TAUNTON, Mass. – In the final minute of the first half, Oliver Ames found the end zone to cut Taunton’s lead in half, taking the momentum into the break.
But Taunton stole the momentum back, sandwiching a pair of 60-yard plus drives around an OA three-and-out to begin the second half. The hosts never looked back from that point on, earning a decisive 30-6 victory in the HockomockSports.com Game of the Week, dubbed the “Tiger Bowl.”
“I thought their offense did a good job of mixing it up on us,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “I’ve run a no-huddle spread offense before and it’s different for the defense when you haven’t played against it, our guys had to adjust. But coming out in the second half, that first drive was a big deal. And then it was nice to get a stop and do it again on offense.”
Taunton was looking to add onto its 13-0 lead when it stopped Oliver Ames on fourth down just over midfield late in the second quarter. But the host Tigers fumbled just two plays into the series with OA’s Andrew Fraser falling onto the loose ball.
OA took advantage, marching 57 yards on nine plays to end the first half on a high note. Junior quarterback Cam Perron (7/18, 99 yards) scampered for 15 yards to begin the drive and back-to-back carries to junior Nathan Cabral (20 carries, 103 yards, touchdown) moved OA up the field 30 yards. An encroachment penalty on Taunton allowed Cabral to convert a fourth down inside the red zone on a short run, and two plays later, Cabral took a pitch to the left and ran in for a 9 yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 13-6.
Taunton’s offense was unfazed but its deficit shrinking. Senior Tryton Zavala (18 carries, 117 yards) had four rushes on the drive while senior quarterback Noah Leonard (15/19, 213 yards, three touchdowns) went 3-for-3, hitting Wesner Charles (six receptions, 79 yards two touchdowns) for a 26-yard touchdown over the middle. Coby Adams’ extra point made it 20-6 with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
The defense did its part, highlighted by a sack from Taunton senior Max Moitoso on second down. OA ended up without a yard on the drive and had to punt quickly.
After OA’s three and out, the host Tigers once again worked their way down field. Facing a 4th and 7 at the OA 19-yard line, Leonard hit Cam Carroca, who fought his way past the first down maker. On the next play, sophomore Josh Lopes (seven carries, 59 yards) found a big hole on the left side and went in for a 10-yard touchdown and a 27-6 lead with 1:15 left in the third.
“Our guys battled across the board,” said OA head coach Mike Holland. “I thought our guys fought and it was a competitive game at half. Coming out in the second, we had a chance to do a couple of things. We didn’t and they capitalized to pull ahead. They finished strong and we didn’t.
“Football comes down to who can control the line of scrimmage, who can sustain long drives, and who doesn’t come out and go three and out offensively. They came out and drove the field, and offensively we sputtered and had to punt. They got the ball back, ate up some clock with a long drive and finished.”
To start the game, the teams traded punts and then Oliver Ames’ second drive ended on downs. On Taunton’s second drive, the hosts went 76 yards on 10 plays. Danny MacDougall (six catches, 96 yards) had an 11-yard reception and fullback Damian Manning grabbed a 15-yard pass on the drive. Three plays later, Leonard connected with Charles on a fade route for a 7-0 advantage.
Oliver Ames looked to respond, moving the ball into Taunton territory. Perron’s pass to sophomore Jeremy Clark went for 40 yards early in the drive and the junior quarterback also hit Sam Stevens for 12 yards to inch closer to the red zone.
It looked Perron had a man down the left sideline on the ensuing play but Taunton safety Javon Franklin came flying over and made the interception in the end zone.
Taunton took advantage of the turnover, needing just five plays to go 75 yards. MacDougall laid out to haul in a 34-yard pass, OA was hit with a dead ball foul to move the ball half the distance to the goal, and Leonard his Sean Quinlan in the corner of the end zone for a 13-0 lead.
After Taunton went up 27-6, a 39-yard kickoff return from Stevens put Oliver Ames in good position on the ensuing drive. The visiting Tigers got into the red zone when Perron hit Shane Kilkelly (three catches, 30 yards) for 11 yards and a first down. On fourth and goal from the 5 yard line, Taunton brought pressure and Sebastien Celestin came up with a big sack to keep OA out of the end zone.
It marked the third straight game Taunton has allowed just six points.
“We’ve been a little bit bend but don’t break on defense,” Sidwell said. “We got a big turnover in the first half in the end zone. We had a few more man rushes tonight so he couldn’t get comfortable back there. He had some scrambles on us but we were able to get to him a couple of times.”
Adams added a field goal in the fourth, connecting on a 21-yard field goal to cap Taunton’s only drive of the quarter (10 plays, 76 yards).
Taunton football finished with over 400 yards of offense, with 213 coming off the arm of Leonard and 205 yards on the ground. For Sidwell, it was a welcome sight to see after failing to get the ground game going consistently a week prior.
“I was frustrated last game against Durfee because in the second half, we couldn’t run the ball against similar type defense with everybody up in there,” Sidwell said. “You have to find ways to run the ball and I’m pleased with how we did tonight.”
Taunton football (1-0 Hockomock, 3-0 overall) is on the road next week when it visits Attleboro (0-1, 2-1) on Friday night at 7:00. Oliver Ames (0-1, 0-3) will try to bounce back when it visits Franklin.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – During the first three weeks of the season, Attleboro struggled to live up to the preseason hype against a difficult stretch of opponents and a roster in flux from a series of injuries that ensured trainer Wes Pondolfino was earning his paycheck. The Bombardiers lost key players on both sides of the ball and lost the opening three games.
But, over the last two weeks, the injured players have returned to the field and Attleboro has looked like the explosive team that many predicted. On Friday night at Tozier-Cassidy Field, the Bombardiers put it all together, dominating in all three phases and posting 38 points in the first half of a 44-0 victory over Oliver Ames.
“That’s what happens when you get healthy,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We’ve got a lot of good seniors and they worked hard all week. We had a good week of practice and we’ve just got to build off this win.”
Attleboro took control right from the opening kick-off, marching 58 yards in eight plays to take a quick lead. Alex Rodriguez had a pair of carries for 31 yards and senior quarterback Cam Furtado scored from 11 yards out. Furtado then took a hit, but completed the conversion pass to Nathan Barboza to make it 8-0.
The Bombardiers quickly got the ball back when running back Anthony Berksza fumbled trying to stretch a screen pass into extra yards, Desmond Woodson recovered for the hosts, but, after Furtado hit James Weir (one of the players back from injury) for 12 yards down to the OA 10, the Tigers held firm and forced a turnover on downs.
OA could not build momentum off the defensive stand, as Curtis Cann’s third down deep pass was intercepted by Josh Therrien. Attleboro moved the ball rapidly down field, showing balance between run and pass. Justin Cote extended the lead when he cut back against the grain on a sweep to the left and weaved his way for a 23-yard scored. Furtado got the pylon at full stretch for another conversion.
“Unfortunately, a lot of things went wrong for us,” said OA coach Mike Holland. “A few mistakes here or there that Attleboro capitalized on and Attleboro, their record is misleading and we knew that they’re a good team.”
Matt Corrado stuffed Berksza (12 carries, 63 yards) behind the line and Qualeem Charles batted down a Cann pass to end the next OA drive. Elvin Sam returned the punt 28 yards to the OA 42 and Attleboro again went to work offensively. This time the Bombardiers got to the end zone through the air, as Furtado (4-9, 70 yards) hit Cote in stride for a 41-yard score and added another conversion run.
“Lot of balance,” said Strachan about the Attleboro offense. “We’ve got a lot of senior leadership back, but now we’ve got a lot of the younger kids who’ve played the last four weeks and are really starting to put it all together. I’m very, very happy.”
On the ensuing kick, the up-back Darnele Ryan, who had a strong game for the OA defense, could not handle the bounce and Rodriguez was first to the loose ball for Attleboro. Furtado (nine carries, 35 yards) went 15 yards on the first play and then sophomore Joseph Llanos went straight up the middle for 12-yard touchdown.
“We’re getting better,” said Holland, “but we have to play mistake-free, which we didn’t. We have to hold onto the ball, which we didn’t, and if something goes wrong then you’ve got to keep fighting and we didn’t.”
Berksza broke a 19-yard run on the first play of the next OA drive, but Charles pressured Cann on third down and the pass fell incomplete. Berksza’s punt was fielded on a short hop by Sam at his own 26. The senior wideout took the ball straight up the middle and then cut to the far sideline where he found an opening to take it all the way to the end zone to make it 38-0.
“It was a tough few weeks for us but these kids have responded,” said Strachan. “This was a good week for us to get momentum and obviously Mansfield (Attleboro’s next opponent) is a great program and we’ll do our best to be ready for them.”
With an eye towards next week’s showdown with the Hornets, Attleboro turned to its bench in the second half, giving some of the younger players an opportunity. Dante Williams (eight carries, 46 yards) was one of those and with 1:46 remaining he punched it in from three yards out to put the icing on a dominant performance by the Bombardiers.
“Our team is getting better, but we have to be perfect for four quarters,” said Holland. “We have talent, we’re getting stronger, we’re getting bigger, but you just can’t make mistakes and tonight we made some mistakes.”
When asked if there was a different atmosphere in the Bombardiers’ locker room than during the first three weeks, Strachan responded, “Oh yeah. Oh yeah there is. We’re excited about where we’re at right now.”
Attleboro (2-3, 2-1) remains a game behind King Philip in the race for the Kelley-Rex division crown. The Bombardiers are currently tied with Mansfield and will host the Hornets next Friday night. Oliver Ames (2-3, 1-2) will try to play spoiler next week with a trip to Macktaz Field to take on league-leading KP.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Whatever Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell was selling at halftime, his defensive unit was buying.
Taunton posted a second half shutout, limiting Oliver Ames to negative yardage on each of its first two drives and then stopped a late red zone attempt to seal a 13-12 win.
“Our defense hung in there for us in the end,” Sidwell said. “We had to keep them in front of us to make the play. We turned the ball over too much on offense. And even though our defense didn’t force a turnover, they didn’t give up too many big plays.
“I give [Oliver Ames] a lot of credit. The back they have there [Anthony Berksza] is an unbelievably hard runner. They do a good job of getting him the ball and doing some formational things that make it difficult for us on defense.”
Oliver Ames had an ideal start to the game, scoring on each of their first two drives while Taunton had just 10 yards of offense on its first two series of the game.
With the wind at its back, Oliver Ames’ defense came out blazing, forcing a three and out. Because of the wind, Taunton’s punt went just eight yards giving the hosts great field position at the Taunton 35-yard line.
OA used eight plays to cover the 35 yards, with junior Anthony Berksza (19 carries, 94 yards, two touchdowns) cutting up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown. A two-point attempt was stuffed in the backfield by Taunton’s Nuno Camara but OA took a 6-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first.
The hosts were back on offense just three plays later. Facing a third down, Taunton went to the air for the first time in the game but OA’s Michael Mulrean came away with the interception, giving the home team a first down at the Taunton 42-yard line.
OA took advantage of good field position once again, using just six plays to double its lead. Highlighted by a 25-yard rush from Noah Fitzgerald on third down, the home-Tigers moved into the red zone. Three plays later, Berksza took the toss to the right and plunged across the goal line inside the pylon. Another two-point attempt was stopped but OA had a 12-0 lead with less than 10 minutes gone in the game.
“Our kids came out strong,” said OA head coach Mike Holland. “The weather definitely impacted both teams, especially with what we were both doing offensively. We played a good first quarter but we just have to be able to put together an entire game. They made two big fourth down conversions and had a huge third down conversion too. They made plays when they needed to.”
Taunton’s offense finally got in gear behind three straight runs from TJ Mendes (16 carries, 41 yards). Facing a fourth down at OA’s 20-yard line, Taunton went back to the air and junior Noah Leonard (4-for-11, 62 yards, two total touchdowns) hit classmate Wesner Charles for an 11 yard gain and a first down.
Three plays later, Leonard used a QB sneak from two yards out to get Taunton on the board. A dropped snap on the extra point try resulted in a failed attempt, cutting the deficit to 12-6 with 4:19 left in the second quarter.
OA received the kickoff to start the second half, but a chop block penalty on second down set the offense back and resulted in a punt into the win for just 16 yards.
Taunton’s offense capitalized on the momentum its defense created and took a shot on the first play. Leonard dropped back and floated a perfect pass down the right sideline to senior Collin Hunter, who hauled in the pass and raced just inside the pylon for a 36-yard touchdown. John Teixeira‘s extra point put Taunton up 13-12 and ended up being the winning kick.
“I thoroughly am enjoying coaching these kids,” Sidwell said. “Each day, we’re coaching hard, the kids are working hard. Tomorrow morning the kids and my coaches will be working on how to get better and it’s awesome for the kids and the city of Taunton.”
The team’s traded punts after OA’s next drive went for negative yards (with big tackles from Edgardo Navarro-Cruz and Coryn Nompleggi) and Taunton’s drive stalled after a key third-and-one stop by OA.
OA moved the ball into Taunton territory on its next drive, highlighted by a 28-yard burst by Berksza. But Taunton’s defense stopped OA for a loss, then a fumble on the handoff went for no gain. On fourth down, Taunton’s defense was able to stop the rush and force a turnover on downs.
Taunton’s next drive didn’t result in points but did take nearly seven minutes off of the clock. Malik Richardson (nine carries, 37 yards) rushed for back-to-back first downs before Mendes took two straight carries for another first.
“In a game when the weather is like this, you have to be stubborn and stick with the run,” Sidwell said. “Even though they were crowding the line, we had to stick with it. There was a drive toward the end that we leaned on [the running backs] heavily and they came through.”
Facing fourth and nine from OA’s 30-yard line, Leonard (six carries, 56 yards) took the carry himself, bolting for 12 yards to move the chains and keep Taunton’s drive alive.
“He had two huge runs for us,” Sidwell said of Leonard. “He’s a real threat. He can really throw the ball but if he can be a dual-threat quarterback by running the ball, that will be huge for us.”
The visitors almost put the game away on a play action play but Leonard’s pass into the wind to senior lineman Alex Simon held up and the pass ended up incomplete despite a diving effort. Taunton tried to throw for the first on fourth down but OA’s Cobey Williamson came up with an interception and returned it to the OA 29-yard line.
With just over five minutes to play, Berksza went for 28 yards on OA’s second play of the drive. Jay Fruci (13 carries, 56 yards) followed it up with a 29-yard dash, putting the ball at Taunton’s 11-yard line.
Taunton’s defense then held OA for runs of four, one and two, setting up fourth down. OA elected to try a 21-yard field goal but it was just wide right with 1:45 to play.
The visitors ran out the rest of the time as OA had no timeouts left.
“We talk to the kids to just live in the week that we’re in, focus on the team we’re playing that week,” Sidwell said. “Right now we just have to get them ready for Attleboro.”
Taunton football (3-0 overall, 1-0 Hockomock) returns home to Aleixo Stadium next week to welcome Attleboro (0-3, 0-1) on Friday night. Oliver Ames (1-2, 0-1) will welcome Franklin (1-2, 0-1) to Muscato Stadium on Thursday night.
The Bombardiers started the season 3-2, but closed with only one win in the final six games, including a pair of losses to league rival and eventual Super Bowl champion King Philip. Injuries piled up for Attleboro in 2016, but it gave a number of players the chance to gain valuable varsity experience and the Bombardiers have high hopes for improvement this fall.
Experience at the skill positions is one of the reasons for optimism at Attleboro. Senior Cam Furtado is slated to start the season at quarterback and has proven to be a dynamic playmaker. Classmate Elvin Sam emerged as a big play weapon last fall, whether in the backfield or split out wide, and tight end James Weir gives Attleboro an option in the middle of the field. Wideout Josh Therrien and running back Justin Cote could also play bigger roles with running back Marcus Blaise adding depth.
Attleboro also has a strong returning core on defense with Furtado, Sam, and Therrien in the secondary and Weir joining senior Nate Barboza and junior Jacob Weatherford at linebacker. Matt Corrado, Matt Jimenez, and Kyle Walsh will give the Bombardiers strength on both sides of the line and junior Nick Evans could be poised for a breakout year after moving from linebacker to defensive end. Sophomore Qualeem Charles is also a player to watch on the line.
“I am extremely excited about our senior group of players,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have some dynamic players in Cam Furtado and Elvin Sam and hopefully they can maximize their athletic talents. We have many returning starters from last season so we hope to build on that experience.”
The first season for the Panthers under new head coach Eian Bain was a struggle at times for a young roster that was adapting to new systems on both sides of the ball, but there is hope that the experience gained last fall will pay dividends in 2017. Franklin will have a number of returning players to count on this season.
Offensively, Franklin will have to find ways to make up for the production of graduated running back Jacob Wolowacki, who was a go-to weapon in the ground and passing games. Senior quarterback Jake Noviello will be counted on to lead the offensive unit after more than 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall. Junior wideout Sean Leonard started all 11 games last year and will be a tough matchup for defenses along with fellow receivers Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Evan Wendell and running back Sean Hofferty. Three-year starter Brian Kosicki will be the leader of the offensive line and tight end Patrick Morrison will be a weapon in the passing game.
On defense, the Panthers have depth in the secondary, including junior safety Nolan McLaney, who was second on the team in tackles last year. Junior Ryan Driscoll has speed on the corner and Bain called him the “focal point” of the defense. Nick Gordon will hold down the other corner spot. Senior defensive end Jackson Gilbert is coming back from injury that cut short his junior season and will add strength on the edge. Junior Riley Downing gives Franklin size and speed in the middle of the line.
“We are in year two of our process,” said Bain. “We are in a different place than we were a year ago…Fans should expect to see a better team in 2017. We have a roster full of experience and had great participation through the Franklin speed and conditioning program. In a league this good we have to bring our best every week.”
What will the Warriors do for an encore? King Philip won its third league title in the past five years, second outright Kelley-Rex title in the past three seasons, and completed an unbeaten season with a win over Reading in the Div. 1A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
Despite losing a large and influential senior class, the Warriors are being picked by some to repeat at champs this fall. One reason for continued belief is the return of senior quarterback Brendan Lydon, who showed poise in the pocket and the ability to make accurate passes downfield in his first year under center in 2016. Yale-commit Shane Frommer is also back for his senior season and will be the feature back for the Warriors in a system that prides itself on pushing teams around on the ground. Beyond that, it will be up to a group of rookies to make an impact. KP will boast an entire new offensive line, anchored by senior Anthony Vahue, and all new receivers. Junior David Morganelli will be one of the options for Lydon.
The Warriors boast a bit more experience on the defensive side of the ball. Even though a good chunk of starters are gone, KP’s rotation last year allowed for players like Evan Rice (defensive end), Jack Webster (linebacker) and Dylan Leonard (safety) to see action. Frommer will be back opposite Webster while Vahue will also play on the defensive line. Andrew Dittrich returns as a starting corner back to anchor the secondary.
Although there are a lot of new faces on this year’s roster and a lot of leadership missing from last season’s championship squad, head coach Brian Lee has instilled a toughness that permeates the program and expectations are that KP will have a decent chance at lifting a trophy again this fall.
“We don’t get any points for last year, we don’t get spotted a touchdown because we went undefeated last year,” Lee said. “When it comes to high school football, it’s about taking those rookies and getting them ready for varsity speed, they have to be able to handle the bright lights on Friday nights. If we can get them up to speed, we should be okay.”
The Hornets finished second in the Kelley-Rex division last year, with the only Hock loss coming by three points to league champ King Philip. Mansfield was stunned in a playoff thriller against Marshfield, but then bounced back to beat Div. 1 playoff teams Needham and Newton North and will enter 2017 with typically high expectations, as the Hornets look to win their first league title since 2013.
A strength for Mansfield this fall will be the experience it returns at the skill positions led by senior wideout Hunter Ferreira, who has emerged as one of the area’s top receivers. The backfield will once again be loaded for the Hornets, who will count on seniors Danny DeGirolamo and Joe Cox and juniors Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco. New quarterback Damani Scott will try to make use of that talent and the 6-foot-3 junior has a big arm to make plays downfield.
Cox and Ferreira will add strength and speed to the linebacking corps, while seniors Mike Shannon and Jareme DiLorenzo will provide a pass rush at the defensive end positions. Conner, Sacco, and DeGirolamo will all return in the secondary. If there are questions for the Hornets, it will be at the line of scrimmage; senior Will Shield and junior Colbey Eason have returned and will be the players to build around on the offensive and defensive lines.
“After one week, we are happy with work ethic and development of linemen,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding, who is in his 30th season with the Hornets. “If we can get pieces of the puzzle sorted out up front on OL and DL, we’ll be a tough out. We have a very good collection of playmakers that can run and catch and we should score some points this year.”
The Tigers got off to a promising start to 2016, winning two of the opening three games including a dramatic one-point win over Franklin, but Oliver Ames struggled down the stretch against a difficult schedule. Now entering his third year, head coach Mike Holland is confident the program is heading in the right direction this fall.
According to Holland, the Tigers’ strength on the offensive side of the ball is the experience of playing in the system for several seasons and a greater understanding of the concepts. Senior Curtis Cann will lead the attack after taking over as the starting quarterback last season and he has several talented weapons on the outside in seniors Michael Mulrean and Noah Fitzgerald. Jay Fruci will be one of the returning players in the backfield, lining up behind a big offensive line.
Jack Mills will be a mainstay in the middle on both sides of the ball and is one of the top lineman in the league. He will be paired with fellow senior John-Michael Cole on the line, giving the Tigers depth in the trenches. Fitzgerald and Mulrean will also be important contributors in the secondary, while Fruci will bring athleticism to the linebacking corps. Holland wants his defensive scheme to take advantage of the team’s speed.
“Looking forward to the start of a new season. Our guys’ preparation and approach leading up to the season has been excellent,” Holland said. “We have guys with experience that need to play big, as well as some new guys that are in the mix to compete for spots.”
The Tigers narrowly missed out on a winning record in their first season under head coach Brad Sidwell and showed signs of improvement, including a narrow, three-point loss to Mansfield. In year two, Sidwell is hoping for even more and Taunton has potential on the roster to be a tough out in the league.
Losing wide receiver Adam McLaughlin to graduation will certainly impact the offensive attack, but junior quarterback Noah Leonard returns for his second season under center and will look to build on the experience he gained last fall. With a number of athletes at the skill positions, including senior Collin Hunter and junior Brayden Merrill at wideout and T.J. Mendes in the backfield, Taunton will use a number of formations and styles to cause matchup problems. Sidwell expects the passing game to be a major strength for the Tigers.
Defensively, Taunton will have a number of new faces, but has size and experience at the line of scrimmage. Seniors Paul Corrao and Zakim Harrow and junior Cam Correiro will all make a significant impact on the battle in the trenches. Senior Nuno Camara provides experience to the linebacking corps, while Merrill and Hunter will be important in the secondary.
“Moving into the second year, the players, coaches and fans are excited for the season but there is lots of work to be done,” Sidwell said. “Hopefully we can get off to a good start and provide some confidence to gain momentum into the difficult Hockomock League season.”
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – It’s cliché to say, but Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan probably couldn’t have scripted a better start for his Bombardiers on Friday night against Oliver Ames.
Less than a minute into the game, Attleboro had already found the end zone twice and by the end of the first quarter, the Bombardiers had a three score lead as the cruised to a 35-8 win over the Tigers at Muscato Stadium.
“I thought we were focused, I thought we were ready to play this week, we had a great week of practice,” Strachan said. “Our athletes took it upon themselves to do the things we practiced all week. I thought we had a pretty good game plan coming in and before the game we talked about the things we can control and I think we did that.
“I think we controlled the line of scrimmage, we gave Tyler [McGovern] some time to throw. And then the combo of Tyler and Cam [Furtado], I think that makes it hard for teams to defend us. I was very happy with the performance.”
On the second play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Tyler McGovern (7/15, 203 yards, 2 touchdowns) hit an open Elvin Sam in stride for a 63 yard touchdown, Paul DeLuca‘s extra point (5/5 XP) putting the visitors up 7-0 just 41 seconds into the game.
The Bombardiers used a set play on the ensuing kickoff, chipping a high kick short of OA’s return men. Attleboro came flying down, forcing a fumble, Josh Therrien recovering it at the Tigers’ 36 yard line. On the first play, just the third play from scrimmage of the game, McGovern once again hooked up with Sam, the senior hitting the wide open junior in the end zone for a 36 yard touchdown.
Attleboro led 14-0 just 56 seconds into the game.
“I think we have six turnovers off that kickoff play, it’s been a good thing for us,” Strachan said. “We spend a lot of time on special teams, we practice it a lot.”
Oliver Ames’ first drive of the game totaled 11 plays as the Tigers moved in Attleboro territory. But Attleboro’s defense held up as OA couldn’t convert a fourth down at the Bombardier 28-yard line.
Attleboro took its next drive 72 yards, this time using eight plays to go the distance. McGovern connected with James Weir for a 30 yard gain and then Cam Furtado for a 21 yard completion. Two plays after Furtado’s reception, McGovern used a sneak for a 1 yard score and a 21-0 lead with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.
“I think you can see Elvin Sam is coming along and Cam is working hard out there and then Tyler is throwing the ball well,” Strachan said. “I think our young kids are starting to play, which is a good thing because we’re really young. Tonight was a really positive night for us.”
Oliver Ames’ had its best drive of the first half when they marched 60 yards on eight plays, highlighted by 43 yard completion on a reverse throw from Travis Campbell to Leandro Moro. On fourth down on Attleboro’s 29-yard line, OA quarterback Kyle Gagliardi‘s pass was just out of the reach of a diving Noah Fitzgerald in the end zone.
McGovern and the Bombardiers cashed in once more before the halftime break. The senior quarterback connected with Steve Hamerski twice for a total of 38 yards and Nathan Barboza burst up the middle for a 20 yard gain. Five plays later, Furtado (13 carries, 91 yards) took a toss to the left and got around the edge for an 8 yard touchdown and a 28-0 lead at halftime.
“We made too many mental mistakes, too many physical mistakes early and we spotted them 14 points,” Oliver Ames head coach Mike Holland said. “We had to play catch up and they’re a good team. It’s hard enough to win when you’re even but if you spot them some points, it’s tough. Attleboro played well tonight, they’re a good team.”
Attleboro’s defense held strong in the second half, forcing a turnover on downs at midfield to start the second half and then Furtado coming away with an interception on OA’s second drive of the third quarter.
“If you look inside, I think it all stemmed from the defensive line,” Strachan said of his defense. “Chris Dam is a little fireplug in there, and then Andrew [Gingras] comes to play, and Nick Evans is really starting to play well for us. We have a lot of young kids on the defensive side and they are starting to understand it a bit more.”
The Bombardiers’ final touchdown came on their second drive of the third quarter with Furtado taking over at quarterback. Attleboro used nine plays to cover 72 yards, Furtado capping the drive with a 3 yard keeper.
Oliver Ames marched 76 yards on 10 plays in its lone drive of the fourth quarter. Liston Funai (14 carries, 65 yards) carried three straight times for gains of 12, 17 and 18 yards. Gagliardi hit Brandon Timulty on the sideline for a 13 yard gain on third down to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, Funai went up the middle for a 5 yard touchdown. The Tigers used a fake field goal, with the holder, Campbell, hitting Michael Mulrean on a shuffle pass for the two point conversion.
Attleboro football improves to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Kelley-Rex division. Oliver Ames falls to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in league play. While the Tigers will travel to Aleixo Stadium next week to take on Taunton, Attleboro will welcome the division leading Warriors of King Philip to Tozier-Cassidy Field.
“King Philip, they’re a physical team, they’re a great football team,” Strachan said. “Coach Lee does a phenomenal job with those guys and they’ve got it going on right now. We’ve got to play our best game next week, no doubt.”
Attleboro has developed as a program under head coach Mike Strachan and continues to be one of the teams contend with for the Kelley-Rex title even with a number of new faces on the roster heading into this fall. Even with the loss of standout lineman Kyle Murphy, the Bombardiers will have size on both sides of the ball and use that to control the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, senior quarterback Tyler McGovern returns after an injury knocked him out of the starting lineup midway through last season. He gives Attleboro the chance to look downfield, while junior Cam Furtado stepped in at QB last year and proved to be a dynamic athlete who opened up defenses with his legs.
The offense will flow behind senior lineman Andrew Gingras. At 6’5 and 285 pounds, Gingras will be counted on to open holes for senior running back Sam Corrado and also provide a stout run stopper on defense. Corrado will also provide help at linebacker and on special teams.
“The 2016 Bombardiers are a young team with many players that will be competing for time both offensively and defensively,” said Strachan, who is confident that despite the youth on the roster that Attleboro will be a team to watch this fall.
There is a lot of energy in the Franklin camp over the past couple of weeks, as new head coach Eian Bain takes over from longtime coach Brad Sidwell and looks to give the Panthers a boost after three straight one-win seasons in the Kelley-Rex division. Bain said that he expects there to be a “different vibe” from the team this season.
The Panthers have a lot of experience coming back this season starting in the backfield with quarterbacks Jake Noviello (junior) and Alex Cregg (senior), who both saw action last season. Whoever is starting will have a host of experienced receivers to look for with Eddie Scannapieco, Packie Watson, and Joey Blasie on the outside and 6’5 Connor Peterson at tight end. The bulk of the offense will run through senior tailback Jacob Wolowacki, who emerged last year as a go-to back with three touchdown runs.
Defensively, Franklin has a lot of talent returning in the back seven led by senior safety Jake Lyons, who will also help out as a running back on offense. The secondary also includes Kyle McInery and Nick Gordon with Justin O’Callahan, Bruce Johnson and Khyler Colella manning the linebacker positions. Brad Jarosz will add size to the defensive end position.
Bain said, “It has been an uptempo, high energy camp in Franklin. Players have answered the bell every step of the way to learn both new offensive and defensive systems. While still a work in progress, the team is making strides every day.”
King Philip got off to a rough start last season, but managed to turn things around with a dramatic victory at Mansfield and won three out of four to get back into the postseason. The Warriors could be inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball in 2015, but with experienced skill position players coming back KP could be ready to challenge for the league title.
It begins in the backfield with senior quarterback John DeLuca, who is ready for his third year as the starter and is one of the toughest signal callers in the league. This season, DeLuca will have a number of weapons to help put points on the board. Senior running back Sean Garrity will add speed to the edge for the Warriors, while his classmate Giovanni Fernandez is a power back to add another dimension inside the red zone. Senior Michael Mello returns to add experience to the receiving corps.
The strength of the Warriors under head coach Brian Lee has been defense and line play and this season should be no different. Seniors Paul Macrina, Michael Sullivan, and Daniel Loewen will be major factors on both sides of the ball. Senior Alex Olsen has the potential to be the defensive MVP this year taking over the role of graduated linebacker Cory Lombardo. Fernandez and fellow senior Brett Mazur will add strength to the linebacker position as well.
Mansfield’s defense held teams to 15 or fewer points in all but two games last year. Only St. John’s Prep and Marshfield (two teams ranked in the top five in the state when they faced the Hornets) were able to get any rhythm going offensively against the Hornets. Despite strength on that side of the ball, Mansfield struggled to find consistency on offense and ended up one point short of a share of the Kelley-Rex division title.
This season, the Hornets offense could be a huge strength with a number of playmakers returning. Senior quarterback Anthony DeGirolamo will be the starter for the second season in a row and will have a strong backfield around him with senior Brian Lynch as the power back and Nick Graham giving Mansfield speed to the edges. DeGirolamo will be able to aim for junior Hunter Ferreira, who has emerged as one of the top receivers in the league, and senior Ben Budwey.
On defense, the front seven will once again be a strong feature for the Hornets. A.J. Gibbs, Colin Gibbons, and Andrew Ducharme add size and strength on both sides of the ball, while senior linebacker Travis Sjoberg is a leader with the potential for hitting triple digits in tackles this fall. Senior placekicker Diogo DeSousa is a weapon in special teams after being recognized at kicking camps over the summer.
“We are a senior team (30 seniors),” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding, “but we have some very talented juniors and sophomores that will help us win this year and give us some great depth”
Oliver Ames head coach Mike Holland is entering his second season in charge of the Tigers and will also be managing the program’s first fall in the Kelley-Rex division. In the last three games of 2015, OA beat Norwell and North Quincy and battled Sharon in a three-point loss on Thanksgiving Day, building momentum heading into this season.
The Tigers are excited about the potential of the offense with two quarterbacks who can make plays with their feet or their arms. Kyle Gagliardi and Travis Campbell are in the mix to be the starter and Holland expressed confidence in both of his seniors. OA also has a strong running game with senior Liston Funai leading the way for a group of backs that provide the Tigers with toughness and the ability to find open space.
OA has a lot of experience returning on the defensive side of the ball. Jack Mills will be a force on both the offensive and defensive line, while Jay Fruci and Leandro Moro will provide a spark from the linebacker spot. The secondary has also been boosted by Noah Fitzgerald and Michael Mulrean. “[We] have an excellent group of seniors and younger guys,” said Holland. “Kids are working hard and putting in strong efforts in all phases.”
The Tigers have a new coaching staff this fall, but it will be one that is very familiar to fans of the Hockomock League. Brad Sidwell moved to Taunton after 20 years in charge of the Franklin program. Sidwell comes into his new position with plenty of experience in the league and an experienced roster that has 14 returning starters, but the Tigers enter 2016 without a Kelley-Rex win since 2012.
There is optimism in the camp this preseason because of the large number of returning players and because of the size that Taunton boasts on the front line. Senior Zakim Harrow checks in at 6’2 and 335 pounds, his classmate Sylvester English is 6’1 and 290 pounds and junior Paul Carrao is 6’3 and 270 pounds. Those players will open holes on both sides of the ball and create space for playmakers such as senior linebacker Mike Fernandez and senior running back Brevan Walker.
There is a battle for the quarterback position this season. Junior Collin Hunter threw 11 touchdown passes last fall but sophomore Noah Leonard has impressed in camp and could snag the starting spot for Friday night’s opener at New Bedford. Whoever is under center will have a couple of strong targets to aim for with senior receivers Adam McLaughlin and Sam Krajewski and senior tight end Andrew Wellington all back.
“We’re just looking for improvement everyday,” Sidwell said. “Hopefully with a little confidence we can get off to a good start.”
By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
QUINCY, Mass – Just as the final seconds of the first half ticked away, Oliver Ames came up a yard short of taking a lead into the break.
With North Quincy getting the first possession of the second half the Red Raiders had a chance to capitalize on the momentum it gained from its big stop to end to first frame.
Instead, Oliver Ames stole that momentum back when senior Kevin Geary made the first of two huge plays in the second half. North Quincy elected to go for it on 4th and 1 on their own 35 but Geary ended up in the backfield and with the help of a host of Tigers, brought quarterback Joe Fallon down for a turnover on downs.
Four plays later, Oliver Ames found the back of the end zone to take the lead and never looked back in a 26-15 win over North Quincy.
“That was huge,” Oliver Ames first year head coach Mike Holland said. “It was a battle in the first half and we went in and talked about some things we needed to improve on like tackling and eliminating penalties. The kids came out and responded, set the tone for the second half and change the momentum to a big credit to our kids.”
After the turnover on downs, Liston Funai (14 carries, 144 yards, 3 touchdowns) scampered up the middle for 13 and then four more. After quarterback Charlie Ryan (4/10, 45 yards, 14 carries, 90 yards, 1 touchdown) took an option run for five yards, Funai burst up the middle for a nine yard touchdown on third down to put OA up 12-7 midway through the third quarter.
The Tigers had to punt on their first drive but the defense came up big when senior Connor Maroney picked off Fallon and ran it back 30 yards. OA used just four plays to cover the distance when Ryan used the option to take it in himself for a nine yard score.
“It’s terrific, both of those guys have worked hard all year and they’re getting better and better,” Holland said of Ryan and Funai. “The scheme from the line, they’re understanding the concepts and working together to open up holes. Charlie can run the ball and pass the ball effectively and Liston is a young kid that’s getting more and more confident as he gets experience.”
North Quincy tied the game in the second quarter taking advantage of a short field. It took just five plays to move 31 yards before Aidan Brown (25 carries, 130 yards) punched it in from a yard out.
Oliver Ames kept the pressure on in the second half, forcing punts on the next two drives from the Red Raiders following the turnover on downs. Funai ran 12 yards to end the third quarter and then on the first play of the fourth quarter, he dashed 45 yards with a score and ran it in for a two point conversion to make it 20-7.
Three straight incompletions from Fallon meant another punt from the Red Raiders but OA gifted possession right back with a fumble. However, Geary came up with his second big play of the half on third down. Fallon dropped back to pass but didn’t have many options and Geary came from the blind side and laid a huge hit, forcing the ball free that senior Shawn Cardoza pounded on.
“That was huge,” Holland said. “We talk all the time about plus/minus and creating turnovers. Those set the offense up in a good predicament. On that fumble, Travis [Campbell] played it excellent to make the quarterback step up and [Shawn] Cardoza contained him and Geary came in and had a heck of a hit.”
One play later, Funai went up the middle for a 14 yard touchdown and Oliver Ames extended its lead to 26-7. With mostly second string in, North Quincy added a touchdown in the final minute.
After starting the season winless, the Tigers have now won back to back games heading into Thanksgiving, when they’ll travel to rival Sharon to conclude the season.
“These guys have been awesome, the coaching staff has been plugging away trying to finish on a positive note and send the seniors out the right way,” Holland said. “We want to lead into the offseason on a positive note and the kids have been great.”