Foxboro Beats Milford in Must-Win League Finale

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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.

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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.

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Franklin Wins Aerial Dual Against Milford in Opener

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Franklin senior quarterback Thomas Gasbarro (14) eludes the Milford pass rush in the second half of the Panthers’ season-opening 34-27 victory. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Graduation hit both teams’ offense hard. One team lost its all-star, dual-threat quarterback, and the other lost the bulk of its starting receivers, but on Thursday night at Pisini Field both Franklin and Milford showed that they have plenty of firepower remaining.

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The two teams combined for 61 points, including 40 in the second half alone, and more than 600 yards through the air. In the end, the Panthers had just enough to hold off the Hawks and pull out a 34-27 victory in the season opener for both programs.

Franklin quarterback Thomas Gasbarro completed 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) and threw for 293 yard and three touchdowns, while Milford senior Colby Pires completed 57 percent of his throws (12-of-21) for 325 yards and three scores of his own.

It didn’t take the hosts long to get into sync. On its first possession, starting at the Milford 46, Gasbarro hit Jack Nally for an eight-yard completion and then on the second play from scrimmage hit Jake Davis in stride down the far sideline. The senior receiver dove from several yards out and just snuck inside the pylon for a 7-0 lead.

“They’ve got a great connection,” Franklin coach Eian Bain said of Gasbarro and Davis. “Jake is such a terrific athlete and I think that shows in lacrosse and football. Tommy is just a grinder. I don’t think I’ve seen a tougher performance out of a QB. Milford was real creative with their pressures and their scheme defensively. Tommy stood in and he was getting hit on some of those throws.”

Milford’s defense came through with a big stand on Franklin’s next possession. Luke Rosa sacked Gasbarro on fourth and one from the Hawks 29. Milford got the ball and took only five plays to go downfield and tie it. Pires connected with Carter Scudo (four catches for 151 yards) on a 39-yard completion to get to the Franklin 15 and Rosa (16 carries, 87 yards) punched it from there.

On its first drive of the second quarter, Franklin regained the advantage. Gasbarro spread the ball around on the possession, hitting Ben Greco, Owen Palmieri, and Davis. It was Nally that got into the end zone, as Gasbarro threaded the needle on a pass to the front stick, getting the ball just over the corner to make it 14-7.

The Franklin defense held onto the lead with a pair of red zone stops. First, the Panthers were able to cut Pires a yard short on fourth and 11 from the 21 and then, following a punt that gave Milford the ball back in great field position, the Hawks got as close as the six only for Austin Jordan to end the half with a sack of Pires.

Franklin nearly extended its lead on the first drive of the third quarter, but Maxwell Martin made a great play to rip the ball out of the hands of Matt Lazarek for an interception in the end zone. Milford moved the ball out to midfield but there was controversy as the ball came loose on a jet sweep and Franklin recovered. The Hawks claimed it was a pass, not a hand-off, but the officials ruled it a fumble and the Panthers took over.

It became a bigger decision eight plays later when the Panthers punched it in for a two-score lead. Again, it was Gasbarro to Davis (eight catches, 166 yards), matching the receiver’s jersey number with a 23-yard strike. Although the extra point was no good after a low snap, the Panthers led 20-7.

That margin lasted about two minutes. On third and eight from his own 16, Pires found Scudo, who broke free of a tackle and got 28 yards. Then Pires slipped a pass to Dan Farrell over the middle and he found a seam for a 56-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

Fourteen seconds later, the stunned home crowd was right back on its feet.

On the ensuing kick, senior Cole Lakatos, a transfer from Maryland, stepped up to grab the bouncing ball at the 27, found a hole on the left side, and raced 73 yards for his first Franklin touchdown. “Lakatos is brand new, but he’s a football dude and football dudes can play,” said Bain.

While a special teams score could’ve been a beak breaker, the Hawks refused to go away quietly. A 10-play, 78-yard drive got them back within one score. Rosa set up the eventual score with a 22-yard burst down to the Franklin 15. Three plays and one penalty later, on third and 21, Pires threw one up for Scudo on the near sideline and the junior managed to come down with it just in bounds to make it 27-20.

“He’s electric,” Milford coach Anthony Vizakis said of Scudo. “He’s got the speed, he’s got the hands, and we’re really excited to see what he’s going to do.”

When asked if he was surprised at how quickly Pires has gelled with a new set of receivers, Vizakis replied, “They’ve been working all summer. He’s got those guys in the morning working and they’re doing extra stuff after practice, so it didn’t really surprise me. I think we’re only going to get better from here.”

The game settled down for a couple minutes as the teams managed to go just about eight minutes without getting into the end zone. Franklin appeared to put the game away with a 11-play, 71-yard drive that chewed up several minutes off the clock. Sophomore Mack Gulla opened his account for the Panthers when he burst through the line for a four-yard score.

Gasbarro showed off his ability to make plays on the run, keeping a couple of plays alive, taking hits, and managing to find open receivers to keep the drive alive.

“We try to work the scramble drill when we can, but a lot of that is just natural,” said Bain. “He did one that he found Jake Davis near the end there and I’m thinking we’re getting the sack and maybe we’re calling something safe on the next call and punting the ball.”

It seemed like the game was finally out of reach, but appearances can be deceiving. Milford came right back down the field, going 80 yards in only two plays, to make it a one-score game again and give themselves a shot at an onside kick. Pires connected with Scudo for 58 yards to get things started and then with Matt Varteresian for 22 and the score.

“Our kids don’t quit,” said Vizakis. “They play right to the end. We’re training them to play 48 minutes of football now and they played every single play. I’m really proud of the way that they played.”

Franklin managed to collect the onside kick with two minutes left, run out the clock, and finally take a breath.

The Panthers (1-0) will travel to Andover next Saturday, while Milford (0-1) will host Attleboro.

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