FOXBORO, Mass. – There were still many who expected North Andover, with its perfect record and high-powered offense, to be too much for King Philip in Friday night’s Div. 2 Super Bowl and the Warriors were going to struggle to stay with the Scarlet Knights.
You would think that at this point, after three straight trips to Gillette Stadium and 33 wins combined over the past three seasons, people would know better than to underestimate KP.
With 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Warriors got the ball back at their own 26 trailing just 6-0. Robert Jarest scrambled from one side of the field all the way back to his left and hit Tim Nault right on the sideline for a first down. On the next play the pair connected again for another 13 yards into North Andover territory. With the clock down to 11 seconds, Jarest found DDavid Morganelli in front of his own bench for 13 yards to the Knights 34.
With six seconds left on the clock, KP had one last chance to complete an unlikely three-peat. But, North Andover defensive back Michael Roche ruined the storybook ending by chasing down Jarest for a game-ending and title-winning sack that handed the Scarlet Knights their first Super Bowl title since 1994.
“They keep rallying back,” KP coach Brian Lee said of his team. He added that Roche impressed him on film in the build up to the game, calling him “a real dude,” and he was aware of the North Andover senior but couldn’t change the play at that moment. Lee said, “We were a little disjointed, not having another timeout to get it the way we wanted to and to realize he was on this side and we rolled out into him.”
There was certainly disappointment on the King Philip (9-3) side after the loss, having two long drives end just outside the red zone and having the lone North Andover touchdown come off the lone turnover for the Warriors, but Lee credited his players for beating all the expectations for the season.
Lee said, “They really weren’t supposed to be anything this year. To get back here with these guys and to play that way, I mean especially on ‘D’ to shut them down again, we play so well on ‘D’ on this field…”
He added, “It was just a great job competing by our guys. I’m so proud of them.”
KP got the ball first and put together exactly the type of drive that has become synonymous with the Warriors during Lee’s coaching tenure. Junior Ryan Halliday (29 carries, 97 yards) got the ball on all but one of the 12 plays and marched KP all the way to the North Andover 25. On fourth and four, the Warriors called for a fake field goal and Cole Baker found an open receiver on the far sideline but the ball couldn’t be pulled in.
Jack Webster leapt to bat down a third down pass attempt and end the Scarlet Knights first drive, but KP went three-and-out when it got the ball back.
On the North champion’s next drive, Jake McElroy started to get things going through the air, connecting with Gabriel DeSouza for 33 yards to the KP 32. Three plays later, on third and two, McElroy (10-16, 117 yards) appeared to have an open receiver but the ball slipped through his hands and Nault was on hand to pick it off.
The momentum from the interception lasted only two plays. Halliday was hit hard on a toss to the left and Darren Watson recovered the fumble at the KP seven. It took four plays before McElroy punched it in from one yard out, and it took a great second effort just to get the ball across the line. The extra point was blocked.
“That call was dumb,” Lee admitted. “That was my fault and it put the defense in a bad spot. Even so, fourth and one I thought we had them there. That call was the wrong call and put the defense in a bad way, but besides that they did everything they were supposed to do. I really think if we don’t make that mistake then we shut them out.”
North Andover started the second half with the ball, but Shawn Conniff ended the drive by busting into the backfield to stop Watson for a one-yard loss on third and one. KP got the ball at its own six and proceeded to grind out another long drive.
Halliday had been largely contained since the first possession but he broke runs of 17, 10, and 11 yards to get the Warriors going. A Jarest scramble turned into a 12-yard weaving run that got KP down to the North Andover 23. Facing fourth and 10, Jarest slipped as he rolled out and although he recovered his footing wasn’t able to hook up with Morganelli on a comeback route.
Again, the KP defense did its job to get the ball back quickly, including a big play by Morganelli busting up a screen pass for a seven-yard loss.
North Andover coach John Dubzinski said of the KP defense, “They were so good up front. They were good on the perimeter, they were good inside. They covered our receivers well, very well. They’re a good football team. We beat a good football team.”
After a pass was knocked away from Morganelli, the Warriors had fourth and eight from the Scarlet Knights 43. Lee elected to punt and Baker dropped one at the one-yard-line with 4:49 left to play.
McElroy was able to elude the KP blitz and hit Watson for a crucial 29-yard completion and then added a 17-yard pass to the KP 40. Watson jumped on a fumble for a four-yard loss and then Tyler Barrett sacked McElroy for a 10-yard loss that forced third and 24. The Warriors did their job and stopped the North Andover offense as it did all night, but it just wasn’t enough time for the offense to get on the board.
It says everything about this team that when KP got the ball back, there were plenty of people thinking that somehow the Warriors would be able to pull this out.
“A lot of things looked like they were going our way early and then we just stalled out on ‘O’ a couple times,” Lee said. “We were just a little short on a couple things tonight. Just a lot of little miscues on offense really prevented us from stealing this one.”
Below are the official 2018 Hockomock League Football All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Hockomock League MVP
Nick Gordon, Franklin
Ryan Clemente, North Attleboro
Hockomock League All Stars
Nick Evans, Attleboro
Justin Cote, Attleboro
Jason Weir, Attleboro
Michael Strachan, Attleboro
Nick Gordon, Franklin
Ryan Driscoll, Franklin
Jack Nally, Franklin
Terrell Jacobs-Baston, King Philip
Ryan Halliday, King Philip
Jack Webster, King Philip
David Morganelli, King Philip
Daenin Walker, Mansfield
TJ Guy, Mansfield
Aidan Sacco, Mansfield
Vinnie Holmes, Mansfield
Dean Pacini, Oliver Ames
Woudanly Danger, Taunton
Cory Pintabone, Taunton
Ben Seaman, Canton
Brendan Albert, Canton
Brian Campagna, Canton
Johnny Hagan, Canton
Anton George, Foxboro
Hunter Williams, Foxboro
Mike Sheehan, Foxboro
Brendan White, Milford
Colby Pires, Milford
Kevin Pyne, Milford
Brendan McHugh, North Attleboro
Nick Raneri, North Attleboro
Ryan Clemente, North Attleboro
Ryan Gaumond, North Attleboro
Chris Gong, Sharon
Alex Iverson, Stoughton
Evan Jackman , Stoughton
Malachi Green-Hightower, Stoughton
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The first game back in September was a surprising shootout, but the rematch in the pouring rain on Friday night at Alumni Field was more of what has come to be expected from battles between Mansfield and King Philip.
Defense was the story of the Div. 2 South final. The Hornets scored a touchdown on their opening possession but were held off the board for the remainder of the game, while the Warriors were held without a touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter.
King Philip came away with a hard-hitting 10-7 victory over its division rival, securing its third straight trip to the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
“There’s playing teams and then there’s playing Mansfield,” King Philip coach Brian Lee remarked. “You know what you’re going to get and it’s just how are you going to move the ball when they’re big and mean and tough and we’re just trying to find a way.”
Mansfield took the lead midway through the first quarter, taking advantage of a short punt to score its only touchdown of the game.
After a three-yard punt, the Hornets got the ball at the KP 37 but then backed up 10 yards on a pair of false starts. On third and 15, Aidan Sacco was able to pull the ball down and scramble for 16 and a first down. Two plays later, Sacco again found space to run and rumbled in untouched for a 16-yard score.
The ensuing kick was fielded at the one by Aidan Bender, but he returned it 47 yards out to midfield. The Warriors were unable to make it count, but the defense got the ball right back.
KP forced a Mansfield three-and-out and regained possession inside Hornets territory. Ryan Halliday (27 carries, 96 yards), with help from a defensive holding call, got the ball down to the 21, but Mansfield held firm and forced a 38-yard field goal from Cole Baker that cut the lead to 7-3.
Mansfield had a chance to add to its lead before halftime when it go the ball back at midfield. The drive started poorly, as Sacco was sacked by Halliday and Max Armour, but a personal foul following an incomplete pass gifted the Hornets 15 yards and a first down. Sacco then hit Cincere Gill for 20 yards down to the KP 18, but two plays later Gill fumbled and Bender recovered for the Warriors.
“When they didn’t score before the half, I thought we were okay,” said Lee. “We couldn’t have played any worse offensively and made some mistakes on defense, but if we could get into the half and make our adjustments and only be down four I thought alright that’s KP football, we’re fine.”
The third quarter continued the trend where defenses were in control of the game. Even without Vinnie Holmes at linebacker, Mansfield was getting big plays from Chris Copponi and T.J. Guy. KP was getting typically strong performances from Armour and fellow linebacker Jack Webster to stymie the Mansfield offense.
The score stayed the same heading to the fourth before KP finally got something going on the offensive side of the ball. The Warriors ate up six minutes with an 11-play, 51-yard drive to take the lead.
“We started just grinding it out, pounding it,” said junior quarterback Robbie Jarest about the go-ahead drive. “The line was doing really well, we were just grinding it out.”
Halliday continued to be the workhorse back, grinding out yards, including a two-yard burst to convert a fourth and one. On second and six, KP called for a bootleg from Jarest and he bounced it to the outside for 11 yards. On third and six, Jarest scrambled and managed to dive ahead for nine and another first down to the Mansfield 12.
On the next play, he hit David Morganelli just outside the goal line for a first and goal from about a foot, which Jarest finished off with a sneak.
The Hornets had 5:38 on the clock to try and get back the lead. Back-to-back nine-yard gains by Gill and Joe Plath got the ball out to the 43. After an eight-yard gain by Khristian Conner pushed the ball into KP territory, Mansfield took a chance downfield. Sacco tried to squeeze a pass in down the middle but it was picked off by Deric Casado at the 16.
On third and eight, again KP turned to its quarterback on a bootleg and Jarest weaved his way through the Mansfield defense for nine yards and a dagger first down that sealed the win.
“Robert gave us a little wrinkle at the end that was just enough,” said Lee. “That’s kind of what we do at KP, just enough. He’s really done a great job stepping up, taking the coaching, and I’m really proud of his efforts.”
No one was quite sure what to make of this KP team at the start of the season. With no returning starters on offense, this didn’t seem like a Warriors team that could make it back to the state title game, but here they are again booking a trip back to Gillette Stadium with eyes on a three-peat.
“It’s a very different team and it’s presented challenges along the way but they still have the same theme, which is keep believing, keep working,” Lee explained. “The one thing that stayed from the last two years is their work ethic and their belief that they can pull it off.”
He added, “We have heart, we have guts, we have teamwork, and we use it on this team better than anybody. Anybody can be a hero on a different play.”
King Philip (8-2) will face Franklin on Thanksgiving Day and then take on North champion North Andover in the Div. 2 title game. Mansfield also finished the season at 8-2 and will finish its season with its Thanksgiving Day rivalry game against Foxboro at Fenway Park.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – Coming off a difficult, emotional, last minute loss to Mansfield in last week’s title showdown, there was concern that King Philip may have a letdown against Thanksgiving Day rival Franklin. Both teams came into week five with one league loss and a setback on Friday night at Macktaz Field would effectively end that team’s chances of a league title this season.
The Warriors set aside any worries about the impact of last week’s loss by jumping out to an early lead and then put the Panthers away in the second half with 21 unanswered points.
KP beat Franklin 35-14 behind three touchdown passes from junior quarterback Robbie Jarest to earn its 13th straight victory in this series dating back to Thanksgiving 2009 and to stay just one game back of Mansfield in the division standings.
“I was definitely a little nervous about that,” KP coach Brian Lee said. “Our guys were talking about our maturity level and our compete level and [the Mansfield loss] was disappointing…but you’ve got to keep looking forward. You’ve got to think about playoffs and keep your eyes on a new direction.”
For Panthers coach Eian Bain, this was a missed opportunity for his team to earn that elusive marquee win against one of the league’s perennial powers.
“Our guys work hard,” Bain said. “But, it’s three years of working hard and not quitting and, eventually, we need to take the next step as a program and when that happens it’s going to be up to our team. King Philip isn’t getting off the pyramid and Mansfield’s not stepping off to give it to us, we need to go get it.”
The Warriors wasted no time in setting aside the disappointment of last week, driving 65 yards on eight plays on the opening possession of the game to take the lead.
Helped by a personal foul call against the Panthers and 26 yards on the ground from Ryan Halliday (25 carries, 134 yards), KP got the ball inside the red zone. Jarest (6-13, 94 yards) finished the drive by hitting Timmy Nault, who ran an angled route across the middle of the Panthers’ secondary, for an 18-yard score.
The KP defense was typically aggressive and allowed only one first down on Franklin’s first two possessions. Jack Webster’s sack pushed the Panthers back inside their own 10 and KP took advantage of solid starting field position to double the lead.
Halliday went up the middle for 21 yards on a draw that put the ball at the Franklin 28. Two plays later, on third and 10, Jarest again found the open receiver, connecting with Deric Casado for a 28-yard strike and a 14-0 lead.
“Every week he gets a little better,” said Lee about Jarest. “He gets a little crazy at times, but you saw it tonight, we’re feeling a little more comfortable with him, having more trust in him, and that’s only going to make our offense better. Our receivers are coming along too.”
Franklin got a much-needed response on its next drive. After an 11-yard run by Owen Palmieri, a 15-yard pass interference call moved the ball down to the KP 32-yard-line. A pair of Webster tackles at the line of scrimmage and an incomplete pass left Franklin facing fourth and nine, but Nick Gordon was able to hit Sean Leonard for 28 yards down to the three. Three plays later Gordon punched it in from a yard out.
KP got the ball back with 5:38 left in the half at its own 19. The Warriors proceeded to use up all but seven seconds of the quarter and got as far as the Franklin 21, but were forced to settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt from Cole Baker. The kick was on line but fell just a yard short and the score remained 14-7 at the break.
The Panthers went into halftime with the momentum, but KP turned that around quickly in the third quarter. The Warriors forced a three-and-out, scored a touchdown, forced a fumble and added another score to break the contest wide open in a little more than six minutes of game time.
“I felt like they had all the mojo,” said Lee. “They held us down there and I felt like, okay we’re in a game here. Now you’ve got to withstand that burst and they did that. They had a good response, so I was pleased.”
Jack Norgren returned the Franklin punt to the Panthers’ 47. From there, Halliday carried the ball five times for 22 yards. On first down from the 25, Jarest tossed his third score of the night, finding David Morganelli on a go-route down the left sideline to extend the lead back to two scores.
The Warriors pinned Franklin back at its own 13 on the ensuing kick-off and then two plays later Max Armour and Halliday forced a fumble when Gordon tried a keeper up the middle. Morganelli recovered the loose ball at the 12. On the next play Halliday, with a giant push from his offensive line, carried a pile of players into the end zone to make it 28-7.
Casado’s solid coverage on Leonard forced a turnover on downs inside the KP 30 on Franklin’s next possession and the Warriors turned it into another score. Sam Callanan (five carries, 46 yards) gave Halliday a rest and took the bulk of the plays on the drive. He found a seam on a toss to the left and was able to scamper home with a 12-yard rush that made it 35-7 with eight minutes remaining.
Gordon (5-13, 138 yards) did get the Panthers a consolation score just a minute later on an 84-yard pass to Ryan Driscoll, who showed off his speed in out-running the KP secondary from one sideline to the opposite corner. But, Nault intercepted a Gordon pass on the next possession to cap off an impressive second half display from the Warriors.
“It was Mansfield all over again,” Bain reflected. “There were moments where we could’ve made a play or two and maybe we don’t win but it’s a different game. We’ve got to turn it around because we’ve got two more left and if we want a shot at hosting a playoff game, then we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
On Friday night, that help came in the form of special teams.
The Warriors leaned on a pair of good punt returns and their own punting game to win the field position battle, and as a result, a 17-0 verdict over visiting Foxboro.
Three of King Philip’s seven drives started in Foxboro territory, and all three resulted in points. The other four resulted in three punts and the end of the game.
“I was very happy with special teams, it really kept us in the game,” said King Philip head coach Brian Lee, who earned his 100th career victory. “But we have a lot of things we have to figure out still.”
King Philip’s defense had another strong showing after allowing just 14 points in the season-opening loss to North Attleboro. A sack from David Morganelli put a quick end to Foxboro’s first series.
A 23-yard punt return from Tim Nault gave King Philip’s offense a strong start, first down at the Foxboro 36-yard line. The Warriors got one first down on a Jack Webster run up the middle, but a tackle for loss from Foxboro’s Anton George and Will Ogbebor put the hosts in a hole.
KP quarterback Robbie Jarest (5-for-7, 32 yards) hit Morganelli (four catches, 35 yards) for an 11-yard gain but it was just short of the sticks. Junior Cole Baker drilled a 35-yard field goal to put the host Warriors ahead 3-0 with 4:05 left in the opening quarter.
King Philip’s defense stymied the Foxboro offense again during the second series, including a sack from Webster. This time the punt was hauled in by Aidan Bender just over midfield, and he raced it 35 yards back to the Foxboro 28-yard line.
Despite facing a 4th and 8, Jarest linked up with Morganelli for 11 yards to move the sticks. An offensive pass interference call moved the ball back at the end of the first quarter, but KP had an eight-yard scamper from Ryan Halliday (23 carries, 98 yards) and five more yards from Webster.
On 3rd and 7, Jarest rolled out right and hit Morganelli, who dove down to the 1-yard line. On the next play, Halliday went up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead with 9:09 to play in the first half.
“Two bad punt coverages hurt us in the first half,” said Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli. “It gave them great field position. We gave them short fields two or three times…they earned them, and we’re not good enough to play that way. We have a great kicker (Russell Neale), but we haven’t gotten into range to use him.”
Foxboro responded with its best drive of the game, moving into King Philip territory. The Warriors ran 11 plays for 50 yards, highlighted by passes from Liam Foley (9-for-21, 84 yards) to Keyshawn Sanders (8 yards) and Brian Derba (5 yards). Foley hit Shayne Kerrigan over the middle for 20 yards to convert a third down.
A 15-yard scramble from Foley gave Foxboro the ball at the King Philip 30-yard line but three plays later, King Philip’s Deric Casado tipped a pass and then came down with the interception to end Foxboro’s threat.
Baker punted for KP when its drive stalled, booting to the Foxboro 30-yard line. With a long field to go, Foxboro’s drive ended near midfield when time ran out on the first half.
Foxboro’s defense started the second half on a high note, forcing a punt. Again, Baker booted it to the Foxboro 30-yard line. Although Foley hit Pat Stapleton for 16 yards on the first play, a sack from Morganelli three plays later halted the drive.
Although Foxboro’s defense came up with a stop, KP continued to win the field position with another strong punt from Baker (47 yards). King Philip’s defense pushed the visiting Warriors back even further with losses of six and three yards on the first two plays.
On fourth down, Foxboro’s punt sailed out of bounds at its 36-yard line. Once again, King Philip cashed in on good field position.
This time the host Warriors ran seven plays to cover 36 yards, capped by a 3-yard touchdown from Halliday, who had gallops of 12 and nine on the drive. Baker’s extra point put KP up 17-0 with 9:13 to play.
“In the second half, when we were struggling on offense, to flip the field on the big punt from Baker was huge,” Lee said. “Punting and those two punt returns…short field allows you to be patient. It puts the defense in a bind right away. ”
After giving up just 14 points last week, King Philip’s defense had another strong outing. Foxboro had just 92 yards of offense and KP recorded four sacks and one interception.
“We felt good about our defense, and we’re going to lean on them to get us going. We’ll play the field position and go from there. I’m very pleased with the defense. We don’t have a superstar this year. There’s no Shane [Frommer], no Mark Glebus, so we all have to chip in, we all have to contribute.”
Foxboro (0-2) will try to break into the win column when it plays Stoughton (1-1) at Canton High School.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2018 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
2017 Record: 5-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan
Key/Returning Players: Justin Cote, Sr., RB/OLB; Nick Evans, Sr., OT/DE; Eddie Porreca, Sr., DT; Alex Rodriguez, Sr., RB; Josh Therrien, Sr., WR/FS; Desmond Woodson, Sr., OLB; Qualeem Charles, Jr., OT/DT; Isaac Gudiel, Jr., OG/LB; Nolan Jaeger, Jr., WR/CB; Jason Weir, Jr., QB/DE; Michael Strachan, So., LB/TE
Injuries hampered Attleboro right from the start of the 2017 season, but the 2018 Bombardiers are healthy and hoping for a big turnaround this fall to compete with the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division and make a return to the postseason.
The graduation of quarterback Cam Furtado is a significant loss on offense, but the Bombardiers will hand the ball to junior Jason Weir, who has a big arm and a lot of potential at the QB position. Size and strength won’t be a problem for Weir, who played defensive end as a sophomore. Seniors Justin Cote and Alex Rodriguez will be the primary backs for Attleboro this year and give the Bombardiers dynamic weapons out of the backfield. The offensive line is bolstered by 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior Qualeem Charles and 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior Nick Evans. At 6-foot-3, junior Nolan Jaeger will be a weapon at receiver along with senior Josh Therrien and sophomore tight end Michael Strachan.
Evans battled injuries at the start of last season, but he is one of the top defensive linemen in the league and is drawing Div. I college offers. Attleboro will be a tough team to run against this season with Evans on the end and Charles (who is also getting DI looks) and 6-foot-3, 365-pound senior Eddie Porreca on the inside. Strachan and junior Isaac Gudiel will be starting at inside linebacker, while senior Desmond Woodson will be starting on the outside. Therrien is capable of making plays downfield at his free safety position and will be the leader of the secondary.
“I am looking forward to the 2018 season,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have a strong senior class and we have strong leadership on our football team. Our team worked out hard in the off-season and I am looking forward to that hard work paying off this season.”
2017 Record: 3-8
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Eian Bain
Key/Returning Players: Ryan Driscoll, Sr., WR/DB; Sean Leonard, Sr., TE; Evan Wertz, Jr., LB; Sean Hofferty, Sr., RB; Liam Arsenault, Sr., OL/DL; Nick Gordon, Sr., QB/DB; Riley Downing, Sr., OL/DL; Will Davis, Sr., WR; Jack Jarosz, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Nally, Jr., WR; Jake Davis, Jr., WR/DB; Dom Natale, Jr., OL/DL; Thomas Gasbarro, Jr., QB/DB; Nolan McLaney, Sr., DB;
Third-year head coach Eian Bain is optimistic about the 2018 season, and the long list of players returning with plenty of experience is a big reason why. The Panthers have over a dozen players back that started or saw significant time on offense and the same goes for the defense, include a very seasoned secondary.
Franklin must replace three-year starter Jake Noviello at quarterback but Bain is confident that a healthy competition between senior Nick Gordon and junior Thomas Gasbarro will result in a strong option starting under center for the opening week. While Franklin has to replace its quarterback, they return a ton of skill players on offense including senior tight end Sean Leonard, who hauled in a league-best eight touchdown passes last season. Ryan Driscoll (five touchdowns), Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Jake Davis will fill out the receiving corps while Sean Hofferty and Owen Palmieri man the backfield. Seniors Riley Downing and Liam Arsenault are experienced and will anchor the offensive line.
Junior Evan Wertz will be a key piece in the middle of the Panthers’ defense after having a breakout campaign last year with nearly 100 tackles from his linebacker spot. Senior Spencer Briggs and sophomore Alex Honor will also see time at linebacker while Downing is joined by Jack Jarosz, Dom Natale, and Keenan Bassma on the defensive line. The Panthers boast a seasoned secondary with Nolan McLaney and Driscoll both back, along with Palmieri, Jake Davis, and both Gasbarro and Gordon.
“We have experience on both sides of the ball,” Bain said. “It is a cohesive group that has been working hard together for our first two years and they are eager to the turn the corner with our program.”
2017 Record: 12-0
2017 Finish: MIAA D1A State Champions
Coach: Brian Lee
Key/Returning Players: Jack Webster, Sr., FB/LB; Aidan Bender, Sr., RB/DB; Max Armour, Sr., LB; Luke D’Amico, Sr., DB; Terrell Jacobs Baston, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Halliday, Jr., RB; Josh Fice, Sr., OL/DL; Nolan Gunning, Jr., OL/DL; David Morganelli, Sr., WR;
The target on King Philip’s back is bigger than ever as the Warriors pulled off a second straight undefeated season and another state championship.
So how will head coach Brian Lee get this year’s team to focus on 2018 and not the past two seasons?
“The work and preparation have been the same but now it’s up to this season class to leave their legacy,” Lee said. “The previous two classes had their moments, now it’s up to these seniors to make their own moment. This team will go as far as these seniors lead them.”
The seniors will have plenty of opportunities to make their mark because King Philip doesn’t have a returning starter on offense. The Warriors need to replace quarterback Brendan Lydon, who didn’t lose a game as a starter. Junior Robbie Jarest looks poised to take over under center this season. While it isn’t a lot of experience, Jarest took over in the second half of the state final after Lydon got hurt and helped the Warriors finish off Lincoln-Sudbury. The toughest shoes to fill will be those of Shane Frommer, who will go down as one of the best players in KP history.
Junior Ryan Halliday will be the feature back while Aidan Bender and Sam Callanan will be in the mix as well. Jack Webster and Jack Collentro will be keys to the offense from the fullback position. Senior Terrell Jacobs Bastons has some experience on both sides of the ball and will likely start at guard while classmate Josh Fice will fill in the other guard spot. Junior Nolan Gunning is likely to get a starting spot as well, either at center or tackle.
Defense has been a staple for the Warriors throughout their successful run over the last couple of years, and that’s what KP will count on again this season. The strength will come from the linebackers with Webster back in an outside spot and Max Armour returning in the middle. Jacobs Bastons will be a big presence in the middle of the defensive line while the secondary will have familiar faces back in Aidan Bender, Timmy Nault, and safety Luke D’Amico.
And as we saw in the state final, having a reliable kicker is priceless. Cole Baker, who booted the winning field goal in the final, is back for his third year. Not only will he be a big help on offense, his kickoffs will be a weapon for the defense.
2017 Record: 8-3
2017 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Michael Redding
Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Damani Scott, Sr., QB/FS; Michael DeBolt, Jr., WR/DB/K; Vinnie Holmes, Jr., RB/LB; Makhi Baskin, Jr., RB/DB; Nick Marciano, Jr., RB/DB; Aidan Sacco, Sr., RB/DB; Philip Dinov, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Copponi, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Graham, Jr., OL/DL; Jason Comeau, Jr., OL/DE; Khristian Conner, Sr., WR/DB; Daenin Walker, Sr., OL/DL
Mansfield has finished second in the Kelley-Rex in each of the past three seasons and the Hornets will be counting on experience under center and depth at the skill positions to end King Philip’s two-year reign atop the division and return to the top of the league standings for the first time since 2013.
Senior Damani Scott will be the starter at quarterback for the second straight season and he will be backed up by the capable Jack Mousette, giving the Hornets plenty of experience and reliability from their signal caller. Scott will also have a ton of weapons to call on this year with a skill position group that head coach Mike Redding calls one of the best that Mansfield has had in a while. Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco will be weapons in the passing game while junior Vinnie Holmes is back in the backfield. Juniors Makhi Baskin, Michael DeBolt (who was also an outstanding kicker last year), and Nick Marciano will provide depth in the slot/running back positions. Senior Daenin Walker and junior Jason Comeau will add experience to the offensive line.
Defensively, Holmes will return to the linebacking corps after setting a program record for tackles in a season as a sophomore. Seniors Chris Copponi and Philip Dinov also return and can play as linebackers or as defensive ends depending on matchups. The secondary will be strong for the Hornets this year with Conner and Sacco at the corners and Marciano and Baskin at the safety positions. The only new additions on the defense are Anthony Capece at noseguard and junior Joe Plath at linebacker.
Redding said, “We have an experienced, athletic, aggressive defense that should be tough to score on and we’re young on offense, but have a ton of depth and talent at skill positions. Just need to gain some experience up front with our new guys on OL and DL.”
2017 Record: 6-5
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Holland
Key/Returning Players: Cam Perron, Jr., QB; Dean Pacini, Sr., OL/LB; Darnele Ryan, Sr., LB; Sam Stevens, Jr., DB; Shane Kilkelly, Jr., WR; Nathan Cabral, Jr., RB; Shane Murphy, Sr., OL/LB; Billy Tat, Sr., OL/DL; Luke Thibeault, Sr., OL/DL; Garrett Wood, Sr., OL/DL;
The 2018 version of the Oliver Ames Tigers have already had to make an audible after star running back Anthony Berksza suffered a season-ending injury over summer. Berksza had a breakout year last season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and finished with 16 total touchdowns, 15 of those rushing.
With Berksza out, Oliver Ames will rely heavily on the rest of its returning starters to carry the load. Junior Cam Perron returns under center after taking over the starting job during the regular season last year. While Perron looks to find some of his options, he has an offensive line protecting him that has some experience but will be looking to form cohesiveness throughout the year. Dean Pacini, Shane Murphy, Billy Tat, Luke Thibeault, and Garrett Wood all return with experience playing on the line. One challenge will be finding someone to step up and be a leader of that group after the graduation of two-time all star Jack Mills.
Nathan Cabral takes over as the feature tailback and OA head coach Mike Holland is confident the junior can get the job done. Holland says Cabral runs hard and is a tough player. Perron will also have the likes of Shane Kilkelly, Jake Erlich, and Evan Craig to work with as targets.
The heart of the defense will be at the linebacker position. Both Pacini, Murphy, and Darnele Ryan return after starting there last year and Holland will count on both senior captains to lead the way for the Tigers. Sam Stevens is back in the secondary at the safety position but OA will need some new faces to emerge alongside him.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season,” Holland said. “We have a great group across the board. We have some experienced players back and some talented players competing for jobs.”
2017 Record: 5-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Brad Sidwell
Key/Returning Players: Noah Leonard, Sr., QB; Brayden Merrill, Sr., WR/DB; Tryton Zavala, Sr., WR/DB; Wesner Charles, Sr., WR/DB; Christian Tourinho, Sr., OL/DL; Cam Correiro, Sr., OL/DL; Corey Pintabone, Sr., TE/DL; Ryan Williams, Sr., OL/LB; Jared Rockwood, Sr., TE/DE; Max Moitoso, Sr., RB/LB; Prince Brown, Sr., WR/DB; Mason Frank, Jr., OL/DL
Taunton started last season with a 3-0 record, one of the program’s best starts in years, but then lost five straight games, including a playoff game against BC High, the top seed in Div. 1 South. The Tigers turned it on again from that point, winning the final three games of the season, including an impressive win against Brockton, to finish with a winning record under second-year head coach Brad Sidwell.
Experience will be a key for the Tigers this season, as Taunton tries to build on that playoff appearance and the momentum from a strong closing stretch. Senior Noah Leonard will be the starting quarterback for the third straight year and is now fluent in Sidwell’s offensive system. Leonard will have familiar targets in senior wideouts Brayden Merrill, Tryton Zavala, and Wesner Charles, while junior Cam Carroca looks to step in as a feature running back and junior Javon Franklin is a new target in the passing game. On the line, Taunton returns plenty of size in 6-foot-3, 337-pound tackle Christian Tourinho and his fellow senior Cam Correiro. Senior Ryan Williams will be the center, while junior Mason Frank, listed at 6-foot-2 and 274 pounds, will be back to battle at the line of scrimmage.
Size and athleticism will be strengths for Taunton on the defensive side of the ball as well. Tourinho, Correiro, and Frank can bottle up opposing running games and will be joined on the line by seniors Corey Pintabone and John Rockwood. Williams will lead the linebacking corps along with classmates Max Moitoso and Kyle Cuoto. Senior Prince Brown will be back at corner and senior Sebastien Celestin looks to step into the safety position.
“Taunton football is progressing forward,” said Sidwell. “Like all teams, we’d like to gain some confidence early in the season and carry it on. The Kelley-Rex division is challenging with great programs, coaching staffs, and communities. We are happy to be a part of it and want to represent Taunton High well by competing at the high standard set by the other league members.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Player are listed alphabetically
Brendan Albert, Senior – Canton
Last fall was somewhat of a rebuilding season for the Bulldogs, who had a roster loaded with underclassmen, and this season the expectations will be much higher as Canton looks to make a push for the postseason. On defense, Albert will be expected to make the difference from his linebacker position, stuffing the run or showing off his athleticism to make plays outside the tackles and against the passing game. Albert’s leadership and reading of the game will be important, as Canton continues to be a relatively young team, and he will be expected to make plays all over the field, chasing down runners or getting into the backfield to harass opposing quarterbacks. Defense has been a priority under head coach Dave Bohane and Albert gives Canton another centerpiece to build around this season.
Khristian Conner, Senior – Mansfield
Mansfield senior Khristian Conner was one of the league’s top defensive backs last season and is one of the reasons the Hornets are expecting to have one of the best defenses in the league. Conner is one of the quickest players in the league so its not easy for receivers to get away from him. If they are able to get some space and make a catch, Conner is a solid tackler so its rare to see a big play happen his way. His experience will give him and advantage as he looks to build upon a strong junior campaign (31 tackles, four pass breakups, and one interception). Conner’s ability to stick with his man is going to allow the Hornets’ front seven to cause a lot of havoc in the backfield.
Ryan Driscoll, Senior – Franklin
Despite having his 2017 season cut a couple of games short, Driscoll was one of the top defensive players for the Panthers and also one of the best cover guys in the league. He made 35 tackles, two for loss, last season, broke up four passes, and had one interception from his cornerback position. He also chipped in on offense, catching 23 passes, and his speed and athleticism will be important for Franklin’s defense this fall, as he regularly lines up against the opponents’ top threat in the passing game but also steps up against the running game. Franklin coach Eian Bain called him the team’s “most explosive athlete” at the end of last season and Driscoll will be counted on again to make plays, force turnovers, and help the Panthers stifle opponents to make another playoff push.
Nick Evans, Senior – Attleboro
Attleboro senior Nick Evans uses the combination of size, strength, and speed to cause headaches for opposing offenses. Whether he’s lined up on the left or ride side, or has a hand on the ground not, Evans is a versatile hybrid of a defensive end/outside linebacker. Evans is very aggressive and if he gets a head of steam, can be a nuisance in the backfield, against both the pass and the run. His speed and strength allow him to get into the backfield to cause issues while his size and length factor in when disrupting the passing game at the line of scrimmage. Even if the play runs away from him, he can use his athleticism to to track the ball down and make a play.
Shapel Feaster, Senior – Milford
Milford knows that it can always count on the infectious energy that Feaster brings to the field, whether he is making plays in the secondary or snagging passes on offense, but he is also one of the top ball-hawks (no pun intended) in the league. Feaster was Milford’s team leader in pass deflections last season and picked off three passes, while also being willing to step up into the running game to make tackles. Fast, with good hands and solid positioning, Feaster can close quickly on passes and makes plays even when it looks like he may be beat. He will typically be stationed over the opponent’s best receiver and his ability to lockdown on the outside allows Milford to be aggressive in other parts of the field even against some of the top passing attacks, such as North Attleboro or Duxbury.
Vinnie Holmes, Junior – Mansfield
Mansfield has long been one of the premier football programs in the area, so it is big news when a sophomore just gets a starting role in the linebacker corps…let alone set a new program record for tackles in a season and emerge as one of the top defensive players in the Hockomock League. That is exactly what Holmes did last fall, with 108 tackles for the season, including 18 tackles for a loss. His speed and strength made him tough to block at the line of scrimmage and he showed an impressive ability to read the play, find a seam, and make plays. He also added four sacks, a forced fumble, and broke up two passes and was named the HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. As he showed during an impressive winter on the wrestling mat, Holmes is tenacious and he is a tough player to move off the spot he is trying to get to, which should only get tougher for opponents as he gets more experienced. With Holmes back in the middle, Mansfield should once again have one of the league’s top defensive units as the Hornets try to unseat King Philip at the top of the league standings.
Alex Iverson, Senior – Stoughton
Stoughton has developed a reputation for having a hard nosed defense and will be trying to fit that description during the 2018 season. Senior Alex Iverson is a throw back type of player that fits in nicely with head coach Greg Burke’s style. The Black Knights are in need of some names to step up after graduating a strong class. Iverson plays both inside and outside the box. The senior isn’t the most flashy but gets the job done using toughness and intensity. He isn’t the biggest player on the field but he’s the type of player that will be all over the field making plays. Whether it’s defending the pass, stuffing the run, or getting downhill to get at the quarterback, Iverson is in a position to make big plays for the Black Knights.
Nick Raneri, Senior – North Attleboro
Despite playing more games than any team in the league last year (13), North Attleboro was tied for third in fewest points allowed, giving up only 173 total or a little more than 13 points per game. Senior linebacker Nick Raneri will be one of the players that the Rocketeers will be counting on to continue that defensive strength as they go after a fourth straight league title and a return to the Super Bowl. Raneri, who is also stepping in at quarterback this season, is an athletic linebacker, who can cover ground outside the tackles but also step in and make plays up the middle. Never one to shy away from contact, Raneri is a vocal leader for the North defense. He is also capable of following receivers out of the backfield and making plays in the passing game. Raneri could be the quarterback on both sides of the ball and will be looking to fill big shoes after the graduations of last year’s quarterback Chad Peterson and linebacker Zach DeMattio.
Jack Webster, Senior – King Philip
King Philip has been defined by its defensive performances under head coach Brian Lee and that has led to back-to-back Kelley-Rex division titles, a pair of Super Bowl crowns, and 25 straight wins. Webster was the lynchpin of the Warriors defense last season, stepping into the linebacking corps and making an instant (and title-winning) impact. His strip sack in the Super Bowl led to the game-winning field goal. Webster was a presence all over the field, making 46 tackles (16 for loss), six sacks, five pass breakups, and even two interceptions. He reads the game like a much more experienced player and a motor that does not stop, which allows him to make big plays at the end of the game when KP needs it most. Webster is in the mold of previous KP linebackers and his attitude on both sides of the ball gets the rest of his teammates going. With him back in the middle, KP remains the team to beat in the Kelley-Rex.
Hunter Williams, Senior – Foxboro
When you talk about kids who did it all on the field last year, Hunter Williams is certainly on that list. Williams was apart of the Warriors’ offensive line, linebacker group, and the kick off coverage unit. This year, it looks like Williams will be a vital part of the Foxboro front seven on defense. The combination of speed and strength is what makes him an effective guard on the offensive line and those same traits are what help him stand out at linebacker. He can get down hill and help stop the run, or as he showed last year, can drop off in coverage and make a play. Williams’ work in the offseason has him in position to possibly be one of the top linebackers in a league that is very deep at that position.
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
FOXBORO, Mass. – All season long, whenever it needed a stop, the King Philip Warriors defense had the answer.
In the MIAA Division 2 State Championship game Friday night at Gillette Stadium, that held true once again.
With 5:03 left to play and the game tied 7-7, KP linebacker Jack Webster hit Lincoln-Sudbury quarterback Braden O’Connell from the blind side and forced the ball loose with KP senior Evan Rice falling on the loose ball.
KP took over on the Lincoln-Sudbury 27-yard line, and moved the ball up to the L-S 13 to set up Cole Baker for a 31-yard field goal, which the sophomore drilled through the uprights with 1:36 to go, giving the Warriors a 10-7 and King Philip it’s 25th straight victory.
On the first play of Lincoln-Sudbury’s ensuing possession, Max Armour sacked O’Connell, and three incompletions later, King Philip clinched its second consecutive state championship.
“I knew when we got that strip sack that we were going to win it,” King Philip head coach Brian Lee said. “I knew right then it was over.”
On KP’s first drive of the second half, starting quarter Brendan Lydon scrambled to his right and picked up the first down. However, Lydon got rolled up on and suffered a leg injury and was forcing to the sideline, meaning sophomore backup Robert Jarest had to take over under center.
“I really did not expect to play today,” Jarest said. “[Lydon] is a tough kid, I didn’t expect him to get hurt, but he went down, and I tried to do what the coaches asked me to do.”
On Jarest’s first play under center, he fumbled the snap.
“I would say there were some jitters there, I pulled it a little early,” Jarest added
After a Shane Frommer run, KP was facing a third and eight backed up in their own territory. The Warriors’ coaching staff showed their faith as Jarest connected with Thomas Madden down the sideline for a 38 yard gain that put KP on the L-S 23 yard line. Frommer (23 carries, 107 yards, TD) did the rest, as three carries later KP was in the end zone and the game was tied up at 7-7.
After KP forced a stop on the ensuing L-S possession, largely thanks to some key plays by cornerback Andrew Dittrich, the Warriors gave Frommer the keys to the offense once again, as he ran for 30 yards on the next KP drive to get them in field goal range. Cole Baker’s 39 yard field goal attempt had the distance, but it was just wide left.
On the next L-S possession, Jack Webster forced the strip sack that changed the momentum of the game.
“I was just going for the sack, and my head peeked over the shoulder and I just swatted at the ball, and got a hold of it,” Webster said about the game-changing play.
KP killed clock on their next possession by giving it to Frommer, who kept the ball moving and was able to pick up 14 yards. Baker came back in and drilled a 31-yard attempt to give KP a 10-7 lead.
“I thought of taking a look to Thomas Madden on the outside, because Robert can throw a pretty good fade and that’s what got us down there before, but in the end I just didn’t want to put undue pressure on that kid coming in like he did, and I knew that Cole, had that kick in him, and I was more confident in going with Cole at that point,” Lee said about his decision to kick the field goal late in the game.
“Keep it simple, give it to Shane, let him get a first down, and run out the clock, and we did that, and Cole hit a great field goal,” Jarest added about KP’s strategy after forcing the turnover.
Lincoln-Sudbury opened the game in impressive fashion. After getting stuffed on two straight run plays to open the game, O’Connell completed a pass on third down to move the chains. From there, it was a slow grind as the Warriors methodically moved upfield, eventually taking a 7-0 lead on an 18-yard pass from O’Connell to Matthew Cunningham. The drive took 7:35 off the clock.
King Philip was limited to just 52 yards of offense on limited played in the first half thanks to Lincoln-Sudbury’s offense eating up a majority of the clock.
But in the second half, King Philip’s defense pitched a shutout. It marked the seventh time in 12 games that the Warriors didn’t allow any points in the second half. The five teams who have scored against KP in the second half this year did not score more than once, and three of them did it in the first three weeks of the season.
Even more impressive is that KP held the opposing Warriors to just seven points, which is over 30 points less than what previously unbeaten Lincoln-Sudbury averaged coming into the contest.
King Philip football (12-0) once again completes an undefeated season, and they’ve won 25 straight games dating back to Thanksgiving 2015 against Franklin. The Warriors beat Barnstable, Mansfield, and Bridgewater-Raynham en route to their second straight state title.