NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Attleboro scored twice in its first five plays from scrimmage but with less than a minute remaining on the clock North Attleboro (4-7) was driving with a chance to steal the 99th annual Thanksgiving Day meeting between the two neighboring rivals on the soaked grass at Community Field.
Rocketeers backup quarterback Casey Poirier, who took over from sophomore Tyler DeMattio (17 carries, 83 yards) in the fourth quarter, engineered a 15-play drive from his own 20 all the way down to the Attleboro five-yard-line.
Fellow quarterback Jason Weir pushed North back when he grabbed hold of Poirier and swung him down for a nine-yard sack back to the 14 and on third and goal junior linebacker Michael Strachan came through with a game-ending interception in the end zone, sealing a dramatic 13-7 victory for the Bombardiers.
“I think we prepared really hard for this game and I think it just goes to show, this rivalry, what it means,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan after his third win in this holiday series. “[North] played great, they’re always prepared, but this is what it’s all about.”
While Attleboro (6-5) made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in D1 South, neither team had big postseason plans this year, so both had weeks to prepare for Thursday’s game and it took on added importance, as Weir, who won the Balfour Trophy for Offensive MVP, succinctly explained.
“It means so much,” he said. “This is our Super Bowl. It’s phenomenal.”
North was able to move the ball on its opening drives, but couldn’t finish. The Rocketeers got to the Attleboro 39 on its opening possession but a bad snap on fourth and one ended the drive, while the second possession reached the Attleboro 35 but another turnover on downs meant no points.
Attleboro had none of those problems at the start of the game. The Bombardiers went 52 yards in three plays on the their first possession and then 65 yards on two plays on their second to build a solid lead.
On the first play from scrimmage, Weir (7-of-10, 104 yards) hit Ethan Cameron (five catches, 88 yards) in stride for a 43-yard completion to the North five. Two plays later, Strachan burst through the left side for a five-yard score. After completing a 13-yard pass to Cameron to start the second drive, Weir took it himself, breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage and breaking free for a 52-yard touchdown to make it 13-0.
“That was the whole game plan, come out and throw the first punch,” said Weir. “That works against any high school team, they’re going to back down right away and that’s what we did today. Our line stepped up huge today.”
Coach Strachan said of Weir, “I think we finally put him in a situation where he could make some plays for us, make him comfortable, roll him out a little bit more, and that was good.”
The visiting Bombardiers felt like they might break the game wide open and put things away, but the North defense started to stiffen, with Tom O’Neil, Ethan Friberg, and Jacob Silva all making plays that kept Attleboro from gaining more traction offensively.
Also, the North offense finally found a way to complete a drive. The Rocketeers marched 77 yards on 11 plays to cut into the lead. DeMattio led the way, with help from Tommy Whalen and a 27-yard run up the gut by Silva. Attleboro forced fourth an 10 after pressure by Trainor Sherck and a breakup by Adam Pearlstein, but then Demattio scrambled for 12 yards to keep the possession alive.
DeMattio added 16 more on a quarterback draw to get to the Attleboro four and two plays later Jared Penta took a jet sweep over the left side for a three-yard score to make it 13-7 with a minute left before the break.
“We gave up two touchdowns in the first five plays of the game and that’s been the story of our season,” said North coach Don Johnson. “We give up too many easy ones like that and all of a sudden we have to dig out of a hole.
Johnson was asked if he changed anything defensively after Attleboro’s two quick strikes and he answered, “We played a little bit of a different front, but I don’t think that was the difference. I think we just started playing a little bit better.”
The third quarter was largely a stalemate. Weir had a sack to effectively end North’s first possession of the half and Attleboro just missed out on extending the lead when Cameron was ruled to be out of bounds on a catch in the end zone on fourth and 11.
After just missing out on the touchdown, Attleboro had a chance to break the game open two plays later. Justin Daniels tipped a DeMattio pass that was picked off by Pearlstein, setting the visitors up at the North 20. The Bombardiers managed six yards on three plays and a low snap led to a missed 31-yard field goal by Colby Briggs with 9:43 to play.
Attleboro wouldn’t see the ball again for more than nine minutes.
Starting at its own 20, North took over going into the wind and put together a drive that gave it a shot at the win. Defensive MVP Isaac Gudiel stuffed Silva (nine carries, 53 yards) for a two-yard loss to force a third and 10, but then a pass interference call gave the Rocketeers a much-needed first down.
Poirier picked out Ethan Friberg for 10 yards to the 33. After a penalty backed North up five yards, Silva gained 13 on a draw. Gudiel stuffed Silva for a loss to bring up third and 11, but Poirier again had the answer with a 12-yard pass to Whalen for another first down to the nine.
Coming out of a timeout with 1:14 to play, North drew an illegal substitution penalty that backed it up to the 14, but Penta gained nine on first and goal to get the Rocketeers up to the five. Weir came flying through on second down, dropping Poirier for a nine-yard loss and forcing North into its final timeout with 27 seconds on the clock.
On third and goal, Strachan made amends for allowing an earlier completion by jumping the route and picking off a pass two yards deep in the end zone to end the game and bring Hilda back to Attleboro.
“I was on him because he missed the play before,” joked Coach Strachan about his son’s game-clinching play, “so they ran the same route and he undercut it and it was good.”
When asked about how much winning on Thanksgiving means, Strachan added, “It’s huge. We battled injuries just like everyone else has, but this was a big game for the program. Like I said to the kids, these games mean something and these kids responded.”
Mansfield, 46 @ Attleboro, 7 – Final 1st Quarter: (M) Cincere Gill 59-yard rush, Michael DeBolt XP good; (A) Jason Weir 15-yard pass to Ethan Cameron, Colby Briggs XP good; (M) Nick Marciano 59-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
2nd Quarter: (M) C. Gill 29-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good; (M) Jack Moussette 16-yard pass to N. Marciano, M. DeBolt; (M) Michael DeBolt 10-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good; (M) M. DeBolt 41-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (M) Vinnie Holmes 47-yard rush, M. DeBolt 2pt rush.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Taunton, 1 vs. Durfee, 1 – Final
Franklin, 2 @ Sharon, 0 – Final – Chloe Barca and Sabrina Addi both scored off corners from Carly Alston to lift Franklin to a road win. Breanna Atwood made three saves to keep the clean sheet, while Sharon keeper Cass Barbera made a dozen saves to help keep the Eagles in the game.
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.
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.
Game of the Week – Football
Franklin, 37 @ Attleboro, 7 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 28-yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) Safety; (F) T. Gasbarro 4-yard pass to Cole Lakatos, P. Cheuvront XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 2-yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 1-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good.
4th Quarter: (F) J. Nally 10-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) Jason Weir 2-yard pass to Ethan Cameron, Colby Briggs XP good.
Canton, 18 @ North Attleboro, 0 – Final
Stoughton, 14 @ Milford, 10 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (M) CJ Cerrella 37-yard field goal; (S) John Burke 34-yard pass to Jake Queeney, Anthony Girolamo XP good.
3rd Quarter: (M) Colby Pires 2-yard pass to Luke Rosa, C. Cerrella XP good; (S) Christopher Ais 5-yard rush, A. Girolamo XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Attleboro @ Oliver Ames, 3:00
Canton, 0 vs. Walpole, 6 – Final
Taunton, 0 @ New Bedford, 1 – Final
MILFORD, Mass. – There are different ways that a team can show resiliency. Last week, Milford kept fighting its way back on the road, not allowing Franklin to feel comfortable with its lead until the final whistle. On Saturday afternoon in its home opener against Attleboro, Milford was on the brink of putting the game away in the fourth quarter only to see Attleboro snatch momentum and tie the game.
Rather than allowing the game to slip out of their grasp, the Hawks overcame turnovers and penalties and pulled out a victory. Senior Colby Pires hit junior Carter Scudo for a 21-yard touchdown with only 1:34 remaining and Milford escaped with a 20-13 victory.
“Like I told you last week, these kids don’t quit,” said Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “They play 48 minutes of football. We practice that way, we train them that way, and the results are speaking for themselves. Our kids battle. They don’t quit.”
The Bombardiers were playing their first game of the season and struggled throughout the second half with cramps. Junior Michael Strachan (10 carries, 53 yards) was forced to leave the game due to dehydration, while senior Isaac Gudiel and junior Justin Daniels missed portions of the game on both sides of the ball.
“This was our first real test,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “You don’t get this type of action [in scrimmages] and unfortunately we need to get in better condition. We had too many cramps and that definitely hurt us.”
Trailing 13-6 in the fourth quarter and with its bench struggling to maintain any energy, Attleboro came up with a huge momentum-shifting play. Milford got the ball down to the Bombardiers’ 13 but the defense managed to pry the ball loose from running back Luke Rosa (19 carries, 106 yards). One play later, senior Ethan Cameron (four catches, 136 yards) beat man coverage on the outside and his classmate Jason Weir hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown.
Out of seemingly nowhere, just when it looked like Milford was about to put the game out of reach, the game was tied 13-13 and the visitors were filled with confidence.
After partially blocking a punt, Attleboro got the ball at the Hawks 45-yard-line, but a CJ Cerrella sack (one of five sacks by the Hawks) stalled the Attleboro possession and Xavier Hilton returned the ensuing punt 31 yards out to midfield.
“They played man the whole game and they locked up and felt like they were going to bring it and they did,” said Strachan about the Milford pass rush. “I thought we had some success running the ball early and that was our intent but then we got banged up.”
Pires (25-of-41, 266 yards) swung a pass to Max Martin, who hurdled a Bombardier and drew a personal foul penalty for it. Then a 15-yard completion to Matt Varteresian was wiped away by a holding penalty. The third play was a catch by Hilton over the middle but he couldn’t hold on to the ball and Cameron recovered the fumble.
“Fumbles and penalties are going to be our biggest corrections,” said Vizakis. “Those are mistakes that can cost you games. They took advantage of it, but we’ll get those mistakes corrected.”
Again the Milford defense held and recovered possession. A short punt gave the Hawks the ball at the 37. Pires hit Scudo (seven catches, 81 yards) for nine yards, then for six, and then he again found the junior receiver open in the heart of the Attleboro secondary and he took it in for the game-winning score.
Attleboro had one last chance and converted a fourth and 18 (caused by a Herrick Louis sack) as Weir (8-of-21, 188 yards) found Cameron open in the seam for 24 yards. But, after yet another sack (this one by Rosa), Evan “Beav” Hazard picked off Weir’s final pass to seal the win.
Strachan said, “We’re young and we have to build off it. We’re really disappointed. We thought this was a game that we had a legitimate shot to win and I think we did a lot of good things and we need to build off that.”
The visitors grabbed the lead on their first drive. Weir connected with Daniels on a 30-yard pass down the sideline to get into Milford territory and from there Strachan took over. The bruising junior running back broke runs of 13 and 16 yards to get inside the five. He punched it in from one-yard out to make it 6-0.
Following a Scudo interception at their own 11, the Hawks marched 89 yards on 12 plays, including a crucial fourth down pass interference call, to grab their first lead. Gudiel stuffed Rosa for a four-yard loss on a swing pass, but then Rosa came right back with a 16-yard gain and a five-yard touchdown up the gut.
On its next possession, Milford extended the lead. Pires hooked up with Martin for a 22-yard pass to start the drive, but then back-to-back holding calls created a first and 38. On third and 18, Pires found Martin again for 20 yards and the first down to the Attleboro 13. Martin (seven catches, 105 yards) was drilled by Nolan Jaeger on the play, the second time that happened in as many drives, and Vizakis rewarded Martin by giving him the ball at the one and he scored on a jet sweep.
“A testament to his toughness,” Vazakis explained. “We knew when we were down there that there’s one guy that needed to finish the drive and it was Max. I’m so proud of him, offensively and defensively. Just a tough, selfless individual.”
Milford (1-1) will get a week off before opening its league campaign at Sharon. Attleboro (0-1) will have its home opener next Saturday afternoon against Dartmouth.
Game of the Week – Football
Attleboro, 13 @ Milford, 20 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (A) Michael Strachan 1-yard rush, XP no good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Luke Rosa 5-yard rush, CJ Cerrella XP good; (M) Max Martin 1-yard rush, XP no good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (A) Jason Weir 87-yard pass to Ethan Cameron, Colby Briggs XP good; (M) Colby Pires 21-yard pass to Carter Scudo, C. Cerrella XP good.
Franklin, 28 @ Andover, 25 – Final 1st Quarter: (A) Josh Ramos 1-yard rush, XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 8-yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good. (F) T. Gasbarro 15-yard pass to J. Davis, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) Shamus Florio 31-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 20-yard pass to J. Davis, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) J. Ramos 16-yard rush, J. Ramos 2pt rush.
4th Quarter: (A) J. Ramos rush, XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 38-yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good.
Oliver Ames, 20 vs. Concord Carlisle, 21 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery of this game. 1st Quarter: (OA) Nathan Cabral 5-yard rush, 2pt rush failed; (CC) Christian Gemelli 49-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (CC) C. Gemelli 5-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good; (OA) N. Cabral 8-yard rush, 2pt rush failed.
4th Quarter: (CC) Cam Ladd 3-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good; (OA) Cam Perron 18-yardpass to Adam Cann, N. Cabral 2pt rush good.
Oliver Ames, 2 @ West Bridgewater, 0 – Final – Oliver Ames turned 17 penalty corners into 25 shots on net, mustering two first half goals to beat West Bridgewater. Haley Gilman put the Tigers ahead 1-0 on an assist from Maggie Woods less than two minutes into the game. Cassie Gennis scored on a penalty corner from Ellie Waters just before the midway point of the first half to make it 2-0.
Attleboro got off to a strong start to the 2018 season, jumping out to a 4-1 record with its only loss coming against eventual D2 South champ King Philip, and allowing only five points per game. But a last-minute loss in a shootout against Mansfield and a fourth quarter comeback by Franklin the following week sparked a six-game losing streak to close out the season. The Bombardiers come into 2019 looking to turn that around and use its experience to make a run at the Kelley-Rex title.
Offensively, the Bombardiers will be led by senior quarterback Jason Weir. At a bruising 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Weir is a punishing runner and has a big arm to make plays downfield in the passing game. Junior Justin Daniels will be the starting tailback with senior Isaac Guidel and a big offensive line trying to open holes for the running game, led by senior Qualeem Charles (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds), who has a host of colleges recruiting him. Senior Ethan Cameron will provide a weapon on the outside, while junior Michael Strachan offers another threat over the middle from his tight end position.
Charles will dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball as well, but the strength of the Attleboro defense will be its experienced linebacker corps. Strachan, a three-year starter who is getting looks from some Div. I colleges, will be joined by Guidel and senior Nolan Jaeger. Weir will play strong safety, after two seasons at defensive end, and will be counted on to step in to help stop the run. Cameron will be at free safety and giving the cornerbacks help over the middle. Attleboro has a large contingent of sophomores who could step in to contribute right away, including Alvin Harrison, Chris Leonardo, Adam Pearlstein, and Freddy Wheaton.
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “We are looking forward to the season getting underway and with the leadership of our four captains we are looking to be explosive on offense and very physical defensively. The Hockomock League is one of the best leagues in the state with some great teams. We will have to play our very best each week if we are going to compete at a high level.”
Franklin nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2018 season when the Panthers forced perennial power Xaverian to double overtime in the Div. 1 South semifinal. It was a big step forward for the program and head coach Eian Bain hopes it will be a building block for even more success in 2019.
Offensively, the graduation of quarterback Nick Gordon will be a big loss for the Panthers but senior Thomas Gasbarro saw a lot of time under center last year and he will step in and take the starting job. Gasbarro will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as the Panthers have plenty of speedy, athletic players in the skill positions. Senior Jack Nally is a threat out of the backfield or split out wide and his classmate Jake Davis is a solid receiver over the middle or downfield. Senior Matt Lazarek is a potential target from the tight end position and Owen Palmieri is another dangerous ball carrier. Junior Parker Cheuvront emerged last season as one of the top kickers in the Hock and is another weapon that the Panthers can count on if a drive does stall.
The defense is an experienced group. Senior Evan Wertz has been one of the league’s tackle leaders for the past two seasons and he is the team’s top playmaker from his linebacker position. Nally, Davis, Palmieri, and senior Ben Greco give Franklin a tough secondary to throw against and all are capable of coming up with the big turnover to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Luke Cunningham and Dom Natale will give the Panthers strength at the line of scrimmage.
“The challenge for this group is to continue to improve and build the program,” said Bain. “They need to add their own chapter and their own stamp on the program. We have the right people in the room. We need to play with the swagger and confidence of a contender, but be humble in our preparation. If we stay true to the process, we have great potential.”
Despite not winning the league title last year, the target on King Philip’s back continues to grow.
The Warriors might have missed out on the Kelley-Rex crown, but they won their third straight sectional title and made their this straight appearance in the state final, this time falling to North Andover (6-0). While this year’s senior class knows other than Super Bowl appearances, head coach Brian Lee says this group is focused on taking it one game, starting with the opener against North Attleboro. KP has a strong core of players back on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback Robbie Jarest and running back Ryan Halliday. Both players had really strong junior seasons and should be the leaders of the group this year. The offensive line includes returners Nolan Gunning (left tackle), Sean Piller (center), and Pat Zarba (right guard) while Wyatt Manzi, Jack Collentro, and Griffin MacKay are in the mix to fill the remaining spots. Having an experienced line bodes well for the KP run game that will heavily feature Ryan Halliday plus fullback Shawn Conniff and halfbacks Sam Callanan and Crawford Cantave.
The Warriors’ defense has been one of the best units in the state in recent years, and while the expectations remain high for the group, there will be a lot of new faces. KP graduated its entire secondary so the Warriors are turning to senior Brian Wasserug and Cantave, a sophomore, to take on starting spots. Halliday and Callanan, both captains, will handle outside linebacker duties with Mike Malatesta in the mix for the middle spot. Gunning and Manzi will also see action on the defensive line alongside Conniff. Dillon Conti takes over kicking duties for the departed Cole Baker.
“These kids know how much work, how much effort it takes to get where we want to be,” Lee said. “But it’s all about going game by game, starting this week with a team [North Attleboro] that we have a ton of respect for.”
Looking at the long list of returning players, it is no surprise that expectations around Alumni Field are sky high this fall. Mansfield enters the season with experience at just about every position and with the bitter taste of last year’s South final loss to rival King Philip still stinging. Despite a rash of injuries that forced running back Aidan Sacco to play as an emergency quarterback for most of the season, Mansfield still won a league title and this year’s team may be even more talented, which has ramped up the hype and put the target squarely on the Hornets’ backs.
The line of scrimmage will be a strength for the Hornets on the offensive side of the ball, as they return four of five starters from last year’s unit that allowed the team to rush for more than 2,600 yards. Senior Jason Comeau and reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year TJ Guy will be two key cogs in the line, while senior Noah Jellenik and junior Jake McCoy are also back. Senior Andrew Cowles will step into the fifth spot. They will seek to protect senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who had a cameo under center last year before an injury forced him to miss the bulk of the season. The skill positions will be loaded with athletes. Cincere Gill had a breakout sophomore season at running back and senior Nick Marciano is back after an injury cut short his junior season. Senior Michael DeBolt was one of the top kickers in the league but also gives Mansfield another weapon on the edges, while senior Vinnie Holmes adds a bruising presence coming out of the backfield.
Holmes is the headliner on the defensive side of the ball. Along with fellow linebackers Marciano, DeBolt, and senior Joe Plath, Holmes will be expected to make big plays all over the field. The defensive line will be strong with three returning players: senior Chris Graham, McCoy, and Guy. Junior Nico Holmes will step in as the fourth man on the line. Much like on offense, speed will be a strength and the secondary is loaded with playmakers, including Gill, junior Matt Boen, and senior Makhi Baskin.
“We have a bunch of experience all over the field, but we really have to develop depth with the second team to handle a tough schedule and challenges every week,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “This is one of the fastest group of skill guys we’ve ever had and we could be explosive on offense. We lack a little size up front on defense, but we should be able to overcome that by flying around with pursuit to the ball with our speed.”
There was no question that 2018 was a tough season for the Tigers. Oliver Ames lost by a point in the season opener to Concord-Carlisle and didn’t earn its only win until the penultimate game against Durfee. The Tigers will hope to turn things around quickly with an infusion of young talent under new head coach Ed DeWitt.
On offense, the players will be learning a new system, but there is experience in the backfield to try and implement different schemes. Senior running back Nathan Cabral figures to see plenty of the ball again this year after his breakout junior season in which he ran for more than 1,100 yards. He will be joined by senior quarterback Cam Perron and senior running back Sam Stevens to give the Tigers a strong core. Seniors Harrison Webster and Adam Cann (who is coming off an injury) will give Perron weapons to utilize on the outside.
There will be a lot of new faces on the defensive side, as DeWitt can call on three or four returning starters and will need a number of players to provide contributions on both sides of the ball. The linebacking corps was particularly hit by graduations, although senior Tyler Campbell can provide some experience and leadership in that position and Cabral brings athleticism to the role. Max Anderson and Anthony DeCosta will be important at the line of scrimmage, while Stevens will step into the secondary along with senior corner Nick Gillis and junior corner Jadon Ricci.
“The competition in camp has been great,” DeWitt said. “The players have committed to the program and bought into the day to day work that we need to do. We are focusing on making sure we treat every day as an opportunity to improve and string together some positive momentum.”
The Tigers started last season with three straight wins and then finished with three wins in their final four games to end 2018 with a winning record. Taunton enters this fall with a relatively inexperienced roster, but one that is looking to continue the momentum in the program and try to push forward so it can challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division.
One of the biggest changes for the Tigers will be under center. Noah Leonard was the starter for three seasons, but junior Danny MacDougall will take over this year. MacDougall will also see time at receiver to try and take advantage of his athleticism. He will be joined in the backfield by classmates Bretton Heggs and Josh Lopes, who both got time at running back as sophomores. Juniors Kedrick Santos and Devante McPhail will be the primary weapons at receiver. Up front, the Tigers have decent size. Senior Mike Murray will be at center, senior Hussein Kassab at one tackle, junior Marquis Dalomba at the other tackle, and junior Jordan Manning at guard.
Similar to the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers lack experience on defense and are still learning the schemes, but physical scrimmages have helped prepare them for the season. Senior Woudanly Danger is a force at the line of scrimmage and will require attention from opponents and senior Jackson Wellman has been one of the team’s top tacklers from linebacker. Junior defensive end Deandre McPhail adds to the strength of the line. Senior Curt Marshall and MacDougall will be the safeties and senior Cam Carroca will be at corner.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better and to be competitive in the league,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re definitely inexperienced, but physically we have guys who can do it and we need to coach them up so they’ll be ready to go once the season gets started.”
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The North Attleboro players looked around for Hilda, the trophy awarded to the winner of this Thanksgiving rivalry, but the trophy was nowhere to be found. So, instead, the Rocketeers lifted freshman kicker and quarterback Tyler DeMattio to celebrate another win in the long-running series with Attleboro.
It was fitting that DeMattio’s teammates would lift him up after the game, since he stepped up in the second half and propelled North to the victory.
In his first snaps as varsity quarterback, DeMattio scored three touchdowns and accounted for all of North’s points on Thursday morning at a bitterly cold Tozier-Cassidy Field, sparking North to a come from behind 20-7 win over the Bombardiers.
“Tyler is a talented player, who has had a great year as a freshman and we’ve been watching him all along and felt like he was the next best available quarterback, so got him ready,” said North coach Don Johnson about DeMattio stepping in for the second half. He joked that DeMattio was North’s “secret weapon” and agreed that he was the “spark” that the Rocketeers needed.
Attleboro came close to adding to its 7-0 halftime lead on its first possession of the second half. Justin Cote (24 carries, 114 yards) and Jason Weir (14 carries, 95 yards) continued to find seams in the North defense and moved the ball down to the Rocketeers eight, using up almost the entire third quarter in the process.
DeMattio took over from sophomore quarterback Matt Penta (nine carries, 43 yards), who replaced Nick Raneri as the starter following Raneri’s shoulder injury against Duxbury. After a pair of keepers, the freshman dropped back and heaved a ball down field. It avoided a group of Attleboro defenders and fell into the hands of Ryan Gaumond, who raced the rest of the way to the end zone for an 85-yard score that tied the game with just 59 seconds left in the third.
“That was the momentum changer no question,” said Johnson. “That was a pop-up thrown by the freshman but that’s pretty good that your first varsity pass is a touchdown on Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter what it looks like.”
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “The catch that Gaumond made in the wind, I think that turned the game for us. It really did and DeMattio gave them a spark.”
Attleboro’s next possession ended with a turnover. Brendan McHugh (nine carries, 38 yards) took advantage of a slip by Michael Strachan and picked off Weir’s pass to get the ball back at the Attleboro 30. Three keepers later and DeMattio slipped through the middle of the Bombardiers defense for a seven-yard score and the lead.
The game had turned around for the visitors in just three minutes.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” Strachan said, “we just got away from a few things, fundamentally, in the second half and I think DeMattio did a good job.”
The Bombardiers had a chance to tie the game. After a Strachan carry, Attleboro was as close as the North four-yard-line, but Duane Bryant got into the backfield and stuffed Cote for a six-yard loss on third down. On fourth and nine, Cote’s pass to Ethan Cameron was tipped aside by Bryan Engler.
“A couple turnovers down inside and we just can’t do that,” said Strachan. “I said turnovers would play a big part in this and ended up being a huge part of it in the end.”
North still needed a first down to seal the win. The Rocketeers got that and a lot more, as DeMattio broke through the middle and raced 90 yards for his third touchdown of the game and the cue for the Attleboro crowd to head to its cars.
“They were running Weir on the quarterback follows, so we had trouble with that, and Cote was doing a great job bouncing the powers outside and we weren’t getting good force,” said Johnson about the change North made defensively in the second half. It was mentioned that the defensive line, led by Kummer and Davenport division MVP Ryan Clemente, dominated after the break and Johnson responded, “They did, but I thought the secondary did a good job coming up and making plays in the run game.”
Attleboro was on its heels at the start of the game, as North drove into the wind all the way to the Bombardiers 10. On first and goal, the Rocketeers fumbled the hand-off and Raneri dove on the ball for a loss of two. Penta was stopped by a host of Bombardiers on second down, including Nick Evans, and gained only one. Isaac Guidel pressured Penta into an incomplete pass on third down and then the fourth down pass to McHugh was inches out of the back of the end zone.
“It was disappointing, I think it would’ve changed the complexion of the game,” said Johnson of the first drive. “But, give Attleboro credit, they played good defense and stopped us.”
The Bombardiers flipped the momentum by driving down field and taking the lead. Cote gained 18 yards on a third-down toss to the left and Weir broke free for 44 yards on a pair of keepers to get inside the North five. Cote punched it in from two yards out to make it 7-0.
The teams traded turnovers for the remainder of the half. Desmond Woodson recovered a fumble, but Attleboro went three-and-out to give it back. Then Cameron picked off a Penta pass, only for Engler to intercept a Weir pass inside the 10. Weir got the ball back with a fumble recovery just before halftime to keep the Bombardiers in the lead at the break.
North Attleboro closes the season at 8-3 and won its 61st game in the series, which had its 98th Thanksgiving Day installment on Thursday. Attleboro closes the season at 4-7.
Attleboro, 24 @ Franklin, 31 – Final 1st Quarter: (F) Nick Gordon 2-yard rush, Parker Chevront XP good; (A) Justin Cote 83-yard kick return, Colby Briggs XP good.
2nd Quarter: (A) Jason Weir 1-yard rush, C. Briggs XP good; (F) P. Chevront 31-yard field goal; (A) C. Briggs 35-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (A) J. Weir 10-yard pass to Ethan Cameron, C. Briggs XP good; (F) N. Gordon 55-yard pass to Marcus Quintina, P. Chevront XP good.
4th Quarter: (F) N. Gordon 11-yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Chevront XP good; (F) N. Gordon 52-yard pass to J. Nally, P. Chevront XP good.
Foxboro, 17 @ Sharon, 8 – Final
Taunton, 7 @ King Philip, 24 – Final
Mansfield, 36 @ Oliver Ames, 8- Final 1st Quarter: (M) Michael DeBolt 5-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
2nd Quarter: (M) V. Holmes 7-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good; (M) Aidan Sacco 12-yard pass to Khristian Conner, M. DeBolt XP good; (M) V. Holmes 6-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
3rd Quarter: (OA) Nathan Cabral 5-yard rush, Cam Perron conversion pass to Darnele Ryan.
4th Quarter: (M) Conner Smith 23-yard pass to Shane Downey, Aridan Archambault 2-point rush good.
Milford, 18 @ Stoughton, 15 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (S) John Burke 26-yard pass to Alex Iverson, Josh Cocchi XP good; (M) Colby Pires 1-yard pass to Shapel Feaster, XP blocked.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (M) C. Pires 16-yard pass to Brendan White, 2-pt conversion no good; (S) Christopher Ais 12-yard rush, J. Burke conversion pass to Malachi Green-Hightower; (M) Ryan Pearl 1-yard rush, XP no good.
King Philip, 0 @ Attleboro, 0 – Final
Stoughton, 2 @ Foxboro, 6 – Final – Stoughton scored a pair of first half goals but Foxboro had four straight unanswered goals to pick up a win on the road. The Black Knights opened the scoring in the 16th minute but headed into halftime down 3-2, after being tied 2-2 late in the half. Foxboro added three more goals in the second half. Joe Cusack had four assists and Shane VandenBoom added a pair of goals and an assist to pace the Warriors. Dylan Barreira, Ronnie MacLellan, and Max Beigel all scored once while Nic Beigel had an assists. Stoughton freshman Dante Eschleman scored on a free kick to put the Knights up 1-0. Senior Carter Gerome also scored his first career goal for the Black Knights, assisted by Ryan Reis.
Franklin, 3 @ Taunton, 1 – Final – Franklin built a 1-0 lead at half, doubled that advantage in the second half, and walked away with a 3-1 decision to qualify for the state tournament. Nick Barry opened the scoring on an assist from Donny Tappin to give the Panthers a lead by halftime. Tim Duval and Lucas Moura scored second half goals for Franklin.
Mansfield, 1 @ Oliver Ames, 0 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. Mansfield senior Ethan Brill-Cass scored game-winner in the 78th minute to give the Hornets a win and at least a share of the Kelley-Rex division title. After a long throw from Dylan Buchanan, Oliver Ames’ clearance was knocked down by a partial block from a Mansfield player. Brill-Cass latched onto the loose ball and placed it into the far corner for the winner.
Milford, 0 @ North Attleboro, 0 – Final – Both teams had chances to find the back of the net but didn’t convert as North, Milford settled for their second draw of the season. Kyle Briere made three saves for the Rocketeers while Tiago Carvalho and Lucas Da Silva had strong games for the Hawks.
Attleboro, 6 @ King Philip, 0 – Final – KP broke the game open with five goals in the second half. Avery Snead scored a hat trick and had an assist for the Warriors. Snead opened the scoring off an assist by Chloe Layne in the first half. Snead doubled the lead with a penalty kick in the second half and then assisted on a Layne goal. Ally Stanton made it 4-0 from Layne and then Layne assisted on Snead’s third. Layne wrapped up the scoring with her second goal (and fourth point) off an assist by Molly MacDonald.
Foxboro, 8 @ Stoughton, 1 – Final – Jordyn Collins had two goals and two assists for the unbeaten Warriors, who maintain their lead at the top of the Davenport division. Mackenzi Fraser had two goals and an assist, Kailee McCabe had a pair of goals, Aislinn Serveas scored her first goal of the season (assisted by Katie Huether), and Lizzy Davis chipped in with a goal as well.
Taunton, 0 @ Franklin, 4 – Final – Anna Balkus scored twice and Calen Frongillo had a pair of assists to lift Franklin to a big win to keep pace with league-leading Mansfield. Sydney St. Marie and Bridgette Ginley also scored goals for the Panthers. Hailey Toolin and Kaylee DeSimone each had assists. Franklin goalie Breanna Atwood made three saves for the clean sheet.
North Attleboro, 3 @ Milford, 1 – Final – Juliana France opened the scoring for Milford, but Kayla Pasquel answered with a 20-yard strike to tie the game at 1-1. In the second half, Alex Moulson scored off a pass from Lydia Santos for what turned out to be the game-winner and Ashlyn Gaulin, who assisted on North’s first goal, scored off a Pasquel assist to seal the two points. With a goal and assist on Friday, Gaulin moved into third on North’s career scoring list with 82 points.
Oliver Ames, 1 @ Mansfield, 4 – Final – Bryn Anderson scored a pair of goals to keep Mansfield in first place in the division. Maria Sevastos and Kerina Geminiani also scored goals for the Hornets, while Katie Garvin, Steph Kemp, and Kaylee Smith all recorded assists in the win. Allison Evin scored for Oliver Ames.
Attleboro, 4 @ Bishop Feehan, 0 – Final – Alex Compton and Anna Beck each scored twice for the Bombardiers against their cross-town rivals, while Shea Harrison made 14 stops to earn the shutout.
Sharon, 0 vs. Norwell, 3 – Final
Stoughton, 3 vs. Brockton, 2 – Final – Stoughton broke a tie game inside the final five minutes of the game to earn a win over the Boxers. Alanna McCormick scored the game winner with 4:40 left, while Haley Nelson scored Stoughton’s first two goals.
Taunton, 3 vs. New Bedford, 0 – Final – Taunton took a 1-0 lead into halftime and then scored two late goals to secure the win over visiting New Bedford. Cierra Bartel, Caitlin Connors, and Kennedy Thielker each scored once for the Tigers.
King Philip, 0 @ Needham, 3 – Final – King Philip suffered a 3-0 (18-25, 15-25, 16-25) setback on the road at Needham. Kristen Masse led the offense with eight kills while Nicole Coughlan had seven kills for the Warriors. Shayla Weitzman finished with 10 digs.
North Attleboro, 2 @ Mansfield, 3 – Final – Mansfield overcame a 2-1 deficit, winning the final two sets to prevail 3-2 (3-25, 25-19, 25-27, 25-21, 15-12) in a non-league win over North Attleboro. “It was a great team effort by the whole team,” said Mansfield head coach Melissa Heeden. Abby Sullivan has 18 service points with half of those coming in the fifth set to help the Hornets each the win. Greenly Kelly added 12 kills and four blocks, Olivia McGrath had 11 kills, had Katie Dardinski finished with 15 service points and five digs for Mansfield. For North Attleboro, Brooke Street had a great defensive game while Grace Munley had a strong game at the net with four blocks.
Milford, 3 @ Nipmuc, 0 – Final
Stoughton, 3 @ Brockton, 2 – Final – In one of the tightest matches of the season, Stoughton avenged a five-set loss to the Boxers from earlier in the season with a 3-2 (26-24, 27-25, 23-25, 17-25, 16-14) win on the road. Molly Turner led the Stoughton offense with 18 kills while Delaney Nagel added 14. Amaya Morris recorded nine blocks and Mia Bennett was strong on defense with 38 digs.
Taunton, 3 vs. Coyle & Cassidy, 2 – Final
Franklin, 160 @ Oliver Ames, 150 – Final – In the final dual match of the season, Oliver Ames knocked off Franklin to earn a share of the Kelley-Rex title with the Panthers. Nolan Donze led the way with a 35, both Liam Barry and Justin Shapiro fired rounds of 38, and Thomas Walsh chipped in with a 39.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – All the build-up to Friday night’s Kelley-Rex division title showdown at Alumni Field presumed that Mansfield and Attleboro were going to slug it out in a defensive battle with points difficult to come by. It turned out to be the exact opposite.
Senior Khristian Conner scored with 32 seconds remaining in the game to give Mansfield the edge over the Bombardiers 42-35 and clinch the Hornets at least a share of the league title. It is Mansfield’s first division championship since 2013.
“It means everything,” said Conner about getting back on top in the league. “We worked hard over the summer for it. We just kept with it, didn’t let anything stop us and we just got the win. It feels amazing. It feels awesome.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding added, “This was an unbelievable high school football game. They came to play, they answered every time we had the momentum. Thank god we answered when they did.” Redding joked, “So many plays on both sides…it will be a fun one to watch; it was a tough one to coach.”
Attleboro took its only lead of the game with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. Justin Cote (seven carries, 50 yards), who had also caught a 20-yard pass on the go-ahead drive, raced up the middle for a 12-yard score that tied the game at 34-34. Two false starts pushed the extra point attempt back 10 yards but sophomore Colby Briggs was unfazed and split the uprights to put the visitors in front.
The Bombardiers had forced Mansfield to punt just twice on the night, but after Nick Evans sacked Hornets quarterback Aidan Sacco for no gain the hosts faced fourth and 10 from their own 26. Sacco (5-of-8, 111 yards) bought time and hit Cincere Gill for 28 yards over the middle. The sophomore, who rushed for three touchdowns on the night, was covered but managed to pull in the pass to keep the game alive.
Sacco (nine carries, 79 yards) rushed for nine yards and then broke free on a keeper to the left sideline for 26 yards and got out of bounds at the Attleboro 11. On the next play, Conner completed the comeback by finding a seam right up the gut for the score.
“They’re a really good team – good defensive team, good on offense – and they have great players but we just had to fight through it to be the better team,” Conner said.
Attleboro’s offense had found ways to come back all game long, but with only 32 seconds, there just wasn’t enough time to get up the field and a pass to Cote for four yards on fourth and 10 ended the game.
“Our offense played really, really well,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “Weir played awesome, it was just back-and-forth. We could definitely win the game, we just didn’t give him enough time at the end.”
Both offenses were able to move the ball from the opening kick-off. Mansfield took its opening possession 56 yards on seven plays to get a quick lead. Gill finished off the drive with a seven-yard sweep.
The Bombardiers returned the favor with a 12-play, 75-yard drive on its first possession. Attleboro surprised the Hornets by going to the air with greater frequency than usual and junior Jason Weir (18-29, 251 yards) had a big night, hitting nine different receivers. After catching a halfback pass from Ethan Cameron (five catches, 69 yards), Weir capped the drive with a three-yard toss to Jacob Weatherford.
Mansfield got the lead back late in the second quarter when Sacco threw a 26-yard strike to Conner, who had gotten wide open in the front corner of the end zone. Attleboro answered right back, as Weir connected with sophomore Justin Daniels to make it 14-14 with 2:28 left in the half.
That was plenty of time for Mansfield to add another touchdown. Sacco got the Hornets to the Attleboro 31 and then Gill broke free for his second score of the night. He cut back on a sweep, finding a hole in the middle of the line and exploding through it.
“He’s special and I think we have a very good running back,” Redding said of Gill. “Vinnie [Holmes] had some decent runs, but they were bottling us up inside and Khristian ran hard, Cincere ran hard, Aidan had some nice runs and throws and just doing enough to overcome some injuries.”
Even with just a minute on the clock, Attleboro was able to get the ball into the red zone again and had a touchdown called back when the officials ruled Weir had cross the line of scrimmage before he threw. Makhi Baskin picked off the final throw of the half. Coming out of the break, the Bombardiers got the ball again, but on the first play Weir was stripped of the ball and Holmes recovered for the Hornets at the Attleboro 23.
Mansfield took advantage of the short field and Sacco got on the board with an 11-yard keeper to make it 28-14. It felt like the Hornets were about to break the game wide open. Instead, Attleboro came right back down field and cut the lead to one score. A 13-play, 75 yard drive ended on a one-yard sneak by Weir to make it 28-21.
The track meet continued on Mansfield’s next possession. Sacco hit Conner for a 26-yard completion to get into Attleboro territory. Four plays later, on fourth and two from the 21, Gill took another sweep around the end and broke free, adding his third touchdown of the night. Attleboro would give itself a lifeline by blocking Michael DeBolt’s extra point attempt, but it was a 13-point Mansfield lead.
Attleboro made it a quick response. Weir got the ball out to the sideline to Kevin Velazquez-Rivera, who then turned up field and showed off his speed for a 45-yard touchdown. Evans made a huge stop on third and five, stuffing Sacco for a four-yard loss and forcing a rare Mansfield punt.
The Bombardiers came right back, with Weir connecting with Cameron on a fourth down pass to the near sideline that kept the drive going. After a 20-yard completion to Cote, the senior running back took it himself, going straight up the middle for the 12-yard TD. Briggs held his nerve to put Attleboro in front and on the verge of arguably the program’s biggest win since its move to the Hock.
But, Mansfield showed that it has some grit as well. The Hornets found a way to pull out the victory and will go into the final week of the regular season with a chance to clinch the title outright.
“These games just always seem to go back-and-forth,” Strachan said. “We’ve just got to bounce back against Franklin and play well. I thought we did a good job; they’ve got athletes everywhere, you’ve got to defend everything.”
Redding noted that the Hornets lost a pair of seniors, Chris Copponi and Daenin Walker, to injuries. He said, “We’ve had adversity every week but still find a way to beat an awfully good football team.”
Mansfield (5-1, 4-0) will travel to Oliver Ames next week to try and close out a perfect league campaign and potentially take the top spot in Div. 2 South. Attleboro (4-2, 2-2) will try to bounce back and possibly secure a first round home game in the Div. 1 South tournament with a trip to Franklin.