Franklin Wins Back-to-Back Titles After Comeback at KP

Franklin Football
Franklin senior Luke Davis (6) hauls in a two-point conversion with 2:46 remaining, which lifted the Panthers to a come from behind win at rival King Philip and to a second straight Kelley-Rex title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WRENTHAM, Mass. – King Philip got the ball back up by seven points with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter of Thursday morning’s holiday matinee at Macktaz Field and went back to work with the ground game that had been nearly unstoppable for most of the game.

After running more than seven minutes off the clock, KP had first down from the Franklin 30 and looked like it was maybe one or two plays away from clinching the title-deciding showdown.

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Rudy Gately (21 carries, 116 yards) was stopped for a loss of three by Emmett Lackey. Quarterback Tommy McLeish took the next snap and went on a sweep around the left side, but Franklin read the play and pried the ball loose. Devine Johnson pounced on it at the 34 to give the visitors a chance with 6:11 on the clock.

Mike Davide (11 carries, 40 yards) broke free for a 13-yard gain into KP territory and Jase Lyons (20-of-27, 232 yards) hit Josh Ribeiro on the sideline. Ribeiro refused to go out of bounds, cutting back infield and eventually gaining 17 to the KP 28. After back-to-back completions to Luke Davis, Lyons kept it himself, looking for contact in the secondary and being brought down at the three. Davide finished the drive to bring the Panthers within one.

Instead of lining up for a Garrett Portesi extra point and potentially playing for overtime, Franklin coach Eian Bain rolled the dice and kept the offense on the field.

“Not for a second,” Bain said later, when asked if he thought about kicking. “We were going for two and then just onside kick it if we have to. We were going for the win right there and then make them have to make a decision too, do they stick with the offense they ran the whole game?”

Lyons dropped back and looked for Davis on a quick out-route a couple yards into the end zone. Davis (nine catches, 153 yards) made the diving grab and put the Panthers up 29-28 with only 2:46 left on the clock. The Franklin defense was able to limit KP to just one first down, sealing a win and a share of its second straight Kelley-Rex division title.

“We just had a good matchup,” Bain said. “We had a play call for both sides and when they adjusted from the empty backfield, we had Luke one-on-one, which is what we wanted.”

Davis was thrilled at his coach’s decision to stick with the offense in that situation. He said, “I was hoping for him to say that. Obviously, KP is a good team and they have their drives, so just to get that extra point was huge. I had full confidence in Jase and the offense to make the play, so it was a great call. Trust coach.”

KP coach Brian Lee rued uncharacteristic turnovers from his team that led to two Franklin touchdowns, including the eventual winner, but also praised Bain for his call to go for two at the end.

“We were just about another first down away from giving (Matthew) Kelley a chance for a field goal and kudos to them,” Lee explained. “Bottom line, we’ve got to hold onto the ball. We turned it over twice. Once on an exchange – points, and down here – points.”

He added, “The guts on coach to go for two. That’s a great call. I love that stuff, going for that win here. It shows that program is in good hands.”

Franklin came into Thanksgiving an underdog against KP, which is heading back to its fifth Div. 2 Super Bowl in six seasons, but the Panthers were riding the confidence of beating the Warriors last year (ending a decade without a win in this series) and got off to a roaring start. On third and five, Lyons went deep down the sideline to Davis, who hauled in the pass then cut back towards the hash mark and raced past a pair of defenders for a 69-yard TD.

“He does everything,” Bain said about Davis. “He’s going to be impossible to replace. I don’t think the kid ever gets tired, I don’t think he ever doesn’t smile, he always goes and he does it right way too.”

Davis noted, “Being on that team last year, we got that feeling of success. We’ve been working at it all year, had KP in the back of the mind all year until it was finally Thanksgiving week. Having that success last year, helped us know what it meant and know what the feeling is to win this game.”

KP responded like it usually does, but lining up behind its big offensive line and running right at the heart of the defense. On their first drive of the day, KP marched 64 yards on nine plays, all of them runs between the tackles. Gately had five carries on the drive, including a 16-yard rush inside the Franklin 10. William Astorino (14 carries, 109 yards) punched it from the two to tie it.

Kyle Abbott and Christopher Sesay each sacked Lyons to end Franklin’s next possession. KP got the ball back and went 57 yards on eight plays, again all runs right up the middle, to take the lead. Astorino and Gately split the carries on the drive, with Astorino finding the end zone on a 12-yard run. Kelley’s extra point made it 14-7.

Franklin drove into KP territory, but David Constantine’s interception ended the drive at the Warriors 12. On third and 17, a fumbled hand-off was recovered by Jack Nutter to give the Panthers the ball at the 18. The Panthers took advantage, as Lyons recovered from being sacked twice (by Carson Meier and Astorino) to hit Davis for a six-yard score, tying the game with 46 seconds left in the half.

Coming out of the locker room, the Warriors took control. A seven-play, 65-yard drive kicked things off. Abott broke free for 16 yards into Franklin’s half of the field and then Astorino ran over defenders on a 32-yard rush down to the 13. Four plays later, Astorino got his third score of the day from two yards out.

The KP defense stepped up to stop Franklin. Gately was playing centerfield and he read a deep ball to Davis on the sideline, coming across to pick it off and return it down to the Panthers 26. On second down, McLeish went play-action and hit Astorino in the right flat. The running back did the rest, weaving his way to the end zone for a 28-14 lead.

Momentum was swinging back-and-forth and this time it was Franklin’s turn to steal it back. The Panthers went 69 yards in nine plays to get back into the game. A pass interference call got the ball to the 27. After and eight-yard pass to Derek Dubriske (five catches, 32 yards), Lyons fired a strike to Davis, who went up and over the defensive back to pull in the 19-yard score.

Killing the clock and killing off the game is usually KP’s forte, but the Panthers found a way to force the turnover and give themselves one last chance to retain the Kelley-Rex crown. When they found the end zone, there was no question of going for the tie, only for the win.

Bain said of the comeback that earned Franklin (7-3) its first back-to-back league titles since 1971, “King Philip makes you play a certain way. You’ve got to get a little grimy, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and you’ve got to bang with them. Today we got hit in the mouth plenty, there were any number of times where we could’ve said, ‘You know what, we had a good run,’ but these guys never gave up.”

King Philip (9-2) will play Catholic Memorial in the D2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night at 8:00. It is a rematch of last year’s title game, but Lee was adamant that the upcoming final had no impact on his team’s play on Thursday.

“Up 14, that’s something where you feel like you should be able to control it and we just couldn’t,” Lee said. “No. 6 (Davis) is a dude and the quarterback gets the ball out on time and that puts you under pressure. They kept making plays, kept fighting, and kept believing and that’s a hard thing to combat.”

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Franklin Holds On In Last Minute, Earns Win At North

Franklin football
Luke Davis caught a first half touchdown, helping Franklin pull out its first win at North Attleboro since 1992. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – When Cole Sidwell intercepted a pass inside his own 30 with 36 seconds remaining, the Franklin bench exploded onto the field assuming that the victory was sealed. But, two penalty flags sat on the Community Field grass and, after a lengthy discussion between the officials, off-setting penalties meant that North Attleboro would have one last chance.

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Facing fourth and 13 from the Franklin 49, North quarterback Chase Frisoli dropped back one more time and fired a deep ball to Jovany Rivera down the right sideline. The North receiver had a step on the corner, but he just wasn’t able to haul in the pass.

After a giant exhale, the Franklin sideline exploded into life again, knowing that all it would take was one kneel down and the win was theirs. The Panthers survived Friday’s league opener 21-20, earning their first win at North since 1992.

“It’s two top 10 teams, Franklin coach Eain Bain said. “I don’t care if we won by half a point, as long as we get out of here with a win. We knew coming in here there would be adversity tonight, fortunately we took advantage of some things in the first half. As a team effort, I thought it was a great win.”

“We were there,” North coach Mike Strachan. “We had a good look at it on fourth and it didn’t go our way. I said at the beginning of the game it was going to be penalties and turnovers and we didn’t win that battle. At the end of the day, in a one-point game, that is what it is. You can’t turn the ball over like we did.”

North came into its league and home opener off a bye week, but the momentum of the opening two wins seemed to carry over to the first drive of the game. Frisoli (13-of-26 for 146 yards) converted third and eight with a 14-yard pass to Rivera (six catches, 89 yards) and then took off on a 20-yard keeper into Franklin territory. Nathan Shultz took a toss to the left side, broke a tackle, and streaked down the sideline for a 49-yard score.

It wasn’t the ideal start for a Franklin defense that was coming off a tough loss to Duxbury, but the Panthers turned things around after that tough first three minutes. Franklin sacked Frisoli seven times, including four in the first half, and forced a pair of red zone turnovers.

Bain explained, “When you can get pressure with your front then you can start getting creative using our second level guys to try and find a matchup, find something in protection we can go after. When we can do that effectively, it can cover up some mistakes we do on the back end.”

After Jack Nutter stuffed Shultz for a loss of seven. Franklin got great field position for its second possession, starting at its own 49, but a penalty and a Kaiden Leary sack forced third and 16. Jase Lyons was able to hit Derek Dubriske for 23 and the first down. Three plays later, the same combo connected again, this time for a 24-yard touchdown on the left sideline to tie the game.

The defense kept coming after the North quarterback. Emmett Lackey and Julian Rampino both sacked Frisoli and on third down Nick Quintina got into the backfield and batted down a pass.

Franklin again had great starting field position. A 17-yard completion to Luke Davis (four catches, 57 yards) moved the ball into North territory. Following a holding call, Lyons (12-of-17, 188 yards), who completed his first seven throws, found Dubriske (four receptions, 66 yards) for 18 and another first down. On the next play, Davis got the ball on an underneath out route, threw a head fake to lose the closest North defender, and raced down the sideline for 31 yards and a 14-7 lead.

North’s offense was finally able to get things moving late in the second quarter. Frisoli hit Jack Munley on a drag route across the middle for 13 down to the Franklin 38. A 15-yard penalty for too many men moved North even closer. On third and 10, Greg Berthiaume broke through the line for a first down run, but as he pushed for extra yards the ball popped loose and Bobby Padula recovered for the Panthers.

It was a big missed opportunity to get right back into the game. Garrett Portesi’s punt pinned North back inside its own 10. Jay Gulla sacked Frisoli on second down and North was forced into another punt that was returned to the 30. Franklin needed only one play to double its lead. Lyons threw one up for Grayson Hunter at the goal line and the 6-foot-4 tight end out-jumped a pair of North defenders, pulling in the 30-yard score.

North looked ready to mount an immediate comeback when it got into the red zone on its first third-quarter drive, but Sidwell was able to intercept Frisoli’s pass at the goal line and keep the hosts off the board.

“They’re very quick,” Strachan said of the Franklin defense. “They did some good things up front, they did a lot more stunting this week than we saw last week. They’re physical. They came to play. They had a chip on their shoulder from last week and it showed.”

After the defense did its job and held the Panthers to a three-and-out, North got the ball back at the Franklin 31. Facing fourth and five, Frisoli was able to hook up with Rivera for six yards to keep things moving. Berthiaume was given the ball on three straight carries, all of seven yards, including the final one that found the end zone to make it 21-14 at the end of three.

North got the ball back at its own 21 with 8:13 remaining and marched 79 yards in 13 plays, taking up six minutes. Again, Frisoli found Rivera for a fourth down conversion to keep things alive and then hit him again for 25 yards to the Franklin nine. After an eight-yard pass to Aidan Conrad, Frisoli punched it in with a one-yard sneak.

The hosts were an extra point away from tying the game with 2:16 to go, but a low snap led to confusion and an attempted pass that Franklin was able to snuff out to preserve a one-point lead.

It came down to one last play to decide which team would get off to a winning start in the Kelley-Rex, and it was the defending champion Panthers that left the happier team on Friday.

“Tell me the easy game in the Hockomock,” said Bain. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time. Records don’t really matter, it’s how you come to play that night.”

Strachan added, “The Kelley-Rex is like the Big Ten, there’s no easy week. It’s something that we’ve got to put this behind us as quick as we can and get ready for Milford.”

Franklin (3-1) will be back on the road again next week to face Taunton (3-1). North Attleboro (2-1) will be back on the road to visit unbeaten Milford (4-0).

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Football: 2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Milford and King Philip will both be contenders for the Kelley-Rex division title this season. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
By HockomockSports.com Staff

2022 Kelley-Rex Football Preview

2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Attleboro

2021 Record: 4-6
Coach: Jim Winters

Key/Returning Players: Matt Harvie, Jr., QB; Ethan Lako, Sr., LB; Isaiah Miranda, Sr., OL/DL; Ayden Ramirez, Sr., WR/CB; Adrian Rivera, Jr., RB; Anthony Salviati, SR.; WR/S; Spencer Sherck, Sr., S

Outlook:
In a loaded Kelley-Rex division, Attleboro has largely been on the outside of the title race and the Bombardiers enter this season with an eye to the future, as they have a relatively inexperienced roster. First-year coach Jim Winters, who came from Silver Lake to replace Mike Strachan after his move to North Attleboro, will lean on a talented crew of skill position players and an aggressive mindset to be competitive with the league’s top teams.

Offensively, the Bombardiers have a lot of depth and athleticism at receiver. Senior Anthony Salviati is a dynamic playmaker who can line up in multiple positions, whether out wide or in the backfield. He was also the team’s kicker last year. Junior Matt Harvie gets the nod at quarterback to start the season after seeing time under center as a sophomore. His strong arm and ability to read the defense will be key. Senior Ayden Ramirez will be another threat on the outside and junior Adrian Rivera will be the team’s go-to back at the start of the season. Senior center Isaiah Miranda is the team’s only returning lineman, on either side of the ball, and his leadership is going to be critical to the offense’s success.

Athleticism is going to be important on defense as well. Salviati will bring his playmaking to the secondary as a safety. Winters called Ramirez one of the best corners that he has coached, while senior linebacker Ethan Lako is a ball hawk who led the team in interceptions last season. Senior safety Spencer Sherck is recovering from a preseason injury and the Bombardiers will be hoping to have his leadership back on the field as soon as possible. The defensive line remains a question mark with young players getting their first taste of varsity action this season.

“We should be fast and aggressive at the skill positions,” Winters said. About the challenges on the line, he added, “We will be very inexperienced and do not have the size of Attleboro teams of the past.”










2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Franklin

2021 Record: 10-1 (Kelley-Rex division champions)
Coach: Eian Bain

2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Key/Returning Players: Jase Lyons, Sr., QB/S; Luke Davis, Sr., WR/CB; Grayson Hunter, Sr., TE; Ben Papa, Sr., OL; Ben Ryan, Jr., OL; Leo Meuse, Soph., OL; Jay Gulla, Sr., DL; Emmett Lackey, Sr., DL; Julian Rampino, Soph., DL; Nick Quintina, Sr., LB; Luke Sidwell, Sr., CB; Devine Johnson, Sr., CB;

Outlook:
Franklin was not only the best team in the Kelley-Rex division last year, winning its first league title since 2009, but also proved to be one of the top teams in the state. The Panthers were a win away from a spot in the Super Bowl, going toe-to-toe with Springfield Central in the state semifinal. This season, the Panthers will have to overcome the graduation of a lot of skill position players to keep the positive momentum that the program has shown over the past few seasons.

Last year’s offensive group was as good as any in the state and it showed. This season, Franklin will have a lot of new faces and a lot of versatile athletes that will be part of the game plan. Senior Jase Lyons will take over at quarterback and is a dual threat with his legs and his arm. Senior Luke Davis will be one of the primary targets out wide along with junior wideout Derek Dubriske and senior tight end Grayson Hunter. The graduation of Mack Gulla opens space for new running backs to step up. Juniors Mike Davide and Cody Howard are backs to watch out for this year. Senior Ben Papa will lead the offensive line with junior Ben Ryan and sophomore Leo Meuse adding depth and size. Senior Garrett Portesi will be back on kicking duties and gives Franklin a consistent source of points.

While the offense got a lot of attention last season, Franklin’s defense allowed fewer points than anyone else in the league. The secondary was one of the biggest strengths in 2021 and should be again this year. Senior Devine Johnson is a lockdown corner, while classmates Luke Sidwell, Bobby Padula, and Davis all are playmakers in the passing game. Junior Connor Klawson will add depth in that position. The linebacking group is led by senior Nick Quintina, who will make plays in the middle, and Howard will be a new face in that position. Senior Emmett Lackey will control the defensive line, while senior Jay Gulla is a constant threat on the edge and sophomore Julian Rampino gives another big athlete at defensive end.

“We are taking this one day at a time,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “Last year was a whirlwind, and culmination of many years of hard work. It is important not to lose sight of the process that got us to such great accomplishments. It remains all about the process.”




2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

King Philip

2021 Record: 9-3
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Will Astorino, Sr., FB/LB; Thomas Brewster, Sr., WR/DB; Rudy Gately, Sr., RB/DB; Nathan Kearney, Sr., RB/DE; Sean King, Jr., OL/DL; Chris Sesay, Sr., OL/DL; Matt Kelley, Sr., K/WR/DB; Tommy McLeish, Jr., QB;

Outlook: Last season was another banner year for the Warriors, reaching another Division 2 state final and took second in what was one of the most talented years in the Kelley-Rex division.

Certainly, the Warriors have plenty of holes to fill in due to graduation like at quarterback (Charlie Grant), running back (Crawford Cantave), Jonathan Joseph (defensive back), and on both the offensive and defensive line. But head coach Brian Lee has to like the weapons he does have back this season.

It starts with one of the best two-way players in the state in senior Rudy Gately, who will be a workhorse in the backfield and a reliable option at linebacker. He’s been making plays for KP for two years and that’s likely to continue again this year. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Will Astorino (full back) and Nathan Kearney, and they’ll work with junior Tommy McLeish (6’3), who takes over at quarterback. McLeish has weapons in Matt Kelley, who is not only one of the best kickers around but will also line up at receiver and defensive back, as well as Thomas Brewster.

The strength of the squad likely lies where it usually does: in the trenches. The Warriors are big up front on both sides of the ball and return two of the best linemen in the state in 6’6 265-pound Chris Sesay, who holds D1 offers from Eastern Michigan and Brown among others, and 6’0, 260-pound junior Sean King.

Defensively, Astorino will be one of the key pieces at linebacker while Sesay looks to be a force to reckon with on the defensive line.

“As far as strength and weaknesses go, we lost a lot of players from all different positions so we are just in the process of still figuring out what we are, who we are, and if we have all the right guys on the field and in the right spot,” Lee said. “Despite what we’ve lost, our goal is to be prepared and focused each week so that we can be competitive.”




2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Milford

2021 Record: 9-3
Coach: Dale Olson

Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Nicholas Araujo, Jr., LB/K; Jayden Archeval, Sr., DB; Damien Carter, Jr., WR/DB; Evan Cornelius, Sr., QB/DE; Keith Lee, Jr., G/DT; Isaiah Pantalone, Sr., WR/DB; Tyler Potter, Sr., T/DT

Outlook:
Milford has come a long way in the past couple of seasons, earning wins over its Kelley-Rex division rivals, putting in a challenge for the league title, and making a run to the Div. 2 semifinals. The Hawks will try to continue building on that momentum this fall with the hope of a talented and experienced lineup bringing home a first Kelley-Rex title.

Senior quarterback Evan Cornelius is back to run the Milford offense after a strong junior campaign. Cornelius gives the Hawks a threat with either his strong arm or his ability to make plays with his legs and he helped Milford put together one of the league’s top offensive units last year. Senior wideout Isaiah Pantalone had a breakout junior season and emerged as one of the most dangerous receivers in the Hock. Junior Damien Carter can line up in multiple positions and classmate Nicholas Araujo can make an impact at receiver or as one of the league’s top kickers. Junior Keith Lee and senior Tyler Potter will be two of the top returning lineman and the Milford line got a huge boost by the transfer of Ryan O’Connor from Lawrence Academy.

Cornelius is just as impactful on the defensive side of the ball with his speed and size at defensive end. Lee, Potter, and O’Connor add strength to the interior of the Milford line. Araujo will be one of the key returning players at linebacker. Milford’s athleticism at receiver translates into a strong secondary as well. Carter and Pantalone are both playmakers on the edge and senior Jayden Archeval emerged as one of the top one-on-one cover guys in the league last year.

“We don’t have great numbers and will have to stay healthy,” Milford coach Dale Olson explained, “but have a talented group that has worked hard to rebuild this program.”




2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

North Attleboro

2021 Record: 8-4
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Greg Berthiaume, Sr., RB/LB; Zack Gallagher, Sr., OL/DL; Nate Shultz, Sr., RB/DB; Kaden Leary, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Munley, Sr., OL/DL; Chase Frisoli, Soph., QB; Lucas Mattson, Jr., OL/DL; Nolan McLaughlin, Sr., OL/DL; Aidan Conrad, Sr., RB/DB;

Outlook: The 2022 season marks a new chapter in the very rich history of North Attleboro football. Coming off a narrow loss in the Division 3 state championship, the Rocketeers have a brand new head coach along with a slew of new faces in new positions.

Mike Strachan is now at the helm of the Big Red. Strachan, who played for the Rocketeers in high school for legendary coach Ray Beaupre, had been the head coach of rival Attleboro since 2013 before switching in his Bombardier blue back to Rocketeer red.

He’ll have the tough task of finding replacements for a very talented senior class from last year, including star Tyler DeMattio – who played a handful of positions over the past four years, including quarterback, running back, linebacker, and kicker – as well as fellow league all star Tyler Bannon. But the cupboard is far from empty for Strachan, who is looking to uphold the high standards and tradition of North Attleboro football.

Sophomore Chase Frisoli returns at quarterback after an impressive freshman season. He will have a lot of new weapons to work with this year, and Strachan is leaning heavily on a big offensive line to not only protect Frisoli but set the tone with a strong running game. The line is anchored by Zack Gallagher (6’3, 280) and North will look to run behind him as well as Kaden Leary, Lucas Mattson, Jack Munley, Nolan McLoughlin, and Danny Locke. Nate Shultz will be the primary ball carrier and brings an explosive run game to the table.

“Nate will lead the defense at free safety [too],” Strachan said. “Nate brings breakaway speed to the offense and has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In addition, Nate is a tremendously smart player and gives us the on-field leadership required to have a great team.”

On the defensive side, the Rocketeers will turn to veteran linebacker Greg Berthiaume, who lead the D3 finalists in tackles last year. With Berthiaume in the mix, North’s strength defensively will be its linebackers, with Ryan Bannon, Aidan Conrad, and Julian House also in the mix.

2022 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

Photos

Taunton

2021 Record: 5-6
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Ryan MacDougall, Sr., OL/LB; Nathan Laplante, Sr., OL/DL; William Guachichulca-Torres, Sr., OL; Logan Frank, Sr., OL; Jacob Leonard, Sr., QB; Bryan Batista, Sr., RB; Tanner Brannon, Sr., OLB; Dom Kessel, Sr., DL; McKyen Gonsalves, Sr., WR/DB; Jose Touron, Jr., WR/DB; Bryan Joanis, Jr., OL/DL; Ethan Harris, Jr., RB/LB;

Outlook: Taunton took a step in the right direction during the 2022 season with five wins and a trip to the state tournament, but the Tigers went without a win in league play. With an experienced and talented group back in the fold this year, head coach Brad Sidwell and his Tigers will look to make a splash in the league and continue to move the program forward.

It will all start up front for Taunton because of a big and talented group of linemen that have a lot of varsity experience. The team’s three captains are all members of the offensive line: seniors Ryan MacDougall (center), Nathan LaPlante (guard), and William Guachichulca-Torres (tackle). They’ll be joined by senior Logan Frank (guard) and junior Bryan Joanis (tackle). All five register above 6’0 and have a lot of varsity experience under their belt.

Behind them will be returning quarterback Jake Leonard, who is in his third year as the starting quarterback for the Tigers. While Leonard lost some of his top targets from last year, he has some dangerous weapons at his disposal still, including Jose Touron (fresh off an impressive sophomore campaign), seniors Mckyen Gonsalves and Braden Mullen, and speedy junior Dmitrius Shearrion. After a promising start to last year was cut short due to injury, Bryan Batista is back in the mix at running back along with Etha Harris and Malachai Johnson.

Defensively, the Tigers boast an athletic secondary, a big defensive line, and a mix of veteran and new linebackers. Laplante will be among the most disruptive defensive linemen in the league and will be joined by Frank, Joanis, and senior Dom Kessel. MacDougall had a great year at linebacker last year and will be flanked by Harris, senior Tanner Brannon, junior Ryan Keenan, and sophomore Elijah Prophete.

“We have a solid nucleus of experienced players that have worked hard during the off-season,” Sidwell said. “As always, we look to play well, improve, and gain some momentum during our non-league battles to prepare us for the highly competitive Hockomock Kelley-Rex Division.”

Thursday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 01/20/22

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Basketball
Milford, 46 vs. Brockton, 65 – Final

Boys Indoor Track (@ Reggie Lewis Center)
Attleboro, 50 @ Taunton, 49 – – FinalIt came down to just one point as Attleboro clinched a win over Taunton, securing a 5-0 season and its first ever Kelley-Rex division title and first Hock title in indoor track. If Taunton had won, the Tigers would have clinched a three-way share with the Bombardiers and Mansfield. Attleboro earned a sweep in the long jump, led by Adrian Rivera’s leap of 19-01.50 followed by Kaidan Murray and Cashel Stuger. Stuger anchored the sweep of the 55M hurdles, taking first in 8.41 followed by Murray and Peter DelPozzo. Attleboro also got wins from Jacob Blazek (600M, 1:31.4), Damon Dugan (high jump, 5-08.00), and Chris Leonardo (shot put, 42-11.75). Dmitrius Shearrion (55M, 6.92), Conal Scully (300M, 37.49), Ryan Strawbridge (1000M, 2:43.49), Andrew Cali (1 Mile, 4:50.84), and Brayden Cali (10:24.23) all won for Taunton.

North Attleboro, 68 @ Sharon, 32 – FinalNathan Shultz took first in two events and North Attleboro swept three events to score a win over Sharon. Shultz was the winner in the 55M dash (6.80) and then anchored a sweep of the high jump (5-10.00) followed by Nathan MacDonald and Aaron Levesque. Levesque took first in the long jump, followed by MacDonald and Kyle Conroy for another sweep, and Brodie Clemente, Joseph Beckett, and Mark Etienvre swept the shot put in North’s win. North also got wins from Michael Simonian (300M, 39.29), Evan Tino (600M, 1:34.99), and Connor Peterson (1 Mile, 4:52.31). Sharon’s Karthik Pisupati won the 1000M, Adam Lessard was first in the 2 Mile race, and Alexander Gong took first in the 55M hurdles (8.51).

Canton, 32 @ Stoughton, 63 – FinalStoughton swept the 600M and the shot put, adding first place finishes in six more events and one relay in its win over Canton. Jett Tran-Burger was first in the 600M followed by Alex Huynh Joao Marotti whie Zachary Roos took first in the shot put followed by teammates Thomas Laz and Shawn Fargher. Jalen Castillo was a triple winner for the Knights, taking first in the 55M, the 300M, and the long jump while other winners for Stoughton included Thomas Brennan (1000M), Rinoldi Lauradin (high jump), and Hunter Tran (55m hurdles). Kyle Downing won the 2 Mile in 10:44.58 for Canton while Sam Vail set a new PR in the 1 Mile, taking first in 5:09.26.

Foxboro, 20 @ Oliver Ames, 72 – FinalOliver Ames won 11 of the 12 events, including both relays, on its way to completing a perfect 5-0 dual meet season to clinch the Davenport division title. Fabrice Fouron was the big winner for the Tigers, taking three first-place finishes to lead the way. Fouron won the high jump (5-02.00), the long jump (19-01.50), and the 55M hurdles (8.90) to register 15 points on his own. OA also picked up wins from Ashton Hart (55M, 6.95), Joshua Tocci (300M, 39.31), Wyatt Fritchman (1000M, 2:55.46), Ryan Sarney (1 Mile, 4:33.01), Alexander Pierce (2 Mile, 10:24.90), and Brayden Burton (shot put, 35-07.00). Foxboro’s Jared Ciora took first place in the 600M with a time of 1:35.12.

Mansfield, 65 @ Franklin, 31 – FinalMansfield took first place in seven events plus swept both relays to grab a win over Franklin. Jake Wall was a double-winner, taking first in both the 55M (6.79) and the long jump (21-06.25) while the Hornets also got wins from Riley Tremblay (1000M, 2:50.19), Chris Leonard (1 Mile, 4:39.97), Collin Stevens (2 Mile, 10:30.17), Evan Rawlings (high jump, 5-02.00), and Dylan Buchanan (55M hurdles, 8.54). Luke Sidwell (300M, 37.70), Tyler Powderly (300M, 1:28.58), and Emmett Lackey (shot put, 40-08.75) had wins for Franklin.

Milford, 39 @ King Philip, 60 – FinalAnchored by a sweep in the long jump and five more first place finishes, King Philip secured a win over Milford. Degen Granese anchored the sweep, taking first in the long jump followed by Luca Giardini and Turag Ikbal. Granese added a win in the high jump, Giardini took first in the 600M, Nathan Gebhard won the 300M, Noah Hurd was first in the 1000M, and Nathan Sylven won the 2 Mile race. Milford got wins from Patrick Delaney (55M), James Comisky (1 Mile), Marco Monteiro (shot put) and Samuel Borst (55M hurdles).










Girls Indoor Track (@ Reggie Lewis Center)
North Attleboro, 53 @ Sharon, 46 – FinalNorth Attleboro swept both the high jump and the shot put and recorded points in every individual event to land a close win over Sharon. Caroline Folan won the high jump followed by Sydney O’Connor and Meagan Dowd while Marissa Robinson took first in the shot put and was followed by Sienna Newth and Noemie Eugene. Dowd also took first in the 300M while Katie Galgoczy won the 2 Mile race. Sharon’s Simeone Dunbar won three events (55M, long jump, 55M hurdles) while Samantha Connors (600M), Sierra Robison (1000M), and Daphne Theiler (1 Mile) each finished first for the Eagles.

Canton, 30 @ Stoughton, 69 – FinalStoughton’s Shayla Ford was a triple winner and Elaine McCarty won two individual events to help the Black Knights take down Canton. Ford was first in the 55M (7.85), the 300M (46.84), and the long jump (15-03.00) while McCarty won the 1000M (3:30.67) and the 1 Mile (6:23.15). Also winning for Stoughton were Julie Richardson (600M, 1:49.32), Alexis Mederios (2 Mile, 14:19.71), and Annalisa Marckmann (shot put, 29-05.00). Canton earned wins from Katie Oliver (55M hurdles, 10.70) and Ella Lewis (high jump, 4-06.00). Lewis was also third in the long jump and second in the 55M hurdles while Oliver had a second place finish in the 55M dash.

Foxboro, 29 @ Oliver Ames, 69 – FinalOliver Ames had two of the top three finishes in eight of the 10 individual events and split the relays to secure a big win over Foxboro, completing a perfect 5-0 dual meet season to grab the Davenport division title. Johanna Holmes, Julia Maclaine, and Amelia Andre each took home a pair of wins for the Tigers, Holmes taking first in both the 600M (1:45.64) and the 1000M (3:17.05), Maclaine winning the 300M (45.66) and the high jump (4-08.00), and Andre taking the 55M (7.99) and the long jump (14-08.00). Taegen Hodges (1 Mile, 5:40.92), Katie Sobieraj (2 Mile, 11:34.83), Emily Meyers (shot put, 23-00.50), and Tatum Fritchman (55M hurdles, 10.95) also won for OA.

Mansfield, 53 @ Franklin, 47 – FinalMansfield took points from each individual event, getting two of the top three spots in five events to just edge out Franklin and finish the season at 5-0 for the Kelley-Rex division title. The Hornets got key points with a 1-2 finish in the 55M dash (Chloe Guthrie, Abigail Scott), the 1000M (Katherine Miller, Meghan Johnston), the 1 Mile (Norah Puleo, Alanna Conley) and the long jump (Anna Buckley, Elsie Roberts) plus first and third in the 55M hurdles (Buckley, Julia Pike). Mansfield also got key wins in the 600M (Caitlin Dumouchel) and the 2 Mile (Anna Moore). Franklin picked up wins from Sophia Cuneo (300M, 1:48.13), Abigail Griffith (high jump, 5-00.00), and Darby Nicholson (shot put, 30-08.50).

Milford, 68 @ King Philip, 29 – FinalKiyanni Simas won three individual events and Sydney Kalil won two more to help the Scarlet Hawks land a win over King Philip. Simas took first in the 55M dash, the long jump (a Scarlet Hawk sweep), and the 55M hurdles while Kalil was the winner in both the 1 Mile and 2 Mile races. Milford also got a win from Tatiana Chaplin in the 1000M. KP’s Grace Lawler (300M), Leah Vigevani (600M), and Ahunna James (shot put) had first place finishes.

Attleboro, 53 @ Taunton, 47 – FinalAttleboro took first place in six individual events and finished second in three of them for key points in a close win over Taunton. The Bombarders went first and second in the high jump (Rebecca Rainey, Madison Ellis), the long jump (Jahela Douglas, Aariana Ridge), and the shot put (Madison Morgan, Elayna Marinelli). Attleboro also had first place finishes in the 55M dash (Douglas), the 1 Mile (Emelia Smith), and the 55M hurdles (Angela Cooney(. Taunton got wins from Nia Mainer-Smith (300M), Phylicia Dias (600M), Kiley Quinlan (1000M), and Emersyn DePonte (2 Mile).

Boys Swimming
Attleboro, 85 @ Mansfield, 66 – FinalMansfield’s Rico Palanza and Xavier Gwynne each won an event, took second in another, and were apart of two winning relay teams. Palanza won the 50 free and took second in the 100 free while Gwynne was first in the 200 medley and second in the 100 backstroke. Senior Kevin McCarthy added a second place finish in the 200 free and a PR time for second in the 100 free while classmate Ryan Morley swam a pair of personal bests in the 100 breaststroke (third place) and the 500 free. Palanza, Gwynne, McCarthy and Morley teamed up to win the 200 medley relay, and the team of McCarthy, Neil Dalpe, Gwynne, and Palanza won the 200 free relay.

Sharon @ Oliver Ames, 4:30

Girls Swimming
Attleboro, 90 @ Mansfield, 61 – FinalAttleboro freshman Zuri Ferguson broke her third school record so far this season and qualified for states in a pair of events to help the Bombardiers take down Mansfield. After setting new marks in the 100 backstroke and 500 free earlier this year, Ferguson set a new record of 59.56 in the 100 butterfly, beating the record time of 1:01.2. Ferguson also won the 200 IM and was apart of the winning 200 medley and 400 free relays. Ferguson was joined by Natalia Kotnisz, Caroline Lynch-Bartek, and Ella Lynch-Bartek on the 400 free, which qualified for states. Caroline Lynch-Bartek added wins in the 200 and 500 free on top of the two relay wins. For Mansfield, Sofia Seifert set a new personal best and qualified for sectionals in a first place finish in the 50 free and also took first in the 100 breaststroke with another PR.

Sharon @ Oliver Ames, 4:30

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.

Franklin Beats Methuen to Get Another Shot at Gillette

Franklin football
Franklin running back Mack Gulla rushed for a pair of touchdowns in a 24-7 win over Methuen in the D1 quarterfinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – During its undefeated run to the Div. 1 quarterfinal, Franklin’s high-powered offense has gotten a lot of the attention but there are exceptional athletes on both sides of the ball and in Friday night’s visit of Methuen to Pisini Stadium the defense showed off its speed and athleticism in slowing down the Rangers.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

After giving up a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, Franklin scored 24 unanswered points to pull out a 24-7 victory and for the second time in three seasons is one game away from a trip to Gillette Stadium and a Super Bowl appearance.

“We just have to play good football,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “You’re not going to win at this level if you don’t play good football. You have to be very sound in that phase of the game and we did a good job tonight minus maybe one or two miscues.

Senior linebacker Nick Quintina added, “We weren’t really communicating the first drive. Once we all started communicating, calling the routes out, where the receivers were placed at, that’s what really helped us out.”

Methuen, fresh off an opening-round win against perennial power Everett, is a tough offense to pin down with all of its pre-snap motion, the variety of its sets, and the speed that it brings to every position. The Rangers got off to a very quick start, taking the opening drive 76 yards in eight play.

On fourth and one from near midfield, Jaetel Gomez got two yards for a first down. On the next play, Drew Eason fired a strike to Will McKinnon for 48 yards down to the Franklin five. CJ Muniz did the rest, getting to the corner for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead. It looked like it might be a long night for the Panthers defense, but that ended up being the only score that Methuen could muster.

The lead didn’t last long either. Franklin answered right back with a 77-yard drive. Mack Gulla (19 carries, 122 yards) was the focal point for the Panthers, getting seven carries on the opening possession. After an 11-yard completion from Jared Arone to Will Deschenes into Methuen territory, Gulla broke runs of 14 and 23 yards to get inside the 10. He punched it in from five yards to tie the game.

“That’s kind of been what we’ve done all year, just pick our moments, pick our marks, and attack but also not get out of the game plan,” Bain explained. “We went right down the script, some of it worked great, some of it didn’t and we saw that, and when we had to have the moments our kids made plays.”

When it got back on the field, Franklin’s defense started to turn things around. Quintina and Jay Gulla stuffed Eason for a loss of one, a flea flicker sailed over the receiver, and then Luke Davis made a play on the ball to break up the third down pas. On the next possession, it was Luke Sidwell in coverage making a play to get off the field.

Franklin got the ball back for its third possession at its own 49 and took advantage of the short field to grab the lead for good. A 13-yard pass to Will Tracey got Franklin down to the Rangers 27. Two plays later, Arone went back to Tracey on the far sideline and the 6-foot-2 receiver was able to go up and haul the pass in while getting a foot down inbounds. The 23-yard score made it 14-7.

Methuen moved the ball on its next drive, with Eason finding Braeden Carter for 10 yards to convert on fourth and three and get into Franklin’s half of the field. Quintina and Cullen Pek stuffed a second and two run for no gain and Pek and Jonathan Martins made a stop on third down, but the Muniz got three on fourth down to move the chains.

Pek came up with another big stop, dropping Eason for a loss of four. Sidwell and Devine Johnson combined to break up a halfback pass and then Jack Marino sacked Eason back at the 38 to force fourth and long and a punt.

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and Deschenes made sure they started in a good spot, returning the kick off 41 yards out to the 46. A pair of passes from Arone (8-of-15, 133 yards) to Tracey (four catches, 56 yards) got the ball to the Methuen 32. From there, Gulla did the rest. He burst through the line of scrimmage, raced past the linebackers into the secondary and was gone for his second score of the night.

“He’s the starting point,” Bain said of Gulla. “Everything we do kind of starts with him and how can we branch off that and we’re fortunate because we have a lot of good players and a lot of guys got involved tonight with different parts of the game plan. But, when he goes, we go a little bit better.”

Pek, Quintina, Jay Gulla, Emmett Lackey, and the rest of the Franklin front seven was flying around making plays and giving Eason no time in the pocket.

“We really just feed off the play and whoever gets open in the gap,” Quintina said. “Coach has been doing a great job getting calls in, double blitzing. When we double blitz usually it opens up a big gap and whoever is on that blitz has a free run.”

Bain added, “They’re relentless. They’re tough to handle and they have motors and they’re a lovable group of kids but they don’t stop. They would drive you nuts if you were their parents. They don’t stop and their pursuit of the quarterback and of excellence is contagious and I think it fuels our defense.”

Franklin put the game away four minutes into the fourth quarter. Facing second and 15 from the Panthers 38, Arone looked deep down the near sideline to Davis, who managed to pull in the catch and stay just inbounds right in front of the Franklin bench. The 32-yard catch got the hosts to the 30.

On fourth and eight, Arone was able to hit Shane Kindred for a 15-yard catch near the sideline to keep the drive moving. It would lead to a 22-yard kick from Garrett Portesi and a 24-7 lead.

“We’re just playing our role as underdogs all season,” said Quintina. “Every team that looks at us, we look small, but we’re just the underdogs and we love that role.”

Franklin (9-0) will put its perfect record on the line next week against No. 5 Springfield Central, which crushed Xaverian 40-15, at a time, date, and location to be determined.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

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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.”

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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.