Bulldogs Answer the Call in First Home Playoff Game

Canton football
Canton junior running back Kyle Fitzgerald had a big game, including a pair of touchdowns, as the Bulldogs beat Hanover in the program’s first home playoff game. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – At the final whistle, there wasn’t the type of celebration you would expect from a team that just played its first playoff game in decades, not to mention its first ever playoff game in front of its home fans. There was a quiet, subdued feeling as the Canton players surrounded their coaches to talk about a 27-13 win against no. 5 seed Hanover on Friday night at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.

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“I think it was a learning experience,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “They are very excited about next week and believe me they are very happy but what you’re seeing there is more relief that the penalties and turnovers didn’t cost them.”

Junior running back Kyle Fitzgerald remarked, “Obviously, it was awesome. We came out here looking to win and we were confident. We had to overcome adversity, we had a whole lot of penalties and stuff, but we got it done. It feels good.”

While penalties slowed the game down, and cut short a couple of potential scoring drives for the hosts, Canton showed its resiliency in the second half. Hanover, which had struggled to sustain anything on offense, twice scored on big plays to cut the lead down to just a touchdown, but both times the Bulldogs answered with long possessions to extend the lead.

“It’s been the same thing all year, since the first game against D-R (Dighton-Rehoboth) when we were down at halftime, we came back,” Fitzgerald explained. “I know my team will come back after any adversity.”

Canton doesn’t have a lot of experience with the football playoffs, but the Bulldogs came out flying in the first quarter to jump in front by a couple scores.

After stuffing the Indians on the opening kickoff, the Canton defense forced a three-and-out and took over at its own 48. The offense went right to work with junior quarterback Johnny Hagan showing off his ability to make plays with his feet (15 carries, 87 yards) and his arm (7-of-17, 80 yards). He hit Gersom Rivera for a 23-yard completion on third down to get inside the five and then two plays later Brendan Albert punched it in from two yards out.

The Bulldogs were trying to send a message and they forced another three-and-out from the Hanover offense. On fourth down, punter Jack Delahunt rolled out to the far sideline and tried to make it to the sticks only to be cut down a yard short. Canton got the ball at the Indians 24.

Bohane said, “They wanted a finesse game and we wanted a power game and I thought we needed at the very beginning of the game we needed play on our terms. I thought for the most part we did, maybe to the point that we were a little over-aggressive and dealt with a lot of penalties.”

Hagan got 16 yards on second and 17 and then Rivera gained nine over a pair of carries. Fitzgerald (19 carries, 143 yards) took it from there, finding a seam from five yards out for a 14-0 lead at the end of the first 11 minutes.

“It kind of got the jitters out of our stomachs and gave us some breathing room,” said Fitzgerald about the quick start. “Obviously, they came back so if we didn’t have that lead early on then it could’ve been a different game.”

The game really could have been over by halftime. The defense continued to put pressure on Hanover quarterback Andrew Carroll, including a big pass rush from junior Jack Connolly and then a sack from Albert to get the ball back.

Canton marched right back into Hanover territory, with Hagan converting a fourth down play with a four-yard keeper. Fitzgerald then had the highlight of the night on a sweep to the left for 32 yards in which he hurdled a Hanover defensive back before being brought down at the Indians six. On the next play, the Bulldogs fumbled a handoff and lost possession.

After another defensive stand, the Bulldogs offense went on the move again. Fitzgerald had another big gain, this time for 35 yards, and Canton got as far as the Hanover 15 but then a holding call and a sack forced them back. A last-second pass to Rivera was tipped away and it was 14-0 at the break.

“I was very concerned that we didn’t put it away in the first half,” Bohane admitted. “We don’t commit a lot of turnovers but that was a turnover at the wrong time and it gave them a chance and we were fighting for the game into the fourth quarter.”

On its first possession of the second half, Hanover stunned the Canton crowd (and sideline) by finally finding a big play on offense. Despite Albert getting into the backfield and hitting Carroll as he threw, the Indians signal caller was able to get the ball downfield to Drew Berard, who beat his coverage for a 60-yard score.

The Bulldogs answered with a 17-play, 70-yard drive to regain the two-score advantage and eat up the final 8:44 of the third quarter. Hagan found Ryan Lentol on an eight-yard completion to convert a big third down and then Fitzgerald on a comeback route for nine yards on a fourth and eight. On third down, Hagan then connected with Jace Emma for a 13-yard score and a 20-7 lead.

“There were times that we didn’t move the chains when we needed it, like North Attleboro in the third quarter when we needed a big drive,” Bohane said, “So here we are a week later and we needed it and we got it. We had to make some adjustments but it was enough to win.”

Hanover came right back with a even more shocking play. On fourth and one, the Bulldogs had Evan Ritchie caught in the backfield, but he slipped out of the grasp of a would-be tackler and bolted up the Hanover sideline for a 66-yard score.

Rather than getting down, Canton just went back to work on offense, grinding out a 12-play, 72-yard, six-minute drive that sealed the win. Hagan gained 29 yards on a pair of keepers and had an 18-yard pass to Fitzgerald to get to the Hanover 20. After Fitzgerald got the Bulldogs got the ball to the two, Hagan was denied on a pair of sneaks, so the Bulldogs went back to Fitzgerald for the one-yard score to seal the win with three minutes to play.

Next Friday, Canton (7-1) will travel to Falmouth to face the top seeded Clippers. Fitzgerald was already looking forward to the trip. He said, “Foxboro almost did it tonight. (The Warriors lost 22-14 to Falmouth.) We know we can play with these guys. We were four points away from a potential one-seed, so we’re confident.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Foxboro Falls In Close Battle With Hanover

Foxboro boys basketball
Foxboro’s Joe Morrison goes up for a contested layup against Hanover. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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FOXBORO, Mass. – If there was one play that summed up how Foxboro’s game against Hanover went, look no further than what turned out to be the game-winning bucket for the Indians.

With Foxboro holding a 57-56 lead, the Warriors looked like they got the stop they needed. Hanover’s leading scorer JP Landry (25 points, seven rebounds) drove baseline and went up for his shot, only for Foxboro senior Teddy Maher to make a great play from behind to block the ball.

But the offensive rebound fell into the hands of Hanover’s Matt Delahunt – one of the Indian’s 15 offensive rebounds – and he quickly put it back up and in with a one-handed floater from the middle of the paint.

That bucket — and those offensive rebounds — proved to be the difference as #5 Hanover edged #4 Foxboro, 58-57.

“That summed it up,” said Foxboro head coach Jon Gibbs. “It just wasn’t our night. It seemed like they made some tough shots all night long and the ball just wouldn’t bounce our way. Sometimes that’s how it goes. The game was everything we expected it to be, it was a great high school basketball game down to the wire. Unfortunately, they made one more play than we did.”

Though that basket proved to be the difference, there was plenty of drama over the final 28 seconds. Foxboro had a chance to retake the lead, using the majority of the shot clock before senior Joe Morrison (13 points, four rebounds) found sophomore Brandon Borde (11 points, six rebounds) in the post.

The sophomore made a nice move to create some space, turning into the paint and firing a turnaround jumper. The shot looked good, but was just inches off, hitting the back of the rim and staying out on the bounce. Foxboro immediately fouled, sending Hanover to the line with 4.3 seconds to go.

Hanover missed the first shot, but once again, the Indians made their mark on the offensive glass, hauling in another offensive board. After another foul, Hanover once again missed the front of the bonus and Foxboro called timeout with 2.6 seconds left.

But Foxboro’s last second effort fell short as the inbounds pass was tipped away at midcourt, securing the win for the Indians, the defending MIAA D3 State Champions.

“Hanover is a terrific offensive rebounding team, we knew that coming in,” Gibbs said. Hanover had a 15-2 advantage on offensive rebounds and won the rebounding battle 38-24. “We certainly made rebounding a major point of emphasis but give credit to Hanover, they were relentless on the offensive boards. It just felt like all the biggest plays of the game were Hanover offensive rebounds.

“It seemed like every big momentum swing…we were able to stop them on the first stop but they would get the putback. Those are winning plays, Hanover is obviously a championship type team.”

Foxboro had a strong start to the fourth quarter with a 6-0 spurt over the first two minutes. Borde converted a nice take to the rim, Matt Rongione (14 points) hit a three off of an assist from Devin Hassett, and Anthony Mollica hit one of his free throws to give the Warriors their largest lead, 54-45, with 5:48 to go.

But the Indians refused to fold. The visitor’s battled back with Landry leading the way. He scored four points while the Indians added three from two separate trips from the free throw line to get within two.

The Warriors snapped the run when Borde hit a free throw with 2:20 to go but Hanover came right back down and scored off the hands of Andrew Carroll off a nice feed from Landry to make it a one-point game.

Rongione responded with a strong take to the basket, fighting through contact for two. That gave Foxboro a 57-54 lead with 93 seconds to play, but again the Indians had an answer when Landry hit a tough floater in the lane.

Foxboro came up empty on its trip up the court, and it looked like Hanover did too. Delahunt saw his jumper hit off the side of the rim, and it looked like Foxboro had come down with the rebound. But a nice hustle play from Hanover resulted in a jump ball, giving the Indians possession back. That led to Delahunt’s floater after Maher’s block.

“They’ve been in so many big games and won so many big games together,” Gibbs said. “I’d like to think our team did the same this year. It was a back and forth battle, neither team wanted to go away. They made one more play and we ran out of time.”

Foxboro’s offense got off to a strong start, hitting four three’s in the opening quarter to create a 19-15 lead. Landry came up with a steal in the last second and hit a desperation three while falling to keep Hanover close.

The offense continued to play well with 17 points in the second quarter. Senior Bobby Harrison emerged as a key part of the offense, scoring nine of his 11 points in the frame to put the Warriors up 36-31 lead at half.

Hanover got within three early in the third quarter but Borde responded to push the lead back to five. When Delahunt hit to get the Indians within two, 43-41, Morrison came back the other way and converted to keep the lead. A three point play from Mollica late in the third kept the Warriors up, 48-45, heading into the fourth.

“I felt like we had a couple of chances over the court of the second half to maybe pop it to double figures and we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Gibbs said. “Every time we looked like we were close to blowing the game open, they came back and made a big play.”

Foxboro boys basketball finishes the season 19-5.

Foxboro Passes Test Behind Sampson Season-High

Foxboro girls basketball
Katelyn Mollica drives to the basket in the first half against Hanover in the opener of the Warrior Classic at Foxboro High. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Coming into Monday night’s opener of the annual Warrior Classic, Foxboro had won twice by more than 50 points, seven times this year by 40 or more points, twice by 30-plus, and four times by 20 or more. All but five games this season had been decided at least double digits (including a 10-point overtime loss to Coyle & Cassidy in the season opener).

The Warriors had lost only twice this season, only once in the last 19 games, and completed the program’s first perfect run in the Hockomock League. Foxboro was hoping for a challenge to get them ready for the postseason, although it would be fair to say no one was expecting five-win Hanover to be the team that would provide it.

Instead of being another comfortable victory, Foxboro was given all it could handle by the Indians on Monday and needed a season-high 29 points from senior Ashley Sampson, including 13 in the fourth quarter, to pull out a 66-59 victory.

“We just haven’t been challenged and I think this was good for them,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “It lets them get a taste of teams that are better than what they’ve been facing recently. This tournament is always a great dress rehearsal for the state tournament.”

From the start, Hanover played like a team that was heading to the playoffs, breaking the Foxboro press and creating easy scoring opportunities at the rim. After a layup by Kathryn Fallon (11 points), Foxboro trailed 11-8 and there were some stunned faces in the stands.

Katelyn Mollica (12 points) came off the bench and provided a spark to close out the first quarter, as Foxboro was forced to go small in order to matchup with the Indians. She drove baseline for a layup and then scored in transition after one of Sampson’s four steals. Lily Sykes (six points) drilled a three to put the Warriors up four but a three-point play by Clare Connolly cut the lead to 15-14 after one.

“We like to play man-to-man defense and with a smaller team that was pretty much four guards, it wasn’t a great matchup for us,” Downs explained. “We did have to go to more zone than we typically ever would have to, but we did it decently. That’s something we have to work on to have it ready to go.”

The Indians continued to play well into the second, taking a 20-16 lead, before Foxboro finally put together one of its trademark runs. The Warriors scored the next 14 points to lead by double digits for the first time.

Half of those points came from the line, including five free throws from Sampson, who scored seven of Foxboro’s 14 points during the run. Mollica also knocked down a three after a Grace Tamulionis offensive rebound and kick-out pass. Tamulionis finished with seven points, eight boards and six assists.

Leading 32-24 at the break, Foxboro came out for the third quarter trying to get the ball into the paint, where the Warriors had a distinct size advantage. Sampson posted up first and drew a foul and then Shannon Smally (eight points) got the ball several times in the post, scoring six points in the third.

Downs said, “We knew that we had a height advantage tonight, so we wanted to make sure we were jamming it in there. Ashley’s tough under the basket, so that’s something we want to have in our back pocket.”

Hanover never caved and continued to cut into the Foxboro lead. Erin Flynn (10 points) scored five straight and Janey Devlin scored seven of her 19 points in the third. The Indians were controlling the glass, getting two and sometimes three looks at the basket.

“We had some breakdowns, especially the rebounding,” Downs admitted. “Sometimes we’d have Abby [Hassman] in there alone representing us in the rebounding department. We have to do a little less spectating once a shot goes up.”

The came continued to be tight throughout the fourth quarter, a rarity for the Warriors this season. A Flynn three pulled the Indians within one at 52-51 and after Sampson got to the basket with a baseline drive, Devlin answered with a put-back.

Sampson started to take over down the stretch, as the Warriors got the ball into the Adelphi University-commit’s hands on every possession. She got a finish at the rim off a Tamulionis assist and then knocked down a step-back jumper on the baseline. Mollica added an almost identical jumper and Sampson made 4-of-5 from the line to close things out.

It was a scare, but maybe it was a scare that the Warriors needed at this point in the season.

“We find out how they’re going to do with a little more pressure, a little more chaos on the floor than they’re used to and then we see how they react and what we have to work on in the next week,” Downs remarked.

Foxboro (19-2, 16-0) will face Natick in the final of the Warrior Classic on Tuesday. Natick rolled past Hoosac Valley by 30 points on Monday.

Foxboro Comeback Falls Short Against Hanover

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro sophomore Ashley Sampson (5) drives to the basket int he second half against Hanover in the Warriors Classic. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – The Warriors went into halftime trailing by 16, having scored only 14 points in 16 minutes and getting dominated on the glass by a Hanover team that boasted length at every position. Foxboro looked flat and in need of a spark.

As has been the case for most of this season, Foxboro turned to sophomore guard Ashley Sampson, who sparked a second half fight back that would get the Warriors as close as five points in the fourth quarter.

Sampson scored 20 points, 13 in the second half, and pulled down 11 rebounds but it was not enough, as Hanover made several clutch free throws and hung on for a 52-45 victory in the annual Warrior Classic.

Foxboro coach Lisa Downs explained, “I think midway through the second quarter the lightbulb went off like we can actually run with this team and the energy was drawn from the coach on that end and they thought this team has probably not faced a team as quick as we are all season long.”

Hanover boasts two players that have already committed to Div. 1 schools, was coming off a 30-point win over Lincoln-Sudbury in the first round of the tournament, and was a perfect 18-0 on the year. At the start of the game, Foxboro looked overwhelmed.

The Indians jumped out to a 17-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and were manhandling the Warriors on the boards. Juniors Hayley Wardwell (six points) and Megan Dixon (11 points) combined for 11 in the first, including a trio of shots from beyond the arc. Sophomore forward Grace Tamulionis was the lone Foxboro player to get off to a good start with four in the first.

The second quarter was little better, although Foxboro did start to find a little energy as halftime approached. Sampson scored five in the second, including a coast-to-coast layup off a defensive rebound. Lily Sykes also drained a three, as Hanover built a 30-14 lead at the break.

“If someone is having a bad shooting night, which is going to happen every single night, you can’t let your shoulders shrug,” said Downs. “You have to bust your butt and get down the court. We have a lot of speed and if we utilize it well then there’s not a lot of teams that can match up with it.”

The Warriors started the third quarter on the front foot. There was more noise from the bench, more energy on the court, and an aggressiveness that was noticeably missing in the opening half.

Tamulionis (nine points) buried a corner three then Sampson took another rebound the length of the floor for a layup and the Hanover lead was down to 12. Sykes found Sampson in the corner for a three then she pulled up for a free throw line jumper in transition following a steal by Kristen Bortolotti. Suddenly it was 41-32 and the Warriors were back in the game.

Downs said, “All of a sudden after halftime, their confidence skyrocketed a little bit just stemming from what happened at the end of the second quarter and then we started hitting a few shots and that confidence just spread.”

Momentum was fully on the home side, until Taylor Scott got open just before the end of the third quarter and drilled a three at the buzzer to give Hanover a 44-32 advantage heading to the fourth.

The shot slowed Foxboro down but only temporarily. Sampson scored four quick points to start the fourth and Cassidy Harrison (nine points) knocked down a shot that cut the lead to eight. Foxboro also got a spark off the bench from Shannon Smally, who came in and grabbed five rebounds in the fourth and gave the Warriors a presence in the post.

“Which is something we don’t have,” said Downs about Smally giving Foxboro size in the paint. “She did very well last night [against Ursuline Academy], so I think she’s starting to get into the flow of the game and feeling like she’s a major contributor when she’s out there, especially on the boards.”

Downs added, “It’s not about height, it’s about desire and intensity and tenacity. We have it; we just need to go out there and show it. We were getting them tired too, so that was our strategy – run, run, run.”

Sampson scored to make it 47-40 then found Harrison for a shot that cut the lead down to just five, the closest Foxboro had been since it was 6-2 in the first quarter. After making a stop at the other end, the Warriors had a shot to cut the lead to three, but it rimmed out and the Indians went 5-6 from the line in the final 40 seconds to close out the win.

Coaches rarely look at the positives after a loss, but Downs saw a lot of things that the Warriors can build on in the final 10 days of the regular season.

“The girls know that they can compete with probably a state championship team,” said Downs, who added that she would be shocked if Hanover did not win the Div. 3 title this year. “Confidence-wise I think it was a huge build up for not just individuals but the whole team.”

Foxboro(11-6, 9-5) will host Milford on Friday night before wrapping up Hockomock play on Monday with a trip to Sharon.