DeLuca Sets Example for Super Bowl-Bound Warriors

John DeLuca
KP senior John DeLuca (6) willingly moved from quarterback to wide receiver this year, was named Kelley-Rex division MVP and has helped the Warriors reach the Div. 1A Super Bowl. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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When King Philip took the field on offense for the first time this fall at Community Field against North Attleboro in the season-opening non-league meeting, most were expecting No. 6 to run out and line up under center. Most were surprised when instead senior John DeLuca, who had been a two-year starter at quarterback, lined up at receiver.

The KP coaches had decided in the preseason, after watching junior Brendan Lydon at passing camps and at the annual Under Armour 7-on-7 regional passing competition at Oliver Ames, that the offense would be more dangerous and have more weapons to game plan for if DeLuca was used on the outside rather than at quarterback.

“When we came back from OA, we thought John needs to go out because he can catch and gives us more versatility on offense than having Brendan over there,” said KP coach Brian Lee earlier this week.

When asked what DeLuca’s reaction was to the news that Lydon would be the starter, Lee replied, “John’s just not your typical guy; he just wanted to win and if that made us better then that’s what he wanted to do.”

KP entered the season with question marks about how good it would be (for example, KP started the season at No. 6 in this site’s preseason Hock 5), but on Saturday evening the Warriors will line up to face Reading in the Div. 1A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. DeLuca’s team-first attitude in preseason set an example for the Warriors to follow.

“I also think it permeated our team and that’s why we’ve had success this year,” said Lee, an old school coach who appreciates a player putting the needs of the team before personal recognition. DeLuca is a character made from his coach’s mold.

“With social media and Twitter and everything else, it’s look at me and look what I’m doing,” Lee continued, “and now everyone thinks about their college career before they’re even done with their high school career. Getting a kid to be selfless like that, I think it says a lot about his character.”

The coaches in the Hockomock League agreed with that assessment by Lee and voted DeLuca as the MVP of the Kelley-Rex division after an unbeaten 5-0 league campaign. Although his statistics are not as gaudy as others in the division, the coaches recognized how much DeLuca means as a leader for the Warriors.

Lee explained, “You look at the bulk of his work over the last three years in the Hock and the coaches know who he is and the kind of player he is. He’s the kind of kid that no matter who you are, you want to coach kids like John.

“He’s a hustler, he’s an animal in the weight room, he’s an animal in the classroom, he never gets in trouble, and all that. He’s everything you want to coach.”

DeLuca enters Saturday’s game with 59 carries for 503 yards and five touchdowns and 14 receptions for 111 yards. On defense, he totaled 29-1/2 tackles, including 4-1/2 for loss, and added a pair of sacks. Ordinarily, these would not be the numbers associated with an MVP season, but DeLuca, who led the Warriors to a league title and berth in the Div. 2 South final as a sophomore quarterback, was also the punter, the holder, and the obvious leader on and off the field.

“When you look at his overall stats, you think well he didn’t rush for a tremendous amount but he always made a big play,” said Lee. “He was always making plays.

“He’s a great linebacker and he’ll probably play the defensive side of the ball in college. Punting and holding and doing everything that he does for us, playing receiver…he even plays defensive tackle for us in some of our sets.”

Versatility was the reason that DeLuca found himself at receiver to start the season and he has embraced the utility role. KP is not a team that puts the ball in the air often, so many times being a receiver means stepping in to block on the edge. He has jumped in at quarterback to run the ‘Wildcat’ sets and get the tough yards that he was known for when running the QB sneak the past two years.

When KP needs tough yards, the Warriors turn to DeLuca. When the defensive needs a stop, the Warriors count on DeLuca to get in the back field and make something happen.

“He’s meant everything for us,” said Lee, “He’s just a winner and he’s so happy all the time that it rubs off on everyone.

On Saturday, the Warriors will turn to DeLuca for one more MVP performance, as KP goes in search of its first state title. From a preseason of doubts to a potential championship, Lee praised his senior for helping lead the way.

Lee reflected, “We didn’t know what we were going to be, how the season was going to go, we just turned to John to do everything and he did it.”

Canton Bounces Back By Beating Hornets at Gillette

Kathryn Doody
Canton goalie Kathryn Doody stops a last minute chance by Jackie Carchedi to preserve a 2-1 win against Mansfield at Gillette Stadium. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

FOXBORO, Mass. – Following Monday’s loss to Attleboro, Canton coach Kate Howarth told her team to leave take one night to get over the defeat and come back for practice on Tuesday ready to work and ready to prepare for Wednesday’s test against Mansfield at Gillette Stadium.

“At the beginning of practice, I said, did you all go home, cry, and do what you had to do to get ready for practice?” said Howarth. “They all laughed and said yeah we cried, which was good because they should’ve, but this is the response that you want.”

The Bulldogs played arguably their best game of the season, scoring in the opening 10 minutes of each half and then holding on against relentless Hornets pressure to pull out a 2-1 victory.

Howarth said, “We put the ball down and played the best game we have all season. We possessed better than we have all year.”

Canton jumped all over Mansfield at the start of the game. The Bulldogs dominated the ball and moved it around from side to side, while left back Sarah Collins bombed forward with consistent overlapping runs. It was Collins that would open up the Mansfield defense for the game’s first goal.

The freshman was fed by Sarah MacQuarrie down the left and she cut it back to Tessa Cudmore, who then fed the ball across the six-yard box to Hannah Link and she prodded it past Emily Gaumond.

Collins’ ability to get forward and create scoring opportunities was due to a switch made by Howarth for the game. She moved MacQuarrie from right back to the center of midfield and the senior captain was a dominant figure throughout.

“I tried her there a couple of times early in the season and in scrimmages,” explained Howarth, “but we ended up tucking her back because I like the way she got up. We made some adjustments and it worked.”

The Hornets started to create chances near the end of the first half with Rebecca Bornstein creating an opening in the final 10 minutes but her cross from the right channel just missed the foot of Jen Kemp and went all the way across to Jackie Carchedi, but her shot sailed over the bar.

Six minutes into the second half and MacQuarrie again popped up in an important position, driving into the box between a pair of Mansfield defenders who clipped her to give away a penalty. Center back Sarah Connolly stepped up to the spot and her shot past the outstretched Gaumond to make it 2-0.

“They were the best team for the first 15 minutes of each half…by far,” admitted Mansfield coach Kevin Smith. “Credit to them, they earned it. I thought that for the last 15 minutes of every half we were better but we missed a ton of good opportunities.”

As the second half wore on and Canton continued to be in control, Smith moved junior Hannah Reiter up from the center of defense to lead the line as a center forward, which also allowed Carchedi and Kemp to move out wide.

The switch instantly paid dividends with Reiter sending a header wide and then Kemp finding space on the left to send a ball back to Katie Bongarzone stepping up from midfield but her 20-yard shot was over the bar.

With 15 minutes left to play, Reiter got Mansfield back in the game. Jordan Zarat pressed forward from right back and she played a quick pass in behind the defense that Reiter ran onto and slipped past Canton keeper Kathryn Doody.

“She’s a dominant player,” said Smith of Reiter. When asked why he does not play the Quinnipiac-commit up front more often, he responded, “She’s just such a good defender. We have seven shutouts with her at center back.”

“She has so much composure on the ball and trust in her abilities. The girls know they can make runs because they’re going to get the ball.”

The Hornets continued to press with Bongarzone, Kemp, Reiter, and Carchedi all having chances that were saved or narrowly off target. The Hornets also had a late penalty shout when Carchedi went down in the box, but the official waved it away for a goal kick.

“We had our shots,” said Smith. “It was the complete opposite of how we played on Monday night.”

In the final minute of the game, Mansfield had one last chance when the ball was headed into the path of Carchedi, who managed to get a toe on it under pressure from Collins, but Doody was out quick to block the shot and deny the equalizer.

“She’s been solid all year and she’s come up big when we need her to,” said Howarth. “She’s been consistently solid back there.”

The Canton players stood together after the game, snapping selfies and looking around at their surroundings to take in this rare opportunity to play at Gillette. Unlike Monday, there was no reason for tears after this game.

Canton will host Kelley-Rex leader Franklin on Friday night, while Mansfield will travel to Foxboro.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Steinberg Heroics Salvage Point for Sharon at Gillette

Ally Steinberg
Ally Steinberg (5) scored a pair of goals in the final six minutes to earn a 2-2 draw with Shepherd Hill on Monday night at Gillette. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh Perry, Managing Editor

FOXBORO, Mass. – There was the hint of a smile that played across junior forward Ally Steinberg’s face when the second goal found its way to the back of the net, but rather than join in the raucous celebrations of her teammates she immediately followed her shot, grabbed the ball and ran it back to midfield to get the game restarted.

“I’m not one to really celebrate,” said Steinberg after the game.

The Eagles did not need her to celebrate on Monday night, but they did need her in front of goal, as Steinberg scored twice in the final six minutes to steal a point for Sharon in a 2-2 draw with Shepherd Hill at Gillette Stadium.

When asked how it felt to score at Gillette, Steinberg was willing to admit, “It’s pretty awesome.”

Sharon coach Jon Lavien said, “They’ve been a team all year that has put a two-goal deficit between them and their opponent and fought their way back. From the back all the way up, everyone touched the ball and everybody participated.”

The Eagles controlled play for much of the game with the lion’s share of possession and a number of scoring opportunities that they failed to convert. Despite a strong start, it was the Rams that jumped into the lead in the 12th minute.

A long ball to the forward pulled junior Samantha Rabb into the channel where she conceded a free kick on the edge of the box. The kick was played into the middle and Sharon failed to clear with several attempts allowing the ball to fall to Hailey Demers and she looped it over the head of Sharon keeper Natalie Gray.

As if one sucker punch was not bad enough, the Eagles received another just five minutes later when Rebecca Nguyen slipped a through ball between the defenders to Rachel Bianculli and she made no mistake with her finish to make it 2-0.

“We really controlled the play but just didn’t capitalize,” said Lavien. “I think the wider field kind of confused us. You start going wide and it’s really wide and those corners aren’t going where you want them to go.”

In the 18th minute, Alexandra Filipkowski had Sharon’s first shot after Shepherd Hill failed to clear a cross from Rose Wald. It took another 15 minutes before the Eagles would get another chance and this one Steinberg headed onto the roof of the net from five yards out off a Victoria Zambello free kick.

At haltime, Lavien spoke to his team about continuing to play the way that it started and to keep pushing to try and get back into the game. He also reminded the Eagles that this was a unique opportunity that they needed to make count.

“I told them they have 40 minutes to play at Gillette and you won’t get that again so go out there and enjoy it,” said Lavien. “From there we just talked about we were dominating the game but we weren’t finishing and luck wasn’t on our side.”

The Eagles also adjusted the formation, dropping Filipkowski into midfield, Amanda Klayman to the wing, and moving Steinberg up top along with Zambello. The move worked as Sharon attacked time and again and started to look dangerous each time that it went forward.

Zambello was the primary target early in the half and could possibly have had a second half hat trick with a little better luck. In the 52nd minute she ran onto a pass in the middle, cut pat a defender onto her left foot inside the box and fired a low angled shot that seemed certain to cut the lead in half, until Rams freshman keeper Alyssa Trueman somehow got a fingertip to it and kept it out.

Again in the 21st minute, Zambello was denied. This time she flicked a loose ball over the prone Trueman only to have her shot kicked off the line by Julia Dandridge.

“The main focus was really just keep going and no giving up, play as a team, keep connecting the passes,” said Steinberg, who admitted that she was getting frustrated as the Eagles continued to be shutout. “We knew it was coming, so it was just a matter of getting the first one.”

With six minutes remaining, the goal finally came and it was Steinberg that provided the breakthrough. A cross from the right by Alex Miller picked out Steinberg inside the six-yard box and she found the corner to make it 2-1.

Just three minutes later she tied the game. This time it was Zambello who olayed provider with a cross, again from the right, that was whipped in low on the edge of the six. Steinberg needed only one touch to knock it past Trueman and tie the game at 2-2.

“We have a lot of heart,” said the Sharon hero, “even if we don’t always get the result that we want.”

There was still time for another chance to fall to Zambello, but this was not to be her night to get on the score sheet. The junior knocked it over the bar from close range and then had another chance denied by the combination of Trueman and Dandridge in the final minute.

“I think this will be a good catapult for them,” said Lavien. “You always want two points over one point but you don’t ever want to walk away with with no points.”

“You hate to say a tie is great but in this case…look at where we are and they were down a large portion of the game and they came back. I don’t think it gets better than that.”

Sharon (3-5-1, 2-5-0) travels to Taunton on Wednesday night.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Scoring Struggles Continue For Sharon At Gillette

Matt Lowerre
Matt Lowerre (8) goes up for a header against Shepherd Hill on Monday at Gillette Stadium. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

FOXBORO, Mass. – Sharon dominated the ball for long stretches of the second half of Monday night’s non-league matchup with Shepherd Hill at Gillette Stadium but managed only two shots on target and neither shot troubled the Rams keepers.

Frustration mounted on the Sharon sidelines as head coach Bryan Kelly stood with his hands on his head after another attack dwindled away on the sidelines or another free kick failed to make its way into the box.

The Rams may not have had the ball much, but they were dangerous when they did get it with rapid counterattacks and long punts into the Sharon box that created several scoring chances, including one in the final seconds of the first half that produced the winner.

One mistake at the back, one moment of indecision, was all it took for Shepherd Hill to walk away with a 1-0 victory.

“The fact is we make a mistake a game or two mistakes a game,” said Kelly. “We’re solid but the fact of the matter is if we put the ball in the back of the net then we’re not facing these dilemmas.”

He added bluntly, “This team needs to start scoring.”

The first half was a contrast in styles with Sharon looking to keep the ball down and play through the midfield, which is one of the reasons Kelly moved senior Dan Bender into the back four alongside Sam Weidig. The Rams wanted to move it quickly from front to back and looked for long angled balls into striker Mark Wilding.

It only took six minuted for the Rams to show the effectiveness of the strategy when a long pass found Wilding in behind the defense but Andrew Filipkowski got a piece of the shot, which was then cleared off the line.

Chances for either team were few and far between. Sharon forced two saves, but both were comfortable ones on shots from distance.

On the brink of halftime, the game changed. Ben Boudreau sent a long ball over the top and there was hesitation between the back four as well as Filipkowski. Tyler Fagan took advantage to sneak in and then finish it over the top of the keeper for a 1-0 lead with practically the last kick of the half.

“It kind of deflated us,” admitted Kelly. “We knew they were going to just kick and run and that’s where they got all their chances from was kicking it as far as they could and running on to their fast striker. It hurt us.”

“He had one chance, we made a mistake, and they capitalized. That’s the name of the game; that’s soccer.”

The Eagles came out with renewed vigor in the second half and dominated possession and pushed the Shepherd Hill defense back into its defending third of the pitch. It was there that every attack seemed to break down. The ball would cycle to Sonny Somdah down the left touchline or Lucas Allaria on the right and the ball failed to get into the middle where Kelly argued the Eagles are their most potent.

“I think this big, wide field hurt us to be honest with you,” Kelly explained. “We’re a middle of the field kind of team and that’s where our strength is and we kept pushing to the sideline, pushing to the sideline and then we had nothing to do with it.”

“That’s not where we score from – we score in the middle of the field.”

The Eagles kept the ball well with James Dunlea, Matt Lowerre, and Stephen Higgins consistently winning the ball back and getting it back into the attack, but they failed to find openings to take a shot. It was not until the 71st minute off a free kick that Sharon managed to test the keeper in the second half.

“They wanted to keep running straight,” said Kelly. “We talk about making angled runs all the time – looping around your defender, making overlapping runs and we just didn’t do that tonight.”

The best chance of the second half actually fell to the Rams who once again created havoc with a ball over the top of the defense. This time it was Widing that got on the end of it after beating Weidig in the air, but his shot was narrowly over the bar.

Despite pushing to the final whistle, Sharon could not find the chance it needed for an equalizer. The Eagles (4-6, 3-5) will return home to face Taunton on Wednesday

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.