ATTLEBORO, Mass. – If there is a question about whether or not Franklin can challenge the top teams in Div. 1, it centers on the line of scrimmage and whether the Panthers are capable of winning the battle in the trenches. On Saturday afternoon at Tozier-Cassidy Field, Franklin may have provided an answer.
The Panthers bounced back from last week’s loss to Mansfield, dominated the line on both sides of the ball, held Attleboro off the scoreboard for almost the full 48 minutes, and improved their chances at a home playoff game with a convincing 37-7 victory.
“With the guys that they have, I knew it would be tough,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “It was a key to our game to try and out-quick them, out-technique, because just the sheer size and ability they have we had to find another gear. We had a lot of success up front today.”
Attleboro tried to show off its power running game, led by junior Michael Strachan (12 carries, 37 yards), on the opening drive and got down to the Franklin 34-yard-line. A snap slipped through quarterback Jason Weir’s hands for an 11-yard loss, senior Austin Jordan stuffed Strachan for a two-yard loss, and the Panthers forced a turnover on downs. That set the tone for the game.
“Coming into the game, we knew they had a big O-line,” Jordan explained, “so we knew we had to get a knock back on them and change the line of scrimmage and I think our D-line did that very well.”
Franklin’s big-play offense got going on its second possession. Senior quarterback Thomas Gasbarro was given plenty of time to throw by the guys up front and he just missed on three attempts to look deep, but the third drew a pass interference call that kept the drive alive. The fourth attempt was on target, as he hit Jake Davis in stride for a 28-yard score.
In the second quarter, Gasbarro (16-of-27, 271 yards) completed back-to-back passes to Matthew Lazarek for a combined 41 yards to get the ball inside the Attleboro 10. A fumble on the next play was recovered by Adam Pearlstein to give the Bombardiers the ball back, but any momentum shift was ended abruptly as Sammy Morris was spun down in the end zone by Anthony Quintina for a safety.
“They beat us up front,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “At the end of the day that’s what happened. They were more physical than we were up front. They just decided to take it to us in the second quarter and we couldn’t recover.”
Getting the ball with a short field, Franklin stretched its lead. Gasbarro connected with Davis for a 21-yard completion down to the Attleboro 18 and then to running back Owen Palmieri (15 carries, 71 yards) to the four. Cole Lakatos made a leaping grab on the next play to put the Panthers ahead 16-0.
The Panthers kept their foot on the gas and added another score before halftime. Gasbarro found Jack Nally for a 23-yard grab to get inside the 10 again and then two plays later he rolled out and found Nally in the flat for a two-yard touchdown. It was the third passing touchdown of the afternoon and league-leading 15th of the season for Gasbarro.
“We just have to be who we are and I think that’s our identity,” said Bain. “We found balance today in the run game too because they challenged us to run the ball and we did. Our offensive line, I think Tommy was clean most of the game. It just kind of clicked.”
If Attleboro was hoping that halftime would allow it to regroup, Franklin came out with the first drive of the second half and put the game away. Palmieri had a pair of runs totaling 29 yards that quickly got Franklin into Attleboro territory and then Gasbarro found Nally in space for a 27-yard completion to the five. The Bombardiers nearly held out, forcing fourth and goal from the one, but Gasbarro was able to keep it himself for his first rushing TD of the season.
After forcing the hosts into a three-and-out, Franklin’s defense was forced to stay on the field when Kaiden Murray recovered a muffed punt at the Panthers 43. Luke Cunningham blew up a jet sweep for a six-yard loss, then Jordan had back-to-back sacks of Weir to push Attleboro back to its own 48.
A second straight muffed punt, recovered this time by Anthony Hoyt at the 22, gave Attleboro another shot at getting its first points. Again, Franklin held. After a false start, Jordan got into the backfield to drop Strachan for a three-yard loss. A pair of incompletions meant a turnover on downs.
“When we came out for the second half, we just wanted zero points on the scoreboard at the end of the game,” Jordan said. “It was unfortunate, the punt situation, but the defense showed up and we just didn’t let them in.”
Bain added, “The defense just kept coming up big, answering the calls. Every time we needed them to do the thing for us, they did it, so they were awesome today.”
The defense stepped up to get the ball back and the offense made it count. Gasbarro hit Nally (seven catches, 131 yards) down the sideline for 61 yards into Attleboro territory. Nally completed the drive with a 10-yard rush to make it 37-0.
“We did not come to play. Very disappointed in our effort,” Strachan admitted. “We had to do some things early because we knew we had some match-up issues and they exploited it.”
Attleboro’s only score came as the clock wound down to zero, Isaac Gudiel put the Bombardiers in position with a couple of carries and then Weir (6-of-17, 52 yards) found Ethan Cameron in the corner of the end zone.
“Last year, when we beat Attleboro in that dogfight at our place, it spring-boarded us into the playoffs,” said Bain about the importance of this bounce back win. “We control our own destiny, we know that, and it feels good to get back on track and get that confidence back that we are a premier Div. 1 program in the state.”
Franklin (4-2) will try to make it two wins in a row to close out the regular season and secure a home playoff game when it hosts Taunton next week. Attleboro (3-3) will try to bounce back, and maybe get a home playoff game as well, when it hosts Mansfield next Saturday.
Game of the Week – Football
Franklin, 37 @ Attleboro, 7 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 28-yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) Safety; (F) T. Gasbarro 4-yard pass to Cole Lakatos, P. Cheuvront XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 2-yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 1-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good.
4th Quarter: (F) J. Nally 10-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) Jason Weir 2-yard pass to Ethan Cameron, Colby Briggs XP good.
Canton, 18 @ North Attleboro, 0 – Final
Stoughton, 14 @ Milford, 10 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (M) CJ Cerrella 37-yard field goal; (S) John Burke 34-yard pass to Jake Queeney, Anthony Girolamo XP good.
3rd Quarter: (M) Colby Pires 2-yard pass to Luke Rosa, C. Cerrella XP good; (S) Christopher Ais 5-yard rush, A. Girolamo XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Attleboro @ Oliver Ames, 3:00
Canton, 0 vs. Walpole, 6 – Final
Taunton, 0 @ New Bedford, 1 – Final
FRANKLIN, Mass. – An early turnover gave Franklin the ball in Mansfield territory and the Panthers gained a couple of first downs before kicking a field goal to grab the lead. Then the Hornets took control with their defense, not allowing the Panthers another first down until inside five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Using a three down linemen look, Mansfield consistently got into the backfield without needing to blitz and, with a little assist from Mother Nature, disrupted Franklin’s typically potent passing attack on Friday night at Pisini Stadium. The Hornets scored 26 straight points to take control and rolled to a 39-9 victory that keeps them unbeaten in league play and alone atop the division standings.
“We’ve got a very, very good defense,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “They’re as athletic a team as we’re going to play but fortunately we’re pretty loaded in the secondary, but it’s a combination of us playing great ‘D’ and terrible weather conditions for them.
“We can run to the ball, we can cover, we can pressure, you throw in the conditions on top of that and it’s going to be hard for anyone to move the ball against us.”
The Panthers came in knowing that they still had a chance at possibly sharing the league title and the energy on the sideline was palpable. It got even louder when Jack Nally picked off Jack Moussette’s third-down pass on the opening series of the game and gave Franklin the ball at the Mansfield 37.
A 15-yard run by Owen Palmieri got the offense going and then a pair of completions from Thomas Gasbarro (18-30, 125 yards) to Jake Davis (seven catches, 92 yards) got Franklin down to the seven-yard-line. After going nowhere on three plays, Franklin got on the board with a 24-yard Parker Cheuvront kick.
It would be Franklin’s only possession of the half with the wind at its back.
Mansfield’s running attack was better suited for the blustery conditions and the Hornets used Michael DeBolt, Vinnie Holmes, Cincere Gill, and Anthony Comer on the opening drive to get into Franklin territory. A personal foul against the Panthers got the ball as far as the 18, but the Hornets went backwards and had to settle for a 41-yard kick by DeBolt to tie the game early in the second quarter.
The teams traded punts and Mansfield made its field position advantage pay off. Starting at its own 49, Mansfield would use five plays to grab the lead for good. Nick Marciano lined up at quarterback on the drive to give a different look and, on third and 12, he took a direct snap and found a seam on the left side of the line, racing 35 yards for the go-ahead score.
Marciano would also contribute to the game’s turning point. He hustled to down a Gill punt, pinning Franklin back at its own one. The snap flew over the head of Gasbarro and out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 12-3 Mansfield lead.
After the kick-off, the Hornets started again in great position, at the Franklin 36. Moussette had a pair of completions to Danny Rapoza and one to Joe Cappalletti to get down to the 23. DeBolt took a sweep 10 more yards and, after a spike to stop the clock, Moussette hit Gill in the front corner of the end zone for a 13-yard strike.
Redding said, “It went to a two-score game and then the throw to Cincere when we weren’t even supposed to throw to, Jack saw the one-on-one and took advantage of it. We did a lot of good things keeping them at a healthy distance to keep the lead.”
Mansfield added to its lead in the third quarter, again making good starting field position pay off. The Hornets needed only four plays to score from the Franklin 29, with Holmes (nine carries, 55 yards) finding a hole on the left side and bursting through for a 21-yard touchdown run.
The Franklin passing attack was finding it hard to get going, mostly due to the pressure put on Gasbarro by TJ Guy, Chris Graham, and the Hornets’ defensive line. Mansfield was getting into the backfield and not giving the Panthers time to look downfield, while being able to keep plenty back in coverage in case the ball did get out.
“I don’t think he ever felt comfortable,” Redding explained. “Even when we didn’t bring people, our three guys were getting enough pressure to make him throw a little early. We funneled in six guys in those three spots to stay fresh.”
Franklin coach Eian Bain said, “We had planned to try and get the ball out quick, but it was kind of a tough spot going into the wind. We tried to run the football. I think we only had the first possession and didn’t have the ball with the wind until the fourth quarter.”
A glimmer of hope came with three minutes left in the third. Gasbarro hooked up with Davis on a 41-yard completion, the receiver juggling it before hauling it in and getting to the Mansfield 35. The same combo connected again a few plays later for a 20-yard touchdown.
Momentum was fleeting. Holmes burst through the line to block the extra point and then Gill took the ensuing kick-off 84 yards right up the middle of the field for a back-breaking touchdown.
“We still had our chances,” Bain said, “but we just couldn’t get out of our end of the field tonight and I think that was what was pretty frustrating.”
Ethan Thevenot tacked on a late touchdown for the Hornets with a 65-yard run to extend the final margin.
The Hornets were coming off a big win against King Philip last week, but Redding wasn’t afraid of a letdown from his team. He said, “There was no way we could have a letdown. Our guys knew how good Franklin was, so I think it was maybe best game we could’ve had after KP because we knew they were next in line and we had to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Mansfield (4-1, 3-0) will look to solidify its position atop the Kelley-Rex division and clinch at least a share of back-to-back league crowns when it hosts Oliver Ames on Friday. Franklin (3-2, 1-2) will try to solidify its position in the Div. 1 South bracket when it travels to Attleboro next Saturday.
Franklin, 27 @ Oliver Ames, 6 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 73-yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 21-yard pass to J. Davis, P. Cheuvront XP good; (F) P. Cheuvront 29-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 50-yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good; (F) P. Cheuvront 34-yard field goal.
4th Quarter: (OA) Jake Grimaldi 12-yard pass to Adam Cann.
North Attleboro, 19 @ Milford, 45 – Final – Click here for a recap and photo gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (M) Colby Pires 62-yard pass to Max Martin, CJ Cerrella XP good; (M) C. Pires 23-yard pass to M. Martin, C. Cerrella XP good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Carter Scudo 2-yard rush, C. Cerrella XP good; (M) Herrick Louis 28-yard fumble return, C. Cerrella XP good; (NA) Tyler DeMattio 1-yard rush, Evan Vigorito XP good; (M) C. Pires 64-yard pass to C. Scudo, C. Cerrella XP good.
3rd Quarter: (NA) T. DeMattio 44-yard pass to Russell Dunlap, XP failed; (NA) T. DeMattio 59-yard pass to Alex McCoy, 2pt pass failed; (M) C. Cerrella 25-yard field goal; (M) Luke Rosa 10-yard rush, C. Cerrella XP good.
Foxboro, 0 @ Sharon, 2 – Final – Sharon scored a pair of goals in the opening 20 minutes and used that to earn two points at home against visiting Foxboro. Sharon senior midfielder Michael Baur had a terrific game for the Eagles, recording a pair of assists. Baur first set up Viktor Schneider, who scored in the third minute. Baur then found Mason Benton in the 17th minute for a 2-0 lead. Freshman Matthew Baur played well in net for the Eagles.
Taunton, 1 @ Canton, 2 – Final – Canton took the lead midway through the first half and added another tally early in the second to pick up a win over Taunton. Jacob Crugnale and Colby Ciffolillo each scored in the win for the Bulldogs.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The King Philip offense has had some success from the new wrinkles it’s added this season, but when it mattered most, the Warriors turned to their signature ground and pound running attack.
Senior Ryan Halliday rushed for 150 yards on 33 carries, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and scored a pair of touchdowns to pace the Warriors to a 26-14 win over rival Franklin, KP’s 16th straight win over the Panthers.
After getting just one touch on each of King Philip’s first two drives of the second half — both quickly ended in punts — and Franklin playing with the momentum after cutting the deficit to six at 20-14, the Warriors turned to Halliday.
The senior back was the focal point in the game-clinching drive that spanned 75 yards over 13 plays, taking over eight minutes off the clock. Halliday ran behind an offensive line featuring senior Nolan Gunning, senior Wyatt Manzi, senior center Sean Piller, junior Pat Zarba, and senior Dan Mullen.
The senior back took 10 consecutive handoffs, picking up four first downs that included a fourth down conversion on 4th and 1 on the Panthers’ 28-yard line after an offside call on the defense.
After sophomore Crawford Cantave burst up the middle for nine years, the Warriors went back to Halliday for back-to-back carries, the latter an 11-yard dart up the middle that put the visitors ahead 26-14 with just 5:23 left. The drive started with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
“We’ve switched up the offense a bit this year and we’ve been passing a lot,” Halliday said. “But in the end, we kind of just played old KP football, played some nice defense and ran the ball.
“I’m gassed but I’m sure my hoggies are gassed too, I give a lot of the credit to them.”
Franklin ran just seven offensive plays after that King Philip drive and was limited to a total of 16 offensive snaps total in the second half.
“It worked for us last year,” said KP head coach Brian Lee of going back to the ground game. “[Franklin] is so explosive on offense, they have so many playmakers that you feel like if keep giving them chances…our defense was hanging in there but we just wanted to slow it down a little bit.”
King Philip’s defense did its part as well, holding the Panthers to 175 yards of total offense, 0-for-5 on third down, forcing three turnovers, and limited Franklin’s high-powered offense to just three plays over 20 yards.
“It’s hard to get pressure on them, the ball is out quick and they have a lot of playmakers,” Lee said. “Overall I’m very pleased with how the defense played.”
The Panthers didn’t help themselves much in the first half, fumbling on the opening possession after a completed pass. A quick three-and-out was followed by another fumble, giving KP great starting position at the Franklin 25-yard line.
It took KP just three plays to take advantage of the good field position as senior quarterback Robbie Jarest (11-for-17, 93 yards passing; 8 carries, 75 yards rushing) hit Brian Wassersug, who broke a tackle and sprinted up the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown. Dylan Conti’s point after attempt was good to put KP up 7-0.
Franklin had a quick response as senior quarterback Thomas Gasbarro (16-for-22,193 yards) scrambled to buy some time before finding a wide-open Cole Lakatos on the sideline, and the senior took it the rest of the way, getting a big block from Jake Davis, for a 51-yard touchdown. Parker Cheuvront connected on his first of two extra points to tie it 7-7.
Jarest got it done with his legs on KP’s ensuing drive, taking a QB option for 48 yards to get the Warriors’ offense going. A pass to Alex Behling got the Warriors into the red zone, and six plays later, Halliday followed Gunning into the end zone for a 1-yard score, converting a 4th and goal situation.
“He’s come a long way, he’s really bought in,” Lee said of Jarest. “For us to be throwing the ball as much, it’s different. But we have a new offensive coordinator [Cory Bailey] and he’s really stretching me to try and do some other things and take more risks. Robert’s making those plays with his arm and his legs, and in the end, I think that makes us more balanced.”
Franklin’s defense came up big two series later, stopping the Warriors on 4th and 1 from the Panthers’ 30-yard line with under a minute to go in the half.
But the momentum didn’t last long as KP’s Shawn Conniff applied pressure, forcing a fumble and sophomore Nick Viscusi came out of the pile with the ball.
Franklin nearly stopped the series when they grabbed an interception, but the Panthers were flagged for roughing the passer and KP kept possession. On the ensuing play, with just eight seconds left on the clock, Jarest delivered, finding an open Andrew McKinney for an 11-yard touchdown with only two seconds left on the clock, giving KP a 20-7 lead at halftime.
“We had the recipe of how to never play American football never again,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain of the first half. “I’m at a loss for words for how to describe that first half really. You can’t beat great teams like KP when you have that many self-inflicted errors. Credit to a good opponent, sometimes they make you do that. We felt comfortable with our game plan but you can’t win putting the ball on the turf.”
Momentum swung in favor of the hosts as Franklin forced a three-and-out on King Philip’s opening drive of the second half. The Panthers’ offense capitalized, driving 77 yards on nine plays to make it a one-score game.
Highlighted by a pass and catch from Gasbarro to Jack Nally, and a fourth down completion between the same pair, Franklin marched down the field to the KP 1-yard line. Sophomore Mack Gulla punched it in from there, making it 20-14 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
Franklin only ran seven more offensive plays the rest of the game.
“They took the fourth quarter,” Bain said. “That’s what they do well, and that’s what we don’t do well. And by that point, they made us one dimensional but we continued to make mistakes. I’m disappointed because I think we can play better and execute better.”
King Philip football (1-0 Hockomock, 3-0 overall) now turns its attention to Mansfield, as the two rivals will do battle on Macktaz Field on Friday night. Franklin (0-1, 2-1) will try to get back into the win column when it travels to Oliver Ames on Saturday.
Game of the Week – Football
Attleboro, 13 @ Milford, 20 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (A) Michael Strachan 1-yard rush, XP no good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Luke Rosa 5-yard rush, CJ Cerrella XP good; (M) Max Martin 1-yard rush, XP no good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (A) Jason Weir 87-yard pass to Ethan Cameron, Colby Briggs XP good; (M) Colby Pires 21-yard pass to Carter Scudo, C. Cerrella XP good.
Franklin, 28 @ Andover, 25 – Final 1st Quarter: (A) Josh Ramos 1-yard rush, XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 8-yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good. (F) T. Gasbarro 15-yard pass to J. Davis, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) Shamus Florio 31-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 20-yard pass to J. Davis, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) J. Ramos 16-yard rush, J. Ramos 2pt rush.
4th Quarter: (A) J. Ramos rush, XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 38-yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good.
Oliver Ames, 20 vs. Concord Carlisle, 21 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery of this game. 1st Quarter: (OA) Nathan Cabral 5-yard rush, 2pt rush failed; (CC) Christian Gemelli 49-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (CC) C. Gemelli 5-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good; (OA) N. Cabral 8-yard rush, 2pt rush failed.
4th Quarter: (CC) Cam Ladd 3-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good; (OA) Cam Perron 18-yardpass to Adam Cann, N. Cabral 2pt rush good.
Oliver Ames, 2 @ West Bridgewater, 0 – Final – Oliver Ames turned 17 penalty corners into 25 shots on net, mustering two first half goals to beat West Bridgewater. Haley Gilman put the Tigers ahead 1-0 on an assist from Maggie Woods less than two minutes into the game. Cassie Gennis scored on a penalty corner from Ellie Waters just before the midway point of the first half to make it 2-0.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Graduation hit both teams’ offense hard. One team lost its all-star, dual-threat quarterback, and the other lost the bulk of its starting receivers, but on Thursday night at Pisini Field both Franklin and Milford showed that they have plenty of firepower remaining.
The two teams combined for 61 points, including 40 in the second half alone, and more than 600 yards through the air. In the end, the Panthers had just enough to hold off the Hawks and pull out a 34-27 victory in the season opener for both programs.
Franklin quarterback Thomas Gasbarro completed 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) and threw for 293 yard and three touchdowns, while Milford senior Colby Pires completed 57 percent of his throws (12-of-21) for 325 yards and three scores of his own.
It didn’t take the hosts long to get into sync. On its first possession, starting at the Milford 46, Gasbarro hit Jack Nally for an eight-yard completion and then on the second play from scrimmage hit Jake Davis in stride down the far sideline. The senior receiver dove from several yards out and just snuck inside the pylon for a 7-0 lead.
“They’ve got a great connection,” Franklin coach Eian Bain said of Gasbarro and Davis. “Jake is such a terrific athlete and I think that shows in lacrosse and football. Tommy is just a grinder. I don’t think I’ve seen a tougher performance out of a QB. Milford was real creative with their pressures and their scheme defensively. Tommy stood in and he was getting hit on some of those throws.”
Milford’s defense came through with a big stand on Franklin’s next possession. Luke Rosa sacked Gasbarro on fourth and one from the Hawks 29. Milford got the ball and took only five plays to go downfield and tie it. Pires connected with Carter Scudo (four catches for 151 yards) on a 39-yard completion to get to the Franklin 15 and Rosa (16 carries, 87 yards) punched it from there.
On its first drive of the second quarter, Franklin regained the advantage. Gasbarro spread the ball around on the possession, hitting Ben Greco, Owen Palmieri, and Davis. It was Nally that got into the end zone, as Gasbarro threaded the needle on a pass to the front stick, getting the ball just over the corner to make it 14-7.
The Franklin defense held onto the lead with a pair of red zone stops. First, the Panthers were able to cut Pires a yard short on fourth and 11 from the 21 and then, following a punt that gave Milford the ball back in great field position, the Hawks got as close as the six only for Austin Jordan to end the half with a sack of Pires.
Franklin nearly extended its lead on the first drive of the third quarter, but Maxwell Martin made a great play to rip the ball out of the hands of Matt Lazarek for an interception in the end zone. Milford moved the ball out to midfield but there was controversy as the ball came loose on a jet sweep and Franklin recovered. The Hawks claimed it was a pass, not a hand-off, but the officials ruled it a fumble and the Panthers took over.
It became a bigger decision eight plays later when the Panthers punched it in for a two-score lead. Again, it was Gasbarro to Davis (eight catches, 166 yards), matching the receiver’s jersey number with a 23-yard strike. Although the extra point was no good after a low snap, the Panthers led 20-7.
That margin lasted about two minutes. On third and eight from his own 16, Pires found Scudo, who broke free of a tackle and got 28 yards. Then Pires slipped a pass to Dan Farrell over the middle and he found a seam for a 56-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Fourteen seconds later, the stunned home crowd was right back on its feet.
On the ensuing kick, senior Cole Lakatos, a transfer from Maryland, stepped up to grab the bouncing ball at the 27, found a hole on the left side, and raced 73 yards for his first Franklin touchdown. “Lakatos is brand new, but he’s a football dude and football dudes can play,” said Bain.
While a special teams score could’ve been a beak breaker, the Hawks refused to go away quietly. A 10-play, 78-yard drive got them back within one score. Rosa set up the eventual score with a 22-yard burst down to the Franklin 15. Three plays and one penalty later, on third and 21, Pires threw one up for Scudo on the near sideline and the junior managed to come down with it just in bounds to make it 27-20.
“He’s electric,” Milford coach Anthony Vizakis said of Scudo. “He’s got the speed, he’s got the hands, and we’re really excited to see what he’s going to do.”
When asked if he was surprised at how quickly Pires has gelled with a new set of receivers, Vizakis replied, “They’ve been working all summer. He’s got those guys in the morning working and they’re doing extra stuff after practice, so it didn’t really surprise me. I think we’re only going to get better from here.”
The game settled down for a couple minutes as the teams managed to go just about eight minutes without getting into the end zone. Franklin appeared to put the game away with a 11-play, 71-yard drive that chewed up several minutes off the clock. Sophomore Mack Gulla opened his account for the Panthers when he burst through the line for a four-yard score.
Gasbarro showed off his ability to make plays on the run, keeping a couple of plays alive, taking hits, and managing to find open receivers to keep the drive alive.
“We try to work the scramble drill when we can, but a lot of that is just natural,” said Bain. “He did one that he found Jake Davis near the end there and I’m thinking we’re getting the sack and maybe we’re calling something safe on the next call and punting the ball.”
It seemed like the game was finally out of reach, but appearances can be deceiving. Milford came right back down the field, going 80 yards in only two plays, to make it a one-score game again and give themselves a shot at an onside kick. Pires connected with Scudo for 58 yards to get things started and then with Matt Varteresian for 22 and the score.
“Our kids don’t quit,” said Vizakis. “They play right to the end. We’re training them to play 48 minutes of football now and they played every single play. I’m really proud of the way that they played.”
Franklin managed to collect the onside kick with two minutes left, run out the clock, and finally take a breath.
The Panthers (1-0) will travel to Andover next Saturday, while Milford (0-1) will host Attleboro.
Milford, 27 @ Franklin, 34 – Final – Click here for a recap and photo gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 38 yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good; (M) Luke Rosa 15 yard rush, CJ Cerrella XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 23 yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 23 yard pass to J. Davis, XP failed; (M) Colby Pires 56 yard pass to Dan Farrell, XP failed; (F) Cole Lakatos 73 yard kick return, P. Cheuvront XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) C. Pires 26 yard pass to Carter Scudo, C. Carrella XP good; (F) Mack Gulla 4 yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good; (M) C. Pires 22 yard pass to Matt Varteresian, C. Cerrella XP good.
Stoughton, 35 vs. Framingham, 16 – Final – Click here for a recap and photo gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (S) Christian Georges 84 yard rush, XP failed; (S) C. Georges 11 yard rush, Christopher Ais 2pt rush good.
2nd Quarter: (F) Akye Boston 2 yard rush, Jack Beverly 2pt pass to Sam Stubbs good.
3rd Quarter: (S) John Burke 8 yard pass to Christopher Ais, Anthony Girolamo XP good; (S) Clayton Rahaman 19 yard rush, A. Girolamo XP good.
4th Quarter: (S) J. Burke 2 yard rush, A. Girolamo XP good; (F) A. Boston 53 yard rush; J. Beverly 2pt pass to Antonio Rivera good.
Canton, 0 @ Marshfield, 0 – Final – Canton senior goalie Alejandro Correal made 11 saves to help the Bulldogs earn a point on the road in the season opener for both squads.
King Philip, 4 @ Sharon, 0 – Final – King Philip scored twice in the final five minutes of the first half and then twice more in the final 10 minutes of the game to earn a win on the road over Sharon. Wes Orzell scored the game-winner, putting KP ahead 1-0 with an unassisted strike in the 39th minute. Three minutes later, Orzell set up senior Brian McCarthy to make it 2-0 just before half. In the 71st, Cam Lawrence deposited a free kick (earned by Evan McEvoy) into the net for a 3-0 advantage. Stephen Griffin added a fourth (assisted by McEvoy) in the final minute. Aidan Lindmark and Grant Orzell combined for the shutout in net for KP.
Attleboro, 0 @ Canton, 3 – Final – Locked in a one-goal game, Canton freshman Ellie Bohane scored her first two varsity goals inside the final five minutes to secure the win for the Bulldogs. Meg Aldrich put Canton up 1-0 off a corner with 10 minutes left in the first half but the Bulldogs couldn’t solve Attleboro goalie Ava Haggerty (22 saves) until Bohane’s tally with four minutes to go.
Mansfield, 1 @ Foxboro, 1 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery from this game – Foxboro sophomore Kate Collins scored with five seconds left in the game to salvage a point for the Warriors in their season opener against Mansfield. Collins scored off a corner with Molly McElhinney and Ella Waryas factoring in before Collins got the final touch. Stori Rounds put Mansfield up with just under five minutes to play in the first half while Kayla Hunter made six saves for the Hornets.
Franklin, 13 @ Milford, 0 – Final – Amanda Lewandowski and Leila Frankina each scored twice in the first half as Franklin rolled to a win to start the season. Lewandowski finished with three points, including an assist on Elizabeth Clark’s first varsity goal. Neilee Hess earned the shutout for Franklin. Paige Reisman had 20 saves in net for the Hawks.
King Philip, 3 @ Sharon, 1 – Final
Oliver Ames, 6 @ Stoughton, 1 – Final – After a scoreless first half, Oliver Ames scored five minutes into the second half and tacked on five more to record a win on the road at Stoughton. Cassie Gennis and Georgia Costello (assist) each scored twice for the Tigers while Sofia Anestam and Hannah Stryke (assist) each found the back of the net once for the Tigers. Haley Nelson scored for Stoughton while Kayla Laboy had an outstanding game in net, making 10 saves.
Taunton, 3 @ North Attleboro, 1 – Final – Taunton went on the road and picked up a win in the season opener at North Attleboro. Kennedy Thielker scored twice for the Tigers, both assisted by Kat Robinson, while Alana Tavares added an unassisted tally. Emily Gannon made five saves in net for the win. Jocelyn Pagliuca and Kathryn Baptiste also had strong games for Taunton.
Attleboro, 0 @ Canton, 3 – Final – Canton opened the season with a 3-0 sweep (25-16, 25-19, 25-16) to give head coach Pat Cawley her 200th victory with the Bulldogs. Senior Taylor Harris led the offense with 15 kills while adding 12 digs and three aces in the win. Angie Elias also had a strong day with seven digs, six kills, and a pair of aces, Liz Bickett added four kills and 11 digs and Nikki Desjardins had a solid defensive showing. Attleboro junior Ana Leonardo dished out 11 assists and sophomore Delia Barthel had three kills and two blocks.
Mansfield, 3 @ Foxboro, 1 – Final – Mansfield started the 2019 campaign with a 3-1 (25-11, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21) win on the road over Foxboro. Sam Sternburg paced the Hornets’ defense with 20 digs and added 12 service points while Olivia McGrath had 11 kills and Emily Dardinski added seven kills. Foxboro had a strong defensive game to keep the match close, with Pam Nelson (10 digs), Grace Fortune (nine digs), Sara Addeche (nine digs) and Kelsey Treweek (six digs) leading the way.
Franklin, 1 @ Milford, 3 – Final – Milford bounced back from dropping the first set to secure a 3-1 (24-26, 26-24, 25-20, 25-21) win at home against Franklin. Julia Riordan paced the Hawks offense, dishing out 28 assists. Lauren Corsini had a strong game in the middle with 11 kills and six blocks, Alyssa Williamson added six kills, and Sarah Brogioli anchored the defense with 15 digs.
King Philip, 3 @ Sharon, 0 – Final – King Philip went on the road and picked up a win in its first game of the season, 3-0 (25-13, 25-12, 25-13) over Sharon. Middles Catherine Waldeck (nine kills, three blocks) and Nicole Coughlan (nine kills, two aces) both had strong games for the Warriors, Kristen Masse added four kills, four digs, and three aces, and Emma Brooks chipped in with six digs and four aces.
Taunton, 0 @ North Attleboro, 3 – Final – North Attleboro defended home court with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-18) win over visiting Taunton. Haley Gaskin dished out 22 assists to pace the Rocketeers with Kylie Melanson (six kills) and Joanna Collins-Bilyeu (five kills) leading the offense. Alyssa Turcotte had five kills and a block for the Tigers while Sonya Fernandez added four kills and a pair of aces.
Oliver Ames, 3 @ Stoughton, 0 – Final – Oliver Ames senior Allie Kemp dished out 27 assists to lead the Tigers to a 3-0 (25-12, 25-21, 25-16) win over Stoughton. Kemp moved within two assists of the 1,000 mark. Junior Caroline Flynn added 10 kills while senior Ryley McNeeley added eight kills and five aces. OA senior Alison Barth had a strong game defensively with 21 digs, 23 serve receptions, and a pair of aces.
Oliver Ames, 151 @ Attleboro, 164 – Final – Oliver Ames bounced back with a win on the road over Attleboro at Stone-E-Lea. Sam Becker paced the Tigers with a medalist round of 35 while Brad Powers (38), Justin Shapiro (39), and Jo Jo Gaultier (39) all shot under 40 for Oliver Ames.
Stoughton, 194 @ North Attleboro, 156 – Final – North Attleboro’s Jillian Barend shot a one-under round of 34 at the middle course at Heather Hill to pace the Rocketeers to a win. Jake Gaskin added a round of 39, Aidan Weir carded a 40, and Brett Dusel and Sam Gallagher each finished at 43. Max Huminik led Stoughton with a round of 46.
Franklin, 158 vs. Nipmuc, 173 – Final – Jack Paterson led the way for the Panthers with a team-low round of 38 while Quinten Faro was right behind him with a round of 39.
Attleboro got off to a strong start to the 2018 season, jumping out to a 4-1 record with its only loss coming against eventual D2 South champ King Philip, and allowing only five points per game. But a last-minute loss in a shootout against Mansfield and a fourth quarter comeback by Franklin the following week sparked a six-game losing streak to close out the season. The Bombardiers come into 2019 looking to turn that around and use its experience to make a run at the Kelley-Rex title.
Offensively, the Bombardiers will be led by senior quarterback Jason Weir. At a bruising 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Weir is a punishing runner and has a big arm to make plays downfield in the passing game. Junior Justin Daniels will be the starting tailback with senior Isaac Guidel and a big offensive line trying to open holes for the running game, led by senior Qualeem Charles (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds), who has a host of colleges recruiting him. Senior Ethan Cameron will provide a weapon on the outside, while junior Michael Strachan offers another threat over the middle from his tight end position.
Charles will dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball as well, but the strength of the Attleboro defense will be its experienced linebacker corps. Strachan, a three-year starter who is getting looks from some Div. I colleges, will be joined by Guidel and senior Nolan Jaeger. Weir will play strong safety, after two seasons at defensive end, and will be counted on to step in to help stop the run. Cameron will be at free safety and giving the cornerbacks help over the middle. Attleboro has a large contingent of sophomores who could step in to contribute right away, including Alvin Harrison, Chris Leonardo, Adam Pearlstein, and Freddy Wheaton.
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “We are looking forward to the season getting underway and with the leadership of our four captains we are looking to be explosive on offense and very physical defensively. The Hockomock League is one of the best leagues in the state with some great teams. We will have to play our very best each week if we are going to compete at a high level.”
Franklin nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2018 season when the Panthers forced perennial power Xaverian to double overtime in the Div. 1 South semifinal. It was a big step forward for the program and head coach Eian Bain hopes it will be a building block for even more success in 2019.
Offensively, the graduation of quarterback Nick Gordon will be a big loss for the Panthers but senior Thomas Gasbarro saw a lot of time under center last year and he will step in and take the starting job. Gasbarro will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as the Panthers have plenty of speedy, athletic players in the skill positions. Senior Jack Nally is a threat out of the backfield or split out wide and his classmate Jake Davis is a solid receiver over the middle or downfield. Senior Matt Lazarek is a potential target from the tight end position and Owen Palmieri is another dangerous ball carrier. Junior Parker Cheuvront emerged last season as one of the top kickers in the Hock and is another weapon that the Panthers can count on if a drive does stall.
The defense is an experienced group. Senior Evan Wertz has been one of the league’s tackle leaders for the past two seasons and he is the team’s top playmaker from his linebacker position. Nally, Davis, Palmieri, and senior Ben Greco give Franklin a tough secondary to throw against and all are capable of coming up with the big turnover to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Luke Cunningham and Dom Natale will give the Panthers strength at the line of scrimmage.
“The challenge for this group is to continue to improve and build the program,” said Bain. “They need to add their own chapter and their own stamp on the program. We have the right people in the room. We need to play with the swagger and confidence of a contender, but be humble in our preparation. If we stay true to the process, we have great potential.”
Despite not winning the league title last year, the target on King Philip’s back continues to grow.
The Warriors might have missed out on the Kelley-Rex crown, but they won their third straight sectional title and made their this straight appearance in the state final, this time falling to North Andover (6-0). While this year’s senior class knows other than Super Bowl appearances, head coach Brian Lee says this group is focused on taking it one game, starting with the opener against North Attleboro. KP has a strong core of players back on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback Robbie Jarest and running back Ryan Halliday. Both players had really strong junior seasons and should be the leaders of the group this year. The offensive line includes returners Nolan Gunning (left tackle), Sean Piller (center), and Pat Zarba (right guard) while Wyatt Manzi, Jack Collentro, and Griffin MacKay are in the mix to fill the remaining spots. Having an experienced line bodes well for the KP run game that will heavily feature Ryan Halliday plus fullback Shawn Conniff and halfbacks Sam Callanan and Crawford Cantave.
The Warriors’ defense has been one of the best units in the state in recent years, and while the expectations remain high for the group, there will be a lot of new faces. KP graduated its entire secondary so the Warriors are turning to senior Brian Wasserug and Cantave, a sophomore, to take on starting spots. Halliday and Callanan, both captains, will handle outside linebacker duties with Mike Malatesta in the mix for the middle spot. Gunning and Manzi will also see action on the defensive line alongside Conniff. Dillon Conti takes over kicking duties for the departed Cole Baker.
“These kids know how much work, how much effort it takes to get where we want to be,” Lee said. “But it’s all about going game by game, starting this week with a team [North Attleboro] that we have a ton of respect for.”
Looking at the long list of returning players, it is no surprise that expectations around Alumni Field are sky high this fall. Mansfield enters the season with experience at just about every position and with the bitter taste of last year’s South final loss to rival King Philip still stinging. Despite a rash of injuries that forced running back Aidan Sacco to play as an emergency quarterback for most of the season, Mansfield still won a league title and this year’s team may be even more talented, which has ramped up the hype and put the target squarely on the Hornets’ backs.
The line of scrimmage will be a strength for the Hornets on the offensive side of the ball, as they return four of five starters from last year’s unit that allowed the team to rush for more than 2,600 yards. Senior Jason Comeau and reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year TJ Guy will be two key cogs in the line, while senior Noah Jellenik and junior Jake McCoy are also back. Senior Andrew Cowles will step into the fifth spot. They will seek to protect senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who had a cameo under center last year before an injury forced him to miss the bulk of the season. The skill positions will be loaded with athletes. Cincere Gill had a breakout sophomore season at running back and senior Nick Marciano is back after an injury cut short his junior season. Senior Michael DeBolt was one of the top kickers in the league but also gives Mansfield another weapon on the edges, while senior Vinnie Holmes adds a bruising presence coming out of the backfield.
Holmes is the headliner on the defensive side of the ball. Along with fellow linebackers Marciano, DeBolt, and senior Joe Plath, Holmes will be expected to make big plays all over the field. The defensive line will be strong with three returning players: senior Chris Graham, McCoy, and Guy. Junior Nico Holmes will step in as the fourth man on the line. Much like on offense, speed will be a strength and the secondary is loaded with playmakers, including Gill, junior Matt Boen, and senior Makhi Baskin.
“We have a bunch of experience all over the field, but we really have to develop depth with the second team to handle a tough schedule and challenges every week,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “This is one of the fastest group of skill guys we’ve ever had and we could be explosive on offense. We lack a little size up front on defense, but we should be able to overcome that by flying around with pursuit to the ball with our speed.”
There was no question that 2018 was a tough season for the Tigers. Oliver Ames lost by a point in the season opener to Concord-Carlisle and didn’t earn its only win until the penultimate game against Durfee. The Tigers will hope to turn things around quickly with an infusion of young talent under new head coach Ed DeWitt.
On offense, the players will be learning a new system, but there is experience in the backfield to try and implement different schemes. Senior running back Nathan Cabral figures to see plenty of the ball again this year after his breakout junior season in which he ran for more than 1,100 yards. He will be joined by senior quarterback Cam Perron and senior running back Sam Stevens to give the Tigers a strong core. Seniors Harrison Webster and Adam Cann (who is coming off an injury) will give Perron weapons to utilize on the outside.
There will be a lot of new faces on the defensive side, as DeWitt can call on three or four returning starters and will need a number of players to provide contributions on both sides of the ball. The linebacking corps was particularly hit by graduations, although senior Tyler Campbell can provide some experience and leadership in that position and Cabral brings athleticism to the role. Max Anderson and Anthony DeCosta will be important at the line of scrimmage, while Stevens will step into the secondary along with senior corner Nick Gillis and junior corner Jadon Ricci.
“The competition in camp has been great,” DeWitt said. “The players have committed to the program and bought into the day to day work that we need to do. We are focusing on making sure we treat every day as an opportunity to improve and string together some positive momentum.”
The Tigers started last season with three straight wins and then finished with three wins in their final four games to end 2018 with a winning record. Taunton enters this fall with a relatively inexperienced roster, but one that is looking to continue the momentum in the program and try to push forward so it can challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division.
One of the biggest changes for the Tigers will be under center. Noah Leonard was the starter for three seasons, but junior Danny MacDougall will take over this year. MacDougall will also see time at receiver to try and take advantage of his athleticism. He will be joined in the backfield by classmates Bretton Heggs and Josh Lopes, who both got time at running back as sophomores. Juniors Kedrick Santos and Devante McPhail will be the primary weapons at receiver. Up front, the Tigers have decent size. Senior Mike Murray will be at center, senior Hussein Kassab at one tackle, junior Marquis Dalomba at the other tackle, and junior Jordan Manning at guard.
Similar to the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers lack experience on defense and are still learning the schemes, but physical scrimmages have helped prepare them for the season. Senior Woudanly Danger is a force at the line of scrimmage and will require attention from opponents and senior Jackson Wellman has been one of the team’s top tacklers from linebacker. Junior defensive end Deandre McPhail adds to the strength of the line. Senior Curt Marshall and MacDougall will be the safeties and senior Cam Carroca will be at corner.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better and to be competitive in the league,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re definitely inexperienced, but physically we have guys who can do it and we need to coach them up so they’ll be ready to go once the season gets started.”
Stoughton featured a strong sophomore class last season and twin brothers Christopher and Christian Ais were a big reason for that. Both are two-way players for the Black Knights and could be poised for breakout years. Christopher picked up a lot of experience in the backfield last year, seeing time at both wing and fullback. His combination of speed and power helped Stoughton pound the ball on the ground. He racked up 381 yards on the ground last year (7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns and should see an expanded role in the backfield this season. Christian also had a strong season and will continue his role as a wingback for Stoughton his season. He combined for over 300 yards between rushing and receiving and found the end zone once. Both will be vital pieces of Stoughton’s run game this year, which is consistently a strength for the Black Knights. Expect both players to have expanded roles this season.
Last fall, Oliver Ames senior running back Nathan Cabral had the unenviable task of taking over from Anthony Berksza, after a preseason injury ruled the Tigers’ leading rusher out for the year, but Cabral stepped right in and provided OA with the workhorse back it needed. He rushed for more than 1,100 yards last season and scored 10 touchdowns. Cabral also converted three two-point conversions and now comes into his senior season as the top offensive weapon for the Tigers. A shifty back with the speed to escape tackles and make big plays, Cabral will draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses and will be the primary weapon for new head coach Ed DeWitt. Like Berksza before him, the Tigers will be looking for a big season from Cabral to try and make a push at a playoff spot.
Mansfield junior Cincere Gill burst onto the scene last fall and became one of the top playmakers (on offense and defense) in the Hock. The big-play running back helped Mansfield bring home its first league title since 2013 and book a spot in the Div. 2 South final. He rushed for 535 yards in 2018, good for second-best on the team, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. He also had 153 receiving yards. He was the team leader with 10 rushing touchdowns and also grew into one of the top ball hawks in the Mansfield secondary. This year, expectations will be even higher as Gill comes into the season as one of the primary weapons in a loaded Hornets backfield and his combination of speed, agility, and vision to spot an opening will make him a threat to go the distance on every play. Mansfield has plenty of talent at the running back position this season and that means Gill can stay fresh, allowing him to keep that breakaway speed when he gets the ball.
The versatility of Canton senior quarterback Johnny Hagan was one of the reasons that the Bulldogs surged to a share of the Davenport division title in 2018, their first league title since 1990, and to the Div. 5 South final. Hagan is a constant threat to the defense because he is capable of making big plays with his arm or his legs. His speed out of the pocket and the fearlessness he shows to take on tacklers downfield allows him to pick up crucial first downs and extend drives, but if teams crowd the box to try and contain the ground game Hagan can take advantage by hitting his receivers over the top. He was one of the league’s top dual threats last season and the Bulldogs will be counting on that production to continue as they try to repeat as league champions for the first time since they won a fifth straight title in 1981.
It never ceases to amaze that as one talented running back graduates, King Philip seems to find someone who can step right in to fill their shoes and produce. Senior Ryan Halliday was that guy last season, rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns, as the Warriors returned to Gillette Stadium to play in a third straight Super Bowl. Even with defenses crowding the line of scrimmage to try and stop the ground game, Halliday barreled his way to a big year, showing off the toughness it takes to get the ball almost every down. He demonstrated the speed to break free when he got into the second level and was more than willing to take and deliver hits. That was obvious on the other side of the ball too, where Halliday had five tackles for loss and a pair of sacks for the typically stout KP defense. As usual, KP will have a lot of new faces on offense this season but expect Halliday to continue getting the ball as often as possible and keeping hopes of a fourth straight South title alive.
There were a lot of new faces that made a big impact last season and Taunton’s Danny MacDougall was one of them. He immediately became a reliable receiving option for quarterback Noah Leonard, and as the season went on, he seemed to come up with bigger and bigger catches. A three-sport athlete, MacDougall is always going to be one of the hardest-working players on the field. Despite not finding the end zone during his sophomore year, his production earned him an honorable mention selection for HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year. This season, MacDougall is expected to take over under center for Leonard and see time at quarterback. His ability to make plays carrying the ball should carry over to the QB position. But he’s also expected to see time back at receiver and we saw exactly he can do there last season. And with MacDougall expected to be a starter on defense as well, there’s a high probability we’ll see him making plays on both sides of the ball.
There has been a lot of attention to the right side of the North Attleboro offensive line over the past two seasons as Ryan Clemente emerged as one of the top guards in the league. But in that time, another terrific lineman emerged on the left side. Ethan Mottinger, who committed to play at UMass this past offseason, really came into his own during the 2018 season and is one of the best-returning linemen in the league and region this season. There were stretches in which Mottinger (6’6, 294) absolutely dominated at the line, helping spring runners for long gains. There is a lot of movement in the North Attleboro offense, and that includes for the linemen as well. His ability to get off the line and make a block can create big gaps. While he’s a strong blocker in the passing game, he really shines in the run game when he’s able to go at the defense. Don’t be surprised when the Rocketeers run to the left side of the field behind him when they need a big first down or are near the goal line.
Franklin senior Jack Nally showcased numerous talents last year to help the Panthers get to the Div. 1 South semifinal, and nearly pull off an upset of powerhouse Xaverian. He finished with 922 total yards, as a running back, receiver, and returner. He scored one touchdown on the ground, caught four scores, and had more than 350 yards in returns in 2018. He was also a dynamic part of the Franklin secondary. With his quickness and agility, and his ability to find the hole and hit it at speed, Nally gives Franklin versatility in its offense that the Panthers will be counting on after the graduation of several key skill position players. Nally has been a terrific athlete in multiple sports and the Panthers will be hoping that he can continue to bring the same level of success to the gridiron this fall and help them challenge for the division title.
Milford senior quarterback Colby Pires has been one of the most dynamic passers in the Hockomock League for the past two seasons, spearheading the Hawks offensive attack and helping them pull out six wins in their final seven games to finish with a winning record. In 2018, Pires threw for more than 2,300 yards and tossed 22 touchdowns, while continuing to be one of the league’s most accurate passers. His ability to find multiple targets allowed the spread offense to be effective and kept defenses from loading up on certain weapons. Pires is also mobile enough to stretch plays out and make accurate throws while on the run. Milford will be counting on Pires’ experience on varsity to help a relatively young team continue to grow and challenge the top teams in the Davenport.
There are not many quarterbacks in the league that also excel on the defensive line, but Attleboro senior Jason Weir offers the size and strength that few signal-callers can match. Weir enters his second year as the starter for the Bombardiers, after throwing for more than 1,100 yards and rushing for 600 yards a season ago. Weir accounted for 23 total touchdowns (10 through the air and 13 on the ground) and proved to be a difficult guy to bring down, whether in short-yardage situations or when he got into the open field. He is also a standout at defensive end, setting the edge for Attleboro’s big line. Despite the graduation of several key skill position players, the Bombardiers are counting on Weir to make big plays and keep them in line for a return to the postseason.