Teams of the Decade #3: 2013 Mansfield Football

Mansfield football

Team: Mansfield Football
Year: 2013
Record: 13-0
2013 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2013 Division 2 State Champions


One of the signatures of the Mansfield football team over the past decade has been its ventures out of Massachusetts to play against top competition in other states. Not only do the trips allow the Hornets to see how they stack up on the field, but the off-field activities can also boost team morale and camaraderie.

Mansfield’s lone loss of 2010 came in New York when they visited Aquinas, who went on to win a state championship as well that season. A year later, the Hornets picked up one of their more impressive out-of-state victories with a decision over Christian Brothers of Syracuse inside the Carrier Dome.

Mansfield ventured out of state again to start the 2013 season, heading south to Maryland to take on three-time defending D1A State Champions Dunbar. After coming up short in the state final a year before, the Hornets entered the season with high expectations and put the rest of the Hockomock League and the state of Massachusetts on notice with their performance in the Old Line State.

“After those two experiences (in 2010 and 2011), we really felt like doing it was such a great experience, to see football in another part of the country,” said longtime Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “The Dunbar trip was really cool because we did a lot of touring in Washington D.C., we went to the U.S. Naval Academy so beyond football it was going to be a great trip. Our concern was, ‘Can we compete with them?. They were three-time defending state champs, they had kids back, their QB had committed to West Virginia…so we knew it would be a great challenge on the road.”

Mansfield built a 21-6 lead in the game but Dunbar quarterback William Crest, who went on to play at West Virginia, rallied the Owls to take the lead in the fourth, up 26-21. The Hornets didn’t panic, driving down the field and senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski connected with classmate Michael Hershman on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left to secure a 29-26 victory.

“We went down there and played one of the best games I’ve seen as a coach and win it on the road against a great team, I think that was definitely a sign for us…let’s go back to Massachusetts and keep this rolling,” Redding said. “If we can beat Dunbar at Dunbar, we can compete with anybody when we get back home.”

And not only did the Hornets compete with everyone back home, they blew most of the competition out of the water. They beat both Milton (21-0) and North Attleboro (35-14) by three scores each, scored over 30 points in wins over Attleboro, Taunton, and Franklin.

“Expectations were high, we had played a lot of seniors the year before as juniors,” Redding said. “We had kind of an up and down year in 2012, I think we were 2-2 before we went on a little run to win the league title. I think the highlight of that year, we knocked off Duxbury who had something like a 40-game win streak so it was a big upset. But then we ran into Reading in the final, which was probably an All-Decade team in the Middlesex League. But I think beating Duxbury and getting to a Super Bowl gave the senior group a lot of experience and a lot of motivation to try and finish the deal.”

The Hornets installed a new offense at the beginning of the season, going with the spread as Wisnieski worked mostly out of shotgun compared to the normal Wing-T/I-Formation approach Mansfield fans had become accustomed too.

As you can see, the offense worked just fine. Wisnieski set a handful of program records this season, including passing yards (2,541) and touchdown passes (27). Not only was Hershman (who finished with a total of 85 career receptions, third in program history) one of the most talented receivers around, junior Brendan Hill was a matchup nightmare and hauled in a program-record 54 receptions that season. Tight end Kyle Hurley and back Miguel Villar-Perez were both threats in the passing game as well.

To complement the passing game, Villar-Perez was a handful to deal with out of the backfield, finishing with 1,500 all-purpose yards that includes returns and a total of 18 touchdowns. Chris Buchanan helped lead the way from the fullback spot.

The team averaged 382 yards per game, which is second-most in program history, and it resulted in 428 total points, which came out to an average of 32.9 points per game.

The toughest game back in Massachusetts came a week before the regular season finale as the Hornets, the top-ranked team in the state, traveled to Wrentham to take on #8 King Philip.

With yards incredibly hard to come by, Villar-Perez broke free for an 88-yard touchdown in the second quarter that tied the game. Redding still recalls the play being a jet to the left side and the senior back made the play himself, cutting back up field when the first option wasn’t there. Wisnieski connected with Hurley in the second half to put Mansfield football ahead and Villar-Perez sealed it with his second score.

Mansfield’s defense pitched a second-half shutout to help pick up the win.

“When we played KP on the road, it was a different type of game, a physical, low-scoring, defensive battle…that really challenged the toughness of our group. I think winning on the road there gave our players a lot of confidence they could play a different style of game, We could score points but when push came to shove, we could line up and play tough physical defense to win a game.”

The defense was led by a strong group of linebackers featuring Alex Ruddy, Joe Moreshead, and Q’Ra Guichard. On top of that, the Hornets had a strong secondary with the likes of Aurian Dawkins and Mike Barresi.

“Defense was a lot like most of the defenses we’ve had,” Redding said. “[Defensive coordinator] Mark DeGirolamo got guys on the field that ran around and made plays for us. A real physical and fast group led by a group of good linebackers like Ruddy, Moreshead, Guichard…not a lot of size, we didn’t impress people when we lined up for stretching but when the game started, the kids played hard, played physical and were a real aggressive group on defense.”

This season also marked the start of the new tournament format. In years prior, only the league champion advanced to the tournament and needed to win only one or two games to reach the final. In the new format, eight teams qualified based on a rating system.

Mansfield football opened in style, taking down a good Wellesley at home before hosting Needham for what turned into one of the more entertaining contests of the postseason. The Hornets were their dominant selves as they raced out to a 28-7 halftime lead, and took advantage of an early second half turnover to push the advantage to 35-7.

But the Rockets refused to go away, scoring three straight, including a kickoff return and one after an onside kick recovery. The Rockets even got the ball back down just 35-28 but Barresi forced a fumble and recovered the loose ball to get possession back. On the next play, Wisnieski connected with Hill for a 51-yard touchdown to push it back to a two-score lead.

Mansfield won the South sectional title with a convincing win over #2 Barnstable, and went on the road up to Cawley Stadium in Lowell and destroyed Waltham, 41-0. The Hornets scored at will in the first half with Wisnieski connecting with Hill twice for scores. Villar-Perez also had a receiving score and Ruddy rushed one in as Mansfield held a 35-0 lead by halftime.

Mansfield took care of business against rival Foxboro on Thanksgiving but suffered a loss in the form of Hill, who went out with an injury and had to miss the state championship.

In the first-ever true state championship, the Hornets took on Central champion St. John’s of Shrewsbury. The Pioneers boasted a highly touted offense, scoring over 50 points in all three of their sectional wins, and ousting Springfield Central, 37-32, to reach Gillette Stadium.

As good as Mansfield had played all season long on the offensive side of the ball, the Hornets had one of their worst halves of the entire season. Not only were they limited to just one score, they had five turnovers in just the first two quarters alone. Those turnovers led to extra possessions for a St John’s team averaging nearly 50 points per game in the postseason.

But similar to the King Philip win, Mansfield’s defense was back in the spotlight, this time under the bright lights in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium. Despite plenty of chances, the Hornets held St. John’s to just a pair of touchdowns, both after a fumble from Mansfield. The other three turnovers, Mansfield got a turnover on downs, another a three-and-out, and Hershman came up with an interception to end the first half to keep the deficit at 14-7.

“I don’t know if it was nerves, being at Gillette for the first time, or guys trying to do too much but the first half was just a disaster. The key there was the defense. They were really talented on offense and we were handing them too many possessions. The defense played unbelievable…we gave up 14 but other teams, it could have been over.

“We couldn’t have played worse in terms of turnovers, and we were only down seven. If we just hold onto the ball, I don’t think they can stop us and we can score points. The second half was exactly what we hoped for.”

Barresi came up with another big postseason play, intercepting a pass three plays into the second half. Mansfield’s offense quickly capitalized with a touchdown run fro Ruddy but a rare missed extra point kept the Hornets down.

Nonetheless, Mansfield seemed to seize the momentum it needed. They didn’t turn the ball over at all in the second half and the offense orchestrated two real impressive drives to take the lead and add onto it. First came a 10-play, 59-yard series capped by an 8-yard rush from Hershman (six catches, eight carries, 138 total yards), and a two-point play from Villar-Perez gave Mansfield football a 21-14 advantage with just over three minutes to play in the third.

After another stop from the Hornet defense, Mansfield’s offense went back to work and made sure to take all the time it needed. The Hornets marched 80 yards on 14 plays, taking off nearly eight minutes of time off the clock before Villar-Perez (18 carries, 118 yards) punched it in from in close for a 28-14 lead with 2:38 to play.

“We played probably our best half of the year after playing probably our sloppiest half,” Redding said.

With the win, Mansfield football capped the perfect season at 13-0 and claimed the first-ever true D2 State Championship.






Listening Options:

                                        


Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Opponent
Result
Dunbar (MD)W, 29-26 (Preview)
MiltonW, 21-0
North AttleboroW, 35-14
AttleboroW, 49-42 (Recap)
TauntonW, 42-8
King PhilipW, 20-7 (Recap)
FranklinW, 35-13 (Recap)
WellesleyW, 31-14 (Recap)
NeedhamW, 42-35 (Recap)
BarnstableW, 41-16
WalthamW, 41-0 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 14-7
St. John's ShrewsburyW, 28-14 (Recap)






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Mansfield football

Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football


2013 Mansfield (MA) Hornets Football Highlights from Ryan Lanigan on Vimeo.

Teams of the Decade #9: 2019 Mansfield Football

Mansfield football

Team: Mansfield Football
Year: 2019
Record: 11-1
2019 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2019 Division 2 State Champions


Even though the Mansfield football team walked off the field at Lancer Stadium in Ohio with a loss to La Salle in Week 2, longtime head coach Mike Redding still had a good feeling about his Hornets.

“I was talking to some of our coaches after that game and I said ‘this team can win a state championship,'” Redding said. “Here we are, just lost by 22, but the way we competed out there against a high-level team. It was probably one of the more talented teams we’ve played in 32 years and we came up short on the scoreboard, but if you look at the film play by play, we stood up pretty equally to them.

“The feeling walking off that field…when we go back home and get everybody back on board, we could have a pretty special group that can play against anyone in Massachusetts.”

And that’s exactly what happened. The Hornets bulldozed through their league schedule, grinding out a tough win at KP while outscoring the other four Kelley-Rex opponents 152-28. The playoffs were more of the same as the Hornets limited tournament foes to a total of 15 points through four games played, including a 41-0 rout in the D2 State Championship over Lincoln-Sudbury.

The Mansfield football team opened the season with a convincing win over BC High before hitting the road for a trip to Ohio against La Salle. The Lancers featured at least a dozen Division I commits at the time of the game, including Northwestern bound running back Cameron Porter. While the scoreboard favored the hosts, Mansfield walked away with plenty of positives, including an edge in yardage on offense, and its swarming defense limited Porter to 30 yards on the ground.

The dominance back in Massachusetts wasn’t a gigantic shock as the Hornets entered the season as one of the favorites in both the Hockomock League and in the state. It felt like three years in the making as Mansfield football returned a boatload of returning players with either one or two years experience. Two seasons prior, the Hornets were swept by rival King Philip, who went on to win the state championship. A year prior, Mansfield won the regular season matchup and took home the division title but the Warriors got the last laugh in the playoffs. This season, Mansfield won both meetings, the latter earning a spot in the south final.

“I think it was back in January before the season, we were pretty honest with them and told them they had a chance to compete for the league title, which is challenging enough, but when you get in the playoffs, this is a team that can make a run towards a state title,” Redding said. “The last couple of years, we’ve lost a couple of high-level kids due to injuries.

“I think it was a big motivation for a lot of guys in this group because they had come so close before but couldn’t finish on the field because of injuries so they were a pretty hungry group. As coaches, we just hold our breath hoping they stay healthy because they have worked so hard and they deserve a chance to compete, win or lose, and you just don’t want them sitting on the sidelines watching.”

The offense started with senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who was like a coach on the field for the Hornets with his ability to manage the game. It was a pick-your-poison backfield that featured seniors Vinnie Holmes (895 yards, 8 TD), Michael DeBolt (402 yards, 6 TD), and Nick Marciano (334 yards, 6 TD) along with star junior Cincere Gill (979 yards, 10 TD). With the help of a strong, talented offensive line featuring Andrew Cowles, TJ Guy, Jake McCoy, Noah Jellenik, and Jason Comeau, the Hornets could break out a big run on any given play. Moussette (914 yards, 11 TD) connected with receiver Danny Rapoza (4 TD) for a team-high 20 receptions. On top of that, DeBolt was one of the best kickers in the area with nine field goals and 38 successful PATs.

“From the first practice we all knew we had the opportunity to be a special team,” Holmes said. “I think that the first two games prepared us for how we need to play for the rest of the season, fast and physical. We all knew we were going to be faster and more physical than whoever lined up across from us, and the La Salle game sparked that intensity. Bringing that intensity into the league paid off as we were able to get another league title.

“Going into the playoffs we knew we had a great shot at winning a state title if we can keep up our level of play. I think we soared over our original expectations by a long shot outscoring our opponents 121-15 in a four-game span on our way to a state championship season. One thing that stood out to me that I think clicked in the playoff run is that everyone knew their roles and did exactly what they were supposed to and we executed extremely well.”

As dominant as the Hornets were on offense (29.8 points per game), Mansfield’s defense was equally as powerful as they allowed under 10 points per game against some of the best competition in the state. Massachusetts foes averaged just over seven points per game with Mansfield holding opponents to seven points or less in seven contests. Similar to the offense, it all started up front with the line play, including Guy, Chris Graham, Mark DeGirolamo, and Nico Holmes. To complement that group, Mansfield football had a loaded group of linebackers (Holmes, Joe Plath, Paden Palanza) and a very talented secondary (Makhi Baskin, Nick Bertolino).

“I think it was definitely one of the more talented teams I’ve had in the three decades plus that I’ve coached,” Redding said. “It was one of those teams that had the rare combination of being really good up front on the o-line and the d-line, which is usually enough to be competitive, but then you throw in a very, very talented group of skill players on both sides. We had the running backs and receivers, and the linebackers and secondary on defense.

“Top to bottom, it was really hard to find a weakness. So many of them had contributed the previous year or two so they came in with a pretty high level of experience. In high school, if you can put that package of skill, physical and tough kids up front, and a group that’s battle tested and confident, that’s usually a recipe for a championship run.”






Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Opponent
Result
BC HighW, 31-10 (Recap)
La Salle (OH)L, 38-16
TauntonW, 31-6
King PhilipW, 15-13 (Recap)
FranklinW, 39-9 (Recap)
Oliver AmesW, 36-6
AttleboroW, 46-7
MarshfieldW, 24-6
King PhilipW, 34-6 (Recap)
NatickW, 22-3 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 22-12
Lincoln-SudburyW, 41-0 (Recap)






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Mansfield football

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Mansfield football


Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football


Teams of the Decade: Top Playoff Runs

Teams of the Decade

Over the past couple of months, our staff has reviewed hundreds of championship-caliber Hockomock League teams from the past decade (Fall 2010 through Winter 2020) and selected its Top 20 “Teams of the Decade.” During that process, we came across so many talented teams that accomplished so much. Below is a list of teams that just missed out on the final list but stood out for their postseason performances.

2019 Taunton Baseball

Record: 21-7
Division 1 State Champions

The stars aligned perfectly for the Tigers when the postseason rolled around. Although Taunton finished in third in the Kelley-Rex division in the regular season (behind Super 8 selections Franklin and Mansfield), the Tigers took full advantage of their opportunity in Div. 1 South. At 11-7 midway through May, Taunton won four straight to finish the regular season at 15-7 for the fourth seed in the D1 South bracket. After dispatching Marshfield, the Tigers rallied to stun Catholic Memorial with a seventh inning rally, scoring the game-winning run off a bunt from Lucas Martins. Taunton followed with a shutout of Catholic Conference power Xaverian before taking down Hockomock rival Attleboro, 6-1, to win the South.

The magic continued for Taunton, head coach Blair Bourque, and its playoff hero Nic Notarangelo in the D1 State Semifinals. Against a powerful Lincoln-Sudbury side (21-2 entering the game), the Tigers fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning. Logan Lawrence had a huge game, hitting a two-run home run in the first and pitching four scoreless innings in relief. Notarangelo smacked a hard hit to right to score sophomore Ty Cali in the bottom of the ninth inning for the game-winning run. Taunton capped its magical run with a 5-3 win over Shrewsbury and 6’8 Boston College-commit John West. Josh Lajoie made his first start of the playoffs, senior Evan Melo put a cherry on top of a special individual postseason by driving in the game-winning run, and both Notarangelo and Lawrence – as they had done all tournament – made key plays in the final innings to help Taunton secure its first-ever Div. 1 State Championship.

2016 Franklin Boys Hockey

Record: 18-4-5
Division 1 State Champions

Just one year removed from a historic trip to the Super 8, and after graduating 21 seniors, Franklin showed off the depth in its program and erased its demons at the TD Garden, ending a three-decade wait for a second state title. A team without a true star, Franklin’s depth and its work rate were its greatest strengths. The Panthers were 12-3-5 and the fourth seed in Div. 1 when the playoffs began, but it felt like a wide open bracket. The tournament run began with a 2-1 win against Wellesley, followed by a 1-0 win against Walpole in a jam-packed Pirelli Rink.

After dispatching a third straight Bay State Conference team, Newton North, in the semifinal, Franklin avenged a late-season loss against highly-regarded Marshfield. In the state title game at the TD Garden, a place where Franklin and head coach Chris Spillane had come up empty three seasons in a row earlier in the decade, the Panthers led 3-1 heading into the third period against St. Mary’s (Lynn), a team that just missed out on a Super 8 berth. The game went to double overtime before senior Jake Downie assisted on sophomore Luke Downie’s dramatic game- and title-winner and secured a first state title since 1983.

2018 Franklin Baseball

Record: 21-5
Division 1A (Super 8) State Champions

It was a season that started with high expectations and ended in history, but it was hardly a straight and easy path for Franklin. Few will remember because of how the season ended, but the Panthers opened the season by being shutout by Foxboro, were swept by Taunton, and finished a game behind Mansfield in the league. Through it all, Franklin put together a good enough resume that it was selected for the Super 8 for the first time in program history. The Panthers (21-5) entered as the No. 7 seed, but once the playoffs began everything seemed to fall into place.

Thanks to the dynamic duo of Jake Noviello and Bryan Woelfel and a lineup filled with clutch hitters, Franklin beat Wachusett in the opening game and then proceeded to beat St. John’s Prep and Central Catholic (twice). The final three games were all one-run wins. In the Super 8 finale against the Raiders, head coach Zach Brown brought Noviello into the bottom of the eighth in a tie game with runners at second and third. He struck out three of the next four batters (hitting one in between) to somehow keep it tied and in the top of the ninth Evan Wendell’s perfect suicide squeeze plated Steve Luttazi with the title-winning run.

2016 Foxboro Girls Tennis

Record: 19-2
Division 2 State Champions

The third time proved to be the charm for the Foxboro girls’ tennis team. After coming up short in the state final in 2014 and 2015, the Warriors took a 3-2 decision over Wayland to clinch the title. The Warriors dropped two matches all season, both 3-2 to eventual Davenport division champion Sharon, as Foxboro finished second in the division at 14-2. The sister combination of Diana Prinos at first singles and Sophia Prinos at second singles gave Foxboro a huge advantage while junior Lexi Nelson was such a steady presence at third singles.

Behind interim head coaches CJ Neely and Jon Montanaro, the Warriors earned the fourth seed in the Division 2 South bracket and survived an early scare with a 3-2 win over Westwood. The second doubles team of Michaela McCarthy and Morgan Krockta helped the Warriors knock off a strong Hingham team in the quarterfinals and Foxboro swept singles action in both the sectional semifinals and finals to defeat previously unbeaten and top-seeded Apponequet and Hopkinton, respectively. After dropping a singles match in the state final, the Warriors had to show off their depth as a team and the first doubles pairing of sophomore Kayla Prag and freshman Julia Muise pulled out a 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 win to secure the title.

2012 Sharon Football

Record: 10-3
Division 3 Eastern Mass. Champions

It’s hard to think of a more special individual season than the one the Sharon football team had in 2012. To put things in perspective, the Eagles had just won seven games over a seven-year span in the previous decade and its last winning season came in the late 1980s. Head coach Dave Morse led Sharon to four wins in his first year in 2011 but that turned out to be just a preview of what was to come. The Eagles had a special group of players come together and accomplish something a lot of people thought they would never see: bringing a Super Bowl title back to Sharon.

While it wasn’t a perfect season, the Eagles got it done against division foes. Sharon knocked off Canton in overtime, scored with under a minute left to stun previously unbeaten Stoughton, and used a gutsy fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion touchdown to secure a win over Foxboro and clinch its first Davenport division title. In the playoffs, the Eagles held on for a 7-6 win over Pembroke when the Titans’ two-point conversion with a minute to go fell short. In the Super Bowl, senior running back Sean Asnes capped a terrific season with a pair of touchdowns as Sharon notched a 12-3 win over Wayland in a freezing cold game at Bentley University.




2018 Mansfield Boys Basketball

Record: 27-2
Division 1 State Champions

Mansfield’s playoff run during the 2017-2018 season was as close to perfect as you can get in basketball. The Hornets were very good during the regular season, but they were close to unstoppable once the state tournament rolled around. Mansfield suffered two setbacks during the season, one in December to BC High and a 15-point loss on the road to rival Franklin in January. Head coach Mike Vaughan has said that second loss might have been the spark that ignited one of the most impressive playoff campaigns of the decade. With seven seniors (John McCoy, Tyler Boulter, Ryan Otto, Nick Ferraz, Alex Ferraz, Justin Vine, Sam Hyland) and a trio of talented juniors (Damani Scott, Tommy Dooling, Khristian Conner), the Hornets made the most of the playoff opportunity.

The top-seed in Division 1 South, Mansfield rolled through the bracket — and we mean rolled. Mansfield beat all four of its opponents by double figures, dismissing Newton South (76-49) in the first round, avenging its loss to BC High (71-58) in the quarterfinals, eliminating a very good Newton North (70-50) team in the South semis, and beating a talented Brockton (79-65) squad to win the South championship. The momentum continued as the Hornets secured a spot in the state final with an impressive win over Everett (73-65) at the TD Garden. In the D1 State Championship, the Hornets capped a terrific postseason run by taking down rival Franklin (67-54); the matchup marked the first time a pair of teams from the same league met in the D1 final.

2017 Franklin Boys Basketball

Record: 22-5
Division 1 State Finalists

This Franklin boys team might not have won it all, but it packed some of the most memorable games into its great postseason run. The Panthers were good throughout the regular season, and they certainly had their fair share of impressive wins including one over league champ Mansfield, one over a very good Cardinal Spellman team, and concluded the regular season with arguably its best win, a 70-53 decision over a good Tech Boston team. But there were five losses too, including on the road at Canton, and early season tilts against Malden Catholic and Catholic Memorial.

The wins over Spellman and Tech Boston to finish the regular season were a clear sign to head coach CJ Neely that this squad was ready to make some noise in the state tournament. Junior Jalen Samuels helped the hosts knock off upset-minded Acton Boxboro in the opening round and senior Connor Goldstein gave Franklin a needed spark in its semifinal win over St. Peter Marian. In the Central final against perennial power St. John’s Shrewsbury, freshman Chris Edgehill sank a huge three with just over a minute left in overtime and then hit two from the free throw line in the final seconds to help secure Franklin’s first sectional title. In the state semifinal against Springfield Central, the Panthers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with an improbable 8-0 run in the final 20 seconds to force overtime. Four minutes later, Franklin was on its way to its first state championship. Although the Panthers ran into a juggernaut in Cambridge, the run that the Panthers had leading up to that point was a very memorable one.

2018 North Attleboro Baseball

Record: 22-2
Division 2 State Champions

North Attleboro rolled through the regular season, finishing 14-2 in the league and 18-2 overall. Big Red ended a 12-year wait for a league title and took the top seed in Div. 2 South. North’s run to a first-ever state title was hardly a surprise, but the way that the Rocketeers rolled through the South bracket was more than impressive. North scored at will over the first three games of the tournament, out-scoring its opponents 41-4, including a 20-2 win against Dartmouth in the semifinal and a 19-2 win against Oliver Ames in the final.

Behind the pitching of Nick Sinacola and the clutch bat of Zach DeMattio, the Rocketeers were unstoppable heading into the final against Beverly and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the state championship game (all four runs driven in by DeMattio). The Panthers got to Sinacola for three runs in the fifth to cut the lead to just one run, but he settled down, with the help of his defense, to get through a scoreless sixth and seventh inning and becoming the second Hockomock League baseball team in a week to win a state title.

2018 Taunton Softball

Record: 26-2
Division 1 State Champions

Taunton had lost in the first round in each of the past two postseasons, both times on its home field and both times to league opponents (King Philip in 2016 and North Attleboro in 2017), but the Tigers put it all together in 2018 to erase those playoff struggles. Always one of the most feared lineups in the state, the Taunton offense exploded for 44 runs in six playoff games. The Tigers, under the guidance of legendary coach Dave Lewry, scored nine runs against Dartmouth and Bishop Feehan, six against Newton North, and 13 in the state final against previously unbeaten Wachusett.

The toughest, and arguably most memorable, game of the playoff run was the Div. 1 South final against KP. The Warriors won the league title and had also scored 21 runs in three games to get to the final. After rallying to tie the game in the fifth, Taunton scored the game-winning runs on a single down the third base line by surprise starter and No. 9 hitter Rylie Murphy. KP got the tying runs on base in the seventh, but freshman starter Kelsey White escaped the jam and the Tigers went on to win their first state title in 11 years in blowout fashion (13-2 over Wachusett).

2016 King Philip Softball

Record: 24-4
Division 1 State Champions

There is nothing unusual about King Philip softball going on a playoff run, after all this was the program’s third state title in seven seasons, but the Warriors entered the season as the No. 7 seed in Div. 1 South, had lost the Kelley-Rex title to Taunton, ending a run of nine straight league championships, and lost four times during the regular season. Once the playoffs began, the Warriors flipped a switch. Thanks in large part to a dominant run of games from starting pitcher Kali Magane, KP allowed only two runs in six playoff games and outscored opponents 29-2.

The Warriors beat Taunton in the quarterfinal, winning the season series against the Tigers, and avenged an extra-inning loss from 2015 by beating defending South champion Silver Lake in the final. Magane saved the best for last, striking out 13 and tossing a one-hit shutout in the state title game against Doherty. Magane finished the season by striking out the side in the seventh and closing out an unlikely championship campaign.

Lynn English Ends Mansfield’s Playoff Run In State Semis

Mansfield boys basketball Sam Stevens
Mansfield senior Sam Stevens shoots over the defense of Lynn English’s Jack Rodriguez in the first half at the TD Garden. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOSTON, Mass. – It’s the patented fourth-quarter run that the Mansfield boys basketball team has put so many opponents away with.

Junior TJ Guy converted a putback and scored down low, sandwiching buckets around a three-pointer from Cincere Gill. After a steal, senior Sam Stevens drained a three off a feed from Drew Rooney, and then hit another from deep off a feed from Matt Boen to cap a 14-4 run in the final minutes of the game.

But this time, things were different. This run only cut into a large deficit created by Lynn English that proved to be too big of a hole for the Hornets.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Bulldogs, winners of the North sectional and defending D1 State champions, shined on both ends of the court from start to finish to earn a 74-58 win and a return trip to the state final.

“I thought defensively we did a good job following what we were trying to do, it’s just they are so talented at so many positions,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan.

The Bulldogs had their best offensive quarter in the opening eight minutes, scoring 22 points to build a five-point lead. By halftime, Lynn English led by 12, and the advantage balloon to as much as 23 in the fourth quarter before the Hornets finally found a consistent rhythm on offense, closing the gap over the final minutes.

The combination of 6’8” center Jean-Baptiste Mukeba (20 points) and 6’6” forward Ademide Badmus (eight points) was a matchup problem for Mansfield, which threw a handful of looks defensively in the post both before and after the entry pass.

And when the Hornets came with a double or fronted to deny the pass, the speed and playmaking ability of English’s guards — Jarnel Guzman (19 points) and Jack Rodriguez (20 points) — gave the Bulldogs second and third options.

Even when the Hornets slowed the guards, denied the entry passes, and played good defense, the Bulldogs got points out of eight of their 10 offensive rebounds.

“A lot of teams you play, maybe they have one good rebounder and they get an offensive rebound but they miss the putback…[Lynn English] didn’t miss the putbacks,” Vaughan said. “You over-rotate, you double the post, they throw out of it and you get the exact play you want but it doesn’t matter if its Guzman or the other two perimeter players, they are knocking down the three. And then their ability to get you off of the bounce, so at any point we have Sammy, TJ, and Chris [Hill] in at the same time, we have a big on a guard and they can expose that.”

For all the problems that the Bulldogs presented on the offensive end, there were equal issues on the defensive end. Mukeba and Badmus defended the post, turning easy looks into difficult takes. After hitting a trio of threes in the first quarter, Mansfield didn’t get many clean looks the rest of the way and had just one make on nine attempts between the second and third quarters.

After junior Matt Boen tormented the Bulldogs for 32 points in the regular-season matchup, the Bulldogs assigned Mason Jean-Baptiste to shadow Boen’s every move, almost attached at the hip to try and prevent a repeat performance.

“Teams don’t sustain that intensity [on defense] typically, you see it in the first quarter and you think you’ve weathered the storm, down by five,” Vaughan said. “And then all of a sudden you think you can make an adjustment or two in the second quarter but we just never got to that point, except maybe the last couple of minutes, we just never got comfortable and looked like a normal Mansfield team on offense. Some of that is execution, some of that is we were pressing because we got down so much, and some of it was just their defensive ability.”

Mukeba was the beneficiary of some handoffs down low, racing out to 10 points in the first half. Guzman was equally as dangerous, finding space to attack the rim or pull up for mid-range for nine points in the opening quarter.

Freshman Chris Hill hit on a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter, the second one giving Mansfield a brief 8-7 lead — its last edge on the scoreboard. Boen scored his only points of the first half on a circus-like layup to start the second to make it 22-19 but an 8-0 burst from the Bulldogs pushed the lead to double-digits.










Gill (career-high 17 points), who was a huge boost off the bench all night for the Hornets, drained a three and Guy (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) attacked for two more to make it 30-24 but Louis Rivera came off the bench and delivered Lynn English’s lone three of the half and sparked an 8-2 run to close the half with the Bulldogs ahead 38-26.

“We kind of prepared more for them trapping in the backcourt and their pressure and it kind of left us susceptible to the half court stuff,” Vaughan said. “I thought when we got good position, we kind of forced action which causes you to have bad possessions and it’s a bit of a snowball effect. They were locked in, ready to go to take stuff away. Every possession we had was not easy and that has a lot to do with their game plan and their execution.

“It’s tough because you can’t punish them. Everything you do, they have a guy that’s going to alter the shot. When normally you might get something as a layup, now it’s an altered shot so it’s that much more difficult to score.”

Mansfield went right to the heart of the Bulldog defense, with both Stevens (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Guy finding success attacking the rim. The Bulldogs called a timeout just 1:19 into the second half, and it paid off, resulting in a 10-4 boost over the next four minutes.

Lynn English took a 57-39 lead into the final quarter, and had its largest lead after a three from Guzman, a putback from Mukeba, and back-to-back drives from Rodriguez before the Hornets went on their run to make it 70-57 with two minutes to play.

“I thought their game plan was excellent in terms of denying Matty the ball, and when he did have it try to take away his left hand and make him work for everything he had,” Vaughan said. “They have three guards that can do it. Most teams have one or two defensive specialists, they’ve got three that can do it. And from a scheme standpoint, you overcome that and find a way to almost punish them, then you have to shoot over a 6’8 or 6’6 kid. It’s just a double whammy. You think you have great offense and then a shot gets blocked or altered.

“I think it starts with their game plan and scheme that their coach came up with and then it goes to their guard play with their speed and athleticism, and their commitment to defending, and then third you have the bigs altering shots once you finally break them down. I thought they played at a good pace where they didn’t over force it, they picked their spots to be effective. I think the combination of their patience and execution was a big difference.”

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Mansfield boys basketball wraps up its season at 23-4, half of its losses coming to the Bulldogs, one to rival and Central finalist Franklin, and one to Whitman-Hanson, who is competing in the D2 State Semifinal on Wednesday.

The Hornets also secured the program’s eighth straight Kelley-Rex division title. Mansfield graduates three seniors: Makhi Baskin, Rooney, and Stevens.

“It’s been great,” Stevens said of his two years as a starter for the Hornets. He finished with 782 career points. “It’s always disappointing when you don’t come out on top. Winning the South isn’t something to bat your eyes at so I’m proud of everything this team accomplished.”

Mansfield Rolls Past Brockton To Earn D1 South Title

Mansfield boys basketball Matt Boen
Mansfield junior Matt Boen goes up for a layup in the second half against Brockton in the D1 South Sectional Final. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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TAUNTON, Mass. – In the middle of the D1 South Sectional championship game, the Mansfield boys basketball team put on a clinic in front of a jammed pack crowd inside the Rabouin Field House at Taunton High.

For over eight minutes, the Hornets dominated on both ends of the court. It started with terrific defense, and more often than not, ended with an extra pass and an open look. The result was a runaway win for the top-seeded Hornets, a 78-65 decision over #2 Brockton.

It’s Mansfield’s second D1 South Sectional title in the past three seasons.

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“The guys seemed locked in,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “Anything they threw at us, we seemed to have an answer for it. I thought the ball movement was tremendous. Our ball movement is really good and when we move the basketball, I think a lot of different guys can contribute and that definitely happened in the second quarter.

“We start working on [the ball movement] in December, and around mid-January, I thought we were a kind of lackadaisical and guys were trying to get their own instead of running the offense. We just have to grind through those possessions to try and get to a point where it all seems to click. We always talk about playing our best in March and so far we are doing that.”

The momentum started with a 9-1 surge to end the opening quarter. After Brockton’s Isaac Lane drained a three-pointer to make it a two-point game at 13-11, the Hornets created a double-digit advantage with its late run.

Junior TJ Guy (six points, six rebounds) dished out one of his eight assists, finding classmate Brendan Foley wide open cutting to the basket for two. Junior Cincere Gill was fouled driving to the basket and hit two from the line, and junior Matt Boen (19 points, eight rebounds, six assists) scored five straight points for a 22-12 advantage through eight minutes.

“A lot of times you see a team with that size, with that length, and that athleticism and guys seem to back up,” Vaughan said. “We want to go at them and find opportunities to score. Use the ball as your friend to move and get going in the offensive end.”

After finding success cutting to the basket, Mansfield found some space on the perimeter as both senior Sam Stevens (29 points, seven rebounds) and Boen drained early threes. That afforded Drew Rooney (10 points, six rebounds) space up the middle for a strong take and Guy turned an offensive board into a traditional three-point play, capping an 11-4 run for a 33-16 lead.

The Boxers converted a steal into points but Mansfield answered in the form of an 11-0 surge. Stevens started it with two free throws, Gill joined the three party with a triple of his own, and then Stevens splashed two more triples for a 44-18 lead.

Boen took a feed from Jack Colby and drained a three before Stevens added another one from deep as the Hornets took a 50-27 lead into halftime. In total, Mansfield hit nine first half three-pointers, including four apiece from Boen and Stevens.

“For us, we just have to trust the process,” Vaughan said. “If we do that, allow the game to come, we’ll settle into what we need to do and I think that makes a big difference for our comfort level. Then kids can go out there and make plays. It felt like we could score on every possession in the first half.

“They wanted to take away the perimeter, take away Matty and deny Sammy the ball. That let Drew get some easy baskets early, TJ could have had a couple more. That allowed more of our guys to get comfortable. Once they get comfortable, Sammy and Matty can get going.”

Brockton played better in the third quarter, hitting six field goals from the floor including three from deep. But Mansfield was quick to match the Boxers, as Stevens accounted for 10 of the Hornets’ 16 points in the quarter.

Freshman Chris Hill had a pair of finishes at the end of the press break and Rooney added a putback for the Hornets, Stevens had a three, hit five free throws, and drained a contested elbow jumper at the buzzer as Mansfield carried a 66-44 lead into the fourth.

“Sam has had a great second half of the year and a lot of that is from settling in and trusting his teammates,” Vaughan said. “It’s about understanding that he can pass up on an early shot to get one going. Once he starts doing that and feeling good, you trust him to take that early shot. And when he’s making them, you can play off of him a little bit and that makes a big difference.”

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Mansfield’s lead hovered around 20 for the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter, a bucket from Hill on a feed from Boen giving the Hornets a 70-51 lead.

But Brockton kept it interesting with a bit of a late run. An 8-1 run made it 71-59 with just over two minutes to play, and the Boxers in possession. Brockton hit just one of two from the line and Boen came down the other end and converted through contact, completing a three-point play to essentially ice the win.

Mansfield boys basketball (advances to the D1 State Semifinal and will take on the D1 North champion on Tuesday at the TD Garden at 7:15. Lowell (22-0) and Lynn English (21-2) meet on Saturday night in the D1 North Sectional final.

Dominant Third Quarter Lifts Mansfield Past Needham

Mansfield Boys Basketball
Sam Stevens scored a game-high 20 points, as Mansfield rolled to a 73-52 win against Needham in the D1 South semifinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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TAUNTON, Mass. – Needham got the benefit of a layup right at (or just after) the halftime horn and went into the locker room with a little bit of momentum. The Rockets added a layup early in the third quarter and trailed by just two points in Sunday afternoon’s Div. 1 South semifinal at Taunton’s Rabouin Field House.

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It felt like a game that would go down to the wire. At least it did, until Mansfield clicked into gear and put in arguably its best quarter of the season.

The Hornets went on a 16-0 run to take control and won the third quarter 24-4, dominating on both ends of the floor. Thanks to that big run after halftime, Mansfield rolled to a comfortable 73-52 victory and a fourth straight sectional final.

“Based on the margin and what we did defensively and offensively that it’s got to be up there with one of the better quarters we’ve had,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan. “We just did everything right. There were very few mistakes in that quarter.”

He added, “My biggest critique at the half is that we didn’t want to move the basketball and anytime we moved the basketball in the first half we got whatever we wanted. Once we did that in the third quarter, we looked like an all-star team.”

Chris Hill got the first basket of the third, which was matched by a layup from Jacob Hammermesh. Hill then assisted on a three by Matt Boen (15 points and 12 rebounds). TJ Guy (17 points and five assists) grabbed a defensive rebound and turned into a layup on the other end and then followed that with a drive to the rim plus a foul to put Mansfield up 10.

After Boen swerved his way through traffic for a tough layup, Sam Stevens (game-high 20 points) took over. He buried a three in the corner in front of the Mansfield bench and added a second one from the opposite corner in front of the Mansfield student section. After a Will Dorion free throw, Stevens answered with a drive to the basket and a 51-32 lead.

Dorion (16 points) added another free throw, but then Drew Rooney, who was tasked with matching up against Needham’s star on the defensive side, drove baseline for a layup.

It was a complete performance by the Hornets in the third and put them on the brink of the final.

“I think we just committed a lot more on the defensive end, make sure we’re talking a lot more,” Stevens explained. “A couple of the guys that aren’t used to being in this environment and are on the quieter side had to speak up and that helped us out. In transition, we did a good job getting back and calling out our guys.”

To secure the win, Mansfield needed to make sure and not let a 22-point lead slip over the final eight minutes, but that looked precarious a couple minutes into the fourth when Needham used a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 15 and forced Vaughan to take a timeout.

“I thought at the start of the fourth we went into a mode of like just trying to hang on,” he said. “After that timeout, I thought we came out and had three good possessions, both ends of the floor, that kind of knocked them in the face a little bit.”

Boen got free for a three-pointer late in the shot clock that restored the lead to 18. Stevens set up Hill for a layup and Guy added back-to-back finishes at the rim. Stevens added six more in the fourth and, despite Dorion scoring nine points in the quarter, the Hornets were able to see out the victory in style.

“I thought everything we wanted to do defensively, for the most part, worked,” said Vaughan. “Obviously, it starts with Drew containing Dorion and keeping him kind of in check and once you get to the second level I thought the other guys stepped up. We closed out possessions by rebounding the ball well.”

Mansfield’s offense got into high gear right from the opening tip, as the Hornets scored 22 points in the first to grab a six-point lead. Stevens got things started with a pair from beyond the arc, Guy scored six points in the paint (while dishing out three assists) and Boen added five. Brendan Foley also came off the bench and hit a big three.

Needham hung around thanks in part to seven points from Johar Singh, but the senior wouldn’t score again until he added a fourth quarter free throw.

The fluidity of Mansfield’s offense ground to a halt in the second, as Needham held the Hornets to just nine points. Tim Reidy had a pair of steals that turned into layups on the other end, but a Guy offensive rebound put the Hornets back up 28-27 and then Foley drilled a three off a Rooney assist.

Dorion attempted a long three at the buzzer that fell short and Matt Fernandez grabbed the rebound and scored. It appeared that the layup was after the buzzer and the Mansfield bench was furious, but the score was 31-29 at the break.

Eight minutes of game time later, the Hornets were up by 22 and heading to another South final.

“I think we’re a tough matchup,” said Vaughan. “Who do you put on TJ? Who do you put on Sammy or Matty, who’s been playing great, who do you put on him now that he’s bringing the ball over?”

Stevens and the Hornets have plenty of experience on this stage and this particular court and that comfort level was obvious on Sunday. He said, “If someone’s dribbling too much or trying to take it to the rim too much, he makes sure to get us back and work the ball around, make sure everyone touches the ball.”

Mansfield (21-3) will face the No. 2 seed Brockton on Friday night at Taunton in a rematch of the 2018 South final that the Hornets won on their way to a state title.

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