Teams of the Decade #3: 2013 Mansfield Football

Mansfield football

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Listening Options:

                                        


Mansfield football
Mansfield football

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






Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football


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

Teams of the Decade #4: 2013 Mansfield Boys Hoops

Mansfield boys basketball

Team: Mansfield Boys Basketball
Year: 2012-2013
Record: 25-3
2013 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2013 Division 1 State Finalists


There are few teams that have had as much success as the Mansfield boys basketball program over the past decade. Not only have the Hornets been the class of the Hockomock League, but they’ve also won multiple sectional championships and a pair of trips to the state championship.

So there’s certainly a long list of impressive wins, but one that remains near the top of the Hornets’ resume is the 55-50 win over Central Catholic on the parquet floor inside the TD Garden in a state semifinal matchup. Timely shots, impressive defense, and a dramatic finish highlighted what head coach Mike Vaughan calls one of his most proud wins in his tenure at the helm.

The 2012-2013 Mansfield boys basketball team, which earned its first-ever appearance in the state championship game with that win over Central Catholic, was loaded with talent from top to bottom. A very talented sophomore group complemented a strong junior class and a handful of seniors that led the way.

“It was a team that had a little bit of everything,” Vaughan said of the 2013 squad that posted a 25-3 record. “We just really had no weaknesses with the exception of our youth. We had three sophomores playing a lot, three juniors that played a lot…as the season went on, we started to realize this team could win in a number of different ways and were super talented.

“And the other that really goes unmarked about this particular team, we had some guys at the end of this roster that didn’t necessarily play a whole lot who probably on other teams in the league or in the state probably would have played a lot of minutes. Guys like Cole Cummings and Zach Wisnieski, guys that were just great practice kids and great teammates. When they had the opportunity to play, they went in and played really hard and did everything we asked them to do. In any other varsity program, they would have played their fair share but this particular year we had some dynamite underclassman. But they were great teammates, great leaders, great in practice and they were unsung heroes for us.”

Greg Romanko was the lone senior in the starting lineup, a 6’3 forward that gave the Hornets leadership on the court, could stretch the floor with his shooting, and provided interior defense. Rocky DeAndrade, Kevin Conner, and Kyle Wisnieski played the most minutes among the junior class. DeAndrade took a huge step forward from his sophomore campaign and ran the show from the point, Wisnieski was one of the best defensive players in the area, and Conner provided a lot of flexibility, giving the Hornets size but his athleticism made him a tough matchup for opponents. Michael Hershman, who was selected as a league all star as a sophomore, played very limited minutes throughout the season due to injury.

And the sophomore class featured Brendan Hill, who went on to win the Hockomock League MVP that season, along with Ryan Boulter and Michael Boen. Hill was a true star on the court, with the size of a forward but could play any position on the court. Boulter emerged as an offensive boost off the bench as a sharpshooter while Boen was another defensive option as the season started.

But the importance of depth was a theme among the players too. DeAndrade stressed how important practice was and how the competition among one another helped improve the entire squad.

“Everyone had a role and everyone played it perfectly, and that’s from one through 15,” DeAndrade said. “A lot of our success we had that season comes from practice. It was the battles we had in practice, the guys getting the minutes on the court had to play better. The competitiveness…every drill was a battle. It didn’t matter if you were a starter or on the bench, it was all about winning. Everybody stepped at some point when we needed it. That’s what made it so tough to beat us, we always had an answer.

“Everyone had the same mission on the team, everyone was there to win. It sounds cliche but no one was there with a personal agenda, it was all about what can we do to help the team win that game. I think it was our chemistry, just how well we all played together and how it translated off the court. We all hung out even outside of basketball so we were around each other all the time. And we had all played together since middle school. We were so used to playing with each other.”

The Hornets started the season 4-0, sweeping its first three Hockomock League games by an average of over 25 points per game, as well as an impressive double-digit win over BC High. At the Shooting Touch tournament at Emmanuel College, Mansfield knocked off Amityville out of New York before suffering their first setback, a six-point loss to D2 power New Mission.

Mansfield got back on track in the new year, picking up 12-straight wins. The Hornets picked up a key 68-62 win over Taunton early in January and followed it up with one of their most impressive results of the year, a 65-42 win over rival Franklin. Mansfield clinched the Kelley-Rex title with their second close win over Taunton but just six days later, their winning streak came to a screeching halt at the hands of their rival Franklin.

The Panthers edged out the Hornets with a three-point win in overtime, splitting the regular season series. Despite suffering that loss, Mansfield was quick to correct things and five days later picked up a marquee win. In the RoundBall tournament, Mansfield hosted Wakefield, who was one of the favorites in D2 North. Mansfield notched a 69-46 win.

“At the end of the season, we played in the RoundBall tournament against Wakefield and Bruce Brown Jr., who went on to play in the NBA, and we dominated that game,” Vaughan said. “They were ranked higher in the city papers, they were one of the favorites for the North, and we dominated that team from start to end. It was one of my more proud games we played that year. At that point, it felt like the sophomores were playing like juniors, the juniors were playing like seniors, and the seniors were just great, playing with a veteran mentality. That’s when I thought we could do something special in the South section…but I never thought we would get beyond that or play in a state championship because it’s so hard to do, it’s not necessarily part of the thought process.

“So how did we get there? We had length, we were athletic, smart, we could do things game-to-game, adding things or taking things out, we had toughness, and we had basketball junkies. So you look back now and say, that was a pretty special team and that’s why.”

After knocking off Newton South in the opening round of the tournament, Mansfield ran into rival Franklin to settle the season series. The Hornets survived regulation, going into overtime after the Panthers had a chance to win it late, and eventually came away with a 57-48 win. DeAndrade was the star late, scoring 11 of his game-high 21 points between the fourth and overtime.

“We watched the film recently, it was an absolutely crazy game,” Vaughan said. “There’s a play that happened late, where if that ball goes in, we lose and Franklin wins. There was a time I asked Paul Connolly over at Newton North, who had won back-to-back state titles, I asked what’s the secret. He said you have to be good, you have to be disciplined, you have to be a well-oiled machine but you have to get lucky somewhere. For us, that definitely happened there. There were no secrets between us and Franklin, we already went into overtime before. If that game is different, then we’re not even talking about playing in the state championship.”

While the next two games were far from easy, the Hornets took care of business with a 68-50 win over Brookline behind some hot shooting from Boulter, and then a 57-45 win over North Quincy, sparked by its bench, to win the D1 South Sectional title.

Defense was the key to the game at the TD Garden as both Wisnieski and Boen took turns limiting Central Catholic star Tyler Nelson. Nelson, who was named to the Boston Herald’s All-Decade EMass starting lineup, was one of the most lethal scorers in Massachusetts this decade. In the end, it was Conner who came up with key baskets late to elevate Mansfield to the win.

“One thing I remember is the defense Kyle and Boen played on Nelson in the first half,” DeAndrade said. “I don’t know why it’s stuck with me, but after the game we all were on about the defense those two played. We made some big plays when we needed to, when they counted most and that’s why we were able to come out with the win.

“We just played great from the start,” Vaughan said. “Kevin Conner hit some big baskets for us, Michael Boen and Kyle Wisnieski did a tremendous job on Tyler Nelson. We played a near-perfect game for what you’d consider a perfect game for a high school game. We got contributions from almost everyone in that group. That was probably one of the best victories we’ve had in our program history.”

While the win over Central Catholic remains as one of the best in program history, the game that followed is one the Hornets wish they had a chance to play over. A team that averaged over 66 points per game throughout the course of the season had its worst shooting performance of the season, falling to Putnam in overtime, 50-47.

Mansfield’s defense did its part, holding the Beavers to just 17 points in the first half. But the Hornets couldn’t get things going in the second half and saw its halftime lead evaporate by the start of the fourth. And then things went from bad to worse as Mansfield trailed by seven late in the fourth as its offense sputtered (only nine second half points, 4-for-26 three point for the game).

A three-point play from Boen sparked the comeback, and the sophomore followed it up with another triple. After Putnam sank two free throws, Romanko battled to keep possession off of a miss and, on the ensuing inbounds play, Boulter was fouled while shooting the tying three with 7.5 seconds to go.

Despite all the pressure on the shoulders of a sophomore, Boulter delivered and sank all three free throws to force the extra period. Boulter connected on a pair of three’s in the overtime period as well, the second tying the game at 48-48. In the end, it was a pair of free throws from Ty Nichols with under 10 seconds to go that put Putnam ahead for good as Mansfield’s last second shot was off the mark.

“It was one of those nights, and that happens in sports,” Vaughan said. “It’s why you play the games, you can’t just walk in and win the game. I don’t think that particular game takes away from the level of talent this team had and what they were able to accomplish all year.”






Listening Options:

                                        


Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield boys basketball

Opponent
Result
SharonW, 70-51
AttleboroW, 73-40
King PhilipW, 69-45
BC HighW, 69-57
Amityville (NY)W, 65-58 (OT) (Recap)
New MissionL, 60-54
Oliver AmesW, 82-54 (Recap)
TauntonW, 68-62 (Recap)
FranklinW, 65-42
StoughtonW, 72-57 (Recap)
North AttleboroW, 69-30
CantonW, 81-46
AttleboroW, 69-36
BrocktonW, 66-41
King PhilipW, 58-26
FoxboroW, 90-43
MilfordW, 76-52 (Recap)
TauntonW, 45-41 (Recap)
FranklinL, 59-56 (OT)
North AttleboroW, 68-32
WakefieldW, 69-46
Dighton-RehobothW, 65-44
#17 Newton SouthW, 72-56
#9 FranklinW, 57-48 (OT) (Recap)
#12 BrooklineW, 68-50 (Recap)
#6 North QuincyW, 57-45 (Recap)
Central Catholic (State Semifinals)W, 55-50 (Recap)
Putnam (State Final)L, 50-48 (OT) (Recap)






Mansfield boys basketball