TAUNTON, Mass. – Heading into Friday night’s contest against Taunton, Franklin head coach Eian Bain wanted to get as many of his skill players involved as possible to keep the Tigers’ defense guessing.
Senior quarterback Nick Gordon delivered with a near flawless performance, going 11-for-14 for 243 yards, connecting with six different receivers, and tossing four touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a dominant 42-7 win over Taunton.
Franklin was essentially perfect in the first half with Gordon completing all of his passes (7-for-7) and the team recording 254 yards of offense, scoring on all four of its drives for a 28-0 lead at the break.
“We got off to a very fast start and I thought we executed the game plan really well,” Bain said. “We try to think about players not plays so we wanted to get certain kids to touch the ball. We had a lot of different kids touch the ball tonight and that wasn’t by accident.
“Taunton does a nice job of changing up their looks, they don’t use the same coverages and fronts a lot. It’s a fun cat and mouse game to play but it’s tough. But we were ready, made some audibles, and when the run game hits, everything is easier and we had some nice runs.”
It was all Panthers from the get-go. After forcing Taunton to punt on its opening drive, Franklin needed just four plays to find the end zone. Owen Palmieri (10 carries, 50 yards) took the first play for 20 yards and the third for four more, sandwiched around a pass from Gordon to Jack Nally (75 all-purpose yards). On the fourth play, Gordon hit Ryan Driscoll (two catches, 88 yards) on a short bubble screen, and the senior got the block he needed to race for a 32-yard touchdown.
Parker Chevrant (6-for-6 extra points) drilled the point after for a 7-0 lead with 6:58 to play in the first quarter.
After another defensive stop that resulted in -5 yards for Taunton, Franklin needed just three plays this time around. On a broken play, Gordon scrambled to the left sideline and waited until the last second before linking up with Driscoll. After a nice block, Driscoll was able to cut inside and raced across the field for a 56-yard score and a 14-0 advantage with 2:59 left in the first quarter.
“We came out flat, we didn’t answer the bell at all to start the game,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “They are a good, athletic team and I know we’d have a tough matchup with them at spots defensively. I thought we might have been able to do a little more offensively but we didn’t. We had one good drive to start the second half running the ball, but we have to do that for all four quarters.
“We thought we’d be able to do some things but they did a nice job of getting the ball to their playmakers, they’re a skilled team.”
Taunton moved the ball some on its next drive but a tackle for loss from junior Austin Jordan put the Tigers in a hole and they were forced to punt. Franklin responded with its most methodical drive of the game, rattling off 10 plays to cover 50 yards. The longest play on the drive was from Gordon to Nally for 16 yards, and Palmieri finished with a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-0 with 5:31 left in the second quarter.
Franklin’s defense stuffed Taunton on a 3rd and 1 attempt to force another punt and get the ball back. And the offense wasted little time to move the ball yet again.
Nally and Gordon ripped off back-to-back runs that combined for 25 yards and then Gordon found Jake Davis in stride down the right sideline for a 45-yard touchdown and a 28-0 advantage heading into halftime.
“Keeping the offense on the field in a rhythm is a big part of it,” Bain said of his defense forcing quick three-and-outs. “Last week against KP, they had a lot of third and short opportunities. Tonight we were able to get ahead and get them into second and longs. When you can force a team to be one dimensional, it shrinks the playbook. Our staff is really good at creating different pressures. Noah is really dangerous, he can throw and run so you have to have smart pressure and I thought we did that this week.”
Taunton looked like a new team coming out in the second half, forcing its first three-and-out of the game to get the ball early in the third quarter. The Tigers offense rewarded the defense with its best drive of the game.
With a boost from senior fullback Damian Manning, who had two carries for 16 yards and one catch for five yards — two of those plays resulting in first downs, Taunton got on the board. On the eighth play of the drive, quarterback Noah Leonard used a QB sneak – with a push from Manning – to score from 1-yard out and cap an 80-yard drive to make it 28-7.
The momentum carried over to the Taunton defense, which again came up with a stop, including a big pass breakup from Curt Marshall. The Tigers got the ball back with 2:59 left in the third with a chance to make it a two-score game, but Franklin’s defense had other plans.
On third and 6, Franklin put pressure on Leonard and forced a quick throw on a screen attempt, and Taunton had to punt.
“It could have been closer there, but the defense did a nice job,” Bain said.
“We don’t scoreboard watch, we don’t care about what happened the previous drive or the previous play, we have to focus on the current play. We can’t worry that they scored the drive before, we have to make the stop on this series. That was huge for us.”
Franklin’s offense got back into gear, marching 71 yards on six plays, the big play a pass and catch from Gordon to Sean Leonard over the middle for 24 yards. Nally came across in motion and took a simple touch pass forward while on the run and went around the left edge for a 15-yard score and a 35-7 lead with 9:55 to play. It was Gordon’s fourth touchdown pass of the day.
“He’s like Ricky Bobby, he just wants to go fast,” Bain said of Gordon. “When I slow the game down in my play calling, I take away what he does well. He has that ability to go on the fly. The touchdown pass to Driscoll, the second one, that was a bad call and he made it a good one with his athleticism and vision. He does a lot of smart things too. He knows the situations and makes good decisions.”
Sean Hofferty added a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the final minutes.
Franklin football (4-2 overall, 2-2 Hockomock) returns home next Friday to take on Attleboro in what could be a potential playoff preview. Taunton (3-3, 1-3) will try to bounce back when it hits the road to take on King Philip.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – First-year Franklin head coach Kelsey Weymouth didn’t talk about her team’s chance to clinch a league title before its big showdown with King Philip, so she wasn’t quite sure if they knew.
But based on how the Panthers played, especially early, it didn’t take long to figure out how prepared they were.
“That was the best volleyball I’ve seen them play,” Weymouth said. “I wanted them to just play volleyball today, so I didn’t say anything. The first time we played KP was a competitive match, so we knew it would be even more competitive this time around. We focused our practice yesterday to gameplan for [King Philip], we tailored it to their strengths we so we’d be prepared today.
“I just told them to play to have fun and play to win, and that’s exactly what they did.”
While Franklin had a dominant showing in the first set, the Panthers had to rally past a resilient King Philip squad in the second set, and fight through a close battle in the third set to secure the 3-0 win (25-11, 25-21, 25-16).
With the win, Franklin clinched the Kelley-Rex division title. It marks the program’s first Hock title since 2015 and first outright title since 2011.
After a back-and-forth opening, Franklin used a 9-2 run to break the game open. Leading 6-5, the Panthers got contributions from all over to take the lead.
Sophomore Allyson Bonnet-Eymard had an ace early in the run, Maggie Doyle (six kills) and Ellie Wisniewski added a kill apiece, Lauren McGrath (24 assists) landed an ace, and Doyle and Hailey Sanders (nine kills, two blocks) up with an emphatic block to put the Panthers ahead 15-7.
After some back-and-forth, the Panthers went on another big run (10-4) to close out the first set. Bonnet-Eymard and Doyle had back-to-back kills, and Sanders and Emma Chase combined for a block to give Franklin the momentum. After consecutive KP errors, Franklin emerged with a 25-11 win.
That momentum carried over into the second set with Franklin jumping out to a 7-1 lead, but King Philip responded with some nice swings and a 10-4 run to tie the game at 11-11 on a kill from Catherine Waldeck.
With the teams tied at 16 apiece, KP rattled off three straight points, including a kill from Nicole Coughlan, to take a 19-16 lead and force a timeout from Franklin.
“We talk a lot about our side out percentage, and not letting one mistake bother us too much,” Weymouth said. “We can’t let one point against us turn into two, and two to turn into three. It’s all about focusing on the next play, and even if you don’t win that one, you move on to the next one. When we were down a couple of points, they didn’t let that get to them, and I think that helped us be able to come back.”
The Panthers came out of the timeout and quickly tied the game with Sanders sandwiching a pair of kills around a nice push from McGrath to knot the score 19-19.
Despite a timeout from KP, Sanders continued to have the hot hand and had a kill and a block kill (along with Chase) right out of the timeout to keep the momentum with the Panthers.
“Hailey played phenomenal for us,” Weymouth said. “She finished with nine kills total, and we’ve been working with her this season to get her to hit like that. We knew coming in she was a strong hitter, and now she’s taking what we’ve taught her and using it. I saw a new player in her today, the confidence was there, she was smiling, and she was swinging away.
KP tied the game with two straight points (21-21), but KP closed with five straight, including a kill from Peyton Arone (five kills) and an ace from Shannon Gray (three aces), to notch a 25-21 win and take a 2-0 lead.
The third set started 4-4, but Franklin went on another big run to create the separation it needed. The Panthers won 11 of the next 14 points to build a 15-7 advantage. Sanders, Arone, and Wisniewski had three straight kills, Gray had back-to-back aces, and McGrath got in on the action as well with a kill.
A big block from Waldeck helped King Philip get within three (down 19-16), but that would be the final points for the Warriors. Franklin finished with a 6-0 run, including three aces from Bonnet-Eymard to ice the game.
“We knew KP had some good hitters coming in, so our net play was going to be important, we needed to dominate there,” Weymouth said. “We practiced on our double blocks, and we had to use those tonight. And on top of that, our defense needed to be strong, and it was.”
Franklin volleyball (12-0 Hock, 13-0 overall) is back in action on Monday when they host Mansfield. King Philip (7-5, 7-6) will try to bounce right back as they return to the court on Friday against Walpole.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – Coming off a difficult, emotional, last minute loss to Mansfield in last week’s title showdown, there was concern that King Philip may have a letdown against Thanksgiving Day rival Franklin. Both teams came into week five with one league loss and a setback on Friday night at Macktaz Field would effectively end that team’s chances of a league title this season.
The Warriors set aside any worries about the impact of last week’s loss by jumping out to an early lead and then put the Panthers away in the second half with 21 unanswered points.
KP beat Franklin 35-14 behind three touchdown passes from junior quarterback Robbie Jarest to earn its 13th straight victory in this series dating back to Thanksgiving 2009 and to stay just one game back of Mansfield in the division standings.
“I was definitely a little nervous about that,” KP coach Brian Lee said. “Our guys were talking about our maturity level and our compete level and [the Mansfield loss] was disappointing…but you’ve got to keep looking forward. You’ve got to think about playoffs and keep your eyes on a new direction.”
For Panthers coach Eian Bain, this was a missed opportunity for his team to earn that elusive marquee win against one of the league’s perennial powers.
“Our guys work hard,” Bain said. “But, it’s three years of working hard and not quitting and, eventually, we need to take the next step as a program and when that happens it’s going to be up to our team. King Philip isn’t getting off the pyramid and Mansfield’s not stepping off to give it to us, we need to go get it.”
The Warriors wasted no time in setting aside the disappointment of last week, driving 65 yards on eight plays on the opening possession of the game to take the lead.
Helped by a personal foul call against the Panthers and 26 yards on the ground from Ryan Halliday (25 carries, 134 yards), KP got the ball inside the red zone. Jarest (6-13, 94 yards) finished the drive by hitting Timmy Nault, who ran an angled route across the middle of the Panthers’ secondary, for an 18-yard score.
The KP defense was typically aggressive and allowed only one first down on Franklin’s first two possessions. Jack Webster’s sack pushed the Panthers back inside their own 10 and KP took advantage of solid starting field position to double the lead.
Halliday went up the middle for 21 yards on a draw that put the ball at the Franklin 28. Two plays later, on third and 10, Jarest again found the open receiver, connecting with Deric Casado for a 28-yard strike and a 14-0 lead.
“Every week he gets a little better,” said Lee about Jarest. “He gets a little crazy at times, but you saw it tonight, we’re feeling a little more comfortable with him, having more trust in him, and that’s only going to make our offense better. Our receivers are coming along too.”
Franklin got a much-needed response on its next drive. After an 11-yard run by Owen Palmieri, a 15-yard pass interference call moved the ball down to the KP 32-yard-line. A pair of Webster tackles at the line of scrimmage and an incomplete pass left Franklin facing fourth and nine, but Nick Gordon was able to hit Sean Leonard for 28 yards down to the three. Three plays later Gordon punched it in from a yard out.
KP got the ball back with 5:38 left in the half at its own 19. The Warriors proceeded to use up all but seven seconds of the quarter and got as far as the Franklin 21, but were forced to settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt from Cole Baker. The kick was on line but fell just a yard short and the score remained 14-7 at the break.
The Panthers went into halftime with the momentum, but KP turned that around quickly in the third quarter. The Warriors forced a three-and-out, scored a touchdown, forced a fumble and added another score to break the contest wide open in a little more than six minutes of game time.
“I felt like they had all the mojo,” said Lee. “They held us down there and I felt like, okay we’re in a game here. Now you’ve got to withstand that burst and they did that. They had a good response, so I was pleased.”
Jack Norgren returned the Franklin punt to the Panthers’ 47. From there, Halliday carried the ball five times for 22 yards. On first down from the 25, Jarest tossed his third score of the night, finding David Morganelli on a go-route down the left sideline to extend the lead back to two scores.
The Warriors pinned Franklin back at its own 13 on the ensuing kick-off and then two plays later Max Armour and Halliday forced a fumble when Gordon tried a keeper up the middle. Morganelli recovered the loose ball at the 12. On the next play Halliday, with a giant push from his offensive line, carried a pile of players into the end zone to make it 28-7.
Casado’s solid coverage on Leonard forced a turnover on downs inside the KP 30 on Franklin’s next possession and the Warriors turned it into another score. Sam Callanan (five carries, 46 yards) gave Halliday a rest and took the bulk of the plays on the drive. He found a seam on a toss to the left and was able to scamper home with a 12-yard rush that made it 35-7 with eight minutes remaining.
Gordon (5-13, 138 yards) did get the Panthers a consolation score just a minute later on an 84-yard pass to Ryan Driscoll, who showed off his speed in out-running the KP secondary from one sideline to the opposite corner. But, Nault intercepted a Gordon pass on the next possession to cap off an impressive second half display from the Warriors.
“It was Mansfield all over again,” Bain reflected. “There were moments where we could’ve made a play or two and maybe we don’t win but it’s a different game. We’ve got to turn it around because we’ve got two more left and if we want a shot at hosting a playoff game, then we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Trying to balance academics and athletics is hard enough at the college level, regardless of what division you are playing at, and Bard College senior Nicole Ellin increased the difficulty level further by being a standout in two sports. Not only does she have to balance school work with practice and games, but also balance her yearlong commitments to two programs, soccer and lacrosse.
The Franklin High grad leads the Raptors in minutes played this fall, starting all eight of Bard’s games so far this season and all but one game in four years, and is also, already, a two-time captain for the lacrosse program and played in every game over three seasons with one more spring to come.
While Ellin admits that she had to learn how to manage her time to be fully committed to soccer, lacrosse, and her studies as a psychology major, this was exactly what she was looking for when she searched for the right school four years ago.
“It’s hard with school work sometimes because of the workload, but it keeps me busy,” Ellin said. “It’s my last seasons for both sports so I want to be there for both lacrosse and soccer. It’s hard to be around for both sports and be part of both teams completely, which I am, but you have to separate your time.”
She added, “I’ve been playing the two sports my whole life, so I don’t know what I would do with my free time to be honest.”
Ellin jumped right from high school into the starting lineup at Bard, helping the soccer team capture its first ever Liberty League victories (the school moved from the Skyline Conference starting in the 2011 season), win eight games, and reach the semifinals of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Div. III Metro/Upstate Championships.
Over her four years, the Raptors have won at least seven games every season and entered Saturday’s league matchup with highly-ranked William Smith College (N.Y.) at 4-3-1.
“She’s been a big part of the growth of our program over her tenure here – and she’s been a joy to work with,” Bard soccer coach William Kelly wrote in an email. “She’s been a role model to our younger players, representing the program with pride, integrity, and class…She is never satisfied, and constantly works to get better; and she is also very consistent in terms of her great effort and her high expectations of herself and the team.”
Ellin credited the high level of play at Franklin for preparing her for the rigors of college soccer and lacrosse, particularly the physicality. She also joined Bard soccer as part of a strong freshman class, which helped her quickly get acclimated, and as the program grew over the last three years it has pushed her to continue developing her game to maintain her starting spot.
“I still get nervous every game but I’m definitely more comfortable now playing at the college level,” she explained. “I know what I’m going to see within our league and I know how physical it’s going to be and I know how hard I have to work over the summer and at practices to be at the level where I want to be.”
Ellin added, “From being at Franklin, my competitiveness is still there and I like that our team is growing and we have to work hard for a spot.”
As a freshman on the lacrosse team, Ellin led the team in goals (27), points (33), free-position goals (10), and draw controls (48). She was also second on the team in assists and ground balls and third in turnovers caused. She was named an All-Liberty League honorable mention in each of her first two seasons and is now just 24 points shy of 100 for her career.
She also stepped into a leadership role early in her collegiate lacrosse career, being voted a captain prior to both her sophomore and junior seasons. Bard lacrosse coach Mary Kate Scardillo said that Ellin was the first sophomore captain that she has coached, but that her leadership was obvious from the start and it was a natural fit.
Scardillo explained, “She is a composed leader with a team-first attitude and has acted with the program’s best interest at heart. She has set an example of commitment, resilience and patience. Nicole has a genuine love for the games of soccer and lacrosse. She is wired to be a part of a team and work with others towards a common, greater goal.”
For Ellin, it was an opportunity to grow as a player and person. “We’re all so close as a team that we all hang out together,” she said, “and you just have to be there for everybody for their school work and their social life. It’s being a leader on and off the field.”
While at Franklin, Ellin put together a remarkable resume. The soccer (69-6-11) and girls lacrosse (66-18) teams combined for a 135-24-11 record over four years. Ellin went to a combined four sectional title games, winning three of them, and won a state title in soccer as a sophomore in 2012. She was also part of the lacrosse team’s first ever sectional title as a junior and went undefeated in the Hockomock League over her final three seasons.
Committing your time and effort to two college programs is easy when the teams are winning. It becomes much more difficult when the hard work and the hours invested don’t lead directly to success on the field. For someone who experienced so much success during her high school career, Ellin had to adjust, but this has given her a different perspective on the exertion that she and her teammates put in each season.
“The team helps you through it,” she said. “Even when you’re losing, it doesn’t feel like it. I know the scores looked not great sometimes but everybody is still working so hard and you do it for the little things. You set small goals.
“We have to play hard because we have something to prove.”
The Raptors have just started Liberty League play this fall, and she still has lacrosse in the spring, but Ellin can’t help but think about the fact that her collegiate career is nearing its close.
“I’m definitely starting to get sad that it’s ending,” Ellin admitted. “We have a lot of season left, but I keep thinking that I want it to slow down because I’m not ready for it be over yet.
“I just keep thinking that it’s our last chance to put our mark on the program.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield started Friday night’s league-opener at Alumni Field with back-up quarterback Jack Mousette under center. He lasted two series before an injury, following a 38-yard run, sent him to the sidelines for the rest of the night. With starter Damani Scott unavailable and Mousette on the bench with his arm wrapped in ice, the Hornets turned to senior Aidan Sacco to be the emergency QB.
Sacco only threw five times in the game, but he completed three of those passes for 42 yards and the Mansfield defense clamped down, forcing three turnovers in the second half and shutting Franklin out until the final two minutes of a 24-6 victory.
“It’s a gutsy win,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Jack comes in and did a nice job running the ball but the danger doing that is your QB is going to run and get hit and he just landed funny. Aidan Sacco came in…he’s never played quarterback in his life and he leads us to a win against a good football team, so we’ll take it.”
Franklin started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2012 and was looking for its first win against Mansfield since its unbeaten 2009 season. The Panthers moved the ball well, but failed to finish drives, twice reaching the red zone but both times coming away with no points.
“It was one of those night where try as we may, we did everything wrong that we could’ve from bad special teams snap, we dropped two touchdowns, every time they put the ball on the ground they got it back” Franklin coach Eian Bain said. “I even think we executed, we just didn’t finish the big plays.”
The Panthers drove all the way to the Mansfield 15-yard-line on their opening possession. Junior Thomas Gasbarro completed two of his three passes, both to Sean Leonard (six catches, 82 yards), but a draw play at the 19 lost six yards and eventually his keeper on fourth and 15 only gained nine to end the drive.
Mansfield made quick work of an 85-yard drive, needing only four plays, to take the lead, but in the process lost its starting quarterback. After Nick Marciano broke free on the right side for a 28-yard gain out to the 43, Mousette raced for 38 yards down to the Franklin 19 but was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury. Two plays later, Sacco went up the middle for a 14-yard score.
Sacco also fielded punts and his 29-yard return gave the Hornets the ball back at the Franklin 41. Junior Vinnie Holmes (11 carries, 65 yards) gained 27 yards on two carries to get the ball all the way to the Panthers 12, but a fumble on the next hand-off forced Sacco to retreat 18 yards. Two plays later, Michael DeBolt, who was also 3-for-3 on extra points, booted a 35-yard kick for a 10-0 lead.
Franklin’s offense went right back to work on its next possession. Senior Nick Gordon (10-23, 174 yards) was the new quarterback and he found Leonard twice in a row for 43 yards down to the Mansfield 17. On third and seven from the 14, Gordon scrambled and his pass to Ryan Driscoll in the back of the end zone was inches over the receiver’s head. The Panthers settled for a field goal attempt but Parker Chevrant’s kick was wide right from 30 yards.
Gasbarro intercepted a Sacco pass to end the next Hornets drive, but he slipped on the return and couldn’t gain extra yards after the turnover. Franklin was forced to punt from its own 32, but a high snap rushed the play and it was sliced out of bounds just six yards downfield.
Mansfield made the great starting field position count to add a score before the break. After an incomplete pass, Sacco hit Holmes in the flat for a 28-yard gain. Sacco was unable to handle the next shotgun snap but Holmes was able to scoop the loose ball and gain eight yards. On the next play, he bulldozed for two more and a three-score lead.
Redding said of the late touchdown to end the first half, “That was big. You outplay them but it’s only 10 and you give them the ball to start the half and they score and it’s a whole different game. Then we thought, if we can win the third quarter, which it ended up 0-0, as long as we didn’t let them get back to two scores.”
The third quarter was marred by turnovers by both teams. Gordon was intercepted by Cincere Gill and then sacked by Chris Copponi and Daenin Walker to end a possession. Austin Jordan recovered a Mansfield fumble to get it back for the Panthers but only three plays later the Panthers put the ball on the ground and Jack Barry recovered.
“We do a pretty good regrouping, but I think we pressed a little on the first drive coming out,” said Bain. “Then we moved the ball again and we moved the ball again, but we all took turns tonight, coaches included, making the little mistakes. When you play the best, you can’t play anything but your best and we weren’t at our best tonight.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Walker forced another fumble that was recovered by Copponi at midfield. Gill (eight carries, 95 yards) gained four yards on first down and then burst through the right side of the line and raced 46 yards for the touchdown that sealed the win.
The Panthers didn’t give up and responded in just four plays. Gordon hit Driscoll on a go route down the near sideline that made sure there wouldn’t be a shutout. The two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.
Mansfield came away with a win, but the Hornets will now head into a showdown with two-time defending league champion King Philip with a third-string quarterback at the helm. According to Redding, the Hornets will be relying even more on their defense to come through.
“We had to get this one,” Redding admitted. “We lose this with a quarterback going down, now we’re fighting a losing battle. Now, Aidan’s got some confidence playing in a game. Our guys will be ready for next Friday. They’ve had our number the last few years and we’ll be ready to play.”