Franklin Clamps Down Defensively To Beat Attleboro

Franklin football Mack Gulla
Attleboro’s Trainor Shreck chases after Franklin’s Mack Gulla in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 FRANKLIN, Mass. – In all the key moments of Friday night’s contest against visiting Attleboro, the Franklin football team delivered.

The Panthers converted a fourth down for a touchdown inside the final minutes of the first half, landed a huge counter-punch score late in the third quarter, and its defense stood tall all game long. The result was a 17-3 decision in favor of the hosts.

While the defense was certainly the story for Franklin, the biggest play of the game came from the Panthers’ offense. Attleboro, which was held scoreless in the first half, made it a one-score game when senior Colby Briggs drilled a 41-yard field goal with just seconds left in the third.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

But before the third quarter came to an end, Franklin delivered a game-changing response. Instead of starting the fourth hanging on to a seven-point lead, Panther senior running back Mack Gulla (21 carries, 172 yards) took the first carry of the ensuing drive to the end zone. The senior found a gap on the left side and then split a pair of defenders in the secondary, scampering for a 64-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with just four seconds left in the third.

“That wasn’t the game but it certainly allowed us to kind of take a deep breath and have some room,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “It allowed us to really focus on the little things to keep the lead. A lot of people wouldn’t peg us as a team with someone with over 20 carries a game but that’s two weeks in a row that we’ve been able to get the run game going a little bit and that opens things up for passing.”

Franklin’s defense then put a pair of finishing touches on its strong performance, denying the visitors twice inside Panther territory. The Panthers were set to give the ball back to the Bombardiers with a punt but it was blocked by a diving Anthony Salviati. Attleboro’s Alex Bakowski dove onto the loose ball and the Bombardiers were back in business with nine minutes left at the Franklin 28-yard line.

But a second down strip sack from Jay Gulla forced the Bombardiers back 12-yards and an incomplete pass forced Attleboro to punt. A high punt bounced in a sea of players, bouncing off a Panther, and Attleboro’s Chris Leonardo won the battle at the bottom of the pile to give the visitors a second chance, this time first down in the red zone at the Franklin 18-yard line.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

“We were not good in situational football last week and I thought we were definitely better tonight,” Bain said.
“We were in the right positions, I thought we were more comfortable with the calls. I thought coach Rosen did a nice job getting the gameplan tailored to our crew. Attleboro presents a lot of problems and they move Strachan around a lot and it’s hard to account for him and know where he is plus all their other talented players.”










The Panther defense was up to the task though, stuffing a runner for no gain on first down (after a false start backed Attleboro up 5 yards). An incomplete pass on second down was followed by a 7-yard run from senior Michael Strachan (14 carries, 41 yards) set up 4th and 8 from the 16. Attleboro went for it with a pass into the corner of the end zone but Franklin sophomore Luke Davis won the jump ball for the interception.

“We just can’t seem to put it all together, we haven’t been able to finish,” said Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan. “We’ve had chances, we’ve been in the right spots but we can’t seem to finish. We have something going, we shoot ourselves in the foot. We get a big run, there’s a hold…we block a punt and we don’t capitalize. It’s little things, and we’re young, and these are the growing pains. It’s a tough league to have growing pains.

“We felt like we were right there in this game. We’ve been in the last two games but we have to figure out a way to close out drives, to finish out drives. It’s a short year so it’s hard, there’s not much time to figure it out but we’re going to get right back to work and try to build off our defense and get our offense going.”

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

Attleboro’s defense got off to a strong start, forcing a three-and-out from the hosts on the opening drive of the game but Franklin’s defense was equal to the task, forcing the visitors to punt after six plays despite some good early runs from Kaiden Murray (17 carries, 47 yards).

Franklin had more success with its second drive, getting points on the board despite being held out of the end zone by the Bombardiers. Junior quarterback Jared Arone (8/12, 117 yards) hit senior Jake O’Brien on a hitch route on third to move the sticks, and then the two linked up again on the next play as Arone hit O’Brien on a quick slant over the middle and the receiver did rest, sprinting for 50 yards into Attleboro territory.

The Bombardiers buckled down inside the red zone though, holding the Panthers to just five yards on a pair of runs, sandwiched around an incomplete pass. Franklin settled for a 28-yard field goal from Parker Cheuvront with 1:54 left in the first quarter.

Attleboro grinded its way down field on the ensuing drive, moving the ball 57 yards on 14 plays (4.1 yards per play) — all on the ground. Murray and Strachan had the majority of the carries, and the Attleboro offense benefited from a pair of offside calls to move the sticks. The drive finally came to an end inside the red zone when Briggs’ 32-yard field goal was short.




Franklin went on another long drive, and this time found the end zone. A healthy dose of Mack Gulla early (27 yards on three straight carries) and a 16-yard pass-and-catch from Arone to Will Tracey helped move the Panthers into Attleboro territory. Gulla ran for five yards on third down to get inside the red zone but the Panthers had 4th and 5 from the 19-yard line. Instead of another field goal, Bain elected to go for it with under two minutes left in the half.

Arone dropped back and fired a pass over the middle, connecting with classmate Shane Kindred right at the goal line for a touchdown and a 10-0 advantage at halftime.

Besides the scoring drive for the Bombardiers at the end of the third quarter, Attleboro had three punts, the missed field goal, an interception, and a two-play drive at the end of the first half, totaling just under 150 yards of total offense.

Franklin football Attleboro football Michael Strachan Eian Bain Jared Arone Mack Gulla Kaiden Murray

The Panthers got a lot of pressure in the backfield from Michael Griffin, Jacob Briggs, Xander Honor, and Nick Quintina and a strong push up front from Anthony Quintina.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I thought the defense came to play,” Bain said. “We have a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball but on defense, not only do we have new faces, but we’re young too. With a scrimmage and two games under our belt, I think it’s starting to show that we’re starting to earn our stripes.

“I know everybody is in the same boat with their offseason program but this year it really hurt us as we tried to get the young guys up to speed quicker, get them sharper mentally, get them some actual reps. But as we’ve gotten some experience under our belts and as we’ve stayed the course of what we’re trying to do, I think it’s starting to show.”

Franklin football (2-1) is back in action on Saturday when it hosts Milford for a 12:00 start. Attleboro (0-3) will try to get its first win when it hosts Taunton on Friday at 6:00.

KP Relies on Special Teams, Grinds Out Win at Attleboro

King Philip Football
KP junior Crawford Cantave (2) scoops up a blocked field goal and breaks away from the attempted tackle by Attleboro’s William Runey. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – King Philip has developed a reputation for being able to grind out victories, relying on its defense and special teams to pull out close games. On Saturday afternoon at Attleboro’s Tozier-Cassidy Field, the Warriors bolstered that reputation.

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KP recorded only 43 yards of offense in the first half, had only one play from scrimmage in the third quarter (a fumble), and only had two drives in the game that lasted more than three plays, but they still walked off the field with a 17-3 victory and a 2-0 record.

“I don’t know how?” KP coach Brian Lee replied when asked about his team’s ability to win the game despite its struggles. “I don’t know if we deserved to. I don’t think those numbers are very good…we’re trying to get things organized and it doesn’t feel like it’s coming together for us yet.

“The kids did enough. They made a big play bringing it back and that’s the difference in the game. Special teams actually played well.”

Special teams was the spark that got the Warriors going on Saturday. Jake Silveria’s 52-yard punt pinned Attleboro inside its own 10. After a three-and-out, Jonathan Joseph’s punt return put KP at the Bombardiers 22 to start its second drive. Mike Malatesta dove for two yards on fourth and one to keep things moving to the Attleboro 11.

Charles Grant just missed a touchdown pass to Drew Danson towards one corner of the end zone (landed just out of bounds) and on third down Anthony Salviati made a great breakup on the other side of the field to keep KP, momentarily, off the board. Matthew Kelley stepped in and made a 28-yard field goal (the first of his varsity career) to make it 3-0.

After admitting that his team lost the physical battle up front in the season opener against Milford, Attleboro coach Mike Strachan was pleased with his team’s effort up front.

On their third possession, the Bombardiers started to pick up some first downs in the running game. Alexander Bakowski (23 carries, 67 yards) was the primary back on Saturday and he had success getting to the edge. Blake Garzaro’s two-yard sneak on third and one kept the drive moving and his hard count drew an offsides penalty on fourth and three for another first down.

After getting to the KP 33, Attleboro tried to look downfield with Crawford Cantave making a good play to knock away one pass to Christian Dame and two passes to Salviati falling incomplete. The Bombardiers moved the ball much better on Saturday, but still struggled to finish drives.

“That’s what we’re going to improve on,” Strachan said of his team’s improvement up front. “Bakowski did a good job and Michael got going a little bit more on offense but we just don’t have that team, breakaway speed and that’s the difference. We matchup [with KP] and that’s a battle right there.”

KP went three-and-out to give Attleboro back the ball in the closing minutes of the half. Michael Strachan broke a 19-yard counter to the Warriors 27. Three plays later, on fourth and two, Attleboro elected to go for a 36-yard field goal. Pat Zarba went up the middle and blocked the kick, which was grabbed in stride by Cantave and he had no one in front of him, racing 72 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

“In a game like this, it’s going to be about possessions,” said Strachan about the decision to go for the kick. “You saw what they did in the fourth quarter, they grind it and that’s what we do. Hindsight, I was trying to get back to the point where we could tie it up. I thought we had momentum at the time. We were moving the ball.”

Attleboro got the ball to start the second half and didn’t look like it was going to give the ball back until the quarter was over. The Bombardiers put together a 17-play, 64-yard drive that ate up more than 10 minutes off the clock.

Strachan powered ahead for two yards to convert a third down, another hard count drew an offsides call to convert a second third down, and Garzaro hit Salviati on a slant for 12 yards to convert on fourth and eight. It was his only completion of the game.

On third and five, Freddy Wheaton broke a 12-yard run up the middle to get down to the KP eight, but there the KP defense stiffened. Hunter Hastings stuffed Strachan for a two-yard loss back to the nine and a pass to Dame in the back of the end zone fell incomplete. Colby Briggs split the uprights with a 26-yard kick, cutting the lead to 10-3 and recording Attleboro’s first points of the season.

Malatesta returned the ensuing kick out to the 41, but the first snap of the drive was fumbled and recovered by Wheaton. KP had less than 20 seconds of possession in the third.

KP got the ball back at its own 10 and finally strung together a few plays to switch field position around. Cantave (17 carries, 66 yards) started to work between the tackles, powering the Warriors out to the 31. KP converted twice on third down (one on an offsides penalty) and moved 54 yards on 12 plays. After stalling at the Attleboro 36, they pinned the Bombardiers back to their own seven.

Down by a touchdown, Attleboro nearly hit a big play on first down, but the bomb to Salviati was just out of his reach with no KP player between him and the end zone. The Bombardiers tried four passing plays in a row, but none connected, giving the Warriors back the ball.

Cantave put the game out of reach just two plays later, finding a seam for a four-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with just 1:55 remaining.

Lee was happy to be undefeated while still trying to figure everything out, but admitted that they’re going to need to improve to keep racking up wins. He said, “It’s good to be 2-0 and we’re not there, but Milford looks really good. And then it’s Mansfield. It gets harder as we’re going here so we need to figure things out. At least let’s stop making mistakes at this point.”

King Philip (2-0) will go on the road again next week to face Milford for the first time in program history. Attleboro (0-2) will travel to Franklin on Friday night.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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

Milford Football
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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Fall II Hockomock Football: Players to Watch on Defense

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense
Attleboro’s Michael Strachan, pictured intercepting a pass in the closing seconds on Thanksgiving Day, will be one of the defensive players to watch when Hockomock League football kicks off. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

Player are listed alphabetically

Matt Connolly, Senior – Canton

Canton was one of the best teams in the Hockomock League over the past two seasons because of how well-balanced they were with impact players all over the field. The majority of those players graduated so this year’s Bulldogs will be leaning on the few experienced players back. One of those is two-way lineman Matt Connolly, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound guard/defensive tackle that demands attention no matter what side of the ball he’s playing on. When the ball is snapped, Connolly almost always requires a double-team defensively to try and slow him down. He does a great job of taking away gaps and rushing lanes, and when it comes to pass rush, he can really put opposing linemen on skates, driving them backward. Canton will have a lot of new faces on the line this year but Connolly will be a familiar force for foes.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense

Christian Georges, Senior – Stoughton

Georges was a dominant presence on the Stoughton defensive line last season, whether it was setting the edge, taking on extra blockers to open gaps for his teammates, or bursting into the backfield to make a big play behind the line of scrimmage. A versatile weapon for the Stoughton defense, Georges could line up on the outside as a pass-rushing linebacker or with his hand down on the line ready to stuff the opposition ground game. George combines speed, strength, and football IQ to always find the point of attack and destroy the offense’s best-laid plans. He was a major factor in the Black Knights allowing 12 points or fewer in seven games last year, finishing with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He will be hoping to do even better this season, as Stoughton seeks out a first league title since 2015.

TJ Guy, Senior – Mansfield

Guy was a one-man wrecking crew for the Mansfield defense last season, which was a huge problem for teams facing the Div. 2 state champions since the Hornets had a few players who qualified for that title. At times unblockable, Guy dominated the line of scrimmage, forcing teams to double-team him and opening gaps for Mansfield’s ball-hawking linebackers to get into the backfield. Combining strength and a quick first step, he finished with 34 tackles, including four for loss, and had four sacks. The University of Michigan-commit was a disruptive force in both the ground game and in the pass rush, while also being one of the top linemen on the other side of the ball as well. Guy’s presence in the heart of the Mansfield defensive line is one of the reasons the Hornets will be favored again to bring home another Kelley-Rex division title.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense




Nico Holmes, Senior – Mansfield

Mansfield has a big void to fill with the graduation of league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Vinnie Holmes, who had 91 total tackles last season. It just so happens it will be Nico Holmes, Vinnie’s younger brother, that will be one of the candidates to step up into that role. Holmes has plenty of experience at the varsity, starting along the defensive line last season for the D2 State Champions. Now he’ll line up with the linebackers and look to continue to make plays from that spot. We know he’s not afraid to hit people, we saw it last year on both sides of the ball as he led the way for the Hornets’ rushing game as a fullback. The senior is one of four captains for Mansfield this season so the Hornets will be counting on his leadership both on and off the field.

Jon Moses, Senior – Foxboro

Foxboro has always leaned on its defense to be successful and Moses is an imposing figure in the heart of the linebacking corps and will be key to the Warriors remaining a tough team to move the ball against. At 6’4 and 215 pounds, Moses looks more like a defensive lineman and uses his size and strength to set the edge against the ground game. Not someone who allows runners to get away once he gets his hands on them, Moses is also capable of using his quickness to get into the backfield and disrupt things right at the point of attack. His big frame makes him an important piece of the Foxboro pass rush, as it’s not easy for quarterbacks to look over him and try to make plays downfield. Also a solid blocker at tight end and a big target in the passing game, Moses can make an impact on both sides of the ball. The Warriors will be hoping to make a run at a league title this season and Moses and a hard-hitting defense will have to be a big part of that title challenge.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense

Jadon Ricci, Senior – Oliver Ames

Oliver Ames is hoping to surprise some teams this year in its first season back in the Davenport division. While the Tigers’ division record hasn’t been great, they have done a really good job against their non-league foes and their defense has really stood out in those games. A major player in that defensive unit is back this season in senior Jadon Ricci, a defensive back specialist that has a nose for the football. Ricci can line up in the slot or outside, or even take a step back into a safety role, but no matter where he is on the field, he seems to find his way to the football. Whether it’s reading a quarterback’s eyes and making a play on a pass or flying to a ball carrier, Ricci seems to always been in the mix.

Dom Schofield, Senior – Milford

Sometimes flying under the radar last season because of the attention that went to fellow linebackers Luke Rosa and CJ Cerrella, Schofield emerged as a consistent playmaker on the outside. Capable of making big plays in the pass rush, against the run game, and dropping into coverage, the UMass-commit is poised for a breakout season as the Hawks take on the challenge of facing a Kelley-Rex division schedule. An imposing presence at 6’5 and 230 pounds, Schofield has the quickness to cover ground in a hurry and the strength to step up and set the edge to bottle up the opposing running game. Milford has seen its fair share of talented linebackers in recent years and Schofield is continuing that trend and is poised for a breakout season as the Hawks look to make noise in their first season in the Kelley-Rex.




Jacob Silva, Senior – North Attleboro

North Attleboro’s lineup was torn apart by injuries last season but one player that really stood out on both sides of the ball is now senior captain Jacob Silva. Whether it was at tailback or outside linebacker, Silva gave it his all on every play and was a real bright spot for the Rocketeers. Silva is the type of player that isn’t afraid of running tight at — and on some occasions through — the opposition, whether it’s when he’s carrying the ball or flying off the edge to try to make a play on a running back or sacking a quarterback. Silva reads the game really well and reacts accordingly, using his speed to drop into coverage when needed to cover tight ends or running backs downfield. The Rocketeers have high expectations for this season and Silva’s leadership on defense will be a big key to achieving their goals.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense

Michael Strachan, Senior – Attleboro

A rare four-year varsity player, Strachan comes into his senior season as one of the league’s top returning linebackers. He has led the Bombardiers in tackles each of the past two seasons, including 80.5 tackles (66 of them solo) last year. Strachan, a University of Rhode Island-commit, is also strong in the passing game, dropping into coverage and recording two pass breakups and a clutch end zone interception that sealed the Thanksgiving Day win at North Attleboro. His toughness and physicality were also on display on offense, where he finished with 512 all-purpose yards and six rushing touchdowns. Able to read the play and with the speed to cover a lot of ground, Strachan has been a force to be reckoned with in the Attleboro defense and will be hoping to close out his high school career by helping Attleboro challenge the top teams in the league.

Pat Zarba, Senior – King Philip

If you’re looking for a player that defines King Philip football, look no further than senior Pat Zarba. A three-year starter, Zarba is a blue-collar type player that works incredibly hard on both sides of the ball, doesn’t do anything overly flashy, but is an incredibly effective player. Offensively, Zarba really sets the tone with his physicality and creates a lot of opportunities for the backs. Zarba lines up at defensive tackle defensively, and at 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, in a one-man wrecking crew in the middle. He almost always sees a double team but that doesn’t stop him from using his strength to get free and clog up the middle. Expect more of the same when it comes to toughness along the line from King Philip this season with Zarba setting the example.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense

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

2019 HockomockSports Football Awards

2019 Hockomock League Football All Stars

Below are the official 2019 Hockomock League Football All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.

Hockomock League MVP

Kelley-Rex

Vinnie Holmes, Mansfield

Davenport

Kyle Fitzgerald, Canton

Hockomock League All Stars

Kelley-Rex Division

Qualeem Charles, Attleboro
Michael Strachan, Attleboro
Jason Weir, Attleboro
Austin Jordan, Franklin
Thomas Gasbarro, Franklin
Evan Wertz, Franklin
Jack Nally, Franklin
Jake Davis, Franklin
Sean Piller, King Philip
Ryan Halliday, King Philip
Robert Jarest, King Philip
Terence Guy, Mansfield
Vincent Holmes, Mansfield
Michael Debolt, Mansfield
Nicholas Marciano, Mansfield
Cincere Gill, Mansfield
Jason Comeau, Mansfield
Nathan Cabral, Oliver Ames
Daniel MacDougall, Taunton

Davenport Division

Jack Connolly, Canton
Kyle Fitzgerald, Canton
John Hagan, Canton
James Murphy, Canton
Robert Gallery, Canton
Aidan Dow, Foxboro
Shayne Kerrigan, Foxboro
Anton George, Foxboro
Michael Sheehan, Foxboro
Luke Rosa, Milford
Colby Pires, Milford
John Kummer, North Attleboro
Ethan Mottinger, North Attleboro
Ethan Friberg, North Attleboro
John Saab, Sharon
Carlvin Laguerre, Stoughton
Anthony Pizzano, Stoughton
Chris Ais, Stoughton
Christin Ais, Stoughton

Late Interception Secures Attleboro Thanksgiving Win

Attleboro football
Attleboro junior linebacker Michael Strachan (7) intercepts a pass in the end zone with just 20 seconds remaining to secure a 13-7 Thanksgiving Day win at North. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Attleboro scored twice in its first five plays from scrimmage but with less than a minute remaining on the clock North Attleboro (4-7) was driving with a chance to steal the 99th annual Thanksgiving Day meeting between the two neighboring rivals on the soaked grass at Community Field.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Rocketeers backup quarterback Casey Poirier, who took over from sophomore Tyler DeMattio (17 carries, 83 yards) in the fourth quarter, engineered a 15-play drive from his own 20 all the way down to the Attleboro five-yard-line.

Fellow quarterback Jason Weir pushed North back when he grabbed hold of Poirier and swung him down for a nine-yard sack back to the 14 and on third and goal junior linebacker Michael Strachan came through with a game-ending interception in the end zone, sealing a dramatic 13-7 victory for the Bombardiers.

“I think we prepared really hard for this game and I think it just goes to show, this rivalry, what it means,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan after his third win in this holiday series. “[North] played great, they’re always prepared, but this is what it’s all about.”

While Attleboro (6-5) made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in D1 South, neither team had big postseason plans this year, so both had weeks to prepare for Thursday’s game and it took on added importance, as Weir, who won the Balfour Trophy for Offensive MVP, succinctly explained.

“It means so much,” he said. “This is our Super Bowl. It’s phenomenal.”

North was able to move the ball on its opening drives, but couldn’t finish. The Rocketeers got to the Attleboro 39 on its opening possession but a bad snap on fourth and one ended the drive, while the second possession reached the Attleboro 35 but another turnover on downs meant no points.

Attleboro had none of those problems at the start of the game. The Bombardiers went 52 yards in three plays on the their first possession and then 65 yards on two plays on their second to build a solid lead.

On the first play from scrimmage, Weir (7-of-10, 104 yards) hit Ethan Cameron (five catches, 88 yards) in stride for a 43-yard completion to the North five. Two plays later, Strachan burst through the left side for a five-yard score. After completing a 13-yard pass to Cameron to start the second drive, Weir took it himself, breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage and breaking free for a 52-yard touchdown to make it 13-0.

“That was the whole game plan, come out and throw the first punch,” said Weir. “That works against any high school team, they’re going to back down right away and that’s what we did today. Our line stepped up huge today.”

Coach Strachan said of Weir, “I think we finally put him in a situation where he could make some plays for us, make him comfortable, roll him out a little bit more, and that was good.”

The visiting Bombardiers felt like they might break the game wide open and put things away, but the North defense started to stiffen, with Tom O’Neil, Ethan Friberg, and Jacob Silva all making plays that kept Attleboro from gaining more traction offensively.

Also, the North offense finally found a way to complete a drive. The Rocketeers marched 77 yards on 11 plays to cut into the lead. DeMattio led the way, with help from Tommy Whalen and a 27-yard run up the gut by Silva. Attleboro forced fourth an 10 after pressure by Trainor Sherck and a breakup by Adam Pearlstein, but then Demattio scrambled for 12 yards to keep the possession alive.

DeMattio added 16 more on a quarterback draw to get to the Attleboro four and two plays later Jared Penta took a jet sweep over the left side for a three-yard score to make it 13-7 with a minute left before the break.

“We gave up two touchdowns in the first five plays of the game and that’s been the story of our season,” said North coach Don Johnson. “We give up too many easy ones like that and all of a sudden we have to dig out of a hole.

Johnson was asked if he changed anything defensively after Attleboro’s two quick strikes and he answered, “We played a little bit of a different front, but I don’t think that was the difference. I think we just started playing a little bit better.”

The third quarter was largely a stalemate. Weir had a sack to effectively end North’s first possession of the half and Attleboro just missed out on extending the lead when Cameron was ruled to be out of bounds on a catch in the end zone on fourth and 11.

After just missing out on the touchdown, Attleboro had a chance to break the game open two plays later. Justin Daniels tipped a DeMattio pass that was picked off by Pearlstein, setting the visitors up at the North 20. The Bombardiers managed six yards on three plays and a low snap led to a missed 31-yard field goal by Colby Briggs with 9:43 to play.

Attleboro wouldn’t see the ball again for more than nine minutes.

Starting at its own 20, North took over going into the wind and put together a drive that gave it a shot at the win. Defensive MVP Isaac Gudiel stuffed Silva (nine carries, 53 yards) for a two-yard loss to force a third and 10, but then a pass interference call gave the Rocketeers a much-needed first down.

Poirier picked out Ethan Friberg for 10 yards to the 33. After a penalty backed North up five yards, Silva gained 13 on a draw. Gudiel stuffed Silva for a loss to bring up third and 11, but Poirier again had the answer with a 12-yard pass to Whalen for another first down to the nine.

Coming out of a timeout with 1:14 to play, North drew an illegal substitution penalty that backed it up to the 14, but Penta gained nine on first and goal to get the Rocketeers up to the five. Weir came flying through on second down, dropping Poirier for a nine-yard loss and forcing North into its final timeout with 27 seconds on the clock.

On third and goal, Strachan made amends for allowing an earlier completion by jumping the route and picking off a pass two yards deep in the end zone to end the game and bring Hilda back to Attleboro.

“I was on him because he missed the play before,” joked Coach Strachan about his son’s game-clinching play, “so they ran the same route and he undercut it and it was good.”

When asked about how much winning on Thanksgiving means, Strachan added, “It’s huge. We battled injuries just like everyone else has, but this was a big game for the program. Like I said to the kids, these games mean something and these kids responded.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Thursday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 11/28/19

Today’s games are listed below.

Football
Attleboro, 13 @ North Attleboro, 7 – FinalClick here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: (A) Michael Strachan 5-yard rush, Colby Briggs XP good; (A) Jason Weir 52-yard rush, XP no good.
2nd Quarter: (NA) Jared Penta 3-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: No scoring.

Stoughton, 8 @ Canton, 30 – FinalClick here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (C) Johnny Hagan 35-yard pass to Kyle Fitzgerald, Owen Lehane XP good; (C) K. Fitzgerald 4-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good; (S) Christian Ais 6-yard rush, Clayton Rahaman 2pt pass to Anthony Pizzano.
3rd Quarter: (C) O. Lehane 28-yard field goal; (C) Gersom Rivera 8-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (C) J. Hagan 7-yard pass to David Allen, O. Lehane XP good.

Mansfield, 22 @ Foxboro, 12 – Final
1st Quarter: (M) Safety; (M) Nick Marciano 46-yard pass to Danny Rapoza, Michael DeBolt XP good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Vinnie Holmes 46-yard rush, 2pt failed; (M) M. DeBolt 9-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (F) Shayne Kerrigan 2-yard rush, 2pt failed; (F) Chris McNamara 3-yard rush, 2pt failed.

Franklin, 0 @ King Philip, 14 – Final
1st Quarter: (KP) Ryan Halliday 5-yard rush, XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (KP) R. Halliday 2-yard rush, XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.

Milford, 12 @ Maynard, 15 – Final
1st Quarter: (Mi) Luke Rosa 13-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (Mi) Carter Scudo 22-yard rush, XP failed.

Oliver Ames, 34 @ Sharon, 0 – Final
1st Quarter: (OA) Connor Murphy fumble recovery, Sean Friel XP good; (OA) Nathan Cabral 2-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.
2nd Quarter: (OA) N. Cabral 3-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.
3rd Quarter: (OA) Cam Perron 40-yard pass to Nick Marks, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (OA) Sam Stevens 5-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.

PREDICTIONS

Game of the Week Staff
 
Ryan
Lanigan
Josh
Perry
Matt
Bosh
Jeff
Pickette
 

 

Attleboro @ North Attleboro
Thursday, 10:00

 

Stoughton @ Canton
Thursday, 10:00

 

Mansfield @ Foxboro
Thursday, 10:00

 

Franklin @ King Philip
Thursday, 10:00

 

Milford @ Maynard
Thursday, 10:00

 

Oliver Ames @ Sharon
Thursday, 10:00

 

Attleboro @ North Attleboro
Ryan Lanigan: North Attleboro
Josh Perry: Attleboro
Matt Bosh: North Attleboro
Jeff Pickette: Attleboro
 
Stoughton @ Canton
Ryan Lanigan: Canton
Josh Perry: Stoughton
Matt Bosh: Canton
Jeff Pickette: Stoughton
 
Mansfield @ Foxboro
Ryan Lanigan: Mansfield
Josh Perry: Mansfield
Matt Bosh: Mansfield
Jeff Pickette: Mansfield
 
Franklin @ King Philip
Ryan Lanigan: Franklin
Josh Perry: King Philip
Matt Bosh: King Philip
Jeff Pickette: King Philip
 
Milford @ Maynard
Ryan Lanigan: Milford
Josh Perry: Milford
Matt Bosh: Milford
Jeff Pickette: Milford
 
Oliver Ames @ Sharon
Ryan Lanigan: Sharon
Josh Perry: Oliver Ames
Matt Bosh: Oliver Ames
Jeff Pickette: Oliver Ames
 

Records

Ryan Lanigan: 58-25
Josh Perry: 65-18
Matt Bosh: 67-16
Jeff Pickette: 66-17

  
  

Lanigan
58-25

Perry
65-18

Bosh
67-16

Pickette
66-17

Milford Avoids Attleboro Comeback, Earns First Win

Milford football
Milford junior Carter Scudo (11) caught the game-winning touchdown with just 1:34 remaining in a 20-13 victory for the Hawks. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


MILFORD, Mass. – There are different ways that a team can show resiliency. Last week, Milford kept fighting its way back on the road, not allowing Franklin to feel comfortable with its lead until the final whistle. On Saturday afternoon in its home opener against Attleboro, Milford was on the brink of putting the game away in the fourth quarter only to see Attleboro snatch momentum and tie the game.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Rather than allowing the game to slip out of their grasp, the Hawks overcame turnovers and penalties and pulled out a victory. Senior Colby Pires hit junior Carter Scudo for a 21-yard touchdown with only 1:34 remaining and Milford escaped with a 20-13 victory.

“Like I told you last week, these kids don’t quit,” said Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “They play 48 minutes of football. We practice that way, we train them that way, and the results are speaking for themselves. Our kids battle. They don’t quit.”

The Bombardiers were playing their first game of the season and struggled throughout the second half with cramps. Junior Michael Strachan (10 carries, 53 yards) was forced to leave the game due to dehydration, while senior Isaac Gudiel and junior Justin Daniels missed portions of the game on both sides of the ball.

“This was our first real test,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “You don’t get this type of action [in scrimmages] and unfortunately we need to get in better condition. We had too many cramps and that definitely hurt us.”

Trailing 13-6 in the fourth quarter and with its bench struggling to maintain any energy, Attleboro came up with a huge momentum-shifting play. Milford got the ball down to the Bombardiers’ 13 but the defense managed to pry the ball loose from running back Luke Rosa (19 carries, 106 yards). One play later, senior Ethan Cameron (four catches, 136 yards) beat man coverage on the outside and his classmate Jason Weir hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown.

Out of seemingly nowhere, just when it looked like Milford was about to put the game out of reach, the game was tied 13-13 and the visitors were filled with confidence.

After partially blocking a punt, Attleboro got the ball at the Hawks 45-yard-line, but a CJ Cerrella sack (one of five sacks by the Hawks) stalled the Attleboro possession and Xavier Hilton returned the ensuing punt 31 yards out to midfield.

“They played man the whole game and they locked up and felt like they were going to bring it and they did,” said Strachan about the Milford pass rush. “I thought we had some success running the ball early and that was our intent but then we got banged up.”

Pires (25-of-41, 266 yards) swung a pass to Max Martin, who hurdled a Bombardier and drew a personal foul penalty for it. Then a 15-yard completion to Matt Varteresian was wiped away by a holding penalty. The third play was a catch by Hilton over the middle but he couldn’t hold on to the ball and Cameron recovered the fumble.

“Fumbles and penalties are going to be our biggest corrections,” said Vizakis. “Those are mistakes that can cost you games. They took advantage of it, but we’ll get those mistakes corrected.”

Again the Milford defense held and recovered possession. A short punt gave the Hawks the ball at the 37. Pires hit Scudo (seven catches, 81 yards) for nine yards, then for six, and then he again found the junior receiver open in the heart of the Attleboro secondary and he took it in for the game-winning score.

Attleboro had one last chance and converted a fourth and 18 (caused by a Herrick Louis sack) as Weir (8-of-21, 188 yards) found Cameron open in the seam for 24 yards. But, after yet another sack (this one by Rosa), Evan “Beav” Hazard picked off Weir’s final pass to seal the win.

Strachan said, “We’re young and we have to build off it. We’re really disappointed. We thought this was a game that we had a legitimate shot to win and I think we did a lot of good things and we need to build off that.”

The visitors grabbed the lead on their first drive. Weir connected with Daniels on a 30-yard pass down the sideline to get into Milford territory and from there Strachan took over. The bruising junior running back broke runs of 13 and 16 yards to get inside the five. He punched it in from one-yard out to make it 6-0.

Following a Scudo interception at their own 11, the Hawks marched 89 yards on 12 plays, including a crucial fourth down pass interference call, to grab their first lead. Gudiel stuffed Rosa for a four-yard loss on a swing pass, but then Rosa came right back with a 16-yard gain and a five-yard touchdown up the gut.

On its next possession, Milford extended the lead. Pires hooked up with Martin for a 22-yard pass to start the drive, but then back-to-back holding calls created a first and 38. On third and 18, Pires found Martin again for 20 yards and the first down to the Attleboro 13. Martin (seven catches, 105 yards) was drilled by Nolan Jaeger on the play, the second time that happened in as many drives, and Vizakis rewarded Martin by giving him the ball at the one and he scored on a jet sweep.

“A testament to his toughness,” Vazakis explained. “We knew when we were down there that there’s one guy that needed to finish the drive and it was Max. I’m so proud of him, offensively and defensively. Just a tough, selfless individual.”

Milford (1-1) will get a week off before opening its league campaign at Sharon. Attleboro (0-1) will have its home opener next Saturday afternoon against Dartmouth.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.