By HockomockSports.com Staff
2018-2019 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview
2017-2018 Record: 13-10
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Mark Houle
Expectations are high for the Attleboro Bombardiers, who return all but one player from last year’s squad that won 13 games and qualified for the D1 South tournament. While the majority of the roster is made up of juniors (eight), the Bombardiers have a wealth of experience with almost all players having played at least one year, with a handful with two.
With experience comes options for veteran head coach Mark Houle. The Bombardiers expect to be able to play fast in transition but also slow down and execute in the half court. Attleboro boasts some of the top big men in the league and will look to use that to its advantage. Junior Qualeem Charles (6’5) was selected as a Hock All Star last year and will be a key piece on both sides of the ball with fellow big men Jason Weir, Lorenzo Wilson and Nolan Jaeger looking to factor in.
Junior Bryant Ciccio, also a Hockomock All Star last season, will be the quarterback of the offense from the point guard position. With two years of varsity experience already, Ciccio could be poised for a big season. Seniors Mason Houle and Kevin Velazquez both made big splashes last year and will be key pieces in the frontcourt this year. Velazquez provides high energy and can be a big threat from deep while Houle is a strong two-way player that will make plays on both ends of the court.
“We have several returning players with one or two years of varsity experience and will rely on them to be consistently working hard on both ends of the court,” said Mark Houle. “Our strength will be a strong inside game on offense…[and] our guard play will have multiple players able to handle pressure, score and contribute.”
2017-2018 Record: 16-5
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Ryan Gordy
The Bulldogs are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. This season, the Bulldogs will be looking to improve each day and adjust to a new style of play that fits the personnel best.
While three starters are gone, one starter that is back is Devin Foster, a Hockomock League All Star and HockomockSports.com First Team selection a year ago. Foster is a dynamic player that can be a nightmare for opposing defenses trying to stop him. He can shoot the three and really improved on his ability to finish around the rim last year.
Senior Paul Corcoran and junior Kyle Fitzgerald both had starts last season and head coach Ryan Gordy is looking for both players, along with versatile guard Ryan Lentol, to take a big step on the court this season. Corcoran is a strong defender, Fitzgerald will handle the point, and Lentol will do a little bit of everything for the Dogs. All three have a good amount of varsity experience and will be relied upon to be leaders on the court.
“Our culture in our foundation, and our veteran leadership sets the tone for the program,” Gordy said. “If we stay growth oriented this could be a fun season, players are committed to continuous improvement and that’s a pleasure to coach.”
2017-2018 Record: 19-5
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Jon Gibbs
Foxboro had a memorable 2018 season, earning 19 wins and sharing the Davenport division title with Canton. But with four of the five starters from that team gone, the 2019 Warriors will try to create their own identity while trying to replicate the success.
The one starter back is junior Brandon Borde (11.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.7 apg) and his two years of experience on varsity will be vital as role players switch to starters and new role players emerge. Borde is a talented guard that can hurt teams in a variety of ways but his strength allows him to finish around the rim in tough situations.
Senior Anthony Mollica had a bit of a coming out party during the end of last season, emerging as an offensive threat for the Warriors. Head coach Jon Gibbs expects more of that throughout this season and will be looking for the likes of Will Morrison, Liam Devlin, Ryan Hughes, and Kevin Gallagher — all players with varsity experience, to step up this year. While Foxboro will likely rely on its defense again this year, three-point shooting should be a strength on the offensive side.
“Right now the focus is on getting better each day,” Gibbs said. “Practices have been competitive. Guys are fighting hard to carve out a role for themselves by earning the trust of their teammates and coaches. If we can continue to defend and rebound at a high level, we have a chance to be very successful.”
2017-2018 Record: 23-4
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D1 State Final
Coach: CJ Neely
The Panthers have reached the D1 State Final each of the past two seasons and it looks like they have the tools to try and make a third straight appearance. Franklin brings back two of the top players in the Hockomock League in senior Jalen Samuels and junior Chris Edgehill.
Both Samuels (13.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Edgehill (17.1 ppg, 3.5 apg) have a wealth of varsity experience that the Panthers will rely on as others battle for minutes in the rotation. Edgehill is one of the most dangerous guards offensively and can score in a variety of ways while Samuels can present a matchup problem for most teams. Will Harvey also has varsity experience and will likely see an increased role in the 2018-2019 season.
The rest of the rotation is up for grabs but there is a lot of choices for head coach CJ Neely, who noted there is a strong amount of depth and balance on this year’s squad. Unsurprisingly, Franklin will be focused on causing problems on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers have been known as a gritty defensive squad and they are looking to continue that tradition this year. Offensively, Neely is hoping unselfishness and outside shooting will help replicate the success of previous seasons.
“It will be a season long battle for minutes and guys will have to earn our trust through defensive intensity and unselfish play on offense,” Neely said. “Our goal is to focus on the process of competing hard and improving each day and the results will reflect our daily effort and attitude.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Dave DeStefano
First-year head coach Dave DeStefano is hoping hard work in the offseason will translate into success on the court this year for the King Philip Warriors. DeStefano is the Warriors fifth head coach in the last eight seasons but his familiarity with the Hockomock League (former JV coach at Foxboro) should give him a boost right away.
While the Warriors had only four wins last year, half of their 16 losses came by six points or less, including to D2 State Champions Tech Boston (74-71) and division foes Attleboro and Taunton. King Philip is hoping it can be on the right side of those contests this season. Bruce Santillus and Timmy Nault are the two returning starters from last year, and both showed they are capable of taking over games on the offensive end. Santillus is a versatile player that can score in many ways and is tough in one-on-one matchups. Nault provides a lot of energy on both ends and can give the team a spark when needed.
DeStefano is looking for seniors Tyler Nault, Ian Khung, and Michael O’Brien to build on their minutes from last year and have increased roles for 2018-2019. Junior Andrew McKinney showed a lot of promise last year and could be a big contributor for the Warriors this year. Senior Terry Jacobs-Baston gives KP a nice post presence along with junior Tommy Donahue (6’5) and senior Sam Sesay (6’2). Juniors Alex Fritz, Chris Roy, and Adam Nicastro will all be in the mix for minutes as well.
“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 commit on the defensive end of the floor. We want to make our opponents uncomfortable and focus on working together to get stops.”
2017-2018 Record: 27-2
2017-2018 Finish: D1 State Champions
Coach: Mike Vaughan
While the D1 State Championship is in the rearview mirror, expectations are still sky high for Mansfield, who has won six straight Hock Kelley-Rex titles, tying a streak from OA in the 1980s for the longest title run. With a handful of players back and a strong mix of new faces Mansfield will be aiming for its seventh straight.
The Hornets will rely on their most experienced players early on with Damani Scott, Tommy Dooling, and Khristian Conner back. All three have starting experience, and beyond that, a wealth of varsity minutes in the regular season and postseason. Scott had a terrific playoff run last year and could be one of the top players in the Hock this year. Dooling is a talented guard that can hurt teams from deep while Conner can score from all over the floor.
Beyond that trio, there are a handful of new faces trying to establish time in the lineup and rotation. Junior Sam Stevens and sophomores Matt Boen and TJ Guy are top candidates to find time in the rotation. Stevens and Guy both have good size and will give the Hornets a presence in the post while Boen is a crafty guard that will likely contribute offensively right away. Expect Makhi Baskin, Jack Mousette, and Drew Rooney to be in the mix as well.
“We’re looking forward to getting the season started with new faces,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “We’ll have our early challenges getting the new faces up to speed with the varsity level of play, but it’s a talented group, they are working hard, and they are getting better each day. It should be an exciting year as the league looks to be super competitive as always.”
2017-2018 Record: 13-10
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 Central Semifinal
Coach: Paul Seaver
While the Hawks have some experience back this year, it will be key for the new faces to get up to speed as Milford looks to compete for a Davenport division title. Seniors Brendan White, Brendon Sailer, and Steve Sutherland are all back after either starting or playing a lot of minutes last season and will be relied upon, especially early, to guide the Hawks through a difficult schedule.
White was Milford’s leading scorer last season with 14 points per game in the regular season so he will be a key piece for the Hawks again this year. Sailer is a good ball handler and will handle point guard duties. He’s a strong defender and can distribute the ball well, but he is also able to get to the rim or shoot from deep. Sutherland provides the Hawks with an experienced presence in the post but can step out and hit shots as well.
Junior Colby Pires is coming off a successful season on the gridiron and will see a lot of minutes on the court and senior Danny Corsini can provide a spark on the offensive end with his shooting. Sophomore Dom Schofield stands at 6’5 so he can be a matchup problem for some teams in the league while classmate Jordan Darling can do a little bit of everything and could have a breakout year for the Scarlet Hawks.
“Our goal is to simply get better with each passing day,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver. “We have a lot of newcomers this season and are facing one of our toughest schedules in years. Our goal is to build chemistry and work towards qualifying for the state tournament for a fourth consecutive season.”
2017-2018 Record: 9-11
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Sean Mulkerrins
After just missing out on the postseason a year ago, North Attleboro is hoping a strong senior class can help the Rocketeers return to the postseason and compete for a Davenport division title. Big Red boasts nine seniors, including three starters and a handful of guys that played plenty of minutes a year ago.
Leading scoring Josh Montague (13.7 points per game) is back and will be one of the top guards in the Hock. He plays well on both ends of the court but really came into his own as a scorer as the season progressed last year. Senior Jacob Petersen, standing at 6’6, will be one of the toughest matchups in the league and his ability to play as a true post player gives North an advantage over other teams. He is also a force on defense that can prevent easy buckets in the paint. Senior Nate Gonsalves improved throughout last year and could be poised for a breakout season for Big Red.
Senior Evan Rosenberg will likely be tasked with guarding some of the top players in the league because of his strong defensive play. Seniors Adam Falcone, Jonathan James, Joe Milosh and Matt Seavey all played last year and that experience will be key as they factor into the rotation again this year. Junior Ethan Friberg got valuable minutes last year and can score in a variety of ways while also giving Big Red size at 6’4. Sophomore George Ladd will be making his varsity debut but is expected to provide North with a spark on offense.
“We are extremely excited about the 2018-2019 season,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “Led by our nine seniors, we hope we can build off of last year’s momentum. We have an extremely intelligent group of players that is coachable, hardworking, and determined. We believe our cohesiveness and depth will allow us to be successful.”
2017-2018 Record: 8-13
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Don Byron
The Tigers found themselves in an unfamiliar place at the end of last year – on the outside looking in for the postseason. This year, Oliver Ames is hoping to blend a mix of returners, role players, and new faces — both from JV and transfers — into a competitive group that will look to begin a new postseason streak.
A major challenge will be replacing Hockomock League All Star and HockomockSports.com First Team selection Jack Spillane, who led the Hock in scoring during the regular season with 22.3 points per game. The Tigers will aim to have a much more balanced approach this season players that can contribute at each position. It will begin with returning starters Ethan Eckstrom and Jake Erlich, both seniors. Both Eckstrom and Erlich will spend the majority of their time in or around the paint and will be key defensive pieces as well. Sean O’Brien, who mostly came off the bench but was one of the team leaders in minutes, is a high-energy player that contributes on both ends of the court.
Senior Harry DeChellis was slated to be a big contributor for the Tigers last year before suffering a season ending injury so OA is hoping he will step right in and be a leader. Jay Spillane and Ryan Burkett both had successful seasons on JV a year ago and will factor in the rotation while transfers Amari Brown, a sophomore guard, and Evan Craig, a junior forward, both will be impact players right away.
“We should be a lot more balanced on offense, it should spread around,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “It’s one of those teams where we have the ability to score at all positions, as well as the guys off the bench. It might change each night but we have a lot of guys that are capable of contributing.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Andrew Ferguson
The Eagles are aiming to improve on both ends of the court this year and are looking to compete for the Davenport title and a trip to the state tournament. After missing out on the playoffs each of the last two seasons, the Eagles are looking to ride a mix of experienced players to try and get back to the postseason.
Sharon will rely heavily on its three senior captains: Aaron Strong, Ben Kaplan, and Alex Kaufmann. Strong is a versatile guard that can be a pest on the defensive end of the court; Kaplan makes a lot of things happen on both ends and was having a strong season as a junior before seeing it cut short to injury; and Kaufmann is in his third year on varsity and is capable of having big scoring games any given night.
Athleticism will be something the Eagles rely on this year on both sides of the ball. Beyond the three senior captains, juniors Andrew Burton, Aidan Kane, and Alec Filipkowski all saw varsity minutes and should be factors as their roles increase this season. Juniors Cameron Baker and Caleb Gayle will also factor into the rotation in the frontcourt.
“This is a very tight knit, energized group and they are continually pushing each other to get better every day,” said Sharon head coach Andrew Ferguson. “We have a good mix of experience and youth to provide depth at multiple positions. We are replacing a lot of offense from last year and have a lot of players vying for those opportunities.”
2017-2018 Record: 6-14
2017-2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: John Gallivan
The Black Knights are hoping a balanced attack on offense and a commitment to defense will result in 10 wins and a trip to the state tournament. Stoughton has five players back with varsity experience so the Knights will lean on those players early as head coach John Gallivan tries to fit a handful of new faces from JV and outside the program into the rotation.
Senior captains Zak Paquette, Josh Cocchi, and Kevin Dixon will be key not only for their contributions on the court but for their leadership as well. They are all experienced players that Gallivan will lean on as he figures out what the best rotations will be.
Senior Ajahn Rue is another returnee and brings a lot of talent to the point guard position while junior Myles Grigalunas-Powell got his feet wet on varsity a year ago and could see an increased role in the 2018-2019 season. After those five, Gallivan is looking for some new faces to step up and establish themselves as go-to options for the Black Knights.
“We are hoping to have more of a balanced attack on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor than we have had in the past,” Gallivan said.
2017-2018 Record: 12-11
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Charlie Dacey
This year’s version of the Taunton Tigers will be relying on tempo to try and run past the competition in the Hockomock League. Taunton boasts speed throughout the lineup and is hoping that it can use that — offensively and defensively — to its advantage this year. But if necessary, the Tigers can also slow it down and execute in the half court.
Senior guard John Martins and junior forward Dante Law are returning seniors from a season ago and both are quick players that bring experience to a team that is looking to use its speed to emphasize its open court skills. Martins is a steady player that can do a lot of things on both ends of the court and Law is looking to take the next step forward after some strong outings as a sophomore.
Senior Lou Vendrell is back and had a lot of offensive skill that the Tigers will need, especially his outside shot. Similar to Law, junior Naz Kenion had some breakout moments a year ago and Taunton will be looking for more production out of him this season. Prince Brown brings a year of varsity experience back and can provide an offensive spark with his shooting. Senior Mike Quinn rounds out the backcourt while Wesner Charles and Tyler Stewart provide the Tigers with size down low.
“Tempo will be the key this year,” said longtime Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “The roster has some depth and there is speed at every position.”
CANTON, Mass. – Stoughton senior Jeff Grier was mostly a spectator during last year’s Thanksgiving game against rival Canton, a game the Bulldogs ran away with.
After not getting a carry on the holiday as a junior, Grier wanted to make the most of his opportunity this time around.
The senior delivered, and in a big way. Grier had 15 carries for 211 yards and scored three touchdowns to pace the Black Knights to a 28-7 win over the Bulldogs in the 93rd annual meeting on Thanksgiving.
“This felt great,” Grier said. “I didn’t play last year so this is my first real Thanksgiving game. Senior year, my last game, I just went out there and did my best, did what I could to help the team. Coming into today, we really wanted to bring [the trophy] back home and that’s what we did.”
Grier entered his final season as the top home run threat type running back in the Hockomock, capable of breaking off a big play on any carry. But injuries hampered his season, and Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said Thursday morning was the first time his starting running back was fully healthy all season.
“We played hard today, Grier got going – this is the first week he’s been healthy, and he’s a great kid,” Burke said. “The line played well, we don’t have the biggest line but they are tough, we have some tough kids.
“The kids wanted that trophy back so bad after we lost it last year.”
The teams were tied 7-7 at halftime before Grier went off in the second half with three unanswered scores to lead the way.
It took the Stoughton offense very little time to take its first lead of the game. After receiving the kick off to begin the second half, the Black Knights needed just two plays. On 2nd and 13, Grier came across the formation on a counter, found a small hole, burst through it and raced his way to a 66-yard touchdown. Josh Cocchi made all four of his extra points on the day, this one putting Stoughton up 14-7 with 10:02 left in the third quarter.
Canton’s offense took the field and looked primed to respond with a strong drive of their own. Highlighted by a 20-yard run from Kyle Fitzgerald (10 carries, 49 yards), the Bulldogs moved to the Stoughton 25-yard line.
But Stoughton’s defense clamped down, holding Canton to a short gain on first down, getting an incomplete pass on second down, and Savion Scott coming up with a big sack on third down. The Black Knights forced a turnover on downs with an incomplete pass on fourth.
The Black Knights offense went back to work, using a strong ground game to move up the field. Christian Ais (65 all purpose yards) had a 19 yard run and Alex Iverson followed with 15 more yards to get to the Canton 33-yard line.
On second down, sophomore quarterback John Burke (3-for-3, 68 yards) connected with Christopher Ais for 16 yards. On the next play, Grier fought his way through a tackle and found the end zone on an 18-yard carry. Stoughton led 21-7 with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
“We’ve played hard the last couple of weeks, we’ve just turned the ball over too many times,” Burke said. “We’ve played some tough teams this year, we’ve been up and down. I’m just happy for these guys that we finished strong today, it’s really rewarding for all they’ve been through this year.
“That’s a good Canton team, I don’t want to see them next year but I know we will. I love Dave [Bohane] and all of his guys, they are great coaches. It’s just phenomenal for the town of Stoughton and all of they’ve gone through.”
Stoughton’s defense forced a three and out but Canton’s defense answered with the same, with Brendan Albert coming up with a big nine-yard tackle for loss on third down to force a Stoughton punt.
The Black Knights’ defense didn’t allow Canton’s offense to get going at all, with Evan Jackman and Jacob Brisson combining to stop a runner for no gain on second down, and Christian Georges batting down a third-down pass at the line of scrimmage to force a punt.
Stoughton’s next offensive possession was short lived as Albert came from behind to knock the ball free and the Bulldogs recovered. But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Canton junior quarterback Johnny Hagan was picked off on a deep pass by Stoughton junior Anthony Pizzano with 6:00 left in the game.
“We kept those guys in check, they’ve been running all over people,” Burke said. “We did well today [on defense]. We kept it simple, used our simplest defense. We had to make sure that [Hagan] doesn’t kill you. We had a couple of spies on him every play, you have to. He’s a guy where nothing is happening on a play and all of a sudden he’s in the end zone.
Facing a 3rd and 14 at its own 28, Stoughton elected to keep the ball on the ground to kill more clock but Grier was able to turn the corner and get up field and no one was able to catch him as he sprinted for a 72-yard score and a 28-7 lead with 4:34 to play.
Canton scored the first touchdown of the day. After punting on the opening drive, the Bulldogs got the ball back after stopping Stoughton’s offense and fake punt attempt. Canton took advantage of the short field and on fourth down, Hagan hit Fitzgerald for a 30-yard touchdown. Owen Lehane’s extra point made it 7-0 with 9:20 left in the first quarter.
Stoughton tied the game late in the first half. After stalling on its first two drives, the Black Knights went to the air to get things going offensively. Burke hit Christian Ais out of the backfield for a 48-yard pass, down to the 1-yard line. From there, Burke pushed it in himself and tied the game 7-7 with 1:45 left in the second quarter.
“I’m just really happy for the kids,” Burke said. “They sucked it up and it was a great way to finish the year.”
Today’s games are listed below.
North Attleboro, 20 @ Attleboro, 7 – Final
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (A) Justin Cote 2-yard run, Colby Briggs XP good.
3rd Quarter: (NA) Tyler DeMattio 85-yard pass to Ryan Gaumond, T. DeMattio XP good.
4th Quarter: (NA) T. DeMattio 7-yard run, T. DeMattio XP good; T. DeMattio 90-yard run, XP no good.
Stoughton, 28 @ Canton, 7 – Final
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (C) Johnny Hagan 30-yard pass to Kyle Fitzgerald, Owen Lehane XP good; (S) John Burke 1-yard rush, Josh Cocchi XP good.
3rd Quarter: (S) Jeff Grier 66-yard rush, J. Cocchi XP good; (S) J. Grier 18-yard rush, J. Cocchi XP good.
4th Quarter: (S) J. Grier 72-yard rush, J. Cocchi XP good.
King Philip, 23 @ Franklin, 16 – Final
1st Quarter: (KP) Ryan Halliday 20-yard rush, Cole Baker 2pt pass to Sam Sesay; (F) Parker Chevrant 26-yard field goal;
2nd Quarter: (KP) Robbie Jarest 1-yard rush, R. Jarest 2pt rush.
3rd Quarter: (F) Nick Gordon 11-yard pass to Ryan Driscoll, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (KP) R. Halliday 14-yard rush, C. Baker XP good; (F) N. Gordon 75-yard pass to Owen Pamieri, P. Chevrant XP good.
Sharon, 21 @ Oliver Ames, 7 – Final
1st Quarter: (S) Aaron Strong 3-yard rush, Mitchell Director XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (S) A. Strong 5-yard rush, M. Director XP good.
4th Quarter: (OA) Billy Tat 2-yard rush, Cam Perron XP good; (S) A. Strong 1-yard rush, M. Director XP good.
Taunton, 34 vs. Coyle & Cassidy, 0 – Final
1st Quarter: (T) Noah Leonard 14-yard rush, 2pt rush failed; (T) N. Leonard 17-yard pass to Cory Pintabone, Danny MacDougall 2pt rush.
2nd Quarter: (T) N. Leonard 29-yard pass to Everett Ferreira, Coby Adams XP good.
3rd Quarter: (T) Tryton Zavala 6-yard rush, XP failed; (T) Damien Manning 5-yard rush, Ethan Tavares XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
But the story of the night ended up being Scituate’s defense.
The Sailors pitched a shutout, limiting Canton’s offense to just over 100 yards and six first downs, to earn a 21-0 decision and the D5 South title, the first in program history.
“Our guys were prepared, motivated, and fired up to play defense tonight,” said Scituate head coach Herb Devine. “We did a great job all night long playing defense. We tried to take away what they wanted to go. We knew [Johnny Hagan] and [Kyle] Fitzgerald are just great players so we tried to limit what they do. Our defense played outstanding.”
Scituate came into the game averaging over 40 points in its two playoff games, putting up an impressive 57 points in a semifinal win over Holliston. While Scituate’s defense gave up a total of 61 points in its first two playoff games, its defense allowed a total of 69 points all of regular season (including 35 to Duxbury).
“They gave us a lot of trouble,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “We have so many playmakers…maybe we leaned on them too much and got away from the fundamentals. We just didn’t execute at a high level. I tip my hat to Scituate, they had a good plan, their kids played good, and they are a good team.”
The Sailors flexed their offensive muscles early on, taking the first drive of the game down the field for a score. It turned out to be Scituate’s second longest drive of the game as they moved 77 yards on eight plays to take an early lead.
Facing a third down early in the drive, Scituate quarterback Aidan Sullivan (10/15, 219 yards) completed a 10-yard pass for a first down. The Sailors didn’t face a third down the rest of the drive and Will Sheskey (24 carries, 135 yards) punched it in from 5 yards out for a 7-0 lead just over three minutes into the game.
The next three series – two from Canton – resulted in punts, but the Bulldogs nearly had a chance to change the game. After punting, Scituate tried to field the kick on the bounce but a nice play from the Bulldogs knocked the ball free. Canton had two shots at it – one player diving on top but the ball jumping free, and other a chance right before the sideline – but neither player could get a hold of the ball in the pouring rain and it went out of bounds, keeping possession with Scituate.
The Sailors made to take advantage of the lucky bounce and needed just three plays to find the end zone. On second on 5, Canton brought a lot of pressure but Scituate had the perfect play call on as Sullivan dumped a screen pass off to Sheskey and he went virtually untouched for a 63 yard touchdown, giving Scituate a 14-0 lead with 9:35 left in the second quarter.
“We knew they like to blitz in some situations and our quarterback absolutely made a great read.” Devine said. “It can be either a little hitch route or a screen and he made the right read and Sheskey went for the touchdown.”
Canton responded with its best drive of the opening half. A unsportsmanlike conduct penalty helped move the ball 15 yards, and Johnny Hagan (86 all purpose yards) hit Gersom Rivera for an 18-yard gain to the Scituate 34-yard line. The Dogs had a chance to complete a pass down field but the receiver was held, giving Canton first and 10 at the 22-yard line.
But a false start, a two-yard rush, and a run for no-gain put the Dogs in a 3rd and 13 situation at the 25-yard line. Hagan tried to make a play but was intercepted at the goal line.
Scituate nearly tacked on another score before half, driving all the way down to Canton’s 23-yard line but Ben Seaman came up with a big sack on third down and Canton forced an incompletion on fourth, keeping the deficit at 14-0 heading into half.
A holding call on the first play of the second half put Canton’s offense in a whole and it was forced to punt quickly thereafter.
Canton’s defense continued its strong play on Scituate’s ensuing drive. The Sailors got inside the red zone, all the way down to Canton’s 8-yard line. But Seaman came up with a big sack on third down and David Allen broke up a pass on fourth down to keep the Sailors out of the end zone and the lead at 14-0.
The Bulldogs offense moved the ball forward on seven straight plays, but faces a 4th and 3 at their own 40. With little time left in the third quarter and a two-score deficit, Canton went for it but Hagan’s pass was picked off just over midfield.
Scituate killed a lot of the remaining time with its next drive, needing nine plays to cover 47 yards. It was’t until a 1-yard sneak from Sullivan on fourth down that Scituate added its third touchdown of the game to go up 21-0 with 8:46 to go.
“The defense gave us a chance,” Bohane said. “Ultimately we didn’t do enough offensively. We just never got that rhythm that we need so badly. We didn’t find it today. The defense kept plugging away even though they gave up an early score which has been a little bit of an Achilles heel. We needed to make plays offensively and we didn’t but they didn’t make it easy for us.
“We just didn’t find any consistency, we never got comfortable in our offense. We didn’t find a play or two that we can hang our hat on but credit to Scituate, they didn’t give us an inch on offense.”
Canton football drops to 8-2 with one game left on Thanksgiving against rival Stoughton. While the future for the Bulldogs looks bright with the majority of its lineup made out of juniors, Bohane stressed how important this senior class has been to this season.
“Scituate played in this game last year, it shows.” Bohane said. “But I can’t get beyond the fact our seniors really poured their heart and souls into this season, into the playoffs, everything. Right now I really feel for this guys. It’s a learning experience for sure but it’s so difficult for the seniors.”
Today’s games are listed below.
Football – Playoffs
#4 Franklin, 29 @ #1 Xaverian, 37 – Final (2 OT)
#1 Mansfield, 28 vs. #5 Barnstable, 10 – Final – Click here for a recap and photo gallery of this game.
1st Quarter: (B) Matt Petercuskie 5-yard rush, Jonathan Silva XP good; (M) Michael DeBolt 2-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
2nd Quarter: (B) J. Silva 25-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: (M) Vinnie Holmes 21-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) M. DeBolt 35-yard fumble return, M. DeBolt XP good; (M) M. DeBolt 3-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
#3 King Philip, 17 @ #2 Natick, 7 – Final
1st Quarter: (KP) Ryan Halliday 5-yard rush, XP blocked.
2nd Quarter: (KP) R. Halliday 1-yard rush, R. Halliday 2-point conversion rush; (N) Will Lederman 21-yard pass to Max Ferrucci, XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (KP) Cole Baker 31-yard field goal.
#4 North Attleboro, 14 @ #1 Duxbury, 17 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: (NA) Brendan McHugh 5-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good.
2nd Quarter: (D) John Roberts 6-yard rush, Brett Souza XP good; (D) B. Souza 26-yard field goal.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (D) J. Roberts 20-yard pass to Will Prouty, B. Souza XP godd; (NA) Matt Penta 26-yard pass to Ethan Friberg, T. DeMattio XP good.
#4 Canton, 35 @ #1 Falmouth, 6 – Final
1st Quarter: (F) Kyle Connolly 3-yard rush, 2-point conversion failed; (C) Johnny Hagan 27-yard pass to Kyle Fitzgerald, Owen Lehane XP good.
2nd Quarter: (C) K. Fitzgerald 2-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good; (C) J. Hagan 39-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good; (C) K. Fitzgerald 39-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (C) K. Fitzgerald 27-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good.
Football – Non-Playoffs
Milford, 18 @ New Bedford, 32 – Final
Sharon, 0 @ Middleboro, 19 – Final
#17 Canton, 3 @ #16 Silver Lake, 5 – Final
CANTON, Mass. – At the final whistle, there wasn’t the type of celebration you would expect from a team that just played its first playoff game in decades, not to mention its first ever playoff game in front of its home fans. There was a quiet, subdued feeling as the Canton players surrounded their coaches to talk about a 27-13 win against no. 5 seed Hanover on Friday night at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.
“I think it was a learning experience,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “They are very excited about next week and believe me they are very happy but what you’re seeing there is more relief that the penalties and turnovers didn’t cost them.”
Junior running back Kyle Fitzgerald remarked, “Obviously, it was awesome. We came out here looking to win and we were confident. We had to overcome adversity, we had a whole lot of penalties and stuff, but we got it done. It feels good.”
While penalties slowed the game down, and cut short a couple of potential scoring drives for the hosts, Canton showed its resiliency in the second half. Hanover, which had struggled to sustain anything on offense, twice scored on big plays to cut the lead down to just a touchdown, but both times the Bulldogs answered with long possessions to extend the lead.
“It’s been the same thing all year, since the first game against D-R (Dighton-Rehoboth) when we were down at halftime, we came back,” Fitzgerald explained. “I know my team will come back after any adversity.”
Canton doesn’t have a lot of experience with the football playoffs, but the Bulldogs came out flying in the first quarter to jump in front by a couple scores.
After stuffing the Indians on the opening kickoff, the Canton defense forced a three-and-out and took over at its own 48. The offense went right to work with junior quarterback Johnny Hagan showing off his ability to make plays with his feet (15 carries, 87 yards) and his arm (7-of-17, 80 yards). He hit Gersom Rivera for a 23-yard completion on third down to get inside the five and then two plays later Brendan Albert punched it in from two yards out.
The Bulldogs were trying to send a message and they forced another three-and-out from the Hanover offense. On fourth down, punter Jack Delahunt rolled out to the far sideline and tried to make it to the sticks only to be cut down a yard short. Canton got the ball at the Indians 24.
Bohane said, “They wanted a finesse game and we wanted a power game and I thought we needed at the very beginning of the game we needed play on our terms. I thought for the most part we did, maybe to the point that we were a little over-aggressive and dealt with a lot of penalties.”
Hagan got 16 yards on second and 17 and then Rivera gained nine over a pair of carries. Fitzgerald (19 carries, 143 yards) took it from there, finding a seam from five yards out for a 14-0 lead at the end of the first 11 minutes.
“It kind of got the jitters out of our stomachs and gave us some breathing room,” said Fitzgerald about the quick start. “Obviously, they came back so if we didn’t have that lead early on then it could’ve been a different game.”
The game really could have been over by halftime. The defense continued to put pressure on Hanover quarterback Andrew Carroll, including a big pass rush from junior Jack Connolly and then a sack from Albert to get the ball back.
Canton marched right back into Hanover territory, with Hagan converting a fourth down play with a four-yard keeper. Fitzgerald then had the highlight of the night on a sweep to the left for 32 yards in which he hurdled a Hanover defensive back before being brought down at the Indians six. On the next play, the Bulldogs fumbled a handoff and lost possession.
After another defensive stand, the Bulldogs offense went on the move again. Fitzgerald had another big gain, this time for 35 yards, and Canton got as far as the Hanover 15 but then a holding call and a sack forced them back. A last-second pass to Rivera was tipped away and it was 14-0 at the break.
“I was very concerned that we didn’t put it away in the first half,” Bohane admitted. “We don’t commit a lot of turnovers but that was a turnover at the wrong time and it gave them a chance and we were fighting for the game into the fourth quarter.”
On its first possession of the second half, Hanover stunned the Canton crowd (and sideline) by finally finding a big play on offense. Despite Albert getting into the backfield and hitting Carroll as he threw, the Indians signal caller was able to get the ball downfield to Drew Berard, who beat his coverage for a 60-yard score.
The Bulldogs answered with a 17-play, 70-yard drive to regain the two-score advantage and eat up the final 8:44 of the third quarter. Hagan found Ryan Lentol on an eight-yard completion to convert a big third down and then Fitzgerald on a comeback route for nine yards on a fourth and eight. On third down, Hagan then connected with Jace Emma for a 13-yard score and a 20-7 lead.
“There were times that we didn’t move the chains when we needed it, like North Attleboro in the third quarter when we needed a big drive,” Bohane said, “So here we are a week later and we needed it and we got it. We had to make some adjustments but it was enough to win.”
Hanover came right back with a even more shocking play. On fourth and one, the Bulldogs had Evan Ritchie caught in the backfield, but he slipped out of the grasp of a would-be tackler and bolted up the Hanover sideline for a 66-yard score.
Rather than getting down, Canton just went back to work on offense, grinding out a 12-play, 72-yard, six-minute drive that sealed the win. Hagan gained 29 yards on a pair of keepers and had an 18-yard pass to Fitzgerald to get to the Hanover 20. After Fitzgerald got the Bulldogs got the ball to the two, Hagan was denied on a pair of sneaks, so the Bulldogs went back to Fitzgerald for the one-yard score to seal the win with three minutes to play.
Next Friday, Canton (7-1) will travel to Falmouth to face the top seeded Clippers. Fitzgerald was already looking forward to the trip. He said, “Foxboro almost did it tonight. (The Warriors lost 22-14 to Falmouth.) We know we can play with these guys. We were four points away from a potential one-seed, so we’re confident.”
Today’s games are listed below.
Football – Playoffs
#4 Franklin, 26 vs. #5 Brockton, 3 – Final
1st Quarter: (B) Carlens Jean 27-yard field goal; (F) Nick Gordon 32-yard pass to Jack Nally, Parker Chevrant XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) P. Chevrant 23-yard field goal; (F) N. Gordon 10-yard pass to Sean Leonard, P. Chevrant XP good; (F) Safety.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (F) N. Gordon 1-yard rush, P. Chevrant XP good.
#6 Attleboro, 19 @ #3 Catholic Memorial, 42 – Final
1st Quarter: (CM) Barrett Pratt 16-yard pass to Hunter Tully, Thomas Leonard XP good; (CM) Darius Leclair 2-yard rush, XP blocked.
2nd Quarter: (CM) B. Pratt 30-yard pass to Brian Stubbs, Owen McGowen 2pt rush; (CM) Zach Mitchel 53-yard rush, Matt Sokol XP good.
3rd Quarter: (CM) B. Pratt 21-yard rush, M. Sokol XP good; (A) Jason Weir 1-yard rush, Colby Briggs XP good.
4th Quarter: (CM) B. Pratt 20-yard pass to B. Stubbs, M. Sokol XP good; (A) Justin Cote 94-yard kickoff return, XP failed; (A) Kevin Velazquez 44-yard fumble recovery, XP failed.
#1 Mansfield, 21 vs. #8 Bridgewater-Raynham, 7 – Final
1st Quarter: (M) Aidan Sacco 38-yard pass to Makhi Baskin, XP failed.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (BR) Anthony Morrison 56-yard rush, XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) Vinnie Holmes 12-yard rush, A. Sacco 2pt rush good; (M) Michael DeBolt 8-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
#3 King Philip, 21 vs. #6 Braintree, 7 – Final
1st Quarter: (KP) Ryan Halliday 4-yard rush, Cole Baker XP good.
2nd Quarter: (B) Michael Tellier 1-yard rush, XP good; (KP) R. Halliday 1-yard rush, C. Baker XP good; (KP) Robbie Jarest 38-yard pass to David Morganelli, C. Baker XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
#4 North Attleboro, 21 vs. #5 Whitman-Hanson, 13 – Final
1st Quarter: (NA) Brendan McHugh 18-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good.
2nd Quarter: (WH) Rian Schwede 5-yard pass to Nate Beath, Jake O’Brien XP good; (NA) Nick Raneri 2-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (WH) Ethan Phelps 7-yard rush, XP blocked.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (NA) B. McHugh 5-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
#8 Stoughton, 14 @ #1 Duxbury, 35 – Final
1st Quarter: (D) John Roberts 11-yard pass to Will Prouty, XP good.
2nd Quarter: (D) J. Roberts 15-yard pass to W. Prouty, XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (D) Tim Landolfi 12-yard rush, XP good; (S) Jeff Grier 18-yard rush, Jeff Cocchi XP good; (D) Jack Jacobson 42-yard rush, XP good; (S) John Burke 64-yard pass to Christian Ais, J. Cocchi XP good; (D) J. Roberts 15-yard pass to Ryan Prudente, XP good.
#4 Canton, 27 vs. #5 Hanover, 13 – Final
1st Quarter: (C) Brendan Albert 2-yard rush, Owen Lehane XP good; (C) Kyle Fitzgerald 5-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (H) Andrew Carroll 60-yard pass to Drew Berard, Robbie Barrett XP good.
4th Quarter: (C) Johnny Hagan 13-yard pass to Jace Emma, XP missed; (H) Ethan Ritchie 66-yard rush, XP missed; (C) K. Fitzgerald 1-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good.
#8 Foxboro, 14 @ #1 Falmouth, 22 – Final
1st Quarter: (Fal) Jake Murphy 10-yard rush, J. Murphy 2pt rush; (Fox) Mike Luong 2-yard rush, Liam Foley 2pt pass to Brian Derba.
2nd Quarter: (Fal) J. Murphy 5-yard rush, Kyle Connolly 2pt rush; (Fox) L. Foley 15-yard pass to Shayne Kerrigan, 2pt pass failed.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (Fal) J. Connolly 9-yard rush, 2pt failed.
Football – Non-Playoffs
Milford, 42 vs. Dartmouth, 6 – Final
Oliver Ames, 16 @ Medfield, 34 – Final
1st Quarter: (M) James Wilder 80-yard kick off return, Cameron Lund XP good; (M) Colby Gonser 3-yard rush, C. Lund XP good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Jimmy Cosolito 10-yard pass to Luke Slavick, C. Lund XP good.
3rd Quarter: (OA) Nathan Cabral 5-yard rush, Jake Erlich 2pt rush; (M) C. Gonser 5-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (OA) N. Cabral 3-yard rush, Cam Perron 2pt pass to Ethan Eckstrom; (M) Luke Eilberto 3-yard rush, C. Lund XP good.
Sharon, 6 vs. Brookline, 24 – Final
Taunton, 47 vs. Weymouth, 20 – Final
Mansfield, 0 vs. Brockton, 1 – Final
Milford, 2 vs. Hopedale, 0 – Final – Milford scored once in each half to pick up a win at home over non-league rival Hopedale. Jordan Borges picked up where he left off from his game-winner against Canton, putting the Hawks up 1-0 in the first half on an assist from Leo Coelho. In the second half, junior Walisson de Oliveira doubled the lead on an assist from Joao Vitor Neiva. Lucas Caetano had a strong game defensively and Cam Doherty recorded the shutout in net.
North Attleboro, 3 @ Attleboro, 0 – Final – North Attleboro won the Blue-Red Cup behind two goals and an assist from Ashlyn Gaulin. Alex Moulson was also on the board for the Rocketeers, who got a team-record 10th shutout from goalie Emma Noreck. Morgan Silver, Bri Westcott, Sam Hawkins, Lydia Hershey, Liz Smahi and Olivia Bishop all had strong games defensively in front of Noreck.
Stoughton, 0 @ Sharon, 1 – Final – Sharon scored with 11 minutes to play to earn a win over Stoughton. The Black Knights thought they had the equalizer in the final minute but the goal was waved off for offside. Stoughton coach Tara Daniels said Nicole Weir had an outstanding game defensively for the Black Knights.
Mansfield, 1 @ Foxboro, 5 – Final
Milford @ Bellingham, 3:30
Stoughton, 1 @ North Attleboro, 3 – Final – Grace Cole, Jessica Stratham, and Hannah Alarie each scored once as North Attleboro earned a win at home over visiting Stoughton. Alanna McCormick scored for the Black Knights.
King Philip, 5 @ Algonquin, 0 – Final – King Philip built a 2-0 lead by halftime and finished strong with three goals in the second half. Meghan MacDonald (from Dana Truini) opened the scoring just over a minute into the game and then set up Abby Nixon five minutes later to go up 2-0. In the second half, Nicole Connor and Alli Meehan set each other up three minutes apart to increase the lead to 4-0. Claire Lawlor capped the scoring with 10 minutes to play on a feed from MacDonald.
Attleboro, 0 @ North Attleboro, 3 – Final
Canton, 3 vs. Quincy, 1 – Final – Canton fended off a comeback attempt from the Presidents of Quincy High, earning a 3-1 win at home (25-18, 25-18, 24-26, 25-18). Erin Devine had nine kills and six blocks to pace the Bulldogs at the net while Taylor Harris and Liz Bickett combined for 18 kills. Megan McDonough was amazing on defense with 22 digs and Nicole Brown continued her strong season with 25 assists and 10 digs.
King Philip, 0 @ North Quincy, 3 – Final – King Philip went on the road and suffered a 3-0 setback (21-25, 22-25, 13-25). For the Warriors, Catherine Waldeck had 11 kills and two blocks and Lily Carlow finished with five digs.
Oliver Ames, 1 @ Brockton, 3 – Final – Oliver Ames won the second set to knot the score at 1-1 but Brockton prevailed in the next two sets to get the win (17-25, 25-12, 12-25, 12-25). Jordan Bosse paced OA with 12 digs, eight kills, and a pair of aces. Sadie Homer added 37 digs, Allie Kemp finished with 22 assists, and Jackie Raymond chipped in with six blocks.
Sharon, 3 vs. Dedham, 0 – Final
Stoughton, 3 @ Cardinal Spellman, 0 – Final – Stoughton wrapped up the regular season with a sweep of Spellman. Molly Turner and Delaney Nagel combined for 23 kills and Amaya Morris (six blocks) and Mia Bennett (22 digs) provided strong defense for the Black Knights. Hanna Holden had 10 assists in the win.
Taunton vs. New Bedford, 5:30
In the final regular season game, with their backs against the wall and a chance to share the Davenport division on the line, the defense finally delivered.
With just over a minute to go, Canton found itself inside the red zone down by four. On second and eight from the 18, the Bulldogs went for the go-ahead score. Junior quarterback Johnny Hagan was forced to throw under pressure, and junior Gersom Rivera waited in the end zone with open arms, but North Attleboro senior Omar Jasseh made a terrific leaping interception to rob Canton of a touchdown, securing a 14-10 win for the Rocketeers.
“We’ve been all waiting all year [for that],” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “We really haven’t gotten a big play on defense all year. We’ve been hanging in and hanging in, and relying on our offense to chew up the clock. Tonight we needed our defense to step up and we finally got that big play.
“I was thinking it should have happened on three different plays, it felt like we could have picked it off. I think our kids were playing a little tentative and didn’t want to get burned deep when they probably could have made a play on the ball.”
Canton started its drive at the own 48 with 3:28 left in the game. After an incompletion and a three-yard rush, the Bulldogs quickly faced a third and seven scenario.
Hagan hit Ryan Lentol on a hitch route for eight yards to move the sticks, Rivera (seven carries, 35 yards) picked up six yards on the ground, and two plays later Hagan linked up with Jace Emma for 15-yards to get to the North 20-yard line. Two plays later, Jasseh made the play in the end zone to deny the Bulldogs the Davenport title outright.
“Credit to North, the pass rush started to get to us a bit,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “Johnny is a competitor, he tried to win the game, and he took a shot. North has good coaches, and they brought some kids, and I think they made Johnny get rid of the ball differently than he normally would. But I’m proud of my guys, they battled right to the wire as usual.
“We’ve come a long way. To be in a game of this magnitude, and still have some meaningful games to look forward to, that’s good for the program. I think we have a little rivalry with North Attleboro now. To win the Hockomock League is an accomplishment, and this was a pretty good game tonight. So I think this puts us in a good position heading into the playoffs.”
It was an exciting end to a second half that was dominated by both defenses. Before its final drive of the game, Canton’s first three chances of the second half all resulted in punts. The Bulldogs moved the ball 37 yards on their second drive, advancing into North territory but back-to-back negative plays forced a punt.
North Attleboro’s offense didn’t fare much better, but it was enough. The Rocketeers had a little success on their first drive of the second half, but a sack from Brendan Albert put North in a hole, and Canton forced a turnover on downs at midfield.
After getting the ball back, the Rocketeers hit the home run play they were looking for, but only after converting a fourth down. On 3rd and 16th, the Rocketeers spread things out but went with a QB draw and Nick Raneri (15 carries, 74 yards) sprinted up the middle for 15 yards. At their own 44, North went for it, and Raneri pounded his way for two yards and a first down.
On the next play, senior Brendan McHugh (12 carries, 106 yards) came across from the right side for a sweep but instead of going all the way across, the senior cut back up a gap on the right side and sprinted for a 54-yard touchdown to put North Attleboro up 14-10 with 54 seconds to go in the third quarter.
It was the only scoring play of the second half.
“We decided to try and spread them out a bit with our formation,” Johnson said of changes in the second half. “We were running a lot of double tight early, and we had success on the first drive of the game, but they have a hell of a defense and shut us down. At halftime, we thought we could loosen them up with the formation, and I think that helped free up McHugh a little.”
The Rocketeers had an ideal start to the contest. Canton’s first drive picked up 33 yards but stalled and was forced to punt. North’s offense went right to work, starting at its own 10-yard line.
North needed just five plays to go almost the entire length of the field. Raneri ran for 10 yards, McHugh went off for 14 yards, Raneri scrambled to find Ryan Gaumond for 42 yards and then went back to the ground for 20 more yards himself.
On first and goal, Raneri kept it himself and went in from four yards out for a 7-0 lead with 5:55 to go in the first.
“McHugh really has it all, he’s fast and he probably doesn’t get enough credit for his toughness,” Bohane said. “He runs hard and he’s a hard kid to bring down, especially with his speed. One of our coaches said he’s the best back in the league and at times he certainly looked like it. He’s good and Raneri is a handful, and they made some really nice play calls with him at the right time.”
The Bulldogs finally got things going offensively right at the end of the first quarter. Hagan ran for seven yards and hit Emma for a third down conversion. On the final play of the opening quarter, Hagan hit Kyle Fitzgerald (96 all purpose yards) up the seam for a 39-yard pass.
On the first play of the second quarter, Hagan pitched it to Rivera on the right side and the junior scampered in to make it 7-7.
Canton’s defense got a stop to get the ball back and used eight plays to move into North territory, gaining 43 yards. But a holding play hurt the drive and the Bulldogs settled for a 34-yard field goal from junior Owen Lehane, taking a 10-7 lead into halftime.
The win gives North Attleboro a share of the 2018 Davenport division title, marking the fourth straight year that the Rocketeers have won a league title. It’s the first time in program history that North has won four straight.
“It was big for us to still have a chance at the title,” Johnson said after losing to Stoughton last week. “This is our fourth consecutive title for us, no North Attleboro team has ever won four in a row. The loss last week was also our first loss in the league since 2014, so the kids were feeling down about that too. But they still had an opportunity in front of them to do what no other senior group has done, so that was a real motivator.
“[Canton] is a hell of a football team. We’re sharing the title with them, and they deserve that share of it. They have a great football team over there, and the scary thing is they are all juniors, but I’ll worry about that next year.”
“As high as we were for this game, we can kind of breath a little bit and focus on the playoffs,” Bohane said. “We’re really excited to be in the playoffs and I honestly can’t wait to find out who we’re playing and get to work. We wanted to win this game badly but we wanted to play competitive and come out healthy. And I think we’re in a good position moving forward.”
North Attleboro football (4-1 Hockomock, 5-2 overall) likely earns a home game in the D3 South playoffs with the victory, though final seeds aren’t announced until late in the weekend. The Rocketeers will also likely return to Community Field for the first round playoff game. Canton (4-1, 6-1) will also likely host a game in Division 5 South.
The Bulldogs forced the Black Knights to punt on each of their first seven drives, holding the visitors to negative yards on three of those drives. Stoughton had just one first down early on in the fourth quarter.
But with just under six minutes to go, Stoughton’s offense finally clicked. The Knights cut a 14-point deficit in half with 5:34 to go, and got the ball back down just one score with 1:56 to play.
A big pass play set the Black Knights up in striking distance, but the Bulldogs defense, as it had for the majority of the game, came up with a stop with under 30 seconds to play.
“I didn’t feel comfortable until Robbie made that play at the end,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “It reminded me of that 2014 game when [Stoughton] drove down the field and won it at the end. Robbie made the play, and he played great. This year, it seems like another kid steps up each game and it was Robbie’s week.”
Canton’s defense did a nice job bottling up Stoughton’s rushing attack. The furthest the Black Knights for prior to its final two drives was 10 yards over midfield — its lone time into Canton territory through three quarters.
A sack from Owen Lehane on first down forced Stoughton starting quarterback George Currier to the sideline. Burke, a sophomore, took over under center and the Knights had one of their biggest plays of the night — a 22-yard reverse from Ajahn Rue — to spark the offense.
After Rue’s run, sophomore Christopher Ais took a sweep and went for 19 yards to get into the red zone. After Canton’s defense stuffed a rush attempt, Burke floated one to the near pylon on the right side and senior Alex Iverson did a nice job fighting through contact and getting a foot down to get the Knights on the board, down 14-7.
Canton’s offense did its best to run time off the block with quarterback Johnny Hagan (5/9, 44 yards; 21 carries 121 yards) converting a third down with his legs. But a sack on the next play from Stoughton’s Jerry Brisson put the Dogs in a long distance scenario. Canton gained eight yards on the next to plays but had to punt with two minutes to go.
Stoughton’s final drive got off to a rocky start when Canton senior Ben Seaman (two sacks) came on a blitz from the blind side, taking Burke down for a loss of 7 yards.
But the Black Knights made things interesting on the next play as Burke lofted one down the left sideline and Rue used his speed to get under it for a 45-yard catch, down to the Canton 30-yard line with 1:09 to play.
But that’s when Canton’s defense came through again. A pass and catch from Burke to Ais was stopped at the line of scrimmage on first down, Burke was forced to throw it away on second down, and a pass over the middle was short on third down.
On fourth down, Burke was able to buy some time by getting out of the pocket but Gallery came flying in to make the tackle.
It was an impressive showing for the Bulldogs defense, which allowed a total of 122 yards while holding the Knights to 0-for-8 on third down. And they did almost all of it without junior linebacker James Murphy, who Bohane called the quarterback of the defense.
“Defense was the story for us,” Bohane said. “Murphy is our linchpin on defense so for our kids to play the bulk of the game without him, they were impressive. All the other key guys really stepped up like Brian Campagna, Brendan Albert, Ben Seaman, and of course Robbie Gallery, who kind of filled into Murphy’s shoes. I’m proud of them to keep plugging away, they are a resilient group.”
Stoughton’s defense also had a strong showing, forcing the Bulldogs to punt on six times and holding off another drive as the first half came to a close.
However, Canton’s offense was able to find the end zone twice — both on eight play, 65-yard drives.
After punting on its first drives, the Dogs moved the sticks when Hagan connected with Jace Emma for 11 yards. Hagan followed that with a 20-yard scramble on a broken play, and Gersom Rivera had runs of 10 and 23-yards, the latter converting a third down and getting the Dogs down to the 1-yard line.
Hagan took it in from there, following his line in for a 1-yard sneak and a 7-0 lead with 7:23 left in the first quarter.
Stoughton’s best drive of the opening half went for 41 yards, all on a run from Iverson. But an incomplete pass and two runs that netted no yards stopped the Black Knights from advancing.
Canton’s defense picked up where it left off, forcing Stoughton backward on its opening drive of the second half. After a three-and-out, Canton took over at its own 35-yard line and orchestrated what turned out to be the winning drive.
Hagan moved the sticks with a run of his own, connected with Ryan Lentol on second down, got a first down on a Stoughton penalty, and then finished the drive with three straight runs from different players: Rivera for 8, Hagan for 12, and Kyle Fitzgerald with a 9-yard touchdown run.
“We’ve been able to shift gears on offense,” Bohane said. “Some teams have been able to take away something we’ve been doing, and no one is better at that than [Stoughton] Coach [Greg] Burke. He’s going to take away what you do well. It was a game of just constantly finding a way.”