, on third and 12, he took a direct snap and found a seam on the left side of the line, racing 35 yards for the go-ahead score.

Marciano would also contribute to the game’s turning point. He hustled to down a Gill punt, pinning Franklin back at its own one. The snap flew over the head of Gasbarro and out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 12-3 Mansfield lead.

After the kick-off, the Hornets started again in great position, at the Franklin 36. Moussette had a pair of completions to Danny Rapoza and one to Joe Cappalletti to get down to the 23. DeBolt took a sweep 10 more yards and, after a spike to stop the clock, Moussette hit Gill in the front corner of the end zone for a 13-yard strike.

Redding said, “It went to a two-score game and then the throw to Cincere when we weren’t even supposed to throw to, Jack saw the one-on-one and took advantage of it. We did a lot of good things keeping them at a healthy distance to keep the lead.”

Mansfield added to its lead in the third quarter, again making good starting field position pay off. The Hornets needed only four plays to score from the Franklin 29, with Holmes (nine carries, 55 yards) finding a hole on the left side and bursting through for a 21-yard touchdown run.

The Franklin passing attack was finding it hard to get going, mostly due to the pressure put on Gasbarro by TJ Guy, Chris Graham, and the Hornets’ defensive line. Mansfield was getting into the backfield and not giving the Panthers time to look downfield, while being able to keep plenty back in coverage in case the ball did get out.

“I don’t think he ever felt comfortable,” Redding explained. “Even when we didn’t bring people, our three guys were getting enough pressure to make him throw a little early. We funneled in six guys in those three spots to stay fresh.”

Franklin coach Eian Bain said, “We had planned to try and get the ball out quick, but it was kind of a tough spot going into the wind. We tried to run the football. I think we only had the first possession and didn’t have the ball with the wind until the fourth quarter.”

A glimmer of hope came with three minutes left in the third. Gasbarro hooked up with Davis on a 41-yard completion, the receiver juggling it before hauling it in and getting to the Mansfield 35. The same combo connected again a few plays later for a 20-yard touchdown.

Momentum was fleeting. Holmes burst through the line to block the extra point and then Gill took the ensuing kick-off 84 yards right up the middle of the field for a back-breaking touchdown.

“We still had our chances,” Bain said, “but we just couldn’t get out of our end of the field tonight and I think that was what was pretty frustrating.”

Ethan Thevenot tacked on a late touchdown for the Hornets with a 65-yard run to extend the final margin.

The Hornets were coming off a big win against King Philip last week, but Redding wasn’t afraid of a letdown from his team. He said, “There was no way we could have a letdown. Our guys knew how good Franklin was, so I think it was maybe best game we could’ve had after KP because we knew they were next in line and we had to bring our ‘A’ game.”

Mansfield (4-1, 3-0) will look to solidify its position atop the Kelley-Rex division and clinch at least a share of back-to-back league crowns when it hosts Oliver Ames on Friday. Franklin (3-2, 1-2) will try to solidify its position in the Div. 1 South bracket when it travels to Attleboro next Saturday.

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King Philip Uses Ground Game, Defense To Beat Franklin

King Philip football Ryan Halliday
King Philip’s Ryan Halliday breaks a tackle during a run against Franklin. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The King Philip offense has had some success from the new wrinkles it’s added this season, but when it mattered most, the Warriors turned to their signature ground and pound running attack.

Senior Ryan Halliday rushed for 150 yards on 33 carries, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and scored a pair of touchdowns to pace the Warriors to a 26-14 win over rival Franklin, KP’s 16th straight win over the Panthers.

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After getting just one touch on each of King Philip’s first two drives of the second half — both quickly ended in punts — and Franklin playing with the momentum after cutting the deficit to six at 20-14, the Warriors turned to Halliday.

The senior back was the focal point in the game-clinching drive that spanned 75 yards over 13 plays, taking over eight minutes off the clock. Halliday ran behind an offensive line featuring senior Nolan Gunning, senior Wyatt Manzi, senior center Sean Piller, junior Pat Zarba, and senior Dan Mullen.

The senior back took 10 consecutive handoffs, picking up four first downs that included a fourth down conversion on 4th and 1 on the Panthers’ 28-yard line after an offside call on the defense.

After sophomore Crawford Cantave burst up the middle for nine years, the Warriors went back to Halliday for back-to-back carries, the latter an 11-yard dart up the middle that put the visitors ahead 26-14 with just 5:23 left. The drive started with 1:34 left in the third quarter.

“We’ve switched up the offense a bit this year and we’ve been passing a lot,” Halliday said. “But in the end, we kind of just played old KP football, played some nice defense and ran the ball.

“I’m gassed but I’m sure my hoggies are gassed too, I give a lot of the credit to them.”

Franklin ran just seven offensive plays after that King Philip drive and was limited to a total of 16 offensive snaps total in the second half.

“It worked for us last year,” said KP head coach Brian Lee of going back to the ground game. “[Franklin] is so explosive on offense, they have so many playmakers that you feel like if keep giving them chances…our defense was hanging in there but we just wanted to slow it down a little bit.”

King Philip’s defense did its part as well, holding the Panthers to 175 yards of total offense, 0-for-5 on third down, forcing three turnovers, and limited Franklin’s high-powered offense to just three plays over 20 yards.

“It’s hard to get pressure on them, the ball is out quick and they have a lot of playmakers,” Lee said. “Overall I’m very pleased with how the defense played.”

The Panthers didn’t help themselves much in the first half, fumbling on the opening possession after a completed pass. A quick three-and-out was followed by another fumble, giving KP great starting position at the Franklin 25-yard line.

It took KP just three plays to take advantage of the good field position as senior quarterback Robbie Jarest (11-for-17, 93 yards passing; 8 carries, 75 yards rushing) hit Brian Wassersug, who broke a tackle and sprinted up the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown. Dylan Conti’s point after attempt was good to put KP up 7-0.

Franklin had a quick response as senior quarterback Thomas Gasbarro (16-for-22,193 yards) scrambled to buy some time before finding a wide-open Cole Lakatos on the sideline, and the senior took it the rest of the way, getting a big block from Jake Davis, for a 51-yard touchdown. Parker Cheuvront connected on his first of two extra points to tie it 7-7.

Jarest got it done with his legs on KP’s ensuing drive, taking a QB option for 48 yards to get the Warriors’ offense going. A pass to Alex Behling got the Warriors into the red zone, and six plays later, Halliday followed Gunning into the end zone for a 1-yard score, converting a 4th and goal situation.

“He’s come a long way, he’s really bought in,” Lee said of Jarest. “For us to be throwing the ball as much, it’s different. But we have a new offensive coordinator [Cory Bailey] and he’s really stretching me to try and do some other things and take more risks. Robert’s making those plays with his arm and his legs, and in the end, I think that makes us more balanced.”

Franklin’s defense came up big two series later, stopping the Warriors on 4th and 1 from the Panthers’ 30-yard line with under a minute to go in the half.

But the momentum didn’t last long as KP’s Shawn Conniff applied pressure, forcing a fumble and sophomore Nick Viscusi came out of the pile with the ball.

Franklin nearly stopped the series when they grabbed an interception, but the Panthers were flagged for roughing the passer and KP kept possession. On the ensuing play, with just eight seconds left on the clock, Jarest delivered, finding an open Andrew McKinney for an 11-yard touchdown with only two seconds left on the clock, giving KP a 20-7 lead at halftime.

“We had the recipe of how to never play American football never again,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain of the first half. “I’m at a loss for words for how to describe that first half really. You can’t beat great teams like KP when you have that many self-inflicted errors. Credit to a good opponent, sometimes they make you do that. We felt comfortable with our game plan but you can’t win putting the ball on the turf.”

Momentum swung in favor of the hosts as Franklin forced a three-and-out on King Philip’s opening drive of the second half. The Panthers’ offense capitalized, driving 77 yards on nine plays to make it a one-score game.

Highlighted by a pass and catch from Gasbarro to Jack Nally, and a fourth down completion between the same pair, Franklin marched down the field to the KP 1-yard line. Sophomore Mack Gulla punched it in from there, making it 20-14 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.

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Franklin only ran seven more offensive plays the rest of the game.

“They took the fourth quarter,” Bain said. “That’s what they do well, and that’s what we don’t do well. And by that point, they made us one dimensional but we continued to make mistakes. I’m disappointed because I think we can play better and execute better.”

King Philip football (1-0 Hockomock, 3-0 overall) now turns its attention to Mansfield, as the two rivals will do battle on Macktaz Field on Friday night. Franklin (0-1, 2-1) will try to get back into the win column when it travels to Oliver Ames on Saturday.