Big Plays Sink North Attleboro in D3 Super Bowl

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North Attleboro senior Tyler Bannon rushes for a first down in the second half against Marblehead. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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FOXBORO, Mass. – After Tyler DeMattio punched in his third touchdown of the night to bring North Attleboro from 14 points down to tie the game at 28-28 in the fourth quarter of Thursday afternoon’s Div. 3 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium, it looked like North’s nearly two-decade wait for a state title could be coming to an end.

The momentum was with the Rocketeers when the kickoff return was stuffed at the 14. Three plays later, on third and long, Marblehead’s big-play offense struck again. Josh Robertson his Connor Cronin on a quick slant and the junior took it to the house.

The 83-yard score, Cronin’s third touchdown reception of the game, turned out to be the winner, as Marblehead’s explosive attack proved too much for North Attleboro to handle in a 35-28 win. It was the first state title for the Magicians, who finished 12-0 and extended their win streak to 20 games.

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“We just had trouble matching up with all their skill athletes,” admitted North coach Don Johnson. “Just didn’t do enough to get enough stops on defense. I think they had good athletes who made us miss.”

When asked about Cronin in particular, Johnson said, “He’s awesome. We had seen that on film. I was very concerned about our ability to matchup with their guys in the slot. They’re just great playmakers.”

Marblehead showed off its multiple weapons on its first drive. The Magicians marched inside the North 10. Robertson (14-of-18, 290 yards) connected with Cronin (10 catches, 263 yards) for 25 to the 14. Two plays later, the Magicians had third and one at the five but Nathan Shultz twice made good reads at the corner to knock down passes and force a turnover on downs.

North got out to the 34 but then a punt went out of bounds at the 45, giving the Magicians a short field. Marblehead marched to the North four, but DeMattio sacked Robertson after a bad snap to force third and long and Daniel O’Brien made a good read on a swing pass to force a field goal attempt. An offsides call made it fourth and four at the seven and Marblehead decided to go for it, with Robertson hitting Cronin for their first score.

The Rocketeers answered right back with an impressive 11-play, 75-yard drive. A big screen pass from freshman Chase Frisoli (10-of-18, 144 yards) to Tyler Bannon converted on third and long. Frisoli then hit Aidan Conrad in the flat for 11 and had a play action pass to Bannon for 15. Inside the 20, North went back to the ground game and DeMattio punched it in from six yards.

After a good kickoff return, Marblehead started near midfield but Gavin Wells had good coverage on second down and Keysun Wise forced a punt with a third down sack.

Frisoli continued his strong start to the game when he hung in the pocket under pressure to hit Jack Munley for 16 yards into Marblehead territory and dropped a pass into Shultz for 33 down to the seven. Two plays later, DeMattio got into the end zone again, his second, this time from four yards, to take the lead with just 42 seconds left in the half.

The game turned on Marblehead’s next possession. A Kaiden Leary sack forced third and long, but Cronin was able to get behind the coverage, pulled in the pass from Robertson at the North 30 and then beat a pair of defenders to the goal line, tying the game with five seconds on the clock.

Momentum carried through halftime. Liam McIlroy picked off Frisoli on North’s first series and on the first play Robertson hit George Percy on a 20-yard screen for the go-ahead score. North then went three-and-out and James Galante’s punt return set the Magicians up at the North 21. Two plays later, Robertson’s eight-yard keeper made it 28-14.

Three touchdowns in just 4:02 had turned a game that North looked on the verge of breaking open into a solid Marblehead lead.

“I thought that whole little middle switch there when they scored right at the end of the first half and then when we didn’t convert on offense at the start of the second half,” Johnson said. “I thought that’s when the game started to turn in their favor.”

The Rocketeers needed a response and got one with a methodical, 14-play drive. It started back at the North 11, but Frisoli bounced back from his interception to hit Munley for 15 yards to convert third and three. North then put the ball in the hands of Bannon (18 carries, 92 yards) and DeMattio (24 carries, 105 yards). Bannon would cap off the impressive series with a six-yard score.

North finally got a stop on the other side of the ball. After a 30-yard pass to Cronin put the ball at the North 45, DeMattio made a nice tackle in the open field to stuff a screen for a loss of one and Greg Berthiaume sacked Robertson for a loss of four. On fourth and 10, Robertson hit Cronin for 14 yards but Bannon stripped him and Wells recovered.

On fourth and seven with just under eight minutes to go, North elected to go for it. Wells ran a great post corner route and Frisoli tossed a strike for 20 yards out near midfield. North then pounded the ball with its two running back, eating clock and yards. Bannon’s hard run made it first and goal at the three and DeMattio found the end zone on the next play.

DeMattio had at least three touchdowns in all four of the playoff games, finishing the postseason with 15. The strategy of moving him to running back this year and partnering him with Bannon in the backfield paid off for the Rocketeers.

Johnson said of DeMattio, “That’s what we were hoping for. We knew that we would need him, if we were going to get to this point. We probably just needed a few more guys around him.”

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He added, “We’ve had that character all year, so I wasn’t surprised that we were able to come back like that. My only concern was scoring too early and giving the ball back to them.”

The comeback was short-lived. Less than a minute later, Cronin broke free for another long touchdown and Marblehead was back in front. Fittingly, it was Cronin who sealed the win, intercepting Frisoli on fourth and long to close out a remarkable Super Bowl performance.

“It’s just what we’ve been doing all year,” said Demattio. “It obviously didn’t go our way today and there are no excuses for that. We played well. We proved to everyone that we should be here.

“We gave it everything we had. Everyone left it out there on the field, that’s all that matters.”

North Attleboro Books Trip To Gillette After Beating Billerica

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North Attleboro senior Tyler DeMattio breaks free from the Billerica defense for a first quarter touchdown. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 QUINCY, Mass. — September 10th sure feels like a distant memory for the North Attleboro football team.

The Rocketeers, who opened the season with a double-digit loss to rival Bishop Feehan, have come a long way from that point.

Now, the Big Red is heading to Gillette Stadium for the Division 3 State Final.

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Behind a pair of key defensive stops in the second half, North Attleboro pulled away from a gritty Billerica squad for a 28-10 win in a D3 State Semifinal clash at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Quincy.

“That was about exactly what we expected, it was pretty clear that they were going to be a tough team no matter what,” said North Attleboro coach Don Johnson. “I think if we didn’t get those two penalties in the first half, maybe it would have been a different game, but they hurt us. Those would have been stops with good field position. But [Billerica] is tough, they have playmakers…they’re a good football team.”

With its back against the wall, North Attleboro’s defense delivered.

Billerica seemingly had all of the momentum after forcing a rare turnover from the Rocketeers on one end of the field, and now was in position to take the lead after a lengthy, double-digit play drive that put the ball inside North’s 5-yard line.

On the Indians’ 10th play of the drive, a 1st and goal attempt from the four down 14-10, the Rocketeers defense not only stuffed Billerica up the middle, they forced the ball free and recovered to end the drive.

“That was the first time all year that I felt like we got a lucky break,” Johnson said. “Now I mean there are kids working hard that caused that to happen but those are the things that have been happening against us. That was one time where it really worked out for us.”

And even when North wasn’t able to get any points on its ensuing 12-play, 80-yard drive because of a blocked punt, the defense didn’t let Billerica capitalize on that momentum. They forced a quick three-and-out, and from that point on it was all North.

Freshman Chase Frisoli converted a third down with a 24-yard pass to junior Jack Munley to move inside the red zone. And despite a false start penalty three plays later that cornered North into a 3rd and 14, Frisoli hit senior Tyler DeMattio for a 17-yard score and the Rocketeers had some breathing room up 21-10 with 6:18 to play.

After just two pass attempts in the first half, Frisoli went 5/8 in the second half for 92 yards and a score.

“We thought going in that we were maybe going to have trouble running the ball and we might have to ask more of him,” Johnson said. “We worked on the pass game a lot and I think he’s just showed tremendous poise for a freshman and he did that tonight.”

Billerica moved into North territory on the ensuing drive in an effort to make it a one-score game but DeMattio and Kaiden Leary combined for a tackle for a loss on second down and the Rocketeers stuffed a fourth down run two plays later to get the ball back.

And just two plays later, DeMattio broke free through the left side for a 72-yard touchdown run, shaking one more defender just before the goal line to ice the win with 1:17 to play — his third rushing score of the game and fourth overall. He also booted all four of North’s extra points.

Billerica’s lone touchdown drive — its second series of the game — had originally ended with a punt but a running into the kicker penalty shortened fourth down and the Indians kept the drive alive. The Indians capitalized on that momentum as junior quarterback Joseph Green scored from 4 yards out to take a 10-7 lead, which was Billerica’s lone advantage of the evening.

“The front seven has played great this year, and our secondary has been awesome,” said senior captain Jared Vacher. “That fumble just completely flipped the game. After that, it was our game and we were able to take over. [Dominic Gird] was quick but we were just trying to mix it up. Their quarterback was pretty good and broke some plays, it was my first time playing against that muddle huddle.

“After our first loss to Feehan, Coach [Paul] Sullivan told us a story about a team from the 2000s that lost their first game but won out the rest of the year and I think that brought us so much hope. We bought in and each we’ve gotten better and better, and that’s what it’s all about. Our goal all along was Gillette and it’s awesome to finally achieve that.”

North opened the game in style, marching 60 yards on seven plays on the first drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead. DeMattio (16 carries, 174 yards) and senior Tyler Bannon (12 carries, 56 yards) split the workload, including back-to-back first down runs early in the drive.

Billerica’s defense forced the Rocketeers into a 4th and 5 situation at the Indians’ 34-yard line. Without hesitation, North kept the offense on the field and DeMattio followed a block from Bannon up the left side for a 34-yard touchdown with 8:13 left in first.

The Indians used a combination of runs from back Joseph Gird (17 carries, 53 yards) and keeper runs from Green (18 carries, 104 yards) — plus a roughing the passer call — to move down the field on its opening drive but the Rocketeers’ defense stood tall in its own territory, getting key tackles from Bannon, DeMattio, Vacher, Greg Berthiaume, and Keysun Wise among others, plus strong coverage in the secondary from Joey Perriello.

Billerica settled for a 40-yard field goal from Shaan Rana to get on the board, down 7-3 with 2:51 left in the first.

Green’s 4-yard touchdown run after the running into the kicker call put Billerica up 10-7 with 8:05 left in the second quarter but North was back ahead less than five minutes later.

Frisoli found Gavin Wells for 35-yards on the second play of the drive, Nathan Shultz had back-to-back carries, and Bannon rumbled his way for 16 yards to move the offense into scoring position. From there, DeMattio took it in from 5 yards out for a 14-10 lead with 3:49 left in the half.

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Following its first two scoring drives, Billerica punted on three of its next four drives (fumbling on the other), turned it over on downs, and then ran out of time to end the game on the final drive. The Indians had 219 yards of offense but went just 1-for-5 on third down in the second half.

“That was the other thing, we didn’t give up many big plays,” Johnson said. “We knew they kind of liked to grind it out so we didn’t see them on film making a lot of big plays. Our game plan was to try and stop their run game and force them into passing situations, which I feel like we didn’t do enough.”

North Attleboro (7-3) advances to play at Gillette Stadium (date and time TBA) against top-seeded Marblehead (10-0), who routed Westfield, 40-7, in the other semifinal.

Foxboro Hits It Big In Second Half to Sink North

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Rashaad Way breaks free for a long touchdown, his second of the night, to help Foxboro beat North Attleboro in a title showdown at Community Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Even down by eight points and with a zero on the score board midway through the third quarter, Foxboro had confidence that its offense could figure things out. The top scoring team in the league, averaging more than 42 points per game heading into Friday night’s visit to Community Field, it felt like only a matter of time until the Warriors hit a big play.

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It turned out that the confidence was far from misplaced. Foxboro scored on three straight possessions, needing only four plays combined, to flip the game around and beat North Attleboro 21-14, putting the Warriors in the driver’s seat to win its first league title since 2015 and first outright league title since 2010.

“They weren’t down,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli. “They weren’t doubting themselves. We just kind of had the will to hang in there and rely on the kids who’ve done it all year.”

He added, “Those kids (North) played their hearts out too. It was kind of a game that nobody should’ve lost and nobody should’ve won, but I’m sure glad we did.”

Leading 2-0 coming out of halftime, North tried to put together one of its patented long scoring drives to take control, but things stalled around midfield and the Rocketeers were forced to punt. On Foxboro’s first play of the third quarter, Dylan Gordon coughed up the ball trying to extend a play and Kaiden Leary recovered for North at the Warriors 25.

Two plays later, freshman Chase Frisoli (7-of-17, 71 yards) hit Gavin Wellss, who started on the opposite side of the field and worked his way across the entire secondary, at the front pylon for a 24-yard score. The extra point was no good.

On the first play of Foxboro’s next possession, Gordon (17 carries, 142 yards) finally broke free, bursting through the line for 30 yards into North territory. The next play finished in the end zone. Tom Marcucella, who only completed three passes on the night, fired the ball out to Rashaad Way (three receptions, 146 yards) on a receiver screen. Way somehow tiptoed down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown. The same duo combined on a two-point conversion to tie it.

North’s momentum may have been stalled, but the Rocketeers followed that with their best drive of the night. The hosts went 72 yards on 11 plays to regain the advantage. It was all done on the ground, as Tyler Bannon (17 carries, 97 yards) and Tyler DeMattio (21 carries, 109 yards) pounded out six first downs. DeMattio capped the drive with a one-yard plunge, taking a hit that sent his helmet flying in the process.

There was a long injury break before North lined up for the conversion and Bannon was stuffed at the one to keep the score 14-8.

Foxboro took over at its own 28. Just 13 seconds later, the Warriors had their first lead. Gordon flashed through the middle of the line untouched and sailed past the North secondary for a 72-yard touchdown run. Sam Carpenter’s kick put Foxboro ahead.

After forcing a three-and-out, the visitors took over at their own 42. A holding call backed them up an additional 10 yards, but that just added extra yards for Way to burn through. Another screen pass from Marcucella got Way into space and he did the rest, blowing past the secondary for 68 yards.

“That was our fear going in, they have that big-play capability,” North coach Don Johnson said. “Every single play Rashaad can score on the edge and Gordon inside. We didn’t give them any big plays in the first half and they hit them in the second half.”

North’s next drive reached Foxboro territory, but Bannon was dropped for a loss of one on second and six from the 40. Frisoli was then brought down on a keeper for no gain by Ryan Addeche and Steve Bridges. On fourth and seven, Frisoli went deep but Way made an acrobatic interception. North would get one more chance starting at its own 42, but this time it was Dylan Kerrigan stepping in to make the pick and seal the win.

It was appropriate that the defense got to make the final play for the Warriors because it was the defense that kept Foxboro in the game in the first half. North was getting pressure in the backfield from the opening kick, with DeMattio flying through for a sack to end Foxboro’s first drive and Bannon getting one on the second. Bannon turned the game around with a booming 50-yard punt that pinned Foxboro inside its own 10 to start the second quarter. Three plays later, Bannon got through on the punt block, knocking the ball out the back of the end zone for a safety.

“We hung around,” Martinelli said. “We bent defensively, but it didn’t hurt us on the scoreboard. It could’ve been a lot worse at halftime, not only on the scoreboard but emotionally and that didn’t happen.”

The Rocketeers had chances to break the game open, starting each of the next three possessions in Foxboro territory. Andrew Finn’s sack and a holding call stymied the first drive. Good pressure from Addeche helped slow down another drive in the red zone, which ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down. A good tackle by Gordon and more penalties helped keep the third drive from ending in points.

“We shot ourselves in the foot too often,” Johnson explained. “We had more holding calls in the first half then we’ve had all season. That was a big difference maker. We should’ve had more points and had a little lead to work with.”

He added, “We gave them too many opportunities.”

Foxboro nearly grabbed the lead heading into the locker room. Marcucella nearly was intercepted by Garrett Ingelese on first down but Gordon followed with a nice run and Way caught his first pass of the night and broke it 38 yards to set up a short Carpenter kick. The Rocketeers were able to get a tip on it and it stayed 2-0 at the break.

“At halftime, we just said it’s 2-0,” Martinelli said. “It’s a long game, especially with the 12-minute periods. The big play kids made the big plays. Gordon, Marcucella to Rashaad, then Kerrigan on defense all with big plays.”

Foxboro (5-1, 2-0) will travel to Canton next week looking to secure at least a share of the league title. North Attleboro (2-3, 1-1) will try to keep the pressure on Foxboro and keep alive hopes for a split with a trip to Oliver Ames.

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North Pins Down Oliver Ames in Playoff Opener

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North Attleboro beat Oliver Ames for the second time this season to reach the D2 South semifinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – When North Attleboro and Oliver Ames (3-8) met two weeks ago in their regular season dual meet, the Rocketeers were able to pull out a nine-point win. With five pins in the first seven matches of Friday night’s Div. 2 South opener at the Pickering Gym, North made sure the playoff matchup had far less drama.

The Rocketeers had six pins as a team and rolled to a 50-18 victory to reach the sectional semifinal of the first spring wrestling team tournament.

“I was really happy with the kids’ effort, especially this being the last week of school,” said North coach Geoff Burgess. “No one wants to be in school, no one wants to be at wrestling practice, and they’re hanging tough. We’ve decided to make a run at the sectional and I think we’ve got a pretty good chance. We’re a pretty solid team top to bottom.”

OA coach John McKeon saw the loss as a good learning experience for his team, which is graduating only one senior (as well as a few athletes who played different sports during the spring season).

He explained, “We’re a little beat up. A long season got to us a little bit and we’re a young team and I think we’re looking at the summer a little bit. The kids are still wrestling tough, we’re still working hard in the room. I think it’s closer than the score says. There are some kids who got a little bit of a lesson today too.”

The dual meet started at 132 pounds and North got off to a perfect start with Kyle Dumke earning a second round pin and a quick 6-0 lead. Andrew Faris started quick at 138, building a 7-2 lead after two periods and the 14-4 win earned another four points for the hosts. North broke the meet open with a forfeit win for Ethan Smith at 145 and a first round pin by Chris Galligan at 152 creating a 22-0 lead.

Giovany Juste got the Tigers on the board when he earned a second round pin at 160, but the Rocketeers answered right back. Joe Shephard wasted little time earning a pin in just 42 seconds at 170 and then Greg Berthiaume picked up an important first round pin at 182.

“Greg got pinned by that kid last time,” Burgess said. “He flipped that, so that was a 12-point swing. We swung a couple of big matches for big points. We improved just enough since the last time we saw them to make the matches we lost either closer or flip the matches.”

The match at 195 was one of the closest of the meet. Onye Nwadiugwu had an escape and a takedown to grab a 3-0 lead on Austin Dean in the second round. In the third, Dean managed to escape for his first point of the match and, with the clock winding down, the North wrestler nearly pulled off a takedown to force overtime, but Nwadiugwu held on to get the win.

Kaiden Leary clinched the dual meet for the Rocketeers with a first round pin that made it 40-9 with six matches remaining. It was the fifth pin of the night for North. Keysun Wise kept the home team rolling along with a major victory and four points at heavyweight.

With the meet decided, North elected not to put up a wrestler at 106. Tanner Ferguson added a sixth North pin in a fiery match against Elyor Ruzmatov at 113. Kyle Hardie got one pin back for the Tigers at 120, although it looked for a second that Tyler Tobias might have spun things around and gotten the edge before Hardie countered and got the fall.

In the final match of the night, OA’s lone senior Stavros Constantinov got three takedowns and jumped out to a 6-2 lead after the first round. The score remained the same until the third round when a grip violation by North’s Braxton Ferro made it 7-2. Constantinov gave a point back for stalling, but he was able to wrap up his OA career with one last win.

“The Hock is tough,” McKeon said. “If we wrestled our non-league schedule, our record would be a lot more impressive. We’re a much better team than 3-8, but wrestling in the Hock, there are no givens.”

Burgess was also pleased with the development of a young roster. He said, “Almost this entire team is back next year. So, I think wherever we are at the end of this year will be a great stepping stone for next season and that’s really how we’re treating it, especially with our young guys.”

North Attleboro (10-1) will host third-seeded Hingham in the D2 South semifinal on Monday at noon. “They’re always very good,” Burgess said about facing the Harbormen in a dual meet for the first time in almost two decades. “We never wrestle each other head-to-head. It will be nice to kind of revive that rivalry. We’re excited.”