Canton, 51 vs. Norwood, 43 – Final – For the second time this season, Canton used a second half turnaround to knock off Norwood. Down 24-21 at halftime, the Bulldogs dominated the third quarter to the tune of 18-5 to take a lead it never relinquished. Junior Eric Mischler scored eight of his team-high 20 points in the third quarter to help the Bulldogs jump ahead. Kyle Fitzgerald had all 11 of his points after the halftime break while sophomore Lanse Dorcelus hit one of his two threes in the pivotal third quarter. Matt Giglio finished with 10 points in the win.
Milford, 80 vs. Paulo Freire, 65 – Final – Milford juniors Ben Blanchard, Jordan Darling, and Dom Schofield each scored in double figures as the Hawks scored a season-high 80 points in a win over visiting Paulo Freire. Blanchard tied a career-high with 28 points, connecting on seven three pointers including four trifectas in the third quarter. Darling scored nine of his 19 points in the opening quarter as the Scarlet Hawks built a 20-13 lead through eight minutes of action. Schofield netted a career-high 18 points, hitting a pair of three-pointers while scoring 11 of Milford’s 14 second quarter points.
Canton, 67 vs. Brookline, 38 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. The Bulldogs broke the game open with a 10-0 run in the first quarter to jump ahead by 15 and never looked back to win their second game in a row. Kiara Cerruti scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the first half, burying five three-pointers to help Canton put the game away before the break. Sydney Gallery had a big third quarter, scoring eight of her 14 points, including a corner three in the final seconds of the third that kept Canton up by 21 heading into the final eight minutes. Fay Gallery scored seven of her 11 points in the second half and showed off her all-around game with nine rebounds and four assists. Canton also dominated on the glass, with Cerruti pulling down nine boards, Lilah Milton (six points) grabbing seven, and Kayla Albert (six points) collecting a game-high 12 rebounds. Freshman Han Hong scored her first career points in the fourth quarter.
Attleboro, 153.8 vs. Lowell, 123.6 – Final – Attleboro’s Shawn Trombley took first on the floor, Jacob Mammoli and Anthony Hoyt shared the top spot on the rings, and Andrae Butler was first in four events as the Bombardiers knocked off Lowell. Trombley scored a 7.9 for first on the floor, Mammoli and Hoyt each received a first place score of 6.7 on the rings, and Butler won the pommel horse, the highbar, the parallel bars, and the vault.
Floor – 1. Shawn Trombley, Att – 7.9 | 2. Andrae Butler, Att – 7.2 | 3. Thomas Russo, Att – 7.1
Pommel Horse – 1. A. Butler, Att – 6.3 | 2. S. Trombley, Att – 5.4
Highbar – 1. A. Butler, Att – 8.4 | 2. S. Trombley, Att – 7.2 | 3. Jacob Mammoli, Att – 5.3
Parallel Bars – 1. A. Butler, Att – 7.8 | 2. S. Trombley, Att – 7.1 | 3. J. Mammoli, Att – 6.9
Vault – 1. A. Butler, Att – 9.2 | 2. J. Mammoli, Att – 8.0 | J. Mammoli, Att – 7.4
Rings – T1 J. Mammoli, Att – 6.7 | T1. Anthony Hoyt, Att – 6.7 | 3. A. Butler, Att – 6.0
King Philip, 54 @ Attleboro, 62 – Final – Attleboro senior Bryant Ciccio connected on a key three-pointer in the final minutes of the game and went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the final quarter to help the Bombardiers pull out a win over visiting King Philip. With the game tied 42-42 through 24 minutes of action, Ciccio netted eight of his team-high 15 points in the final quarter while classmate Qualeem Charles (12 rebounds) netted half of his 12 points in the fourth. Nick McMahon (nine points) and Jason Weir (six rebounds) also had key buckets in the fourth for Attleboro. King Philip, which led by three after a quarter (19-16) and outscored the hosts in the third to bring the game even heading into the fourth, got 25 points from senior Alex Fritz while classmate Andrew McKinney added 10 points.
Sharon, 43 @ Canton, 60 – Final – Canton won each quarter but it was its lopsided second quarter that created the necessary separation to secure a win over visiting Sharon. The Dogs held a 14-11 lead through eight minutes but limited the Eagles to just five points in the second while its offense produced its best frame of the game with 17 points, creating a 31-16 advantage at halftime. Junior Eric Mischler drained three of his five triples in the second quarter, totaling 11 of his career-high 25 points in the frame to help Canton create its big lead. Nick Cushman gave the Bulldogs a big boost, scoring nine second half points while senior Kyle Fitzgerald scored all seven of his points after the break. Andrew Burton scored a team-high 12 points for the Eagles, who were limited to just one three-pointer in the second half and three total for the game. Caleb Gayle added 10 points for Sharon.
Stoughton, 46 @ Foxboro, 64 – Final – Foxboro had one of its best offensive quarters of the season, exploding for 26 points in the third quarter to turn a close game into a runaway win over visiting Stoughton. The Warriors built a 16-10 lead through eight minutes and took a 26-19 advantage into the locker room at halftime. A 7-0 run to start the third sparked the big quarter as Foxboro held a 52-35 advantage with one quarter to play. Senior Brandon Borde scored seven of his team-high 21 points in the third, Ryan Hughes had six of his nine points, Will Morrison (10 points) drained a pair of three-pointers, and Kevin Gallagher added a trifecta of his own. Senior Tahkwan Gates Brown netted a team-high 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds to pace the Black Knights. Ahmad Jahed and Myles Grigalunas-Powell each chipped in with eight points.
Milford, 56 @ North Attleboro, 46 – Final – Milford built its lead over the first two quarters and got key contributions up and down the lineup to stay in front the rest of the way. The Scarlet Hawks jumped ahead 19-12 after a quarter and pushed the advantage to 29-20 at halftime. Milford senior Colby Pires scored 13 of his career-high 23 points in the first quarter whole Ralph Franklin Jr. (eight points) and Matty Varteresian (six points) combined to score all 10 of Milford’s second quarter points. Pires went back to work in the third, hitting two more threes while Jordan Darling and Dom Schofield also scored to keep Milford up 43-33 going into the fourth. Junior Ben Blanchard helped put the game away with an early three, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth. Junior Edan Kelley scored a career-high 17 points to pace the Rocketeers, who were without leading scorer George Ladd (illness). Ethan Friberg added 13 points for North.
Mansfield, 71 @ Oliver Ames, 59 – Final – Trailing at halftime and holding just a one-point lead after three quarters of action, the Hornets used a strong start to the fourth quarter to pull away from the win. Five Hornets factored into the fourth quarter scoring with senior Sam Stevens scoring seven of his 19 points, junior TJ Guy adding six of his 20 points, and Cincere Gill giving the visitors a boost with five of his seven points. Drew Rooney (seven points) and Matt Boen (16 points) also scored in the fourth, a period in which the Hornets won 22-11. Oliver Ames had a 24-point second quarter to take a halftime lead. Junior Amari Brown scored seven of his game-high 24 points in the second while Jay Spillane had seven of his 12 points and Ryan Burkett netted six of his 11 points.
Attleboro, 44 @ King Philip, 62 – Final – KP broke the game open by winning the third quarter 18-6 and pushing the lead out to double digits. Emma Glaser was the top scorer for the Warriors with 14 points. Faye Veilleux and Claire Keswick each scored 11 in the win.
Canton, 44 @ Sharon, 20 – Final – Canton locked down on the defensive end in the fourth quarter, holding the Eagles to just two points and running away with a road win. The Bulldogs led by only two points after one quarter (8-6) and extended that to six (17-11) low-scoring first half. Canton held Sharon to single digits in all four quarters and extended the lead to 28-18 heading into the final eight minutes. Fay Gallery paced the visitors with 15 points and Kiara Cerruti scored 10. Lilah Milton added eight points and freshman Erin Beatty made her varsity debut and added to the team’s strong defense in the fourth.
Foxboro, 79 @ Stoughton, 39 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. For the second time this season, Foxboro shutout an opponent in the first quarter, while scoring more than 20 points of their own. The Warriors raced out to a 23-0 lead after the opening eight minutes, extending the lead to 31-0 before Stoughton got on the board. Foxboro led 49-11 at halftime. The second half was just about even, with the Black Knights continuing to battle despite the deficit. Katelyn Mollica scored 27 points through three quarters, burying seven three-pointers in the process, but Foxboro had a number of players step up. Jamie DeVellis came off the bench and scored 11 points, Lizzy Davis scored 10 points, and Hannah Blake scored nine. Abby Hassman (nine rebounds and five assists), Shakirah Ketant (eight rebounds) and Yara Fawaz (11 rebounds and six assists) each scored six points. Shyanne Trinh scored 22 points over the final three quarters and Aliyah Wright added seven points (six in the fourth quarter).
Taunton, 18 @ Franklin, 66 – Final – Ali Brigham scored 17 points and Olivia Quinn added 12 to help the Panthers continue their unbeaten start to the season.
Oliver Ames, 58 @ Mansfield, 38 – Final – The Tigers took control from the start, leading 18-4 after the first quarter and 33-12 at the half to earn a road win and extend their win streak to four. Caroline Peper scored 13 to lead the way for OA, while Tate Hadges and Jess Erlich each scored nine. For the second straight game, Kayla Vine scored 20 points to lead Mansfield. Ashley Santos chipped in with eight in the loss.
North Attleboro, 53 @ Milford, 23 – Final – North Attleboro tossed a shutout in the second quarter, outscoring the Hawks 15-0 in the frame, and allowed only two points in the first half. Big Red led 24-2 at the break, but Milford won the third quarter 11-10. North pulled away with 19 points in the fourth. Amanda Kaiser caught fire from three-point range, knocking down five shots from beyond the arc, on her way to a game-high 19 points. Regan Fein scored 15 and Summer Doherty scored 11 in the win. North coach Nikki Correia praised her team’s full-court defense and the control that the Rocketeers played with on the other end.
Canton @ North Attleboro, 7:00
Sharon @ Foxboro, 7:00
Mansfield, 73 @ Franklin, 92 – Final
Milford @ Stoughton, 6:00
Canton @ North Attleboro, 7:00
Sharon @ Foxboro, 7:00
Mansfield, 56 @ Franklin, 107 – Final
Milford @ Stoughton, 6:00
Canton, 47 @ Norwood, 46 – Final – Canton erased a double-digit halftime deficit and sophomore Lanse Dorcelus hit a pair of huge three-pointers later to help the Bulldogs knock off previously unbeaten Norwood. The Bulldogs trailed 26-16 at halftime but outscored the Mustangs 18-7 in the third to make it a one-point game going into the fourth. Trailing 42-38, Dorcelus’ three-pointers helped Canton take a 46-44 lead. Robbie Gallery (eight points) added a key free throw and Canton got a stop on the final possession to secure the win. Dorcelus finished with a team-high 12 points while Kyle Fitzgerald and Eric Mischler each added eight points in the win.
Stoughton, 91 vs. Boston English, 83 – Final – Stoughton scored 20 or more points in each quarter, picking up the separation it needed by holding Boston English to 14 points in the third quarter to pick up a win in the first round of the Blue Devils Holiday Classic at Randolph High. Senior Myles Grigalunas-Powell scored 11 of his 18 points in the opening quarter as the Black Knights trailed by just one, 25-24, at the first break. Tied 44-44 at halftime, Stoughton poured in 25 points in the third quarter with Ahmad Jahed scoring half of his 16 points in the fame and Obinna Ugwuakazi scoring eight of his team-high 27 points. Senior Tahkwan Gates Brown added eight of his career-high 21 points in the fourth quarter to help the Black Knights seal the win. Stoughton will play host Randolph in the tournament final on Monday at 6:30.
Taunton, 71 @ Durfee, 44 – Final – Taunton pushed its win streak to four with its third straight double-digit victory, earning the Skip Karam championship title. The Tigers built a double-digit lead in the first quarter, putting up 22 points, and never looked back. Six players entered the score sheet in the opening period led by eight points from sophomore Trent Santos, who finished with 13 points. Junior Tyler Stewart scored six of his team-high 15 points in the second quarter to help Taunton build a 40-19 lead by halftime. Sophomore Faisal Mass added 13 points in the win while sophomore Tristan Herry, junior Josh Lopes, and junior Nigel Choate each added eight points in the win.
Foxboro, 65 vs. Concord-Carlisle, 21 – Final – The Warriors tossed a shutout in the first quarter, essentially putting the game away with a 27-0 lead after eight minutes. Katelyn Mollica led all scorers with 20 points and Shakirah Ketant added 12. Nine Warriors got on the score sheet.
Mansfield, 48 vs. Fontbonne, 52 – Final – Fontbonne used a big third quarter to build a sizable lead, which grew to as many as 16 points in the fourth, but the Hornets went on a 20-6 run to get back within two points (50-48) with 30 seconds remaining. Fontbonne hit a pair of free throws with 14 seconds to play to seal the win in the consolation game of the holiday tournament. Kayla Vine scored 13 points to pace the Hornets. Ashley Santos scored nine and was named to the all-tournament team and Ally Prentis chipped in with seven points in the loss.
Milford, 40 vs. Greater Lawrence, 26 – Final – Junior Emma Lawrence scored a team-high 14 points as the Scarlet Hawks knocked off Greater Lawrence in the opening round of the Edmund Murphy Winter Tournament. Jillian Michaelson added 12 points in the win while Carly Ferreira had a strong game on the boards with 12 rebounds. Milford will take on host Dracut in the championship game on Sunday at 7:00.
Oliver Ames, 69 vs. Brockton, 38 – Final – Oliver Ames bounced back from its first loss of the season with a dominanting performance in the consolation of the Sue Rivard Holiday Classic, knocking off Brockton, 69-38. Caroline Flynn led the charge for the Tigers, going 15-for-17 from the free throw line to finish with a team-high 23 points. Caroline Peper added 11 points and Hailey Bourne chipped in with 10 points.
Canton, 7 @ Westwood, 0 – Final
Franklin, 0 @ Mount St. Charles, 2 – Final – Franklin goalie Ray Ivers made 28 saves to keep the Panthers in the contest, which was a one-goal game until the final minute until Mount St. Charles tacked on an empty net goal with 18.6 seconds left. Franklin will take on Fairfield Prep out of Connecticut on Sunday at 4:00.
King Philip, 1 vs. North Quincy, 3 – Final – King Philip tied the game in the first period but entered the final period down a goal. The Warriors dominated the third period but couldn’t find an equalizer and the Raiders tacked on an insurance goal with just under two minutes to play. Joe Boselli’s first period goal was assisted by Nolan Feyler.
FOXBORO, Mass. – When it comes to vacation games, you never know what you’re going to get. Add in a noon tipoff on a Friday and it could make for a long afternoon.
But with a senior-laden team, Foxboro had no problems with the early start. The Warriors’ 21-point first quarter was its best offensive frame of the game, one in which it built a double-digit advantage that it never surrendered in a 58-39 conquest of division foe Canton.
The Warriors had six players register in the scoring column over the first eight minutes, connecting on eight field goals on over 60% shooting from the field, with half of the makes from downtown. And Foxboro got it done defensively too, holding the visitors to just three makes with three turnovers.
“It was a big part of what we talked about before the game, being a noontime vacation game,” said Foxboro head coach Jon Gibbs. “We talked about the team being more awake and ready to play would have a huge advantage in terms of winning the game. And I thought we really did a good job with that. I thought we came out with a ton of energy and a ton of fire.
Foxboro’s defense only improved over the next two quarters, holding the Bulldogs to nine points (no made threes) in the second quarter and just six points (on 20% shooting) in the third quarter.
“We set the tone with our defense, holding them to 10 points in the first quarter,” Gibbs said. “Even a lot of the shots they got were contested shots, tough shots. So our defensive energy that we brought in the first half was huge even though our offense was a little out of sync.”
Dylan Barreira’s (seven rebounds, five assists) offense rebound and free throw gave the hosts early momentum while Ryan Hughes (seven points, five rebounds), Brandon Borde (nine points, seven rebounds, four assists), and Donald Rogers (16 points, five rebounds) followed with consecutive baskets for a quick 7-0 lead.
Foxboro added to its offensive attack with a trio of three-pointers as junior Kevin Gallagher (17 points, four rebounds) sandwiched a pair of triples around one from Borde to extend the hosts’ lead to 16-6. Senior Liam Devlin made Foxboro’s fourth three of the opening quarter on a feed from Barreira while Borde finished off after a team offensive rebound to push the lead to 21-7.
Canton’s Nick Cushman sank a three off a feed from Steve Burbank just before the buzzer to make it 21-10 at the end of a quarter.
Both defenses clamped down early in the second with each time scoring just once in the first three minutes but Rogers sank a big three off a feed from Michael Devlin. Another three minutes passed before Borde scored a tough jumper. Kyle Fitzgerald (six points) and Burbank each scored late in the quarter, and Robbie Gallery had six points and three rebounds in the first half, to keep Canton in shouting distance at halftime.
“Foxboro’s a good team and one of the better defensive teams in our league and the area, so if you get down early and dig yourself a hole, it’s really hard to come back on them with the way that they guard,” said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. “We couldn’t string things together, they had an answer…if we did a few good things on defense, we couldn’t get it going on offense. If we did a few good things on offense, we couldn’t string together a few stops on defense. We have to be more consistent.”
Foxboro quickly extended its lead early in the second half as Gallagher opened up the third quarter with a triple, Rogers lowered his shoulder and drove hard to the basket for two. Canton sophomore Lanse Dorcelus (nine points) sank a three and the Bulldogs got back-to-back stops but couldn’t get any closer before Rogers answered with another strong take.
Dorcelus sank another three and Eric Mischler came up with a steal but Canton’s next trip came up empty and Hughes was left alone down low for an easy two and a 40-25 lead. Gallagher scored on a baseline take and Rogers beat the buzzer with a three as Foxboro closed the quarter on a 7-0 burst to take a 45-25 lead into the fourth.
“We talk a lot about handling and responding to advertising because in a league this tough, you’re not going to have any games where it goes your way for the entire 32 minutes,” Gibbs said. “There’s always going to be those runs and tough stretches from the other teams so we talk a lot about that and how to handle those moments.
“And the other part of that is having a veteran team full of experienced players that have been there before. They’ve been in that situation so many times so they don’t get rattled or panic because Canton made a big shot. I thought that was key for us in both of our wins this season that when the other team made a run, we were able to punch right back.”
The teams traded baskets for the first three minutes of the final quarter, keeping the lead around the 20-point mark until the reserves were put into the game. Gallagher scored Foxboro’s first five points while Dorcelus sank another triple for Canton.
Foxboro pushed the lead to 53-30 before Canton junior Colton Mirliani (nine points) came in and hit his first of three triples. Foxboro freshman Alex Penders scored his first basket with a three-pointer in the final minute.
Foxboro boys basketball (1-1 Hockomock, 2-1 overall) will take on a strong Needham team in the Westwood tournament on Sunday while Canton (0-3, 1-3) has a quick turnaround, traveling to Norwood on Saturday at 12:30.
2018-2019 Record: 18-5 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Mark Houle
Attleboro fulfilled high expectations last year with a terrific regular season but had its postseason run cut short in the opening round of the tournament. With an experienced, battle-tested, and deep group of seniors, the Bombardiers are hoping to take the next step during the 2019-2020 season.
The Bombardiers have seven seniors on the roster with six having plenty of valuable minutes at the varsity level. It all starts with a pair of four-year varsity players and captains Bryant Ciccio and Qualeem Charles. Both have played over 60 games for head coach Mark Houle and earned HockomockSports.com First Team honors a year ago. Ciccio (14.7 ppg, 3.2 apg) is like a coach on the floor and Charles (13.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg) is a matchup nightmare and one of the most dominant post players in recent years.
But there is much more to the Bombardiers, such as senior captain Tim Callahan. Callahan had a strong junior season with 7.7 points per game and can change a game with his outside shooting. He will also be relied upon to anchor the defense. Guard Nick McMahon and forward Lorenzo Wilson provided a spark off the bench last season and will be key pieces this season. And senior Jason Weir is back in the mix after missing last year due to injury. Weir showed flashes during his sophomore season, a versatile player that can play in the post or step outside and knock down a three.
Attleboro has a variety of weapons on the offensive end and that will make them difficult to defend. They have a couple of good weapons that can score down low and then a handful of shooters, so the inside-out game will be a big part of the game plan. Charles gives the Bombardiers protection around the rim while all five players are the court will have to contribute on the boards to eliminate second-chance points.
“We will rely on a battle-tested group of seniors, but we will need our underclassman to continue to develop and be ready to step in and play important roles on the team,” said head coach Mark Houle. “We have a hard-working group of players who compete and challenge each other every day in practice.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-10 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Ryan Gordy
After winning back-to-back Davenport division titles, the Bulldogs know it will be a grind to try and get a third with a big target on their backs.
Gone is the program’s all-time leading scorer and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Devin Foster, who was one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league over the past two seasons. That means there is going to be a lot of opportunities for new players to step up for the Bulldogs. Canton head coach Ryan Gordy said this year’s team will be a “much more space and paced” orientated team. Gordy is expecting a more spread out opportunistic approach that will feature contributions from anyone who checks in.
While Foster graduated, the Bulldogs do have a handful of talented and experienced players back on the roster. Senior Kyle Fitzgerald is the top returning scorer from a year ago, netting double figures in six contests. He is also a workhorse on defense and will be one of the leaders on the court. Robbie Gallery, Matt Giglio, and Eric Mischler were all starters at some point during the 2018-2019 season so Gordy will have some veterans to lean on during the year. Gallery, Giglio, and Mischler all showed the ability to come up with a big shot at any time and will help space the floor.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are looking at their versatility and depth to give them flexibility. Gordy believes he has a strong mix of players that will allow him to switch things up and adjust each and every game. Sophomore Lanse Dorcelus earned minutes for the final month of last season and could be a key piece this season.
“We feel like our program is healthy and players have made a commitment to growth,” Gordy said. “This season we are going to focus on the process and maximizing the strengths of our players. Our culture and direction has been a bright spot as we focus on the player person and team development each practice and game. We’re excited to see where we are and where we can get too.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-9 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Jon Gibbs
There is good news and bad news when it comes to the Foxboro boys basketball team this season. The good news is that the Warriors expect to once again be one of the toughest defensive teams in the league. The bad news is for the rest of the Hockomock League as Foxboro boasts an improved offense, and combined with their traditional tough defense, has the Warriors in position for a Davenport division title.
With four of their five top scorers back this season, including senior Brandon Borde (team-high 15.3 ppg) and junior Kevin Gallagher (12.9 ppg), the Warriors are looking to ride a balanced approach on offense to improve their scoring after finishing 10th in scoring in the Hockomock League last season (54.4 points per game). Borde is one of the most experienced players back in the league and has the ability to create his own looks as well as lead the team as the floor general. Gallagher had a breakout sophomore season and can really fill up the scoring column, especially from deep.
Borde and Gallagher will also get help from senior Will Morrison, who can catch fire from deep, and senior Ryan Hughes, who can give opponents trouble in the paint. All four players are returning starters from a season ago, so that gives Foxboro an advantage, especially defensively. Head coach Jon Gibbs called the defense the “foundation” of the team. Foxboro has consistently been very fundamentally sound and disciplined on the defensive end.
Seniors Dylan Barreira, Michael Devlin, Liam Devlin, and Donald Rogers all played important minutes last season and will provide a lot of depth for Foxboro.
“We have been making progress each day,” Gibbs said. “Practices have been very competitive so far as guys work hard to carve out a role for themselves by earning the trust of their teammates and coaches. If we stay hungry, humble, and unselfish, it has the potential to be a very successful season.”
2018-2019 Record: 17-6 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 Central Quarterfinal Coach: CJ Neely
Ever since the Hockomock League split into two divisions, Franklin has entered each season as one of the top teams in the Kelley-Rex and that looks to be the case yet again this year.
As it does each and every season, defense comes first for the Panthers. Franklin was the best defensive team in the Hockomock League last year, allowing just 48.9 points per game. Not only did the Panthers lead the league in that category, they were the lone team to keep opponents under 50 points on average. It’s the second straight year they’ve had the best defense in the division and third straight year they are in the top three. There are a lot of talented individual defenders on the team but year in and year out, Franklin’s team defense gives them a chance to win.
Offensively, the Panthers boast the top returning scorer in the league in three-year starter Chris Edgehill. Edgehill, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark last season, is an absolute handful to deal with on the offensive end of the court. He can score in a variety of ways, and on top of that, he is very good at getting teammates involved (four assists per game last year). Seniors Jack Rudolph and Steve Karayan are also back after playing valuable minutes last season and will be relied upon on both ends of the floor.
“We have a lot of guys who worked really hard in the offseason to improve and are excited to get on the court,” said head coach CJ Neely. “It’s a great group of people who have a lot of fun together. We need to stay aggressive and share the ball. We hope that strong team defense will continue to be something that defines our program.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-13 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Dave DeStefano
With a solid group of players returning from last season, second-year head coach Dave DeStefano is hoping to guide his Warriors back to the state tournament for the first time since 2015.
The Warriors showed flashes throughout last year, including an upset win of Kelley-Rex champions Mansfield on the road. But they were also on the wrong end of a handful of close games, losing five games by five or fewer points. With a year of experience in DeStefano’s system, and for a lot of players their first year of varsity under their belts, King Philip is hoping to turn those close games into wins.
KP boasts two returning starters in Alex Fritz and Andrew McKinney, both standing at 6’3. Fritz had a breakout junior campaign and was the fourth-highest scorer in the Hockomock League with 15.5 points per game. He was able to score in a variety of ways, including through contact at the rim, and will be a vital piece this year. McKinney was fifth on the team in scoring last year, scoring in double-figures in five contests, including a career-high 19 points at Stoughton. Senior Tommy Donahue looks to give the Warriors a strong presence in the post while classmates Owen Conlin and Chris Roy look to be in the mix. Seniors Robbie Jarest and Tom Weir are back in the mix after a year away from the program.
Defensively, King Philip will be relying on its size and physicality. While Donahue (6’5) will be the main rim protector, having long guards and forwards will help KP make life difficult for opponents. The Warriors will need to improve on the defensive end after surrendering a division-high 63.7 points per game last year. DeStefano is looking to get some contributions from junior juniors Donte Barros, Cole Breen, Joe Cullen, Evan Stephens, Will Kinney, and Jake Silveria while sophomores Charlie Grant and Braeden Sottile will likely be in the mix too.
“The boys have really worked hard this offseason,” DeStefano said. “The practices have been really competitive and physical. For us to be successful we will need to make a big commitment on the defensive end of the floor. We want to make our opponents uncomfortable and focus on working together to get stops. On offense we are looking to have a balanced attack and create great scoring opportunities as a team.”
2018-2019 Record: 22-5 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Final Coach: Mike Vaughan
The Hockomock League continues to run through Mansfield.
The Hornets have won the Kelley-Rex division title in eight of its nine years, and it looks like Mansfield will be the team to beat again this year. Three players that burst onto the scene last year – Sam Stevens, TJ Guy, Matt Boen – are now three of the top players in the Hock heading into this season. Mansfield certainly graduated a lot of talent in Tommy Dooling, Damani Scott, and Khristian Conner, but with those three starters back plus seniors Drew Rooney and Makhi Baskin, as well as a handful of newcomers ready to make an impact, Mansfield is poised for another deep tournament run.
Stevens (11.2 ppg) will be one of the toughest players to stop with his ability to finish around the rim as well as deadly three-point shooting, Guy (10.9 ppg) is very good in the post on both ends of the floor, and Boen (9.5 ppg) can score in a variety of ways. All three are capable of filling up the stat sheet on any given night. Baskin provides a lot of energy and can change the game with his effort while Rooney showed last year that he can matchup with some of the top players in the league on the defensive end.
Juniors Brian and Jason See are both strong shooters that work tirelessly on both ends of the floor and should be in the mix for the Hornets this year. Juniors Jack Colby and Brendan Foley will be looking to bring a spark off the bench while sophomore Matt Hyland and freshman Chris Hill are promising young players that could contribute right away.
“I think our depth and ability to play different styles will be a strength of this team,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I’m excited to see where this team can get to as they continue to work hard in practice and mix their individual talents to form our team identity. Transition play, scoring inside and out will be strength on offense. Playing solid man to man and uptempo defense with our depth could create some issues for our opponents.”
2018-2019 Record: 9-12 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Paul Seaver
After a season of ups and downs, the Milford Scarlet Hawks are hoping last year’s growing pains transition into a playoff berth this season.
With a large group of returnees, the Hawks will certainly be in the mix for the Davenport division title. While head coach Paul Seaver returns the majority of his team, he will need some of the those players to step up on the offensive end the fill the void left by graduation. The Hawks graduated its top three scorers, including the second-highest scorer in the league in Brendan White (18.2 ppg). That means there will be a lot of opportunities for new players to step up and contribute.
Junior Jordan Darling (7.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and senior Colby Pires (6.1 ppg) are the top two point producers back this year while junior Dom Schofield also returns after starting as a sophomore. Darling started 19 games this year and was selected to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassman team after a strong season on both ends of the court. Pires is a leader both on and off the court and plays well in all aspects of the game, and Schofield gives Milford a strong post presence on the defensive end, recording a team-high 38 charges taken last season.
Ralph Franklin Jr., Matty Varteresian, Tyler Whetherbee, and Ben Blanchard all saw time throughout last season and could all be in line for bigger roles this season.
“Our depth will matter, our balance will matter, our chemistry is this group’s most important attribute,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver. “We were the youngest team in the league last season and this group has a lot of players back who are attacking this year with a chip on their shoulder. This group defines what Milford basketball is and that’s a testament to who these kids are hard workers and higher character individuals. I could not be any more excited to coach and work with these kids on a daily basis.”
2018-2019 Record: 9-11 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Sean Mulkerrins
There are going to be a lot of new faces dawning the Big Red uniform this winter. After losing nine seniors to graduation, head coach Sean Mulkerrins has just three players back from last year’s nine-win squad.
With a large amount of new players comes a large amount of opportunities. The Rocketeers graduated its two top scorers but bring back senior Ethan Friberg (7.0 ppg) and junior George Ladd (7.4 ppg) to lead the charge offensively this year. Friberg, standing at 6’5, can cause problems in the paint but also van step out and play along the perimeter. Ladd had a breakout sophomore season and was named to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassman team. He is a little of a throwback player that is very fundamentally sound on the offensive end. Senior Josh Porter, the third returner, saw an expanded role at the end of last season and played well.
Defensively, the Rocketeers will be focusing on limiting opponents to one shot per possession. With some size in the frontcourt, North will try to make it difficult to finish at the rim, and with all five players committed to rebounding, try and minimize second-chance points.
“There will be a lot of new faces with opportunities to make an impact on this year’s team,” Mulkerrins said. “There will definitely be some growing pains and the sooner the new faces adjust to the rigors of varsity basketball, the better we will be.”
2018-2019 Record: 10-12 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Don Byron
Last season, Oliver Ames came up just one game shy of the state tournament. Goal number one for the 2019-2020 season is to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
With a strong mix of experienced players and hungry new additions, Oliver Ames is ready for the grind that is the Kelley-Rex division and the Hockomock League.
“The expectation is to always get [to the tournament], that’s our first goal,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “We’re pretty optimistic but we know it’s going to be a grind, you have to show up every night, you can’t take a night off.”
Byron has been impressed with his guard play so far this preseason, and that will likely mean featuring three guards in the lineup for the majority of the time. Senior Jay Spillane is a returning starter while classmate Owen Friel and junior Amari Brown were top options off the bench a season ago. Spillane can score in bunches, especially from the outside, while Friel combines a solid shooting game with a hard-nosed defensive approach. Friel’s ability to guard a variety of position makes him a valuable piece in the lineup while Brown is a crafty player that does a nice job getting teammates involved.
Senior center Evan Craig (6’5) will be joined by classmate Ryan Burkett (6’2) in the frontcourt. Both picked up valuable minutes at the varsity level last year and Byron is hoping that will help with their expanded roles this year. Senior guard Adam Cann and junior forwards Trey Buggs and Drew Nickla will provide depth for the Tigers.
“It takes some time to get accustomed to the varsity speed and what we expect at this level,” Byron said. “All of these kids gained experience with us last year, and that year of experience is invaluable.”
2018-2019 Record: 3-17 2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Andrew Ferguson
After a couple of down seasons, the Eagles will be making a strong push to get back into the state tournament for the first time since 2016.
Sharon boasts a number of players who gained varsity experience that will be looking to help the program bounce back. The first being senior Aidan Kane, the team’s leading scorer last season with 11.5 points per game. When he’s on from keep, Kane is one of the top three-point shooters in the league. He has the ability to change a game very quickly if he gets hot from deep. Senior Andrew Burton emerged as one of the Eagles’ top players last year and could be poised to have a breakout year. Sophomore John Baez will start at the point after joining the varsity team for the final month and a half last season.
The Eagles will be relying heavily on its frontcourt to step up on both ends of the court. Senior Caleb Gayle is a traditional post player that will compete hard on both ends of the court, senior Cam Baker is fundamentally sound and a reliable option and junior Hank Ward picked up valuable minutes as a sophomore and will be an important part of the rebound game as well as defensively. Senior Aaron Karten will be in the mix as well, giving the Eagles an athletic frontcourt.
Junior Jordan Barboza should give the Eagles a spark off the bench this year and head coach Andrew Ferguson will look for him as an important defensive piece. Kiran Chandrasekaran had flashes of the strong play off the bench last year and should see an expanded role this year, while junior transfer Matt Baskin could provide a needed scoring punch.
“This group has worked tremendously hard in the offseason and the preseason and is looking to translate that into success throughout the regular season,” Ferguson said. “Many of the players have gained valuable experience at the varsity level over the past two years and our senior class are tremendous leaders who provide a great example for our younger players.”
2018-2019 Record: 10-11 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Preliminary Round Coach: John Gallivan
Stoughton ended its playoff drought last season and with a good amount of those players back again this year, the Davenport division title and a deep playoff run could be in the forecast this season.
The Black Knights have their leading scorer back in 6’5 senior forward Obinna Ugwuakazi, who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per game with nine double-doubles last year. His athleticism and ability to finish through contact made him a tough matchup for opponents, and he will be at the forefront of the Stoughton offense again this year. Fellow senior Tahkwan Gates Brown, who also stands at 6’5, is also back and we could see the duo play together at times which will certainly make life tough for opponents.
Senior Myles Grigalunas-Powell is back for his third year on varsity. After improving each of the past two seasons, the 2019-2020 season could be a breakout year for Grigalunas-Powell, who can score from three-point range but is also a crafty finisher attacking the rim. Ahmad Jahed had flashes of strong play last year and will be back in the mix again this year, and the same goes for Tommy Sanda. Juniors Brett Pendenza and Jake Queeney are also back after earning some minutes last year.
“We feel like we can score this year both from downtown and from down low,” said Stoughton head coach John Gallivan. “And with our size in the paint, we hope to make it difficult for opponents to score consistently.”
2018-2019 Record: 15-9 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal Coach: Charlie Dacey
After a strong regular season, the Taunton boys basketball team flipped a switch in the tournament and made a run to the D1 South Semis, nearly knocking off powerhouse Mansfield. With a taste of postseason success, the Tigers are hoping to replicate that success this year with another impressive playoff stretch.
The Tigers boast speed, skill, and depth this season and will be in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division title this season. While Taunton lost a lot of production from last year (Lou Vendrell, Mike Quinn, John Martins, Wesner Charles), there are a handful of players battling to earn their chance at minutes in the Tigers’ lineup. One constant in that lineup over the past couple of years is senior Dante Law, who enters his fourth year with the varsity group. Law was Taunton’s leading scorer a year ago with 14.1 points per game but none of the other returners were over five points a game, meaning there will be plenty of opportunity for new players to step up.
Seniors Fabio Goncalves (6’6) and Aiden Pelot, as well as junior Tyler Stewart (6’6) make up the frontcourt for the Tigers. All three played at the varsity level last year and will be key pieces at helping the Tigers defend and win the battle on the boards. Law will be joined by junior Josh Lopes, who showed flashes during his sophomore season, DaeDae Kenion, and sophomore transfer Tristan Herry as key pieces of the offense.
The Tigers are also excited about the depth on the team this year. Junior Danny MacDougall earned starting minutes last year and is a reliable option in a variety of roles while Trent Santos, Logan Lawrence, and Jonathan Torres will all be in the mix for Taunton.
“With this team, press and run should be ‘Plan A’ although there are skills available to play at a slower pace,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey.
Below are the official 2019 Hockomock League Football All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Hockomock League MVP
Vinnie Holmes, Mansfield
Kyle Fitzgerald, Canton
Hockomock League All Stars
Qualeem Charles, Attleboro
Michael Strachan, Attleboro
Jason Weir, Attleboro
Austin Jordan, Franklin
Thomas Gasbarro, Franklin
Evan Wertz, Franklin
Jack Nally, Franklin
Jake Davis, Franklin
Sean Piller, King Philip
Ryan Halliday, King Philip
Robert Jarest, King Philip
Terence Guy, Mansfield
Vincent Holmes, Mansfield
Michael Debolt, Mansfield
Nicholas Marciano, Mansfield
Cincere Gill, Mansfield
Jason Comeau, Mansfield
Nathan Cabral, Oliver Ames
Daniel MacDougall, Taunton
Jack Connolly, Canton
Kyle Fitzgerald, Canton
John Hagan, Canton
James Murphy, Canton
Robert Gallery, Canton
Aidan Dow, Foxboro
Shayne Kerrigan, Foxboro
Anton George, Foxboro
Michael Sheehan, Foxboro
Luke Rosa, Milford
Colby Pires, Milford
John Kummer, North Attleboro
Ethan Mottinger, North Attleboro
Ethan Friberg, North Attleboro
John Saab, Sharon
Carlvin Laguerre, Stoughton
Anthony Pizzano, Stoughton
Chris Ais, Stoughton
Christin Ais, Stoughton
The Bulldogs (10-1), who won the Davenport division outright this season, capped a historic season with a 30-8 win over the Black Knights (10-1) in the 94th annual Thanksgiving meeting between the neighbors.
It marks just the fourth time in program history the team has won 10 games, joining 1979, 1981, and 1987.
“The kids were disappointed last year, we didn’t play great and Stoughton came to play,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “You see it over there on their sidelines…we had to live with that for a whole year. We didn’t want to let that happen again. I always knew it was important to the program, but that win two years ago and that whole feeling. It was a great day for the program, as is today, and it kind of started this run.
“We have a healthy rivalry. There’s a lot of talk about how the playoffs have taken the luster out of Thanksgiving, but not around here. I know how [Stoughton] values this rivalry, and I know how much we value it. Its two teams with mutual respect. Stoughton has a very good team that is very well-coached. Beating them on Thanksgiving is quite an accomplishment, that’s how we view it.”
Canton scored twice in the second quarter to take the lead and its defense pitched a second half shutout out, holding the Black Knights without a first down for nearly the entire second half.
Not only did the Bulldog defense prevent the Black Knights, who were without star two-way players Christopher Ais and Christian Georges due to injury, from moving the chains after the break, they limited the visitors to less than five yards on its first five series of the second half.
“For this program, for our class, this means everything for us,” said Canton senior David Allen, who had a second half touchdown catch. “We’ve won a lot together from when we were young. Getting knocked out of the playoffs hurt but to be able to take this trophy home to end the season means a lot to everyone on our team.
“It’s such a big rivalry. After a loss, you get to think about it but then it’s on to the next game, and especially with Stoughton, there’s a lot of extra motivation behind playing on Thanksgiving against them. We played very well defensively today, and we just had to grind it out on every play.”
After a scoreless first quarter that saw Canton come up with a stop against a goal-to-go situation for the Black Knights, the Bulldogs started the second quarter with 1st and goal from the 10 after a nice run from senior Kyle Fitzgerald (eight carries, 85 yards, touchdown) and 21-yard pass from Johnny Hagan (5-for-15, 99 yards, two touchdowns) to senior Jace Emma.
But similar how to the Black Knights were denied in the opening quarter, the Bulldogs couldn’t solve Stoughton’s defense. Despite getting down to the one-yard line, Stoughton got a good push up front from the likes of Carlvin LaGuerre, Oluwole Fabikun, Jerry Brisson, and Kelven Rodriquez, and senior Jaden McCall and junior Sproul Derolus combined for a huge tackle for loss on third down, and a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
Despite not scoring, the Bulldogs were able to flip field position, and cashed in on its next drive. On the first play from the Stoughton 35-yard line, Hagan floated one down the middle that Fitzgerald went up and grabbed over the defender and battled his way the final five yards for a touchdown. Owen Lehane’s point after made it 7-0 with 8:14 left in the second quarter.
Stoughton’s next drive didn’t go far thanks to a tackle for a loss on second down from Canton senior Jack Connolly, and a sack on third down from senior Lucas Ragusa. A good punt return from senior Gersom Rivera gave the Dogs the ball at the Stoughton 20-yard line.
Two plays later, Fitzgerald took his second straight handoff on a jet sweep and cut right up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5:39 left in the first half.
“It was a long break coming off the Holliston game, and you always worry if there will be a hangover from that loss,” Bohane said. “There was a couple of days I was a little worried but once we got back together, I could sense it. They are a very mature group, a lot of them play multiple sports and compete all the time. I could tell by the way they were acting that we’d be alright. The coaches did a great job preparing them and the kids came to play today.”
Stoughton responded with its best drive of the game to make it a one-score contest. Senior Clayton Rahaman (7-for-20, 147 yards) lofted one down the sideline that junior John Burke made a nice adjustment to haul in for a 35-yard catch, earning a first down on 3rd and 20.
Junior Jake Queeney got open and drew a pass interference call two plays later, and then moved the chains with an 11-yard catch. Sophomore Anthony Girolamo (11 carries, 30 yards) scampered for 13 yards to move inside the 10-yard line, and two plays later junior Christian Ais extended at the goal line for a 6-yard touchdown.
Rahaman connected with senior Anthony Pizzano for the two-point conversion to make it 14-8 with 1:14 left in the second quarter.
A good return from Rivera and a run from Hagan got Canton into scoring position with under a minute to go, but Ais came up with an interception in the red zone to put an end to the drive.
Neither team moved the ball to open the second half as Canton punted after a three-and-out, and Stoughton did the same after going backward. Field position benefitted the hosts again as they started at the Stoughton 29-yard line. Canton moved into the red zone but a holding penalty pushed them back and Burke broke up a pass in the end zone.
The Bulldogs settled for a 28-yard field goal from Lehane to make it 17-8 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
While Canton’s offense tried to establish itself in the second half, the defense came it plenty of chances. Stoughton’s first four drives all resulted in punts and totaled -14 yards. Its fifth drive didn’t yield any yards and ended with an interception two plays in.
“The defense has been outstanding all year,” Bohane said. “We played great against Stoughton the first time too. We had a couple of lapses but Coach Eckler did a great job with his adjustments at halftime and we really never had any issues with the defense the rest of the way, it was an outstanding performance.”
Stoughton senior Savion Scott put an end to Canton’s next series with a terrific diving interception but the Bulldogs were back in business on their next series. Starting at their own 47-yard line, the Bulldogs needed just four plays to extend the lead.
Fitzgerald sprinted for a 19-yard gain, junior Cam Sanchez took a handoff for six yards, Hagan kept it himself for 20 yards, and Rivera capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown and a 23-8 lead with 1:41 left in the third.
Canton started its next drive at the Stoughton 33-yard line, and back-to-back runs from Sanchez and Rivera moved the sticks. Back-to-back penalties put Canton into 1st and 26, but Hagan delivered a pass to Allen right to the marker for a first down. Three plays later, Hagan hit Allen on the slant for a 7-yard touchdown and a 30-8 lead.
“When we lost last year, it was tough,” Gallery said. “Throughout the year, we were all looking forward to the Thanksgiving game and getting payback, that’s what it’s all about. It was a good win and it’ s nice to go out on a high note.”
This article was updated on Saturday, November 30th to include the 1987 Canton team as a 10-win team.
Attleboro, 13 @ North Attleboro, 7 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (A) Michael Strachan 5-yard rush, Colby Briggs XP good; (A) Jason Weir 52-yard rush, XP no good.
2nd Quarter: (NA) Jared Penta 3-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Stoughton, 8 @ Canton, 30 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (C) Johnny Hagan 35-yard pass to Kyle Fitzgerald, Owen Lehane XP good; (C) K. Fitzgerald 4-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good; (S) Christian Ais 6-yard rush, Clayton Rahaman 2pt pass to Anthony Pizzano.
3rd Quarter: (C) O. Lehane 28-yard field goal; (C) Gersom Rivera 8-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (C) J. Hagan 7-yard pass to David Allen, O. Lehane XP good.
Mansfield, 22 @ Foxboro, 12 – Final 1st Quarter: (M) Safety; (M) Nick Marciano 46-yard pass to Danny Rapoza, Michael DeBolt XP good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Vinnie Holmes 46-yard rush, 2pt failed; (M) M. DeBolt 9-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (F) Shayne Kerrigan 2-yard rush, 2pt failed; (F) Chris McNamara 3-yard rush, 2pt failed.
Franklin, 0 @ King Philip, 14 – Final 1st Quarter: (KP) Ryan Halliday 5-yard rush, XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (KP) R. Halliday 2-yard rush, XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Milford, 12 @ Maynard, 15 – Final 1st Quarter: (Mi) Luke Rosa 13-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (Mi) Carter Scudo 22-yard rush, XP failed.
Oliver Ames, 34 @ Sharon, 0 – Final 1st Quarter: (OA) Connor Murphy fumble recovery, Sean Friel XP good; (OA) Nathan Cabral 2-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.
2nd Quarter: (OA) N. Cabral 3-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.
3rd Quarter: (OA) Cam Perron 40-yard pass to Nick Marks, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (OA) Sam Stevens 5-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.
Game of the Week Staff
Attleboro @ North Attleboro
Stoughton @ Canton
Mansfield @ Foxboro
Franklin @ King Philip
Milford @ Maynard
Oliver Ames @ Sharon
Attleboro @ North Attleboro
Ryan Lanigan: North Attleboro
Josh Perry: Attleboro
Matt Bosh: North Attleboro
Jeff Pickette: Attleboro
Stoughton @ Canton
Ryan Lanigan: Canton
Josh Perry: Stoughton
Matt Bosh: Canton
Jeff Pickette: Stoughton
Mansfield @ Foxboro
Ryan Lanigan: Mansfield
Josh Perry: Mansfield
Matt Bosh: Mansfield
Jeff Pickette: Mansfield
Franklin @ King Philip
Ryan Lanigan: Franklin
Josh Perry: King Philip
Matt Bosh: King Philip
Jeff Pickette: King Philip
Milford @ Maynard
Ryan Lanigan: Milford
Josh Perry: Milford
Matt Bosh: Milford
Jeff Pickette: Milford
Oliver Ames @ Sharon
Ryan Lanigan: Sharon
Josh Perry: Oliver Ames
Matt Bosh: Oliver Ames
Jeff Pickette: Oliver Ames
Ryan Lanigan: 58-25
Josh Perry: 65-18
Matt Bosh: 67-16
Jeff Pickette: 66-17
CANTON, Mass. – After struggling to gain any traction on offense for the majority of the game, the Bulldogs looked they were just about to get back on track.
Trailing 14-7 to Holliston with just under 10 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs quickly moved into Panther territory and even converted a fourth down that seemingly put the momentum with the hosts.
But two plays later, Canton fumbled in its backfield and Holliston pounced on the loose ball to put an abrupt halt to the drive.
It was just one of those nights for the Bulldogs, who dropped a 27-14 decision to the visiting Panthers in the D5 South Sectional Final. Canton also hurt itself with nearly a dozen penalties.
“We kind of flirted with that all year, I take full responsibility, we were kind of an undisciplined team and got away with it for many games,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane on his team not helping themselves with penalties. “Tonight, in a game like this when you get to the sectional championship, we had some bad penalties and we paid for it. I don’t want that to take away from Holliston though, they executed very well like we thought they would. I thought our defense didn’t do a bad job, we just didn’t do enough to move the ball.
“[Holliston] is a good team and they’re going to do well going forward. I’m just super proud of my guys overall. Just an outstanding two years, it’s been great to be apart of it. It’s a sour taste to lose in the final twice but I don’t want to lose sight of all the accomplishments along the way.”
Canton’s fumble summed up a frustrating night on offense for the Bulldogs, who had to punt five times, turned the ball over on downs twice and finished with a pair of turnovers.
The Bulldogs had just forced Holliston’s high-powered offense (entered the game averaging over 30 points per game) to a three and out and started at their own 40 with 9:14 left in the game, trailing just 14-7.
Senior Johnny Hagan (11/26, 124 yards) hit classmate Jace Emma for eight yards on third down, and senior tailback Kyle Fitzgerald (18 carries, 101 yards; four catches, 26 yards) barreled his way for three yards on fourth and one to give the hosts the ball at the Holliston 44-yard line.
But after the fumble with 6:26 left, the momentum swung in favor of the Panthers and they cashed in on their chance. The Bulldogs defense did its part to force Holliston into a fourth and seven from the Canton 34-yard line, but the Panthers elected to go for it.
Matt Arvanitis dropped back and floated a pass up the middle to a wide-open Kevin Lyons, who had released off the line of scrimmage, and the play went for a touchdown to give Holliston a 21-7 advantage with just 3:58 left in the game.
In true Bulldog fashion, the hosts refused to go away without a fight. Canton orchestrated its best drive of the entire game, marching 73 yards on nine plays to find the end zone for the first time on the offensive side of the ball.
Hagan connected with Gersom Rivera for 32 yards on a fourth-down play to keep the drive alive early and then linked up with Cam Sanchez for 22 yards on third down to move deep into Holliston territory. Two plays later, Fitzgerald made a terrific diving catch in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown, bringing the hosts back within a score at 21-14 with 2:09 left in the game.
Canton elected a squib kick up the middle with their entire kicking unit charging but a Holliston player was able to handle the play and the Dogs were whistled for a penalty on the hit, giving the Panthers possession at the Canton 36-yard line.
Holliston running back Tristan Benson (14 carries, 138 yards, two touchdowns) put an exclamation point on a superb second half, running for 28 yards on first down to get inside the 10 yard line, and two plays later plunged into the end zone from three yards out to restore the Panthers’ two-score lead, up 27-14 with 1:44 to go, securing the D5 south crown.
“I think Holliston had a lot to do with the outcome of the game,” Bohane said. “I don’t think we played our best but I don’t want to take anything away from the opponent that played great tonight and deserved to go on to the next round.
“These kids that have played for us have left an incredible mark on the program. I can’t say anything but great things about all of them, it’s been a pleasure to coach them. It’s been such a fun ride for me personally. I’m a proud coach and I just feel bad because they are crushed. We thought we could move on.”
The majority of the game played out as a defensive chess match with the teams trading stops. Holliston had to punt on two of its first three drives and had its other series come to a screeching halt when Robbie Gallery read a screen pass and hauled an interception.
Canton’s offense didn’t fare much better, turning it over on downs on the opening series after starting in Holliston territory, and then had to punt on its second series. Canton moved the ball on its third series, using nine plays to cover 44 yards but there was another big momentum swing when Holliston blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt. The ball ended up in the hands of Holliston’s Teddy Ratcliffe and he returned it all the way to the Canton 32-yard line.
With good field position, Holliston’s offense went to work and found the end zone two plays later. Arvanitis dropped a perfect pass to Christian Schneeloch, who hauled the pass in despite strong coverage, for a 6-0 lead with 9:45 left in the second quarter.
Canton’s next drive was slowed down early by a holding call but Hagan hit Emma down the left sideline for 26 yards to keep the drive alive. The Bulldogs converted another fourth down and moved into the red zone but a pair of incomplete passes resulted in a turnover on downs at the 11-yard line.
Canton’s defense came up with a big response on the next series though. On 2nd and 10 from the 21, senior linebacker Ben Guerini came flying in and landed a monster sack, jarring the ball free. Senior Jahmi Aldin scooped the ball up at the 12-yard line and raced into the end zone for a touchdown. Owen Lehane’s extra point gave Canton a 7-6 lead late in the second, a lead the hosts took into the halftime break.
“That defense kept me up late all week long, a lot of hours,” said Holliston coach Todd Kiley of the Bulldogs’ defense. “There is no weakness on that team, they are a phenomenal football team, one of the best ever I’ve had to prepare for. We’ve been through a lot of games with this program. That team, that coaching staff has done a phenomenal job, we just made a couple more plays than them.
“Our guys dug down and we made a big play when we needed to. Tristan Benson was huge in the second half, he kind of just took it over. Our line did awesome, and how about our defense today? It was just a total team effort. I’m going through all of our kids that made plays tonight, and it’s a long list.”
The Bulldogs had a chance to add to their lead on the opening drive of the second but went backward and had to punt. Holliston started with good field position at the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line and once again took advantage of the strong starting spot.
After throwing for the majority of the first half, the Panthers turned to Benson. The tailback’s speed gave the Dogs trouble, as he had runs of 12 and 19 before plunging in for a 5-yard score, and then the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.
Canton’s ensuing series ended with a three and out after Hagan and Fitzgerald just missed linking up on third down. On the next Canton series, Hagan had a 14-yard scramble erased by a holding call but responded to move the sticks. However, four plays later, a 38-yard pass and catch to Fitzgerald on third down was taken off the board after another hold, and Canton had to punt two plays into the fourth.
“I think they were just a little better in the middle than we thought,” Bohane said. “We’ve been able to stay the course and stay the course, and eventually wear teams down. But in a game like this, kids dig real deep and I give [Holliston] a lot of credit, they are very well-coached. They played hard, and I thought our kids played hard too. It was a good game that got away from us a little bit. [Holliston] does a lot of things offensively to put pressure on you.”
Canton football drops its first game of the season to push its record to 9-1. The Bulldogs will host rival Stoughton (8-2) on Thanksgiving at 10:00 AM.