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.
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.”
“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.”