Dominant Defense Carries Mansfield to D2 Super Bowl

Mansfield football
Mansfield celebrates the Div. 2 South title and a berth in the Super Bowl after a 22-3 win against Natick in the sectional final. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NATICK, Mass. – As the celebrations took place all around him at Natick’s Memorial Field, Mansfield coach Mike Redding was able to smile and joke about the old adage that an ugly win is so much better than a beautiful loss. That counts double this time of the year.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Hornets racked up nearly 100 yards in penalties, had three first half drives stall inside the red zone, and didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of Friday night’s Div. 2 South title game, but still walked away with a 22-3 road win against top seed, and previously unbeaten, Natick.

It was the defense that carried Mansfield to its first Super Bowl since 2013. The Hornets allowed only 45 rushing yards, six yards passing, had three sacks, and held Natick to only two first downs on the night. Both first downs came on one drive in the first half, and one came by way of a penalty.

“As sophomores they lost in the semis, lost last year in the finals, this year we get there and win it, so every year they just go a step further,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said of his senior class. “They’ve overcome a lot of stuff, injuries, and it’s a great group and it will be a lot of fun taking them to Gillette. I told them they’ve been through a lot but it’s all worth it when you walk down the ramp at Gillette Stadium.”

Senior running back and linebacker Vinnie Holmes (18 carries, 131 yards) added, “This just means the world to everyone. We’ve just worked so hard for this. Winter, spring, in the weight room, we just knew that this was our goal. We wanted to get to Gillette and that’s exactly what we did.”

On its second possession of the game, Mansfield started to move the ball. Jack Moussette (6-of-11, 64 yards) hit Cincere Gill for a perfectly executed 16-yard completion to the near sideline on third down to jumpstart the drive. Gill (seven carries, 41 yards) then weaved his way for 17 to the far sideline and Michael DeBolt (six carries, 41 yards) added 10 more to the Natick 14.

A chop block penalty backed the Hornets up and, despite a completion and a draw play to Holmes making it a manageable third and four, the Natick defense held firm. DeBolt booted the Hornets into the lead with a 26-yard kick.

The hosts answered right back. Natick started at its own 40 and two plays later were given a boost on a 15-yard penalty to reach the Mansfield 37. Two five-yard runs, including one by quarterback Will Lederman, who had missed the last four games with a knee injury and wasn’t expected to start the final, and an offsides call made it first and five at the 22.

Holmes stuffed a play for a three-yard loss and a pair of incomplete passes forced Natick into a 41-yard field goal by Sam Waltzman to tie the game. It was as close to the end zone as the Redhawks would get all night.

Mansfield again marched into the red zone in the second quarter but an illegal push call backed them off the goal line and a hold backed them up to the 13. In the end, DeBolt was forced to come on and get Mansfield three more with a 21-yard kick.

Natick fumbled the ensuing kick and Mansfield appeared to recover it, but the officials ruled that the ball went out of bounds first. Lederman nearly hit Nick Ofodile on a bomb on the first play but it was dropped. Nico Holmes and TJ Guy stuffed the next play for no gain and on third down Everett Knowlton pressured Lederman into an incompletion.

Vinnie Holmes broke free for the first time on a 53-yard run to get the Hornets to the 32. After a nine-yard pass from Mousette to Danny Rapoza, Mansfield had first and 10 at the 17. Moussette tried two passes to the corner but both fell incomplete and DeBolt came out again to kick a 28-yard field goal and make it 9-3 at the half.

“We moved the ball but just couldn’t finish,” Redding explained. “They’ve got some big dudes and once we got in the red zone, they know we’re not going to throw and it just got tough and then we shoot ourselves in the foot with all the penalties. It felt like at the half we should’ve been up 14, 17-3.”

On the opening drive of the second half, Mansfield was struck by a controversial penalty on Gill. The junior running back was ruled out for the rest of the night, but Redding saw the ejection as adding even more fuel to his team’s second half push.

“I thought it was unwarranted,” he said, “but it rallied the troops for sure and emotionally everybody stepped up and everybody got more physical. Backs were running hard and it was like, this is our game and we’re going to take it.”

Late in the third quarter, Mansfield appeared to convert a third and 14 on a screen pass to Holmes only to have it called back on a penalty. On the next play, Mousette connected with Nick Marciano for a sliding, 15-yard grab. Facing fourth and one, Marciano gained eight on a draw play to keep things moving. Marciano (nine carries, 41 yards) got the call again at the three, running the wildcat and finding a hole on the right side for a touchdown.

“We couldn’t punch one in, settled for three field goals,” said Holmes about Mansfield offense. “In the locker room we were just saying we need to punch this next one in. We need to punch it in and that puts us in a good position to win.”

Chris Graham sacked Lederman to start the next drive and then he and Holmes pressured the quarterback into an incompletion for a three-and-out. Mansfield’s offensive line and running game seemed to have worn down the Natick defense. Holmes and Marciano combined for nine plays and 53 yards, with Holmes breaking an 11-yard rush, to make it 22-3 with just 4:45 to play.

“Defense played great all night,” said Holmes. “Everyone just played their hearts out, played with enthusiasm. It was a great game.”

The Hornets continued to make plays defensively. Graham got his second sack of the night, then combined with Nico Holmes to stuff Natick running back Jalyn Aponte for no gain. On third down, Nick Bertolino stepped up from his cornerback position to make a big hit and a fake punt came up short.

“Oh my God, it’s crazy,” said Graham following the trophy celebration. “It’s great to be able to go back to Gillette. We wanted it so bad, we’ve been working so hard, trying so hard. Every morning in the summer we were up early in the weight room.”

He added, “When we got into the locker room on Monday, we had a note taped on the locker that a Natick player said we weren’t going to score one point on them. That their defense was too god. Well, we came out 22-3.”

Mansfield (9-1) will take on North champion Lincoln-Sudbury in the D2 Super Bowl at Gillette the weekend of Dec. 7. The date and time of the state title game has not been set.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Hornets Swarm Past King Philip Into D2 South Final

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Mansfield senior quarterback Jack Moussette throws a past in the first quarter against King Philip. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The past two seasons, the Mansfield football team has had its hopes of competing for a state championship dashed by rival King Philip.

The Hornets weren’t going to let that happen again this year.

Mansfield senior quarterback Jack Moussette tossed four touchdowns in one of his best performances of the season and junior Cincere Gill accounted for four total scored to help the Hornets roll to a 34-6 win over #3 King Philip.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I was just trying to make the most of my opportunities,” said Moussette, who completed 12-of-17 passes for 230 yards. “We run the ball the majority of the time but Coach Redding told me ‘I trust you, go out there and do your thing tonight.’ I just tried to do the best I could. We had a great game on the ground and in the air, it was overall a great team win, I’m really proud of the guys. The offensive line stepped up big when we needed them too.”

While the Hornets have won the past two regular season meetings (28-27 in 2018, 15-13 this season), the Warriors have been the ones with the last laugh. KP knocked off Mansfield 13-11 in the semifinals in 2017 and celebrated with the D2 South trophy on Alumni Field last season after a 10-7 triumph.

“We’ve won the last two regular season games to win the league title but back-to-back losses, when you’re this close to Gillette…the guys have been waiting a year for another chance,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “We got the monkey off the back in the league, the playoff thing was like a gorilla on our back. It would have been another long year if we blew this one. But being home, being healthy for a change in the playoffs has made a difference. We’re doing it in all three phases right now and with confidence.

“Every year we play them we seem to get seven and get stuck. Last year in the playoffs, we got seven early and didn’t score. This year we got seven and didn’t score until the end. We harped on that, get to 14, get the 14-point lead, build off that. Tonight we got more than that which is great but extending the lead was critical.”

Mansfield made it clear early on that repeating that feat would be a tough task. After a punt and a red zone turnover, the Hornets got on the board on their third series.

Moussette hit Danny Rapoza (three catches, 58 yards) for 32 yards on first down, and four plays later, used play action before connecting with Gill (five catches, 107 yards, three touchdowns) out in the flat and the junior used his speed to race inside the pylon for a 7-0 lead with 11:54 left in the second quarter.

The Hornets’ defense helped set up the next score. Nico Holmes and Chris Graham combined for a tackle for loss, and the front seven helped pressure King Philip quarterback Robert Jarest (8-for-23, 107 yards, touchdown) into a throwaway that was flagged for intentional grounding.

Stuck at their own 11, KP chose a quick kick from Jarest on third down trying to flip the field. Mansfield took over at the KP 46-yard line and quickly cashed in. Gill faked outside to shake his defender and Moussette delivered a pass on the mark for a 46-yard touchdown with 9:19 left in the second quarter.

“It’s a lot of people to cover and I think their quarterback has come along,” said King Philip coach Brian Lee. “He’s the one piece that’s the difference for them right now. He’s getting better and better, it was tough. It’s a lot to defend, and on a short field, you’re asking for trouble.”

Makhi Baskin broke up a third down pass on KP’s next drive and the Hornets took over at their own 32-yard line with 7:12 left to play in the half. Vinnie Holmes (12 carries, 70 yards) broke off a 17-yard run and Gill hauled in a 27-yard pass but Mansfield was faced with a third down when they entered the red zone.

Moussette faked to his right before dropping off a pass to the left on a screen to Everett Knowlton. Junior TJ Guy came up with a big block to spring Knowlton for an 18-yard touchdown, and Michael DeBolt’s third of four successful extra point attempts gave the hosts a 21-0 lead with 3:41 left in the quarter.

“We had a great night throwing, and I think that was the difference,” Redding said. “Jack was on, we had some good matchups with Cincere [Gill] out as a receiver, Danny [Rapoza] did a good job. I think that was the difference was our ability to throw the ball. We ran pretty well but we had to throw it.

“And our defense was lights out, and the field position was a pretty big factor with the kicking game. We fed off the field position, defense got stops. Now you can take chances on offense because you have four downs. Things went our way from the beginning.”

Mansfield nearly added more points before the break with runs from DeBolt and Nick Marciano helping get the Hornets inside the red zone. But a pass fell through a receiver’s hands in the end zone and KP sophomore Crawford Cantave snatched the interception with under a minute to play.

King Philip looked to have a bright start to the second half when Jarest connected with Alex Behling for almost 30 yards down the sideline but a holding call erased the completion and two plays later, Marciano came up with an interception to give Mansfield the ball back with good field position at the KP 23-yard line.

Four plays later, Gill took the handoff, cut up field and found the end zone with an 11-yard touchdown, and a 28-0 advantage with 7:59 left in the third quarter.

“One thing that was a little disappointing was that we got beat up, we got out-physicaled, out-played,” Lee said. “I’m not sure what was so different this time than last time but it definitely was a big difference. When they are out in front, they get on you. You have to keep it close with them. They are loaded, they have a lot of guys. They are coached well and they believe.”

The Warriors put together their best drive of the game in response. Jarest had a first down pass to Behling and Ryan Halliday (13 carries, 47 yards) barreled his way for a first down. Jarest linked up with Behling again for a 42-yard gain to get inside the red zone.

On the next play, Mansfield’s Joe Plath broke up a pass intended for KP’s Drew Danson, but the loose ball was hauled in by Andrew McKinney along the back of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown.

Sophomore Mark DeGirolamo recovered an onside kick attempt from the Warriors, and the Hornets needed just three plays to strike. DeBolt hauled in a 19-yard pass, Holmes grinded out nine yards, and Moussette connected with an open Gill for a 24-yard touchdown, and a 34-6 lead with 3:14 left in the third quarter.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We have great receivers,” Moussette said. “Cincere is unbelievable, I worked all summer with Danny Rapoza, I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the league. We have guys on the sidelines like [Joe] Cappelletti that can come in and make plays. We’re loaded with weapons and coach is doing his best to get everyone involved.

“This means the world to me. We got up in the summer every day at 5 in the morning to work out. Our main goal is to win a state title and we wanted to beat KP. We were lucky enough to do it twice this year, I couldn’t be prouder of the team. We really battled and put it all together to show everyone what we’re all about.”

Mansfield football (8-1) will play at top-seeded Natick in the D2 South Final, but the date and time have yet to be posted by the MIAA. King Philip (7-2) will enter the non-playoff pool for one week.

Friday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 11/08/19

Today’s games are listed below.

Football
D1 South

#2 Franklin, 28 vs. #3 Brockton, 14 – Final
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (B) Devonte Medley 10-yard pass to Ahmik Watterson, XP good; (F) Thomas Gasbarro 6-yard pass to Jack Nally, Parker Cheuvront XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 4-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good; (F) Owen Palmieri 32-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good.
3rd Quarter: (B) Isaiah Laguerre 68-yard touchdown, XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 62-yard pass to Cole Lakatos, P. Cheuvront XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.

D2 South
#3 King Philip, 6 @ #2 Mansfield, 34 – FinalClick here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (M) Jack Moussette 9-yard pass to Cincere Gill, Michael DeBolt XP good; (M) J. Moussette 46-yard pass to C. Gill, M. DeBolt XP good; (M) J. Moussette 18-yard pass to Everett Knowlton, M. DeBolt XP good.
3rd Quarter: (M) C. Gill 11-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good; (KP) Robert Jarest 19-yard pass to Andrew McKinney, XP failed; (M) J. Moussette 24-yard pass to C. Gill, 2pt rush failed.
4th Quarter: No scoring.

D3 South
#3 Stoughton, 12 @ #2 Duxbury, 38 – Final
1st Quarter: (S) Clayton Rahaman 72-yard pass to Jordan Emile, XP failed; (D) Will Prouty 5-yard rush, Brett Souza XP good.
2nd Quarter: (S) Oluwole Fabikun 23-yard fumble return, 2pt pass failed.
3rd Quarter: (D) B. Souza 24-yard field goal; (D) W. Prouty 1-yard rush, B. Souza XP good.
4th Quarter: (D) Tim Landolfi 1-yard rush, B. Souza XP good; (D) W. Prouty 25-yard pass to Brady Madigan, B. Souza XP good; (D) T. Landolfi 6-yard rush, B. Souza XP good.

D5 South
#4 Foxboro, 0 @ #1 Canton, 15 – FinalClick here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: (C) Safety; (C) Owen Lehane 22-yard field goal.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: O. Lehane 31-yard field goal.
4th Quarter: (C) Johnny Hagan 15-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good.

Non-playoffs
Milford, 7 @ Hopkinton, 20 – Final

Taunton, 15 @ Weymouth, 14 – FinalTaunton scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to erase a 14-point deficit, winning on the final play of the game with a two-point conversion. Josh Lopes scored on a five-yard run and Collin Knorr drilled the extra point the half the Wildcats’ lead. After a penalty on Weymouth, the Tigers had one untimed play and Lopes plunged in from one-yard out to make it 14-13. The Tigers went for the two-point conversion and the win. Danny MacDougall took a jet sweep, escaped a swarm of tackles, and fired a pass back across the field to quarterback Trent Santos for the two-point conversion and the win.

Boys Soccer
D2 South

#12 North Attleboro, 1 @ #4 Oliver Ames, 1 – Final (OA wins, 5-4 on PKs)Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game.Not much could separate the Tigers and the Rocketeers on the pitch in a D2 South quarterfinal matchup. The teams were tied 1-1 after 80 minutes of play, and then played a pair of scoreless 10-minute overtime periods to send the game to penalty kicks.

“North was outstanding today on the defensive side of the ball,” said OA head coach John Barata. “Their goalie [Kyle Briere] was simply amazing. He must have saved close to 20 shots and some were from three to six yards out. No doubt that is one of the best performances by a goalie I’ve ever seen.”

Junior Kevin Louhis finished off a cross from sophomore Mathias Taylor in the 15th minute to put Oliver Ames ahead. North Attleboro leveled the match with five minutes to go when Andrew Tolfa buried a free kick chance.

“Our boys played well and with lots of poise and control today,” Barata said. “We maintained possession of the ball on all three thirds very well and broke the lines often. However, we did not capitalize on all our opportunities. We need to find the back of the net on a few of those close range opportunities.”

In the penalty kicks, both sides converted on their first three chances. North Attleboro missed on its fourth chance but Briere came up with a save to keep it tied, and both teams scored on their fifth chance to send the game to the sudden death round of pens. Barata inserted Brendan Cross in goal for the sixth chance and North was off the mark. Junior Anthony DaCosta buried his shot into the top right corner to clinch the win. Colin Milliken, Taylor, Dillon Cupples, and Louhis converted PKs for OA.

“We are very happy,” Barata said. “Before the season started our goal was to get into the state tournament, win the Hockomock Kelley Rex and win at least one game in the tourney. At this point everything is just a bonus. We have to prepare now for the top team in the state and one of the top teams in the country. We look forward to moving on.”