ATTLEBORO, Mass. – If there is a question about whether or not Franklin can challenge the top teams in Div. 1, it centers on the line of scrimmage and whether the Panthers are capable of winning the battle in the trenches. On Saturday afternoon at Tozier-Cassidy Field, Franklin may have provided an answer.
The Panthers bounced back from last week’s loss to Mansfield, dominated the line on both sides of the ball, held Attleboro off the scoreboard for almost the full 48 minutes, and improved their chances at a home playoff game with a convincing 37-7 victory.
“With the guys that they have, I knew it would be tough,” said Franklin coach Eian Bain. “It was a key to our game to try and out-quick them, out-technique, because just the sheer size and ability they have we had to find another gear. We had a lot of success up front today.”
Attleboro tried to show off its power running game, led by junior Michael Strachan (12 carries, 37 yards), on the opening drive and got down to the Franklin 34-yard-line. A snap slipped through quarterback Jason Weir’s hands for an 11-yard loss, senior Austin Jordan stuffed Strachan for a two-yard loss, and the Panthers forced a turnover on downs. That set the tone for the game.
“Coming into the game, we knew they had a big O-line,” Jordan explained, “so we knew we had to get a knock back on them and change the line of scrimmage and I think our D-line did that very well.”
Franklin’s big-play offense got going on its second possession. Senior quarterback Thomas Gasbarro was given plenty of time to throw by the guys up front and he just missed on three attempts to look deep, but the third drew a pass interference call that kept the drive alive. The fourth attempt was on target, as he hit Jake Davis in stride for a 28-yard score.
In the second quarter, Gasbarro (16-of-27, 271 yards) completed back-to-back passes to Matthew Lazarek for a combined 41 yards to get the ball inside the Attleboro 10. A fumble on the next play was recovered by Adam Pearlstein to give the Bombardiers the ball back, but any momentum shift was ended abruptly as Sammy Morris was spun down in the end zone by Anthony Quintina for a safety.
“They beat us up front,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “At the end of the day that’s what happened. They were more physical than we were up front. They just decided to take it to us in the second quarter and we couldn’t recover.”
Getting the ball with a short field, Franklin stretched its lead. Gasbarro connected with Davis for a 21-yard completion down to the Attleboro 18 and then to running back Owen Palmieri (15 carries, 71 yards) to the four. Cole Lakatos made a leaping grab on the next play to put the Panthers ahead 16-0.
The Panthers kept their foot on the gas and added another score before halftime. Gasbarro found Jack Nally for a 23-yard grab to get inside the 10 again and then two plays later he rolled out and found Nally in the flat for a two-yard touchdown. It was the third passing touchdown of the afternoon and league-leading 15th of the season for Gasbarro.
“We just have to be who we are and I think that’s our identity,” said Bain. “We found balance today in the run game too because they challenged us to run the ball and we did. Our offensive line, I think Tommy was clean most of the game. It just kind of clicked.”
If Attleboro was hoping that halftime would allow it to regroup, Franklin came out with the first drive of the second half and put the game away. Palmieri had a pair of runs totaling 29 yards that quickly got Franklin into Attleboro territory and then Gasbarro found Nally in space for a 27-yard completion to the five. The Bombardiers nearly held out, forcing fourth and goal from the one, but Gasbarro was able to keep it himself for his first rushing TD of the season.
After forcing the hosts into a three-and-out, Franklin’s defense was forced to stay on the field when Kaiden Murray recovered a muffed punt at the Panthers 43. Luke Cunningham blew up a jet sweep for a six-yard loss, then Jordan had back-to-back sacks of Weir to push Attleboro back to its own 48.
A second straight muffed punt, recovered this time by Anthony Hoyt at the 22, gave Attleboro another shot at getting its first points. Again, Franklin held. After a false start, Jordan got into the backfield to drop Strachan for a three-yard loss. A pair of incompletions meant a turnover on downs.
“When we came out for the second half, we just wanted zero points on the scoreboard at the end of the game,” Jordan said. “It was unfortunate, the punt situation, but the defense showed up and we just didn’t let them in.”
Bain added, “The defense just kept coming up big, answering the calls. Every time we needed them to do the thing for us, they did it, so they were awesome today.”
The defense stepped up to get the ball back and the offense made it count. Gasbarro hit Nally (seven catches, 131 yards) down the sideline for 61 yards into Attleboro territory. Nally completed the drive with a 10-yard rush to make it 37-0.
“We did not come to play. Very disappointed in our effort,” Strachan admitted. “We had to do some things early because we knew we had some match-up issues and they exploited it.”
Attleboro’s only score came as the clock wound down to zero, Isaac Gudiel put the Bombardiers in position with a couple of carries and then Weir (6-of-17, 52 yards) found Ethan Cameron in the corner of the end zone.
“Last year, when we beat Attleboro in that dogfight at our place, it spring-boarded us into the playoffs,” said Bain about the importance of this bounce back win. “We control our own destiny, we know that, and it feels good to get back on track and get that confidence back that we are a premier Div. 1 program in the state.”
Franklin (4-2) will try to make it two wins in a row to close out the regular season and secure a home playoff game when it hosts Taunton next week. Attleboro (3-3) will try to bounce back, and maybe get a home playoff game as well, when it hosts Mansfield next Saturday.
Game of the Week – Football
Franklin, 37 @ Attleboro, 7 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 28-yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) Safety; (F) T. Gasbarro 4-yard pass to Cole Lakatos, P. Cheuvront XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 2-yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 1-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good.
4th Quarter: (F) J. Nally 10-yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) Jason Weir 2-yard pass to Ethan Cameron, Colby Briggs XP good.
Canton, 18 @ North Attleboro, 0 – Final
Stoughton, 14 @ Milford, 10 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (M) CJ Cerrella 37-yard field goal; (S) John Burke 34-yard pass to Jake Queeney, Anthony Girolamo XP good.
3rd Quarter: (M) Colby Pires 2-yard pass to Luke Rosa, C. Cerrella XP good; (S) Christopher Ais 5-yard rush, A. Girolamo XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Attleboro @ Oliver Ames, 3:00
Canton, 0 vs. Walpole, 6 – Final
Taunton, 0 @ New Bedford, 1 – Final
MILFORD, Mass. – There are different ways that a team can show resiliency. Last week, Milford kept fighting its way back on the road, not allowing Franklin to feel comfortable with its lead until the final whistle. On Saturday afternoon in its home opener against Attleboro, Milford was on the brink of putting the game away in the fourth quarter only to see Attleboro snatch momentum and tie the game.
Rather than allowing the game to slip out of their grasp, the Hawks overcame turnovers and penalties and pulled out a victory. Senior Colby Pires hit junior Carter Scudo for a 21-yard touchdown with only 1:34 remaining and Milford escaped with a 20-13 victory.
“Like I told you last week, these kids don’t quit,” said Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “They play 48 minutes of football. We practice that way, we train them that way, and the results are speaking for themselves. Our kids battle. They don’t quit.”
The Bombardiers were playing their first game of the season and struggled throughout the second half with cramps. Junior Michael Strachan (10 carries, 53 yards) was forced to leave the game due to dehydration, while senior Isaac Gudiel and junior Justin Daniels missed portions of the game on both sides of the ball.
“This was our first real test,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “You don’t get this type of action [in scrimmages] and unfortunately we need to get in better condition. We had too many cramps and that definitely hurt us.”
Trailing 13-6 in the fourth quarter and with its bench struggling to maintain any energy, Attleboro came up with a huge momentum-shifting play. Milford got the ball down to the Bombardiers’ 13 but the defense managed to pry the ball loose from running back Luke Rosa (19 carries, 106 yards). One play later, senior Ethan Cameron (four catches, 136 yards) beat man coverage on the outside and his classmate Jason Weir hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown.
Out of seemingly nowhere, just when it looked like Milford was about to put the game out of reach, the game was tied 13-13 and the visitors were filled with confidence.
After partially blocking a punt, Attleboro got the ball at the Hawks 45-yard-line, but a CJ Cerrella sack (one of five sacks by the Hawks) stalled the Attleboro possession and Xavier Hilton returned the ensuing punt 31 yards out to midfield.
“They played man the whole game and they locked up and felt like they were going to bring it and they did,” said Strachan about the Milford pass rush. “I thought we had some success running the ball early and that was our intent but then we got banged up.”
Pires (25-of-41, 266 yards) swung a pass to Max Martin, who hurdled a Bombardier and drew a personal foul penalty for it. Then a 15-yard completion to Matt Varteresian was wiped away by a holding penalty. The third play was a catch by Hilton over the middle but he couldn’t hold on to the ball and Cameron recovered the fumble.
“Fumbles and penalties are going to be our biggest corrections,” said Vizakis. “Those are mistakes that can cost you games. They took advantage of it, but we’ll get those mistakes corrected.”
Again the Milford defense held and recovered possession. A short punt gave the Hawks the ball at the 37. Pires hit Scudo (seven catches, 81 yards) for nine yards, then for six, and then he again found the junior receiver open in the heart of the Attleboro secondary and he took it in for the game-winning score.
Attleboro had one last chance and converted a fourth and 18 (caused by a Herrick Louis sack) as Weir (8-of-21, 188 yards) found Cameron open in the seam for 24 yards. But, after yet another sack (this one by Rosa), Evan “Beav” Hazard picked off Weir’s final pass to seal the win.
Strachan said, “We’re young and we have to build off it. We’re really disappointed. We thought this was a game that we had a legitimate shot to win and I think we did a lot of good things and we need to build off that.”
The visitors grabbed the lead on their first drive. Weir connected with Daniels on a 30-yard pass down the sideline to get into Milford territory and from there Strachan took over. The bruising junior running back broke runs of 13 and 16 yards to get inside the five. He punched it in from one-yard out to make it 6-0.
Following a Scudo interception at their own 11, the Hawks marched 89 yards on 12 plays, including a crucial fourth down pass interference call, to grab their first lead. Gudiel stuffed Rosa for a four-yard loss on a swing pass, but then Rosa came right back with a 16-yard gain and a five-yard touchdown up the gut.
On its next possession, Milford extended the lead. Pires hooked up with Martin for a 22-yard pass to start the drive, but then back-to-back holding calls created a first and 38. On third and 18, Pires found Martin again for 20 yards and the first down to the Attleboro 13. Martin (seven catches, 105 yards) was drilled by Nolan Jaeger on the play, the second time that happened in as many drives, and Vizakis rewarded Martin by giving him the ball at the one and he scored on a jet sweep.
“A testament to his toughness,” Vazakis explained. “We knew when we were down there that there’s one guy that needed to finish the drive and it was Max. I’m so proud of him, offensively and defensively. Just a tough, selfless individual.”
Milford (1-1) will get a week off before opening its league campaign at Sharon. Attleboro (0-1) will have its home opener next Saturday afternoon against Dartmouth.
Game of the Week – Football
Attleboro, 13 @ Milford, 20 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (A) Michael Strachan 1-yard rush, XP no good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Luke Rosa 5-yard rush, CJ Cerrella XP good; (M) Max Martin 1-yard rush, XP no good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (A) Jason Weir 87-yard pass to Ethan Cameron, Colby Briggs XP good; (M) Colby Pires 21-yard pass to Carter Scudo, C. Cerrella XP good.
Franklin, 28 @ Andover, 25 – Final 1st Quarter: (A) Josh Ramos 1-yard rush, XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 8-yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good. (F) T. Gasbarro 15-yard pass to J. Davis, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) Shamus Florio 31-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 20-yard pass to J. Davis, P. Cheuvront XP good; (A) J. Ramos 16-yard rush, J. Ramos 2pt rush.
4th Quarter: (A) J. Ramos rush, XP good; (F) T. Gasbarro 38-yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good.
Oliver Ames, 20 vs. Concord Carlisle, 21 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery of this game. 1st Quarter: (OA) Nathan Cabral 5-yard rush, 2pt rush failed; (CC) Christian Gemelli 49-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (CC) C. Gemelli 5-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good; (OA) N. Cabral 8-yard rush, 2pt rush failed.
4th Quarter: (CC) Cam Ladd 3-yard rush, C. Gemelli XP good; (OA) Cam Perron 18-yardpass to Adam Cann, N. Cabral 2pt rush good.
Oliver Ames, 2 @ West Bridgewater, 0 – Final – Oliver Ames turned 17 penalty corners into 25 shots on net, mustering two first half goals to beat West Bridgewater. Haley Gilman put the Tigers ahead 1-0 on an assist from Maggie Woods less than two minutes into the game. Cassie Gennis scored on a penalty corner from Ellie Waters just before the midway point of the first half to make it 2-0.
Attleboro got off to a strong start to the 2018 season, jumping out to a 4-1 record with its only loss coming against eventual D2 South champ King Philip, and allowing only five points per game. But a last-minute loss in a shootout against Mansfield and a fourth quarter comeback by Franklin the following week sparked a six-game losing streak to close out the season. The Bombardiers come into 2019 looking to turn that around and use its experience to make a run at the Kelley-Rex title.
Offensively, the Bombardiers will be led by senior quarterback Jason Weir. At a bruising 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Weir is a punishing runner and has a big arm to make plays downfield in the passing game. Junior Justin Daniels will be the starting tailback with senior Isaac Guidel and a big offensive line trying to open holes for the running game, led by senior Qualeem Charles (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds), who has a host of colleges recruiting him. Senior Ethan Cameron will provide a weapon on the outside, while junior Michael Strachan offers another threat over the middle from his tight end position.
Charles will dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball as well, but the strength of the Attleboro defense will be its experienced linebacker corps. Strachan, a three-year starter who is getting looks from some Div. I colleges, will be joined by Guidel and senior Nolan Jaeger. Weir will play strong safety, after two seasons at defensive end, and will be counted on to step in to help stop the run. Cameron will be at free safety and giving the cornerbacks help over the middle. Attleboro has a large contingent of sophomores who could step in to contribute right away, including Alvin Harrison, Chris Leonardo, Adam Pearlstein, and Freddy Wheaton.
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “We are looking forward to the season getting underway and with the leadership of our four captains we are looking to be explosive on offense and very physical defensively. The Hockomock League is one of the best leagues in the state with some great teams. We will have to play our very best each week if we are going to compete at a high level.”
Franklin nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2018 season when the Panthers forced perennial power Xaverian to double overtime in the Div. 1 South semifinal. It was a big step forward for the program and head coach Eian Bain hopes it will be a building block for even more success in 2019.
Offensively, the graduation of quarterback Nick Gordon will be a big loss for the Panthers but senior Thomas Gasbarro saw a lot of time under center last year and he will step in and take the starting job. Gasbarro will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as the Panthers have plenty of speedy, athletic players in the skill positions. Senior Jack Nally is a threat out of the backfield or split out wide and his classmate Jake Davis is a solid receiver over the middle or downfield. Senior Matt Lazarek is a potential target from the tight end position and Owen Palmieri is another dangerous ball carrier. Junior Parker Cheuvront emerged last season as one of the top kickers in the Hock and is another weapon that the Panthers can count on if a drive does stall.
The defense is an experienced group. Senior Evan Wertz has been one of the league’s tackle leaders for the past two seasons and he is the team’s top playmaker from his linebacker position. Nally, Davis, Palmieri, and senior Ben Greco give Franklin a tough secondary to throw against and all are capable of coming up with the big turnover to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Luke Cunningham and Dom Natale will give the Panthers strength at the line of scrimmage.
“The challenge for this group is to continue to improve and build the program,” said Bain. “They need to add their own chapter and their own stamp on the program. We have the right people in the room. We need to play with the swagger and confidence of a contender, but be humble in our preparation. If we stay true to the process, we have great potential.”
Despite not winning the league title last year, the target on King Philip’s back continues to grow.
The Warriors might have missed out on the Kelley-Rex crown, but they won their third straight sectional title and made their this straight appearance in the state final, this time falling to North Andover (6-0). While this year’s senior class knows other than Super Bowl appearances, head coach Brian Lee says this group is focused on taking it one game, starting with the opener against North Attleboro. KP has a strong core of players back on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback Robbie Jarest and running back Ryan Halliday. Both players had really strong junior seasons and should be the leaders of the group this year. The offensive line includes returners Nolan Gunning (left tackle), Sean Piller (center), and Pat Zarba (right guard) while Wyatt Manzi, Jack Collentro, and Griffin MacKay are in the mix to fill the remaining spots. Having an experienced line bodes well for the KP run game that will heavily feature Ryan Halliday plus fullback Shawn Conniff and halfbacks Sam Callanan and Crawford Cantave.
The Warriors’ defense has been one of the best units in the state in recent years, and while the expectations remain high for the group, there will be a lot of new faces. KP graduated its entire secondary so the Warriors are turning to senior Brian Wasserug and Cantave, a sophomore, to take on starting spots. Halliday and Callanan, both captains, will handle outside linebacker duties with Mike Malatesta in the mix for the middle spot. Gunning and Manzi will also see action on the defensive line alongside Conniff. Dillon Conti takes over kicking duties for the departed Cole Baker.
“These kids know how much work, how much effort it takes to get where we want to be,” Lee said. “But it’s all about going game by game, starting this week with a team [North Attleboro] that we have a ton of respect for.”
Looking at the long list of returning players, it is no surprise that expectations around Alumni Field are sky high this fall. Mansfield enters the season with experience at just about every position and with the bitter taste of last year’s South final loss to rival King Philip still stinging. Despite a rash of injuries that forced running back Aidan Sacco to play as an emergency quarterback for most of the season, Mansfield still won a league title and this year’s team may be even more talented, which has ramped up the hype and put the target squarely on the Hornets’ backs.
The line of scrimmage will be a strength for the Hornets on the offensive side of the ball, as they return four of five starters from last year’s unit that allowed the team to rush for more than 2,600 yards. Senior Jason Comeau and reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year TJ Guy will be two key cogs in the line, while senior Noah Jellenik and junior Jake McCoy are also back. Senior Andrew Cowles will step into the fifth spot. They will seek to protect senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who had a cameo under center last year before an injury forced him to miss the bulk of the season. The skill positions will be loaded with athletes. Cincere Gill had a breakout sophomore season at running back and senior Nick Marciano is back after an injury cut short his junior season. Senior Michael DeBolt was one of the top kickers in the league but also gives Mansfield another weapon on the edges, while senior Vinnie Holmes adds a bruising presence coming out of the backfield.
Holmes is the headliner on the defensive side of the ball. Along with fellow linebackers Marciano, DeBolt, and senior Joe Plath, Holmes will be expected to make big plays all over the field. The defensive line will be strong with three returning players: senior Chris Graham, McCoy, and Guy. Junior Nico Holmes will step in as the fourth man on the line. Much like on offense, speed will be a strength and the secondary is loaded with playmakers, including Gill, junior Matt Boen, and senior Makhi Baskin.
“We have a bunch of experience all over the field, but we really have to develop depth with the second team to handle a tough schedule and challenges every week,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “This is one of the fastest group of skill guys we’ve ever had and we could be explosive on offense. We lack a little size up front on defense, but we should be able to overcome that by flying around with pursuit to the ball with our speed.”
There was no question that 2018 was a tough season for the Tigers. Oliver Ames lost by a point in the season opener to Concord-Carlisle and didn’t earn its only win until the penultimate game against Durfee. The Tigers will hope to turn things around quickly with an infusion of young talent under new head coach Ed DeWitt.
On offense, the players will be learning a new system, but there is experience in the backfield to try and implement different schemes. Senior running back Nathan Cabral figures to see plenty of the ball again this year after his breakout junior season in which he ran for more than 1,100 yards. He will be joined by senior quarterback Cam Perron and senior running back Sam Stevens to give the Tigers a strong core. Seniors Harrison Webster and Adam Cann (who is coming off an injury) will give Perron weapons to utilize on the outside.
There will be a lot of new faces on the defensive side, as DeWitt can call on three or four returning starters and will need a number of players to provide contributions on both sides of the ball. The linebacking corps was particularly hit by graduations, although senior Tyler Campbell can provide some experience and leadership in that position and Cabral brings athleticism to the role. Max Anderson and Anthony DeCosta will be important at the line of scrimmage, while Stevens will step into the secondary along with senior corner Nick Gillis and junior corner Jadon Ricci.
“The competition in camp has been great,” DeWitt said. “The players have committed to the program and bought into the day to day work that we need to do. We are focusing on making sure we treat every day as an opportunity to improve and string together some positive momentum.”
The Tigers started last season with three straight wins and then finished with three wins in their final four games to end 2018 with a winning record. Taunton enters this fall with a relatively inexperienced roster, but one that is looking to continue the momentum in the program and try to push forward so it can challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division.
One of the biggest changes for the Tigers will be under center. Noah Leonard was the starter for three seasons, but junior Danny MacDougall will take over this year. MacDougall will also see time at receiver to try and take advantage of his athleticism. He will be joined in the backfield by classmates Bretton Heggs and Josh Lopes, who both got time at running back as sophomores. Juniors Kedrick Santos and Devante McPhail will be the primary weapons at receiver. Up front, the Tigers have decent size. Senior Mike Murray will be at center, senior Hussein Kassab at one tackle, junior Marquis Dalomba at the other tackle, and junior Jordan Manning at guard.
Similar to the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers lack experience on defense and are still learning the schemes, but physical scrimmages have helped prepare them for the season. Senior Woudanly Danger is a force at the line of scrimmage and will require attention from opponents and senior Jackson Wellman has been one of the team’s top tacklers from linebacker. Junior defensive end Deandre McPhail adds to the strength of the line. Senior Curt Marshall and MacDougall will be the safeties and senior Cam Carroca will be at corner.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better and to be competitive in the league,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re definitely inexperienced, but physically we have guys who can do it and we need to coach them up so they’ll be ready to go once the season gets started.”
Stoughton featured a strong sophomore class last season and twin brothers Christopher and Christian Ais were a big reason for that. Both are two-way players for the Black Knights and could be poised for breakout years. Christopher picked up a lot of experience in the backfield last year, seeing time at both wing and fullback. His combination of speed and power helped Stoughton pound the ball on the ground. He racked up 381 yards on the ground last year (7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns and should see an expanded role in the backfield this season. Christian also had a strong season and will continue his role as a wingback for Stoughton his season. He combined for over 300 yards between rushing and receiving and found the end zone once. Both will be vital pieces of Stoughton’s run game this year, which is consistently a strength for the Black Knights. Expect both players to have expanded roles this season.
Last fall, Oliver Ames senior running back Nathan Cabral had the unenviable task of taking over from Anthony Berksza, after a preseason injury ruled the Tigers’ leading rusher out for the year, but Cabral stepped right in and provided OA with the workhorse back it needed. He rushed for more than 1,100 yards last season and scored 10 touchdowns. Cabral also converted three two-point conversions and now comes into his senior season as the top offensive weapon for the Tigers. A shifty back with the speed to escape tackles and make big plays, Cabral will draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses and will be the primary weapon for new head coach Ed DeWitt. Like Berksza before him, the Tigers will be looking for a big season from Cabral to try and make a push at a playoff spot.
Mansfield junior Cincere Gill burst onto the scene last fall and became one of the top playmakers (on offense and defense) in the Hock. The big-play running back helped Mansfield bring home its first league title since 2013 and book a spot in the Div. 2 South final. He rushed for 535 yards in 2018, good for second-best on the team, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. He also had 153 receiving yards. He was the team leader with 10 rushing touchdowns and also grew into one of the top ball hawks in the Mansfield secondary. This year, expectations will be even higher as Gill comes into the season as one of the primary weapons in a loaded Hornets backfield and his combination of speed, agility, and vision to spot an opening will make him a threat to go the distance on every play. Mansfield has plenty of talent at the running back position this season and that means Gill can stay fresh, allowing him to keep that breakaway speed when he gets the ball.
The versatility of Canton senior quarterback Johnny Hagan was one of the reasons that the Bulldogs surged to a share of the Davenport division title in 2018, their first league title since 1990, and to the Div. 5 South final. Hagan is a constant threat to the defense because he is capable of making big plays with his arm or his legs. His speed out of the pocket and the fearlessness he shows to take on tacklers downfield allows him to pick up crucial first downs and extend drives, but if teams crowd the box to try and contain the ground game Hagan can take advantage by hitting his receivers over the top. He was one of the league’s top dual threats last season and the Bulldogs will be counting on that production to continue as they try to repeat as league champions for the first time since they won a fifth straight title in 1981.
It never ceases to amaze that as one talented running back graduates, King Philip seems to find someone who can step right in to fill their shoes and produce. Senior Ryan Halliday was that guy last season, rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns, as the Warriors returned to Gillette Stadium to play in a third straight Super Bowl. Even with defenses crowding the line of scrimmage to try and stop the ground game, Halliday barreled his way to a big year, showing off the toughness it takes to get the ball almost every down. He demonstrated the speed to break free when he got into the second level and was more than willing to take and deliver hits. That was obvious on the other side of the ball too, where Halliday had five tackles for loss and a pair of sacks for the typically stout KP defense. As usual, KP will have a lot of new faces on offense this season but expect Halliday to continue getting the ball as often as possible and keeping hopes of a fourth straight South title alive.
There were a lot of new faces that made a big impact last season and Taunton’s Danny MacDougall was one of them. He immediately became a reliable receiving option for quarterback Noah Leonard, and as the season went on, he seemed to come up with bigger and bigger catches. A three-sport athlete, MacDougall is always going to be one of the hardest-working players on the field. Despite not finding the end zone during his sophomore year, his production earned him an honorable mention selection for HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year. This season, MacDougall is expected to take over under center for Leonard and see time at quarterback. His ability to make plays carrying the ball should carry over to the QB position. But he’s also expected to see time back at receiver and we saw exactly he can do there last season. And with MacDougall expected to be a starter on defense as well, there’s a high probability we’ll see him making plays on both sides of the ball.
There has been a lot of attention to the right side of the North Attleboro offensive line over the past two seasons as Ryan Clemente emerged as one of the top guards in the league. But in that time, another terrific lineman emerged on the left side. Ethan Mottinger, who committed to play at UMass this past offseason, really came into his own during the 2018 season and is one of the best-returning linemen in the league and region this season. There were stretches in which Mottinger (6’6, 294) absolutely dominated at the line, helping spring runners for long gains. There is a lot of movement in the North Attleboro offense, and that includes for the linemen as well. His ability to get off the line and make a block can create big gaps. While he’s a strong blocker in the passing game, he really shines in the run game when he’s able to go at the defense. Don’t be surprised when the Rocketeers run to the left side of the field behind him when they need a big first down or are near the goal line.
Franklin senior Jack Nally showcased numerous talents last year to help the Panthers get to the Div. 1 South semifinal, and nearly pull off an upset of powerhouse Xaverian. He finished with 922 total yards, as a running back, receiver, and returner. He scored one touchdown on the ground, caught four scores, and had more than 350 yards in returns in 2018. He was also a dynamic part of the Franklin secondary. With his quickness and agility, and his ability to find the hole and hit it at speed, Nally gives Franklin versatility in its offense that the Panthers will be counting on after the graduation of several key skill position players. Nally has been a terrific athlete in multiple sports and the Panthers will be hoping that he can continue to bring the same level of success to the gridiron this fall and help them challenge for the division title.
Milford senior quarterback Colby Pires has been one of the most dynamic passers in the Hockomock League for the past two seasons, spearheading the Hawks offensive attack and helping them pull out six wins in their final seven games to finish with a winning record. In 2018, Pires threw for more than 2,300 yards and tossed 22 touchdowns, while continuing to be one of the league’s most accurate passers. His ability to find multiple targets allowed the spread offense to be effective and kept defenses from loading up on certain weapons. Pires is also mobile enough to stretch plays out and make accurate throws while on the run. Milford will be counting on Pires’ experience on varsity to help a relatively young team continue to grow and challenge the top teams in the Davenport.
There are not many quarterbacks in the league that also excel on the defensive line, but Attleboro senior Jason Weir offers the size and strength that few signal-callers can match. Weir enters his second year as the starter for the Bombardiers, after throwing for more than 1,100 yards and rushing for 600 yards a season ago. Weir accounted for 23 total touchdowns (10 through the air and 13 on the ground) and proved to be a difficult guy to bring down, whether in short-yardage situations or when he got into the open field. He is also a standout at defensive end, setting the edge for Attleboro’s big line. Despite the graduation of several key skill position players, the Bombardiers are counting on Weir to make big plays and keep them in line for a return to the postseason.
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
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The North Attleboro players looked around for Hilda, the trophy awarded to the winner of this Thanksgiving rivalry, but the trophy was nowhere to be found. So, instead, the Rocketeers lifted freshman kicker and quarterback Tyler DeMattio to celebrate another win in the long-running series with Attleboro.
It was fitting that DeMattio’s teammates would lift him up after the game, since he stepped up in the second half and propelled North to the victory.
In his first snaps as varsity quarterback, DeMattio scored three touchdowns and accounted for all of North’s points on Thursday morning at a bitterly cold Tozier-Cassidy Field, sparking North to a come from behind 20-7 win over the Bombardiers.
“Tyler is a talented player, who has had a great year as a freshman and we’ve been watching him all along and felt like he was the next best available quarterback, so got him ready,” said North coach Don Johnson about DeMattio stepping in for the second half. He joked that DeMattio was North’s “secret weapon” and agreed that he was the “spark” that the Rocketeers needed.
Attleboro came close to adding to its 7-0 halftime lead on its first possession of the second half. Justin Cote (24 carries, 114 yards) and Jason Weir (14 carries, 95 yards) continued to find seams in the North defense and moved the ball down to the Rocketeers eight, using up almost the entire third quarter in the process.
DeMattio took over from sophomore quarterback Matt Penta (nine carries, 43 yards), who replaced Nick Raneri as the starter following Raneri’s shoulder injury against Duxbury. After a pair of keepers, the freshman dropped back and heaved a ball down field. It avoided a group of Attleboro defenders and fell into the hands of Ryan Gaumond, who raced the rest of the way to the end zone for an 85-yard score that tied the game with just 59 seconds left in the third.
“That was the momentum changer no question,” said Johnson. “That was a pop-up thrown by the freshman but that’s pretty good that your first varsity pass is a touchdown on Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter what it looks like.”
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “The catch that Gaumond made in the wind, I think that turned the game for us. It really did and DeMattio gave them a spark.”
Attleboro’s next possession ended with a turnover. Brendan McHugh (nine carries, 38 yards) took advantage of a slip by Michael Strachan and picked off Weir’s pass to get the ball back at the Attleboro 30. Three keepers later and DeMattio slipped through the middle of the Bombardiers defense for a seven-yard score and the lead.
The game had turned around for the visitors in just three minutes.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” Strachan said, “we just got away from a few things, fundamentally, in the second half and I think DeMattio did a good job.”
The Bombardiers had a chance to tie the game. After a Strachan carry, Attleboro was as close as the North four-yard-line, but Duane Bryant got into the backfield and stuffed Cote for a six-yard loss on third down. On fourth and nine, Cote’s pass to Ethan Cameron was tipped aside by Bryan Engler.
“A couple turnovers down inside and we just can’t do that,” said Strachan. “I said turnovers would play a big part in this and ended up being a huge part of it in the end.”
North still needed a first down to seal the win. The Rocketeers got that and a lot more, as DeMattio broke through the middle and raced 90 yards for his third touchdown of the game and the cue for the Attleboro crowd to head to its cars.
“They were running Weir on the quarterback follows, so we had trouble with that, and Cote was doing a great job bouncing the powers outside and we weren’t getting good force,” said Johnson about the change North made defensively in the second half. It was mentioned that the defensive line, led by Kummer and Davenport division MVP Ryan Clemente, dominated after the break and Johnson responded, “They did, but I thought the secondary did a good job coming up and making plays in the run game.”
Attleboro was on its heels at the start of the game, as North drove into the wind all the way to the Bombardiers 10. On first and goal, the Rocketeers fumbled the hand-off and Raneri dove on the ball for a loss of two. Penta was stopped by a host of Bombardiers on second down, including Nick Evans, and gained only one. Isaac Guidel pressured Penta into an incomplete pass on third down and then the fourth down pass to McHugh was inches out of the back of the end zone.
“It was disappointing, I think it would’ve changed the complexion of the game,” said Johnson of the first drive. “But, give Attleboro credit, they played good defense and stopped us.”
The Bombardiers flipped the momentum by driving down field and taking the lead. Cote gained 18 yards on a third-down toss to the left and Weir broke free for 44 yards on a pair of keepers to get inside the North five. Cote punched it in from two yards out to make it 7-0.
The teams traded turnovers for the remainder of the half. Desmond Woodson recovered a fumble, but Attleboro went three-and-out to give it back. Then Cameron picked off a Penta pass, only for Engler to intercept a Weir pass inside the 10. Weir got the ball back with a fumble recovery just before halftime to keep the Bombardiers in the lead at the break.
North Attleboro closes the season at 8-3 and won its 61st game in the series, which had its 98th Thanksgiving Day installment on Thursday. Attleboro closes the season at 4-7.
Football – Playoffs D2 South Final – Click here for a recap and photo gallery from this game.
#3 King Philip, 10 @ #1 Mansfield, 7 – Final 1st Quarter: (M) Aidan Sacco 16-yard rush, Michael DeBolt XP good.
2nd Quarter: (KP) Cole Baker 38-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (KP) Robbie Jarest 1-yard rush, C. Baker XP good.
D5 South Final – Click here for a recap and photo gallery from this game.
#4 Canton, 0 @ #3 Scituate, 21 – Final 1st Quarter: (S) Will Sheskey 5-yard rush, Nolan Startzel XP good.
2nd Quarter: (S) Aidan Sullivan 63-yard pass to W. Sheskey, N. Startzel good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (S) A. Sullivan 1-yard rush, N. Startzel XP good.
Football – Non-Playoffs
Attleboro, 14 @ Bishop Feehan, 33 – Final 1st Quarter: (BF) Ryan Jones 50-yard rush, William Lynch XP good; (BF) R. Johnes 53-yard fumble return, W. Lynch XP good.
2nd Quarter: (A) Jason Weir 13-yard pass to Michael Strachan Jr., Colby Briggs XP good; (BF) R. Jones 60-yard rush, W. Lynch XP good.
3rd Quarter: (A) J. Weir 3-yard rush, C. Briggs XP good.
4th Quarter: (BF) R. Jones 71-yard rush, XP blocked; (BF) Tim D’Ambrosia 11-yard rush, XP blocked.
Foxboro, 21 @ Westwood, 0 – Final 1st Quarter: (F) Mike Luong 37-yard rush, Russell Neale XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (F) Keyshawn Sanders 30-yard rush, R. Neale XP good.
4th Quarter: (F) Phil Thomas 4-yard rush, R. Neale XP good.
North Attleboro, 35 @ Walpole, 28 – Final 1st Quarter: (NA) Matt Penta 13-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good; (W) Will Jarvis 12-yard pass to Andrew White, XP failed.
2nd Quarter: (NA) Ryan Boyle 15-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (NA) Brendan McHugh 2-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (W) W. Jarvis 2-yard pass to Chase Conrad, W. Jarvis 2pt pass to C. Conrad good.
3rd Quarter: (W) W. Jarvis 15-yard pass to Drew Von Klock, Harry Butters XP good; (NA) B. McHugh 1-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
4th Quarter: (NA) Nick Raneri 3-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (W) W. Jarvis 20-yard pass to A. White, H. Butters XP good.
Oliver Ames, 13 vs. Durfee, 7 – Final 1st Quarter: (OA) Nathan Cabral 10-yard rush, Cam Perron XP good. (D) Durfee 40-yrd rush, 2pt failed.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (OA) N. Cabral 1-yard rush, 2pt failed.