Below are the official 2021 Hockomock League Football All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Kelley-Rex Division MVP
Mack Gulla, Franklin
Kelley-Rex Division All Stars
Chris Leonardo, Attleboro
Kaiden Murray, Attleboro
Jared Arone, Franklin
Shane Kindred, Franklin
Will Tracey, Franklin
Joe Tirrell, Franklin
Hunter Hastings, King Philip
Crawford Cantave, King Philip
Rudy Gately, King Philip
Mark DeGirolamo, Mansfield
Jephte Jean, Mansfield
Trevor Foley, Mansfield
Rocco Scarpellini, Mansfield
Tyler Lane, Milford
Marco Monteiro, Milford
Isaiah Pantalone, Milford
Trent Santos, Taunton
Davenport Division MVP
Dylan Gordon, Foxboro
Davenport Division All Stars
Bahsor Mahn, Canton
Tom Marcucella, Foxboro
Rashaad Way, Foxboro
Dylan Kerrigan, Foxboro
Aidan Hughes, Foxboro
Tom Sharkey, Foxboro
Tyler DeMattio, North Attleboro
Tyler Bannon, North Attleboro
Jared Vacher, North Attleboro
Keysun Wise, North Attleboro
Gavin Wells, North Attleboro
Collin Williamson, Oliver Ames
Jonah Ly, Stoughton
Anthony Girolamo, Stoughton
Emmett Pearl, Stoughton
Shawn Fargher, Stoughton
Isaac Pereira, Attleboro
Colin Albert, Canton
Ryan Addeche, Foxboro
Cullen Pek, Franklin
Nick Viscusi, King Philip
Joseph Forte, Mansfield
Evan Cornelius, Milford
Greg Berthiaume, North Attleboro
Chad Silva, Oliver Ames
Konrad Rogers, Stoughton
Jose Touron, Taunton
MILFORD, Mass. – Across the Hockomock League, there are Thanksgiving Day rivalries that stretch back decades. On Thursday morning, the two newest programs in the league squared off in the league’s newest holiday rivalry, kicking it off with a game that went right down to the wire.
Milford (9-3) pulled ahead by two scores in the fourth quarter but then had to hold on in the final minute, watching a deep pass drop incomplete to seal a 34-28 victory over Taunton (5-6) in their inaugural Thanksgiving Day game. It was Milford’s third win in three meetings between the two teams and during the trophy presentation both athletic directors spoke about their hopes that this will develop into a great end-of-season rivalry.
“A great program like Taunton, they’re going to continue to get better and better,” said Milford coach Dale Olson. “Milford had a great Thanksgiving opponent here back in the Mid-Wach days with Shrewsbury, hopefully we can turn that game into this game with Taunton.
Taunton coach Brad Sidwell added, “It’s great. If it’s anything like this one then it’s going to be a little bit of stress on Thanksgiving. It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth.”
Taunton had an extra week to prepare for the game, as the Hawks were playing a state semifinal last Friday, and the Tigers put that extra work into practice on the opening drive. Jacob Leonard ( 20-of-28, 202 yards) threw a perfect strike to Trent Santos (seven catches, 118 yards) for 19 to get to the Milford 37. Three plays later, Leonard’s sneak converted on fourth and inches and then he hooked up with Santos again for 25 yards and a touchdown.
The Hawks looked sluggish at the start, needing an emotional boost after the disappointment of the loss to King Philip. After a halfback pass went incomplete and Nathan LaPlante stuffed a play for a loss of five, Olson called timeout and gave his team a much-needed wakeup call.
“We sensed it. Only having a few days to prepare for a very good Taunton team, there’s a ton of skill on that team and the kids get after it, we knew we were going to have our hands full,” Olson explained.
Evan Cornelius (17-of-24, 154 yards) swung a pass to Tyler Lane for 17 and a first down. A 12-yard pass to Grant Scudo got the ball down to the Taunton 32 and Lane (16 carries, 108 yards) did the rest. The senior running back barreled through the line, breaking tackles, and then broke free in the secondary for a game-tying score.
After forcing a three-and-out, thanks to a sack by Cornelius (who was named Defensive MVP), the Hawks went right back to work. A completion to Jayden Agnew got the ball to the goal line, but then Taunton stuffed back-to-back runs, with Kasaan Jean-Baptiste and Ryan MacDougall combining to drop Lane at the four. On third and goal, Cornelius looked to the right and Faisal Mass tipped, picked off, and returned the pass 97 yards to put the Tigers back in front.
Milford’s offense was still moving the ball well and the Hawks marched right back down the field on the following possession. John Castillo sacked Cornelius for a loss of seven but on third and 17, Cornelius connected with Isaiah Pantalone (seven catches, 56 yards) for 18 and the first. Another third down and long pass hit Scudo for 25 to the one. This time, Cornelius was able to punch it in for the TD and tied it at 14-14.
Pantalone also provided a defensive spark, as his hit forced an Evan Perrotta fumble that was recovered by Alex McColl at the Taunton 41. Lane got an inch more than he needed on fourth and two to keep the drive moving but the Tigers were able to hold and force a field goal. Nicholas Araujo booted a 41-yard kick to make it 17-14.
“We get the deflection and the kid goes back 97 yards and changed the whole outlook on the game,” said Olson, “but I’m thankful we have a sophomore kicker who can kick the ball like that, he’s a huge weapon.”
The Tigers thought they had a chance to take the lead with a two-minute drive. Leonard scrambled for 21 yards on two plays to get to the Milford 22. On third and three from the 15, Leonard hit Jose Touron for 10 yards to the five and the Tigers scrambled to spike the ball and stop the clock with six seconds left. Sidwell was adamant the clock should’ve stopped seven seconds earlier on the first down and given Taunton two shots at the end zone. Instead, the Tigers got one and Scudo tackled Troy Santos a couple yards short as time expired.
Sidwell said, “The clock should stop on a first down, which it didn’t. I thought there were 12 seconds left, there were six. It was bad. It was awful. We had a timeout in our pocket to save. I’m very frustrated by the way that happened.”
Things went from back to worse at the start of the second half. Milford was forced to punt, but the ball appeared to bounce up off the leg of Nathan Keenan and was recovered by Eric Landry at the 32. On third and goal from the three, Cornelius was able to power into the end zone over the right side of the line for a 24-14 edge.
A three-and-out gave Milford the ball back with a chance to make things comfortable heading into the fourth quarter, but Taunton’s defense held again, stopping the Hawks at the 28. Araujo made sure that Milford got at least three points with a 45-yard field goal.
The visitors needed a break and Trent Santos gave them some momentum with a 31-yard return out to the 48. Two plays later, Santos was able to get separation on the near sideline and pulled in a 46-yard touchdown that cut the lead to six with 12 minutes to go.
Araujo was unable to hit from 51 yards, which gave Taunton the ball at its own 20. Leonard scrambled away from pressure but then attempted an underhand pass that Scudo was able to pick off and give the Hawks the ball at the 23. Pantalone followed the block of Marco Monteiro on a sweep, scoring from 10 yards out and seemingly putting the game away.
It only appeared to be over, as Taunton roared back into the game with a huge drive. Leonard moved the chains with a 13-yard scramble and then hit Santos for 16 yards to the Milford 31. On the next play, he threw a strike to Touron, who had gotten behind the secondary. Keenan’s extra point cut the lead to six.
“Our kids fight hard all the time,” Sidwell said. “It is hard on a younger quarterback when you have to throw it and they know it. He gave us a chance to win there at the end.”
The onside kick attempt was recovered at the Taunton 48 and the Tigers had one last chance. On third and two, Cornelius and Angelo Romero combined on a sack to force fourth and nine from the Taunton side of the 50. Leonard bought time in the pocket and looked deep for Santos, who beat his man, but the throw was a yard too far and Milford took home the win.
“That’s kind of been our M.O.,” said Olson. “We haven’t done anything easy over these past two seasons. We’ve played in a lot of tight games.
“When the kids needed to dig in, they dug in today. It’s been a great ride these last two years and to finish 9-3 the future is bright here in Milford.”
Today’s games are listed below.
North Attleboro, 14 @ Attleboro, 6 – Final
1st Quarter: (NA) Tyler DeMattio 45-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
2nd Quarter: (A) Adrian Rivera 5-yard rush, XP no good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (NA) T. DeMattio 8-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
Canton, 14 @ Stoughton, 47 – Final
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (S) Jarred Daughtry 6-yard pass to Tagh Swierzewski, Jonah Ly XP good; Bahsor Mahn 70-yard rush, Hayden Rose XP good; (S) J. Ly 10-yard rush, XP failed; (S) Brady Clark 40-yard pass to Emmett Pearl, J. Ly XP good; (S) B. Clark 30-yard pass to E. Pearl, J. Ly XP good.; (S) Tyler Noel 2-yard fumble recovery, J. Ly XP good.; (C) Owen Lane rush, H. Rose XP good;
3rd Quarter: (S) Anthony Girolamo 12-yard rush, J. Ly XP good.
4th Quarter: (S) E. Pearl 50-yard interception return.
Foxboro, 21 @ Mansfield, 35 – Final
1st Quarter: (M) Conner Zukowski 16-yard pass to Ryan DeGirolamo, James Gilleran XP good; (F) Sam Carpenter 29-yard field goal.
2nd Quarter: (F) S. Carpenter 43-yard field goal; (M) Drew Sacco 5-yard rush, J. Gilleran XP good; (F) Dylan Gordon 15-yard rush, D. Gordon 2-point conversion rush.
3rd Quarter: (M) Rocco Scarpellini 5-yard rush, J. Gilleran XP good; (M) C. Zukowski 1-yard rush, J. Gilleran XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) C. Zukowski 8-yard pass to R. DeGirolamo, J. Gilleran XP good; (F) Tom Marcucella 73-yard pass to Rashaad Way, S. Carpenter XP good.
King Philip, 20 @ Franklin, 27 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: (KP) Charlie Grant 5-yard pass to Drew Danson, Matthew Kelley XP good; (KP) C. Grant 1-yard rush, M. Kelley XP good; (F) Jared Arone 85-yard pass to Shane Kindred, XP blocked.
2nd Quarter: (F) J. Arone 17-yard pass to S. Kindred, Garrett Portesi XP good; (F) J. Arone 37-yard pass to S. Kindred, XP blocked.
3rd Quarter: (KP) Crawford Cantave 6-yard rush, 2pt pass failed; (F) Mack Gulla 5-yard rush, J. Arone 2pt rush.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Taunton, 28 @ Milford, 34 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: (T) Jacob Leonard 25-yard pass to Trent Santos, Nathan Keenan XP good; (M) Tyler Lane 32-yard rush, Nicholas Araujo XP good.
2nd Quarter: (T) Faisal Mass 97-yard interception return, N. Keenan XP good; (M) Evan Cornelius 1-yard rush, N. Araujo XP good; (M) N. Araujo 41-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (M) E. Cornelius 3-yard rush, N. Araujo XP good; (M) N. Araujo 45-yard field goal; (T) J. Leonard 46-yard pass to T. Santos, N. Keenan XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) Isaiah Pantalone 10-yard rush, N. Araujo XP good; (T) J. Leonard 31-yard pass to Jose Touron, N. Keenan XP good.
Sharon, 7 @ Oliver Ames, 34 – Final
BROCKTON, Mass. – King Philip has been in these type of games before. Despite trailing by two points going into halftime of Friday night’s Div. 2 state semifinal at Brockton’s Marciano Stadium, the Warriors remained confident that they could turn things around.
In the third quarter, KP ran 20 plays to Milford’s one. The Warriors ate up more than nine minutes off the clock on a 16-play, go-ahead drive to start the half, forced a turnover, and then ran another 10 plays and used up more than four minutes to extend the lead. Before the Hawks had a chance to find their footing after the break, KP had taken control of the game.
The Warriors scored 17 unanswered in the second half, turning a two-point deficit into a 31-16 victory that sends KP to Gillette Stadium for the fourth time in the past six years (or four out of the past five seasons where a state title was up for grabs).
“We knew we weren’t getting that good of a push up front and we wanted to come out there and we wanted to set the tone for the second half,” said senior lineman Hunter Hastings about turning things around out of halftime. “We knew we had to do it on the first drive, so we came out there and we pounded the ball and we took up time and scored the ball, doesn’t get better than that.”
He added, “Coach Lee tells us what we need to do and he knows we’re going to be in these situations and he knows we’ve got to fight through the adversity and that’s what we do at KP.”
Milford came out with a hurry-up offense, trying to get the KP defense on its heels and slow down the pass rush. It worked on the opening drive, as the Hawks marched right down field, going 70 yards on 13 plays, and taking the lead. The big play was a 30-yard pass to the sideline from Evan Cornelius to Jayden Agnew to convert on third and long. Cornelius would finish off the drive with a 4-yard keeper.
“We wanted to go hurry-up early, but we just don’t have the numbers to sustain that for a whole game,” Milford coach Dale Olson said. “Tried to limit their blitz package and had a great first drive.”
The lead lasted all of 19 seconds. Although Milford is known more for the big-play offense, KP hit paydirt on its first play from scrimmage. An end around to Crawford Cantave caught the Hawks over-pursuing and the senior raced up the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown that quickly tied the game.
“You get knocked down, you’ve got to get up, you’ve got to have a response,” Lee explained. “Craw gets us right back in so we get a fresh start. I told them, let’s get through it, eventually the pace will slow, things will get down, and we’ll get back on schedule.”
Olson said, “Give them props, that’s a new formation we saw last week and they ran the double handoff. Our team’s chasing the first handoff and they give it to the kid going the other way and we haven’t seen it on film. It was a great call on their part.”
Isaiah Pantalone, who was held to one catch, broke a 54-yard return on the ensuing kick and the Hawks were back in business, starting at the KP 36. After a false start brought up first and 15 at the 30, Cornelius hit Nick Schuler for 13 yards. Tyler Lane (15 carries, 119 yards) got two to bring up fourth and one. The Hawks lined up to go for it but a false start backed them up, so the field goal unit came out. Another false start made it a 43-yard kick, which KP blocked.
On the final possession of the first quarter, KP struck again. Charlie Grant (4-of-9, 38 yards) converted a third and long with a 12-yard pass over the middle to Danny Clancy. On third and two from the Milford 49, Rudy Gately (22 carries, 134 yards) found a little seam between the right guard and tackle and burst through it, breaking away for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Milford again got into KP territory on its next drive. Lane had the big play with a 43-yard rush down to the 32, but that’s where the possession stalled. Sean King blocked a fourth down pass to get the ball back, but the Warriors went three-and-out and punted. With the short field, Milford was able to tack on three points. A nice play by Cantave and William Astorino on third down forced the Hawks to settle for a 32-yard kick by Nicholas Araujo.
The biggest play of the half came on KP’s next possession. Milford brought a big rush to try and block Grant’s rugby-style punt. Lane got through for the block, scooped up the loose ball, and took it the distance. He appeared to be tackled at about the five, but somehow managed to stay on his feet and find the end zone. Although a low snap led to a missed extra point, Milford regained the lead going into the break, 16-14.
KP came out intent on grinding down the Milford defense. Nathan Kearney converted on third and one, then Grant hit Clancy for eight yards to convert on third and eight. Gately converted back-to-back third downs, as KP just kept pounding the ball up the middle and moving the chains.
The Hawks were able to get stops inside the 30 and force the Warriors to settle for a 38-yard Matthew Kelley field goal, but KP had used up 9:19 off the clock, ran 16 plays, regained the lead, and stolen all of the energy from the opposite sideline. Milford tried to take a shot on the first play of its first possession, but Crawford was able to go up and intercept a pass to Pantalone and get KP the ball back at the Hawks 42.
“We ran one play in the third quarter and it’s a 50-50 ball that goes through Isaiah’s hands into one of their best player’s hands,” Olson said. “Usually Isaiah makes that play and it’s a big play down the sideline, but that’s the game of football.”
Four plays later, the third quarter came to a close. Milford had run one play in 12 minutes. After Grant found Cantave in the flat to convert third and five, Gately got four straight carries down to the 10. On third and six, Grant looked for Clancy in the end zone. The pass fell incomplete but the officials called defensive holding, which gave KP another chance. Now, on third and one from the five, Gately got the call, spun out of a tackle in the backfield, and scored for the second time.
“Rudy doesn’t look like your typical pound back but he finds a way to make things happen when he gets the ball in his hands,” said Lee. “Craw was able to do it and the offensive line had a response. We made some big pass plays. We made plays.”
A short punt on Milford’s next possession meant that the Warriors got the ball back near midfield and they went right back to grinding out first downs. Facing third and nine from the 14, Gately somehow managed to keep his feet moving, breaking tackles in the backfield again, and moving the pile down to the five for a first and goal. Two plays later, Cantave punched it in from the three for a 31-16 lead.
Thomas Brewster broke up a pass play on the sideline and Jake Sullivan sacked Cornelius (8-of-20, 63 yards), not allowing Milford to put together a drive to try and cut into the lead in the final two minutes.
When asked how it feels to be heading back to a state title game, Hastings replied, “It’s never felt better. We come to play every week. We don’t care who we’re against.”
Olson remarked, “I’m proud of my kids. We’re still trying to build this and for us to be in this game is huge for this program.”
This will be the fifth Div. 2 (2016 was D1A) Super Bowl in a row, and eighth in the last 11 years, that has featured either King Philip or Mansfield. Only two times in the past 11 years, 2014 and 2015, has the Hock not had at least one team reach a Super Bowl.
King Philip (9-1) will face Franklin on Thanksgiving Day to decide the Kelley-Rex division title and then will await the winner of No. 1 Catholic Memorial and No. 4 Marshfield in the Super Bow. Milford (8-3) will face Taunton in the first Thanksgiving Day matchup between the two programs.
“It feels awesome,” Lee said about heading back to Gillette. He added with a laugh, “I love that we have a humungous Thanksgiving Day game against, you know, the third best team in the state before. We can’t enjoy it for long.”
MILFORD, Mass. – There are days when an offense can be creative, going with trick plays, receiver screens, deep throws trying to stretch the opposition and score in a hurry. In the playoffs, sometimes a more straightforward approach is required.
In the second half of Thursday night’s Div. 2 quarterfinal, Milford decided to take a decidedly old school plan of attack. Over two drives, the Hawks ran 33 plays, covered 173 yards, used up nearly half of the clock in third and fourth quarters, and scored a pair of touchdowns. Out of those 33 plays, only five were passes.
The ground game and a stout defense proved to be Milford’s best weapons, as the Hawks pulled out a 21-7 victory that moved them within one win of a first-ever trip to Gillette.
“I just told them, buckle up, we need to run the football,” said Milford coach Dale Olson about his message at halftime. “Three down box and sometimes it was a 3-2 or a 3-1, they were so concerned about our pass game. It’s so simple, I told the quarterback if it’s a limited box then run the football. It wasn’t Evan’s best night throwing the football but he ran the ball like a man tonight.”
Natick was in Milford territory in seven of its eight drives on the night, but many times that was the result of great starting field position. The 35-yard-line was the furthest that Natick started any of its first half drives, but the Milford defense kept finding ways to keep them out of the end zone.
On the first possession, a big tackle on the edge by Nicholas Araujo and Jayden Archeval forced third and long. Grant Scudo broke up the third down play to end the drive. The second drive ended after Keith Lee stuffed a run on second down and then Scudo dropped a third-down screen pass attempt for a loss.
The visitors finally broke through on their third possession, which they started at their own 45. After converting on third down, Colby LeBlanc was able to buy time in the pocket, eluding the rush and giving time for a receiver to come free. Mathew Pole found himself open in the seam and it turned into a 43-yard touchdown.
Milford moved the ball on its second possession, with Evan Cornelius (13-of-25, 129 yards) hitting Cameron Phillipss for a big conversion on third and eight. Cornelius (11 carrries, 61 yards) also converted third and short with a 10-yard keeper. After getting inside the Natick 30, things stalled. David Seiche nearly intercepted a pass and on fourth and four a screen pass to Damien Carter was stuffed for a loss.
Its first possession after Natick took the lead ended with a Seiche interception, but Milford’s defense forced a punt and the Hawks took over at their own 20. Scudo broke an 18-yard draw up the middle that put Milford into Natick territory and, on third and eight, Cornelius looked down the near sideline to Isaiah Pantalone (four catches, 54 yards), who was finally able to get just enough separation to haul in a 34-yard touchdown and tie the game with 2:20 before halftime.
Momentum seemed to be with the home side, especially when Nizayah Montas fumbled near midfield and Scudo recovered. A big completion over the middle to Jayden Agnew (five catches, 45 yards) gained 17 and got the Hawks to the 26. They managed to spike the ball with one tick remaining on the clock, but Araujo’s 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Seiche had a big kickoff return to start the third quarter, putting Natick at the 46, but on third down and short Alex McColl was able to stop Montas for no gain and force a punt. The ball was downed at the nine and Milford went to work behind its big offensive line.
Scudo, Cornelius, and Tyler Lane were finding running room and grinding out yards and first downs. An 11-yard keeper got the Hawks out to the 35 and then Lane went up the gut for 11 more. On third and one from the Natick 35, Lane burst through the line and then bounced it out to the left, finally being dragged down after a 23-yard gain. Three plays later, he was able to cash in from the one to put the hosts ahead for good.
Milford’s pass defense continued to be excellent with Archeval and Matt Girard both breaking up passes to force another punt. This time, the Hawks started at their own 18 but 18 plays and nearly 9-1/2 minutes later they were back in the end zone.
Olson said, “I said to them we need a championship drive right now and we’re going to run the football right down their throats and, if we can do that, we’re going to go play for the right to go to Gillette.”
Cornelius started the drive with a 13-yard completion to Nick Schuler and he kept the chains moving with a five-yard pass to Pantalone for a first down at the Natick 43. Lane followed that with a 17-yard carry. Scudo, Cornelius, and Lane all got the ball, grinding down to the goal line and it was Lane (29 carries, 157 yards) who would punch it in from a yard out, making it 21-7 with just 4:27 to play.
“Tyler’s a dude,” Olson said. “I don’t want to give him the ball that much because he’s a great linebacker and early in the season we gave it to him 29 times in one game and the first two days after that game he was in an ice bath. He’s not the fastest kid in the world, but man he runs hard.” When told Lane’s stats for the game, Olson said with a smile, “That’s a great night.”
Milford (8-2) will face a rematch with a league foe in next week’s semifinal at a location to be determined. The Hawks will face either No. 3 King Philip, which beat Milford 17-14 on a last second field goal, or No. 6 Mansfield, which Milford beat 27-24 in overtime, for the right to play in the D2 Super Bowl.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this program in 20 months where it’s gone and it’s been the kids,” Olson explained. “They bought into the system and they’re playing well.”
Today’s games are listed below.
#7 Natick, 7 @ #2 Milford, 21 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (N) Colby LeBlanc 43-yard pass to Mathew Pole, XP good; (M) Evan Cornelius 34-yard pass to Isaiah Pantalone, Nicholas Araujo XP good.
3rd Quarter: (M) Tyler Lane 1-yard rush, N. Araujo XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) T. Lane 1-yard rush, N. Araujo XP good.
Taunton, 34 vs. Braintree, 14 – Final
1st Quarter: (T) Nathan Keenan 36-yard field goal; (T) Jacob Leonard 36-yard pass to Jose Touron, N. Keenan XP good.
2nd Quarter: (T) J. Leonard 43-yard pass to Trent Santos, N. Keenan XP good; (B) James Tellier 32-yard pass to Cameron Garrity, Manisch Bonhomme XP good; (T) Evan Perrotta 73-yard rush, N. Keenan XP good; (B) J. Tellier 15-yard pass to Kevin McGurn, M. Bonhomme XP good; (T) N. Keenan 31-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (T) J. Leonard 1-yard rush, N. Keenan XP good.
#5 Winchester, 1 @ #4 Franklin, 4 – Final – Kaitlyn Carney scored twice and freshmen Haley Wernig and Raena Crandall each scored once, as Franklin beat Winchester to advance to the Div. 1 Final Four. It is Franklin’s first-ever state semifinal appearance. Carney opened the scoring late in the first quarter on a penalty stroke and then doubled the lead with a blast from a corner, assisted by Kendall Jones. Wernig made it 3-0 Franklin in the third quarter by forcing a turnover and then scoring from a tight angle. After the Sachems got one back in the fourth, Crandall popped up at the back post for a near instant response and restored the three-goal cushion. Franklin will face the winner of No. 1 Andover and No. 8 Shrewsbury at a date and time to be determined for a spot in the state title game.
Such was the case on Friday night as Milford and Franklin, the top two offenses in the Kelley-Rex division, ended up locked in a defensive battle. Both the Hawks and the Panthers entered the contest averaging just north of 30 points per game, but Friday’s contest featured just one trip to the end zone.
In the end, it was the Franklin defense that stood tallest, limiting the hosts to just four first downs and pitched a second half shutout to grab a 13-3 win to improve to 7-0 on the season.
The Kelley-Rex division title won’t be decided until Thanksgiving when the Panthers take on King Philip in a winner-take-all showdown. But first, the playoffs.
“I think sometimes just dictate themselves early,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “There was a lot of feeling each other out early in the game. I thought we had a couple of chances to score in the first half and we only walked away with the three [points].
“In the second half, we had a really nice drive to get that score, which was huge. And we had a nice drive late [for the field goal]. It was two great defenses tonight, I think we’ve both done well against our opponents so I thought that might be the case…but it could have gone the other way too.”
Franklin had success on its early drives but its first foray into Milford territory — a nine-play drive — ended up with a turnover on downs just outside the red zone. The Panthers’ second drive lasted eight plays and got all the way down to the Milford 1-yard line, but the visitors had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Garrett Portesi after a false start.
Milford didn’t have much success early on, punting on its first two drives. But the Hawks were able to orchestrate a response after Franklin took the lead. The hosts took advantage of a good kick return from Jack Veo, covering 39 yards on nine plays.
Facing a 4th and 2 at the Franklin 32-yard line, the Hawks elected to go for it and quarterback Evan Cornelius scampered for 19 yards to move the sticks. But the drive stalled from there as the Franklin defense limited the Milford offense to just two yards over the next three plays and the Hawks went with a 28-yard field goal from Nick Araujo with 7:21 left in the quarter.
After trading punts, Franklin marched into Milford territory late in the first half but Milford’s Angelo Romero and Mason Baldic combined for a sack, and Jared Arone’s (11/17, 129 yards) third down pass to Will Tracey was ruled incomplete, despite what looked like a good circus catch over the middle between two defenders, and the teams went into halftime knotted 3-3.
Franklin started the second half with a big bang, going with some misdirection to the left before Arone went back to the right and hit Shane Kindred in stride. Kindred used his speed to race away for a 71-yard completion down to the Milford 11-yard line.
Three plays later, Arone went with a bootleg and hit Tracey streaking across the back of the end zone for the lone touchdown of the game and a 10-3 lead less than a minute into the second half.
“We definitely want to make sure we’re getting our playmakers touches, and I think everyone had a touch or at least a target,” Bain said of going to Kindred early in the second half. “We had set up a lot of things but we didn’t get to them because of some situations in the first half.”
Franklin relied heavily on running back Mack Gulla (35 carries, 200 yards) for the majority of the game, but even more so in the second half. Of their 31 plays run in the second half, the Panthers handed the ball off to Gulla on 21 of them. Although he didn’t find the end zone in the game, his work rate and ability to get positive yards on almost every play helped the Panthers dominate the time of possession.
He carried the ball nine times for 48 yards on Franklin’s second possession of the second half which, after a costly false start, finished just an inch short of a first down after a 19-yard pass and catch from Arone to Kindred on fourth down.
“It’s awesome to get those carries but that’s my job, I only play one way so I think I’m conditioned enough to do that,” Gulla said. “It definitely feels like a special season. No one expected us to do this this year, no one saw us coming undefeated against one of the hardest schedules in the state. Now we just have to keep pushing going forward.”
A second down sack from Joe Tirrell stunted any momentum the hosts had. Jonathan Martins and Emmett Lackey also had sacks on the day while it seemed Franklin was able to pressure the passer on almost every drop back with linebackers Nick Quintina and Cullen Pek finding their way into the backfield often. Cornelius tried getting the ball into the hands of Nick Schuler and Grant Scudo, as it looked like junior wideout Isaiah Pantalone battled through an injury.
“Most of their passes are out in about 2.2 seconds,” Bain said. “We wanted to try and do is try to elongate the drop back game. It hurt us early because he’s scrambled and he’s a good runner, got an early first down. But with any quarterback, you’re just trying to get him off their spot, doing things they don’t like to do. I think something like 88% of their passes are in the pocket so we tried to design some pressure to try and spill that out, set some things up. They are tough to defend and they do a good job of putting their quarterback in successful situations.”
Gulla went right back to work when the Panthers got the ball back. This drive, Gulla had eight carries that went for 50 yards and took up a lot of clock between the end of the third and nearly half of the fourth quarter.
“I think it speaks to having talent but also working hard,” Bain said of Gulla’s large workload. “You put your body in a good position to last for four quarters, seven games into the season, eight weeks into the season. There’s a lot of kids out there that work hard but when one of your best players is your hardest worker, those things happen. He’s kind of built that up for himself and that’s through all of his hard work and dedication and setting the example.”
Franklin’s third down pass was knocked down on a jump ball in the end zone and Portesi delivered his second field goal of the game, this time a 25-yard boot to make it a two-score game with 4:44 left.
“I think you saw two of the best kickers around,” Bain said, also recognizing Milford’s Araujo. “[Portesi] was a soccer guy, came out in the spring for the first time. He’s worked hard, he comes to practice every day and he’s always working, working, working, and you have to trust the kids that put the work in.”
Milford showed some life as Cornelius hit Jaden Agnew over the middle for a 41-yard gain on third down to move into Franklin territory on the ensuing drive but two plays later, Franklin junior Luke Davis hauled in an overthrown pass in the end zone for a touchback, putting an end up any comeback hope.
“They got us on that deep ball and that was alright because that’s going to happen, they’re going to make plays,” Bain said. “But a lot of it is that when the big play happens, you have to bounce back. We gave up a couple of completions that were good plays but eventually that pressure, that frustration we created, I think that disrupted the passing game as a whole.”
Franklin will likely enter the playoffs as the top seed in the Division 1 bracket while Milford will likely be one of the top seeds in the Division 2 bracket. The MIAA will release official ratings and playoff information on Sunday.
Today’s games are listed below.
Franklin, 21 @ Attleboro, 19 – Final
1st Quarter: (A) Anthony Salviati 25-yard field goal; (F) Jared Arone 31-yard pass to Will Tracey, Garrett Portesi XP good.
2nd Quarter: (A) A. Salviati 35-yard field goal; (F) Mack Gulla 3-yard rush, G Portesi XP good; (A) Matt Harvie 11-yard pass to A. Salviati, Josue Salguero XP good.
3rd Quarter: (F) J. Arone 57-yard pass to W. Tracey, G Portesi XP good; (A) Adrian Rivera 3-yard rush, 2pt pass failed.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Foxboro, 42 @ Canton, 8 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: (F) Tom Marcucella 8-yard pass to Rashaad Way, Sam Carpenter XP good; (F) T. Marcucella 76-yard pass to R. Way, S. Carpenter XP good; (F) Dylan Gordon 7-yard rush, S. Carpenter XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) T. Marcucella 45-yard pass to Dylan Gordon, S. Carpenter XP good; (F) T. Marcucella 20-yard pass to Tom Sharkey, S. Carpenter XP good.
3rd Quarter: (F) D. Gordon 9-yard rush, S. Carpenter XP good.
4th Quarter: (C) Colin Albert 3-yard rush, Charlie Cox 2pt rush good.
Taunton, 8 @ Mansfield, 24 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (M) James Gilleran 32-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (M) Conner Zukowski 11-yard pass to Trevor Foley, J. Gilleran XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) Rocco Scarpellini 11-yard rush, J. Gilleran XP good; (M) C. Zukowski 19-yard pass to T. Foley, J. Gilleran XP good; (T) Jacob Leonard 13-yard pass to Jose Touron, Trent Santos 2pt rush good.
Stoughton, 7 @ Milford, 27 – Final
1st Quarter: (S) Jarred Daughtry 25-yard pass to Emmett Pearl, Jonah Ly XP good; (M) Nicholas Araujo 36-yard field goal good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Grant Scudo 7-yard rush, N. Aruajo XP good; (M) Evan Cornelius 11-yard pass to Isaiah Pantalone, N. Araujo XP good.
3rd Quarter: (M) E.Cornelius 10-yard pass to I Pantalone, N. Araujo XP good; (M) N. Araujo 30-yard field goal good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
North Attleboro, 42 @ Oliver Ames, 12 – Final
1st Quarter: (NA) Tyler Bannon 3-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good; (NA) T. Bannon fumble recovery in the end zone, T. DeMattio XP good.
2nd Quarter: (NA) Greg Berthiaume 32-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (OA) Collin Williamson 72-yard rush, XP failed; (NA) Chase Frisoli 27-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (NA) C. Frisoli 15-yard pass to Jack Munley, T. DeMattio XP good.
3rd Quarter: (NA) Garrett Inglese 1-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (OA) Chad Silva 2-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Sharon, 14 @ Hull, 35 – Final
Mansfield, 0 @ Franklin, 3 – Final – Franklin scored twice inside a five-minute span in the first half and tacked an important insurance goal just minutes into the second half to get a win over Mansfield, pushing their unbeaten streak to five games. Senior Jack Moran opened the scoring in the 15th minute on a pass from sophomore Sean O’Leary and then junior Ben Costa doubled the advantage in the 20th minute on an assist from classmate Max Tobin. O’Leary extended the lead to 3-0 in the 44th minute, finishing off a chance created by junior Will Krysak.
Milford, 3 vs. Medway, 0 – Final – Sophomore J’remy Chaves scored his first career goal and then added his second to lead Milford to a non-league win over Medway, one of the top rated teams in Division 3. Junior Eduardo Santana put the hosts ahead in the first half on a pass from junior Arthur Tome, a lead the Hawks carried into halftime. Chaves’ first goal came off a pass from junior John Borges while his second was set up by sophomore Nate Dinis.
Sharon, 2 vs. Walpole, 2 – Final
Foxboro, 3 vs. Medfield, 0 – Final
Milford @ Bellingham, 4:45
Sharon, 1 @ Norwell, 4 – Final
This year, it might be the deepest it’s ever been.
There isn’t much separation among all six teams, but even less between the top three or four teams vying for the Kelley-Rex crown.
On Friday night, it turned out the difference between Milford and Mansfield was only a matter of inches.
Sophomore Damien Carter went up and hauled in a 9-yard touchdown over a pair of defenders and landed just inches inside the touchline for the walk-off winning score, giving the Hawks a 27-24 win over the Hornets in overtime at Alumni Field.
After early fireworks that saw Milford score on its first two drives and Mansfield orchestrate a pair of good drives, scoring on the latter, the teams settled down in the second half. Mansfield took an early lead on its second drive of the half but Milford responded in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
Both defenses buckled down in the final quarter as the teams combined to punt five straight times and the game went into overtime.
Mansfield went on offense first but a pair of incomplete passes sandwiched for a loss of yards on second down meant the Hornets had to settle for a 30-yard field goal off the right foot of James Gilleran.
Milford went next, gaining just a yard on first down. The Hornets nearly ended the game on an interception on second down but instead, it was Milford putting the game to bed when Evan Cornelius (11-for-20, 156 yards, two TD) floated one just past the pylon on the right side and Carter came down with it; the sideline ref ruling his foot landed in-bounds before his body did out of bounds.
“I hope people believe now that Milford is for real,” said Milford head coach Dale Olson. “We knew coming into this year that we had some young kids but some talented kids. If we’re not a top 6-8 team in this state, I don’t know who is.
“I had actually called for the play before to go over there and [Cornelius] decided to go to the other side. After that, we wanted the 1-on-1 on that side. [Mansfield] did a great job on Isaiah. We went up 14-0 and they started to double on him. I thought early on we ran the football at-will on them. But that’s a great program, they did a great job tonight. But in the end, our kids buckled down and played great defense.”
It was a dream start for the visitors, who were making their first trip to Alumni Field since joining the Hockomock League nearly a decade ago. The Hawks needed less than five minutes to march 75 yards on 12 plays to get into the end zone. A 21-yard scamper from Tyler Lane (18 carries, 90 yards) helped move Milford into the red zone and Cornelius kept it himself to convert 4th and less than a yard for a 7-0 lead.
Mansfield looked poised to respond right away as the Hornets started to move the sticks. But the drive came to a sudden halt on its 10th play when Mansfield lost the ball on a run up the middle and the Hawks recovered the ball for their first red zone takeaway.
The Hawks’ offense picked up right where it left off, this time orchestrating an 88-yard drive in just seven plays. On the final play of the first quarter, Cornelius hit Isaiah Pantalone (eight catches, 94 yards) on a slant that went for a 67-yard gain. Three plays later, Lane plunged into the end zone on third down from a yard out to give Milford a 14-0 lead with 10:47 left in the second.
The turnover didn’t seem to bother the Hornets’ offense and they came up with a much-needed response. On third down, junior Conner Zukowski (12-for-21, 146 yards) connected with sophomore Trevor Foley for a big 40-yard completion. Three plays later, Drew Sacco took the handoff and sprinted in for a 5-yard touchdown that cut the deficit on the scoreboard in half.
Mansfield’s defense gained some momentum with back-to-back stops. The Hornets forced the Hawks into back-to-back three-and-out series to get the ball back. The offense rewarded them with a 6-play, 54-yard drive that resulted in the tying score just before the half. Zukowski hit Foley for a first down and then dropped one to CJ Bell for 31 yards and a visit to the red zone. Milford’s defense came up with some stops to make it tough but Zukowski got low and kept it himself to convert a fourth down with a 1-yard touchdown keeper.
The Hornets looked to pull a double, scoring on both sides of the half, and it looked like there was a good chance they’d complete it. Mansfield marched 44 yards on 7 plays but Milford’s Jaden Agnew made a terrific read and a diving interception inside the red zone to put the Hornet drive to a halt.
Mansfield’s defense had an answer of its own and on third down, defensive lineman Pedro Cruz got his paws up to bat down a pass and force a punt. Given a second chance to take the lead, Mansfield took care of business. Bell made a great move to evade a defender and get a first down on a 16-yard reception and a holding call in the secondary moved the sticks again for the hosts. On fourth and one from the 3-yard line, Zukowski tossed it to James Fichera on a sweep to the right and the senior captain rushed it in for a score and Mansfield’s first lead, 21-14, with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
“We finally get the lead and had a big score in the second and one in the third and then we just couldn’t get a first down,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “We tried to run it but they were doing a good job defending that. They were doubling our receivers. That was the key…we needed to get some first downs. We didn’t need to score but at least punt from midfield and give them a long field but we gave them way too many chances in the second half and sooner than later they capitalized.
“We’ve got to start better. it’d be nice to be up a touchdown instead of down one. We have to find a way to get a lead and play ahead. The last three weeks we’ve been playing from behind. We play hard and we catch up but these teams, it’s too much to overcome early.”
Milford’s offense couldn’t find its rhythm as it had to punt again on its next drive after a fumble on second down set them back. But the Hawks’ defense did its job and forced Mansfield into a three-and-out. That was a big swing and the Hawks found their footing on offense again. A penalty on third and short gave Milford life, and a holding call in the secondary moved the sticks again on the next play. Cornelius connected with Carter twice on the drive, the first for 13 yards and a first down and, three plays later, on a slant on the right side that turned into a 40-yard touchdown. Nick Araujo’s third successful point after attempt made it 21-21 with 7:56 left.
“In past, I think this program would have [panicked], they didn’t know how to win big games like that,” Olson said of Mansfield scoring 21 straight points to take the lead. “Tonight, we had that 14-0 lead and it felt like the Natick game all over again. I was hoping for one more stop and I thought, if we can go up three scores against a Mike Redding team, we’re going to force them into throwing the football more than they want to. But our defense stepped up in the end.
Mansfield had two drives in the final minutes of the fourth but only totaled 19 yards on its eight plays. Milford also had a shot at the go-ahead score but their five plays had a total of 7 net yards and they had to punt both teams as well, sending it to overtime.
“Every drive is important, every third down conversion is critical,” Redding said of the tight competition in the Kelley-Rex this year. “We’re learning as we go with young kids and they are playing hard but they need to realize how every series is critical in terms of momentum. You have to move the chains when you have the ball. And we just have to find a way to start better. We almost overcame it again but just not enough.”
Milford (2-0 Kelley-Rex, 5-0 overall) hits the road for the third straight week with a trip to Wrentham to take on King Philip. Mansfield (0-2, 3-2) will look to snap a rare two-game skid when it hits the road to take on Attleboro.