Field Dedicated to Longtime Foxboro Football Coach

Foxboro Football
Foxboro football coach Jack Martinelli addressed the crowd at a ceremony renaming the Ahern Middle School field in his honor. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – The crowd filed into their seats in the bleachers at the Ahern Middle School field on Sunday morning, including players in uniform, while friends, family, and speakers filled out the seats in front of the podium at midfield. When the crowd was settled, Foxboro fire trucks and police cruisers pulled in behind the bleachers with sirens blaring, providing an honorary motorcade to deliver the man of the hour.

Foxboro football coach Jack Martinelli, who will kick off his 36th season in charge when the Warriors travel to Hingham on Sept. 8, walked onto the grass field that he has called home for more than three decades and received a standing ovation from current and former players, town and state officials, fellow coaches, parents, alumni, and administrators who were all on hand to honor Martinelli’s contributions on and off the gridiron.

Sunday’s ceremony dedicated the field at Ahern in the longtime coach’s honor, renaming it Jack Martinelli Field to confirm the legacy of success that he has brought to the Foxboro football program and also, as the speakers all noted, his positive impact on more than 3,000 Warriors that have played for him.

“In 1982, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime,” Martinelli said. “With longtime friends and Norwood assistants Joe Mooney and Joe Smith…we embarked on a journey that has run the gamut of football emotions.

“Today’s generous honor really belongs to some 3,000 tough and hard-nosed Foxboro young men that always combined working class traditions with white-collar skills that had a passion for the game and always played with such unity, focus, and determined resolve.We grew together as coaches and players and shared the various responsibilities in victory and defeat.”

Martinelli has won 261 games in his time at Foxboro, which ranks him 10th in the state for career victories according to an article from the Boston Herald. He has won 11 Hockomock League titles and taken the Warriors to eight Super Bowls, winning four of them (the last one in 2006, which was also his 200th career win).

Mansfield coach Mike Redding spoke about his 30-year rivalry with Martinelli.
In addition, Martinelli, who came to Foxboro from Norwood High, has coached in the annual Shriner’s Game three times and twice was named the New England Patriots Coach of the Year. He has been inducted into the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

When he took over the program in 1982, Martinelli had fewer than 30 players on the roster, but grew quickly into one of the largest programs in the Hockomock. Despite decreasing enrollment at the high school, which has made Foxboro one of the smallest schools in the league, the Warriors have more than 90 players on this fall’s roster

Longtime assistant coach Michael Bordieri, who was also a player when Martinelli was hired, recalled, “We only had 29 returning players from the year before and I remember we were all anxious and unsure of what to expect from our new coach. We came into the first meeting unsure…but I remember exactly how we felt as a team when we were leaving – confident, capable, and excited to play for coach.”

“Here we are 35 years later and although the record speaks for itself,” Bordieri continued, “it’s the relationship with players that matters most to coach.”

One of Martinelli’s longtime rivals also came to speak about his impact. Mansfield coach Mike Redding is beginning his 30th season in charge of the Hornets and he relishes the opportunity to face Martinelli each fall on Thanksgiving morning. He called the Mansfield – Foxboro rivalry “the best in the state of Massachusetts.”

“It’s not the banners and the rings,” Redding said, “it’s what he did for the players in the Foxboro uniforms…You will be a better young man having played for Jack Martinelli and when you get to be a senior you will be ready to play the best football of your life.

“I can say on behalf of all the coaches in our league that we have been simply amazed that, despite declining enrollment at Foxboro High, we still have to face 90-95 guys in blue and gold who compete at the highest level every single year.”

A person with a unique perspective on the influence that Martinelli has on the sideline is Jim Artz. A former Foxboro player, who was on the 1987 Super Bowl-winning team, Artz went on to join the Warriors coaching staff as an assistant and then faced Foxboro as an opponent while the head coach at Oliver Ames.

Artz said, “Coach genuinely cared for each of us in a way that we could feel the support and belief he had in us. He always gave sound advice and showed there was a light at the end of the tunnel.”

He continued, “To a player he trusted and believed that if given the opportunity his players would rise to the occasion…It’s a tremendous feeling to know the guy in charge believes in you and will always support you. I tell people that didn’t play for Foxboro about why they have been so good for so long and for me it was his players would always run through a wall for him.”

Former Foxboro player and OA coach Jim Artz spoke about his relationship with Coach Martinelli.
Another former player who provided the assembled crowd with unique insight into Martinelli’s career was Tom Nalen, a member of the 1987 and 1988 Super Bowl champion teams who went on to a successful collegiate career at Boston College and played 14 seasons with the Denver Broncos (winning two Super Bowls and being named to the Pro Bowl five times).

Even with the high level of coaching he received, Nalen credited Martinelli with teaching him the lessons that led to a professional career. He explained, “I’ve been around a lot of good coaches and they all have these positive attributes and just the combination of them – he’s the only one who had them.”

A sign for the scoreboard was revealed that bears the new field’s name and a banner was unveiled on the back side of the bleachers that can be viewed by all spectators entering the field. It was a fitting tribute to a coach that built the Foxboro program into a perennial power and who shows no signs of slowing down as he passes the midway point of his fourth decade at the helm.

“He is Foxboro,” Nalen insisted. “A guy from Milton, came to us from Norwood, lives in Holliston, but he’s Foxboro. He’s the guy. It ain’t Tom Brady; it’s Coach Martinelli.”

The Warriors will play their first game at Jack Martinelli Field on Sept. 15 against King Philip.

Foxboro Edges Canton In Davenport Division Clash

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Foxboro’s Ronnie Martin tries to evade a tackle from Canton’s Jake Ragusa in the second half (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
CANTON, Mass. – After surrendering a touchdown on Canton’s opening possession, Foxboro’s defense didn’t break again.
The Warriors’ offense scored 10 unanswered points in the second half and the defense tossed a shutout in the second frame as Foxboro beat Canton, 10-7, in the HockomockSports.com Game of the Week.
The Bulldogs took the opening drive of the game 77 yards on 14 plays, running the ball every single down to take over eight minutes off the clock. A four yard toss to the right to Woanyen Mahn with 2:48 left in the first quarter put Canton ahead 7-0.
Foxboro’s defense bent a little on a handful of Canton drives throughout the rest of the game, but never broke.
The Warriors nearly responded right away, getting to 2nd and goal from the Canton two yard line but a rush for a two yard loss, a sack from Canton’s Brian Smith and a pass breakup in the end zone from Mahn forced a turnover on downs.
Canton went back to work on the ground, this time running 18 plays and getting all the way to the Foxboro 23 yard line. Facing 3rd and 7, Foxboro’s Allston George got into the backfield for a sack to force Canton into a 46 yard field goal that just fell short.
At the half, Canton was up 7-0 and had had run over triple the plays (32 to 9) that Foxboro’s offense had.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli said. “We couldn’t get off the field on third down. Two or three yards here, up inside and then they’d get to the edge. I have to give them credit but I have to give my guys credit too, bouncing back in the second half and shutting things down. It made it more difficult for them to pick up yardage.”
Foxboro started the second half with bang, as junior Mark Clagg connected with Connor McNamara over the middle and McNamara turned it into a 29 yard gain. A defensive penalty moved the ball up five more yards and then Foxboro was able to find the end zone. Clagg took the snap and was able to dance his way around two would-be tackles in the backfield and eventually dumped the pass off to running back Ronnie Martin. Martin took the pass, broke through a tackle and raced his way in for a 43 yard touchdown along the right side.
Canton’s offense started to move the ball yet again on the ground behind the combination of Jake Ragusa (21 carries, 125 yards), Mahn (nine carries, 40 yards) and Joe Bires (25 yards), moving into Foxboro territory. But a five yard penalty, a four yard loss and then a sack pushed Canton into 3rd and 23. Quarterback Dennis Ross nearly completed a long pass to Michael Harris for the first down but the ball just slipped through Harris’ one hand attempt.
The punt was nearly a disaster but Thomas Monagle was able to track down the high snap and still get a punt away.
Clagg then took a QB option for 39 yards to the Canton 15 yard line but the Bulldogs defense would stand tall. A three yard rush from Austin Ryan (81 all purpose yards) was followed by an incompletion and then a rush for no yards. Foxboro junior John Cronin then drilled a 29 yard field goal, his league leading fifth of the season, with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
“The little ice man, he has ice water in his veins,” Martinelli said of Cronin. “He’s been clutch for us.”
Canton was forced to punt again (and another great play by Monagle to snag a high snap) but the Bulldogs defense forced Foxboro to do the same. This time it was a high snap from Foxboro that went over Clagg’s head. Canton’s Dijmon Harding was able to get to Clagg before he could get anything off and forced a 21 yard loss and a turnover on downs.
Canton took control in the Foxboro red zone at the Warriors’ 18 yard line with 7:10 left.
That’s when Foxboro’s defense had it’s best stand of the game. On first down, Foxboro’s front four got a great push and caused a loss of six yards on a rush. An incomplete pass over the middle was followed by a 10 yard run from Ragusa. Canton’s field goal attempt from 31 yards just sailed wide and Foxboro kept its lead with 5:34 to play.
From there, it was heavy dose of Ronnie Martin (13 carries, 46 yards). Martin took the first two hand offs for a total of four yards before Clagg connected with McNamara for nine yards and first down. Another carry from Martin was followed by a QB option run by Darren Kelly that went for 21 yards and a first down. Four straight carries from Martin set Foxboro up for 3rd and 7 and that’s when Ryan took a sweep up the left side for eight yards and a first to ice the game.
“The two quarterback [Clagg and Kelly] situation, I have to give me coaches Mike Bordieri and AJ Dooley a lot of credit for working their magic with that,” Martinelli said. “They both understand their role and root for one another and today’s day and age, that’s hard to do.
“And Ronnie had a good game, I thought he ran hard. He’s starting to get to his peak performance level right on schedule. It will make life easier if we can run the ball a little more.”
Canton finished with an advantage in first downs, time of possession and rushing yards but Foxboro came away with the win to move to 4-0 overall.
“That’s a great football team,” Martinelli said of Canton. “I knew they were and I knew they could run the ball and that’s just what they did. I think maybe we wore them down in the second, maybe a little I don’t know. I would never take anything away from Canton. The last three or four years, they have played as hard as anyone on the schedule. We knew they would be tough, we knew they would be tough running the football and defensively. We’re happy to escape with a 10-7 win, believe me.”
The Bulldogs suffered their first setback of the season but were able to push the Warriors, who are just one of two remaining undefeated teams in the Hockomock and just one of three in D4 South, to the limit.
“I feel like it was a tale of two teams,” Canton head coach Dave Bohane said. “They’re kind of a finesse team and can throw the ball very well with two good quarterbacks and good receivers and we’re more, come at you on the ground team. I thought both teams did exactly that. But Martin is a good runner and I have a lot of respect for him and I knew he would play a factor at some point. They are good but I thought our kids played very well, I think we limited their plays as much as we could. I think we did what we set out to do but we came up short.
“I think penalties got us in some key spots and we got into some positions where we had to get out of our comfort zone. We were in a position to maybe win the game though but we just couldn’t quite do it.”
Foxboro (4-0, 2-0 in the Davenport) will look to continue its perfect start when they host Milford (2-2, 1-1), which is fresh off a 42-8 win over Oliver Ames. Canton (3-1, 1-1) will look to bounce back when they travel to neighboring Stoughton (2-2, 2-0) on Friday night.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.