Milford Comes Out On Top in Slugfest at Stoughton

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Milford celebrates Tyler Lane’s touchdown with 1:59 left to play, which turned out to be the game-winner in a 28-21 win at Stoughton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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STOUGHTON, Mass. – One of the characteristics that first-year Milford coach Dale Olson has talked about with his team is resiliency. On Friday night at Stoughton’s new Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Hawks showed that they have been listening to the coach’s message.

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Milford overcame two first half turnovers and three first half drives that ended inside the Stoughton 10, and twice in the fourth quarter the Hawks answered Stoughton touchdowns with scoring drives of their own. All of that allowed Milford to pull out a hard-fought, 28-21 road win against their former division rival.

“We always talk about adversity and we faced it again tonight,” said Olson. “The kids handled it. We didn’t score two times inside the five and that’s a great football team and you can’t do that, but I’m proud of our kids tonight. They fought and good teams find a way to win.”

The visitors were able to move the ball almost all night. Milford finished with more than 300 yards passing and nearly 200 yards on the ground, but the Hawks missed several opportunities to break the game open early.

On the opening drive of the game, the Hawks put together a 10-play drive and marched all the way down to the Stoughton three. Milford was finding success with the short passing game, as senior Brady Olson (25-of-42, 312 yards) completed seven passes to three different receivers on the first possession. But, on first and goal, his pass into the end zone was intercepted by Emmett Pearl.

“We were trying to get as much pass rush as we could and they just nickel-dimed it,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke. “They had a couple simple patterns and we were trying to cover, but we didn’t stop them right there.”

Stoughton got the ball at it own three and just four plays later was in the lead. A 19-yard carry by Christopher Ais (17 carries, 68 yards) gave the Black Knights some breathing room. On third and five, John Burke (11-of-24, 187 yards) fooled the Milford defense with play action and hit Christian Ais (five catches, 108 yards) in stride for a 73-yard score.

Not to be outdone, the Hawks hit back with a big play of their own. Facing third and 13, Olson fired a strike to Max Martin (seven catches, 121 yards), who hauled it in, took a big hit, spun free, and got a good block from Jayden Agnew to race 75 yards. Both extra points were blocked, so it was tied 6-6.

Following and Evan Hazard interception and return, Milford started its next drive at the Stoughton 25. The Black Knights managed to stop the Hawks on three plays inside the 10 and blocked Nicholas Araujo’s 21-yard field goal attempt.

A short punt again gave Milford great starting field position, this time at the Stoughton 34. On second down, Jake Queeney picked off a pass in the end zone to again deny Milford a go-ahead score.

With a 53-yard punt, Christopher Ais pinned Milford down to start its next drive at its own two, but with horrible starting field position the Hawks finally got back into the end zone. Olson started working down the left sideline to Matt Varteresian (seven catches, 74 yards) out to almost midfield.

As Stoughton’s defense prepared for the pass, Carter Scudo took a draw play up the middle for 52 yards and the visitors’ first lead. Olson hit Agnew on the conversion to make it 14-6.

Milford had one more possession to try and extend its lead before halftime. The Hawks used 15 plays and got all the way to the Stoughton three but were denied again by the Black Knights defense. Andrew Medina made a good play on the ball to breakup one pass and Olson saw his fourth down try get batted down at the line.

It definitely looked like the story of the game would be missed chances, as Stoughton put together a 14-play, 76-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly 7-1/2 minutes of the third quarter. The big play was a play action pass from Burke to Pearl for 31 yards into Milford territory.

Burke capped the drive on third and goal from the five, as he rolled out to his left and went full extension to hit the front pylon. His two-point pass to Pearl in the back of the end zone tied the game at 14-14.

“He had some good throws,” Burke said of his quarterback. “We just missed a couple of home runs. We worked hard and we had some good runs.”

After an intentional grounding call stalled Stoughton’s next drive inside Milford territory, the Hawks answered to get back in front. On third and six, Olson went deep to Keithley Sutton, who just got his hands under the ball and pulled in the 37-yard reception. On third and three from the 26, Olson showed off his legs, scrambling for 25 yards down to the goal line. Scudo (11 carries, 68 yards) punched it in for his second touchdown of the night.

“We knew that we could take the short stuff,” Olson explained. “Take what they give you and [Brady] did it tonight. At times, it didn’t look good and we struggled to run the football and in the end we rushed for 173 yards. In the end, we needed to be able to run the football to win this game and we did.”

For the second time in the game, Ais pinned Milford deep, this time with a 60-yard boot that rolled down to the two. On first down, the Black Knights nearly caught Scudo in the end zone, but he was able to dive to the one and avoid the safety. Stoughton took advantage of a short punt to even the game up. Christian Ais cut upfield on a sweep to the left and raced for a 22-yard score, his second touchdown of the night, and it was 21-21 with 4:38 to play.

Momentum seemed to be with the home team, but Milford’s offense continued to be hard to stop. An eight-yard pass to Sutton converted a third and four and kept the drive alive. With the ball at the Stoughton 22 and the Black Knights expecting a pass, Tyler Lane (seven carries, 58 yards) burst up the gut on a draw play, cut to the far sideline, and flung himself at the front corner of the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning score.

“I was trying to blitz there at the end, thinking they were going to throw, and that kid just went over us,” said Burke. “Their QB is just tough. He had a pretty good day. Second half I thought we did better.”

Stoughton had two minutes to try and answer. Burke started it with a 15-yard keeper and was able to recover from an intentional grounding call with an 11-yard pass to Queeney on fourth and eight. In the end, the Milford defense forced three straight incompletions and a turnover on downs to seal the win.

“It was a rock fight,” said Olson. “Burke has a done a great job and Stoughton kids are tough kids. We’re 4-1 and almost every game we’ve been in a rock fight, it’s just a slugfest.”

Milford (4-1) will travel to Lowell for a non-league game next Friday night. Stoughton (3-2) will look to avoid a three-game losing streak when it travels to King Philip.

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Milford Earns Rare Win at Franklin After Wild Finish

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Milford senior Carter Scudo (11) rushed for more than 170 yards to help the Hawks earn their second win against Franklin since 1990. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Considering Milford’s track record in this long-running series against neighboring Franklin, it should be no surprise that if the Hawks were going to pull out just their second win against the Panthers since 1990 that it was going come right down to the final play.

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Evan Hazard’s interception in the end zone sealed a wild, 34-27 victory for the Hawks on Saturday afternoon at Pisini Stadium, ending a wait of more than three decades for a road win against Franklin.

The Milford defense, which had recorded two shutouts in its three games so far this season, was given a stern test by Franklin’s spread offense but forced four turnovers and scored a pair of touchdowns, including Kevin O’Connor’s late interception return that proved to be the game-winner.

“I’ll take a win,” said first-year Milford coach Dale Olson. “I knew this rivalry had been one-sided in the past, I didn’t know it was that one-sided. I’m happy for our kids and we’ve just got to keep getting better. That’s it.”

He added, “The pick-six was huge by Kevin. They’d been hitting us all day in the flat…We knew it was going to be a challenge, facing a quality team in Franklin.”

It was 27-20 after first half in which both teams were able to move the ball at will. Things settled down in the third and fourth quarters and the score remained the same until O’Connor sat on the short out route, intercepting the Jared Arone pass and returning it 60 yards for the touchdown with 3:33 left to play.

Although that pushed the lead to two scores with time quickly running out, it was hardly the end of the action.

Franklin came right back on its next possession to cut the lead in half. Keith Nally returned the kick 27 yards out to the 40 to give the Panthers good starting field position. A 10-yard completion from Arone (24-of-35 for 292 yards) to Jake O’Brien (five catches for 57 yards) converted a third and nine to keep the drive alive. After a 28-yard pass to Mack Gulla, Arone hit O’Brien in the front corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.

With just 1:35 left, Milford was able to recover Parker Cheuvront’s onside kick attempt and took over at its 48. Carter Scudo (23 carries for 174 yards) got a first down in Franklin territory and the Panthers started to use their timeouts. On fourth and four, Matt Varteresian’s jet sweep was stopped short of the marker and the Panthers took back over on their own 30 with just 19 seconds on the clock.

Arone went to work on the far sideline, hooking up with Will Tracey (nine catches for 161 yards) on gains of 14, 12, and 10 to get to the Milford 34 with seven seconds left. Franklin tried to take a shot at the end zone, but the Hail Mary attempt was intercepted by Hazard as the clock ran out.

Franklin coach Eain Bain said, “Having a young team, it’s not as easy as saying okay veteran you know what to do, you’ve seen this a million times, but when you look at what we put in for today and what we were trying to do, I’m happy with the execution for about 90% of the game plan. We made some mistakes but we’ll learn from them. We know the talent we have.”

The hosts opened the scoring in the first quarter. Kyle Palmieri caught a blocked punt to start the Panthers in Milford territory. A holding call forced Franklin into a third and 23, but Arone was able to find Tracey deep down the far sideline for a 44-yard completion down to the two. Gulla (27 carries for 114 yards) punched it in from there for a 6-0 lead.

Milford responded on its next drive. On third and five from the Franklin 37-yard-line, Brady Olson (5-of-15, 83 yards) had his swing pass tipped but fortuitously it fell into the hands of Jayden Agnew who weaved his way for 27 yards inside the Franklin 10. Scudo took a sweep to the left and found the corner from eight yards out to put the visitors in front.

“They came out in a five-man box and that dictates you have to run the football,” Olson said. “I thought Carter did a great job. We’ve got to get better in general at our pass game. We’re too good Monday through Friday passing the ball and then Saturday comes and we’re not great.”

Now it was Franklin’s turn to answer. The Panthers put together a nine-play, 67-yard drive to regain the lead. After Gulla was able to get two yards on fourth and inches, Arone again looked deep down the sideline to Tracey and he was able to pull in the 32-yard touchdown pass.

“I thought we threw the ball well and ran the ball well,” said Bain. “[Jared’s] grown a ton, the receivers have grown a ton, our line, I think we run the ball as well as we have in four years here. I thought they had to gear up to stop our run and that almost never happens.”

The lead didn’t last long and Milford was able to take control with two scores in just 28 seconds. Scudo’s 38 yard, winding run through the Franklin defense set up Milford inside the 10. Olson (nine carries for 23 yards) capped the drive with a one-yard sneak. Two plays into Franklin’s next drive, Milford was able to force a fumble right in front of its bench and the ball was scooped by Hazard, who raced 35 yards for a 21-13 advantage.

After Jonathan Martins recovered a fumble, Franklin cut the lead back to just one. Despite being surrounded by the Milford pass rush on third and 11, Arone again went deep to Tracey, this time for 31 yards. Gulla bounced left for 24 on the next play down to the Milford seven. Two plays later, Arone hit Tracey on a three-yard slant for the score.

“We knew we needed to defend the whole field today against a good spread team and they got us on a couple long passes,” Olson explained. “That just can’t happen. At times I thought we did it well today and two big plays that turned into scores for them we had them behind the chains. Third and [23] and third and [11] and they scored touchdowns. That hurt.”

That was not the end of the first-half scoring. Milford took over with little more than two minutes left in the half. Olson was able to find Keithley Sutton down the far sideline, after the pass slipped through the hands of a Franklin defensive back, for 35 yards into the red zone. A Scudo draw got the Hawks to the four but the Panthers stuffed back-to-back plays. Olson spiked the ball, bringing up fourth and goal.

The Milford QB was able to push forward for the one-yard sneak with 17 seconds left in the second quarter. The XP was no good and the Hawks went into the break up 27-20.

Bain said, “We’re not huge up front. We put a lot on their plates to try and stop the run and that [Milford] line, that’s a really, really good offensive line and I thought our guys played so well. I’m so proud of them.”

Milford (3-1) will travel to Stoughton next week, the first of two crossover games against two of the top teams in the Davenport division (league-leading North Attleboro being the other). Franklin (2-2) will try to bounce back when it hosts Oliver Ames on Saturday.

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Scarlet Hawks Score Shutout Win Over King Philip

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Milford’s Carter Scudo (11) comes down with an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter against King Philip. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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 MILFORD, Mass. – A week ago, Milford’s defense had a stellar performance against one of the best teams in the state in Mansfield, but the Hornets found a way to get the win and the headlines.

This time around, not only did the Scarlet Hawks put on an encore performance on the defensive side of the ball, they were even better than a week ago.

Milford handed King Philip its first league shutout in over a decade, and its first division loss to a team besides Mansfield since 2015 in a 12-0 shutout of the Warriors.

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Behind a pair of interceptions and a goal line stand that changed the complexion of the game, the Scarlet Hawks earned one of their biggest league wins since joining the Hockomock in 2013.

“Our kids get down hill and they play physical football,” said first-year Milford head coach Dale Olson. “We just went through the grinder… Attleboro, Mansfield, King Philip to open the season. We knew [today] wasn’t going to be pretty, and it certainly wasn’t at times, but we got a great defense. To hold that team…they’re big, physical, they have a tremendous running back. I don’t know how much they ran for today but it couldn’t have been a lot. KP hasn’t lost too much in the Hock [recently] so to beat them, I couldn’t be prouder of the kids.”

Not only did the Hawks keep the Warriors out of the end zone, they limited the visitors to under 200 yards of total offense and held KP to just 2-for-12 on third down. KP was forced to punt six times, had one turnover on downs, and two interceptions.

“We just can’t move the ball so it’s been difficult,” said KP head coach Brian Lee. “Overall I’m pleased with our defensive effort. For a team of 140-pound guys, I think we’re doing pretty good. We’re out there fighting. We had some momentum, we had the long drive and get all the way down and we don’t score…that really was difficult, could have been a boost for us. It’s just frustrating because we were in it.

“It doesn’t get any easier. Mansfield is a lot meaner and a lot more experience. For us not to be able to just go lean on our culture a little bit in this game was a little disappointing in this game.”

King Philip’s defense did its part to keep the Warriors in the game but the Scarlet Hawks hit on one big play in the first half and cashed in one good field possession in the second half to find the end zone twice. Senior quarterback Brady Olson (8/28, 190 yards, two touchdowns) hooked up with classmates Carter Scudo and Max Martin in the end zone for the two scores in the game.

For Milford, getting the ball to Scudo was a priority. Scudo lined up in the backfield (11 carries, 97 yards) and at receiver (two catches, 93 yards, touchdown) to get involved as much as possible. It was evident the Hawks were trying to get him the ball as much as possible and he rewarded them early, taking his first carry for 30 yards on the third play of the game.

In fact, neither team had much success on offense early on as the first quarter ended scoreless. KP’s first drive ended on an interception from Evan Hazard and the Warriors punted on their next two series. Milford turned it over on downs on its first series and went three-and-out on its next two drives.

Scudo was on the receiving end of Milford’s biggest play of the first half. On their fourth drive of the game, the Hawks were faced with 3rd and 13 but a penalty against the KP secondary gave Milford 10 yards and another chance at third down. Brady Olson hit Scudo on a quick slant and Scudo broke free of his man and sprinted his way to the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead (after the PAT was blocked) on the first play of the second quarter.

“We didn’t make a ton of plays in the passing game but we made a couple of big plays,” Olson said. “We tried to move Carter around because through the first two games, we weren’t getting our best kids enough touches. We got him in the backfield, and he’s an explosive kid and there were a couple of times he was so close to breaking it and being gone. So it was good to get him more involved.”

King Philip looked poised to respond with a scoring drive on its own, albeit in different fashion, but came up just inches shy. The Warriors relied on the ground game, giving carries to Crawford Cantave (17 carries, 56 yards) and Mike Malatesta (seven carries, 47 yards). Junior quarterback Charlie Grant (8/19, 69 yards) connected with Eli Reed for a key third down conversion, and Malatesta bulldozed his way inside the 10-yard line.

Milford’s defense held but on 4th and goal from the five, Grant fired a pass near the pylon but the receiver was held. With pass interference, not an automatic first down anymore, KP had a second chance but just 4th and goal from the 3-yard line. Grant kept it and the pile moved close to the goal line but the referees ruled he was down before crossing the line, giving Milford the ball back just an inch outside the goal line.

“What a huge stop,” Dale Olson said. “If they get in there, now it’s a tie game…but we’re big and physical too. I think that’s propelled this program and what we want this program to be moving forward, we want physical kids. To stop them down on the six-inch line like that? [King Philip] is even bigger than Mansfield is upfront so I couldn’t be prouder of our kids.”

King Philip received the opening kick of the second half but the Hawks stuffed the Warriors on a 3rd and 2 and forced the visitors to punt. A high kick went out of bounds at the KP 46-yard line, giving the Hawks good field position to start the second half.

The Hawks moved the ball but a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty backed Milford back up. That only delayed the drive as Brady Olson dropped a 30-yard pass down the sideline into the hands of Matt Varteresion to move the sticks. Two plays later, Olson went play action before hitting Martin on a slant to the right for another touchdown. KP’s Hunter Hastings blocked the extra point to make it 12-0 with 7:45 left in the third quarter.

The Warrior defense did its part to stay in the game. On the final four drives of the game, the Hawks were forced to punt twice after a total of 10 yards, and turned it over on downs inside the red zone on back-to-back possessions.

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“We only gave up 12 points, we’re supposed to win with that,” Lee said. “We’re supposed to win that game only giving up 12 but we haven’t been able to figure out a constant response on offense yet. And we lost another starter so it’s only getting harder.”

Even as the KP defense put a stop to the Hawks’ offense, the Warriors couldn’t move the sticks in the second half. King Philip went three-and-out on its first three drives of the second half, punted after getting one first down on the fourth drive, and had its final drive of the game come to an end with Scudo hauled in an interception in the end zone during the final minutes of the contest.

Milford football (2-1) will hit the road for the first time this season when it travels to take on rival Franklin on Saturday at 12:00. King Philip (2-1) will look to bounce back from its first loss when it takes on league-leading Mansfield on Saturday at 6:30.

Milford Airs It Out, Beats Attleboro in Kelley-Rex Debut

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Milford senior receiver Carter Scudo dives to the goal line for the opening score of the game against Attleboro, which the Hawks won 34-0. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MILFORD, Mass. – Milford didn’t get the chance to scrimmage in the abbreviated preseason, so the Hawks needed to work out some of the kinks early in Saturday afternoon’s season opener against Attleboro. Luckily for Milford, its defense was in mid-season form right from the opening kick, giving its offense time to get settled in.

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Once things clicked into gear, Milford proved unstoppable, overcoming three first half turnovers by scoring on four straight possessions between the second and third quarters to beat Attleboro 34-0 in the program’s first Kelley-Rex division game.

Attleboro couldn’t have asked for a better start. Alexander Bakowski recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff to give the visitors the ball at the Milford 32, but the Bombardiers went backwards and three plays later punted.

The ball rolled down to the Milford two-yard-line and Attleboro’s defense forced a three-and-out. Milford’s punt hung up in the wind, so Attleboro regained possession at the 23-yard-line. Again Attleboro went nowhere, as Michael Strachan was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on fourth and three.

“The offense didn’t help us out there,” said first-year Milford coach Dale Olson, “and put the defense behind some tough situations but I think the defensive game plan that my brother (Dana Olson) and Coach (Eric) Riley put together, I’d be hard-pressed to think they had over 100 yards of offense today. Defense was lights out today for sure.”

Two more times in the first half Attleboro would get the ball deep in Milford territory, after Milford fumbles recovered by Strachan and Ryan Betts. They started possessions at the Hawks’ 36 and 26, but ran four plays combined after the turnovers and gained no yards.

Attleboro had only two first downs in the game and one came in the final minute of regulation. Dom Schofield, Mario Lee, Tyler Lane, and Angelo Romero, among others were winning every battle at the point of attack and the Bombardiers struggled to find a way through.

“You can’t make the mistakes,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said. “I just thought they were more physical than us up front. [Being physical] is our game but they’re good up front. They’re a good football team.”

Milford’s offense was hardly lighting up the scoreboard early, but at the end of the first quarter the Hawks started to move the ball. Brady Olson, who transferred from Bishop Feehan, was able to connect with his talented crop of receivers. He hit Carter Scudo, Schofield, Max Martin, and Keithley Sutton to move into the red zone.

Two plays into the second quarter, he swung a pass to the near sideline for Scudo (six catches, 38 yards), who cut upfield and dove for the goal line. The ball came loose as he landed and Attleboro was sure that he had come up short, but the officials ruled it a touchdown and Milford took a 7-0 lead.

The score stayed the same until late in the half. After Attleboro lost the handle on a snap to give the Hawks back the ball just one play after Milford had themselves turned it over, the Hawks put together a 14-play, 73-yard drive to grab control of the game.

Olson (18-of-33, 296 yards) found Martin sliding across the middle for a 14-yard gain on third and eight inside Attleboro territory. The duo connected again on an out route to the sideline for another 14 yards on fourth and eight down to the Attleboro 25. A personal foul call moved the ball to the 10 and Olson showed off his poise in the pocket, biding time until Jaden Agnew came open in the back of the end zone and then he fired a strike for a 14-0 lead just before halftime.

“They’re big up front, they can sling it, they’ve got good athletes, and you can’t get caught not capitalizing on the turnovers early in the first half,” Strachan said. “That was our chance to really do something. I think defensively we played pretty well…just spent too much time on the field.”

Momentum carried over in the third quarter. Nick Yohn sacked Attleboro quarterback Blake Garzaro (5-of-19, 17 yards) on the first play of the second half and the Bombardiers were forced to punt. Milford struck just two plays later. Olson fired a deep ball to Agnew, who went up between a pair of defenders to pull down a 48-yard completion to the seven and Schofield punched it on the next play.

After completing only 12-of-25 passes in the first half, Olson would complete 6-of-8 in the second. He completed passes to six different receivers in the game. A 15-yard screen to Schofield converted a third and five. Matt Varteresian was next with a 23-yard grab down to the Attleboro 15. After a two-yard run by Kevin O’Connor, Sutton got open on the far sideline for a 13-yard touchdown.

Olson explained, “Both [Attleboro’s] inside linebackers are good football players, the down-four are good football players, and we knew they were young, inexperienced in the secondary so we knew we’d have some opportunities in the pass game. Early, Brady was just off and obviously he got on. That makes us dangerous offensively if we can keep spreading the wealth.”

Attleboro ran nine plays on its first three possessions of the second half. Milford only ran 11 on its first three possessions but scored all three times it had the ball. The third was the highlight, as Sutton beat his man down the seam and Olson hit him in stride for a 62-yard score and a 34-0 lead with 1:15 left in the third.

After earning its first win in the Kelley-Rex division, Milford (1-0) will now get its biggest test. The Hawks will host defending league (and state) champion Mansfield next Saturday. It will be the first-ever meeting between the teams. The Hawks are aware of the challenge ahead and relishing this opportunity.

“We get to see what we’re all about,” said Olson. “That’s it, it’s the opportunity to play a top team in the state, the defending Div. 2 Super Bowl team. To tell you the truth, these kids were ready to play Attleboro but they’re excited to play week two, week three, week four too, and they’re just excited for the opportunity.”

Attleboro (0-1) will host King Philip in its home opener at Tozier-Cassidy Field next Saturday.

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Football: 2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Mansfield can’t defend its D2 state title, but the Hornets will be looking to bring home a third straight league title when the new Fall II season kicks off. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Football Preview

Attleboro

2019 Record: 6-5
2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Christian Dame, Jr., TE/DE; Alvin Harrison, Jr., OL/DL; Chris Leonardo, Jr., OL/DL; Kaiden Murray, Jr., RB/FS; Trainor Sherck, Sr., OLB; Michael Strachan, Sr., LB/RB; Freddy Wheaton, Jr., LB

Outlook:
Attleboro was able to incorporate a number of underclassmen last season and will be hoping that experience pays off with the junior class being asked to step up all across the field this season, as the Bombardiers look to challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

Size won’t be an issue for Attleboro and the offensive line should be a strength this season led by junior tackles Chris Leonardo (6’3, 275 pounds) and Alvin Harrison (6’3, 255) along with seniors Trainor Sherck and Ryan Grover and junior Adam Struminski. The Bombardiers are going to use that line a lot this season with new quarterback Blake Garzaro, who saw some action as a sophomore, handing the ball off frequently to junior Kaiden Murray, who looks poised for a breakout season, and bruising fullback Michael Strachan. Junior Freddy Wheaton is another physical back who will get touches this year. In the passing game, Garzaro can look for 6’4 tight end Christian Dame, who leads a largely new cast of receivers.

The strengths on offense should mirror the strengths for Attleboro’s defense as well. Leonardo, Dame, and Harrison will be the core of the defensive line with junior Isaac Pereira another big body that will be tough for opposing teams to run against. Strachan leads the linebacking corps. The URI-commit is the program’s all-time leading tackler and he’s a four-year varsity player. Wheaton will join Strachan at inside linebacker and Sherck and Ryan Betts will be on the outside. The secondary will have several new faces, but Murray is a tough tackler at free safety and William Runey will be one of the more experienced cornerbacks on the roster.

Franklin

2019 Record: 7-4
2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Eian Bain

Key/Returning Players: Jared Arone, Jr., QB; Parker Cheuvront, Sr., K; Dan Cormier, Sr., LB; Brady Duncan, Sr., OL; Mike Griffin, Sr., WR/S; Mack Gulla, Jr., RB; Xander Honor, Sr., LB; Isaac Hughes, Sr., WR; Shane Kindred, Jr., WR; Vincent Lackey, Sr., T; Jonathan Martins, Jr., DE; Jake O’Brien, Sr., WR; Anthony Quintina, Sr., DL;

Outlook:

Franklin is coming off an impressive run to the Div. 1 South final but the Panthers also graduated a host of important pieces from last year’s team, particularly at the skill positions, and will need some younger players to step in to stay competitive in the Kelley-Rex this season.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

Junior Jared Arone will step in at quarterback this season, hoping to have the same level of success running Franklin’s up-tempo style as Thomas Gasbarro did last year. Junior running back Mack Gulla got some time in the backfield last season but will be getting the bulk of the touches this year. A new receiving corps will also have to learn on the job, including senior Jake O’Brien and junior Shane Kindred, and junior tight end Jonathan Martins, but there is potential for this to be an explosive group. Seniors Brady Duncan and Vincent Lackey will be counted on to provide leadership on the offensive line. The consistency of senior kicker Parker Cheuvront will be a huge boost to a Franklin offense that may have some growing pains early in the season.

Defensively, the Panthers return several players and will rely on that experience to combat the top offenses in the league and to allow time for the younger players to get up to speed. Seniors Xander Honor and Dan Cormier will spearhead the defense from their linebacker positions, while seniors Anthony Quintina and Lackey are stout in the middle of the line. Martins will be a force at defensive end and Griffin is a playmaker at safety.

“We need to focus on getting better every day,” said Franklin coach Eain Bain. “Appreciate, and focus on, the here and now. Don’t look ahead or behind, but stay in tuned to the task at hand. And always, Row the Boat.”




King Philip

2019 Record: 8-3
2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Crawford Cantave, Jr., RB/SS; Drew Danson, Jr., TE; Mike Malatesta, Sr., MLB; Kevin Pierro, Sr., C; Nick Viscusi, Jr., SS; Michael Zagrodney, Sr., WR; Patrick Zarba, Sr., G/DT

Outlook:
This is an atypical season in so many ways, not least of all because King Philip, one of the perennial powers in the Kelley-Rex, is going through a transition. The Warriors will have a lot of new faces this year, using a number of underclassmen who will have to quickly learn the KP style of play through a tough slate of divisional games.

KP returns only two starters on offense from last year’s team that reached the D2 South semifinal. Senior guard Pat Zarba and junior tight end Drew Danson will be the lone holdovers, although several other players did see action at times. Junior Crawford Cantave filled in for an injured Ryan Halliday at running back last year and has the potential to be next in a long line of standout backs at KP. Mike Malatesta will also be in the backfield at fullback and sophomore Ryan Gately is a newcomer to keep an eye on. Junior Charlie Grant is set to be the new quarterback and will have Danson, senior Michael Zagrodney, and junior Nick Viscusi as targets in the passing game. Senior Kevin Pierro will be the center to add some experience to what is otherwise a largely new group on the line.

Defense has always been a priority for KP and this year’s group has a lot of players who will be learning on the job. Zarba and Danson will be on the defensive line, along with junior Hunter Hastings and senior Harry Brown. Malatesta and Gately will be joined by junior Jake Sullivan at linebacker. The secondary is young but has some experience, as Cantave and Viscusi both are coming off strong sophomore seasons at safety.

“I am hoping that our weakness (inexperience and lack of seniors) will be a strength in the fall as we are forced to play a lot of juniors and sophomores now,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “I’m also worried about injuries, as we have not been in our weight room in a year.”

Mansfield

2019 Record: 11-1 (Kelley-Rex Division Champion)
2019 Finish: Won D2 Super Bowl
Coach: Mike Redding

Key/Returning Players: Nick Bertolino, Sr., CB/WR; Matt Boen, Sr., WR/QB/DB; Anthony Comer, Sr., RB/DB; Mark DeGirolamo, Jr., G/DT; Joe Forte, Jr., C/NG; Cincere Gill, Sr., RB/DB; TJ Guy, Sr., OT/DE; Nico Holmes, Sr., FB/LB;Everett Knowlton, Sr., TE/DE; Jake McCoy, Sr., G/DT

Outlook:
It has been 15 months since Mansfield rolled to a D2 state title at Gillette Stadium and the Hornets are excited to get back on the field, searching for a third straight league title and looking forward to a 90th anniversary game against Foxboro at Alumni Field to close out the season.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

While Mansfield graduated a number of key players from last year’s state championship-winning team, the Hornets return plenty of offensive firepower, especially in the backfield. Senior Cincere Gill will be the focus after racking up nearly 1,000 rushing yards last season, but he will get plenty of help from classmates Anthony Comer and Nico Holmes and newcomer sophomore Rocco Scarpellini. In addition, the Hornets will have Matt Boen and Nick Bertolino back at receiver and Everett Knowlton returns at tight end. Juniors Jake Wall and Dana Johnson will add to the depth in the passing game. The offensive line should be a strength for Mansfield this season with three returning starters, seniors TJ Guy and Jake McCoy and junior Joe Forte. Juniors Jimmy Gilleran and Braedon Veno will fill out the rest of the line.

The Hornets were dominant on defense last season and they remain solid on that side of the ball, particularly in the front seven. With Guy on the end and junior Mark DeGirolamo and McCoy in the interior of the defensive line, Mansfield will be stout up front. Holmes is a standout at linebacker and senior Sean Weber will be a player to watch in his outside linebacker position. The secondary has depth with a handful of players fighting for three defensive back spots.

“Toughest part is mentally, everything’s backward with the weather – feels like November and the end of a typical season, but it’s pre-season,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Just hoping Friday nights under the lights feel the same once games get going and it feels like we’re starting to finally get into a groove with execution. We’re all thankful to be playing and trying to enjoy every day we can go out and be a team.”




Milford

2019 Record: 4-7
2019 Finish: Reached D3 South First Round
Coach: Dale Olson

Key/Returning Players: Evan Hazard, Sr., SS; Josh Kravets, Sr., DL; Mario Lee, Sr., DL; Max Martin, Sr., WR; Sean Murray, Sr., OL; Kevin O’Connor, Sr., LB; Brady Olson, Sr., QB; Angelo Romero, Jr., LB; Dom Schofield, Sr., DE; Carter Scudo, Sr., WR; Grant Scudo, Jr., DB; Matt Varteresian, Sr., WR; Nick Yohn, Sr., OL

Outlook:
There are a lot of changes at Milford this season, with a new coaching staff taking over and the Hawks making the switch to the Kelley-Rex for the first time, but there is a lot of experience on the field to make that transition with nine starters returning on both sides of the ball.

One of the biggest changes for Milford will be under center, as Brady Olson takes over following his transfer from Bishop Feehan. The UMass-commit will have plenty of targets to aim for, as Milford returns arguably the deepest group of receivers in the league led by seniors Carter Scudo, Max Martin, and Matt Varteresian. They combine deep threat potential with the willingness to make the tough catches in traffic. Up front, Sean Murray and Nick Yohn will lead the protection for Olson and try to open up lanes for a new crop of running backs.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

Experience will be a strength on the defensive side of the ball as well. Dom Schofield highlights a tough defensive line. Another of the team’s UMass commits, Schofield will be a force at the defensive end position, while Mario Lee and Josh Kravets return in the heart of the line. Milford lost a couple of standout linebackers from last year’s squad, Luke Rosa and CJ Cerrella, but Kevin O’Connor and Angelo Romero are playmakers who should be ready for breakout seasons. Grant Scudo and Evan Hazard are back in what should be a strong secondary for the Hawks.

“I have a strong senior class that has played a ton of football and we’ll lean on them to help us compete in the Hock large this year,” said new Milford coach Dale Olson.

Taunton

2019 Record: 4-6
2019 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Tommy Ambrose, Sr., OL/DL; Nathan Arieta, Sr., TE/DE; Nigel Choate, Sr., WR/DB; Bretton Heggs, Sr., RB/DB; Josh Lopes, Sr., RB/LB; Dan Macdougall, Sr., QB/DB; Jorden Manning, Sr., OL/DL; Deandre McPhail, Sr., DL; Kedrick Santos, Sr., LB/WR; Trent Santos, Jr., WR/DB; Nolan Tomaszycki, Sr., WR/DB

Outlook:
With 10 returning starters and 18 returning lettermen, Taunton will be relying on its senior leadership to stay competitive against what has the potential to be a daunting Kelley-Rex division schedule.

The Tigers have plenty of athleticism on both sides of the ball and also versatile players who can line up in multiple positions, making it difficult for opponents to match up. Senior Danny MacDougall moves under center this season, although he has also lined up at receiver in the past. Seniors Josh Lopes and Bretton Heggs give Taunton a pair of dangerous backs, while Trent Santos, Kedrick Santos, Nigel Choate, and Nolan Tomaszycki are weapons in the passing game. Senior Nathan Arieta, at 6-foot-5, is a big target at tight end. Seniors Tommy Ambrose and Jorden Manning are two returning starters on the offensive line. The depth on the line will be tested, as Taunton has several underclassmen with the size to step in but not a lot of experience.

Defensively, Taunton relies on its quickness and athleticism, but also has plenty of size up front. Ambrose, Manning, and Arieta will all play on the defensive line, along with classmate Deandre McPhail and junior Faisal Mass. Lopes, Kedrick Santos, Caleb Nicholson, and Evan Perrotta have experience in the linebacking corps. The secondary is filled with playmakers, including Trent Santos, MacDougall, Heggs, Tomaszycki, and Choate.

2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview

Friday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 01/10/20

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Basketball
King Philip, 54 @ Attleboro, 62 – FinalAttleboro senior Bryant Ciccio connected on a key three-pointer in the final minutes of the game and went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the final quarter to help the Bombardiers pull out a win over visiting King Philip. With the game tied 42-42 through 24 minutes of action, Ciccio netted eight of his team-high 15 points in the final quarter while classmate Qualeem Charles (12 rebounds) netted half of his 12 points in the fourth. Nick McMahon (nine points) and Jason Weir (six rebounds) also had key buckets in the fourth for Attleboro. King Philip, which led by three after a quarter (19-16) and outscored the hosts in the third to bring the game even heading into the fourth, got 25 points from senior Alex Fritz while classmate Andrew McKinney added 10 points.

Sharon, 43 @ Canton, 60 – FinalCanton won each quarter but it was its lopsided second quarter that created the necessary separation to secure a win over visiting Sharon. The Dogs held a 14-11 lead through eight minutes but limited the Eagles to just five points in the second while its offense produced its best frame of the game with 17 points, creating a 31-16 advantage at halftime. Junior Eric Mischler drained three of his five triples in the second quarter, totaling 11 of his career-high 25 points in the frame to help Canton create its big lead. Nick Cushman gave the Bulldogs a big boost, scoring nine second half points while senior Kyle Fitzgerald scored all seven of his points after the break. Andrew Burton scored a team-high 12 points for the Eagles, who were limited to just one three-pointer in the second half and three total for the game. Caleb Gayle added 10 points for Sharon.

Stoughton, 46 @ Foxboro, 64 – FinalFoxboro had one of its best offensive quarters of the season, exploding for 26 points in the third quarter to turn a close game into a runaway win over visiting Stoughton. The Warriors built a 16-10 lead through eight minutes and took a 26-19 advantage into the locker room at halftime. A 7-0 run to start the third sparked the big quarter as Foxboro held a 52-35 advantage with one quarter to play. Senior Brandon Borde scored seven of his team-high 21 points in the third, Ryan Hughes had six of his nine points, Will Morrison (10 points) drained a pair of three-pointers, and Kevin Gallagher added a trifecta of his own. Senior Tahkwan Gates Brown netted a team-high 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds to pace the Black Knights. Ahmad Jahed and Myles Grigalunas-Powell each chipped in with eight points.

Franklin, 52 @ Taunton, 83 – FinalClick here for a recap and photo gallery of this game.

Milford, 56 @ North Attleboro, 46 – FinalMilford built its lead over the first two quarters and got key contributions up and down the lineup to stay in front the rest of the way. The Scarlet Hawks jumped ahead 19-12 after a quarter and pushed the advantage to 29-20 at halftime. Milford senior Colby Pires scored 13 of his career-high 23 points in the first quarter whole Ralph Franklin Jr. (eight points) and Matty Varteresian (six points) combined to score all 10 of Milford’s second quarter points. Pires went back to work in the third, hitting two more threes while Jordan Darling and Dom Schofield also scored to keep Milford up 43-33 going into the fourth. Junior Ben Blanchard helped put the game away with an early three, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth. Junior Edan Kelley scored a career-high 17 points to pace the Rocketeers, who were without leading scorer George Ladd (illness). Ethan Friberg added 13 points for North.

Mansfield, 71 @ Oliver Ames, 59 – FinalTrailing at halftime and holding just a one-point lead after three quarters of action, the Hornets used a strong start to the fourth quarter to pull away from the win. Five Hornets factored into the fourth quarter scoring with senior Sam Stevens scoring seven of his 19 points, junior TJ Guy adding six of his 20 points, and Cincere Gill giving the visitors a boost with five of his seven points. Drew Rooney (seven points) and Matt Boen (16 points) also scored in the fourth, a period in which the Hornets won 22-11. Oliver Ames had a 24-point second quarter to take a halftime lead. Junior Amari Brown scored seven of his game-high 24 points in the second while Jay Spillane had seven of his 12 points and Ryan Burkett netted six of his 11 points.










Girls Basketball
Attleboro, 44 @ King Philip, 62 – FinalKP broke the game open by winning the third quarter 18-6 and pushing the lead out to double digits. Emma Glaser was the top scorer for the Warriors with 14 points. Faye Veilleux and Claire Keswick each scored 11 in the win.

Canton, 44 @ Sharon, 20 – FinalCanton locked down on the defensive end in the fourth quarter, holding the Eagles to just two points and running away with a road win. The Bulldogs led by only two points after one quarter (8-6) and extended that to six (17-11) low-scoring first half. Canton held Sharon to single digits in all four quarters and extended the lead to 28-18 heading into the final eight minutes. Fay Gallery paced the visitors with 15 points and Kiara Cerruti scored 10. Lilah Milton added eight points and freshman Erin Beatty made her varsity debut and added to the team’s strong defense in the fourth.

Foxboro, 79 @ Stoughton, 39 – FinalClick here for a Photo Gallery from this game. For the second time this season, Foxboro shutout an opponent in the first quarter, while scoring more than 20 points of their own. The Warriors raced out to a 23-0 lead after the opening eight minutes, extending the lead to 31-0 before Stoughton got on the board. Foxboro led 49-11 at halftime. The second half was just about even, with the Black Knights continuing to battle despite the deficit. Katelyn Mollica scored 27 points through three quarters, burying seven three-pointers in the process, but Foxboro had a number of players step up. Jamie DeVellis came off the bench and scored 11 points, Lizzy Davis scored 10 points, and Hannah Blake scored nine. Abby Hassman (nine rebounds and five assists), Shakirah Ketant (eight rebounds) and Yara Fawaz (11 rebounds and six assists) each scored six points. Shyanne Trinh scored 22 points over the final three quarters and Aliyah Wright added seven points (six in the fourth quarter).

Taunton, 18 @ Franklin, 66 – FinalAli Brigham scored 17 points and Olivia Quinn added 12 to help the Panthers continue their unbeaten start to the season.

Oliver Ames, 58 @ Mansfield, 38 – FinalThe Tigers took control from the start, leading 18-4 after the first quarter and 33-12 at the half to earn a road win and extend their win streak to four. Caroline Peper scored 13 to lead the way for OA, while Tate Hadges and Jess Erlich each scored nine. For the second straight game, Kayla Vine scored 20 points to lead Mansfield. Ashley Santos chipped in with eight in the loss.

North Attleboro, 53 @ Milford, 23 – FinalNorth Attleboro tossed a shutout in the second quarter, outscoring the Hawks 15-0 in the frame, and allowed only two points in the first half. Big Red led 24-2 at the break, but Milford won the third quarter 11-10. North pulled away with 19 points in the fourth. Amanda Kaiser caught fire from three-point range, knocking down five shots from beyond the arc, on her way to a game-high 19 points. Regan Fein scored 15 and Summer Doherty scored 11 in the win. North coach Nikki Correia praised her team’s full-court defense and the control that the Rocketeers played with on the other end.

Boys Swimming
Canton @ North Attleboro, 7:00
Sharon @ Foxboro, 7:00
Mansfield, 73 @ Franklin, 92 – Final
Milford @ Stoughton, 6:00

Girls Swimming
Canton @ North Attleboro, 7:00
Sharon @ Foxboro, 7:00
Mansfield, 56 @ Franklin, 107 – Final
Milford @ Stoughton, 6:00

2019-2020 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview

Taunton boys basketball
Taunton’s Dante Law dunks the ball in the second half against Oliver Ames last season. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019-2020 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview

Attleboro

2018-2019 Record: 18-5
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Mark Houle

Attleboro fulfilled high expectations last year with a terrific regular season but had its postseason run cut short in the opening round of the tournament. With an experienced, battle-tested, and deep group of seniors, the Bombardiers are hoping to take the next step during the 2019-2020 season.

The Bombardiers have seven seniors on the roster with six having plenty of valuable minutes at the varsity level. It all starts with a pair of four-year varsity players and captains Bryant Ciccio and Qualeem Charles. Both have played over 60 games for head coach Mark Houle and earned HockomockSports.com First Team honors a year ago. Ciccio (14.7 ppg, 3.2 apg) is like a coach on the floor and Charles (13.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg) is a matchup nightmare and one of the most dominant post players in recent years.

But there is much more to the Bombardiers, such as senior captain Tim Callahan. Callahan had a strong junior season with 7.7 points per game and can change a game with his outside shooting. He will also be relied upon to anchor the defense. Guard Nick McMahon and forward Lorenzo Wilson provided a spark off the bench last season and will be key pieces this season. And senior Jason Weir is back in the mix after missing last year due to injury. Weir showed flashes during his sophomore season, a versatile player that can play in the post or step outside and knock down a three.

Attleboro has a variety of weapons on the offensive end and that will make them difficult to defend. They have a couple of good weapons that can score down low and then a handful of shooters, so the inside-out game will be a big part of the game plan. Charles gives the Bombardiers protection around the rim while all five players are the court will have to contribute on the boards to eliminate second-chance points.

“We will rely on a battle-tested group of seniors, but we will need our underclassman to continue to develop and be ready to step in and play important roles on the team,” said head coach Mark Houle. “We have a hard-working group of players who compete and challenge each other every day in practice.”

Canton

2018-2019 Record: 14-10
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Ryan Gordy

After winning back-to-back Davenport division titles, the Bulldogs know it will be a grind to try and get a third with a big target on their backs.

Gone is the program’s all-time leading scorer and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Devin Foster, who was one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league over the past two seasons. That means there is going to be a lot of opportunities for new players to step up for the Bulldogs. Canton head coach Ryan Gordy said this year’s team will be a “much more space and paced” orientated team. Gordy is expecting a more spread out opportunistic approach that will feature contributions from anyone who checks in.

While Foster graduated, the Bulldogs do have a handful of talented and experienced players back on the roster. Senior Kyle Fitzgerald is the top returning scorer from a year ago, netting double figures in six contests. He is also a workhorse on defense and will be one of the leaders on the court. Robbie Gallery, Matt Giglio, and Eric Mischler were all starters at some point during the 2018-2019 season so Gordy will have some veterans to lean on during the year. Gallery, Giglio, and Mischler all showed the ability to come up with a big shot at any time and will help space the floor.

Defensively, the Bulldogs are looking at their versatility and depth to give them flexibility. Gordy believes he has a strong mix of players that will allow him to switch things up and adjust each and every game. Sophomore Lanse Dorcelus earned minutes for the final month of last season and could be a key piece this season.

“We feel like our program is healthy and players have made a commitment to growth,” Gordy said. “This season we are going to focus on the process and maximizing the strengths of our players. Our culture and direction has been a bright spot as we focus on the player person and team development each practice and game. We’re excited to see where we are and where we can get too.”

Foxboro

2018-2019 Record: 14-9
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Jon Gibbs

There is good news and bad news when it comes to the Foxboro boys basketball team this season. The good news is that the Warriors expect to once again be one of the toughest defensive teams in the league. The bad news is for the rest of the Hockomock League as Foxboro boasts an improved offense, and combined with their traditional tough defense, has the Warriors in position for a Davenport division title.

With four of their five top scorers back this season, including senior Brandon Borde (team-high 15.3 ppg) and junior Kevin Gallagher (12.9 ppg), the Warriors are looking to ride a balanced approach on offense to improve their scoring after finishing 10th in scoring in the Hockomock League last season (54.4 points per game). Borde is one of the most experienced players back in the league and has the ability to create his own looks as well as lead the team as the floor general. Gallagher had a breakout sophomore season and can really fill up the scoring column, especially from deep.

Borde and Gallagher will also get help from senior Will Morrison, who can catch fire from deep, and senior Ryan Hughes, who can give opponents trouble in the paint. All four players are returning starters from a season ago, so that gives Foxboro an advantage, especially defensively. Head coach Jon Gibbs called the defense the “foundation” of the team. Foxboro has consistently been very fundamentally sound and disciplined on the defensive end.

Seniors Dylan Barreira, Michael Devlin, Liam Devlin, and Donald Rogers all played important minutes last season and will provide a lot of depth for Foxboro.

“We have been making progress each day,” Gibbs said. “Practices have been very competitive so far as guys work hard to carve out a role for themselves by earning the trust of their teammates and coaches. If we stay hungry, humble, and unselfish, it has the potential to be a very successful season.”

Franklin

2018-2019 Record: 17-6
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 Central Quarterfinal
Coach: CJ Neely

Ever since the Hockomock League split into two divisions, Franklin has entered each season as one of the top teams in the Kelley-Rex and that looks to be the case yet again this year.

As it does each and every season, defense comes first for the Panthers. Franklin was the best defensive team in the Hockomock League last year, allowing just 48.9 points per game. Not only did the Panthers lead the league in that category, they were the lone team to keep opponents under 50 points on average. It’s the second straight year they’ve had the best defense in the division and third straight year they are in the top three. There are a lot of talented individual defenders on the team but year in and year out, Franklin’s team defense gives them a chance to win.

Offensively, the Panthers boast the top returning scorer in the league in three-year starter Chris Edgehill. Edgehill, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark last season, is an absolute handful to deal with on the offensive end of the court. He can score in a variety of ways, and on top of that, he is very good at getting teammates involved (four assists per game last year). Seniors Jack Rudolph and Steve Karayan are also back after playing valuable minutes last season and will be relied upon on both ends of the floor.

“We have a lot of guys who worked really hard in the offseason to improve and are excited to get on the court,” said head coach CJ Neely. “It’s a great group of people who have a lot of fun together. We need to stay aggressive and share the ball. We hope that strong team defense will continue to be something that defines our program.”




King Philip

2018-2019 Record: 7-13
2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Dave DeStefano

With a solid group of players returning from last season, second-year head coach Dave DeStefano is hoping to guide his Warriors back to the state tournament for the first time since 2015.

The Warriors showed flashes throughout last year, including an upset win of Kelley-Rex champions Mansfield on the road. But they were also on the wrong end of a handful of close games, losing five games by five or fewer points. With a year of experience in DeStefano’s system, and for a lot of players their first year of varsity under their belts, King Philip is hoping to turn those close games into wins.

KP boasts two returning starters in Alex Fritz and Andrew McKinney, both standing at 6’3. Fritz had a breakout junior campaign and was the fourth-highest scorer in the Hockomock League with 15.5 points per game. He was able to score in a variety of ways, including through contact at the rim, and will be a vital piece this year. McKinney was fifth on the team in scoring last year, scoring in double-figures in five contests, including a career-high 19 points at Stoughton. Senior Tommy Donahue looks to give the Warriors a strong presence in the post while classmates Owen Conlin and Chris Roy look to be in the mix. Seniors Robbie Jarest and Tom Weir are back in the mix after a year away from the program.

Defensively, King Philip will be relying on its size and physicality. While Donahue (6’5) will be the main rim protector, having long guards and forwards will help KP make life difficult for opponents. The Warriors will need to improve on the defensive end after surrendering a division-high 63.7 points per game last year. DeStefano is looking to get some contributions from junior juniors Donte Barros, Cole Breen, Joe Cullen, Evan Stephens, Will Kinney, and Jake Silveria while sophomores Charlie Grant and Braeden Sottile will likely be in the mix too.

“The boys have really worked hard this offseason,” DeStefano said. “The practices have been really competitive and physical. For us to be successful we will need to make a big commitment on the defensive end of the floor. We want to make our opponents uncomfortable and focus on working together to get stops. On offense we are looking to have a balanced attack and create great scoring opportunities as a team.”

Mansfield

2018-2019 Record: 22-5
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Mike Vaughan

The Hockomock League continues to run through Mansfield.

The Hornets have won the Kelley-Rex division title in eight of its nine years, and it looks like Mansfield will be the team to beat again this year. Three players that burst onto the scene last year – Sam Stevens, TJ Guy, Matt Boen – are now three of the top players in the Hock heading into this season. Mansfield certainly graduated a lot of talent in Tommy Dooling, Damani Scott, and Khristian Conner, but with those three starters back plus seniors Drew Rooney and Makhi Baskin, as well as a handful of newcomers ready to make an impact, Mansfield is poised for another deep tournament run.

Stevens (11.2 ppg) will be one of the toughest players to stop with his ability to finish around the rim as well as deadly three-point shooting, Guy (10.9 ppg) is very good in the post on both ends of the floor, and Boen (9.5 ppg) can score in a variety of ways. All three are capable of filling up the stat sheet on any given night. Baskin provides a lot of energy and can change the game with his effort while Rooney showed last year that he can matchup with some of the top players in the league on the defensive end.

Juniors Brian and Jason See are both strong shooters that work tirelessly on both ends of the floor and should be in the mix for the Hornets this year. Juniors Jack Colby and Brendan Foley will be looking to bring a spark off the bench while sophomore Matt Hyland and freshman Chris Hill are promising young players that could contribute right away.

“I think our depth and ability to play different styles will be a strength of this team,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I’m excited to see where this team can get to as they continue to work hard in practice and mix their individual talents to form our team identity. Transition play, scoring inside and out will be strength on offense. Playing solid man to man and uptempo defense with our depth could create some issues for our opponents.”

Milford

2018-2019 Record: 9-12
2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Paul Seaver

After a season of ups and downs, the Milford Scarlet Hawks are hoping last year’s growing pains transition into a playoff berth this season.

With a large group of returnees, the Hawks will certainly be in the mix for the Davenport division title. While head coach Paul Seaver returns the majority of his team, he will need some of the those players to step up on the offensive end the fill the void left by graduation. The Hawks graduated its top three scorers, including the second-highest scorer in the league in Brendan White (18.2 ppg). That means there will be a lot of opportunities for new players to step up and contribute.

Junior Jordan Darling (7.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and senior Colby Pires (6.1 ppg) are the top two point producers back this year while junior Dom Schofield also returns after starting as a sophomore. Darling started 19 games this year and was selected to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassman team after a strong season on both ends of the court. Pires is a leader both on and off the court and plays well in all aspects of the game, and Schofield gives Milford a strong post presence on the defensive end, recording a team-high 38 charges taken last season.

Ralph Franklin Jr., Matty Varteresian, Tyler Whetherbee, and Ben Blanchard all saw time throughout last season and could all be in line for bigger roles this season.

“Our depth will matter, our balance will matter, our chemistry is this group’s most important attribute,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver. “We were the youngest team in the league last season and this group has a lot of players back who are attacking this year with a chip on their shoulder. This group defines what Milford basketball is and that’s a testament to who these kids are hard workers and higher character individuals. I could not be any more excited to coach and work with these kids on a daily basis.”

North Attleboro

2018-2019 Record: 9-11
2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Sean Mulkerrins

There are going to be a lot of new faces dawning the Big Red uniform this winter. After losing nine seniors to graduation, head coach Sean Mulkerrins has just three players back from last year’s nine-win squad.

With a large amount of new players comes a large amount of opportunities. The Rocketeers graduated its two top scorers but bring back senior Ethan Friberg (7.0 ppg) and junior George Ladd (7.4 ppg) to lead the charge offensively this year. Friberg, standing at 6’5, can cause problems in the paint but also van step out and play along the perimeter. Ladd had a breakout sophomore season and was named to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassman team. He is a little of a throwback player that is very fundamentally sound on the offensive end. Senior Josh Porter, the third returner, saw an expanded role at the end of last season and played well.

Defensively, the Rocketeers will be focusing on limiting opponents to one shot per possession. With some size in the frontcourt, North will try to make it difficult to finish at the rim, and with all five players committed to rebounding, try and minimize second-chance points.

“There will be a lot of new faces with opportunities to make an impact on this year’s team,” Mulkerrins said. “There will definitely be some growing pains and the sooner the new faces adjust to the rigors of varsity basketball, the better we will be.”




Oliver Ames

2018-2019 Record: 10-12
2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Don Byron

Last season, Oliver Ames came up just one game shy of the state tournament. Goal number one for the 2019-2020 season is to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

With a strong mix of experienced players and hungry new additions, Oliver Ames is ready for the grind that is the Kelley-Rex division and the Hockomock League.

“The expectation is to always get [to the tournament], that’s our first goal,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “We’re pretty optimistic but we know it’s going to be a grind, you have to show up every night, you can’t take a night off.”

Byron has been impressed with his guard play so far this preseason, and that will likely mean featuring three guards in the lineup for the majority of the time. Senior Jay Spillane is a returning starter while classmate Owen Friel and junior Amari Brown were top options off the bench a season ago. Spillane can score in bunches, especially from the outside, while Friel combines a solid shooting game with a hard-nosed defensive approach. Friel’s ability to guard a variety of position makes him a valuable piece in the lineup while Brown is a crafty player that does a nice job getting teammates involved.

Senior center Evan Craig (6’5) will be joined by classmate Ryan Burkett (6’2) in the frontcourt. Both picked up valuable minutes at the varsity level last year and Byron is hoping that will help with their expanded roles this year. Senior guard Adam Cann and junior forwards Trey Buggs and Drew Nickla will provide depth for the Tigers.

“It takes some time to get accustomed to the varsity speed and what we expect at this level,” Byron said. “All of these kids gained experience with us last year, and that year of experience is invaluable.”

Sharon

2018-2019 Record: 3-17
2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Andrew Ferguson

After a couple of down seasons, the Eagles will be making a strong push to get back into the state tournament for the first time since 2016.

Sharon boasts a number of players who gained varsity experience that will be looking to help the program bounce back. The first being senior Aidan Kane, the team’s leading scorer last season with 11.5 points per game. When he’s on from keep, Kane is one of the top three-point shooters in the league. He has the ability to change a game very quickly if he gets hot from deep. Senior Andrew Burton emerged as one of the Eagles’ top players last year and could be poised to have a breakout year. Sophomore John Baez will start at the point after joining the varsity team for the final month and a half last season.

The Eagles will be relying heavily on its frontcourt to step up on both ends of the court. Senior Caleb Gayle is a traditional post player that will compete hard on both ends of the court, senior Cam Baker is fundamentally sound and a reliable option and junior Hank Ward picked up valuable minutes as a sophomore and will be an important part of the rebound game as well as defensively. Senior Aaron Karten will be in the mix as well, giving the Eagles an athletic frontcourt.

Junior Jordan Barboza should give the Eagles a spark off the bench this year and head coach Andrew Ferguson will look for him as an important defensive piece. Kiran Chandrasekaran had flashes of the strong play off the bench last year and should see an expanded role this year, while junior transfer Matt Baskin could provide a needed scoring punch.

“This group has worked tremendously hard in the offseason and the preseason and is looking to translate that into success throughout the regular season,” Ferguson said. “Many of the players have gained valuable experience at the varsity level over the past two years and our senior class are tremendous leaders who provide a great example for our younger players.”

Stoughton

2018-2019 Record: 10-11
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Preliminary Round
Coach: John Gallivan

Stoughton ended its playoff drought last season and with a good amount of those players back again this year, the Davenport division title and a deep playoff run could be in the forecast this season.

The Black Knights have their leading scorer back in 6’5 senior forward Obinna Ugwuakazi, who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per game with nine double-doubles last year. His athleticism and ability to finish through contact made him a tough matchup for opponents, and he will be at the forefront of the Stoughton offense again this year. Fellow senior Tahkwan Gates Brown, who also stands at 6’5, is also back and we could see the duo play together at times which will certainly make life tough for opponents.

Senior Myles Grigalunas-Powell is back for his third year on varsity. After improving each of the past two seasons, the 2019-2020 season could be a breakout year for Grigalunas-Powell, who can score from three-point range but is also a crafty finisher attacking the rim. Ahmad Jahed had flashes of strong play last year and will be back in the mix again this year, and the same goes for Tommy Sanda. Juniors Brett Pendenza and Jake Queeney are also back after earning some minutes last year.

“We feel like we can score this year both from downtown and from down low,” said Stoughton head coach John Gallivan. “And with our size in the paint, we hope to make it difficult for opponents to score consistently.”

taunton

2018-2019 Record: 15-9
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Charlie Dacey

After a strong regular season, the Taunton boys basketball team flipped a switch in the tournament and made a run to the D1 South Semis, nearly knocking off powerhouse Mansfield. With a taste of postseason success, the Tigers are hoping to replicate that success this year with another impressive playoff stretch.

The Tigers boast speed, skill, and depth this season and will be in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division title this season. While Taunton lost a lot of production from last year (Lou Vendrell, Mike Quinn, John Martins, Wesner Charles), there are a handful of players battling to earn their chance at minutes in the Tigers’ lineup. One constant in that lineup over the past couple of years is senior Dante Law, who enters his fourth year with the varsity group. Law was Taunton’s leading scorer a year ago with 14.1 points per game but none of the other returners were over five points a game, meaning there will be plenty of opportunity for new players to step up.

Seniors Fabio Goncalves (6’6) and Aiden Pelot, as well as junior Tyler Stewart (6’6) make up the frontcourt for the Tigers. All three played at the varsity level last year and will be key pieces at helping the Tigers defend and win the battle on the boards. Law will be joined by junior Josh Lopes, who showed flashes during his sophomore season, DaeDae Kenion, and sophomore transfer Tristan Herry as key pieces of the offense.

The Tigers are also excited about the depth on the team this year. Junior Danny MacDougall earned starting minutes last year and is a reliable option in a variety of roles while Trent Santos, Logan Lawrence, and Jonathan Torres will all be in the mix for Taunton.

“With this team, press and run should be ‘Plan A’ although there are skills available to play at a slower pace,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey.

Foxboro Beats Milford in Must-Win League Finale

Foxboro football
Foxboro quarterback Shayne Kerrigan rushed for a pair of touchdowns and tossed one, leading the Warriors to a win at Milford that seals a postseason berth. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MILFORD, Mass. – Trailing by three points at halftime of a road game that it had to win in order to reach the state tournament, Foxboro came out of the break with the mission of taking control of the game at the line of scrimmage. Mission accomplished.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Warriors dominated up front on both sides of the ball in the second half on Friday night, putting pressure on quarterback Colby Pires to disrupt the Milford offense and opening holes for senior quarterback Shayne Kerrigan to exploit on his way to 141 second half yards and a pair of scores. Foxboro turned the game on its head and won 21-10.

“As you get as old as I am, you get a little philosophical and I just said there’s not too many chances in life that you can control your own destiny and this is one of them,” said Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli, who earned his 275th career win on Friday. “They took the cue and I couldn’t ask anything more of them.”

He added, “We played better in the second half. The kids came to play and I’m so proud of them. I’m pretty sure that puts us in. I don’t really care where, just as long as we’re in.”

Foxboro came out of the break and marched right down field. Kerrigan (22 carries, 169 yards) called his own number eight times, helping the Warriors get all the way down to the Milford 26, but on third down he tried to go to the end zone and was picked off by Grant Scudo. On second down, the Hawks gave the ball right back when Luke Rosa (14 carries, 65 yards) lost the ball when fighting for extra yards and it was scooped up by Rashaad Way.

With the ball back in their hands, the Warriors went back to the ground game. Kerrigan, Brian Derba, and Luis Sulham all got touches to get inside the 10-yard-line. Chris McNamara pushed the ball to the goal line and on the next play Kerrigan broke the plane on a QB sneak for a 14-10 lead with just 1:24 left in the third quarter.

“Up front I think they physically beat us in the second half,” said Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “They wanted it and they physically pushed us around. Our kids fought, I thought they did well, but it just wasn’t good enough.”

After a Milford punt, Foxboro’s offense went back to work and got the ball to the Milford 18 after a 45-yard run by Kerrigan, but on third and eight his pass to the end zone was picked off by Carter Scudo.

The visitors’ defense was equally strong up front. Nick Cherry was dominating up the middle with Anton George controlling the edge. Cherry tipped a pass at the line that was nearly intercepted and Jon Moses got pressure on Pires (14-of-33, 106 yards) and batted a pass down.

Despite there being six minutes left, Vizakis decided to go for it on fourth and 10 from his own 29. The pass fell incomplete and Foxboro had the short field only for a bad snap and a 20-yard loss derail the chance to put the game away. Again, the Foxboro defense shut things down. George tipped a first down pass and, following an 18-yard completion to Maxwell Martin, Pires was forced into four straight incompletions, Mike Sheehan’s pressure forcing another turnover on downs.

“They put us in position,” Vizakis said of his defense. “They gave us two shots to win it, but we just didn’t execute, we didn’t capitalize on those opportunities, and we’ve just got a lot of correcting to do.”

This time the Warriors took advantage, as Kerrigan burst through a hole on the right side of the line and raced 44 yards to pay dirt to seal the win.

“He was better than advertised,” Martinelli said about Kerrigan. “He just has that knack, he’s not that big, he’s not overly fast, but he has great vision and a quiet confidence in his abilities and you can’t coach any of those things. We’re lucky to have him.”

Foxboro drew first blood on its second possession of the game. Kerrigan pump-faked towards a receiver screen, caught the Milford defense jumping forward, and then hit Elijah Lewis in stride for a 55-yard touchdown to grab a 7-0 lead.

Milford went three-and-out on its first possession but the Hawks, who had only scored one touchdown in two games coming into Friday night, put together an eight-play, 65-yard drive to answer immediately. Rosa got the ball on the first five plays and, with the help of a face mask call, got the Hawks to the Foxboro 13. After a penalty and then a 17-yard completion to Danny Farrelll to round out the first quarter, Rosa punched it in from two yards out on the opening play of the second.

“It was two teams that were 3-3, each beat the same two teams, and each lost to the same two teams [in the league], so I knew it was going to be a game like that, back-and-forth,” Martinelli said.

The Hawks have had trouble finishing drives in recent weeks and that was no different on Friday. Pires finally got some rhythm in the passing game on the next possession, connecting with Scudo, Farrell, and Matt Varteresian to get down to the Foxboro 11, but a delay of game forced third and long and CJ Cerrella’s 30-yard kick slipped wide of the left upright.

Cerrella put an end to Foxboro’s next drive with a sack of Kerrigan and Milford once again got into the red zone, but a drop and then pressure by Sheehan forced another field goal attempt. This time, Cerrella was on target from 37 yards on the final play of the half to send the Hawks into the locker room up 10-7.

Milford (3-4) had already sealed its spot in the tournament and could still end up with a home game in Div. 3 South, but they will have to find renewed momentum after suffering a third straight defeat.

Vizakis explained, “It’s almost like a brand-new season. I just asked them, which Milford team is going to show up for this new season. We’re in the playoffs, we’re most likely going to be on the road, and the goal we set at the beginning of the year is still there, but we need to execute and tackle and make plays.”

Foxboro (4-3) got the win it needed to seal a playoff spot and now awaits its seed to see who it will face in Div. 5.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Stoughton Rides Defense, Big Catches Past Milford

Stoughton football Christopher Ais
Stoughton junior Christopher Ais (21) reaches the ball towards the goal line as Milford’s Luke Rosa (33) and Matt Varteresian (25) look to knock the ball free. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
MILFORD, Mass. – A matchup featuring two of the most prolific offenses in the Hockomock League turned into a defensive struggle.

Both Stoughton and Milford entered Saturday’s Davenport division dual averaging over 25 points per game and known for their big play ability. The Hawks have tormented teams through the air while the Black Knights have a plethora of backs capable of breaking a big run on any play.

With that in mind, it became a defensive chess match between the two sides.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Black Knights loaded the secondary and didn’t allow Milford quarterback Colby Pires (29/42, 207 yards) to complete a pass for more than 30 yards. On the flip side, the Hawks limited Stoughton’s longest run of the day to just 21 yards.

In the end, Stoughton’s bend-don’t-break defense proved enough and the Black Knights got a big boost from its passing game to prevail 14-10 on the road.

“We just didn’t want them to hit any home runs,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke. “You have to try and get pressure, and we got some. I’m mostly a zone [defense] guy, and I’m not saying that’s the only way to play defense. But I know at this level, as long as no one beats you over the top you can live for another play. I’m not saying it’s the best, and then you have to tackle. Their quarterback is tough, [Luke Rosa] is tough, they hurt us but we adjusted to it better in the second half.”

The biggest play of the game came in the form of a third down conversion that helped the Black Knights kill the rest of the clock to hold onto the win.

Savion Scott had a 61-yard touchdown erased on a holding call — the second straight flag on the Black Knights — and Stoughton was forced into a 1st and 35 from its own 28-yard line with 4:39 left in the game.

Junior quarterback John Burke (5/11, 109 yards passing; seven carries, 33 yards) scampered for 11 yards, and junior Christian Ais (eight carries, 33 yards) picked up three yards on second down putting Stoughton in 3rd and 21 from its own 42-yard line.

Burke lofted a pass down the right sideline that got caught up in the wind. Milford’s safety floated over to try and make a play on the ball but Stoughton junior Jake Queeney cut in, jumped up to grab the ball before the defender, took a hit that spun him to the ground, and held on for a 31 yard gain and a first down with 3:38 to go.

Queeney also hauled in a second quarter touchdown over terrific defense to put the Black Knights on the board.

“He’s a great player, he made two big catches for us today,” Burke said. “We had two penalties in a row but it was a huge catch for us. It was a quality opponent to get a win over. I think we’re in good shape, we just want to get a home game wherever that will be.”

Two plays later, Burke scrambled for a first down that forced Milford to take its last timeout with 1:43 left and the Black Knights were able to run the clock out with its final three plays.

“They are tough, they are physical, and this was a game with where the team with the least amount of mistakes, the team that makes one more play comes out on top,” said Milford coach Anthony Vizakis said. “That’s a great team, we tip our hats to them and hopefully we’ll see them in the playoffs.”

Milford’s opening drive was a sign of things to come throughout the game. The Hawks ran 14 plays but covered just 45 yards. The longest play of the drive came when Pires hit Rosa (eight catches, 87 yards) for 15 yards out of the backfield, and the Hawks even converted a fourth down on the drive.

But when they got close to the red zone, Stoughton’s defense clamped down. A two-yard pass from Pires to Matt Varteresian preceded back-to-back runs from Rosa for six yards. On fourth and two, Pires hit Carter Scudo (eight catches, 34 yards) but Christian Ais made a tackle for a two-yard loss and a turnover on downs.

Stoughton’s offense didn’t fare any better as they lost 10 yards in a quick three-and-out.

Milford orchestrated another lengthy drive, moving 44 yards on nine plays. But the drive stalled again as it approached the red zone. This time the Hawks settled for a 37-yard field goal from CJ Cerrella to take a 3-0 lead with 11:10 left in the second quarter.

The Black Knights finally got their offense going on their third drive of the game. Stoughton marched 80 yards on six plays to find the end zone. Christopher Ais (15 carries, 72 yards) had the longest run of the day for Stoughton with a 21-yard run on first down. Four plays later, Burke kept it himself to convert a fourth and one with a 16-yard rush.

On the next play, Burke delivered a pass down the middle that Queeney was able to haul in with a defender in his face. After catching the pass, Queeney fought his way for extra yards and stretched the ball into the end zone. Anthony Girolamo’s extra point put Stoughton up 7-3 with 3:10 left in the second quarter.

Milford opened the second half with its most complete drive of the game, covering 55 yards in seven plays to find the end zone for the first time. The Hawks opened with a halfback pass as Scudo hit Rosa for 32 yards, which was the longest play of the day for the hosts.

Pires hit Xavier Hilton three plays later to convert a third down and get inside the 10-yard line. On third and goal from the two, Pires connected with Rosa in the flat and he went in for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead with 7:40 left in the third quarter.

Stoughton wasted little time responding, using nine plays to go 51 yards to get the lead back. Christopher Ais started the drive with a 14-yard run and converted a third down with a two-yard plunge up the middle three plays later.

Senior quarterback Clayton Rahaman took over under center for the drive and connected with Christian Ais for a nine-yard gain to convert another third down and move inside the red zone. Christian Ais picked up seven on the ground on the next play and Christopher Ais followed his blocking to the left following that, just reaching the ball across the goal line for a five-yard touchdown.

After Girolamo’s extra point, the Black Knights held a 14-10 lead with 3:43 left in the third quarter.

Milford’s first drive of the fourth quarter ended with a turnover on downs after an incompletion on fourth and one from the Stoughton 21-yard line. The Hawks’ second drive of the final quarter yielded just five yards and ended in a three and out.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Their defense is solid, they are very well-coached and have a ton of athletes over there,” Vizakis said. “They didn’t want to get beat deep, so we knew we’d have to sustain drives with shorter yardage gains and more plays. After long drives like that, you have to put it in for points. We just didn’t capitalize enough today.

“We just couldn’t execute when we got down towards the red zone. That’s a big difference in the game, you have to be able to get points out of those drives.”

Stoughton football (3-1 Hockomock, 5-1 overall) closes its Hockomock schedule on Friday when it hosts North Attleboro at Canton High School. Milford (2-2, 3-3) will try to secure its spot in the tournament and push for a home game when it hosts Foxboro on the same night.

Canton Romps Past Milford In Division Clash

Canton football Kyle Fitzgerald
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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.