BRAINTREE, Mass. – A strong mix of ball carriers and timely defensive stops was the perfect recipe for Stoughton in its season-opener against Framingham.
The Black Knights flipped the game with a late first half stop and a key sequence of plays at the end of the third quarter to score a 35-16 win over the Flyers at Braintree High, the one-night home field for Stoughton.
Stoughton had 10 players combine for 372 yards on the ground with five or more accumulating 20 yards or more.
“[Framingham] is a great team, they are a pretty good club, they will do better,” said longtime Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “We struggled to slow down their running back but we hung in there and luckily we were able to move the ball ourselves. Had a couple of penalties that hurt us, but it’s the first game and there’s going to be a lot of mistakes across the entire state.
“I’m glad we won, and I think every week we’ll get a little better. Knock on wood, I don’t think anyone got hurt. The kids are in great shape, and I’m just real happy with this first win.”
Stoughton built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but Framingham cut that lead in half midway through the second quarter and was threatening to take the lead just before halftime. After getting the ball in Stoughton territory on a fourth down stop, the Flyers moved all the way into the red zone with just a couple of minutes left in the half.
The Black Knights’ defense got its third big red zone stop of the half when Flyers’ quarterback Jack Beverly (11/24, 96 yards) hit Sam Stubbs on the right side but Stoughton’s Kamari Grant made the stick and the tackle short of the first down marker at the six yard line to prevent a score.
Stoughton made sure to capitalize on the stop, manufacturing its most methodical drive of the game (9 plays, 82 yards) capped with a fourth down conversion for a touchdown. Junior quarterback John Burke rolled out to his right and found Christopher Ais for an 8 yard touchdown. Anthony Girlamo’s extra point gave the Knights a 21-8 lead.
The defense got a stop right at midfield, turning Framingham over on downs. After a healthy dose of Christian Ais (9 carries, 80 yards) and Christopher Ais (20 carries, 108 yards), the Knights moved into the red zone. On a broken play, senior quarterback Clayton Rahaman scrambled up the left side for a 19-yard touchdown, putting Stoughton up 28-8.
With just seconds left in the third quarter, Stoughton put the proverbial nail in the coffin. After the special teams unit made a nice play to pin the Flyers deep, Burke — who also plays at safety — came through and knocked the ball free on Framingham’s first play. Savion Scott (five carries, 46 yards) wrestled for the loose ball to give the Knights possession back.
Three plays into the fourth quarter, Burke followed the push of his offensive line into the end zone for a 2-yard keeper and a 35-8 lead.
Framingham added a second touchdown against Stoughton’s second defensive unit late in the game.
While it was smooth sailing in the second half, the beginning of the game was a bit of a rocky start for Stoughton. Framingham’s offense was moving before Stoughton brought some pressure and Grant came away with an interception on a jump ball at the six yard line.
Stoughton’s offense stalled and a bad snap on the punt gave Framingham the ball at the Black Knights’ 12-yard line. The bend-don’t-break Stoughton defense came through, limiting the Flyers to two yards through three downs and then blocked a 27-yard field goal to keep Framingham off the board.
The offense looked much better on its second series as Christopher Ais made a great cut on the right side and darted for a 92-yard touchdown but the Knights were whistled for holding. Despite the penalty, Stoughton struck with another home run type play as Christian Georges (four carries, 99 yards) broke free for an 84-yard touchdown two plays later, putting Stoughton up 6-0.
The Black Knights’ defense forced a quick three and out, taking over at their own 40-yard line after a punt. Christopher Ais broke off a 43-yard rush for a touchdown but the refs flagged Stoughton for an illegal block downfield. But once again, two plays later the Knights were in the end zone as Georges took his second carry for 11 yards and a score. Christopher Ais punched in the two-point conversion.
Both Rahaman and Burke saw time at quarterback for the Knights, and head coach Greg Burke says that will be what you see all season from Stoughton. Rahaman rushed for a touchdown and had two completions (one to Burke) while Burke tossed one touchdown and rushed for another.
“That’s how it’s going to be all year, we’re going to play both of them,” Greg Burke said. “They push each other, they are working hard. They both have their strengths. Johnny plays on defense too and Clayton did a nice job tonight. The same with the running backs, they all have to play defense too.”
Stoughton football (1-0) is back in action next week when it hits the road to play at Medford.
Canton had its best season in recent memory a year ago, but the 2019 squad is aiming to take it one step further.
With starters back at almost every position, Canton is aiming to defend its Davenport division title and get back to the sectional final for the second straight season. Johnny Hagan is back under center this season and has all of his weapons back. The Bulldogs ran a mix of Wing-T and spread offense a year ago so Hagan is comfortable running whatever is needed this year. Kyle Fitzgerald, Gersom Rivera, and Cam Sanchez are all talented backs that can help grind down opposing defenses while Hagan makes a lot of plays with his feet as well. Jace Emma was one of Hagan’s favorite targets last year and he will be joined by David Allen as options in the passing game. The offensive line will be anchored by senior Jack Connolly, who missed a good amount of last season with an injury. Matt Connolly, Derrell Brown, and Lucas Bryant return to the line as well while Carson Campbell and Brandon Baran are in the mix for the final spot.
A lot of the same names will make plays on the defensive end as well with Jack Connolly and Matt Connolly teaming up with Nnamdi Onyemelukwe to provide size on the line. The strength of the defense will once again be with the linebackers as the Bulldogs have James Murphy back in the middle alongside junior Lucas Ragusa. Owen Lehane and Robbie Gallery both had strong seasons coming from the outside. The entire secondary is back for the Bulldogs with Rivera and Sanchez handle the corners and Fitzgerald and Allen provide physicality from the safety spots. And for special teams, Lehane handles kicking duties, Allen returns as the punter, and Rivera and Fitzgerald handle return duties. The Bulldogs will look to build some depth with so many two-way players in the lineup.
“We have a lot of experience with a lot of guys that have played at this level, and we had the playoff run so that should definitely help us down the road,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “We are focused on Dighton-Rehoboth, focusing on one game at a time. We have a lot of competitors that don’t quit.”
Foxboro’s biggest win of the season came in its final game, a thrilling overtime win over rival Mansfield at Fenway Park two days before Thanksgiving. If the Warriors are able to carry any of that momentum into the 2019 season, Foxboro will certainly be in the mix for the Davenport division title.
The Warriors return a good amount of talent from last year but will need to find a replacement for Liam Foley, who came on strong at the end of last season. Senior Shayne Kerrigan and junior Cam Prescott have both taken reps this preseason so longtime coach Jack Martinelli and his staff will have two good options to work with under center. Last year’s leading rusher Mike Luong also graduated so there will be an opportunity for someone to take on carries out of the backfield. The Warriors have good skill options in Brian Derba (three touchdown catches last year) and split ends Elijah Lewis and Ryan Hughes. Foxboro has some experience on the line as well as Zach Jenkins and Aidan Dow are both returning starters at the guard position.
Foxboro’s defense has returning players at all three levels so the Warriors will likely rely on that side of the ball, especially early on against two strong non-league foes. Anton George, a HockomockSports Hock 5 selection for defensive line, is back and will be a force to deal with for opponents. Austin Read will be key in Foxboro’s run defense from the defensive tackle spot. Mike Sheehan returns to anchor the linebackers group after a standout junior season. The secondary should be one of the top units in the league with a lot of experienced playmakers. Derba and Kerrigan made a lot of plays defensively last year and Michael Devlin could be poised for a big year for the Warriors.
“With a challenging scrimmage schedule and formidable non-league opponents, we should be prepared for the Hock grind,” Martinelli said “We have several key components returning to make this possible, but it’s one game at a time.”
Milford just missed out on the playoffs last season but the 2019 Scarlet Hawks are determined to get back to postseason play.
There is a lot of experience on both sides of the ball, and maybe most importantly, at key positions both offensively and defensively. The Hawks have Colby Pires back at quarterback after a big junior season that saw him toss 22 touchdowns, second most in the Hockomock League. But the challenge will be developing chemistry with a brand new set of receivers. Brendan White (12), Sean Lehane (5), and Shapel Feaster (5) all graduated so Milford is looking for new names to step up and make plays offensively. Junior Carter Scudo is a terrific athlete and will be one of the top options while Max Martin, Matt Varteresian, Herrick Louis, Kevin O’Connor, and Xavier Hilton are all battling to get reps on the field. Milford does bring back its leading rusher in Luke Rosa (seven rushing touchdowns), a very powerful back that will help the Hawks pound the ball. Juniors Nick Yohn, Dom Schofield, Mario Lee, and Dom Stallbaum provide a physical yet athletic offensive line.
The linebackers will be the heart of the Hawks’ defense this season. CJ Cerrella had a breakout junior year and will be on the top linebackers in the Hockomock League this season. He will be joined by Rosa, Louis, and O’Connor. A lot of the offensive line will see action on the defensive side of the ball as well while Scudo returns as a top defensive back at the safety position. Look for Martin, Varteresian, and Hilton to factor into the secondary as well for Milford this season.
“We have a very focused, determined, and excited team this season,” said head coach Anthony Vizakis. “They are a hard working group of guys with their eyes on one goal, one mission, and they are determined to do it together.”
The Rocketeers have won four straight league titles, the last three in the Davenport division, and will be looking to make it five straight this year.
If North Attleboro does make it five straight, they will need some new players to step up into new roles to do so. The Big Red graduated a lot of talent in almost every position but the Rocketeers are a program that doesn’t rebuild, they reload. The strength of the offensive will start with the offensive line as there are three returning starters. Ethan Mottinger (6’6, 294), who committed to UMass over the offseason, and John Kummer (5’11, 256) man the tackle positions while Ethan Friberg (6’5, 252) adds additional protection from the tight end position. Senior Casey Poirier, junior Matt Penta, and sophomore Tyler DeMattio are locked in a healthy battle at quarterback with each bringing a unique skill set to the offense. North lost almost all of its skill position players but there are a variety of versatile junior backs battling for time. Friberg, Russell Dunlap, and Robbie Donovan will be options in the passing game.
The strong suit of the Rocketeers’ defense will be in the front seven with several returning lineman and senior captain Tom O’Neill anchoring the linebackers. Friberg will be on one end while Montrel Jackson will see time at the other defensive end position. Kummer is joined by Trevor Hewett at defensive tackle to give North a strong, experienced defensive line. Owen Harding and Jacob Silva are in the mix to join O’Neill at linebacker while North will look for some new names to step up in its secondary alongside Jared and Matt Penta. DeMattio returns as the kicker after a standout freshmen campaign (32-for-35 PAT, 3-for-4 field goals).
“We will need to find a way to stay healthy and quickly develop some depth,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “With the inexperience in the skill positions, we expect there to be some early growing pains, but we are hopeful that the great attitude and work ethic that has been displayed in the preseason will help us overcome the lack of experience.”
Sharon might not have as many players as some of the other programs in the league and might not match up in terms of size, but the Eagles have plenty of fight and are looking to showcase that this year.
The Eagles are going to look to capitalize on their team speed this year. Junior Nic Morrero was strong on both sides of the ball last season and will likely feature in the backfield this season for the Eagles. John Saab is another returning play that should pick up carries for the Eagles this year. Junior Kiran Chadrasekaran looks set to take over under center for the Eagles and will have a couple of experienced players to work with in senior receiver Alec Filipkowski and junior tight end Ike Ogbonnanze while junior receiver Owen Conway will likely see an expanded role this season.
Senior Jaden Williams-Thomas returns to anchor both the offensive and defensive lines and will be joined by junior Shea Letendre. Williams-Thomas will handle defensive tackle duties and should be a big part of the Eagles’ defense this year. Marrero anchors the linebackers alongside Saab and Ogbonnanze while Filipkowski and Conway will see time in the secondary.
“We have a great group of relentless players that have the right attitude and understand that they have a ton to prove,” said Sharon head coach Dave Morse.
Stoughton didn’t have the season it wanted in terms of record, but the Black Knights were competitive in just about every game last year and are hoping to get back in the hunt for the Davenport crown this year.
Despite finishing 4-7, Stoughton beat both Davenport champions in North Attleboro (21-10) and Canton (28-7 on Thanksgiving) during the year. If the Black Knights are able to string together those type of performances throughout the year, they will definitely be competing for their first division crown since 2015. Offensively, Stoughton has a good battle at quarterback with junior John Burke and senior Clayton Rahaman. Both saw time last year so head coach Greg Burke has two experienced options to start under center. The offensive line should be a strength for Stoughton with a good group of seniors that includes Oluwole Fabikun, Jaden McCall, Carlvin LaGuerre, and Jerry Brisson. Having a strong and experienced line will set things up nicely for the Black Knights strong run game, which will feature Savion Scott, Christopher Ais, and Christian Ais. Tight end Anthony Pizzano, junior Jake Queeney, and track star David Peters will provide options in the pass game.
Stoughton is often known for its defense and will be looking for that to continue during the 2019 season. Kelven Rodrigues will be a big part of the defensive line for the Black Knights, joined by Brisson, LaGuerre, and Fabikun. Georges had a very strong season on the end last season but will mostly line up as a linebacker this year, alongside Scott and Christopher Ais. Stoughton will have a hard hitting secondary once again this season with Burke, Pizzano, Christian Ais and Kamari Grant all likely to see time.
“We hope to stay healthy and be competitive in the league, all of our athletes improved their strength and conditioning,” Burke said. “We have many juniors also playing and will be a big part of the team. We will need help from all players and try to improve depth.”
CANTON, Mass. – Stoughton senior Jeff Grier was mostly a spectator during last year’s Thanksgiving game against rival Canton, a game the Bulldogs ran away with.
After not getting a carry on the holiday as a junior, Grier wanted to make the most of his opportunity this time around.
The senior delivered, and in a big way. Grier had 15 carries for 211 yards and scored three touchdowns to pace the Black Knights to a 28-7 win over the Bulldogs in the 93rd annual meeting on Thanksgiving.
“This felt great,” Grier said. “I didn’t play last year so this is my first real Thanksgiving game. Senior year, my last game, I just went out there and did my best, did what I could to help the team. Coming into today, we really wanted to bring [the trophy] back home and that’s what we did.”
Grier entered his final season as the top home run threat type running back in the Hockomock, capable of breaking off a big play on any carry. But injuries hampered his season, and Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said Thursday morning was the first time his starting running back was fully healthy all season.
“We played hard today, Grier got going – this is the first week he’s been healthy, and he’s a great kid,” Burke said. “The line played well, we don’t have the biggest line but they are tough, we have some tough kids.
“The kids wanted that trophy back so bad after we lost it last year.”
The teams were tied 7-7 at halftime before Grier went off in the second half with three unanswered scores to lead the way.
It took the Stoughton offense very little time to take its first lead of the game. After receiving the kick off to begin the second half, the Black Knights needed just two plays. On 2nd and 13, Grier came across the formation on a counter, found a small hole, burst through it and raced his way to a 66-yard touchdown. Josh Cocchi made all four of his extra points on the day, this one putting Stoughton up 14-7 with 10:02 left in the third quarter.
Canton’s offense took the field and looked primed to respond with a strong drive of their own. Highlighted by a 20-yard run from Kyle Fitzgerald (10 carries, 49 yards), the Bulldogs moved to the Stoughton 25-yard line.
But Stoughton’s defense clamped down, holding Canton to a short gain on first down, getting an incomplete pass on second down, and Savion Scott coming up with a big sack on third down. The Black Knights forced a turnover on downs with an incomplete pass on fourth.
The Black Knights offense went back to work, using a strong ground game to move up the field. Christian Ais (65 all purpose yards) had a 19 yard run and Alex Iverson followed with 15 more yards to get to the Canton 33-yard line.
On second down, sophomore quarterback John Burke (3-for-3, 68 yards) connected with Christopher Ais for 16 yards. On the next play, Grier fought his way through a tackle and found the end zone on an 18-yard carry. Stoughton led 21-7 with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
“We’ve played hard the last couple of weeks, we’ve just turned the ball over too many times,” Burke said. “We’ve played some tough teams this year, we’ve been up and down. I’m just happy for these guys that we finished strong today, it’s really rewarding for all they’ve been through this year.
“That’s a good Canton team, I don’t want to see them next year but I know we will. I love Dave [Bohane] and all of his guys, they are great coaches. It’s just phenomenal for the town of Stoughton and all of they’ve gone through.”
Stoughton’s defense forced a three and out but Canton’s defense answered with the same, with Brendan Albert coming up with a big nine-yard tackle for loss on third down to force a Stoughton punt.
The Black Knights’ defense didn’t allow Canton’s offense to get going at all, with Evan Jackman and Jacob Brisson combining to stop a runner for no gain on second down, and Christian Georges batting down a third-down pass at the line of scrimmage to force a punt.
Stoughton’s next offensive possession was short lived as Albert came from behind to knock the ball free and the Bulldogs recovered. But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Canton junior quarterback Johnny Hagan was picked off on a deep pass by Stoughton junior Anthony Pizzano with 6:00 left in the game.
“We kept those guys in check, they’ve been running all over people,” Burke said. “We did well today [on defense]. We kept it simple, used our simplest defense. We had to make sure that [Hagan] doesn’t kill you. We had a couple of spies on him every play, you have to. He’s a guy where nothing is happening on a play and all of a sudden he’s in the end zone.
Facing a 3rd and 14 at its own 28, Stoughton elected to keep the ball on the ground to kill more clock but Grier was able to turn the corner and get up field and no one was able to catch him as he sprinted for a 72-yard score and a 28-7 lead with 4:34 to play.
Canton scored the first touchdown of the day. After punting on the opening drive, the Bulldogs got the ball back after stopping Stoughton’s offense and fake punt attempt. Canton took advantage of the short field and on fourth down, Hagan hit Fitzgerald for a 30-yard touchdown. Owen Lehane’s extra point made it 7-0 with 9:20 left in the first quarter.
Stoughton tied the game late in the first half. After stalling on its first two drives, the Black Knights went to the air to get things going offensively. Burke hit Christian Ais out of the backfield for a 48-yard pass, down to the 1-yard line. From there, Burke pushed it in himself and tied the game 7-7 with 1:45 left in the second quarter.
“I’m just really happy for the kids,” Burke said. “They sucked it up and it was a great way to finish the year.”
Stoughton football finishes the season 4-7 while Canton closes out 2018 with an 8-3 record.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Playing a team for a second time in the season presents plenty of obstacles, and more often than not its a tighter game than the first time around.
That makes North Attleboro’s dominant 35-12 win over Stoughton in the D3 South Semifinals that much more impressive.
Big Red’s defense limited Stoughton’s starting unit to under 100 yards of total offense, and its offensive unit took advantage of strong field position to advance to the sectional final for the second straight year.
Four of North Attleboro’s five touchdown drives required five plays or less, all four of them under 50 yards. Only one drive – the third scoring drive of the game at the end of the first half – was a lengthy possession (seven plays, 65 yards).
“I think this team has really matured as the year has gone on and really developed that business-like attitude,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “You get to this point in the year, and you know what you’re supposed to do…you just have to go out and do it. It’s a sign of maturity.”
It wasn’t an ideal start for the Rocketeers, who were forced into an early punt that was blocked by Stoughton’s Jason Joseph and recovered by David Bell. That set Stoughton up at the North Attleboro 20-yard line.
But North Attleboro’s defense stood tall with senior Geoff Wilson sacking Stoughton quarterback Johnny Medina on third down. Medina’s throw into the end zone on fourth fell incomplete and North escaped unscathed.
Stoughton’s defense did its part again, forcing another punt from North but this time the Rocketeers had a big break. Devin Slaney’s long kick got a kind roll and Stoughton’s returner wasn’t able to cleanly field it, allowing North junior Cam Cornetta to pounce and give the Rocketeers the ball at Stoughton’s 10-yard line.
Big Red took advantage of their opportunity and senior quarterback Chad Peterson (5/9, 68 yards – seven carries, 33 yards, three touchdowns) used an option play to keep it himself and run it in from five yards out. North led 7-0 after Wilson’s extra point with 3:05 left in the quarter.
“Sometimes it takes a bad play to kind of spark the team, offense or defense either one,” Johnson said of the blocked punt. “And I think that’s exactly what happened there.
“It felt like on that turnover [muffed punt], the game started over at the point.”
Slaney’s deep kickoff forced Stoughton to start inside its own 20-yard line. And North’s defense did its part, forcing losses on both first and second down. After a punt, North started at the Stoughton 45-yard line.
Peterson hit Nick Raneri for 11 yards then ran for eight yards with a late hit tacked on. Two plays later, North faked the jet sweep and Peterson kept it himself, going in from three yards out and a 14-0 lead with 10:20 to play in the second.
Ryan Gaumond put a halt to Stoughton’s next drive with an interception but the Black Knights’ defense allowed just one yard on North’s ensuing drive and got the ball back with a punt.
Junior Evan Gibb, who was hurt in the first meeting between the two teams and missed the past two weeks, took over under center to start the second quarter. On Stoughton’s next drive, he rushed for eight yards, then hit Alex Iverson for a 19-yard gain and a first down.
Two plays later, Gibb hit Ruben Gonzalez on a hitch route and the senior slipped through a tackle and attempt and raced 41-yards for a touchdown, bringing Stoughton within 14-6 with 3:47 left in the first half.
But that was enough time for North to orchestrate its longest drive of the game. Back-to-back passes from Peterson toMario Bresko moved the chains, and two plays later Peterson hit Raneri out in the flat and he raced 29-yards.
Two plays later, Nathan Pearce (eight carries, 53 yards) followed a great block up the middle and burst his way through two Stoughton defenders at the goal line for a 16-yard touchdown and a 21-6 lead with 90 seconds left in the first half.
Pearce led the Warriors in carries and rushing yards. With Stoughton’s defense bottling Raneri up, and Brendan McHugh without a carry, Pearce provided a spark for the Rocketeers.
“Pearce is kind of a combination of those others [Raneri and McHugh],” Johnson said. “You get to this time of year and guys are getting banged up. Pearce has come along – he was banged up early of the year – so he’s really given us that extra depth we were lacking at the beginning of the year.”
Stoughton got the ball to start the second half but another nice kick from Slaney, plus a block in the back, forced the Black Knights to start from their own six-yard line. After gains on first and second down, Wilson and Pearce combined for the sack on third down and the Black Knights had to punt from their own end zone.
“When you prepare for [Stoughton], you really have to prepare for two offenses,” Johnson said. They run the Wing-T offense so well, and then [Jeff Grier] was in there who didn’t play last time, and he’s a legitimate threat because of his speed. So you have to prepare for that and then they go with the spread offense and throw the ball. And Gibb’s a tough kid when he’s in there. So there’s a lot of things you have to prepare for so I was pretty happy with the defensive effort.”
That meant good field position for Big Red once again, starting at the Stoughton 28-yard line. Pearce had three carries for a total of 26 yards, and Peterson capped the drive with a two-yard plunge on fourth down with 6:10 to play.
North’s defense again held court and even though Stoughton got off a strong punt, Gaumond had a 33-yard return and North started at the Black Knights’ 17-yard line.
With Raneri at quarterback, he ran for 10 yards on first down, and then McHugh burst around the edge for a seven-yard touchdown on his first carry. North led 35-6 with 3:10 left, spelling the end of playing time for its starters on both sides.
“We couldn’t get the field position, we couldn’t move the ball…and they sort of stuck it to us,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “We have to be able to keep it close so we can run the ball. We got plenty of yards the last time, this time they did a couple of different things.
“Hats off to [North Attleboro], that’s a good team. I think they can win this sectional.”
Stoughton’s Justin Ly scored on an 11-yard run with 8:56 to play to cap the scoring.
With the win, the Rocketeers get a rematch with Duxbury in the sectional finals. It’s the third straight year that Big Red has faced off with the Dragons, with the latter coming away with wins both times.
“It’s always great to get an opportunity to go back and play someone you lost to,” Johnson said. “We’ve lost to them in the playoffs the past two years so it’s an opportunity to get another shot at them. They’ve sent us packing so its time to do something about that.”
The game is scheduled for Friday night, November 10th at Community Field at 7:00.
MILFORD, Mass. – Twenty minutes into Friday night’s regular season finale at Milford High, Stoughton had only managed three first downs. Another short drive came to a close after Jonathan Medina was sacked by several Hawks and offensive lineman Malachi Green-Hightower was forced to jump on a fumble to keep the possession alive.
Paul Feeney hit a towering punt downfield towards Ryan O’Toole, who was unable to come up with it cleanly. Matthew Hadley pounced on the loose ball and put the Black Knights at the Milford 25. On the next play, Justin Ly bounced outside the tackle and raced down the Milford sideline for a 25-yard score with 1:31 left in the first half.
The score turned out to be the game-winner, as the Black Knights defense smothered the Milford offense, limiting the Hawks to only eight first downs in the game (only three in the second half), in a 14-3 victory that sets up a three-way tie for second place in the Davenport division and most likely a home game for Stoughton in the Div. 3 South playoffs.
“That’s a good team,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke, “they played very hard, and they’ve been excellent the last couple weeks and luckily we got them and I’m glad we did it by running the football.”
The Black Knights were without starting quarterback Evan Gibb, who was injured in the loss to North Attleboro, and Burke praised Medina (2-6, 25 yards) for managing the game. Burke said, “You’ve got to make some tough plays and the toughest job, he did a great job for us, was our quarterback. The kid hasn’t played a lot and…everything’s a little different.”
Milford started the game in a spread formation with sophomore Colby Pires (7-16, 118 yards) in the shotgun. On the first possession of the game, Pires hit Shapel Feaster for 20 yards and the Hawks moved the ball into Stoughton territory, but on fourth and nine Pires scrambled and hit Lucas Rosa for eight yards and the drive stalled at the Black Knights 29.
On the second possession, backed up to their own 11, the Hawks hit their biggest play of the game. Pires looked deep down the near sideline to Joey Everett, a senior who transferred in from St. George’s School (Newport, R.I.) midway through the season, and the wideout made an incredible 41-yard catch just keeping a foot in bounds. On the next play, Pires was intercepted by Ryan Semler.
“When you have three turnovers and a muffed punt deep in your own end, it’s hard to get anything going,” said first-year Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “We tried our spread, we tried our war, they did a really great job. They have a great defense.”
Vizakis admitted that the touchdown before halftime was a turning point. He said, “Unfortunately, sometimes all it takes is one play. We were hoping to put a drive together and we had some things ready to go, but you could feel the momentum shift. Against a tough team like that, it’s hard to come back from it.”
The Black Knights went into the locker room with energy after the late touchdown, but in the end both defenses were too strong to keep the momentum going. A sack by Josh Ligor ended the second Stoughton possession of the third quarter and gave Milford the ball back at its own 30.
The Hawks turned to junior Ryan Pearl at quarterback in a compact power set that worked the week before in the comeback win over Foxboro. A six-yard completion to Will Pointer got a rare third down conversion for a first down and Pointer followed it with a 20-yard burst around the end. Once again the drive stalled, but Milford turned to junior kicker Sean Lehane, who split the upright with a 46-yard boot (with room to spare) that cut the lead to 7-3.
“He’s unreal,” said Vizakis of Lehane. “That’s automatic for him. He kicks 50-55 [yards] in practice and I think we have to utilize him even more when we’re close. He’s clutch.”
The home crowd was starting to get into it, especially after Ruben Gonzalez was stopped on the kick-off return at his own 17, but the Black Knights settled down and put together the best drive of the game.
Alex Sjoquist (15 carries, 91 yards) was the main threat, getting the ball eight times during a 13-play, 83-yard march that took seven minutes off the clock and sealed the win. The big play was a 41-yard burst straight up the middle from Sjoquist that Tyler Joyce kept from being a touchdown with a diving, shoestring tackle. In the end, Sjoquist plunged into the end zone with a three-yard score.
Any hope of another late comeback by the Hawks was dashed by a Colin Sanda interception.
Burke said of the team’s ability to matchup with Milford’s bunch sets, “We got hurt a little bit but…we worked very hard at that all week. It’s a very effective offense, if you get one long play. You’re in tight, so they’re hoping someone cracks one and gets out. So, you have to really protect against the bounce out.”
Despite the defeat, it looks like Milford (3-4, 3-2) has qualified for the Div. 3 South playoffs and could face possible trips to North Attleboro, Duxbury or Hingham. Vizakis is proud of how far the Hawks have come from the opening game of the season.
He said, “We’re 100 percent getting better every week and that’s what we tell them, get better every day. The kids are improving, they’re getting more comfortable in the system, and once we see where we fall in the playoff bracket we’ll be ready to go next week.”
Stoughton (5-2, 3-2) appears to be in line for the third or fourth seed in Div. 3 South.
Burke said, “We’re 5-2 with a couple of our starters out…and I’m just happy we’re getting in the playoffs for our fourth consecutive year. I don’t know, if you had said at the beginning of the year that we’d be 5-2 I would’ve called you crazy, but that’s the type of kids I have, tough kids.”
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – It’s been a week to remember for North Attleboro senior quarterback Chad Peterson.
Just days after giving a verbal commitment to play college football at Amherst College, Peterson scored three touchdowns to lead the Rocketeers to a 35-21 win over Stoughton at W.B. Mason Stadium on the campus of Stonehill College.
The win clinches at least a share of the 2017 Hockomock League Davenport title, the third straight league title for the program and Peterson, a three-year starter. The Rocketeers can clinch the title outright with a win against Canton next week. If Canton wins, North can still win the title outright if Stoughton beats Milford.
“He’s a special player,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “I think it’s safe to say we might not have won those three championships if Chad Peterson wasn’t our quarterback. He’s a difference maker.”
With a chance to three-peat on the line, Peterson and the North Attleboro offense put together one of its best performances of the season, scoring 35 points on a defense that had previously allowed just 41 points total through the first five games.
“I thought we had a great week of practice,” Peterson said. “We knew what this game meant, we knew it’d be a physical game. We came out and ran the ball and turned out well for us.”
Big Red’s offense scored on two of its first three drives but a late touchdown from Stoughton in the second quarter kept the teams level at halftime.
But in the second half, after its first drive ended in a punt, Peterson led the offense on three consecutive scoring drives to put the Rocketeers ahead for good.
“I think [our offense] was probably the difference in the game,” Johnson said. “Our offense, particularly up front, taking over the game.”
“It says a lot about the coaching staff and how they approach each season,” Peterson about the three straight league titles. “We graduate guys each year, I’m playing with different players each year but each year guys step up and we just have a championship culture.”
Despite both defensive units being the top two stingiest in the league, both offenses came out strong. A big return from Stoughton sophomore Ajahn Rue set the Black Knights up with good field position. Eight plays later, senior Alex Sjoquist took the toss to the left side and in for a two-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
North’s offense had an immediate response, driving 66 yards on eight plays to tie the score. The Rocketeers didn’t face a third down all drive and junior Nick Raneri (16 carries, 107 yards) punched it in from six yards out to knot it 7-7 with 2:45 left in the first quarter.
The defensive units settled in as Stoughton went three and out and punted, but the Black Knights’ defense forced the same from North.
North’s defense stuffed Sjoquist on third and shot scenario to get the ball back and its offense took the field, driving 63 yards for a score. Stoughton’s defense nearly shut the drive down early but on third and 10, Peterson (7/12, 88 yards) hit Mario Bresko with a beautiful 47-yard long ball to move the chains.
Four plays later, Peterson kept it himself and powered up the middle for a four-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Stoughton nearly had an immediate response when junior Evan Gibb (4/5, 83 yards) hit Ruben Gonzalez for 42 yards, and two plays later again for 16 yards. The Black Knights got inside the 10-yard line but on fourth down, the Rocketeers sent a blitz and junior Ryan Clemente came up with the big hit and get the ball back.
“I thought he did a great job in his pass rush,” Johnson said of Clemente. “I thought the whole defensive front did a good job in the pass rush, I think that made a difference in the game. And Clemente and some other guys were getting it done on offense too.”
North’s offense stalled, giving Stoughton the ball back with just 25 seconds left in the first half. After a holding call pushed the Black Knights back, they elected to run. Senior Justin Ly took off to the right side, cut back through a gap in the defense and sprinted his way for a 65-yard touchdown just before half, tying the game 14-14.
Big Red moved into Stoughton territory to start the second half but punted, making Stoughton start at their own 20-yard line. Not only did Clemente’s sack at the end of the first half stop Stoughton’s scoring threat, it also knocked Gibb from the game.
Stoughton senior Johnny Medina (8/18, 95 yards, touchdown) took over under center and hit Rue for 11-yards and a first down. But two plays later, Medina was hit as he threw, causing the ball to flutter in the air and Bresko came down with the interception.
“It really didn’t alter our game plan because I think [Medina] throws the ball pretty well too,” Johnson said of the quarterback change. “I was actually watching him in pregame and thinking he was just as good. So when he came in it didn’t really change our game plan, I think our kids just did a nice job of getting to the quarterback.”
North was quick to turn the interception into points. Peterson converted a third down with a pass to Bresko over the middle and five plays later, Peterson kept it himself for a one-yard score and a 21-14 lead with 0:29 left in the third quarter.
Big Red’s defense brought the pressure again, forcing a quick three and out. Starting with a 27-yard scamper from Brendan McHugh (nine carries, 70 yards), North went 69 yards on eight plays to extend its lead to two scores. Nathan Pearce capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown on a jet sweep.
“They just pushed us around up front in the second half,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “We had to stop them and we didn’t. They didn’t do anything they hadn’t done before. Their big guy, the right tackle [Clemente] they went behind him each time.
“It’s high school, you get down by two scores it can be tough for the kids. Losing Gibb hurt tremendously, but that’s high school. You’re only as good as your next player.”
Stoughton moved the chains once on its next drive, but three straight incompletions resulted in a turnover on downs, and great field position for North. The Rocketeers took just five plays to drive the 33 yards, with Peterson punching it in from two yards out for a 35-14 lead.
Peterson finished with 49 yards on 11 carries, the second most carries by a Rocketeer.
“Chad’s been a little banged up the last couple of weeks so we haven’t been able to do that much with him,” Johnson said. “But when you’re successful running the edge like we were with Raneri and McHugh, defense loosens up and starts to widen and that opens things up for the quarterback running.”
The Black Knights added a score with under a minute to play when Medina hit a wide open Ly up the middle for a 51-yard touchdown.
North Attleboro football (5-1 overall, 4-0 Davenport) has a chance to clinch the Davenport title outright when it entertains Canton at Community Field on Friday night. North Attleboro will likely clinch a home playoff game with a win over the Bulldogs.
“We don’t talk about the playoffs until today, we’ll start talking about it,” Johnson said. “We’ve got our share of the championship, that’s number one. Now we talk about the chance to win the outright championship and here’s what it means for the playoffs. We want to get that home game.”
Stoughton (4-2, 2-2) will try to bounce back when it hits the road to take on the Scarlet Hawks.
“Next week is a big week for both of us for position the playoff,” Burke said. “But we have to play a lot better than we played in the second half today.”
FOXBORO, Mass. – In a game dominated by defenses and special teams, it was Foxboro senior quarterback Devin Hassett that pulled off arguably the play of the game on a soaked, muddy, and windswept Jack Martinelli Field in Friday’s Davenport division opener.
Facing third and 17 from his own 34 and with the Warriors clinging to a one-point lead over rival Stoughton, Hassett (11 carries, 90 yards) rolled out to the far sideline and followed a caravan of blockers, including classmate Mike Henri, before bursting through the opening for a 43-yard gain deep into Stoughton territory.
Although the Warriors did not score on the drive, the Black Knights were forced to start their final possession backed up inside their own five-yard-line with three minutes remaining. Stoughton drove about 70 yards but Alex Sjoquist was stopped at the Warriors 30 as the clock ran out on Foxboro’s 13-12 victory.
“If we had lost this one they would have taken the sign down probably,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli joked after picking up his first win at the field that was renamed for him in the preseason.
“It was a great game,” he added. “It was two hard-hitting teams of kids. I’m so proud of them; they took a tough loss last week in a game where we didn’t make a lot of big plays but we did tonight.”
Foxboro earned its first win over Stoughton since 2009, taking advantage of mistakes by the Black Knights to get its offense going. Stoughton fumbled three times in the opening half and the Warriors scored twice off of those turnovers.
“We haven’t done that in a long, long time,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke. “That’s our fault. You can’t fumble the ball once you have it; it’s like gold and you better protect it no matter. I’m a little disappointed in that, but we battled.”
Stoughton spent almost the entire first half in its end of the field. Foxboro’s first possession ended in a three-and-out, but Liam Foley’s punt bounced off the leg of a Stoughton player and was recovered by Phil Dure at the Stoughton 35. The Black Knights defense, led by Sjoquist, John Jolley, Jason Joseph, and Anthony Burke, stuffed the Warriors and forced a turnover on downs but Foxboro had the territorial advantage.
“A big factor in the game was Liam Foley’s punting,” Martinelli explained. “It got us out of a hole where we continually went three-and-out, but he flipped the field for us and allowed us to play some good defense.”
In the second quarter, Justin Ly was stripped of the ball near the Stoughton bench and the Warriors recovered the loose ball at the Black Knights’ nine. After a penalty and an incomplete pass, Hassett (3-8, 26 yards) found Dure in the back corner of the end zone from 15 yards out to make it 6-0.
“Their first touchdown was a pattern that we went over all week,” said Burke, “but we just didn’t cover it. Hats off to them. We knew the quarterback was going to roll, get out of the pocket; he did a hell of a job. We got him a few times, but they got us more than we got them.”
The momentum was short-lived, as Ruben Gonzalez snared the ensuring kick-off at his own 11 and raced down the right sideline for a touchdown. Dure blocked the extra point and the score was tied 6-6.
On its next possession, Ly (11 carries, 51 yards) was stripped again and Shawn Teixeira recovered the loose ball for Foxboro at the Stoughton 35. Henri (11 carries, 40 yards) got the call for the Warriors and he burst through the middle for 12 yards on third and four to keep the drive alive and he finished the possession with another bruising 14-yard carry up the middle to give Foxboro the lead.
“I’ll take them anyway we can get them,” said Martinelli about using turnovers to score. “Points have been hard to come by this year, so 13 was a lucky number for us tonight. It was the first time that we’ve gone into halftime with a lead.”
Stoughton had the perfect start to the second half. Facing third and four on the opening possession, Alex Iverson (six carries, 93 yards) took a sweep to the left 26 yards to get near midfield. On the next snap, Iverson took an identical hand-off and this time broke it for a 52-yard score that cut the lead to one.
Dure again blocked the extra point, but an offsides penalty gave Stoughton another chance from a yard closer. Burke decided to go for two and the lead, but Iverson was stuffed on the conversion attempt. That point turned out to be the difference.
“It might have been the winning score,” said Burke of the decision to go for two. “I don’t mind going for that, thought we’d get it in, but it didn’t happen. It’s a big decision, of course it is.”
Foxboro’s defense was equally stout in dealing with the three-back look of the Black Knights and Sam Blake, Matt Pond, and AAlec Brodeur stymied several Stoughton drives.
After Hassett’s big play pushed Stoughton back to its own goal line, the visitors tried to put together one last drive. Iverson gained eight yards on third down and junior quarterback Evan Gibb (9-13, 54 yards) hit Iverson for 15 yards on fourth and 10 to get to the Foxboro 40. On fourth and 15, Gibb hit Colin Sanda for 15 yards on the Foxboro sideline to keep the drive going, but he could not get out of bounds and the clock ran down.
“I thought our guy was out of bounds and we weren’t really sure,” said Burke, “but they wound [the clock] and we should’ve spiked it, stopped it, and maybe had at least one pass. We went 70 yards, but that ain’t enough. If we get to the 20, we have a shot at kicking a field goal.”
Although 13 points was a high for the Foxboro offense this season, the Warriors have won twice and Martinelli said, “We’ve played pretty solid so far. We’ve got to continue; we’ve got to get better at a few things.”
Foxboro (2-1, 1-0) will try to continue its strong start to the league campaign when it travels to Canton. Stoughton (2-1, 0-1) will look to bounce back on Thursday with a trip to Sharon.
Stoughton’s defense held the Scarlet Knights to just 21 yards over the first three series of the game, but Catholic Memorial was in the midst of putting together its best drive of the half.
CM had rattled off eight plays, covering 61 yards to get into Stoughton territory with just five seconds to play. When the Scarlet Knights trotted out its kicking unit for a long field goal, Stoughton head coach Greg Burke used his first timeout of the half to ice the kicker.
With Stoughton up 7-0, first-year CM head coach Brent Williams elected to send his offense back out to try and tie the game on the final play.
Stoughton ended up getting pressure into the backfield and senior Jason Joseph made a huge play, hitting CM quarterback Nick Goffredo as he threw. The ball fluttered out of his hands and right to Jolley, who caught the ball and sprinted 72 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw someone come off the back side and hit the quarterback and the ball popped up and I just grabbed it and started running,” Jolley said. “I was looking back while running and saw my teammates so I knew I was going to score cause they’d throw good blocks.”
“Jolley was there, I don’t even know how far that run was,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “That’s pretty impressive for a big guy to get down there. It started with the sack and the ball popped up.”
And if you needed any more reassurance of just how big the play was, Stoughton was flagged on the play because its bench ran down the sideline in celebration of the big play.
And in a rare instance, Burke was fine was the penalty.
“That’s high school!” Burke beamed.
That interception was just one play in what was a very solid outing for the Black Knights’ defense. CM scored on its last two drives of the game, but its first five series ended in the following: fumble/turnover on downs, punt, punt, pick six and turnover on downs.
“It was pretty steamy out there, first half I thought we did real well on their run game,” Burke said. “They’re a big tough team, they probably didn’t think much of us. Their quarterback was our top priority, especially on scrambling. The end was a little hairy but we’ve got some tough kids. I was really happy, I thought we did pretty well when they came at us.
“This was a good 20-25% better than last week. We had a couple penalties, maybe. And we filled up some holes better inside. We got lit up a little bit inside and today [CM] didn’t get much inside.”
Stoughton’s offense also had a strong day, with four of its six drives resulting in double-digit plays run. Another was cut short by an interception, and its final drive of eight plays ended with the final seconds ticking off the block.
“That was it for us,” Burke said of the long drives. “If we can do that [consistently], we’re going to win a lot of games. We have to be able to run the ball but defenses have to be able to cover both. We can run our offense out of both sets. We can run pass plays or run plays from both sets so that helps us.”
The Black Knights were set to receive the opening kickoff but CM’s Will Fay blasted his kick off a Stoughton player and recovered the kick to give the Scarlet Knights the first possession. But on a fourth down in Stoughton territory, Alex Sjoquist came up with a strip sack with the ball bouncing out of bounds to give the Black Knights the ball.
Stoughton used a 12-play, 64-yard drive to take the lead. Highlighted by first-down runs of 10-yards and 12-yards by Justin Ly (16 carries, 77 yards), the Black Knights went up 7-0 on an eight-yard scamper by Alex Iverson on a counter play with just 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
The game stayed scoreless until Jolley’s pick six right before halftime. The bench penalty forced Stoughton back on the conversion and the two-point attempt was knocked away in the end zone.
“It was a huge momentum shift,” Jolley said. “If we got into the half tied and they’re getting the ball back, it’s a completely different came. But instead of 7-7, it was 13-0 and it was huge for us right at the end of the half.”
Stoughton’s defense started the second half as it did the first half, forcing a turnover on downs on CM’s first offensive possession. And its offense also had a repeat of the first half, taking its first possession to the end zone.
Ly’s game-long 18-yard run got the drive started early and eventually, Stoughton found itself on the CM 11-yard line. It looked as though Stoughton had a touchdown on fourth down, but an offensive offside call negated the score and pushed Stoughton back five yards.
Stoughton came up short of the end zone on the next play, but did get the ball to the 1-yard line on a pass from Evan Gibb (12/16, 137 yards, six carries, 30 yards) to Ruben Gonzalez (six catches, 79 yards) for a first down. Gibb then punched it in on a sneak and then found Sjoquist for the two-point conversion and a 21-0 lead with 5:18 left in the third quarter.
CM finally got on the board with under two minutes to play in the third, when Goffredo hit Khari Johnson in the flat. A bad snap on the extra point attempt resulted in a try for a two-point that failed.
The Black Knights did a nice job responding, putting together a 10-play, 58-yard drive that took up nearly six minutes (5:57) of the clock. Gibb’s completion of 23 yards to Iverson on a first down surprised the Scarlet Knights and was the longest play of the drive. Sjoquist punched it on an 8-yard toss with 6:41 to play.
The Scarlet Knights scored on its final drive of the game. Goffredo floated one to the left side of the end zone and Franklin native Jarrett Martin absolutely climbed a ladder to win a jump ball for a 24-yard touchdown. CM converted the two-point conversion.
Stoughton then ran eight plays to kill the final 3:55 and all of CM’s timeouts.
“Being 2-0 right now with practically 99% of these kids being new, I’m as thrilled as I’ve been while coaching,” Burke said.
Stoughton (2-0) opens Davenport division play on Friday night when it takes a trip to Jack Martinelli Field in Foxboro to take on the Warriors (1-1).
RANDOLPH, Mass. – There might be a lot of new faces on the field dawning Stoughton’s black and orange – and at times it certainly showed. But when it mattered most, those new faces made vintage Stoughton plays to help the Black Knights open the season with a 28-14 win over Franklin.
Playing at Randolph High School because of the construction of the new Stoughton High building, as well as a delay in construction in Franklin’s track, the Black Knights looked completely different from last year’s squad.
But a goal line stand in the third quarter that resulted in a blocked field goal, and a clock blending scoring drive in the fourth quarter to ice the game looked like true Stoughton football.
“We just did a hell of a job just to stop them a couple of times,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke, now in his 25th season. “We had some screw ups but there wasn’t a lack of effort. And that’s how it usually is with new kids and I’ll take it for the opening game. We had a couple big plays.”
A much improved Franklin squad came out on its first series and made a splash, going 59 yards on 12 plays to take the lead. Facing a fourth and three in the red zone, the Panthers went for and it and were rewarded. Senior quarterback Jake Noviello (15/31, 169 yards,) rifled a pass to junior Sean Leonard on a quick slant for an 8-yard touchdown. Matt Zucco’s extra point made it 7-0 just under five minutes into the game.
Stoughton’s new look offense didn’t have any trouble coming up with a response on its first drive of the season. Ruben Gonzalez (133 all purpose yards) ripped off a 45-yard run on the Black Knights’ first play from scrimmage. On third and goal, junior Evan Gibb (9/15, 154 yards, 4 total touchdowns) fired a bullet over the middle to sophomore Ajahn Rue for a 15-yard touchdown. Josh Cocchi’s extra point tied the game with 1:11 left in the first quarter.
The Black Knights defense came up with a red zone on Franklin’s ensuing drive, forcing an incomplete to end the Panthers’ nine-play drive. After Stoughton punted, its defense once again came up with a red zone stop. Once Franklin reached the Stoughton 18-yard line, the Black Knights forced another stop.
With time ticking away in the second quarter, Stoughton senior Alex Sjoquist (nine carries, 75 yards), ripped off a 28 yard carry to get the drive going. Gibb connected with Gonzalez and Colin Sanda on back-to-back third downs to keep the drive alive. And then on first down, Gibb took a shot to the end zone where Gonzalez was able to leap up between a pair of defenders and haul in a 35-yard touchdown to go up 14-7 with 0:37 left in the first half.
Stoughton wasn’t done in the first half though, forcing a quick three and out with just three seconds left. The Black Knights took another shot at the end zone, with Rue leaping over a defender and hauling in the pass but landed at the two-yard line.
“[Gibb] did a great job,” Burke said. “He had a couple of nice runs himself, which is going to be part of the offense. He’s a tough kid. He made some great throws. I don’t think he got sacked which is good. It’s good to have him back, and [Justin] Ly and [Alex] Sjoquist and Ruben [Gonzalez] and [Jason] Joseph. You can see the guys who have played before, they are just a step ahead.
Franklin’s defense forced Stoughton to punt to start the second half and the offense quickly made its way back into the red zone. A sack from Malachi Hightower-Green preceded a pair of incompletions. Franklin went for it on fourth down and it resulted in a pass interference, giving the Panthers the ball at the two-yard line and a new set of downs.
But Stoughton’s defense looked like its vintage self. Franklin was dropped for a one-yard loss on first down, a two-yard loss on second down and an incompletion on third down. The Panthers’ 22-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Stoughton’s Jason Joseph, keeping the Black Knights up 14-7.
“It was an incredible series for us. And then we get the block,” Burke said. “That’s hard to do. We toughened up there. We still have some problems, and we have to get more guys playing. But every week we’ll get better, this will be our worst game of the year I guarantee that. It was a good way to start, that’s a division 1 team which is good for us.
Stoughton used that momentum to add onto its lead. The offense marched 82 yards on just eight plays to extend its lead. Highlighted by a 30-yard gain from Alex Iverson (six carries, 60 yards), the Black Knights moved into Franklin territory. On third and 15, Gibb hit Gonzalez on a bubble screen and the senior turned on the jets, racing for a 35-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead with just 0:19 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers didn’t quit though, responding with a nine-play, 54-yard drive to get within one score. Noviello hit Jack Nally (8 catches, 88 yards) to convert the first third down Franklin faced. Franklin found itself facing another fourth down in the red zone, and this time they went to its bag of tricks to execute. Senior wide receiver Evan Wendell took the toss in the backfield but instead of a run, he lofted a pass to a wide open Nally in the end zone for a 13-yard score.
But in vintage Stoughton fashion, the Black Knights went back to the ground game to bleed the block and restore its two score lead. It took 10 plays to cover 67 yards, capped with a 1 yard sneak from Gibb to make it 28-14. The drive took 5:39 off the clock in the fourth quarter.
“When it comes down to it at the end, you have to be able to run the ball,” Burke said. Stoughton finished with 227 rushing yards. “[Noviello] is probably the best thrower we’ll see all year. He was tough, [Leonard] was tough, [Ryan Driscoll] was tough. Those were some tough guys.”
Franklin’s last push reached the red zone again but Stoughton’s Justin Ly came up with a pass breakup to end the drive.
“The scoreboard is the scoreboard, you are what your record is but however this game turned out, I know that we’re tremendously better than we were a year ago,” said FHS coach Eian Bain “We brought a lot back but there’s a special buy in with these kids. Not that last year didn’t, but we’ve had this group for two years and they’ve just kept moving forward every day. They are a competitive group. This game could have easily gone a different way, we have a lot to learn.
“Our kids are getting that sense that they can play with anybody. If we just clean up some things, you know. It’s hard to simulate a Stoughton team in practice. Their team speed was overall better than ours and they made some great adjustments in the red zone.”
Stoughton football (1-0) hits the road to take on Catholic Memorial next Saturday while Franklin (0-1) will visit Milford for a non-league showdown with the Scarlet Hawks.
“It was a nice way to end on this field,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke, who has called Sarno Field home ever since he took over in 1990. “The kids played tough, they were great all year. I wish we were still playing, I think we’re good enough to have one more game. But but we played our butts off today.
“We had a great senior group this year. Hats off to Canton, they have a lot of kids back so it will be a war next year. I’m happy with got eight wins this year and with our schedule, that’s pretty damn good, I’m proud of that.”
Stoughton seniors Izon Swain-Price and Ryan Sullivan both rushed for over 100 yards and combined for five touchdowns to lead the way for the Black Knights. The hosts scored on six of their eight offensive series and added one special teams touchdown as well.
“This is the last game on this field so all week Coach Burke has been preaching that he wanted this to be the best game ever played on this field and I think we succeeded in doing that today,” Sullivan said.
Stoughton’s defense forced and three and out on Canton’s opening series and two plays into its first possession, junior Justin Ly found a big gap and raced for a 44 yard touchdown.
The Black Knights forced another three and out and again, cashed in two plays later with Swain-Price (3 carries, 108 yards, 3 touchdowns) going up the left side for a 36 yard touchdown and an early 13-0 lead.
Swain-Price scored again on his second carry of the game, going up the left side for a 21 yard touchdown that capped a 7-play, 70 yard drive for Stoughton — its longest of the game.
The second quarter was more of the same for the Black Knights. On the second play of Stoughton’s fourth offensive possession, Swain-Price took his third carry for 51 yards, toeing the sideline for the last 15 yards, to find the endzone to put the Black Knights up 27-0.
After Stoughton’s defense came up with another stop, Sullivan (4 carries, 107 yards, 2 total touchdowns) returned a punt 73 yards with just over two minutes to play in the first half to give the hosts a 34-0 lead at the break.
On the first play of the second half, Sullivan raced 59 yards for a touchdown to make it 41-0.
“Ryan and Izon, there as good as anyone in the entire state, there’s no doubt about it,” Burke said. “Sullivan and Swain-Price they will match up against every single player in the state. When you get them going, they’re going to cause some trouble. Then it goes back to the line, we had a great line, tough kids. They slugged it out this year…we slugged it out against everyone this year.”
Stoughton finished with a 327-107 advantage in yards.
“It was a complete game all the way,” Burke said. “I’m not sure how many yards we had but I know they couldn’t have gotten a lot. When they’re punting a lot and we’re kicking off a lot, I know we’re doing well.”
Senior Nick Hardy (six carries, 46 yards) scored his first rushing touchdown of the season with a six yard run with 8:38 left in the third quarter.
The game didn’t end without a little bit of drama though. Canton used 19 plays to march 63 yards to take up the majority of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs got 1st and goal from the 4 yard line. After three stops, Canton faced 4th and Goal from the 2 yard line. Stoughton’s Luis Monteiro made the tackle in the backfield to stop Canton, preserving the shutout.
“That was probably the most memorable moment of the game,” Sullivan said. “They made it down to the 2 yard line and we stopped them on four straight possessions to keep the shutout. We didn’t want any more points scored on this field.”
“They weren’t going to get it,” Burke said. “We played great defense all year. We’ve given up some games and some points here and there. We got all of our seniors in this game and that was the most important thing.”
Stoughton football finishes the season at 8-3 with a league-high 362 points for. Canton finishes the season at 3-8.
With construction set to begin on the new Stoughton High School at the end of the school year, the Black Knights will be without a home field for at least three seasons.
“We’re very happy with the way things finished, I’ve been here on this field for 25 years and now that’s it,” Burke said. “It’s a little sad, it’s a little surreal. I’m happy [for the new field] but a little sad too. We’ll be on the road a lot the next couple of years.
“I’ll play in the parking lot, if we have to play on the cement, we’ll play on the cement, that’s the kind of kids we have. People know when they play us, it’s going to be a ball game and I’m so proud of that. We might not have the most talent, but we won’t back down from anybody.”