MILFORD, Mass. – In last week’s season-opening win, Mansfield’s explosive offense was on full display with five touchdowns.
In week two, it was all about the Hornets’ defense.
Going up a powerful Milford offense that put up 34 points in their first game of the season, Mansfield’s defensive group was near perfect. The Hornets forced four turnovers, limited the Hawks to under 200 yards of offense, and pitched a shutout for the final three quarters to earn a 20-7 win on the road.
It marked the first meeting between the two squads since Milford joined the Hockomock League for football in 2013 with the Hawks making the switch to the Kelley-Rex division at the start of the 2020 school year.
“Story of the day, the defense played lights out,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “Scoring a touchdown for us, which in this game, was huge. Instead of just a six-point lead, it’s 13. The defense did a great job against a very good collection of receivers and [Brady] Olson can throw the ball. We gave them a few but nothing big, they popped the one run but after that, we were lights out, and thank goodness because this was really one of our sloppiest offensive performances in a long time.”
Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson
Mansfield forced a turnover on Milford’s first possession of the game, Anthony Comer grabbed back-to-back interceptions with the first returned for a touchdown, and Hornets added another pick in the early moments of the fourth quarter.
The Hornets opened the game in style with freshman CJ Bel giving the visitors good field position at midfield after a good return. From there, Mansfield needed just six plays to find the end zone. Cincere Gill (20 carries, 117 yards) broke free for a 16-yard run on third down (his longest carry of the game), and three plays later, Gill — out of the wildcat — handed it off to Comer on a sweep to the left for an 18-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead less than four minutes in.
Milford completed a third down pass on its opening drive but Mansfield corner Nick Bertolino punched the ball free and recovered the fumble, giving the Hornets the ball back at the Hawks’ 20-yard line. But as good as Mansfield’s defense was throughout, the Milford defense had a strong outing as well.
Hampered by a fumble and a holding call (Mansfield was flagged 10 times in the game), the Hornets offense stalled and Milford forced an incompletion on fourth to get the ball back. The momentum carried over to the offensive side of the ball and the Hawks cashed in just two plays later. With the offense spread out with four receivers, Milford handed it off to senior Dom Schofield up the middle and he found a hole and went the distance for a 69-yard touchdown, tying the game 7-7 with 3:45 left in the first quarter.
From that point, there weren’t many offensive highlights for either squad.
Mansfield had to punt on its next two possessions, but the second one off the foot of Gill took a favorable bounce for the Hornets and was downed at the Milford 5-yard line. On second down, Mansfield’s Caden Colby and Mark DeGirolamo came flying in at Milford quarterback Brady Olson (9/28, 91 yards), who fired a short pass to the right side. Comer read the play, stepped in front and intercepted the pass, and sprinted into the end zone for a 14-yard return.
“It was a hard game, it was hard with our penalties, and they have a very good offense but we just executed on defense,” Comer said. “We held our guys to short-yardage and covered our guys. On the pick-six, I saw green. I was just running for the hills, I wanted the touchdown. We watched a lot of film, watching how they execute so we were ready.”
Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson
Milford started to orchestrate a response as Olson hit Max Martin for 13 yards on first down, and then a late hit on the Hornets moved the ball 15 more yards to the Mansfield 39-yard line. TJ Guy stopped the Hawks for a loss in the backfield but a holding call in the secondary once again moved the chains for the hosts, getting to the Mansfield 24-yard line.
Guy helped stuff another Milford run on first down, and on second down Olson’s pass hit off a receiver’s hands and Comer was able to come down with the deflection for his second straight interception, putting an end to another Milford drive.
Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson
“Anthony played a great two-way game for us,” Redding said. “We felt we really needed him on defense today to cover, he’s one of our quicker guys and made some big plays for us. We’ve played two good spread teams and held them each to 7. We still have to get sharper on offense but the next couple of weeks it will be more about defending the running game. Taunton and KP are big, they’re going to try and bang, run the ball.”
Mansfield capitalized on the interception with its best drive of the game. The Hornets traveled 82 yards on 10 plays, taking off five minutes of game clock, and cashed in with another touchdown with under a minute to play in the half.
Gill had three straight runs that combined for over 20 yards early in the drive, and when the Hornets were backed up by a delay of game call, Gill hauled in a 21-yard pass from quarterback Matt Boen, just eluding the Milford defender along the sideline.
Comer turned a broken play into 18 yards, Nico Holmes burst up the middle for 7 yards, and on second and goal from the three, Boen sold the option and kept it himself, leaping across the goal line for a touchdown, giving Mansfield a 20-7 lead with 0:49 left in the first half.
Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson
“That was big, I thought we wasted [an opportunity] before that…we came down and scored, got the ball back but we didn’t convert and they come down and tie the game,” Redding said. “We fortunately got a couple of more before half, and I thought the one right before halftime was a big turning point.
“When we do things right, we’re good but we didn’t do things right very often today. We’re getting way too many penalties and we just really have to work hard on offense getting sharper and executing because we’re too good not to score in a half no matter who we’re playing.”
Carter Scudo had a big return to the Mansfield 33-yard line to give the hosts a final shot before the break, but the Hornets forced four straight incompletions.
“All we ask for today is for them to give us 48 minutes and I thought they did that,” said first-year Milford head coach Dale Olson. “A couple of plays didn’t go our way today, that should have been 7-7 game in the fourth quarter and anybody’s game. But you live and you learn. But this is what Milford football is going to be from here on out, we’re going to contend. We have to get back on the horse because we have to play a very good KP team next week.”
Olson connected with Keithly Sutton on a bubble screen to move the chains on Milford’s first drive of the second half but the Hawks couldn’t capitalize as the Hornets shut the hosts down on the next three plays, including a perfectly-timed pass breakup by Bertolino.
“We feel Milford is as talented as anybody in the Kelley-Rex so if we didn’t beat them here today, they were going to run the table so, for us, it was basically a must-win game,” Redding said. “We want to be in the league race when we’re playing KP and Attleboro so you have to win today. I don’t Milford loses again moving forward, they have good linemen, I think the best QB in the league, great receivers. We’ve won [the Kelley-Rex division] a couple of times in a row but we felt pressure that it was a must-win for us against them on their field.”
Milford’s defense continued to do its part as Mansfield managed just two total yards on its first two drives, both resulting in punts including a third down kick to try and flip field position. The Hawks did a good job bottling up the Mansfield rushing attack, getting key tackles and pushes up front from the likes of Schofield, Scudo, Evan Cornelius, Grant Scudo, Alex McColl, Evan Hazard, Nick Yohn, Mario Lee, and Tyler Lane.
“I think we struggled a little bit today getting off jams at the wide receiver spot, I thought [Brady] pressed a little bit today,” Olson said. “Instead of standing in there a few times, he got out of the pocket when he didn’t need to. But listen, that’s a great football team we just played. I couldn’t be prouder of how our kids handled themselves today.
Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson
“Realistically, I look up at the scoreboard and it should have been 7-7. We had our opportunities, could have had 1st and goal but instead, it was an interception. They ball-controlled us but our defense was outstanding today. All of the film I’ve watched, I haven’t seen a team hold Gill like that. They didn’t really hurt us today with their offense, I thought it was more a matter of our offense couldn’t get going.”
However, the Hawks’ offense just could never get going, punting twice to start the second half and then had its third drive of the second half come to a sudden stop when Gill intercepted a pass at his own 30-yard line.
Mansfield was able to move the ball enough to kill a lot of clock in the fourth quarter and Milford’s final drive ended on downs.
Mansfield football (2-0) is on the road for the second straight week when it travels to Taunton for a 4:30 kickoff on Friday. Milford (1-1) will face another stiff test next week when it hosts King Philip (2-0) on Saturday at 1:00.
Mansfield football Milford football Anthony Comer Cincere Gill Brady Olson
Team: Mansfield Football
2013 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2013 Division 2 State Champions
One of the signatures of the Mansfield football team over the past decade has been its ventures out of Massachusetts to play against top competition in other states. Not only do the trips allow the Hornets to see how they stack up on the field, but the off-field activities can also boost team morale and camaraderie.
Mansfield’s lone loss of 2010 came in New York when they visited Aquinas, who went on to win a state championship as well that season. A year later, the Hornets picked up one of their more impressive out-of-state victories with a decision over Christian Brothers of Syracuse inside the Carrier Dome.
Mansfield ventured out of state again to start the 2013 season, heading south to Maryland to take on three-time defending D1A State Champions Dunbar. After coming up short in the state final a year before, the Hornets entered the season with high expectations and put the rest of the Hockomock League and the state of Massachusetts on notice with their performance in the Old Line State.
“After those two experiences (in 2010 and 2011), we really felt like doing it was such a great experience, to see football in another part of the country,” said longtime Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “The Dunbar trip was really cool because we did a lot of touring in Washington D.C., we went to the U.S. Naval Academy so beyond football it was going to be a great trip. Our concern was, ‘Can we compete with them?. They were three-time defending state champs, they had kids back, their QB had committed to West Virginia…so we knew it would be a great challenge on the road.”
Mansfield built a 21-6 lead in the game but Dunbar quarterback William Crest, who went on to play at West Virginia, rallied the Owls to take the lead in the fourth, up 26-21. The Hornets didn’t panic, driving down the field and senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski connected with classmate Michael Hershman on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left to secure a 29-26 victory.
“We went down there and played one of the best games I’ve seen as a coach and win it on the road against a great team, I think that was definitely a sign for us…let’s go back to Massachusetts and keep this rolling,” Redding said. “If we can beat Dunbar at Dunbar, we can compete with anybody when we get back home.”
And not only did the Hornets compete with everyone back home, they blew most of the competition out of the water. They beat both Milton (21-0) and North Attleboro (35-14) by three scores each, scored over 30 points in wins over Attleboro, Taunton, and Franklin.
“Expectations were high, we had played a lot of seniors the year before as juniors,” Redding said. “We had kind of an up and down year in 2012, I think we were 2-2 before we went on a little run to win the league title. I think the highlight of that year, we knocked off Duxbury who had something like a 40-game win streak so it was a big upset. But then we ran into Reading in the final, which was probably an All-Decade team in the Middlesex League. But I think beating Duxbury and getting to a Super Bowl gave the senior group a lot of experience and a lot of motivation to try and finish the deal.”
The Hornets installed a new offense at the beginning of the season, going with the spread as Wisnieski worked mostly out of shotgun compared to the normal Wing-T/I-Formation approach Mansfield fans had become accustomed too.
As you can see, the offense worked just fine. Wisnieski set a handful of program records this season, including passing yards (2,541) and touchdown passes (27). Not only was Hershman (who finished with a total of 85 career receptions, third in program history) one of the most talented receivers around, junior Brendan Hill was a matchup nightmare and hauled in a program-record 54 receptions that season. Tight end Kyle Hurley and back Miguel Villar-Perez were both threats in the passing game as well.
To complement the passing game, Villar-Perez was a handful to deal with out of the backfield, finishing with 1,500 all-purpose yards that includes returns and a total of 18 touchdowns. Chris Buchanan helped lead the way from the fullback spot.
The team averaged 382 yards per game, which is second-most in program history, and it resulted in 428 total points, which came out to an average of 32.9 points per game.
The toughest game back in Massachusetts came a week before the regular season finale as the Hornets, the top-ranked team in the state, traveled to Wrentham to take on #8 King Philip.
With yards incredibly hard to come by, Villar-Perez broke free for an 88-yard touchdown in the second quarter that tied the game. Redding still recalls the play being a jet to the left side and the senior back made the play himself, cutting back up field when the first option wasn’t there. Wisnieski connected with Hurley in the second half to put Mansfield football ahead and Villar-Perez sealed it with his second score.
Mansfield’s defense pitched a second-half shutout to help pick up the win.
“When we played KP on the road, it was a different type of game, a physical, low-scoring, defensive battle…that really challenged the toughness of our group. I think winning on the road there gave our players a lot of confidence they could play a different style of game, We could score points but when push came to shove, we could line up and play tough physical defense to win a game.”
The defense was led by a strong group of linebackers featuring Alex Ruddy, Joe Moreshead, and Q’Ra Guichard. On top of that, the Hornets had a strong secondary with the likes of Aurian Dawkins and Mike Barresi.
“Defense was a lot like most of the defenses we’ve had,” Redding said. “[Defensive coordinator] Mark DeGirolamo got guys on the field that ran around and made plays for us. A real physical and fast group led by a group of good linebackers like Ruddy, Moreshead, Guichard…not a lot of size, we didn’t impress people when we lined up for stretching but when the game started, the kids played hard, played physical and were a real aggressive group on defense.”
This season also marked the start of the new tournament format. In years prior, only the league champion advanced to the tournament and needed to win only one or two games to reach the final. In the new format, eight teams qualified based on a rating system.
Mansfield football opened in style, taking down a good Wellesley at home before hosting Needham for what turned into one of the more entertaining contests of the postseason. The Hornets were their dominant selves as they raced out to a 28-7 halftime lead, and took advantage of an early second half turnover to push the advantage to 35-7.
But the Rockets refused to go away, scoring three straight, including a kickoff return and one after an onside kick recovery. The Rockets even got the ball back down just 35-28 but Barresi forced a fumble and recovered the loose ball to get possession back. On the next play, Wisnieski connected with Hill for a 51-yard touchdown to push it back to a two-score lead.
Mansfield won the South sectional title with a convincing win over #2 Barnstable, and went on the road up to Cawley Stadium in Lowell and destroyed Waltham, 41-0. The Hornets scored at will in the first half with Wisnieski connecting with Hill twice for scores. Villar-Perez also had a receiving score and Ruddy rushed one in as Mansfield held a 35-0 lead by halftime.
Mansfield took care of business against rival Foxboro on Thanksgiving but suffered a loss in the form of Hill, who went out with an injury and had to miss the state championship.
In the first-ever true state championship, the Hornets took on Central champion St. John’s of Shrewsbury. The Pioneers boasted a highly touted offense, scoring over 50 points in all three of their sectional wins, and ousting Springfield Central, 37-32, to reach Gillette Stadium.
As good as Mansfield had played all season long on the offensive side of the ball, the Hornets had one of their worst halves of the entire season. Not only were they limited to just one score, they had five turnovers in just the first two quarters alone. Those turnovers led to extra possessions for a St John’s team averaging nearly 50 points per game in the postseason.
But similar to the King Philip win, Mansfield’s defense was back in the spotlight, this time under the bright lights in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium. Despite plenty of chances, the Hornets held St. John’s to just a pair of touchdowns, both after a fumble from Mansfield. The other three turnovers, Mansfield got a turnover on downs, another a three-and-out, and Hershman came up with an interception to end the first half to keep the deficit at 14-7.
“I don’t know if it was nerves, being at Gillette for the first time, or guys trying to do too much but the first half was just a disaster. The key there was the defense. They were really talented on offense and we were handing them too many possessions. The defense played unbelievable…we gave up 14 but other teams, it could have been over.
“We couldn’t have played worse in terms of turnovers, and we were only down seven. If we just hold onto the ball, I don’t think they can stop us and we can score points. The second half was exactly what we hoped for.”
Barresi came up with another big postseason play, intercepting a pass three plays into the second half. Mansfield’s offense quickly capitalized with a touchdown run fro Ruddy but a rare missed extra point kept the Hornets down.
Nonetheless, Mansfield seemed to seize the momentum it needed. They didn’t turn the ball over at all in the second half and the offense orchestrated two real impressive drives to take the lead and add onto it. First came a 10-play, 59-yard series capped by an 8-yard rush from Hershman (six catches, eight carries, 138 total yards), and a two-point play from Villar-Perez gave Mansfield football a 21-14 advantage with just over three minutes to play in the third.
After another stop from the Hornet defense, Mansfield’s offense went back to work and made sure to take all the time it needed. The Hornets marched 80 yards on 14 plays, taking off nearly eight minutes of time off the clock before Villar-Perez (18 carries, 118 yards) punched it in from in close for a 28-14 lead with 2:38 to play.
“We played probably our best half of the year after playing probably our sloppiest half,” Redding said.
With the win, Mansfield football capped the perfect season at 13-0 and claimed the first-ever true D2 State Championship.
Team: Mansfield Football
2019 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2019 Division 2 State Champions
Even though the Mansfield football team walked off the field at Lancer Stadium in Ohio with a loss to La Salle in Week 2, longtime head coach Mike Redding still had a good feeling about his Hornets.
“I was talking to some of our coaches after that game and I said ‘this team can win a state championship,'” Redding said. “Here we are, just lost by 22, but the way we competed out there against a high-level team. It was probably one of the more talented teams we’ve played in 32 years and we came up short on the scoreboard, but if you look at the film play by play, we stood up pretty equally to them.
“The feeling walking off that field…when we go back home and get everybody back on board, we could have a pretty special group that can play against anyone in Massachusetts.”
And that’s exactly what happened. The Hornets bulldozed through their league schedule, grinding out a tough win at KP while outscoring the other four Kelley-Rex opponents 152-28. The playoffs were more of the same as the Hornets limited tournament foes to a total of 15 points through four games played, including a 41-0 rout in the D2 State Championship over Lincoln-Sudbury.
The Mansfield football team opened the season with a convincing win over BC High before hitting the road for a trip to Ohio against La Salle. The Lancers featured at least a dozen Division I commits at the time of the game, including Northwestern bound running back Cameron Porter. While the scoreboard favored the hosts, Mansfield walked away with plenty of positives, including an edge in yardage on offense, and its swarming defense limited Porter to 30 yards on the ground.
The dominance back in Massachusetts wasn’t a gigantic shock as the Hornets entered the season as one of the favorites in both the Hockomock League and in the state. It felt like three years in the making as Mansfield football returned a boatload of returning players with either one or two years experience. Two seasons prior, the Hornets were swept by rival King Philip, who went on to win the state championship. A year prior, Mansfield won the regular season matchup and took home the division title but the Warriors got the last laugh in the playoffs. This season, Mansfield won both meetings, the latter earning a spot in the south final.
“I think it was back in January before the season, we were pretty honest with them and told them they had a chance to compete for the league title, which is challenging enough, but when you get in the playoffs, this is a team that can make a run towards a state title,” Redding said. “The last couple of years, we’ve lost a couple of high-level kids due to injuries.
“I think it was a big motivation for a lot of guys in this group because they had come so close before but couldn’t finish on the field because of injuries so they were a pretty hungry group. As coaches, we just hold our breath hoping they stay healthy because they have worked so hard and they deserve a chance to compete, win or lose, and you just don’t want them sitting on the sidelines watching.”
The offense started with senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who was like a coach on the field for the Hornets with his ability to manage the game. It was a pick-your-poison backfield that featured seniors Vinnie Holmes (895 yards, 8 TD), Michael DeBolt (402 yards, 6 TD), and Nick Marciano (334 yards, 6 TD) along with star junior Cincere Gill (979 yards, 10 TD). With the help of a strong, talented offensive line featuring Andrew Cowles, TJ Guy, Jake McCoy, Noah Jellenik, and Jason Comeau, the Hornets could break out a big run on any given play. Moussette (914 yards, 11 TD) connected with receiver Danny Rapoza (4 TD) for a team-high 20 receptions. On top of that, DeBolt was one of the best kickers in the area with nine field goals and 38 successful PATs.
“From the first practice we all knew we had the opportunity to be a special team,” Holmes said. “I think that the first two games prepared us for how we need to play for the rest of the season, fast and physical. We all knew we were going to be faster and more physical than whoever lined up across from us, and the La Salle game sparked that intensity. Bringing that intensity into the league paid off as we were able to get another league title.
“Going into the playoffs we knew we had a great shot at winning a state title if we can keep up our level of play. I think we soared over our original expectations by a long shot outscoring our opponents 121-15 in a four-game span on our way to a state championship season. One thing that stood out to me that I think clicked in the playoff run is that everyone knew their roles and did exactly what they were supposed to and we executed extremely well.”
As dominant as the Hornets were on offense (29.8 points per game), Mansfield’s defense was equally as powerful as they allowed under 10 points per game against some of the best competition in the state. Massachusetts foes averaged just over seven points per game with Mansfield holding opponents to seven points or less in seven contests. Similar to the offense, it all started up front with the line play, including Guy, Chris Graham, Mark DeGirolamo, and Nico Holmes. To complement that group, Mansfield football had a loaded group of linebackers (Holmes, Joe Plath, Paden Palanza) and a very talented secondary (Makhi Baskin, Nick Bertolino).
“I think it was definitely one of the more talented teams I’ve had in the three decades plus that I’ve coached,” Redding said. “It was one of those teams that had the rare combination of being really good up front on the o-line and the d-line, which is usually enough to be competitive, but then you throw in a very, very talented group of skill players on both sides. We had the running backs and receivers, and the linebackers and secondary on defense.
“Top to bottom, it was really hard to find a weakness. So many of them had contributed the previous year or two so they came in with a pretty high level of experience. In high school, if you can put that package of skill, physical and tough kids up front, and a group that’s battle tested and confident, that’s usually a recipe for a championship run.”
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Laney Clement-Holbrook took over at Oliver Ames in her early 20s and over the next 44 years turned the Tigers into a perennial power. Three years ago, Clement-Holbrook became the all-time winningest high school basketball coach in the state and on Friday night at the Nixon Gym she added a new historic milestone to her already legendary career when she became the state’s first member of the 700-win club.
It was a moment that she tried to keep quiet, wanting to keep the attention on her players, especially the three players celebrating senior night. Athletic director Bill Matthews sent a notice to the media the night before the game and word spread, drawing a big crowd for the visit of Mansfield.
Any worries that her team might be distracted or not be able to handle the moment were quickly dispelled. The Tigers won each of the individual quarters, took a double-digit lead by halftime, and pulled away in the second half for a 72-49 win and a season sweep of the Hornets.
“This is what we want them to be able to handle is the big stage, so I thought for the kids this was a great experience for them just because there would be a lot more people, a lot of energy,” Clement-Holbrook said. “Hopefully this will move us forward as a team.”
When asked what it has meant to coach at OA for as long as she has, Clement-Holbrook praised the coaches who she learned from, including Val Muscato, Bill Nixon, and Sue Rivard, and she also pointed to the numerous alumni that came back to celebrate the special night.
“Some of these kids played for me in the 80s,” she said with a laugh. “I’m just so grateful to have the chance to be here for so long. It was the first place and it will be the last place I coach. It’s a special moment.”
After the handshake line, Clement-Holbrook shared a quick word with Mansfield coach Mike Redding. He expressed his admiration for someone he has coached against for more than 20 years.
“It’s been an honor going against her. I’ve done 23 years and they have been the standard bearer,” he said. “Just the quality every single year is amazing. She still has the passion, the enthusiasm, she’s been doing it 40-plus years but it’s still like her first year coaching.”
OA senior guard Meg Holleran is the third member of her family to play for Clement-Holbrook, following her older sisters Kate and Shannon, who were both in attendance, and was a freshman on the varsity team when Clement-Holbrook set the wins record three years ago.
“She wanted this to be about senior night and just getting the win,” Holleran said. “We actually heard it was the 700th from a parent, she didn’t even tell us herself. We just wanted to come out and we had a big surprise for her at the end.”
The Tigers got off to a fast start, as Caroline Peper (21 points and four assists) drilled a pair of threes and scored eight points in the first. Her second attempt came on the third shot of a possession, as OA dominated the glass. Senior Tate Hadges (seven points) added four in the first and classmate Erin Holmberg (four points and five assists) got on the board off a pass from Holleran.
Sarah Dooling scored five of her eight points in the first and Abby Wager added four of her five points, but OA held a 17-12 lead after one.
Ashley Santos tried to keep the Hornets close in the second, as she scored 10 points in the quarter, but Mansfield only managed one more point as a team. Meanwhile, the Tigers were getting contributions from up and down the roster. Tori Harney (10 points) hit a couple of long jumpers and had six points in the second and Caroline Flynn (13 points, nine rebounds, and six assists) got a layup after a Peper steal.
Mansfield cut the lead from 11 points down to seven after back-to-back buckets by Santos, but the Tigers closed the half with threes from Jess Erlich (eight points) and Peper to go into the break up 36-23.
“We had some turnovers and they took advantage and it seemed like anytime we had a little momentum, we couldn’t get a stop,” Redding explained. “We try hard, but we’re just maybe not quick enough, tall enough. We had a decent effort, they just had some kids step up.”
OA broke the game wide open in the third. Peper came out firing again, scoring eight points on a pair of threes and a transition layup, all assisted by Flynn, who added four points of her own. Santos continued to stay hot for the Hornets with five more points and Kayla Vine got an and-one for her lone points of the night, but OA’s depth pushed the lead to 19 by the end of the quarter.
A three by Santos cut the lead to as little as 14 in the fourth, but the Tigers never allowed Mansfield to get too close, finishing the game on a 14-5 run. Hailey Bourne got it started with an offensive rebound and layup, Flynn added a drive plus the foul, and then Erlich had a corner three to restore a comfortable margin.
The final minutes were largely a countdown to history. Only when the horn sounded on another OA victory, did Clement-Holbrook finally crack and smile and acknowledge what the student section had been chanting about over the game’s closing minutes.
It was the perfect way to end a day filled with recognition of one of the state’s most successful coaching careers.
“It has been a very busy day,” said Clement-Holbrook, who gave the keynote address at the MIAA’s Girls and Women in Sports Day at Faneuil Hall in Boston in the morning. “What an incredible honor it was today to walk into Faneuil Hall and for it to be such a historical event. To see this game go from me playing six-player basketball at Dedham High School to this in my lifetime is incredible.”
Holleran added, “I’m so happy for her. She deserves it so much. I got to go see her give the speech today at the MIAA Girls and Women in Sports Day and it’s just surreal, she’s achieved so much, and I’m so proud of her. It’s great to be part of it.”
When asked to try and put 700 wins into perspective, Redding replied, “It’s mind-boggling. Just the longevity, the quality, and just classy young women. It makes this league special, such good people, great competition, and we’ve become good friends. Pretty special coach, got to be the best in Massachusetts history and one of the best in national history.”
Oliver Ames (13-3, 12-2) will travel to Franklin on Tuesday hoping to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season and push the Kelley-Rex title race to the final game of the season. Mansfield (6-12) will host North Attleboro on Sunday afternoon and try to stay alive for the postseason, needing to win out to qualify.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – For the past two seasons, Attleboro head coach Marty Crowley has talked about the need for the Bombardiers to be balanced and to get contributions from everyone on the roster. On New Year’s Eve, just 18 hours after beating Cumberland (R.I.), Attleboro showed how dangerous it can be when everyone chips in.
Eight different players scored, three players reached double digits, and eight players had at least three rebounds, as Attleboro beat Mansfield 58-51. It was Attleboro’s first win in the series since 2016, having lost the last seven games against the Hornets.
“People are going to try and take Nyah [Thomas] or Liv [McCall] out of the equation and the other girls stepped up big for us and that was key tonight,” Crowley explained. “We need balance to be successful and tonight they did it. I couldn’t be prouder of my kids. Our defense in the first half was spectacular. It was a total team effort tonight.”
It was a rare early afternoon start and the Hornets looked out of sorts at the opening tip. Mansfield struggled shooting, turned the ball over too often against an aggressive Attleboro defense, and managed only two points in the first quarter and 12 for the half.
“We’re not going to survive too many 12-point halves,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “I don’t know why we can’t shoot in the first quarter, but that’s been our downfall all year. We rallied back and did our best.”
The Bombardiers weren’t exactly shooting the lights out in the first quarter either, scoring only eight points of their own, but things picked up in the second. After Becca Hottleman opened the quarter with a three for Mansfield, Attleboro went on a 12-0 run to take control.
“It has been one of our focuses two days ago at practice,” said Crowley. “We didn’t rebound very well against Feehan, so we were working a lot on securing the ball and being more physical and I thought we controlled the balls in the first half.”
Mansfield tried to keep it close, as Kacey Veiking (10 points and six boards) knocked down a couple of shots, but Lillian Froio answered with her only four points of the night and Nyah Thomas (game-high 15 points and 10 rebounds) hit a tough runner in the lane to make it 26-12 at the break.
The Hornets have been a resilient team this season and have managed to battle back after falling behind early. Last game against Fontbonne, Mansfield managed to make it a two-point game in the fourth quarter after trailing by as many as 16. In the third quarter on Tuesday, Mansfield’s offense woke up, as the Hornets tried to mount another comeback.
Kayla Vine scored seven of her team-high 14 points in the third and also dished out a pair of assists to Veiking. Vine drilled her only three of the game to get Mansfield back within single digits at 34-25 and freshman Abby Wager hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 35-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to bottle whatever we did in the second half and do that from the beginning. We just can’t wait to play our best until we’re down by double digits,” said Redding. “We’ve got to start playing our best from the get-go. I love our heart, we challenged them at halftime to play with pride and they gave us everything they had and made a game of it in the fourth quarter.”
Attleboro was held to just nine points in the third, six of those from Thomas, who twice turned defensive rebounds into coast-to-coast baskets. In the fourth, the Bombardiers got back to spreading the ball around. Thomas hit McCall on an inbound play in the corner for a big three to get the quarter started and extend the lead back to double digits.
McCall added three free throws after a pair of technical fouls against the Mansfield bench and the lead that was once down to eight was stretched back out to 14.
“We responded. Liv, one of our seniors, hit a big shot for us,” said Crowley. “Everybody contributed for us. Mansfield is a formidable foe. It’s the Hock, you have to come ready to play every night.”
Mansfield kept hanging around. Kelly Doherty had a steal and layup to cut the lead to 10, Ashley Santos (nine points and seven rebounds) drilled a pair of threes in the fourth, and Wager (11 points) scored seven in the quarter to keep the game in doubt.
Every time the Hornets hit a big shot, Attleboro seemed to find an answer on the other end. Johnson scored six points in the fourth, Gordon added four, and Thomas kept getting to the basket, including a big and-one that made it 52-39. McCall added a drive down the middle for two that kept the lead at a dozen.
“We did a decent job, but when we made a mistake they made us pay,” said Redding. “Thomas does a good job, even when you’re doubling, to find a way to get it into the paint. They’re a tough combination. Every time you thought we had momentum, Thomas drives or Liv hits a three.”
The Hornets closed the game on a 9-0 run but by then the damage was done and Attleboro heads into the new year with momentum.
Crowley said, “It’s huge. It’s a good win to put under our belt. Everyone is doing the same thing, it’s a race to 10, and this gets us one step closer.”
Attleboro (3-3) will be back at home on Friday against Oliver Ames, trying to extend its win streak to three games. Mansfield (1-5) will try to end its three-game losing streak when it hosts unbeaten Franklin.
With the game tied at 50 and the clock running down under 20 seconds left to play, Sharon had a look from in close that wouldn’t fall. The rebound was batted around and was heading out of play. Sharon guard Kaitlyn Wallace was sure that the Eagles were going to retain possession and let the ball go out of bounds. The officials had other ideas and gave Mansfield the ball and a shot at the win.
The Hornets got the ball into the hands of senior point guard Becca Hottleman, who took off up court. Mansfield coach Mike Redding thought about calling a timeout to set up a play, but Hottleman didn’t need one. She stepped to her right, found a seam in the Sharon defense, and made a difficult layup under pressure to put her team in front with 4.5 on the clock.
Hottleman missed her free throw, but Sharon was unable to advance the ball before time ran out on a 52-50 Mansfield victory. It was the first win of the season for the Hornets and the first-ever game-winner for Hottleman, who is still working her way back from a knee injury that has kept her out since March.
“She’s our best off the dribble and she had some space and I thought maybe if she kicked it out and nothing was there then maybe take the timeout,” Redding explained. “I just asked her when’s the last time she hit a game-winner and she said she’d never hit one before. Good thing to save it for her senior year.”
Sharon is still looking for its first win of the season, but head coach Sandy Lombardi is pleased with the progress her team showed from the first game and the fight that it demonstrated in battling back from an early deficit.
“You read the articles, oh they’re having trouble shooting from the outside and then they come out and stick I don’t know how many threes in the first half and it was like, I thought you couldn’t shoot?” Lombardi joked. “The second quarter we bounced back, we got down by 10 or 12 and came back. It was a tough loss but I thought it was a great game overall.”
It has been a rough start to the season for the Mansfield offense, but the Hornets were firing on all cylinders in the opening quarter, knocking down four three-pointers and scoring 21 as a team. Kayla Vine scored seven of her team-high 14 in the first, including a pair from beyond the arc. Hottleman and classmate Kelly Doherty both hit one each from outside as well.
Trailing 21-11 after one, the Eagles turned things around in the second. Sharon pressured the perimeter to limit Mansfield’s chances and started to find openings in the Hornets’ zone defense.
Wallace (game-high 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists) got things started with a three on a kick-out by Leah Fandel (11 points) and then she assisted on a corner three by Telishya Herbert (10 points and six rebounds). Fandel was left open on an inbounds play for a layup and then Ally Brown (eight points) buried a three to cut the Mansfield lead to just one, 29-28.
“Kaitlyn had a big game,” said Lombardi. “Ally had a good game for us and those kids don’t come out of the game. They play the whole game for us and that’s pretty much the way it’s going to be the rest of the season.”
The Eagles got their first lead of the night on a pair of Wallace free throws, but Ashley Santos (12 points, five rebounds, and three blocks) answered back with two at the line. Freshman AAbby Wager had a big block on a Sharon layup attempt in the closing seconds of the half, but the loose ball fell right to Brown, who knocked down a baseline jumper right at the buzzer for a 32-31 halftime edge.
“The second quarter they heated up,” Redding said. “It kind of forced us out of the zone and then we went to a 1-3-1 trap and eventually ended up playing man. The good thing was we made shots tonight and got some confidence on offense but now we got to defend a little better, but I think they did a good job moving the ball and making shots.”
Sharon came out of the break looking to grab hold of the game, but struggled to find its offense. Brown nailed another three off an assist by Trinity Payne, but baskets by Sarah Dooling (eight points) and Santos tied the game.
Wallace drilled her third three of the night to make it 38-35, but the Hornets would go on a spurt, scoring the final eight points of the quarter to grab the lead. Vine had a steal and layup and then Grace Maher grabbed an offensive rebound for her only basket of the night. Vine closed out the third with a driving hoop for a 43-38 lead.
“We started moving the ball around a little bit, we were getting wide open outside shots, we were getting the ball inside, the high-low was working well, and it kind of fell apart in the third,” Lombardi said.
At the start of the fourth, it was Sharon’s turn to make a run and the hosts scored seven straight to start the quarter and get the lead. Fandel hit a short jumper on a pass from Nicole Teven, who also grabbed a steal and layup to make it a one-point game. Another Fandel basket on another inbound play put the Eagles in front.
“She was on the varsity last year,” Lombardi said of Fandel, “but she’s still feeling her oats a little bit and I thought she had a strong game inside.”
Santos answered with a post move to tie the game at 45-45 and Doherty (nine points) chipped in with a basket on a rebound. Wallace would get her last points of the night to tie it again, but then Vine got open and knocked down her first three since the first quarter to put the Hornets ahead 50-47.
Fandel continued to be a menace for the home team. A putback brought the Eagles back within one and then she tied the game with one of two from the line. The junior scored seven of her team’s 12 points in the quarter.
“We needed a win,” Redding admitted. “Two tough ones to start and this gives us a little boost going into the holidays. We’re going to have a lot of these in the league with teams like us that are good but young and getting better. These are the ones that you’ve got to get and to get one on the road is even better.”
Both teams will step out of the Hock for their next games. Mansfield (1-2) will host Newtown (Conn.) next Friday in the start of a holiday tournament that also includes Fontbonne and Bridgewater-Raynham. Sharon (0-2) will host Holliston the following Sunday.
2018-2019 Record: 8-14 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Martin Crowley
Attleboro was three wins shy of reaching the postseason last year, despite a roster filled with inexperienced players, and the Bombardiers demonstrated the potential in the squad by upsetting Franklin late in the season and handing the Panthers their only league loss. This winter, the Bombardiers will be looking to turn potential into reality and make a jump into the playoff picture.
Six players are returning from last year, including seniors Nyah Thomas and Liv McCall, who give Attleboro a talented backcourt on both ends of the court. Thomas adds length and slashing ability, while McCall is a sharpshooter who will be the team’s primary ball-handler. Sophomore Meg Gordon has taken a big leap from last year and head coach Marty Crowley thinks that she is ready for a breakout season on the wing.
Juniors Gabby Bosh and Emma Reilly will both be back to add some nous to the lineup, while sophomores Hailey and Lindsey Perry add grit and toughness. Junior Ryan Johnson will add size to the frontcourt, while sophomore Lillian Froio and juniors Jackie MacDonald and Laura McVeigh add depth and physicality. Overall, it is a much deeper, more experienced group for Crowley to build lineups with this season.
“For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound,” Crowley said. “Nyah and Liv I am sure are going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone, however, we feel as if we have the players in place who will contribute offensively.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-7 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal. Coach: Jim Choquette
Youth was served for the Bulldogs last season, as a talented trio of freshmen jumped into the starting lineup and helped Canton have one of its most successful seasons in program history, with 14 wins and a return to the state tournament. There were still some learning curves to overcome, but now a more experienced group is play with speed and get out on the break as often as possible to give Foxboro a challenge in the Davenport title race and bring home a postseason win.
Although Canton is still a relatively young team, the talent on the roster is undeniable. Sophomores Kiara Cerruti and Sydney and Fay Gallery all had impressive rookie campaigns, showing off their skills on the wing, from three-point range, and in the paint. They will face even more pressure this season, as teams know what they like to do and will be even more determined to take them out of their games.
Sophomore Carly Fitzgerald will be one of the players stepping into the point guard role vacated by the graduation of Julia Hamilton and will be the facilitator getting Canton into its offense. In the paint, Canton has size and athleticism in senior Lilah Milton and junior Kayla Albert, who are both active rebounders and finishers at the rim and both have shown the ability to knock down the occasional jumper as well. Juniors Angie Elias and Sam Lamarr and sophomore Annie Hoban all have experience from last year to add to Canton’s depth.
Canton coach Jim Choquette said, “Each day we will try to improve as a coaching staff and a program. By the end of the season, our hopes are to be playing at our best.”
2017-2018 Record: 20-3 2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal. Coach: Lisa Downs
The two-time defending Davenport division champions return all but one player from last year’s roster, so Foxboro remains the team to beat for the league title and expectations are very high heading into a new season. After a trip to the Div. 2 South semifinals last season, the Warriors will be aiming for even more this winter, trying to regain the top spot not just in the Hock but also in the South sectional.
Junior Katelyn Mollica was the team’s leading scorer last year and is already closing in on 1,000 points for her career. The team’s primary ball-handler and one of the best shooters in the league, Mollica will be one of the top offensive threats in the league. She will have plenty of help. Senior guard Lizzy Davis and senior forwards Yara Fawaz and Abby Hassman will also return to the starting lineup this season and add athleticism, speed, and tenacity on both ends of the floor, taking some pressure off Mollica with their ability to score in the open court.
Senior Shakirah Ketant came on strong at the end of last season and gives Foxboro a different, more physical look in the paint. Junior Jordyn Collins is a tough on-the-ball defender and has speed to burn. Seniors Jamie DeVellis and Julia Kelley both saw time on the floor last year and will add to Foxboro’s depth. Sophomore center Hannah Blake is a new face that could provide more strength in the post.
“The Hockomock League continues to produce teams, which make every night a tough one – there are really no teams that you can take lightly,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “The preparation required to compete in this league really benefits teams that get to the postseason.”
2018-2019 Record: 21-4 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 State Semifinal. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin is coming off its best season in program history and the Panthers have the talent returning to potentially surpass that success this winter. After winning the program’s first sectional title and coming within minutes of reaching the state title game, Franklin returns three of its starters and a host of bench players ready to step into bigger roles this year.
The key to it all is senior Ali Brigham. The George Washington-commit controlled the paint on both ends of the floor last season and remains the league’s most dominant star, as she continues to expand her game to make it even more difficult for the opposition. Teams can’t focus only on Brigham, as senior forward Meghan O’Connell showed in the playoffs the problems she can present with her ability to score and rebound and sophomore Olivia Quinn is another forward with size that teams will struggle to match up with.
Junior point guard Erin Quaile is a tenacious defender and a solid ball-handler, who is developing her outside shot. Senior Sydney Garilli and juniors Elizabeth Wilson, Teagan Collins, and Carissa Alers all saw time last season and will be in the backcourt rotation. Franklin will also add several newcomers, who could step right in and contribute, including juniors Katelynn Taylor and Kaleigh Houlihan and sophomores Emma Sousa and Stefany Padula. On balance, the Panthers look likely to be the team to beat again in the Kelley-Rex.
“I am excited by what I have seen to date,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “They are a very motivated group who have bought into their team motto ‘We Over Me.’ They are good teammates who seek team success over individual glory.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-8 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Dan Nagle
King Philip had a breakout season in 2018-19, winning 13 games and reaching the Div. 1 South quarterfinal. Returning seven players from last year’s roster, new head coach Dan Nagle takes over a program in solid shape and is looking to build on last season’s success and try to challenge Franklin at the top of the league standings this winter.
Senior Faye Veilleux spearheaded KP’s breakout season when she emerged as one of the top post scorers in the league. Her versatility and her ability to get out in transition will be crucial to Nagle’s fastbreaking style. Senior Faith Roy will give the Warriors a clutch outside shooter and classmate Taylor Butler adds physicality to the guard or forward position.
Junior Emma Glaser will be expected to take on a bigger role after a strong sophomore season on the wing and junior point guard Brianna James demonstrated the ability to get into the lane at will and finish even against taller opponents. Juniors Caroline Aaron and Courtney Keswick are also back from last year to provide depth on the wings and 6-foot-3 freshman Emily Sawyer will give KP much-needed size in the post, as they try to combat Franklin’s Ali Brigham. The Warriors are going to try and break teams down with aggressive defending and their speed in transition.
Nagle said, “It has been a great start to the year with this group of kids. From top to bottom our roster is full of girls who love the game of basketball and are enjoying the process of improving day to day here in the early going. I think we will be a fun team to watch this season, and I look forward to the challenge of having our kids compete night in and night out in an excellent league like the Hockomock.”
2018-2019 Record: 17-6 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Mike Redding
Mansfield has consistently been one of the top programs in the Kelley-Rex division but even the best programs are going to need time to overcome the graduation of 10 seniors. The Hornets will lack experience, but head coach Mike Redding will be looking for improvement over the course of the season and will be hoping to have the team playing its best basketball as the tournament rolls around.
Senior Becca Hottleman was recently cleared after knee surgery and will be back at the point for the Hornets. Hottleman is one of only two players that got starts last year. Junior forward Ashley Santos is the other and she will be one of the players expected to see her numbers take a jump, as she should expect to get a few more looks on the offensive end. Senior Kelly Doherty and junior Kayla Vine will jump into starting roles on the wings, while junior Sara Dooling will be a starter at forward.
While there is a lack of varsity playing time on the roster, there are plenty of upperclassmen that will be expected to contribute. Junior Sarah Sacco will back-up Hottleman at the point, while junior Ally Prentis and senior Grace Benton will add depth at the wing. Senior Grace Maher and juniors Brooke Berube and Kacey Veiking will see time in the frontcourt and freshman wing Abby Wager should get opportunities to build experience this season.
“This group has very limited varsity basketball experience overall because we had that large and talented group of 10 seniors last year, but we’re not young and will rely on senior leadership and a deep junior class and all have varsity experience in other sports,” said Redding. “We have good size and depth in the post and all of them can shoot, handle the ball, and play like guards, which should cause some problems for the defense. It will be a work in progress and we’ll have to battle for wins in a very good league but this will be a good basketball team by February when the tourney rolls around.”
2018-2019 Record: 1-19 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Last year was a tough one for Milford. After graduating the bulk of the roster, an inexperienced group struggled through the season, but never lost the work rate and closed out the winter with its first win. The Hawks are still relatively young, but head coach TJ Dolliver is approaching the new year with optimism because of his team’s continued growth.
Four juniors are entering their third varsity seasons and the Hawks will be counting on them to provide necessary leadership on and off the court. Emma Lawrence, Jillian Michelson, Carly Fereira, and Katie Maietta have all gotten plenty of playing time last year and the hope is that experience will serve them well this winter.
This will be a guard-heavy lineup, especially with no player over 5-foot-8. Junior Elise Fauerbach will add some physical play to the frontcourt and sophomore forward Jill Araujo is a newcomer that can add some depth in the paint.
“There is a lot to pay attention to but what I care about the most is how we do this together,” said Dolliver. “I have a great group of girls and a great coaching staff and I believe this season will be very rewarding.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-14 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Nikki Correia
It has been a tough run over the last few seasons for North Attleboro, which won seven games and missed the playoffs for the third straight year, but there are still positives to take away as former assistant Nikki Correia takes over for her first year in charge. North has several experienced players returning to try and push Big Red back up the standings.
The backcourt should be a plus for North with senior point guard Olivia Forbes back to run the show and keep the Rocketeers getting into the transition game that Correia prefers. She will be joined at the guard position by junior Amanda Kaiser, who emerged as not only a threat from deep but also as a tough defender who gets her hands into the passing lane. Juniors Siobhan Weir and Lydia Santos will add to the depth at guard to help with the full-court pressure that North will turn to this year.
North hasn’t had much height in the past few seasons, but there are several forwards who can compete on the glass. Senior forward Eliza Dion is an aggressive defender and can take her defender off the dribble. Senior Regan Fein will add extra depth in the paint. Freshman guard Ava McKeown and sophomore guard Summer Doherty are two newcomers that could make an instant impact.
“I am looking forward to being apart of watching this team and this program grow this year,” Correia said. “There are six returning seniors, so that veteran play will be very helpful, as well as returning a great shooter and adding an athletic sophomore and freshman to the mix.”
2018-2019 Record: 13-9 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames had a lot of new faces last year, but the success was very familiar. The Tigers finished with 13 wins and reached the Div. 1 South quarterfinal, giving Wellesley all it could handle on the road. A year of experience and the return of a strong core of players means expectations are even higher for OA this winter.
Sophomore Caroline Peper will be the player that is going to draw the most attention at the start of the new season. As a freshman, Peper was one of the league’s top scorers and its top shooters. Junior Caroline Flynn was also an all-star last year. She runs the point, is one of the top passers on the team, and also one of its top rebounders. Her overall game helps the Tigers control games. Also in the backcourt will be seniors Meg Holleran and Erin Holmberg, who is coming back after surgery cost her almost all of last season.
Senior Tate Hadges will be on the front line, giving OA another strong defender and rebounder. Sophomore Hailey Bourne, while undersized, gives the Tigers a lot of effort in the post even when matched up against some of the best frontcourt players in the league. Junior Jess Erlich and Tori Harney and sophomore Anna Murphy will add to the team’s depth on the wing.
“As always, the Hock will present with a very high level of competition,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We are looking forward to being capable of putting together a variety of strong personnel combinations which will provide us with depth as we face those challenges.”
2018-2019 Record: 9-11 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Sandra Lombardi
Sharon narrowly missed out on its first playoff appearance under head coach Sandy Lombardi, finishing just one win away from a tournament berth. With three returning starters and several younger players who got significant playing time last year, the Eagles will be eyeing that elusive postseason berth.
Three seniors will be counted on to lead the team at both ends of the floor. Point guard Ally Brown will be expected to get the Eagles into their offensive sets and is a strong defender on the other end, keeping pressure on the perimeter. Shooting guard Kaitlyn Wallace is the team’s top outside threat, stretching the defense with her range and also being a strong passer off the dribble. Forward Telishya Herbert led the team in scoring last year and is a matchup nightmare in the paint with her aggressive play going to the basket.
The starting lineup will be rounded out by junior Leah Fandel and sophomore Trinity Payne, two athletic forwards that will give Sharon decent size on the front line. Senior Nicole Teven, juniors Julia Early and Gaby Cabral and freshman Tess Letendre will all see plenty of playing time this season and will look to contribute to the team’s success.
“Ally, Kaitlyn, and Telishya have the most varsity experience and I expect great things from them this year,” Lombardi said. “We have a young team and I am hoping some of the younger players are able to step up this year as well.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-13 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
A new era will begin this winter, as Stoughton moves into its brand new gym with a lot of new faces on the roster, hoping to get the Black Knights back into the playoff race this season after missing out on the tournament last year.
The key for the Black Knights will be its senior leadership. Although Sydnee Hyacinthe has moved on to Milton Academy, they still return a strong core led by senior Aliyah Wright. The point guard can be a dominant presence on both ends of the floor, sparking Stoughton on defense and breaking down the opposition off the dribble. Senior Shyanne Trinh is healthy to start the season and will be the team’s top outside threat, with the ability to knock down shots off the dribble. Senior forward Lexi Baptista is an athletic post threat who can also step back and knock down the mid-range jumper.
Senior Hannah Pagano and juniors Brooke Bulger, Mackenzie Manning, and Catherine Downey will add to the team’s depth, especially in the backcourt. Sophomore Makaiyah Singleton Rivera and freshman Kyla Sheedy-Goff will be two of the newcomers to the roster that could make a name for themselves this season.
“Despite being somewhat young this season this group of ladies worked really hard in the off-season,” said Stoughton coach Charmain Steele Jordan. “The sky is the limit this season and our Black Knights are going compete hard until the final whistle blows.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-15 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Amy Siggens
After a number of seasons under coach Walter Harrigan, Taunton has turned to former King Philip coach Amy Siggens this year and she has brought plenty of energy into her first preseason with the Tigers, trying to push the program back into the playoff hunt.
As Siggens and the players become more comfortable with each other, the Tigers will count on their returning starters to get things off to a good start. Juniors Sonya and Jaelyn Fernandez and Kelsey White will be the players to watch this season after strong sophomore campaigns. All three have good size, with both Sonya and Jaelyn providing strong presences on the boards and out on the break and White causing match-up issues on the perimeter. All three will need to step up on the defensive end and keep the Tigers running.
Taunton also has depth, although it will be relatively inexperienced. Seniors Liz Crisman and Jaylah Chaves and junior Tori DaRosa will add more depth in the backcourt. Sophomores Braeley McDonald and Abby Souza (who has helped out on varsity since she was an eighth-grader) and freshman Kameron St. Pierre will also chip in this season.
“Any coaching change brings lots of challenges and, this season, we will be faced with our share,” said Siggens. “I am very encouraged from what I’ve seen thus far. Our bench is young and talented but how quickly a good group of less experienced players develop, will determine the degree of our progress and we are off to a good start.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Throughout the season, we’ve seen the Mansfield defensive line wreak havoc in opponents’ backfields, and the Hornets’ linebacking corps deny top running attacks.
In the Division 2 State Championship at Gillette Stadium, it was the secondary that took center stage.
The Hornets corners and safeties combined for three interceptions, including a game-changing takeaway late in the second quarter, to help Mansfield run away with a 41-0 win and the program’s eighth state title.
With such a large margin of victory, it might seem unlikely that the game changed on one play. But instead of holding a one-score lead at halftime and having to kick off to the Warriors, an interception turned into a three-score lead.
With a 14-0 lead and the clock ticking away in the first half, Lincoln-Sudbury’s offense got a sudden jolt after a 15-yard penalty and a broken play that resulted in a 54-yard run from Warrior junior Jack Malone.
Mansfield senior corner Makhi Baskin fought off a would-be blocker, making a tackle inside the 10-yard line to prevent Lincoln-Sudbury from getting on the board. While it looked like a simple hustle play, the ensuing plays proved how big it was.
The Hornet defense, faced with their first red zone challenge with the Warriors starting at the 7-yard line, came up big.
The first play went backward as the Hornets came buzzing in to halt the Warriors after a bad snap. The teams traded penalties with a hold pushing L-S back 10 yards, only to regain half of that on an offside call.
Facing second down from the 18-yard line, L-S senior receiver Griffin Brown found an open spot against the Hornets’ defense in the end zone near the left sideline.
L-S junior quarterback Collin Murphy floated a pass that looked destined to drop into Brown’s waiting arms, but Mansfield junior corner Nick Bertolino read the play and timed his jump perfectly, cutting in front of the receiver and hauling in his first career interception.
“We were in zone and I was supposed to play in the flat…the guy got around me and I had great help over the top,” Bertolino said. “I just read the quarterback’s eyes, dropped back, and went up and got it.
“It felt like it was a big game-changer. They were driving on us some and had that big run but we got the ball back and went down and scored, and I felt like that kind of sealed the game.”
The Hornets marched 80 yards on eight plays, capped by a four-yard touchdown from senior Vinnie Holmes with just over a minute left in the half, and just like that, Mansfield held a 21-0 advantage.
“They had that nice run, and they threw a nice fade and I thought they had a touchdown,” admitted Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “Nick Bertolino came out of nowhere, that was a big play. [If they scored] it makes the game interesting at half but instead we get the pick and go down and score, and it goes from 14-7 to 21-0 that. I thought that was the turning point of the game for us to be able to extend the lead, and then put them away in the second half.”
While it doesn’t stand out as much as the interception, the tackle from Baskin just a couple of plays earlier inside the 10-yard line proved to be a game-changer.
“That saved a touchdown,” Redding said. “The defense keeps playing, even if its first and goal from the one, they are battling to keep the other team out of the end zone.”
For Baskin, it was just a play he knew he had to make.
“We always go by the motto of ‘never surrender’…we just never give up, and that’s what I did on that play, and then we got the big interception,” Baskin said. “We take a lot of pride in the secondary. We have a lot of camaraderie with each other.”
Bertolino’s interception wasn’t the first or the last by the Hornet secondary in the game. The first came on the Warriors’ first possession. Mansfield was forced to punt after its opening drive stalled, and a miskick on the punt gave L-S decent starting field position near midfield.
But just a couple plays into the series, safety Michael DeBolt came down with a deflected pass for an interception to get the ball right back. And the Hornets cashed in when Jack Moussette connected with a wide-open Everett Knowlton for the opening score.
Lincoln-Sudbury ventured into the red zone for the first time in the second half but were stuffed on a run play and Bertolino and DeBolt combined for a pass breakup in the end zone.
Bertolino entered the state championship with a team-high nine pass breakups.
“He’s played great as a junior,” Redding said of Bertolino. “He’s a really good cover guy. He kind of had a breakout year, he played JV last year and didn’t play any varsity. He lines up and plays 12 weeks at corner and did a great job for us.”
After holding Murphy to just five completions for 52 yards (one play for 44 yards, the other four for eight or less yards), the Mansfield secondary capped its night when Baskin came up with his team-high third interception this season.
“This defense, even when [L-S] got inside the ten, we kept saying they’re not going to get it in, they’re not going to get it in,” Redding said. “It’s tough against our defense when you’re that close because our coverage tightens up, defense gets aggressive, and we knew we’d make them work. They wanted a shutout today, and it’s a great way to end it the way this defense has played all year.”
FOXBORO, Mass. – Almost from the moment that last season ended at Fenway Park, talk started about how this year’s Mansfield team had the potential to win it all. The Hornets have matched those massive expectations at every step this year and they may have saved the very best for the biggest stage of all.
Under the bright lights of the Div. 2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium, Mansfield (11-1) put together its most dominant performance of the season, shutting out North champion Lincoln-Sudbury 41-0 to win its first state championship since 2013. The Hornets out-gained the Warriors 358-137, picked off three passes, and allowed only five first downs on the night.
“I’ve been in a bunch of Super Bowls, but nothing like this,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding, who earned his eighth Super Bowl win in his 11th appearance. “Too many weapons on offense, too much experience, just a dominant defense.
He added, “This year, we’re an elite team. Just amazing skill, we’re great up front, and I don’t know if we have a weakness as far as high school teams go.”
Senior Vinnie Holmes put together an MVP performance in his final high school game. Not only was the linebacker and ever-present on the defensive side of the ball, but he also spearheaded the Mansfield ground game. Holmes gained 145 yards on just nine carries and scored three touchdowns.
“I told myself I was going to have the best game of my life tonight and I think that’s what I did.”
Redding added, “When he’s on the field, we’re tough to beat. He’s got a great group around him but he’s a special player and we’re going to miss him an awful lot. We tried to get him the ball as much as we could today and he did his job as usual.”
Holmes stole the headlines but this was a complete team performance.
L-S tried an onside kick to start the game and Shane Downey grabbed it to give Mansfield the ball at its own 47. Although that drive stalled, Michael DeBolt got the ball right back when he picked off Collin Murphy’s second pass of the night and the Hornets were in business again at their own 48.
A 36-yard counter by Holmes put Mansfield inside the 10. Two of the Hornets’ eight penalties in the first half backed them up but Jack Moussette (6-of-8, 98 yards) ran a perfect play action fake and then hit a wide open Everett Knowlton down the seam for a 14-yard score.
“Jack had a night,” said Redding. “He was spot on. When we’re clicking with all our weapons, there’s not a bad play call on the sheet.”
Another three-and-out and the Hornets got the ball in L-S territory. Mousette connected with Cincere Gill (92 total yards) for a 31-yard completion to the four. Two plays later, Nick Marciano doubled the lead with a three-yard keeper.
A roughing the passer call on a third down incompletion let L-S move the chains for the first time on the night. Jack Malone cut back against the grain for a 54-yard run down to the Mansfield seven. It looked like the Warriors might be able to make it a game, but a bad snap and a holding penalty had them backed up to the 18.
Murphy (5-of-16, 52 yards) thought he had his receiver open at the front corner of the end zone but Nick Bertolino recovered and pulled down the pick in the end zone.
Eight plays and 80 yards later, Mansfield made it 21-0. Mousette continued to be accurate in the passing game, finding DeBolt open for a 49-yard play on third and nine to get into L-S territory. Holmes capped the drive with a four-yard dive for his first score of the night.
“They had that nice run and they threw a nice fade, I thought they had a touchdown,” Redding explained. “Nick Bertolino came out of nowhere. That was a big play. That makes the game very interesting at half, instead we get the pick and then go down and score. I thought that was the turning point of the game.”
Just six plays into the second half and the Hornets tacked on another score. The defense came through with another quick stop, highlighted by Chris Graham forcing a high throw on a screen that allowed Holmes to close in and stuff the play for a one-yard loss. Gill broke a 28-yard run to the 16 and then Holmes got to the corner for the touchdown to make it 27-0.
L-S drove again into the red zone on its next possession but again came away empty. Graham stuffed a run for a three-yard loss and Bertolino and DeBolt combined on a pass breakup. The Hornets went for it on fourth and one from their own 28 to keep their drive alive and on second and 15 Holmes went straight up the gut, untouched, for a 72-yard TD, adding an exclamation point to his night.
While Holmes was speaking to reporters, Moussette stepped in and offered this assessment of the Mansfield running back, “First kid in, last kid to leave, this kid earned everything he got tonight. This kid’s one hell of a football player and I couldn’t be prouder of him. He’s our MVP.”
Makhi Baskin added a third interception for the Mansfield secondary and, with a running clock in the fourth quarter, Ethan Thevenot added a late score from five yards out. It was the first shutout of the season for the Hornets, who allowed only 13 points in four playoff games combined.
At the beginning of the season, Mansfield players set winning the Super Bowl as a goal. They knew that the talent was there to have a special season. On Friday night, they made sure that there would be no tripping over the final hurdle. In fact, they plowed right through it.
“We had a meeting in January and wrote three goals on the white board,” said Moussette. “One was ‘win the summer,’ ‘win the first week of practice,’ and ‘win the Super Bowl.’ Look where we’re at right now.
“We earned this. I’m just so ecstatic. I’m at a loss for words. I’m so happy for everyone.”