Defense Helps Canton Get Past Mistakes and Foxboro

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Canton players Robbie Gallery (32) and David Allen (1) celebrate a fumble recovery against Foxboro. The Bulldogs won 15-0 to advance to the D5 South final. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – In a game filled with penalties, turnovers, and mistakes at the most inopportune times, two elite defenses were showcased in the Div. 5 South semifinal at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.

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Canton’s defense tossed its fifth shutout in nine games this season and the Bulldogs did just enough on the offensive side to pull out a 15-0 win against Foxboro to remain unbeaten and to advance to is second straight sectional final.

“Our defense was outstanding, our special teams was very good tonight, and as usual these kids stepped up and got things done for us and I’m very proud of them,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “

The Bulldogs set the tone right from the start when Owen Lehane got into the backfield to stop a jet sweep for a five-yard loss on the game’s first play. Foxboro almost struck on a deep ball to Elijah Lewis on second down, but the Warriors went three-and-out.

Starting at its own 40, Canton moved the ball upfield quickly in search of an early lead. The Bulldogs got as far as the Foxboro 28, but then on second and short Johnny Hagan (7-of-11, 77 yards) was picked off on the one by Mike Devlin. Two plays later, the snap sailed over the head of Foxboro quarterback Shayne Kerrigan (7-of-22, 93 yards) and out the back of the end zone.

On the ensuing kick-off, Gersom Rivera (91 yards of offense) broke free down the near sideline for a 60-yard score only to have a penalty take the points off the board. The Bulldogs drove into the red zone but defensive linemen Anton George and Austin Read stuffed a second down play and Hagan’s third down pass to David Allen fell incomplete. Lehane booted a 22-yard field goal for a 5-0 lead.

Bohane said, “We’d get in that nice second and three and okay here we go, and then we’d jump offsides or on third down we’d take a bad penalty. We’d get momentum going, be on their side of the field, and find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

The baseball score continued into halftime because both defense remained on top. Jahmi Aldin had a sack and recovered a Kerrigan fumble to end a pair of Foxboro drives, while TJ Perry had an interception in the red zone to stop a Bulldogs possession. With time winding down in the half, Foxboro got to the Canton 24, but a sack by Lucas Ragusa and Jack Connolly kept Canton in front at the break.

To start the third quarter, a Rivera kick return and a personal foul penalty put Canton at the Foxboro 48. The Bulldogs got to the 28, but on fourth and three Kyle Fitzgerald (17 carries, 63 yards) was stopped a yard short of the marker.

Foxboro’s next possession stalled and Robbie Gallery came flying off the edge to block the punt, putting Canton back in business at the 19-yard-line. A false start to begin the possession stymied the momentum and the Bulldogs had to settle for another Lehane kick, this one from 31 yards, to put another three points on the board with four minutes left in the third.

“They played great,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said about his defense. “I felt pretty good at halftime down 5-0, still a one-score game. The blocked punt hurt us to give them the eighth point on a field goal and then we responded and came up empty-handed.”

The Warriors finally put together a drive and gave themselves a shot at tying the game. Kerrigan hit Luis Sulham for 11 yards and then Ryan Hughes for 12. Back-to-back penalties made it third and 12, but Kerrigan hit Hughes in stride for a 41-yard completion down to the Canton three.

Kerrigan gained two yards on two plays against the Canton defensive line to set up third and goal at the one, but misfortune struck as a snap sailed over his head. He scrambled to recover it but lost 22 yards on the play. His fourth down pass fell incomplete.

“We couldn’t change field position at all and we held on as long as we could and if you don’t cash in on the one or the two then you don’t deserve to win the game,” said Martinelli. “They’re a great team but our kids played their hearts out.”

“We feel like w’re never down defensively,” said Bohane. “The quarter ended and one coach thought they were going for the conversion and it was like, no they haven’t gotten in yet, and it was like okay well let’s keep them out. Good fortune on the snap but good effort by the defense.”

After an Allen punt pinned Foxboro deep, Gallery and Connolly combined on a sack to force the Warriors to punt from their own end zone. Canton took over at the 28 and for the first time was able to make field position count.

Hagan finally found a seam on the right side, followed his blockers and burst into the end zone for a 15-yard score and a 15-0 lead. Aldin and Lehane capped the evening with a sack of Kerrigan with two minutes left to seal the shutout and the trip to the final.

“They had probably 10 guys in the box, the whole game,” said Martinelli. “They weren’t going to let [Shayne] run and they didn’t. They had the kids to do it and executed and hence no points on the board. We felt we needed three scores to win the game because we felt our defense was good enough to keep us in it and it did.”

Canton (9-0) will host No. 2 seed Holliston in the South final next Friday night. Foxboro (5-4) will await its next opponent in the non-playoff bracket.

“Couple guys said that to me over the off-season who’ve been through this and they were like you want to get that third game at home and we’ve done it,” Bohane explained, “but Holliston we’ve never played and I’ve only heard great things about them. So, we’re going to get to work on them now, probably tonight, and just try to crack that riddle.”

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Canton Exacts Revenge With Big Win Over Scituate

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Canton’s Owen Lehane (left) and Nnamdi Onyemelukwe sack Scituate quarterback Matt Scibilio in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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CANTON, Mass. – Last season, the Canton football team had its dream of heading to Gillette Stadium vanish on a rainy night in Scituate in the D5 South Final.

With the same goal in mind for this year, the Bulldogs exacted revenge in the opening round of the 2019 tournament with a convincing 34-14 win over the defending state champion Sailors.

After a defensive battle in the opening half, Canton scored four touchdowns in the final 24 minutes of the game and put on another defensive showcase. The Bulldogs blanked the Sailors for three quarters before Scituate scored on a long pass play with under six minutes to play. Scituate’s second touchdown came in the final minute against the second unit.

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“It’s awesome [to get revenge],” said Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald, who rushed for 167 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns. “Last year they beat us 21-0 and go on to win the state championship and handle every other team. This year we knew we had to take care of business. And they aren’t [a typical] eight seed.”

While Canton talked about last year’s matchup, the focus was on fixing what went wrong in that game.

“We didn’t play particularly disciplined [last year], or fundamentally sound,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “We learned some lessons in that game, so it had to be talked about because we didn’t play great. But as far as revenge, motivation…I don’t know if that played into it too much. The kids know [Scituate] pretty well, they have respect for them. They were the state champions last year, they did it with class. I think there’s mutual respect and both teams played hard. Fortunately this year we came out on top.”

Canton’s defense yielded just 20 yards combined between Scituate’s first three drives, all resulting in punts. But the Dogs didn’t have much success on the offensive side either, turning it over on downs on the opening drive and then back-to-back punts.

Scituate’s first drive of the second quarter resulted in yards but not much else as the Bulldogs’ defense forced back-to-back incompletion to force a turnover on downs. The Canton offense was able to connect on its first play on the ensuing drive.

On the second play, senior quarterback Johnny Hagan (4/10, 102 yards passing; 12 carries, 32 yards, two touchdowns rushing) led Gersom Rivera perfectly with a throw down field, going for 57 yards all the way down to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Hagan plunged up the middle for a touchdown. Owen Lehane’s first of four successful extra point attempts made it 7-0 with 5:13 left in the second quarter.

Scituate’s fifth and longest drive of the opening half went for 39 yards on 10 plays but came to an end after failing to convert on third down and fourth down. The Sailors were 1-for-10 on third down in the game and 0-for-4 on fourth down.

A big return from Fitzgerald on the second half kickoff put the Dogs in good position, and four plays later they marched to the red zone. But on the first play from within the red area, Hagan’s pass ended up in the hands of Scituate’s Nate Gould at the 2-yard line.

Canton’s defense came up with a big answer though. After the Sailors moved out near midfield, a bad snap on third down resulted in a fumble and Jahmi Aldin raced to recover the loose ball and get Canton the ball back.

The Bulldogs weren’t able to capitalize and had to punt the ball back, but the Canton defensive line featuring Jack Connolly, Matt Connolly, Nnamdi Onyemelukwe and Aldin, along with linebackers Robbie Gallery, Lucas Ragusa, and James Murphy, continued to apply a lot of pressure.

That pressure paid off as Fitzgerald went up and hauled in an interception on the third play of the ensuing drive.

The turnover proved costly for the Sailors as Fitzgerald took the first play up the middle for a 40-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5:27 left in the third quarter.

“He’s our leader, he’s the guy we lean on as much as anybody,” Bohane said of Fitzgerald. “He was dialed in all week, as were all the kids, but Kyle he really appreciates the big stage. He’s an excellent student, a great kid, very well respected by the kids in the school. He gets it, he gets the magnitude of these games.”

Scituate’s next drive didn’t get off the ground before the Bulldogs’ defense had another takeaway. This time it was Gallery in coverage, keeping pace with his man down the sideline before leaping up and hauling in an impressive interception.

Canton marched 48 plays on nine plays (most plays in a series for the game) to extend the lead. Hagan connected with junior Jack Albert for 16 yards and Fitzgerald had an 8-yard run to make fourth down manageable.

The Bulldogs face fourth and four to open the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get the Sailors to jump offside with a hard count. But after sending a player in motion and going with another hard count, a Scituate defender did cross the neutral zone for a 5-yard penalty and a first down.

Three plays later, Hagan battled his way through a pile for a 2-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 10:26 left to play.

“The offense needed a jumpstart a little bit, we just couldn’t get a rhythm going,” Bohane said of the turnovers helping the offense get going. “I give [Scituate] a lot of credit, Coach Devine does a super job with his players. They were very prepared both last year and this year. We had to digest a lot and we have kids who can make big plays. A lot of guys contributed.”

Scituate’s offense continued to struggle gaining traction with four straight incomplete passes to give Canton the ball back. Five plays later, Fitzgerald was in for his second score on a 7-yard rush, bowling over a defender at the goal line for a 28-0 lead.

Up until this point, the Dogs limited the visitors to 146 yards of total offense. Sheskey, one of the top backs in the area, was held to 12 yards on seven carries.

“We were concerned, debating on how many guys we wanted to bring,” Bohane said. “And we were really concerned about [Will] Sheskey so we had to figure out how to get a pass rush. Coach [Jeff] Eckler, our defensive coordinator, dialed up some creative things. But we’re very fortunate to have Matt Connolly, Jack Connolly, Nnamdi [Onyemelukwe], and Jahmi Adlin, the defensive line did a great job. They created a lot of pressure on their own.

“We have 11 really good defensive players out there, to be honest, we don’t really have a weakness. Our secondary is very good, our linebacker play is outstanding, and our line has a lot of size. I think Coach Eckler does a really good job of preparing them every week. And the offense has helped too.”

The Sailors finally connected on a long pass play on their next series to get on the board. Matt Scibilio (14/36, 232 yards) connected with Nate Gould for a 65-yard touchdown with 5:41 to play.

Canton recovered the onside kick and answered Scituate’s first score with an immediate touchdown of its own. Fitzgerald found space up the middle and sprinted the entire way for a 56-yard touchdown.

Scibilio connected with Gould for a 48-yard touchdown against Canton’s second defensive group with under a minute to go for the Sailors’ second score.

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“This one felt a lot better than walking off that field in Scituate last year,” Fitzgerald said. “Obviously it was a much better outcome. Now it’s on to Foxboro, a rematch, it’s one of the only teams that gave us a really hard game. We have to correct a lot of mistakes [from that game], it starts by coming in at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning. So it’s a short memory on this win.”

Top-seeded Canton football (8-0) will now host Hockomock League Davenport division rival and fourth-seeded Foxboro, who knocked off Norton in their opener. The two teams clashed in league play in the second week of league action with the Bulldogs prevailed 26-20. It’s the most points Canton’s defense has surrendered to an opponent this year.

The game is set to kick off from Canton High on Friday night at 7:00.

Canton Romps Past Milford In Division Clash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canton Defense Pried Away Win from Stoughton

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Canton recovered three fumbles in a shutout of Stoughton that gave the Bulldogs a win in their Davenport division opener. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – The teams were so similar that it was destined to be a close game. Canton and Stoughton both have speed in the backfield, strong offensive and defensive lines, and athletes all over the field. It was like looking in the mirror. So, it came down to turnovers and one drive that decided the game.

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Having managed only five first downs to that point, including one drive stuffed inside the Stoughton 10, the Bulldogs took over possession with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. The drive started at their own 35 and nine plays later resulted in the game’s lone touchdown.

Senior quarterback Johnny Hagan (17 carries, 125 yards on the ground and 9-of-18 for 80 yards passing) had the big play on what turned out to be the game-winning drive, breaking free of the Stoughton defense for a 31-yard gain down to the one. Two plays later he got the last yard to give the Bulldogs the lead with just 14.4 seconds to go before halftime of their 10-0 victory in the 100th meeting between the Thanksgiving Day rivals.

“It was definitely a long two weeks,” said Hagan about having a bye last week. “We were itching to play last week, but just to get out here with the crowd and everyone was very fun.”

“I thought they’d be good,” Canton coach Dave Bohane said about his defense, which has now allowed only seven total points in three games. “To beat these guys 10-0, to play well against a very quality team, they maybe exceeded my expectations but we have good speed and some experienced guys. Experience really showed up tonight.”

The Canton defense allowed only three first downs and no points to a Stoughton offense that came into the night averaging 41 points per game. The Bulldogs held talented running backs Christopher and Christian Aiss to a combined 46 yards, while recovering three fumbles. Linebackers Owen Lehane, Lucas Ragusa, Robbie Gallery, and James Murphy were all over the field, making plays from sideline to sideline.

“We play five of them and that’s the strength of our team,” Bohane explained. “There was one play where Ais had the ball and Murphy came out of nowhere. Sometimes James finds another gear on big plays and he was really impressive on that. A lot of kids have had those guys tackled this year and it takes two or three people to bring them down so really credit to our kids tonight getting those guys on the ground.”

On its second possession, Canton came close to making the breakthrough. Hagan had the big play, a 47-yard keeper down the far sideline that got the Bulldogs to the Stoughton 24. They got as close as the two, but Carlvin LaGuerre stuffed Kyle Fitzgerald (21 carries, 64 yards) on third down for a one-yard loss and then Jerry Brisson and Oluwole Fabikun stuffed him again on fourth down.

“We battled,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke. “They did a good job. Their big player is the quarterback, no doubt. He’s the key and we practiced all week trying to get him but it’s hard to duplicate him.”

It took until its fourth possession for Stoughton to manage a first down. Christian Ais finally got a seam and he broke a 33-yard run down to the Canton 15, but two plays later quarterback Clayton Rahaman couldn’t get a clean hand-off away and Matt Connolly pounced on the loose ball to end the drive.

Burke said, “I thought we hung in there but we fumbled down here and then fumbled down there. Without having the ball, you can’t score. We got the ball back a bunch of times but we didn’t do anything, so back to the drawing board.”

The game seemed destined to be scoreless at the break until the Bulldogs finally succeeded in finishing a drive. It was a huge momentum swing coming in the final seconds before halftime.

“It was huge because it wasn’t really materializing there and then all of a sudden we hit a couple plays and I was like we may put one in here,” said Bohane. “Obviously, we’ve got to work on our short-yardage stuff because that was frustrating to not put them in but Johnny kind of stepped up there.”

He added, “But, we were up 7-0 on Thanksgiving, so that came up a lot in the locker room.”

Canton got the ball to start the second half and marched into Stoughton territory, but stalled at the 36. Bohane elected to punt and David Allen’s effort was dropped at the 10. Murphy dove on top of the fumble to give the Bulldogs new life. A holding penalty denied Hagan his second touchdown, but Canton came away with points on a 27-yard field goal by Lehane.

Hagan said, “That was huge going into half and then coming out third quarter we needed to have a big third quarter. Making it a two-score game was definitely huge for momentum.”

It wasn’t what the hosts were hoping for, but a two-score lead felt insurmountable with the defense continuing to shut the Black Knights down.

The biggest play of the second half for Stoughton was a screen pass from John Burke to Christopher Ais for 15 yards but the ball was pried loose and Lehane recovered. Ais would answer by recovering a Gersom Rivera fumble eight plays later, but by then the clock was winding down and there was no chance for Stoughton to come back.

Canton (3-0, 1-0) will continue its league title defense next Friday night against Foxboro, while Stoughton (2-1, 0-1) will try to bounce back on Thursday night in Sharon.

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