Canton Romps Past Milford In Division Clash

Canton football Kyle Fitzgerald
Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald carries the ball in the first half against Milford on Friday night in the rain. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – With just a couple of seconds left on the clock, and the result no longer in question, the Canton football team put an exclamation point on their victory over visiting Milford.

The Bulldogs’ defense stuffed the Hawks from the one-yard line on back-to-back plays, securing the team’s third shutout of the season in a 35-0 rout over Milford in whipping winds and constant rain.

With the win, Canton takes sole possession of first place in the Davenport division.

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Canton’s defense continued to shine, posting its second shutout in league play. The Bulldogs limited Milford to 53 yards of total offense and six first downs, with the majority of those yards and conversions coming on the final drive of the game with a running clock.

“We were looking at the weather all week and we were thinking it might work in our favor,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “[Milford] has such a good passing attack, they can throw the ball so well, so dynamic. Their slot [receivers] really got our attention. Sometimes our defense, we have to play the physical aspect against good running teams like Stoughton, and tonight we were challenged in the passing game. I’m very proud of the defense.”

The Bulldogs made life difficult for the Hawks, limiting the visitors’ potent passing game to just three completions in its first seven drives. But four of those drives ended in punts, another in an interception, a turnover on downs, and the end of the first half. The final drive, which spanned 66 yards on eight plays, was denied at the goal line to end the game.

“The conditions were advantageous with how we play defense,” Bohane said. “The defense has played any style we’ve asked them to play. I thought the coaches did a good job preparing, mimicking Milford’s offense and how they go about it — and they are very good, very explosive. We have some pretty big guys up front so we thought we’d be able to hold up against the run. It’s tough to get to their quarterback because he gets rid of it so fast, so we felt we had to have a body on a body, just accounted for everyone.”

Milford’s defense was equal to the task to start the game, forcing a turnover on downs on the opening series and then a three-and-out on Canton’s second offensive possession.

But Canton senior Jace Emma read a hitch route perfectly on Milford’s first play of their second series, jumping in front for an interception and giving the Bulldogs terrific field possession.

From there on out, Canton’s offense was unstoppable, scoring on its final five possessions of the game.

Following Emma’s pick, Canton needed just six plays to go 35 yards to take a first quarter lead. Highlighted by a 31-yard dash from senior Kyle Fitzgerald (19 carries, 109 yards), the Dogs punched it on fourth down when senior quarterback Johnny Hagan (11 carries, 56 yards, three touchdowns) kept it himself for a three-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 2:14 left in the opening quarter.

“Jace has been so good for us for so long,” Bohane said. “We lost one of our corners to injury and Jace stepped in. I was telling him that he belongs out there, I think he was up for the challenge. He stepped up and made that pick, and it was all him, he read it right in man coverage.”

After getting the ball back after a quick three-and-out, Canton marched 58 yards on 11 plays to double its advantage. An offside call shortened a fourth down and the Dogs gave the direct snap to Robbie Gallery on a fake punt to move the chains.

Fitzgerald converted another fourth down on the drive, and two plays later Hagan kept it himself and got around the edge to find the end zone for a 21-yard score.

Canton wasn’t done in the half though, with its defense once again forcing a three-and-out while pushing the Milford defense backward.

This time it took just seven plays to go 44 yards for the Bulldogs, After a healthy mix of Fitzgerald, Hagan, and Gersom Rivera (nine carries, 39 yards) on the ground, Canton caught the Hawks’ defense with a pass play as Hagan delivered a perfect pass to Emma on a slant for 22 yards.

On the next play, Hagan kept it himself for another three-yard touchdown, giving Canton a 21-0 lead heading into halftime.

Bohane and his staff were well aware the game was far from over, and with the firepower that Milford possesses, the Bulldogs’ put a big emphasis on the opening drive of the second half.

With its defense on the field, everything continued to go the Dogs’ way. An incomplete pass was followed by a second down sack from junior Matt Connolly, and a tackle from Jahmi Aldin for no gain on third down.

“We felt like the first series in the third quarter was going to be very important,” Bohane said. “The kids came out and played hard. I can’t remember how exactly it went down but we continued to play well on both sides of the ball. Everyone stepped up and contributed, it was overall a good night for us.”

The first offensive possession of the second half didn’t go exactly as the Bulldogs had planned but still ended up in points nonetheless. Hagan dumped a screen pass off for Fitzgerald, and he took it 45 yards to the end zone but the Bulldogs were whistled for a hold.

That meant Canton had to punt for the first time all night, but the Milford returner couldn’t field it cleanly and the Dogs pounced on the muffed ball.

Again, Fitzgerald found the end zone on a rushing play but again, a holding call negated it. Canton took advantage of a personal foul on the Hawks’ defense, as Rivera took it up the middle from three yards out to make it 28-0 with 5:12 to go in the third quarter.

Milford quarterback Colby Pires connected with Carter Scudo and Matt Varteresian on passes, the latter a fourth down conversion that gave the Hawks their first first down of the night.

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But a couple plays later, Jack Connolly, Lucas Ragusa, and Gallery combined for a big sack on first down. And Ben Guerini delivered a third down sack two plays later, and the Bulldogs forced an incompletion on fourth down to get the ball back.

It took eight plays to cover the 35 yards, the longest play of the drive coming on Rivera’s 13-yard run up the middle as he bounced between defenders for a score and a 35-0 lead with seven minutes left in the game.

Canton football (5-0 overall, 3-0 Hockomock) visits North Attleboro next week while Milford (3-2, 2-1) hosts Stoughton in a potential playoff preview.

Canton Draws on Experience to Hold Off Foxboro

Canton Football
Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald tries to find running room against the Foxboro defense. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – The Canton roster is filled with holdovers from last year’s Davenport division champions. These are players who have taken part in big games, title-deciding games, and have found ways to come out on top. The Bulldogs needed every ounce of that experience on Friday night against Foxboro at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.

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Three times the Warriors had the ball down by just six points in the fourth quarter, twice getting into the red zone, but all three times the Canton defense found another gear to make a crucial stand and preserve the unbeaten start.

“Our defense is one of the best in the Hock for sure,” senior linebacker OOwen Lehane explained. “They were kind of rolling on us for almost three quarters just about, but I think we pieced it together at the end, started picking each other up and I think we just knew deep down that we were better than we were playing.”

Thanks to its defensive effort in the fourth, Canton was able to overcome a rash of penalties and two turnovers in the final quarter to pull out a 26-20 win and stay unbeaten through two weeks of the league campaign.

“They were jacked up, we had some success, and then bam we’re in a football game,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “Our kids stayed poised and made key plays.”

Foxboro quarterback Shayne Kerrigan got the Warriors within a score when he found a seam and burst into the end zone from six yards out with 10:46 remaining in the game. Gersom Rivera blocked the extra point to keep it a six-point margin, but the momentum was with the visitors.

Canton tried to put the game away on its next possession by going for it on fourth and one from the Foxboro 48. Kyle Fitzgerald (20 carries, 132 yards) pushed up the middle for first down distance but as he stretched for a couple extra feet the ball popped loose and was recovered by Elijah Lewis.

Kerrigan (12 carries, 75 yards) got to work with 13 yards on two keepers and then Chris McNamara broke a 22-yard run to the Canton 25. A penalty against the Canton coaches (for encroaching on the field) handed Foxboro a first down at the 12. A loss of one on first down was followed by an incomplete pass and then James Murphy managed to get a fingertip to another pass on third down. On fourth and 11, Kerrigan was held to just a yard to end the drive.

Two plays later, the Warriors were in business again. Canton quarterback Johnny Hagan (13 carries, 55 yards), who had been limited by an injury, couldn’t lost the ball going up the middle and Michael Norvish jumped on the loose ball.

The Foxboro drive lasted three plays before Lehane stepped in and picked off a pass, returning it out near midfield. Lehane also kicked a pair of field goals and had an onside kick recovered in the first half.

“He just never lets you down,” Bohane said of Lehane. “You guys are bringing up things from the game and I’m thinking wow he hit a key field goal, touchbacks, the onside kick, and then to step in and get the interception. An outstanding night for Owen and I’m glad because he’s a super kid.”

After a Canton punt, Foxboro had one last chance with 1:27 remaining. Jace Emma had good coverage on the first pass from Kerrigan (6-of-21, 121 yards) and the second was tipped by Jack Connolly. The third and fourth passes also fell incomplete and Canton was able to kneel down to secure the victory.

“We spotted them a couple points, not that they didn’t earn them, they made great plays, and we could never close that gap,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said. “We had a couple chances down here to tie it up, but two good teams and neither team quit when they were ahead or behind.”

Canton opened the scoring on its second drive of the night. After Fitzgerald broke free for 19 yards, Hagan (7-of-12, 99 yards) tossed a perfect pass into the arms of Rivera down the near sideline for a 33-yard touchdown.

The lead was short-lived, as Foxboro answered right back. Kerrigan hit Ryan Hughes on the near sideline and he made a cut to the inside, shaking off the corner, and then raced 46 yards to the corner for the tying score.

It was the passing game that helped Canton regain the lead on its next possession. Again Hagan was able to find the target deep down the sideline, this time connecting with Emma for 33 yards to the Foxboro five. Hagan would call his own number on the next play for his second score of the night.

A penalty on the touchdown moved the kickoff up 15 yards so the Canton coaches called for an onside kick, which Lehane laid right down the middle and Jahmi Aldin tracked down to immediately give the Bulldogs back the ball. The Foxboro defense managed to keep Canton out of the end zone, but Lehane tacked on a 24-yard field goal to make it 17-7.

Kerrigan and the Foxboro offense, despite missing junior playmaker Luis Sulham, managed to again find big plays against a Canton defense that had not allowed a point since the opening week of the season. The Warriors were helped by two of Canton’s four first half personal foul penalties, but marched down the field to get back within three. Kerrigan capped it off with an 11-yard run.

“We had it last week too,” Martinelli replied, when it was noted how far the offense has come since the season opener against Norton. “Canton is a good football team, we knew that, and we were hoping that we wouldn’t give up the big plays, which we did a couple times tonight.”

Canton added to its lead right before the break. Penalties stalled a drive that had gotten as close as the Foxboro 12, but Lehane was on target with a 32-yard kick. After stuffing Foxboro on the opening drive of the second half, Canton took advantage of the short field, Hagan punching it in from a yard out for his third score to make it 26-14.

It proved to be just about enough to get the win.

“Our coach always says it’s the best league in the state,” said Lehane about the challenge of playing in the Davenport division. “Definitely the seniors, we’ve all been there and we know how tough it is. We’ve got a tough crew too.”

Bohane added, “No weeks off in the Hockomock League. They’re so well-coached and the kids play so hard and there’s so much football tradition. It’s a great league to be in but much better when you have a good team like I do right now that’s physical and tough. It was a lot of fun tonight, as stressful as it was.”

Canton (4-0, 2-0) will be back home next Friday night to take on another potential league title contender in Milford. Foxboro (2-2, 1-1) will look to bounce back with a tough home game against Stoughton.

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