NORTH EASTON, Mass. – It makes things significantly easier on an offense when you have a player that can break big plays at any time. Canton didn’t have to worry about putting together long, time-consuming drives in Friday night’s game at Muscato Stadium because senior Cam Sanchez was capable of finding the end zone from anywhere.
Sanchez (14 carries, 166 yards) scored three times, including once on special teams and twice on plays of more than 80 yards, lifting Canton to a 26-6 victory over Oliver Ames in the first league meeting between these rivals in four years.
“He can go at any time,” said first-year Canton coach Anthony Fallon. “Sometimes you’ve got to just keep tapping the rock and the rock will break. He’s our ‘tap the rock’ guy this year. Last year it was Fitz (Kyle Fitzgerald) and this year it’s Cam.”
It was the Tigers that got on the board first, taking advantage of good starting field position on their second possession. Jake Grimaldi (1-for-11) recorded his lone completion on a 26-yard pass to Jadon Ricci (89 yards of offense) and OA got an extra 15 yards when an official collided with a Canton coach on the sideline. After sophomore Chad Silva (15 carries, 94 yards) gained 14 to the Canton one, Grimaldi reached over the line and just broke the plane.
The two-point conversion attempt was stopped but OA had a 6-0 lead. It lasted 16 seconds.
One the ensuing kickoff, Sanchez grabbed the ball at the nine and took it straight up the middle, getting a couple of key blocks and bursting through the OA coverage for a 91-yard score. Will Keefe’s extra point put Canton in front 7-6.
“We just put that middle return in this week and everyone seemed to hit their assignment, which was great, and Cam took it right up the middle,” Fallon explained.
OA went right back to work on its next drive. The Tigers put together a 13-play drive that got all the way down to Canton eight. Collin Williamson (10 carries, 60 yards) had a pair of carries for 30 yards on the drive and Grimaldi had a three-yard sneak to convert a big third down. On third and goal, Jack Albert came up with his first big defensive play, sacking Grimaldi back to the 16.
The first fourth down and goal attempt resulted in a pass interference on the goal line. That moved the ball half the distance to the goal (the eight-yard-line) but wasn’t an automatic first down. Brian Murphy got to the quarterback on the second fourth and goal attempt, forcing an incompletion and a turnover on downs.
Three plays later, Robert Botelho (3-for-12, 13 yards) audibled on third and six, running an option play to the near sideline. Sanchez took the pitch and hit another gear, flying past the OA defense for an 88-yard touchdown.
“We’re thinking, okay we can get a score here and then we don’t and they come right out and take the ball and run their option, Cam Sanchez is a hell of a player, and they coached it right up” said OA coach Ed DeWitt. “They did a good job with the scheme on that one and he takes it right down the sideline. It’s a 14-point swing.”
It was one of those days for OA. The Tigers continued to move the ball and had some success in the ground game, but penalties and big plays by the Canton pass rush (six sacks, including three by Carson Campbell) seemed to stymie their chances of putting points on the board.
“It’s so frustrating,” DeWitt admitted. “We feel like we had a couple of shots there, where we got the ball either inside the red zone or just to the red zone and then it’s penalty, mistake, holding, turnover down here. Offensively, we’ve got to finish drives.”
On its first possession of the second half, OA again moved the ball into Canton territory. Silva had carries of 10, 11, and 13 yards to get down to the 15. The energy level had picked up on the OA sideline but a fumbled hand-off was recovered by Albert, ending a great scoring chance.
Albert was a standout for the Canton defense. After Botelho was intercepted by Ricci early in the fourth quarter, Albert almost single-handedly ended the OA drive. He made the tackle on first down, stopped Silva for no gain, and then dropped Silva for a loss of two on third down.
“Jack was tremendous on defense,” said Fallon. “His helmet is going to be covered in bones. He had a great defensive game. In big moments he came up, when it was third and we needed a play he did a great job.”
Canton got great field position off that stop, as a short punt gave them the ball at the OA 28. Sanchez had been quiet for a couple of quarters, so he took the first carry straight up the gut, going untouched into the end zone for the score that put the game out of reach.
The Bulldogs continued to have Grimaldi on the run. Pressure from Bahsor Mahn led to an interception for Andrew Butler. Later in the fourth, Campbell and Albert had back-to-back sacks to put OA on its own five. On third down, the duo combined to force an intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety.
DeWitt said, “We thought we had some of the run stuff, but when you go down two scores in the fourth quarter that kind of goes out the window. We know we need to score early to get ourselves ahead. We know we have to play with the lead.”
Keefe would cap the scoring with 22 seconds remaining, as the soccer player who is taking advantage of the extra season to play football, nailed a 34-yard field goal.
Fallon said, “Last week (against North Attleboro) we struggled with some guys not knowing their assignments, not doing their assignments, and this week we were better at it. We still have a lot to work on and we’re going to keep grinding it out and getting there.”
Canton (1-1) will try to keep things going next week with a trip to Foxboro. Oliver Ames (0-2) will look for its first win of the season when it travels to league-leading North Attleboro.
Stoughton had four players rush for a touchdown and its defense put together a stellar performance as raw Black Knights christened their new home turf field with a 29-7 win over neighboring Oliver Ames.
“Four years…four long years…finally. It’s incredible,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke, who has been at the helm since 1990. “We were nervous early, that’s just the nature of the beast but we finally got it going and our defense played tough. We battled, we have some new kids upfront and they were working hard and then we got things going. There’s still room for improvement, had a couple of screw ups but first game, I’ll take it. We got everyone out, no one got hurt.”
It was a slow start for both offenses with the Black Knights stifling the Tigers on their rushing attempts, shutting the visitors out on third down conversions for the entire game (0-for-10). On the flip slide, the Tigers were up for the challenge while Stoughton certainly didn’t help itself with a handful of first quarter penalties.
The first score of the game came on the first drive of the game but it wasn’t in favor of Oliver Ames, who received the opening kickoff. A false start put the visitors in third and long and Stoughton senior Christian Georges (four sacks) came flying in for a sack. On fourth down, the snap to the punter was high and the ball went through the back of the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 lead.
Stoughton carried that 2-0 lead into the second quarter but quickly added onto its lead with its first touchdown on its new turf. Georges had another third-down sack and OA’s punt didn’t travel far, setting the Black Knights up with first down at the Tigers’ 28-yard line.
On the first offensive play, Georges bulldozed his way through traffic and raced away for a touchdown. Jonah Ly hit his first of three extra points on the night and the Black Knights took a 9-0 with 11:01 left in the first half.
Oliver Ames went three-and-out on the ensuing possession as Anthony Girolamo and Sproul Derolus limited the Tigers to one yard on third down. Stoughton had an incomplete pass on first but senior Christopher Ais broke through a handful of would-be tacklers and sprinted the distance for a 51-yard touchdown and a 16-0 advantage with 8:11 left in the first half.
“We know we can rely on our defense, and we know the Wing-T as well as anybody because we run it, so we know the goods and bads,” Burke said of the defense playing well as the offense got going. “They caught us on a couple but not many. We don’t have a ton of size defensively but we have a lot of speed so even if we make a mistake then we can rally. And it felt like we got a bunch of sacks too.”
Stoughton football Oliver Ames football
The Tigers earned their first first down on the next drive when quarterback Jake Grimaldi kept it on fourth and short, getting a friendly push from sophomore Chad Silva. But the drive didn’t last much longer and Georges added yet another third down sack with just under three minutes left to get Stoughton the ball back.
Stoughton brought a lot of pressure on OA’s punt and it didn’t travel far. The Black Knights took advantage of the short field and on the third play of the drive, Girolamo forced his way past a pair of defenders and into the end zone for a 7-yard score, extending the lead to 23-0 just before halftime.
“They run hard, their guys are tough and physical, super athletic and well-coached…they’ve got the whole thing going on over there,” said OA head coach Ed DeWitt on the Black Knights. “We’re not quite there yet but we’re working towards it. There’s a lot of talk about the switch to the Davenport, but there’s no let up in the league. It’s not a step down, I’ve seen most of these teams and they are good, it’s just different opponents [than the Kelley-Rex]. But we have to focus on our improvement each week.”
It was more of the same in the second half. Senior quarterback John Burke opened the first drive with a 20 yard run of his own the Knights picked up right where they left off. Christian Ais ripped off runs of 11-yards and 30-yards, Christopher Ais took back-to-back carries for 17 yards, and two plays later, Christian Ais plunged in untouched from 1-yard out to make it 29-0.
Stoughton football Oliver Ames football
Christopher Ais led the way with 104 yards on nine carries, Christian Ais had 63 yards on five carries, and Georges had 43 yards on four carries.
“We have three or four guys that can get it done, and that’s why our offense works well,” Burke said. “You give them all the ball and then they are involved with blocking and fakes. With Chris Ais and Christian Ais and we have Georges too…we have different guys to give it to or to use for blocking.”
The Black Knights got the ball back after forcing another three-and-out but OA came up with a big stop on a third down sack from senior Dante Cocivera.
Stoughton turned to Girolamo and Ly for their fourth quarter offense, marching down the field on a lengthy drive but couldn’t add any points after missing on a 39-yard field goal attempt.
Oliver Ames orchestrated its best drive of the game to end the contest. The Tigers marched 80 yards on 13 plays, finding the end zone with under a minute to go.
Stoughton football Oliver Ames football
Silva (14 carries, 58 yards) ripped off a 19-yard rush on second down and the Tigers got their first of two fourth down conversions on the drive on another keeper from Grimaldi. Senior Jadon Ricci carried for seven yards and 14 yards to put the Tigers in a position to score but a sack from Stoughton’s Shawn Fargher put OA into a fourth and 18 situation.
Grimaldi floated a pass to the corner end zone and senior Pete Bosader was able to reach out in front of the defender while falling backwards, hauling in a 27-yard touchdown. Drew Nickla split the uprights for the extra point.
“Our guys are fighting and we preach playing four quarters,” DeWitt said. “It was nice to get guys fighting at the end, making a play, that’s exciting to see, that shows the mentality we’re looking for but obviously we want to do it sooner. We thought we were physical enough early but we have to keep that going for four quarters and not just find it at the end.”
Stoughton football (1-0) will stick around Veteran’s Memorial Stadium for another home game next week, hosting Foxboro on Friday at 5:00. Oliver Ames (0-1) will have its home opener on the same night against Canton at 5:00.
Canton was one of the best teams in the Hockomock League over the past two seasons because of how well-balanced they were with impact players all over the field. The majority of those players graduated so this year’s Bulldogs will be leaning on the few experienced players back. One of those is two-way lineman Matt Connolly, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound guard/defensive tackle that demands attention no matter what side of the ball he’s playing on. When the ball is snapped, Connolly almost always requires a double-team defensively to try and slow him down. He does a great job of taking away gaps and rushing lanes, and when it comes to pass rush, he can really put opposing linemen on skates, driving them backward. Canton will have a lot of new faces on the line this year but Connolly will be a familiar force for foes.
Georges was a dominant presence on the Stoughton defensive line last season, whether it was setting the edge, taking on extra blockers to open gaps for his teammates, or bursting into the backfield to make a big play behind the line of scrimmage. A versatile weapon for the Stoughton defense, Georges could line up on the outside as a pass-rushing linebacker or with his hand down on the line ready to stuff the opposition ground game. George combines speed, strength, and football IQ to always find the point of attack and destroy the offense’s best-laid plans. He was a major factor in the Black Knights allowing 12 points or fewer in seven games last year, finishing with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He will be hoping to do even better this season, as Stoughton seeks out a first league title since 2015.
Guy was a one-man wrecking crew for the Mansfield defense last season, which was a huge problem for teams facing the Div. 2 state champions since the Hornets had a few players who qualified for that title. At times unblockable, Guy dominated the line of scrimmage, forcing teams to double-team him and opening gaps for Mansfield’s ball-hawking linebackers to get into the backfield. Combining strength and a quick first step, he finished with 34 tackles, including four for loss, and had four sacks. The University of Michigan-commit was a disruptive force in both the ground game and in the pass rush, while also being one of the top linemen on the other side of the ball as well. Guy’s presence in the heart of the Mansfield defensive line is one of the reasons the Hornets will be favored again to bring home another Kelley-Rex division title.
Mansfield has a big void to fill with the graduation of league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Vinnie Holmes, who had 91 total tackles last season. It just so happens it will be Nico Holmes, Vinnie’s younger brother, that will be one of the candidates to step up into that role. Holmes has plenty of experience at the varsity, starting along the defensive line last season for the D2 State Champions. Now he’ll line up with the linebackers and look to continue to make plays from that spot. We know he’s not afraid to hit people, we saw it last year on both sides of the ball as he led the way for the Hornets’ rushing game as a fullback. The senior is one of four captains for Mansfield this season so the Hornets will be counting on his leadership both on and off the field.
Foxboro has always leaned on its defense to be successful and Moses is an imposing figure in the heart of the linebacking corps and will be key to the Warriors remaining a tough team to move the ball against. At 6’4 and 215 pounds, Moses looks more like a defensive lineman and uses his size and strength to set the edge against the ground game. Not someone who allows runners to get away once he gets his hands on them, Moses is also capable of using his quickness to get into the backfield and disrupt things right at the point of attack. His big frame makes him an important piece of the Foxboro pass rush, as it’s not easy for quarterbacks to look over him and try to make plays downfield. Also a solid blocker at tight end and a big target in the passing game, Moses can make an impact on both sides of the ball. The Warriors will be hoping to make a run at a league title this season and Moses and a hard-hitting defense will have to be a big part of that title challenge.
Oliver Ames is hoping to surprise some teams this year in its first season back in the Davenport division. While the Tigers’ division record hasn’t been great, they have done a really good job against their non-league foes and their defense has really stood out in those games. A major player in that defensive unit is back this season in senior Jadon Ricci, a defensive back specialist that has a nose for the football. Ricci can line up in the slot or outside, or even take a step back into a safety role, but no matter where he is on the field, he seems to find his way to the football. Whether it’s reading a quarterback’s eyes and making a play on a pass or flying to a ball carrier, Ricci seems to always been in the mix.
Sometimes flying under the radar last season because of the attention that went to fellow linebackers Luke Rosa and CJ Cerrella, Schofield emerged as a consistent playmaker on the outside. Capable of making big plays in the pass rush, against the run game, and dropping into coverage, the UMass-commit is poised for a breakout season as the Hawks take on the challenge of facing a Kelley-Rex division schedule. An imposing presence at 6’5 and 230 pounds, Schofield has the quickness to cover ground in a hurry and the strength to step up and set the edge to bottle up the opposing running game. Milford has seen its fair share of talented linebackers in recent years and Schofield is continuing that trend and is poised for a breakout season as the Hawks look to make noise in their first season in the Kelley-Rex.
North Attleboro’s lineup was torn apart by injuries last season but one player that really stood out on both sides of the ball is now senior captain Jacob Silva. Whether it was at tailback or outside linebacker, Silva gave it his all on every play and was a real bright spot for the Rocketeers. Silva is the type of player that isn’t afraid of running tight at — and on some occasions through — the opposition, whether it’s when he’s carrying the ball or flying off the edge to try to make a play on a running back or sacking a quarterback. Silva reads the game really well and reacts accordingly, using his speed to drop into coverage when needed to cover tight ends or running backs downfield. The Rocketeers have high expectations for this season and Silva’s leadership on defense will be a big key to achieving their goals.
A rare four-year varsity player, Strachan comes into his senior season as one of the league’s top returning linebackers. He has led the Bombardiers in tackles each of the past two seasons, including 80.5 tackles (66 of them solo) last year. Strachan, a University of Rhode Island-commit, is also strong in the passing game, dropping into coverage and recording two pass breakups and a clutch end zone interception that sealed the Thanksgiving Day win at North Attleboro. His toughness and physicality were also on display on offense, where he finished with 512 all-purpose yards and six rushing touchdowns. Able to read the play and with the speed to cover a lot of ground, Strachan has been a force to be reckoned with in the Attleboro defense and will be hoping to close out his high school career by helping Attleboro challenge the top teams in the league.
If you’re looking for a player that defines King Philip football, look no further than senior Pat Zarba. A three-year starter, Zarba is a blue-collar type player that works incredibly hard on both sides of the ball, doesn’t do anything overly flashy, but is an incredibly effective player. Offensively, Zarba really sets the tone with his physicality and creates a lot of opportunities for the backs. Zarba lines up at defensive tackle defensively, and at 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, in a one-man wrecking crew in the middle. He almost always sees a double team but that doesn’t stop him from using his strength to get free and clog up the middle. Expect more of the same when it comes to toughness along the line from King Philip this season with Zarba setting the example.
It’s a new era in Canton as Anthony Fallon takes over for longtime head coach Dave Bohane, who stepped down from his second stint in charge of the Bulldogs at the end of last season.
While it’s a new era, all of the players and coaches are hoping that the success from the past two seasons continues going forward. If that success is going to continue, it’s going to be by a host of new faces. The Bulldogs graduated a historic class that won back-to-back Davenport division titles and reached the D5 South Sectional final in 2019. While competing for the Davenport division title this year, Canton will lean heavily on its few returners while new players take advantage of the new opportunities.
Senior Matt Connolly is a force on both sides of the ball, protecting the quarterback on the offensive line and leading the way for the ground game with his blocking. And defensively, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound senior who is committed to play at Assumption College, is an absolute handful and requires a lot of attention. Cam Sanchez is another experienced player back for the Bulldogs and will be involved in the running game offensively and apart of the secondary defensively. Carson Campbell started all 11 games for Canton last year at right tackle and will add defensive line duties this season. Jack Albert should see an expanded role on both sides of the ball and will be one of the main targets in the receiving game.
“Our team has great speed in our secondary, we are big and strong upfront and our linebackers are tough and fast,” Fallon said. “We have a solid mix on our varsity of juniors and seniors. I am also excited with our numbers on the sub-varsity level with 30-plus players. With a tough-minded defense and a fast offense, I know we will compete in every game.”
There is a lot of optimism in Foxboro for the Fall II season, and with a strong group of returning starters in different spots all over the field, there is good reason for it.
The Warriors seem to be in the mix for the Davenport division title each season, coming in third in 2019 and 2017. With talent back in key spots, Foxboro could be a serious contender for their first crown since 2015. The offense starts with the line and Foxboro has some experience and size to work with. Senior Sean Ferguson is a towering presence at 6’5, 315-pounds and anchors the line from the center position and he will be joined by junior Dylan Kerrigan (6’0, 205) at tackle. Senior Cam Prescott will start under center and will have a bevy of options to work with including playmaker Luis Sulham and junior Rashaad Way. Look for Chris McNamara to pick up where he left off carrying the ball.
Foxboro has an equal amount of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball with the strength of the team coming from the linebackers and the secondary. Seniors Mike Norvish and James Stamatos return with plenty of varsity experience under their belts and will anchor the linebacker position while senior James Kraus will start at safety and will be accompanied in the secondary by Way and Tom Sharkey, both juniors. One player to keep an eye out for is senior Jon Moses, a 6’4 defensive end that really improved over the course of last season and could be a handful for opposing offenses to deal with.
“The heart and soul of team this year is the senior leadership and experience along with a strong and talented junior class,” said Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli.
North Attleboro was ravished by injuries during the 2019 season and the result was the program’s first sub-.500 season in 27 years. It speaks volumes to how consistent the Rocketeers are year in and year out that it had been that long but the Big Red are ready to turn the page and begin a new streak.
The Rocketeers are getting a lot of players back that missed time last year and also have a bunch of players back that were thrown into the fire last year and now have varsity experience. With that combination, North Attleboro is hoping the end result is the Davenport division title. Junior Tyler DeMattio is back under center for his second year as the starter after making a big splash on Thanksgiving his freshman season. DeMattio can get it done with both his arm and his legs (and his foot in the kicking game). He has a lot of weapons at his disposal this year with Jared Penta and Alex McCoy in the slots, Coby Feid and Matt Penta at split end, and 6-foot-5 Endicott-commit Robbie Donovan at tight end. Jacob Silva returns at tailback and will be complemented by senior Tommy Whalen while sophomores Nathan Shultz and Greg Berthiaume could be in the mix as well. Harry Bullock will anchor the offensive line alongside classmates Danny Hayes and Justin Vecchiarelli and juniors Jared Vacher and Keysun Wise.
On top of the eight returning starters on offense, the Rocketeers boast eight returners on the defensive side of the ball as well. North Attleboro has a lot of depth at the linebacker position with Silva, a team captain, being a key part of the group. He’ll be joined by Berthiaume, Vecchiarelli, Whalen, senior Dylan Eberle, and junior Tyler Bannon. Jared and Matt Penta are both very experienced safeties while McCoy and Feid return at corner, so the secondary will certainly be a strength for the Big Red. The Rocketeers don’t have the biggest defensive line but the likes of Donovan, Vacher, and Bullock provide speed from the edge.
“The extended off season has provided extra time for tremendous growth in the weight room,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “The depth at the skill positions on both sides of the ball will be the strength of this team. The key will be how quickly and effectively we can put together our offensive and defensive lines.”
Oliver Ames is back in the Davenport division and is looking to make a splash in its first season back.
The Tigers had a lot of success when the league first split into two divisions, winning the Davenport title in 2011 and 2013 before making the jump up to the Kelley-Rex. With a strong group of players back, OA is looking to take the next step forward during the Fall II 2020 season. Senior captain Gavin Morrison is a two-way lineman and will anchor the offensive group from the center spot. He’ll be joined by senior Dante Cocivera and Max Tower, both returning players from last season. Junior Collin Williamson burst onto the scene last year and should see an expanded role in the backfield during this abbreviated season while sophomore Chad Silva should be in the mix as well.
Speed will be a strength on the defensive side of the ball for the Tigers, who boast a lot of the same faces on the defensive line as their offensive line. Tower anchors the linebackers and will be one to keep an eye on, using his speed and strength to make plays, and he’ll be joined by the sophomore Silva. Senior captain Jaden Ricci is one of the best defensive players on the team, a fast, physical player with a nose for the ball that will start at corner. He’ll be joined by senior Jaden Krowski in the secondary.
2020 (Fall II) Davenport Division Preview
“We are excited about where our program is heading and are really ecstatic and thankful to get an opportunity to play this season,” said head coach Ed DeWitt.
Sharon had a very young squad a season ago and went through plenty of growing pains. The Eagles are hoping to turn some of that experience into success on the field this season.
Not only do the Eagles have their quarterback and top receivers back, but they are also getting a big boost with a return from injury. Senior Kiran Chandrasekaran returns under center and has weapons in PJ McManus, Owen Conway, and Conor McLaughlin in the passing game. Nico Marrero, who showed flashes of great play as a sophomore, had to miss all of last year due to injury but is back this year and will be a key two-way player for the Eagles. Marrero is a powerful runner that will look to find space created by an improved offensive line. The Eagles’ offensive line is anchored by senior center Shea Letendre while junior Jack Murphy and sophomores Miles Clay and Daniel Davis help round out Sharon’s line.
Defensive the Eagles are always a competitive group, the challenge will be doing so for four quarters against some top offenses in the Davenport. Ike Ogbonnanze, who is also a big receiving target on offense, will start at linebacker alongside Marrero and Letendre, giving the Eagles a very experienced group in the heart of the defense. McManus and Conway will play on both sides of the ball, starting in the secondary defensively.
“Our kids know our numbers are not strong but they have a great attitude and are playing like their backs are against the wall,” said Sharon head coach Dave Morse.
Stoughton head coach Greg Burke always leans heavily on his senior class and he has a real talented group this year.
The Black Knights have a handful of very talented and experienced seniors that have played a lot of snaps over the past two seasons and that has Stoughton primed for a run a the Davenport division title. Senior John Burke is back under center at quarterback for the Knights and it’s likely we’ll see Brady Conlin take some snaps similar to how Burke split with Clayton Rahaman last season. Both quarterbacks will have plenty of options to work with, especially on the ground. The Knights have a “home run” type offense with any given handoff capable to break off a big run. Senior brothers Christopher and Christian Ais recently committed to the University of New Haven and both bring speed and power when running the ball. Christian Georges is another workhorse out of the backfield while juniors Anthony Girolamo and Jonah Ly could see some carries as well. What makes Stoughton’s run game so dangerous is all of the backs do a great job of blocking when they don’t get carries. Jake Queeney will be the main target in the passing game for the Knights. Sproul Derolus is one of the few returners on the offensive line so Stoughton will need some players to step up there.
Defense is always a staple for the Knights and that looks to be the case again this year. A lot of the same faces that make plays on the offensive side will be the ones making plays on the defensive side. Georges is an absolute monster coming off the edge and uses his speed and strength to cause havoc in the backfield. Christopher Ais will be joined by Ly and Girolamo at linebacker while Christian Ais, Queeney, and Burke are all returners in the secondary for the Knights.
“Hopefully without a ton of injuries we can have a good year,” Burke said. “We have some experience and the kids have worked hard in the clubs for weight training. We need the juniors to step up and contribute fast while still learning varsity speed. The league is always tough and hopefully, we can survive tough crossover games.”
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.”
Franklin, 13 @ Framingham, 3 – Final – Franklin’s Scott Elliott, Jack Nally, and Joe Lizotte each drove in a pair of runs as the Panthers cruised on the road for their 21st win of the season and head coach Zach Brown’s 100th career victory. Elliott had three hits and scored twice, Nally added a run, and Lizotte scored twice in the win. Shane O’Neil scored three times, JB Floris scored twice, and Dan Markowski (two runs) and Trip Pisano each had an RBI. Liam Dailey earned the win for Franklin with three hits allowed and two strikeouts in three innings of work.
Foxboro, 3 vs. Norton, 4 – Final
Taunton, 6 @ King Philip, 0 – Final – Taunton senior Jack Moynihan scattered four hits in a complete game shutout to lead the Tigers to their 15th win of the season. Moynihan struck out four in seven innings of work. Offensively, junior Nic Notarangelo had two hits, two RBI and a run scored while Colby Lariviere, Logan Lawrence, and Jordan Roderick each drove in a run for the Tigers.
Oliver Ames, 13 vs. Brockton, 16 – Final – Oliver Ames scored five runs in the seventh inning but couldn’t complete the comeback against Brockton in an exclusion game. Senior Justyn Glennon smacked a double off the tree in center field to start the Tigers’ final inning rally. Senior CJ Deveau added a bases-clearing triple and classmate Chris Pearsons went 2-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored. Junior Jacob Levine added a pair of doubles while sophomore Jadon Ricci had three hits and drove in four runs.
Canton, 1 @ Franklin, 11 – Final – Franklin scored four runs in each the second and sixth innings to pull away from the visiting Bulldogs. Maddy White (four RBI) and Tara Hartnett (two RBI) paced the Panther offense while Jackie Cherry and Emily Valentino combined for 10 strikeouts.
Boys Volleyball Central
#2 Milford, 3 vs. #15 Keefe Tech, 0 – Final – Milford opened up its 2019 playoff campaign with a 3-0 sweep (2-58, 25-4, 25-11) of visiting Keefe Tech. Tiago Filadelfo and Zach Browne each had a tram-high seven kills for Milford which had nine players record a kill and 30 total as a unit. Milford advances to the MIAA Central quarterfinals and will host #7 St. John’s Shrewsbury on Tuesday at 6:00.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Entering Monday’s showdown with King Philip, the Oliver Ames baseball team needed a win to keep its postseason hopes alive.
The Tigers had senior ace Reid Latham on the mound but the weather didn’t cooperate, forcing the cancellation of the game and the teams had to restart on Tuesday. While it would have been a wasted start for most starters, it wasn’t for Latham.
Despite pitching three innings on Monday, the senior right-hander was back on the mound on Tuesday and delivered a stellar performance. Latham held the visiting Warriors to just one hit through six scoreless innings, helping Oliver Ames pull out a 4-0 win in a must-win game.
Latham held the Warriors without a hit into the sixth inning before KP junior Chris Sawyer got a single to fall in shallow left field with two outs. But two pitches later, Latham got a ground ball and completed a strong six inning performance.
“He’s been pretty bionic for us,” said Oliver Ames head coach Joe Abarr. “He had a no-hitter going for us into the sixth inning. It was exactly what we needed. He was getting ahead of guys, he only had a couple of walks. He told me he wasn’t tired. We know these games are high stakes, we had a lot of adrenaline yesterday and then came out today and pitched even better so I have to give him a lot of credit.”
After Latham worked around a one-out walk in the top of the first, the Tigers struck for a pair of two unearned runs in the bottom half to put the home team ahead early.
With out one, junior Kyle O’Connor singled up the middle and senior Jake Erlcih followed with a single through the left side. KP starter Robbie Jarest (6IP, 3H, 0BB 2HBO, 4R, 2ER, 4K) got a ground ball that could have turned into a double play but the original throw was off the mark, allowing O’Connor to score.
Junior Jacob Levine followed up with a grounder to short, scoring Erlich from third to make it 2-0.
“That’s something, as a team, we’ve been fighting all year,” Abarr said. “We’ve been coming from behind for the most part. We have some wins to show for it but it’s nice to just jump out there and put a couple runs up early. Even yesterday, we were chasing. We put the ball in play, they made a couple of mistakes, and we were in the right spot at the right time.”
Latham retired the side in order in both the second and third innings before running into some trouble in the fourth. Tim Crowley and Sawyer drew back-to-back walks with one out, and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners. A stolen base from Tom Weir put two in scoring position but Latham got a grounder to first for the final out.
Jarest also settled in for the Warriors, setting the Tigers down in order in the second and third innings, and canceling out the leadoff hitter that was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning.
Oliver Ames added two more runs in the fifth inning to give Latham even more breathing room. Sophomore pinch hitter Jadon Ricci was hit by a pitch to lead off and moved to second on a single from Matt McCormack. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Ricci came racing home and slid under the tag on a fielder’s choice up the first base line.
Oliver Ames baseball (6-9 Hockomock, 7-11 overall) can qualify for the state tournament if it wins its next three games against Dighton-Rehoboth, Foxboro, and New Bedford. Both games against Brockton this season are exclusion games. King Philip (5-9, 5-11) hosts Bishop Feehan on Tuesday.