“It was a nice way to end on this field,” said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke, who has called Sarno Field home ever since he took over in 1990. “The kids played tough, they were great all year. I wish we were still playing, I think we’re good enough to have one more game. But but we played our butts off today.
“We had a great senior group this year. Hats off to Canton, they have a lot of kids back so it will be a war next year. I’m happy with got eight wins this year and with our schedule, that’s pretty damn good, I’m proud of that.”
Stoughton seniors Izon Swain-Price and Ryan Sullivan both rushed for over 100 yards and combined for five touchdowns to lead the way for the Black Knights. The hosts scored on six of their eight offensive series and added one special teams touchdown as well.
“This is the last game on this field so all week Coach Burke has been preaching that he wanted this to be the best game ever played on this field and I think we succeeded in doing that today,” Sullivan said.
Stoughton’s defense forced and three and out on Canton’s opening series and two plays into its first possession, junior Justin Ly found a big gap and raced for a 44 yard touchdown.
The Black Knights forced another three and out and again, cashed in two plays later with Swain-Price (3 carries, 108 yards, 3 touchdowns) going up the left side for a 36 yard touchdown and an early 13-0 lead.
Swain-Price scored again on his second carry of the game, going up the left side for a 21 yard touchdown that capped a 7-play, 70 yard drive for Stoughton — its longest of the game.
The second quarter was more of the same for the Black Knights. On the second play of Stoughton’s fourth offensive possession, Swain-Price took his third carry for 51 yards, toeing the sideline for the last 15 yards, to find the endzone to put the Black Knights up 27-0.
After Stoughton’s defense came up with another stop, Sullivan (4 carries, 107 yards, 2 total touchdowns) returned a punt 73 yards with just over two minutes to play in the first half to give the hosts a 34-0 lead at the break.
On the first play of the second half, Sullivan raced 59 yards for a touchdown to make it 41-0.
“Ryan and Izon, there as good as anyone in the entire state, there’s no doubt about it,” Burke said. “Sullivan and Swain-Price they will match up against every single player in the state. When you get them going, they’re going to cause some trouble. Then it goes back to the line, we had a great line, tough kids. They slugged it out this year…we slugged it out against everyone this year.”
Stoughton finished with a 327-107 advantage in yards.
“It was a complete game all the way,” Burke said. “I’m not sure how many yards we had but I know they couldn’t have gotten a lot. When they’re punting a lot and we’re kicking off a lot, I know we’re doing well.”
Senior Nick Hardy (six carries, 46 yards) scored his first rushing touchdown of the season with a six yard run with 8:38 left in the third quarter.
The game didn’t end without a little bit of drama though. Canton used 19 plays to march 63 yards to take up the majority of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs got 1st and goal from the 4 yard line. After three stops, Canton faced 4th and Goal from the 2 yard line. Stoughton’s Luis Monteiro made the tackle in the backfield to stop Canton, preserving the shutout.
“That was probably the most memorable moment of the game,” Sullivan said. “They made it down to the 2 yard line and we stopped them on four straight possessions to keep the shutout. We didn’t want any more points scored on this field.”
“They weren’t going to get it,” Burke said. “We played great defense all year. We’ve given up some games and some points here and there. We got all of our seniors in this game and that was the most important thing.”
Stoughton football finishes the season at 8-3 with a league-high 362 points for. Canton finishes the season at 3-8.
With construction set to begin on the new Stoughton High School at the end of the school year, the Black Knights will be without a home field for at least three seasons.
“We’re very happy with the way things finished, I’ve been here on this field for 25 years and now that’s it,” Burke said. “It’s a little sad, it’s a little surreal. I’m happy [for the new field] but a little sad too. We’ll be on the road a lot the next couple of years.
“I’ll play in the parking lot, if we have to play on the cement, we’ll play on the cement, that’s the kind of kids we have. People know when they play us, it’s going to be a ball game and I’m so proud of that. We might not have the most talent, but we won’t back down from anybody.”
CANTON, Mass. – Stoughton coach Greg Burke said that his team liked to play “ugly and tough,” but on Friday night at World War II Veterans Memorial Field, against rival Canton, the Black Knights showed flashes of pretty football too, scoring 42 points and totaling four touchdowns of more than 60 yards apiece.
Canton scored a couple of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, but Stoughton rolled to a 42-22 victory that keeps it just a half-game back of North Attleboro in the Davenport division title race with two more league games to play (North plays Saturday at Sharon).
“That’s Black Knight football right there,” said Burke after the game. “It isn’t pretty, but I like it. I don’t care, I like the way we’re playing. That’s how we play. Our team wants to be ugly and tough.”
The opening kick-off bounced a couple times before the Black Knights covered it at their own 13-yard-line, but it took only one play to get on the board. An inside trap to fullback Justin Ly broke for 87 yards down the Stoughton sideline to make it 7-0. Canton answered back on one play of its own. Tony Harris took an end around and raced 65 yards down the Bulldogs sideline to tie the game.
Two plays from scrimmage, two touchdowns, and only 44 seconds had elapsed.
Canton was forced to punt on its second possession and Thomas Monagle drove Ryan Sullivan all the way back to his own 14, but the senior running back made the catch and then broke up field, splitting the coverage and putting Stoughton back on top with an 86-yard return.
“Personnel-wise we’re not very deep,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane about the punt coverage, “and we try to get guys off the field but even with guys like [Brian] Smith and Jude Albert we’ve had trouble the last two weeks on punt return. We’ll continue to work at it but it’s disappointing and disturbing to see two weeks in a row.”
Burke praised Sullivan for his ability to break open a game. He said, “He’s just phenomenal. He’s not only the nicest kid in America, he makes plays. He was sort of a skinny, little kid before and now he’s getting to be a grown man. His best days are ahead of him.”
Early in the second quarter, Stoughton struck again, this time through the air. On third and 14, sophomore quarterback Evan Gibb (3-5, 84 yards) saw busted coverage on the right side and hit a wide open Izon Swain-Price for a 60-yard touchdown.
“They put a lot of guys up at the line to take away the run and they did,” said Burke, “but you can hit a couple of passes and Izon had a couple long ones, but that’s Izon for you. You’ve got to be able to throw a couple play action and we did.”
Bohane admitted, “We just couldn’t give them easy ones and we did. Usually against Stoughton we make them earn everything. Tonight was a number of big plays…but they’re very good.”
With two minutes left until halftime, the Black Knights extended the lead. A nine-play, 52-yard drive, which included a five-yard scramble and dump off pass from Gibb to Sullivan to convert a fourth down, was finished off by Sullivan from three yards out for his second TD of the game.
While the Stoughton offense was making big plays, the defense was also controlling the game, particularly at the line of scrimmage with Andrew Iverson, Jason Joseph, and David Cellucci in on seemingly every play.
On the third play of the second half, Iverson hit Canton quarterback Dan Dillon to force a fumble that was recovered by Ryan Pierre at the Bulldogs 24. After an offsides call against Canton, Gibb threw his second touchdown of the game, hitting Jack Connelly for a 19-yard score. Cellucci, the holder on extra points, fielded a high snap and ran in the two-point conversion.
“He’s playing good, “ said Burke of Gibb. “He’s a young kid and we just have to protect him; he’s a sophomore, you can’t let him run around. Eventually he’ll be the fourth running back.”
Swain-Price (three carries, 112 yards) put an exclamation point on the game when it looked as though the Black Knights were buried deep in their own end. He cut inside on a sweep to the left and broke free for a 94-yard touchdown that made it 42-7.
Dillon had stepped in for Canton to replace Dennis Ross, who was unavailable for the game, and he was able to get the offense moving late in the fourth quarter. Despite the deficit, the Bulldogs kept fighting and put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that featured carries from Dillon, Dan Alice, Mike Marino, and Joe Mulkay, who finished it with an eight-yard option pitch for the score.
Alice broke the plane of the goal line for the conversion and Harris leapt above the Black Knights hands team to recover the onside kick. This drive was capped by Dillon, who punched it in from a yard out.
“I’m very proud of Dan,” said Bohane. “He comes down to practice every day and probably knew coming into his senior year that he didn’t expect to play much. It didn’t faze him, plays special teams, takes a lot of snaps, and he’s gotten his opportunity here.”
The win keeps Stoughton right behind current league leader North Attleboro, hoping that the Rocketeers could slip up in the final two weeks of league play. Burke explained, “Who knows what North’s doing, but we’re taking it one at a time and hopefully good things happen.”
Stoughton (3-2, 2-1) will host Foxboro next Friday night, while Canton (1-4, 0-3) could do the Black Knights a favor when it hosts North Attleboro.
Outlook: After falling victim to the playoff system’s alignment and just missing out on a postseason berth, Canton will be relying on a mix of experience and youth to try and get back to the state tournament under the new alignment.
Davenport division MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jake Ragusa is off playing at Merrimack so that will be a major void for Canton to fill. However, the Bulldogs do return some players in key spots that will help them out of the gates. Senior Anthony Ross is back under center and could see an expanded role in 2016. Dan Alice is back after suffering an injury last season and should lead a stable of running backs, led by fullback Alec Ragusa. Joe Mulkay, Dan Pierre, Tony Harris and Mike Marino should all factor into the offense as well for Canton.
Defensively, Canton has some experience on the line in Brian Smith, who also plays as a tackle on offense, as well as Mark Whalen, who saw valuable minutes last year, and Ben Paolillo. Alec Ragusa will be the anchor in the linebacking corps alongside Thomas Monagle (also the team’s kicker) and Marino. Harris, Alice and Mulkay figure to be important pieces in the Bulldogs’ secondary this year.
“The kids have a strong work ethic and had a good offseason and now a good preseason,” head coach Dave Bohane said. “I think we’ll be strong up front on both sides and we have kids in key spots with experience.”
Outlook: Coming off the program’s first league title since 2010, the Foxboro Warriors are hoping to stay near the top of the Davenport division again this year. And with one of the top returning quarterbacks in Mark Clagg under center for another year, the Warriors will likely be in the thick of the division race.
Clagg threw for nine touchdowns last season, third most among returning quarterbacks. After splitting some time with Darren Kelly last year, it looks like it was be Clagg’s spot full time in 2016. Another positive for having Clagg back is the experienced wide receivers he will have to work with. Jamaine Few is a big, experienced target at 6’3 and will be a tough one on one matchup for defensive backs. Trey Guerrini also has experience with Clagg while Phil Dure and John Whitehouse could be viable options as well. Foxboro will have to fill the void at running back, after the stability of Ronnie Martin and Keeyon Neal in previous years. Eseosa Omuemu, Matt Mullally and Anthony Capachietti are all possible choices to start in the backfield.
Defensively, the Warriors will rely upon experience in the linebacking and defensive back corps. Junior Matt Pond and senior Brandon Corey will be key cogs among the linebackers while Paul Darcy and Guerrini will be key pieces in the Warriors’ secondary. Foxboro will look to develop solid options on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“As always, the senior leadership plays a key role in the success of the 2016 campaign,” head coach Jack Martinelli said.
Outlook: The Scarlet Hawks have posted back-to-back 7-4 seasons and are hoping to continue their winning ways in 2016. With 11 starters returning, Milford is on the right track to do so.
It all starts with Yale-commit Blake Hill, who will be a top player on both offense and defense this season. Offensively he can hurt you in many ways, including running with the ball or catching passes. Hill will have some space to run thanks to an experienced offensive line that includes Riley Burns, Ryan Gray and Pat Brogioli. Junior Matt Curran will take over under center for the Scarlet Hawks and will have Jack Cappelletti, Tony Mobilia and Tyler Joyce as pass catching options to work with.
Defensively, Hill is one of the top linebackers in the league. He’ll be flanked by Harrison Bliss, Asong Aminmentse and Joyce. Burns, Gray and Brogioli will all be two-way linemen for the Scarlet Hawks. Shapel Feaster, who will also see touches on offense, will be in the secondary along with Alec Salamone, Mobilia and Cappelletti.
Outlook: As with any defending league champion, the North Attleboro Rocketeers will have some holes they’ll have to fill this year. But Big Red also has a slew of talented, experienced players back as North Attleboro looks to make a splash in its first season in the Davenport division.
Junior Chad Peterson is back under center after a breakout sophomore season in which he tossed 13 touchdowns, second most in the Hockomock League. While Kelley-Rex MVP Nick Morrison has graduated, North Attleboro returns Bobby Mylod and Nick Rajotte, who will give the Rocketeers a variety of attacking options. Thomas Reynolds will anchor the offensive line from the center position while Peterson will look for Hacmoni Cuevas, David Engler, Mario Bresko and Nick Dean to emerge as receiving threats.
It will be a lot of the same faces making plays on the defensive side of the ball. Reynolds and senior Tom Kummer are two major pieces and will take up the center of the defensive line. Mylod emerged as one of the top linebackers in the Hockomock and in the state last season and will be complemented at the position by Ryan Kingston, Zach DeMattio and Cuevas. Rajotte and Kyle McCarthy both had solid years in the secondary last season and will be big pieces to the defensive puzzle again this season.
“It’s going to be an interesting year switching to the Davenport division,” head coach Don Johnson said. “It certainly isn’t going to be any easier.”
Outlook: A lot of the players listed as key and returning players for Sharon this season were also on last year’s list, and that’s a good thing for the Eagles, who are looking to take the next step forward in 2016.
Junior Drew Naisuler will step into the starting role at quarterback and will have some weapons at his disposal right away. Running back Juvan Elisma had a stellar 2015 campaign as a junior, rushing for eight touchdowns – tied for fourth most in the Hockomock League and tied for second in the Davenport. Now Elisma will look to cap a strong football career at Sharon by leading an Eagles’ rushing attack that will likely include junior Sam Spencer as well. Naisuler will have an experienced receiver as Josh Rotman is back for another year while junior Austin Dodes figures to be another target this season.
“Our season will be decided by how physical we can be and if our new varsity players can step up and make an impact,” head coach Dave Morse said.
The Eagles will also bring back some experience on both sides of the line. Nate Hirsh has been a key cog of the line on both sides of the ball for the Eagles. Ian Langol-Leonard and Wilhelm Bolt also will likely be key experience pieces up front for Sharon. Defensively, Rotman also is back as a talented defensive back. Xavier Hackett is another name to keep an eye on, as the senior has been able to make plays for Sharon in the past and looks to do more of the same in 2016.
Outlook: No matter what team, it’s always going to be difficult to replace a three year starter at quarterback. But with the talented offensive line Stoughton has back this season and senior Dave Cellucci taking over under center, the Black Knights’ offense is in good shape.
The offensive line returns starters Lino Azul, Ryan Pierre and Andrew Iverson while Harry Kimball and Brendan Walsh – who both started on the defensive line – will play on both sides of the ball now. That experience will help give Cellucci a little more time in the pocket when he’s called upon to throw. Meanwhile, Ryan Sullivan, Izon Swain-Price and Justin Ly all figure to be key pieces in the backfield. Sullivan and Swain-Price caused havoc for defenses last season with a combined 10 rushing touchdowns. Swain-Price will also be a receiving option while Jack Connelly is back for another year at tight end.
Stoughton will look to continue its tradition of having a staunch defense. The Black Knights have depth on the defensive line with Pierre, Azul and Kimball all seeing time there along with junior Jason Joseph. Iverson, Ly and Connelly will all see reps at linebacker and Sullivan and Izon Swain-Price will likely be two of the top defensive backs in the entire league.
“We hope to stay healthy and get into the playoffs,” head coach Greg Burke said. “This has been a great group in the weight room and conditioning, that will have to carry us in the league. We know it will be a tough league this year.”