So it’s no surprise the teams had nearly identical stats when they clashed on the new turf field at Muscato Stadium.
But in the end, it was Taunton that made just enough plays — scoring on their opening drive of each half, and using a pick-six early in the game to earn a 21-6 over OA in the annual matchup dubbed The Tiger Bowl.
Taunton’s defense quickly forced a punt on the first series of the game and the offense rewarded them with a lengthy drive ending in six points. The visiting Tigers marched 63 yards on 13 plays, including the final seven coming in the red zone.
A healthy dose of Josh Lopes (18 carries, 76 yards) and Bretton Heggs (13 carries, 51 yards) on the ground helped Taunton moved the sticks. The drive included a pair of third down conversions from Lopes and a fourth down conversion from the 10-yard line from Heggs.
Sophomore quarterback Trent Santos (6-for-8, 42 yards) finished the drive with a sneak from one yard out. Taunton took a 7-0 lead following Collin Knorr’s extra point with 1:35 to go in the first quarter.
Oliver Ames looked to respond immediately but a personal foul backed the hosts up, and on third down Taunton junior Kedrick Santos jumped a route, intercepting the pass and taking it to the house for a 25-yard pick-six. Knorr’s point after put Taunton ahead 14-0 with under a minute to go in the opening quarter.
“It was huge, it was right after we had scored so the timing of it was big,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “We knew we needed to run the ball but [OA] did a good job getting guys up there so we were running into too many. So it was a big play for us to get a touchdown from our defense and go up two scores.
“We knew their quarterback could throw the ball but [Santos] was able to read it and get under it and make a play.”
That would be the only scoring for the opening half. OA had a nine-play drive in the middle of the second quarter stall at midfield when Taunton stuffed a fourth and one run to force a turnover on downs.
OA’s defense did its part for the remainder of the half, limiting the visitors to just six yards combined over its next two drives, both ending in punts.
Taunton opened the second half at its own 48-yard line after Nathan Arieta was alert to OA’s onside kick attempt. The visiting Tigers picked up key conversions again on this drive with Santos hitting Arieta for a first down, and Lopes rushing for two yards to convert a fourth down, putting Taunton into the red zone.
The visitors ran six plans inside the red zone this time, including an eight-yard scamper from Heggs that moved the chains on third down. Three plays later, Santos kept it himself from one yard out for another touchdown and a 21-0 lead. The 13-play, 52-yard drive took nine minutes off the clock.
“We had a couple of good conversions on third down that helped us move the ball, and it was big to get another touchdown to start the second half,” Sidwell said.
“I think having the two-score lead, which was the first one we’ve had this year, gave the kids some confidence. And I think the defense fed off of that too.”
OA’s first two drives of the second half both ended in a turnover on downs. The first lasted just four plays, giving Taunton the ball at the OA 36-yard line. But OA’s defense held strong and the visiting Tigers missed a 30-yard field goal.
OA found success on its next series, moving 69 yards on nine plays, with the big play coming when Cam Perron (5/16, 66 yards) found Harrison Webster for a 37-yard gain.
The host Tigers got into the red zone on a 13-yard carry from Cabral (12 carries, 65 yards) but back-to-back negative plays preceded back-to-back incomplete passes with Javon Franklin batting down a pass in the end zone on fourth down.
On its second to last drive of the game, OA finally found the end zone, going 33 yards on five plays. Cabral had two straight carries that went for 20 yards, and Stevens broke free for seven yards to move OA inside the 10-yard line.
Attleboro got off to a strong start to the 2018 season, jumping out to a 4-1 record with its only loss coming against eventual D2 South champ King Philip, and allowing only five points per game. But a last-minute loss in a shootout against Mansfield and a fourth quarter comeback by Franklin the following week sparked a six-game losing streak to close out the season. The Bombardiers come into 2019 looking to turn that around and use its experience to make a run at the Kelley-Rex title.
Offensively, the Bombardiers will be led by senior quarterback Jason Weir. At a bruising 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Weir is a punishing runner and has a big arm to make plays downfield in the passing game. Junior Justin Daniels will be the starting tailback with senior Isaac Guidel and a big offensive line trying to open holes for the running game, led by senior Qualeem Charles (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds), who has a host of colleges recruiting him. Senior Ethan Cameron will provide a weapon on the outside, while junior Michael Strachan offers another threat over the middle from his tight end position.
Charles will dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball as well, but the strength of the Attleboro defense will be its experienced linebacker corps. Strachan, a three-year starter who is getting looks from some Div. I colleges, will be joined by Guidel and senior Nolan Jaeger. Weir will play strong safety, after two seasons at defensive end, and will be counted on to step in to help stop the run. Cameron will be at free safety and giving the cornerbacks help over the middle. Attleboro has a large contingent of sophomores who could step in to contribute right away, including Alvin Harrison, Chris Leonardo, Adam Pearlstein, and Freddy Wheaton.
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “We are looking forward to the season getting underway and with the leadership of our four captains we are looking to be explosive on offense and very physical defensively. The Hockomock League is one of the best leagues in the state with some great teams. We will have to play our very best each week if we are going to compete at a high level.”
Franklin nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2018 season when the Panthers forced perennial power Xaverian to double overtime in the Div. 1 South semifinal. It was a big step forward for the program and head coach Eian Bain hopes it will be a building block for even more success in 2019.
Offensively, the graduation of quarterback Nick Gordon will be a big loss for the Panthers but senior Thomas Gasbarro saw a lot of time under center last year and he will step in and take the starting job. Gasbarro will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as the Panthers have plenty of speedy, athletic players in the skill positions. Senior Jack Nally is a threat out of the backfield or split out wide and his classmate Jake Davis is a solid receiver over the middle or downfield. Senior Matt Lazarek is a potential target from the tight end position and Owen Palmieri is another dangerous ball carrier. Junior Parker Cheuvront emerged last season as one of the top kickers in the Hock and is another weapon that the Panthers can count on if a drive does stall.
The defense is an experienced group. Senior Evan Wertz has been one of the league’s tackle leaders for the past two seasons and he is the team’s top playmaker from his linebacker position. Nally, Davis, Palmieri, and senior Ben Greco give Franklin a tough secondary to throw against and all are capable of coming up with the big turnover to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Luke Cunningham and Dom Natale will give the Panthers strength at the line of scrimmage.
“The challenge for this group is to continue to improve and build the program,” said Bain. “They need to add their own chapter and their own stamp on the program. We have the right people in the room. We need to play with the swagger and confidence of a contender, but be humble in our preparation. If we stay true to the process, we have great potential.”
Despite not winning the league title last year, the target on King Philip’s back continues to grow.
The Warriors might have missed out on the Kelley-Rex crown, but they won their third straight sectional title and made their this straight appearance in the state final, this time falling to North Andover (6-0). While this year’s senior class knows other than Super Bowl appearances, head coach Brian Lee says this group is focused on taking it one game, starting with the opener against North Attleboro. KP has a strong core of players back on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback Robbie Jarest and running back Ryan Halliday. Both players had really strong junior seasons and should be the leaders of the group this year. The offensive line includes returners Nolan Gunning (left tackle), Sean Piller (center), and Pat Zarba (right guard) while Wyatt Manzi, Jack Collentro, and Griffin MacKay are in the mix to fill the remaining spots. Having an experienced line bodes well for the KP run game that will heavily feature Ryan Halliday plus fullback Shawn Conniff and halfbacks Sam Callanan and Crawford Cantave.
The Warriors’ defense has been one of the best units in the state in recent years, and while the expectations remain high for the group, there will be a lot of new faces. KP graduated its entire secondary so the Warriors are turning to senior Brian Wasserug and Cantave, a sophomore, to take on starting spots. Halliday and Callanan, both captains, will handle outside linebacker duties with Mike Malatesta in the mix for the middle spot. Gunning and Manzi will also see action on the defensive line alongside Conniff. Dillon Conti takes over kicking duties for the departed Cole Baker.
“These kids know how much work, how much effort it takes to get where we want to be,” Lee said. “But it’s all about going game by game, starting this week with a team [North Attleboro] that we have a ton of respect for.”
Looking at the long list of returning players, it is no surprise that expectations around Alumni Field are sky high this fall. Mansfield enters the season with experience at just about every position and with the bitter taste of last year’s South final loss to rival King Philip still stinging. Despite a rash of injuries that forced running back Aidan Sacco to play as an emergency quarterback for most of the season, Mansfield still won a league title and this year’s team may be even more talented, which has ramped up the hype and put the target squarely on the Hornets’ backs.
The line of scrimmage will be a strength for the Hornets on the offensive side of the ball, as they return four of five starters from last year’s unit that allowed the team to rush for more than 2,600 yards. Senior Jason Comeau and reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year TJ Guy will be two key cogs in the line, while senior Noah Jellenik and junior Jake McCoy are also back. Senior Andrew Cowles will step into the fifth spot. They will seek to protect senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who had a cameo under center last year before an injury forced him to miss the bulk of the season. The skill positions will be loaded with athletes. Cincere Gill had a breakout sophomore season at running back and senior Nick Marciano is back after an injury cut short his junior season. Senior Michael DeBolt was one of the top kickers in the league but also gives Mansfield another weapon on the edges, while senior Vinnie Holmes adds a bruising presence coming out of the backfield.
Holmes is the headliner on the defensive side of the ball. Along with fellow linebackers Marciano, DeBolt, and senior Joe Plath, Holmes will be expected to make big plays all over the field. The defensive line will be strong with three returning players: senior Chris Graham, McCoy, and Guy. Junior Nico Holmes will step in as the fourth man on the line. Much like on offense, speed will be a strength and the secondary is loaded with playmakers, including Gill, junior Matt Boen, and senior Makhi Baskin.
“We have a bunch of experience all over the field, but we really have to develop depth with the second team to handle a tough schedule and challenges every week,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “This is one of the fastest group of skill guys we’ve ever had and we could be explosive on offense. We lack a little size up front on defense, but we should be able to overcome that by flying around with pursuit to the ball with our speed.”
There was no question that 2018 was a tough season for the Tigers. Oliver Ames lost by a point in the season opener to Concord-Carlisle and didn’t earn its only win until the penultimate game against Durfee. The Tigers will hope to turn things around quickly with an infusion of young talent under new head coach Ed DeWitt.
On offense, the players will be learning a new system, but there is experience in the backfield to try and implement different schemes. Senior running back Nathan Cabral figures to see plenty of the ball again this year after his breakout junior season in which he ran for more than 1,100 yards. He will be joined by senior quarterback Cam Perron and senior running back Sam Stevens to give the Tigers a strong core. Seniors Harrison Webster and Adam Cann (who is coming off an injury) will give Perron weapons to utilize on the outside.
There will be a lot of new faces on the defensive side, as DeWitt can call on three or four returning starters and will need a number of players to provide contributions on both sides of the ball. The linebacking corps was particularly hit by graduations, although senior Tyler Campbell can provide some experience and leadership in that position and Cabral brings athleticism to the role. Max Anderson and Anthony DeCosta will be important at the line of scrimmage, while Stevens will step into the secondary along with senior corner Nick Gillis and junior corner Jadon Ricci.
“The competition in camp has been great,” DeWitt said. “The players have committed to the program and bought into the day to day work that we need to do. We are focusing on making sure we treat every day as an opportunity to improve and string together some positive momentum.”
The Tigers started last season with three straight wins and then finished with three wins in their final four games to end 2018 with a winning record. Taunton enters this fall with a relatively inexperienced roster, but one that is looking to continue the momentum in the program and try to push forward so it can challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division.
One of the biggest changes for the Tigers will be under center. Noah Leonard was the starter for three seasons, but junior Danny MacDougall will take over this year. MacDougall will also see time at receiver to try and take advantage of his athleticism. He will be joined in the backfield by classmates Bretton Heggs and Josh Lopes, who both got time at running back as sophomores. Juniors Kedrick Santos and Devante McPhail will be the primary weapons at receiver. Up front, the Tigers have decent size. Senior Mike Murray will be at center, senior Hussein Kassab at one tackle, junior Marquis Dalomba at the other tackle, and junior Jordan Manning at guard.
Similar to the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers lack experience on defense and are still learning the schemes, but physical scrimmages have helped prepare them for the season. Senior Woudanly Danger is a force at the line of scrimmage and will require attention from opponents and senior Jackson Wellman has been one of the team’s top tacklers from linebacker. Junior defensive end Deandre McPhail adds to the strength of the line. Senior Curt Marshall and MacDougall will be the safeties and senior Cam Carroca will be at corner.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better and to be competitive in the league,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re definitely inexperienced, but physically we have guys who can do it and we need to coach them up so they’ll be ready to go once the season gets started.”
Three Hockomock teams claimed sectional titles on Saturday, five others finished inside the top five, and 26 grapplers claimed individual sectional titles. Franklin dominated the D1 Central bracket, racking up 272 points behind six individual champions, two finalists, and two third-place finishes. The Panthers had over a 50 point cushion over second place Brookline. In the South section, Mansfield repeated as D1 South champions by edging out host Brockton, and North Attleboro snagged another D2 South title with six individual champions.
Foxboro earned second place in D3 South with an impressive 13 wrestlers finishing sixth or better at the tournament. Oliver Ames had its best ever finish at sectionals, taking third place in the D2 South bracket while Sharon took fifth overall. King Philip took third place in the D2 Central sectional, edging out Milford by a half of a point. Stoughton tied for seventh place in D2 South, Canton earned eighth in D2 Central, and Taunton placed 11th in D1 South.
Franklin’s Drew DiFilippo earned the D1 Central sectional title at 106 with a 7-0 decision. He scored all seven of his points in the first round, earning a takedown and then a pair of near falls. Jake Carlucci picked up a 7-4 win in the 113 final, using an escape and a late reversal to seal the title. Jordan Carlucci dominated in the 132 final, scoring nine straight points after the match was tied at 2-2 early on, and Ken Sauer won the 138 championship with an impressive 9-1 decision, only allowing an escape late in the third period. Dominic Sackley was the fifth Panther to win a title, using an escape and takedown in the second, and a takedown in the third to secure a 7-1 decision. And Matt Leofanti scored an upset in the 220 final, using a second period takedown and a third period escape to upend the top seed, 3-1. Caleb MacLean (160) and Riley Downing (285) earned second, Alex Fracassa (126) and Dylan Nawn (182) were both third, and Ben Jacoby (195) was fourth.
A year after Mansfield claimed its first sectional title, the Hornets grabbed their second D1 South crown in a row. Will Stratton needed less than two minutes to get a pinfall victory in the 145 title match, and George Glaropoulos had a similar performance in the 160 championship, earning the title by pinfall in 1:31. After a scoreless first period, CJ Glaropoulos scored a reversal in the second and a takedown in the third to secure the D1 South title at 152. Jayden Curley cruised through the 170 bracket in impressive fashion, pinning his first two opponents in under a minute, winning his semifinal match via pinfall in 1:34, and then took the title with a pin in just 33 seconds. Ethan Nirenberg was Mansfield’s fifth winner, using a second period escape and a near fall in the third to win 4-0. Antonios Sevastos added a second place finish, and Stefan Steyn earned third for the Hornets. Taunton’s Jackson Wellman, in his first year wrestling, earned third at 182 and Christian Balmain took home fourth.
Of the 14 champions in Division 2 South, nine came from Hockomock teams with North Attleboro having six winners and Oliver Ames taking three individual titles. After a tech fall and a decision to reach the final, North Attleboro’s Mike Burns earned a first round pin to win the 138 crown. Two weight classes later, North’s Michael Edmonds scored all of his points in the second and third rounds, overcoming a 5-0 first round deficit to stun top-seeded Tristan Williamson of Hingham for the 152 D2 South championship. Montrel Jackson followed suit, scoring a second round pin to upset top-seeded Declan Byrne of Pembroke. In the 220 final, John Kummer added another upset win for the Rocketeers, getting five points in the final 31 seconds to knock off top-seeded Will Dion of Plymouth North by a score of 8-3. Liam Rizk was trailing 6-2 in the 220 match before securing a pinfall victory, and Mateusz Kudra needed just over a minute to get a pin over Stoughton’s Calvin LaGuerre in the 285 final for North’s sixth individual title. Oliver Ames’ Nick McGovern had a big day, earning two pins to advance to the semifinals, then knocked off #2 Vinay Chinnam of Sharon, 13-10. In the final, McGovern shocked top-seeded David White of Hingham with a second period pinfall. Billy Tat (170) earned the title with a first round pin, and Dean Pacini secured the 195 crown with a third round pin.
Also in D2 South, North Attleboro’s Ethan Smith (120) was second, and Jon Lozinski (132) and Matt Warsofsky (170) both placed third. OA freshman John Dobbin continued his strong rookie season by taking second in the 106 bracket, and Max Anderson (220), Nelson Malone (132), and Remi Creighton (120) all earned fourth place finishes. Sharon had five grapplers take third place including Alex Bolt (195), Amit Levin (120), Huguens Pierre (138), Jon Wald (182), and Tyler Cashton (152) while Andrew Ableman (160) and Vinay Chinnam (126) finished fourth. On top of LaGuerre’s second place finish in the heavyweight bracket, Stoughton’s John Santos (113) took third overall, and CJ Carpenter (106) was fourth.
All three Hockomock teams in the D2 Central tournament earned at least one individual champion. King Philip had a pair of champions as Luke Fitch (182), and Shawn Conniff (195) earned back-to-back pinfall victories. Conniff earned an upset in the final, knocking off top-seeded Alex Childs of Nashoba. Mohammad Lofti (145) and Yousef Lotfi (285) both finished second for the Warriors and Benjamin Leclair (113) and Noah Riedel (138) each finished fourth. Milford will be sending six wrestlers to states, highlighted by Carlos Terrinha, who won the D1 Central title at 120. After winning the first two matches by fall, Terrinha earned the title with a 10-3 decision. Nick Marcolini (152) finished second, Dan Pinto (138), Dylan Ortiz (132), and Joao Neiva (195) each took third, and Evan Hazard (126) was fourth overall. Canton’s Cole Murphy won his first sectional title, earning a pinfall victory (his second of the day) in the 170 final to get the win. Harry Carter (132) and Zach Peters (106) each took second, and Mark Carstairs (120) finished third overall for the Bulldogs.
Foxboro had a terrific showing at the D3 Sectional, having a wrestler place sixth or better in all but one weight class. The Warriors, who finished second to Norton in the team standings, had three individual champions. Shayne Kerrigan (132) won by pinfall in his first two matches and then picked up a pair of decisions, the latter a 7-1 win in the finals to get the title. Tommy Gallagher (138) followed Kerrigan’s title win up with one of his own, earning a pin in his first match, a 2-0 decision in the semifinals, and then a 6-3 decision in the finals, highlighted by a nearfall in the third period. William Ogebebor (220) was the third Warrior to win a sectional title, needing just 30 seconds to win his first match, advancing to the final with a 5-0 win in the semifinal, and then an 8-2 decision to become the champion. Foxboro’s Adam Lanctot (120), Tom Cullen (170), and William McNeil (285) each finished third while Matt Sharkey (145) and Sean Bubencik (106) each took fourth place.
Attleboro, 14 @ East Boston, 0 – Final
Canton, 6 vs. Bishop Feehan, 0 – Final
Franklin, 3 vs. St. Mary’s (Lynn), 1 – Final – Franklin junior goalie Ray Ivers made 29 saves to lead the Panthers to a huge win over highly ranked St. Mary’s of Lynn, who is considered to be a top 10 team in the state by most rankings. Franklin took a 1-0 lead in the first on a goal midway through the period from Kyle Hedvig. Brendan Sicchio made it 2-0 on a redirect of Cam Cassella’s shot with under five minutes in the second period. Cassella then scored himself, blasting in a shot early in the third period to make it 3-0.
Mansfield, 6 @ King Philip, 3 – Final – King Philip raced out to a 3-0 lead less than five minutes into the game but Mansfield scored six unanswered over the final 40 minutes of the game to shock the Warriors. Brendan Shandley, Conor Cooke (from Ryan Fitzpatrick), and Rocco Bianculli (from Aiden Boulger) scored each scored within a four minute span to open the game to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead. But Mansfield scored three goals in a matter of two mintues to tie the game before the end of the first period. Matty Copponi (from Brian Grant and Brad Grant), Kevin Belanger (from Brian and Brad Grant), and Chris Copponi (from Matty Copponi) scored first period goals to level the scoring. After a scoreless second, Mansfield broke the tie with just over two minutes left in the third period. Jake Lund made it 4-3 on the power play, assisted by Matty Copponi and Brad Grant. Coleman O’Brien (from Belanger) increased the lead with a goal with 1:27 left before Chris Copponi (from O’Brien) iced it with an empty net goal in the final seconds.
North Attleboro, 5 vs. Beverly, 2 – Final
Stoughton, 0 vs. Old Rochester, 5 – Final
Taunton, 6 @ Cardinal Spellman, 2 – Final – Taunton senior Jack Patneaude scored a hat trick and junior Mike Albert recorded four points as the Tigers scored a win on the road. Albert had a pair of goals and a pair of assists for Taunton while Cam Sneyd added a goal and two assists, Andrew Carter had three helpers, and Dylan Nichols finished with two assists. Andrew Gomes made 14 saves in net for the win.
King Philip, 0 @ Canton, 5 – Final – After a scoreless first period, Canton senior Maggie Malloy scored two of her three goals in the second period to give the Bulldogs a lead it never relinquished. Canton scored three goals in the final period, including a goal and assist from Malloy.
Stoughton, 0 @ Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 8 – Final
D1 State Dual Meet (Franklin, Mansfield) – Franklin and Mansfield each won their first matches of the day but lost in the second round. The Panthers took down Needham (55-13) and the Hornets pinned down BC High (53-18) to advance to the quarterfinals. Mansfield lost to top-seeded St. John’s Prep 42-27 and Franklin bowed out with a 30-25 setback to West Springfield. In the fifth place match, Franklin beat Mansfield (36-26) with pins from Jordan Carlucci (132), Dylan Nawn (195), and Matt Leofanti (220). Mansfield’s CJ Glaropoulos (152) had a pin in the loss to the Panthers.
D2 State Dual Meet (North Attleboro, Oliver Ames) – Oliver Ames scored a pair of upset wins to advance to the semifinals and finished third overall, the program’s best showing at the state dual meet. The Tigers upset #11 North Andover (38-35) in the opening round and then shocked #3 Masconomet (11th in the state) with a 33-33 (tiebreaker, coach misconduct on Masco). OA’s Max Anderson (220) and Stavros Constantinous (113) had big wins to help the Tigers knock off Masco. The Tigers lost to #2 Plymouth South (45-27) in the semifinals. North Attleboro pinned down wins over Arlington (52-15) and Dracut (43-20) but lost to top-seeded Central Catholic in the semifinal (44-27). OA beat North Attleboro (1-0) in the consolation match. For OA, Nick McGovern, Joey Savino, and Dean Pacino each went 3-0.
D3 State Dual Meet (Foxboro)
Canton Quad (Canton) – Canton went 1-2 on the day, opening with a win over Scituate (42-27) but dropped its second two matches, falling to New Bedford (42-18) and Hingham (43-24).
Franklin County Tech Tournament (King Philip), 10:00
Bridgewater-Raynham Super Quad (Sharon, Stoughton) – Sharon shined at the B-R super quad, going 4-0 and picking up the program’s 350th win overall. The Eagles had wins over the hosts (61-13), Silver Lake (61-16), Duxbury (54-15), and Southeastern (27-12). Max Pozner and Tyler Freedman both went 4-0 for Sharon while Tyler Chaston, Jon Wald, and Alex Bolt each posted 3-0 records for the day.
Braintree Quad (Taunton) – Taunton first year wrestler James Collins (106) earned a first round pin to help the Tigers clinch a win over Nauset, giving Taunton its second win of the day. The Tigers went 1-2, losing to Braintree (52-0) but bounced back to record wins over Cambridge (33-0) and Nauset (45-34). Other winners for Taunton included Ben Mandeville (113, pin), Tyler Lima (120, pin), Wansly Perceval (126, pin), Jackson Mandeville (138, pin), Christian Balmain (152, two pins), Joseph Kazlauskas (160, pin), Jackson Wellman (182), Nico Sallaway (195, pin), and Mason Frank (285, pin).