MANSFIELD, Mass. – It was one of those nights when the ball just wouldn’t go through the hoop. Right from the start, with several missed layups in the opening quarter, it was clear that offense was going to be a struggle for Mansfield in its Div. 1 South opening round game against Whitman-Hanson at the Albertini Gym.
The Panthers led 41-34 midway through the fourth quarter and it seemed like Mansfield’s run of four straight semifinal appearances was going to come to an abrupt end, but then senior guard Mady Bendanillo knocked down a three from the left wing and there was a sudden burst of energy in what had been a largely quiet gym for this early evening tip.
Erin Daniel missed a three, but stepped in to grab the offensive rebound and finish to cut the Whitman-Hanson lead to just two. On the next defensive possession, Kara Bendanillo grabbed a defensive rebound and threw an outlet to Emily Vigeant for a breakaway layup that tied the game at 41-41 with 3:12 on the clock.
The game stayed deadlocked until the final minute. Mady Bendanillo (game-high 18 points) knocked down the front end of a one-and-one to put the Hornets ahead for the first time since early in the third quarter and she proceeded to knock down three more at the line while the Mansfield defense clamped down to escape with a 45-41 win.
“I don’t really know what the spark was but once we got going everyone fed off it and we got some fast break points,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Mady started taking over off the dribble. We just kind of hung in there, hung in there, and hung in there and were finally able to get some stops and rebounds.”
When asked what turned the game around for the Hornets, Bendanillo replied, “I don’t even know. We thought Erin had the and-one on the rebound and then Emily got free for a wide open layup and our defense came alive and I don’t think they scored again.”
The win was sealed at the line, but early in the game it was only free throws that were keeping the Hornets afloat. There were only four made field goals combined between the two teams in the first quarter, but Mansfield’s aggressiveness going to basket was rewarded with 10 trips to the line. The Hornets made seven, including 3-of-4 from Sydney Mulkern (her only points of the game), to take an 11-8 lead after one.
Whitman-Hanson started to find an offensive rhythm in the second, scoring 17 points and knocking down three from beyond the arc, including a pair from Anna O’Neill off the bench. Steph Kemp scored her lone points on a drive and Mady Bendanillo drilled her first three of the night, but an 8-2 run to close out the half put the Panthers ahead 25-22 at the break.
“We defended well but just didn’t rebound well and gave them too many second chances,” Redding said. “They were aggressive defensively and we never got into a rhythm on offense.”
Mansfield came out of the locker room with urgency and four straight points by Maggie Danehy (15 points) put the Hornets ahead 26-25. It would be their last lead until the final minute of the game.
The Panthers again found the range from deep, with Olivia Martin nailing a pair and Brittany Gacica (13 points) hitting one as well. Mady Bendanillo answered with one of her own, off an assist by her sister, but it was the visitors that headed into the fourth quarter with momentum and a 37-32 lead.
Bendanillo got a steal and an assist on a layup for Danehy that gave the Hornets a spark to start the final quarter but again the offense stalled and the Panthers stayed in control. Mansfield’s defense (and its ability to rebound) improved in the fourth quarter, precipitated by a switch from a trapping zone to man-to-man. Mansfield held the Panthers to just four points in the fourth.
“At least man-to-man you know who you’re boxing out and we did a good job of closing out on people and we got Maggie on [Gacicia], so she wasn’t getting any rebounds and they weren’t getting the second chance points they did in the first half.
“I think a lot of the seniors stepped up,” Bendanillo said. “We definitely didn’t want this to be our last game. We wanted to face Braintree again. They’ve crushed us twice, so we want another shot at them.”
In the end, Mansfield (15-5) had just enough to get through the first round and will make its sixth straight trip to the quarterfinal. The Hornets will square off with third-seed Braintree on Friday night. It is the third straight year that these two teams will meet, having played in the South semifinal last season and the South final in 2017, both won by the Wamps.
“They were outplaying us and we kind of stole this one, but we’ll take it and move on,” Redding admitted.
He added, “This is tournament basketball. It’s just survive and move on, but we’ve got to play a lot better Friday night up at Braintree. We better find a way to score some points. It’s fun. We get another chance to knock them off.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The cliche is that defense wins championships and, if the cliche is true, then it is no wonder that Franklin had the chance to clinch a Kelley-Rex division title on Tuesday night. The Panthers came into the game against Mansfield in the Albertini Gym allowing a little more than 35 points per game, which was a league best.
With a potential title on the line against the three-time defending champions, the Panthers turned to their defense once again, and added some clutch shooting to go with it.
Franklin held Mansfield to just 14 points in the first half and took control with an 11-0 run just before the break and sealed the win with a 11-4 run down the stretch when the Hornets had gotten back within single digits. With the 47-32 victory, Franklin secured at least a share of its first league title since 2013.
“It’s really what we’ve been working towards all season,” said Franklin senior Bea Bondhus. “Yesterday, at the end of practice we sat in front of the banner in the gym and coach was like, ‘2013 was the last time we won it and you guys have the chance to win it this year.’ Before the game, we were really nervous but he made it clear that this was an opportunity and that we can beat this team.”
The game was a defensive struggle from the opening tip. It took nearly three minutes for either team to get on the scoreboard and the teams were tied at just 7-7 after one.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “They’re aggressive defensively, [Ali] Brigham’s back there if they do get beat off backdoors and off the dribble and it’s hard to make field goals against them and if you’re not getting to the free throw line good luck trying to beat them.”
Mady Bendanillo buried a three off an assist from her sister Kara to open the scoring, but Franklin was able to get the ball into the paint to star center Ali Brigham. The 6-foot-3 junior scored all seven of the Panthers’ points in the first and finished with a game-high 17, along with 10 rebounds and four blocks.
The Hornets continued to hang right with the league leaders late into the second quarter, thanks to its own defensive effort. Mansfield is allowing fewer than 40 points per game this season as well. Emily Vigeant (nine points) scored on a drive and then drilled a three to put the hosts up 14-13 with only a couple of minutes left until halftime.
“The tight start? Mike’s team plays great ‘D’. Bea was never open, Ali was hugged, and they just said beat us with someone else,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained.
Franklin took control in the span of about 90 seconds. Freshman Olivia Quinn scored on an offensive rebound to get the lead back. Shannon Gray knocked down a three to extend the lead to four and then Brigham stepped into a transition three. Gray capped the half with a corner three off a Brigham kick out to open up a 10-point lead.
“That’s exactly how I drew it up with my center hitting a pull-up three,” Leighton joked. “It was huge, especially Shannon hitting a couple because we’ve been working with her. In practice, she nails them but in games she’s the last kid to look for her shot and tonight, when it was there, she took them.”
Redding added, “It was a great defensive battle and then a one-point game became a 10-point game. We played them pretty even in the second half but that run really was the killer.”
Maggie Danehy (10 points and 13 rebounds) opened the second half with a jumper, but each time Mansfield got the lead back to single digits Franklin had a response. Megan O’Connell got a layup off one of Erin Quaile’s five assists and then Quaile drove to the rim for a basket.
Sydney Mulkern hit a three to cut the lead back down to nine points, but Brigham scored at the rim and Quaile hustled to snag an offensive rebound and fed Bondhus (eight points) for an easy finish. The Panthers led 36-23 after three quarters.
“A lot of people, when they talk about our team, they say that Ali carries us but it’s huge for everyone on this team to step up and make shots,” said Bondhus. “Megan, Erin, Shannon, everyone made shots.”
Neither offense clicked in the fourth but Mansfield was able to get as close as eight points (36-28) off a Mulkern drive. With Brigham in foul trouble, the Panthers were starting to rush against the Mansfield press and it looked like the Hornets might just have a chance to get back into the game.
“This is such a game of momentum,” said Leighton, who called a timeout in the fourth quarter to try and rally his team. “I’d love to tell you I drew something new up, but I just wanted to settle them down because they’re good enough. Once we settled, I think the guards handled the pressure better and we ran good offense.”
Following the timeout, the Panthers responded. Quaile scored, extending the lead to 11, and then Bondhus got free for the first time at the three-point lead to break the game open again. She buried a second three, the team’s sixth of the night, to put the game away.
“Bea stayed patient and stayed loose until the fourth quarter and those were some killer shots when we needed them,” said Leighton. He added, “Nothing changes after this. Win or loss, we still have to play the remaining games. Nothing is done.”
Franklin (15-1, 13-0) can clinch the outright title on Friday night when it hosts Taunton. Mansfield (11-4, 10-3) will try to keep up its push for a top-four seed in the Div. 1 South sectional when it travels to Oliver Ames.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – King Philip came into Friday’s game on a high after scoring 73 points and winning by 42 on Tuesday, but the shots that all seemed to go in against Stoughton mostly stayed out against Mansfield. The Hornets, on the other hand, were on fire. They knocked down six three-pointers through three quarters and built their lead to as many as 21 at one point in the third.
Mansfield rode that quick start to a 53-44 victory that keeps the Hornets two games back of league-leading Franklin and alone in second place in the Kelley-Rex division.
“We didn’t think we could play zone the whole night but they never forced us out of it,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Foul trouble impacted them a little and we kind of played our regular rotation and took advantage of that. Both teams have a lot of great athletes and both of us need to work to score points but we did a good job making open shots when we got them.”
Sydney Mulkern was the spark for the Hornets on Friday, scoring a game-high 20 points, including 14 in the first half. She got off to a quick start, knocking down a three and driving to the basket for a quick 5-0 lead. Mulkern scored on the break, following a pinpoint pass by Becca Hottleman, and added a layup in traffic off an inbounds pass by Kara Bendanillo (four assists).
KP’s offense struggled to get into any rhythm and wasn’t helped by first quarter foul trouble for top scorers Faye Veilleux and Shannon O’Connor.
“That really affects us because they’re both leaders, they allow us to have a flow to the game, they keep us calm, and when they’re together it’s really something special,” said KP coach Amy Siggens about the early foul trouble. “They’ve been getting used to that the last couple of games (following O’Connor’s return from injury) and in a tough game like this they needed to lean on each other.”
O’Connor scored four points in the first and assisted on an Emma Glaser basket that cut the Mansfield lead to two, but the Hornets got four quick points to lead by six after one.
Mulkern kept the hot shooting started with a three in the second and then Emily Vigeant added a pair of threes before halftime as well. In between, Maggie Danehy got started on the offensive end by crashing the boards and getting five points in the quarter. KP tried to hang around by getting a spark off its bench, with sophomores Caroline Aaron (eight points) and Glaser contributing.
Mansfield led by 15 points at the break and looked to put the game away in the third. Danehy hit a couple of jumpers and Mady Bendanillo scored on a put-back. Mulkern added two more threes and the Hornets pulled away to take a 44-23 lead.
“They’re the fastest team we’ve seen so far,” Siggens said, “and I think we’re shell-shocked a little first half and I think we adjusted second half. It just wasn’t falling for us the way it was the other night. Sometimes it’s that and you just have to pick it up in other places.”
KP tried to climb back into the game and make things interesting down the stretch. The Warriors went on an 8-0 run to close out the third with O’Connor hitting a pull-up jumper, Aaron getting to the basket, and Veilleux finally able to get some touches around the basket.
The momentum the Warriors gained during that stretch couldn’t carry over to the fourth because they just couldn’t find the range from the outside. Veilleux hit a jumper off a Faith Roy assist and O’Connor hit a mid-range shot on an inbounds pass from Kendall Mason, but KP wasn’t able to significantly cut into the Mansfield lead.
“We played really well on offense in the first half and the start of the third we were great but then we kind of went dead and the defensive intensity for them picked up,” Redding explained. “I liked the way we played, they battled back and we had to fight our way through the fourth quarter with all the pressure.”
Danehy tried to keep the Warriors at bay when she created three chances on one possession before scoring on an offensive rebound for the third time in the game. “Maggie is just so active on the boards,” Redding said. “Meg [Hill] dominated the boards for us but Maggie does it in a very different way with athleticism and great instincts and gets us those extra points.”
After knocking down six three-pointers on Tuesday night, Julia Leroux made KP’s first three of the night with the game’s final shot and got the Warriors as close as they had been since the second quarter.
“This is the first time we’ve seen it,” Siggens said about Mansfield’s ability to stop KP from getting out on the break. “I think we outscored them in the second half and that’s good, but I attribute a lot of the first half to that shock of how tough they are, how fast they are.”
The Hornets continue to hang around in the league title race, trailing Franklin by two games with one head-to-head meeting left on the schedule.
“This was a huge road win,” Redding remarked. “Every game is like an elimination game. You can’t have a hiccup or you’re done, so this is a big one for us.”
Mansfield (7-3, 6-2) will stay on the road on Tuesday night with a trip to Stoughton, while King Philip (6-3, 5-3) will head to North Attleboro to face the streaking Rocketeers.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Coming into Friday night’s game against Oliver Ames in the Albertini Gym, Mansfield coach Mike Redding wasn’t sure what he would be able to get from senior guard Sydney Mulkern, who had been sick at practice the day before.
As it turns out, the Hornets got plenty from Mulkern. She came off the bench and scored a game-high 17 points, including 13 in the second half and eight in the fourth quarter, to provide the offensive punch in an otherwise defensive struggle with the Tigers, helping the Hornets pull out a 41-32 win.
“Syd was sick all week but she gave us some minutes and just made some big shots,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said. “We really didn’t think she was going to play tonight. Yesterday she really looked awful and said she’d be able to help a little off the bench and she was probably the difference tonight.”
Neither team was really able to find a rhythm on the offensive side of the court.
The game was tied at 2-2 five minutes into the opening quarter. Maggie Danehy (13 rebounds) scored her only bucket on an offensive rebound to put the Hornets in front, but freshman Caroline Peper (nine points) answered with a three. Ashley Santos scored back-to-back baskets, but Ally Scolnick knocked down a three to tie it 8-8. Caroline Flynn also grabbed 10 rebounds in the first alone and finished with 20 boards for the Tigers.
Mulkern’s first points gave Mansfield a 10-8 lead after one, a lead that it would never relinquish.
The second quarter was even more difficult for both offenses. Mady Bendanillo (eight points and seven rebounds) scored to make it 12-8 but neither team would score again until there was 2:10 left in the quarter when freshman Hailey Bourne got her lone basket of the night for OA. Mulkern hit a layup and Megan MacVicar scored off a Bendanillo assist to make it 18-12 at the break.
“It was 18-12 at the half, come on girls can we score some points?” OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook was left asking at halftime. “We scored 57 against Foxboro and we only managed 12 in a half tonight. I’d be so happy with 41 as a points against game, but, I don’t know, offensively we just weren’t present.”
Mansfield came out in the second half and started to pull away, leading by as many as 12 points at one point. Mulkern started the third with a deep three off a pass from Kara Bendanillo (six steals and three assists). Peper cut the lead to 23-16, but Mady Bendanillo hit a huge three-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to put the Hornets up double digits and her sister followed with a layup in transition for a 28-16 lead.
“There were a lot of good athletes defending and the refs let us play us a little bit and it was just tough to get a good look,” Redding said. “Both teams are pretty well-coached on what the other team wants to do and we had some kids step up.”
OA continued to find points tough to come by, but the Tigers made a little run to cut the Hornets lead to just five. Sadie Homer got a steal and transition layup and twice Meg Holleran was able to find Scolnick (team-high 13 points) on consecutive backdoor cuts.
“We got into no rhythm but I think it was self-inflicted,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Not to discredit Mansfield’s defense because they always play good defense, but we were so out of sync. We had shot but we just didn’t finish them. We are much more capable of presenting ourselves in a better way but we just didn’t play up to our capabilities.”
Kara Bendanillo got out in transition to close the third with a layup and give the Hornets a seven-point edge heading to the fourth. Scolnick opened the fourth with a jumper to keep it close but then Mulkern broke the game wide open.
She sandwiched a Becca Hottleman steal and layup with a pair of threes (one after Kara Bendanillo kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound) to extend the lead back to 11.
OA kept the game on edge to the final whistle by causing havoc with a press, raising the energy of the team but not getting the Tigers any closer than eight points.
“We’d rather win ugly than lose. Defensively we played well but on offense we were just out of sorts,” Redding said. “We made enough shots but we never got into any rhythm and fortunately they didn’t either.”
Redding admitted that this was an important win for the Hornets, despite it still being early in the season. The Hornets, who are seeking a program-record fourth straight league title, trail division-leading Franklin by two games and are now tied with the Tigers for second in the Kelley-Rex.
“This was almost like an elimination game for us,” he said. “Now were still two back and Franklin still has OA twice, they have Foxboro, and we have Franklin at home. There’s a long way to go but you feel like we’re in it and now we need to go on a little run in January to be there in February and have a shot at a [title].”
Mansfield (5-3, 4-2) will face a tough test on Tuesday night with the visit of Canton, which has won five games in a row, while Oliver Ames (5-3, 4-2) will try to get back on track at home against Sharon before facing Franklin for the first time.
2017-2018 Record: 9-13 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Martin Crowley
The Bombardiers were just two wins shy of a playoff spot last season under new head coach Marty Crowley and Attleboro brings back three starters and has added several new faces to the roster to try and make a postseason push this winter.
The graduation of leading scorer Sam Pierce (16 points per game) means that a number of players are going to need to step in and make up for production on offense and on the glass. Senior point guard Jordyn Lako will be back to run the Bombardiers offense and provide three-point shooting, while junior Nyah Thomas is a versatile weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Both are also aggressive defenders, who set the tone on that end of the floor. Senior forward Mackenzie Roberts can score in the post or from beyond the arc and junior Liv McCall is a dynamic guard who is capable of big scoring nights.
Defense has always been the focus of teams that Crowley coaches and the Bombardiers will be no different. To keep up that defensive intensity, the Bombardiers have added depth to the rotation. Seniors Abby Struminski and Dom Garnes (who was out last season with an injury) provide leadership, while sophomores Gabby Bosh and Sonny Stuger and freshmen Meghan Gordon and Lillian Froio are newcomers to keep an eye on.
“Hopefully we can generate scoring opportunities off our defense and use our athleticism to create baskets,” said Crowley. “We have a great mix of experience and youth. We are excited about what lies ahead. Practices have been spirited and the kids have been working hard.”
2017-2018 Record: 10-11 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round. Coach: Jim Choquette
Last winter, Canton got a taste of the postseason for the first time in seven seasons and now the program will try to build on that momentum while finding a way to replace the scoring and rebounding of Hannah Jerrier, who averaged a double-double for the Bulldogs last winter. An exciting crop of underclassmen has been added to the roster and now Canton will try to build experience with a schedule that puts them on the road for the majority of the first half of the year.
While Jerrier will obviously be missed, the Bulldogs bring back the other four starters and other players with plenty of experience to try and make it a much shorter wait to get back into the playoffs. Senior point guard Julia Hamilton is back to run the offense, senior Erin Devine gives Canton control on the glass and a rim protector on defense, senior Molly Ludwig gives balance to the offense, and senior Maggie Connolly is one of the league’s top defensive players on the perimeter. Senior Nicole Galvin will add depth to the backcourt.
Junior Lilah Milton came on strong at the tail of end of last season, including a huge game in the playoff-clinching win over Weymouth, and could take up some of Jerrier’s scoring from the power forward position. Sophomore Kayla Albert gained valuable experience last season as a freshman and current rookies Sydney and Fay Gallery, and Kiara Cerruti have the potential to step right into the rotation and contribute.
“Details are everything to us,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “If our group of young talent and veteran leadership/experience can continue to stay focused on the details during the good times and tough times of a season then we should continue to improve and have a very excited and successful season.”
2017-2018 Record: 26-2 2017-2018 Finish: Won Div. 2 state championship. Coach: Lisa Downs
Last season was one to remember for the Warriors, who rolled through the regular season in dominating fashion and lived up to the team’s immense potential by bringing home the Div. 2 state title. With the graduation of a very strong senior class, the expectations are much lower for the Warriors this season but there are several returning players and new faces that have Foxboro coach Lisa Downs confident that the program can continue its recent run of success in the Davenport division.
Losing players like Ashley Sampson, Lily Sykes, Grace Tamulionis, and Shannon Smally is a challenge for any team, but the Warriors will bring back a pair of starters from the playoff run in sophomore Katelyn Mollica and junior Abby Hassman. Mollica is the team’s top returning scorer and will be one of the top point guards in the Hock with her ability to shoot and score off the dribble. Hassman gives Foxboro a strong presence on the glass and showed increased confidence in her offensive game at the end of last season. Senior Chelsea Gibbons and junior Lizzy Davis should see increased minutes and bigger roles in the offense this year.
Juniors Shakirah Ketant and Yara Fawaz should give Foxboro more depth in the post and contribute on the glass and both saw limited minutes in the playoffs last winter. Sophomores Adrienne Dunn and Jordyn Collins will be newcomers to the backcourt and have impressed during the preseason, while junior forward Anita Busznyak is expected to see a lot more time this year and could be a player to watch.
Downs is hoping this year’s team will learn from the graduating class. She said, “The time they spent practicing with and playing against these girls has really paid off – they know what is expected of them on the court and what is required to be a winning team. We have established a winning culture at Foxboro and the players know that I expect nothing more than what they should expect from themselves.”
2017-2018 Record: 15-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Central first round. Coach: John Leighton
The Panthers bring back 10 players from last year’s roster, which reached the state tournament but lost in the opening round to Natick, and there are high expectations on Oak St. as the new season gets underway. Franklin enters the season as the favorite in the Kelley-Rex division and its balanced lineup has the potential to make a run in the state tournament as well.
Much of the enthusiasm for Franklin’s chances this winter come from 6-foot-3 center Ali Brigham. The junior recently committed to George Washington (where her father once played) and is the lone returning player from last season HockomockSports.com First Team. While she (deservedly) garners much of the attention, the Panthers have a number of other weapons to give the opposition headaches. Senior guard Bea Bondhus, who committed to Springfield College, is one of the top three-point shooters in the Hock and sophomore guard Elizabeth Wilson is back from an injury that cut short the promising start to her varsity career.
The Panthers will also bring back versatile junior forwards Megan O’Connell and Breanna Atwood, who add size in the paint but can also take defenders off the dribble or knock down outside shots. Seniors Hailey Sanders and Calen Frongillo add depth to the frontcourt, while senior Shannon Gray and juniors Kelsey MacCallum and Sydney Garilli are capable of stepping in at either guard position.
“It is our goal to compete each night and to improve from last year,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “With 10 returning players, we feel our experience will help us to better prepare for the season and compete against the best in our league.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Amy Siggens
King Philip had to battle injuries throughout head coach Amy Siggens’ first year in charge, including a late season injury to leading scorer Shannon O’Connor, but the Warriors are healthy coming into this season and with a year to get use to a new system, confidence is high that KP can make a push up the standings and fight for a postseason berth this winter.
O’Connor is the key piece returning for the Warriors. A four-year varsity player who has been recruited by Div. I college programs, O’Connor gives KP a consistent scorer and someone who will draw opposing defenses. Senior Julia Leroux will be back at the point and running the KP offense, while junior Faith Roy is the team’s best outside threat and has developed as a ball-handler who can score in a variety of ways. Sophomore Emma Glaser, who battled injuries throughout her freshman season, will add versatility to the lineup and can play multiple positions and her classmate Courtney Keswick is a newcomer to watch in the backcourt.
The Warriors will also have strength in the post with senior Catherine Cummings providing a solid presence on the glass and junior Faye Veilleux giving KP length and athleticism at the forward position. Newcomers like junior Taylor Butler and returning senior Kendall Mason will give added depth and strong play on the defensive end of the floor.
There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding our team this year with our sights on continued growth and improvement upon our overall record from a year ago,” Siggens said. “Our practices have been very competitive and I’m encouraged by our team’s attitude and overall interest in getting better. I like this team a lot and I look forward to the challenge of helping each girl reach her maximum potential.”
2017-2018 Record: 20-6 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
After three straight league titles and four trips to the Div. 1 South semifinal in the past four seasons (including back-to-back finals), Mansfield has been one of the most consistent teams in the Hockomock League, but the Hornets enter this season trying to replace Meg Hill, who scored more than 1,000 points and pulled down more than 1,000 points in her stellar career. With 10 seniors and loads of athleticism, this might be a very different looking Mansfield attack, but one that has the potential to keep the Hornets right back on top in the Kelley-Rex division and capable of making another deep tournament run.
The Hornets have been known for slowing the ball down and running intricate sets, but this team is suited for getting up and down the court as quickly as possible, highlighted by senior guard Mady Bendanillo, one of the quickest players in the Hock. Senior forward Maggie Danehy has emerged as a strong interior scorer and someone who can control the glass, but she is also someone who can run like a guard and get out on the break for easy baskets. Seniors Sydney Mulkern and Erin Daniel add wing scoring and are both solid shooters who can spread the floor and open lanes to the basket.
Athletic senior forwards Emily Vigeant and Steph Kemp can outrun many of the guards in the league and senior point guard Kara Bendanillo is another speedster who can push the ball off makes or misses. Sophomore Ashley Santos saw time last year as a rookie and adds to the frontcourt depth and versatility, while junior Becca Hottleman will be back to give Mansfield another option at guard.
It is a different feel to the lineup but one that Mansfield coach Mike Redding feels can be effective. He said, “We need to rebound as a team and must change our style to up-tempo with defensive pressure/fast breaks and play to our strengths (athleticism and depth).”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central quarterfinal. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Milford coach T.J. Dolliver brings back six players from the team that not only reached the state tournament last season but also went on the road and beat Burncoat handily, the program’s first playoff win since 2001. The problem for the Hawks is that almost the entire rotation from last year’s team has graduated, including 1,000-point scorer Kate Irwin.
While this may be a rebuilding year for the Hawks, Dolliver sees it as an opportunity for players to step into new roles and establish themselves as starters and as regular contributors. The lone senior back from last year is forward Grace Risio, who Dolliver said made a difference when she was given the opportunity last year, and sophomore guard Jillian Michelson saw some time in the backcourt as a rookie.
The Hawks will have eight sophomores on the roster this season, so it is clear that Milford is going to try and build with youth, similar to several teams from last year. Among the players from last year’s roster, forwards Katie Maietta, guard Emma Lawrence, and forward Carly Ferreira all got time as freshmen and could see those minutes increase significantly this winter.
Dolliver said, “With our entire rotation graduating last year, there are a lot of opportunities waiting for everyone in the program. It will be exciting to watch who emerges within the group and elevates their game to compete at the varsity level.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Derek Herber
Last year was a tough transition season for the Rocketeers, as North Attleboro moved on from a number of players who were starters for several years and incorporated a number of new, young faces into the lineup. North had a better second half to the season and will try to build on that this winter with a more experienced group of players.
Senior Julia Feid is back on the wing and is North’s top returning scorer, coming off a season in which she averaged more than nine points per game. Fellow seniors Liz Smahi and Emma Noreck will add leadership in the backcourt and try to set the direction for the team this year. Junior point guard Olivia Forbes, who was on the HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team last season, will be back to get the offense going and provide strong defense on the perimeter. Junior Eliza Dion also returns to add rebounding and interior scoring for a team that can’t count on a lot of height in the paint.
The North offense improved over the course of last season with the addition of sophomore Amanda Kaiser (8.6 points per game) and junior Julia Kleczkowski (40 percent from three-point range), who can both fill it up from the outside and who are both willing to take any shot that presents itself. Several newcomers will fill out the roster with the potential of adding important minutes over the course of the season, including sophomore Lydia Santos and Siobhan Weir.
“We will rely on Julia Feid to be our first option on offense and the sooner we can develop a consistent second option will be a factor in the early part of the season,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “The inside scoring option will hopefully be Eliza Dion, while both Amanda Kaiser and Julia Kleczkowski showed an ability to stretch the defense with their outside shooting in limited time last year.”
2017-2018 Record: 16-6 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal. Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames will be making a transition this year following the graduation of Kayla Raymond, who was a two-time HockomockSports.com First Team performer and last year’s league MVP (and is already a three-time Rookie of the Week at Stonehill College), but the Tigers have a number of returning players to try and make up for Raymond’s production on both ends of the floor and make another run at a league title.
Senior Alex Sheldon grew in confidence over the course of last season and became a double-double machine by the end of the year, dominating on the glass and improving her finishing around the rim. Junior Erin Holberg emerged last year as a strong scorer on the perimeter with her touch from the outside and ability to take defenders off the dribble. Junior Meg Holleran is in her third season on varsity and is a tough, physical defender who can knock down shots from the outside.
Sophomore Caroline Flynn had a strong freshman season, playing several positions (from point guard to small forward), crashing the boards, and showing off decent range. The return of senior Sadie Homer will add energy on both ends of the floor and give the Tigers another strong outside shooter to stretch the floor, while senior Ally Scolnick came off the bench last season to add another shooter to the OA offense.
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook said of the experienced returning players, “They will lead the youngest team OA has put on the court in quite a long time. We are looking towards gaining valuable game experience and coming into to our own as the season progresses.”
2017-2018 Record: 2-18 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Sanda Lombardi
It was a tough winter for new Sharon coach Sandra Lombardi, as the Eagles struggled to a two-win season, but five of their losses were by 10 points or fewer and they return all but one player from last season’s team. With a year to get acclimated to Lombardi’s system, an experienced roster of returning players, and several newcomers, Sharon has its sights set on getting into the postseason for the first time since its run to the Div. 2 South final in 2013.
Sharon returns its leading scorer and playmaker in senior Emma Eberhardt, who was on the HockomockSports.com Third Team last season, and she will once again be the focal point of the offense, as well as one of the team’s leading defenders. Eberhardt’s versatility as a wing player should open things up for junior guards Kaitlyn Wallace and Ally Brown, who will both fill in as ball-handlers after the graduation of Miranda Cheung. Wallace will extend defenses with her shooting from the outside and Brown adds energy to the backcourt defense.
Senior guard Bridget McManus will add depth and junior forward Telishya Herbert provides a strong presence in the paint. Junior Olivia Langol-Leonard added frontcourt depth and was active on the glass in her time on the court, while senior forward Evanjuline Elisma can score in transition and adds another solid wing defender.
“We only lost one player due to graduation,” said Lombardi. “We have the entire team back and we added some height. I’m excited to see what the season brings. The girls are working hard and our goal is to qualify for the postseason.”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal. Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
Stoughton started last season with five straight defeats and only one win in the opening eight games, but the Black Knights turned things around with a vengeance, winning 11 of its final 12 games of the regular season and winning its opening game of the state tournament. Stoughton’s only two losses in its final 14 games of the season were to state champion Foxboro. That is a lot of momentum for the Black Knights to carry into this year.
It may be a little different look for Stoughton this winter after the graduation of Val Whalen and Jordan Motley. Instead of being a team that dominates the paint, there will be a host of guards and wing players who can still battle on the glass, but will bring energy and tenacity on the perimeter on both ends of the court. Junior Aliyah Wright is back as the team’s point guard and her length makes her a factor guarding multiple positions. Senior Lindsay McDonald adds versatility as a combo guard and sophomore Sydnee Hyacinthe is a dynamic guard and stretches defenses with her ability to shoot from the outside.
While there are a lot of familiar faces returning for the Black Knights, there are several players who will have more responsibility this year and the potential to make big contributions. Junior Lexi Baptista defends well at the forward position and gives a different look on the post, while seniors Hailey Egan and Heather Maddalena will add extra toughness to the backcourt. Junior Shyanne Trinh is still battling an injury at the beginning of the season, but she will give Stoughton a big scoring boost when she returns.
“This season will be all about our effort, energy and enthusiasm on defense,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “The Black Knights will be most successful when we put in work on the defensive end and finish each play with a Black Knights rebound.”
2017-2018 Record: 7-15 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton started last winter well and had the potential for making a return to the state tournament, but injuries slowed things down for the Tigers and they missed out on the postseason. While the year didn’t end the way they would have hoped, a number of younger players were given valuable varsity experience and there are a number of returning players ready to make an impact.
Senior Lily Patneaude will be the player to watch for the Tigers, as the team’s leading scorer from last year. After battling an injury down the stretch, her return gives Taunton a consistent primary offensive weapon and takes some of the scoring pressure off her teammates. Senior point guard Alexa White is also back to provide leadership, energy, and tenacity on the defensive end of the floor. Sophomore Kelsey White showed flashes as a rookie of being the secondary scorer that Taunton needs, with her ability to knock down shots from the outside and take defenders off the dribble.
Even with a year of experience, Taunton is still a relatively young team. Sophomores Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez will provide athleticism from the forward positions and give Taunton effort in the paint, while sophomore Tori DaRose, and freshmen Abby Souza (who saw brief minutes as an eighth-grader last season) and Braeley MacDonald give the Tigers depth off the bench.
“We have great group of enthusiast student athletes consisting of senior leadership, youth, athleticism, and talent,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan. “This team is looking forward to a fun and exciting season.”
BOSTON, Mass. – A lot has happened over the last 80-plus years in the annual clash between Mansfield and Foxboro football.
But the storied rivalry between the Hornets and Warriors has never had a game like Tuesday night’s contest at Fenway Park.
Foxboro outlasted Mansfield, 35-33, in triple overtime on the historic field inside Fenway Park — the first overtime game in series history.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said longtime Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli. “Our kids going in as the underdog, they played harder than I’ve ever seen them play and I’m proud of them all.
“There were a lot of things at stake for us. We struggled a bit in the first half of the year, and I saw a vast improvement the second half of the year. The kids won four of their last five games so I’m pretty pleased for the kids. Two great teams, a great rivalry, we have the utmost respect for Coach Redding and his kids. It was a battle of wills I guess and we outlasted so I’m pretty happy.”
After being limited to six points through the first three quarters, Foxboro scored four times between the fourth quarter and three overtime periods.
On the flip side, Mansfield orchestrated a game-tying drive over the final 2:32, driving 63 yards before tying the game with just two seconds left.
“[Foxboro] played hard, it was a great game,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “We told the Fenway people we have a great rivalry, we play great football, we’re going to bring a great crowd and we did all of it. We had two very good teams battle to the end, it was like a three hour game, and we had a great crowd in the cold, They made one more play. It was a classic and a great effort by both teams.”
After the teams remained tied through two overtime periods, Foxboro was able to make one final stop to secure the win. The Warriors started on offense in the third overtime and found the end zone on second down. Senior quarterback Liam Foley (10-for-17, 165 yards, three touchdowns) hit classmate Mike Luong in the flat for a 9-yard touchdown. Foley rolled right then threw back across his body to an open Rob Fay for the two point conversion and a 35-27 lead.
Mansfield punched it in on third down on a carry from sophomore Cincere Gill (12 carries, 104 yards) from three yards out to make it 35-33. Gill dove into the pylon on the two-point attempt but Mansfield was called for holding and had to attempt the two-point conversion from the 13-yard line.
Junior quarterback Jack Mousette (11-for-20, 82 yards, one touchdown) nearly connected with a receiver but a nice tackle forced the pass incomplete and Foxboro held on for the win.
In the first overtime, Foley dodged some pressure to connect with Brian Derba for a 10-yard touchdown on third down but the two-point rush failed. Mansfield tied the game on its first play with Aidan Sacco (10 carries, 86 yards) using a QB option to keep it himself for a 10-yard score. After a delay of game, Mansfield’s two-point attempt from the 8-yard line was shut down.
Foxboro had a chance to win it in the second overtime, but similar to Mansfield in the opening extra period, the defense came up big. Mansfield elected to pass on a 23-yard field goal (with starting kicker Michael DeBolt out hurt) and went for it on 4th and goal from the 6. Mousette hit Danny Rapoza right at the 1-yard line but Foxboro’s Shayne Kerrigan made a terrific leaping tackle to prevent the ball from crossing the goal line.
Foxboro ran it twice before trotting its field goal unit out on third down for a 23-yard attempt. But Russell Neale’s attempt at a walk-off win at Fenway was denied by sophomore TJ Guy, who jumped high into the air and blocked the kick, leading to the third OT where Foxboro ended up winning.
“I couldn’t have written a script any better for the seniors,” Martinelli said. “They were resilient, they hung tough. Even when it looked like momentum had swung a little bit, they came up and made some plays for us. I couldn’t be prouder of a bunch of kids than what I saw tonight.
“Couldn’t be happier for the kids to go out this way.”
Before the teams got to overtime, Foxboro nearly had the game won in regulation. The Warriors stopped Mansfield inside the red zone (with the Hornet drive hampered by a bad snap and Pat Stapleton coming up with a big hit on fourth down) and had the chance to kill the block. Facing a 4th and inches from their own 40 yard line, Foley went back and tried to hand the ball off to each of his backs but instead pulled it back in for a bootleg run to the let side and converted.
Three plays later, on a third and 9 play from the 43 yard line, Kerrigan came in motion and Foley faked the handoff on the jet sweep. The senior quarterback looked back to his right to get the defense to move in that direction and turned back to his left and lofted a pass to Kerrigan out on the sideline on a wheel route. Kerrigan did the rest, racing to a 57-yard score and a 21-13 lead with 2:32 to play.
“I never could have imagined a game like that,” Foley said after being named MVP for the game. “We knew coming in we were playing a really good team in Mansfield so this is unbelievable. We knew we had to play the best we could and I think everybody gave everything they could tonight.”
With just one timeout, Mansfield responded and marched 63 yards to tie the game. Joe Plath, who took over tailback duties with Vinnie Holmes, Michael DeBolt, and Nick Marciano sidelined and was named Hornet MVP, had an eight yard run to convert an early 4th and two from the Mansfield 45-yard line, and four plays later, with the Hornets staring at 4th and 7, Mousette used his legs to get 16 yards and a first.
Another run from Plath on third down (3rd and 1 from the 19) got Mansfield inside the red zone with under 30 seconds to play. On third and goal from the 5 yard line, Mousette lofted one to Khristian Conner on the right side and Conner made a terrific catch while going to the ground for the touchdown.
Mansfield went back to the ground for the two-point conversion with Gill taking the sweep left and cutting up the middle to tie the game 21-21 with just two seconds left.
The Hornets took a 6-0 lead in the first half on a five-yard plunge from Plath, but had two turnovers in the opening frame to stop them from padding the lead. Hunter Williams forced an errant throw that Martin McIlroy hauled in for an interception and Anton George fell on a loose ball after a bad handoff exchange. Mike Sheehan had a fumble recovery in the second half for Foxboro.
“Way too many turnovers for us,” Redding said. “It probably should have been 21-0 at half but it’s only 6-0 and [Foxboro] has a game, which is what they wanted. They started believing a little bit and we couldn’t shake them. We kept answering but we just let them hang around. And when a call doesn’t go your way, it changes the game and we had a lot them not go our away.”
Foxboro tied the contest 6-6 on its opening drive of the second half. Foley orchestrated a nine-play, 78 yard drive that included a 40-yard pass and (terrific leaping) catch from Fay. Luong capped it with a 1-yard score.
The game was tied for just 21 seconds though. On the first play of Mansfield’s ensuing drive, Sacco used a QB option to keep the ball and darted up the middle for a 68-yard score and a 13-6 lead after Gill hit the extra point.
The Warriors pulled ahead early in the fourth quarter. Foxboro’s pass was incomplete on 4th and 4 from the six but Mansfield was whistled for offside, and then two straight unsportsmanlike conduct calls after that. Foxboro capitalized with Luong plunging in from 2 yards out. Luong also got the two-point conversion, albeit a little help from the offensive line with a big push after the Hornets had the original stop, to give Foxboro a 14-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Foxboro football finishes the season 5-6 while Mansfield closes out the 2018 campaign with a 8-3 record.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – All the build-up to Friday night’s Kelley-Rex division title showdown at Alumni Field presumed that Mansfield and Attleboro were going to slug it out in a defensive battle with points difficult to come by. It turned out to be the exact opposite.
Senior Khristian Conner scored with 32 seconds remaining in the game to give Mansfield the edge over the Bombardiers 42-35 and clinch the Hornets at least a share of the league title. It is Mansfield’s first division championship since 2013.
“It means everything,” said Conner about getting back on top in the league. “We worked hard over the summer for it. We just kept with it, didn’t let anything stop us and we just got the win. It feels amazing. It feels awesome.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding added, “This was an unbelievable high school football game. They came to play, they answered every time we had the momentum. Thank god we answered when they did.” Redding joked, “So many plays on both sides…it will be a fun one to watch; it was a tough one to coach.”
Attleboro took its only lead of the game with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. Justin Cote (seven carries, 50 yards), who had also caught a 20-yard pass on the go-ahead drive, raced up the middle for a 12-yard score that tied the game at 34-34. Two false starts pushed the extra point attempt back 10 yards but sophomore Colby Briggs was unfazed and split the uprights to put the visitors in front.
The Bombardiers had forced Mansfield to punt just twice on the night, but after Nick Evans sacked Hornets quarterback Aidan Sacco for no gain the hosts faced fourth and 10 from their own 26. Sacco (5-of-8, 111 yards) bought time and hit Cincere Gill for 28 yards over the middle. The sophomore, who rushed for three touchdowns on the night, was covered but managed to pull in the pass to keep the game alive.
Sacco (nine carries, 79 yards) rushed for nine yards and then broke free on a keeper to the left sideline for 26 yards and got out of bounds at the Attleboro 11. On the next play, Conner completed the comeback by finding a seam right up the gut for the score.
“They’re a really good team – good defensive team, good on offense – and they have great players but we just had to fight through it to be the better team,” Conner said.
Attleboro’s offense had found ways to come back all game long, but with only 32 seconds, there just wasn’t enough time to get up the field and a pass to Cote for four yards on fourth and 10 ended the game.
“Our offense played really, really well,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “Weir played awesome, it was just back-and-forth. We could definitely win the game, we just didn’t give him enough time at the end.”
Both offenses were able to move the ball from the opening kick-off. Mansfield took its opening possession 56 yards on seven plays to get a quick lead. Gill finished off the drive with a seven-yard sweep.
The Bombardiers returned the favor with a 12-play, 75-yard drive on its first possession. Attleboro surprised the Hornets by going to the air with greater frequency than usual and junior Jason Weir (18-29, 251 yards) had a big night, hitting nine different receivers. After catching a halfback pass from Ethan Cameron (five catches, 69 yards), Weir capped the drive with a three-yard toss to Jacob Weatherford.
Mansfield got the lead back late in the second quarter when Sacco threw a 26-yard strike to Conner, who had gotten wide open in the front corner of the end zone. Attleboro answered right back, as Weir connected with sophomore Justin Daniels to make it 14-14 with 2:28 left in the half.
That was plenty of time for Mansfield to add another touchdown. Sacco got the Hornets to the Attleboro 31 and then Gill broke free for his second score of the night. He cut back on a sweep, finding a hole in the middle of the line and exploding through it.
“He’s special and I think we have a very good running back,” Redding said of Gill. “Vinnie [Holmes] had some decent runs, but they were bottling us up inside and Khristian ran hard, Cincere ran hard, Aidan had some nice runs and throws and just doing enough to overcome some injuries.”
Even with just a minute on the clock, Attleboro was able to get the ball into the red zone again and had a touchdown called back when the officials ruled Weir had cross the line of scrimmage before he threw. Makhi Baskin picked off the final throw of the half. Coming out of the break, the Bombardiers got the ball again, but on the first play Weir was stripped of the ball and Holmes recovered for the Hornets at the Attleboro 23.
Mansfield took advantage of the short field and Sacco got on the board with an 11-yard keeper to make it 28-14. It felt like the Hornets were about to break the game wide open. Instead, Attleboro came right back down field and cut the lead to one score. A 13-play, 75 yard drive ended on a one-yard sneak by Weir to make it 28-21.
The track meet continued on Mansfield’s next possession. Sacco hit Conner for a 26-yard completion to get into Attleboro territory. Four plays later, on fourth and two from the 21, Gill took another sweep around the end and broke free, adding his third touchdown of the night. Attleboro would give itself a lifeline by blocking Michael DeBolt’s extra point attempt, but it was a 13-point Mansfield lead.
Attleboro made it a quick response. Weir got the ball out to the sideline to Kevin Velazquez-Rivera, who then turned up field and showed off his speed for a 45-yard touchdown. Evans made a huge stop on third and five, stuffing Sacco for a four-yard loss and forcing a rare Mansfield punt.
The Bombardiers came right back, with Weir connecting with Cameron on a fourth down pass to the near sideline that kept the drive going. After a 20-yard completion to Cote, the senior running back took it himself, going straight up the middle for the 12-yard TD. Briggs held his nerve to put Attleboro in front and on the verge of arguably the program’s biggest win since its move to the Hock.
But, Mansfield showed that it has some grit as well. The Hornets found a way to pull out the victory and will go into the final week of the regular season with a chance to clinch the title outright.
“These games just always seem to go back-and-forth,” Strachan said. “We’ve just got to bounce back against Franklin and play well. I thought we did a good job; they’ve got athletes everywhere, you’ve got to defend everything.”
Redding noted that the Hornets lost a pair of seniors, Chris Copponi and Daenin Walker, to injuries. He said, “We’ve had adversity every week but still find a way to beat an awfully good football team.”
Mansfield (5-1, 4-0) will travel to Oliver Ames next week to try and close out a perfect league campaign and potentially take the top spot in Div. 2 South. Attleboro (4-2, 2-2) will try to bounce back and possibly secure a first round home game in the Div. 1 South tournament with a trip to Franklin.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – After a spectacular second half that featured a combined five touchdowns from Mansfield football and King Philip, it all came down to one final play.
King Philip quarterback Robbie Jarest (12/20, 206 yards, 3 touchdowns) found Tim Nault (four receptions, 58 yards, three touchdowns) for an 18-yard touchdown with just 39 seconds to go in the game, bringing the visiting Warriors to within just one point.
The Warriors elected to go for the win, keeping the offense on the field for a two-point attempt. But pressure from a leaping TJ Guy off the left side forced Jarest to loft a throw off his back foot, and the pass fell short, sealing a 28-27 win for the host Hornets in the HockomockSports.com Game of the Week.
“That was about as good as it gets,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “You go into overtime, you just never know. I think they had a good play call, and on the road, you go for the win. We’re lucky we survived it. They made so many plays in the last five minutes, I’m glad we survived the last one and got the win out of it. This was a great game with two great teams battling literally until the last play. This was as good as it gets in high school.”
King Philip had a 14-7 advantage to begin the second half, but Mansfield scored three times during a span of 2:17, scoring two touchdowns late in the third and one on the first play of the fourth to seize a 28-14 advantage.
Things were looking good for the Hornets, as they carried that lead over five minutes into the fourth. But the Warrior refused to quit. After starting at midfield, Jarest found Nault on the fifth play of the drive – again on fourth down – for an 11-yard score, getting with one touchdown, down 28-21 with 4:08 to play.
KP’s defense did its part, forcing a three and out and Nault put the Warriors in good position, taking the punt return to the Mansfield 49-yard line with just 2:06 left. After three straight incompletions, Jarest hit Deric Casado for 19 yards and a first down with 1:38 to go. Two plays later, Jarest connecting with Casado again and used a sneak to get a first down at the 18-yard line with 57 seconds left.
Jarest hit Nault for a touchdown on the next play, setting up the two-point conversion attempt.
“On the road, I just wanted to go,” said KP head coach Brian Lee of the decision to go for two and the win. “I would have liked to have a timeout, get the right play call that we wanted there but in the end, we wanted to go for it, I’m just not sure we had what we wanted. We had to burn a lot of timeouts in the third quarter and that kind of put us in a bind down the stretch.”
While King Philip’s comeback attempt was impressive, Mansfield’s stretch to end the third quarter and begin the fourth was a complete game changer.
The Warriors opened the second half with a 14-7 lead and the ball. In typical fashion, KP marched down the field on 11-plays, moving into Mansfield territory and eating up over five minutes of clock.
But the Hornets got the stop they needed and forced a turnover on downs. Two plays into Mansfield’s ensuing drive, quarterback Aidan Sacco (seven rushes, 66 yards), kept the option play himself and scampered 42 yards. Two plays later, Cincere Gill took the jet sweep to the left side for a 7-yard touchdown, tying the game 14-14 after Michael DeBolt’s extra point (4/4 PAT).
“We felt like if we could score and tie it at home, we could get some momentum. We just had that run there where everything went right. Give [King Philip] credit, it looked like they were on the ropes and they battled back and found a way to get it to one play to win the game, and we made a good defensive play. These are two good football teams, I guarantee we’ll play again. I just hope its in the South final and not the first or second round.
King Philip tried to pass for a first down on its next series, but Mansfield’s Vinnie Holmes leaped into the air to snag an interception, giving the Hornets terrific field position. On Mansfield’s first place, Nick Marciano bounced off a tackle up the middle, cut out to the right, and then cut back past two defenders to give Mansfield a 21-14 on a 31-yard touchdown rush.
On the ensuing kickoff, Mansfield’s Sean Weber was able to knock the ball free, and junior Jack Cappelletti pounced. Two plays later, Sacco kept it himself and went for a 23-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“We talked about what we needed to fix at halftime, and we just came out in the second half and made plays,” Sacco said. “The defense stepped up and made plays, the offense had some big runs, and I think that helped us.
“We like to establish the run game early on, and we have the three backs. With those three, when the third and fourth quarters come around, they aren’t expecting me to pull it and run. We used it a couple of times and got a couple of breaks and capitalized on it.”
With 10:51 left in the game, Mansfield led 28-14.
“I think that stop [early in the second half] and then Aidan popped a big one,” Redding said of what turned things around. “Just getting it tied up, we were able to feed off that. We got another stop and got the momentum and the crowd behind us, and I think they had a turnover, and we were able to take advantage of.
“Just having that fourth running option makes a big difference. It’s hard to defend three good backs, but when you add the QB as the fourth, it can really complicate things defensively.”
For as entertaining as the second half was, neither team really settled in during the first half. Both teams opened with a punt, and then the Warriors capitalized on a bad snap on the second Hornet drive for great field position. Mansfield’s defense held strong, and KP settled for a 23-yard field goal from Cole Baker with 3:31 left in the opening quarter.
Mansfield didn’t wait long to respond. On the first play of the next drive, Marciano found some space up the middle, cut back and turned on the jets, racing for an 80-yard touchdown and a 7-3 advantage.
KP’s offense marched 66 yards on its third drive, using 10 plays – mostly on the back of junior running back Ryan Halliday (27 carries, 90 yards) – to get close to the Mansfield red zone. But a big tackle for loss from Philip Dinov, and a tipped pass from linebacker Chris Copponi forced the Warriors to settle for a 33-yard boot from Baker.
The Hornet offense sputtered for the rest of the first half, and a punt-turned-run fell well short of the sticks. KP made the Hornets pay as Jarest connected with a wide-open Nault for a 24-yard touchdown. KP converted the two-point conversion, but it was called back for a hold. The Warriors went for two again anyways, and the pass was incomplete.
Mansfield ended up going backward 10 yards on its next drive, pinned deep in its own territory. On fourth down, Sacco killed some clock out of the punt formation before taking an intentional safety, giving KP a 14-7 lead with 1:56 left in the half.
“I will say, the one thing that we’re doing decent right now, is that when we’re on the field, we compete,” Lee said. “We still make a lot of mistakes which is on me. I don’t think we’re overly talented but they compete, and they put themselves in a position to steal that game at the end. I think we can build on that because that was a tough team we played today.”
Redding said he felt giving up the two points on the safety was a better option than a Baker field goal, or a KP touchdown.
“We felt like they had a lot of momentum and we felt like if we punted out of our end zone, they were going to get the ball at the 30 or 35-yard line, and at minimum, they bang a field goal,” Redding said. “If they score, now we’re in trouble. We felt like if we went down seven, it was still in reach. Thank god the defense stopped them after the kick, or you really look like an idiot there. But we got it to seven and then got the stop and survived it. It just felt like we couldn’t get out of that end of the field.”
Mansfield football (3-1 overall, 2-0 Kelley-Rex) takes sole possession of first place in the Kelley-Rex with the win. The Hornets are back in action when they travel to Taunton (3-1, 1-1). King Philip (2-2, 1-1) will try to bounce back when it welcome Thanksgiving Day rival Franklin (3-1, 1-1) to Macktaz Field.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield started Friday night’s league-opener at Alumni Field with back-up quarterback Jack Mousette under center. He lasted two series before an injury, following a 38-yard run, sent him to the sidelines for the rest of the night. With starter Damani Scott unavailable and Mousette on the bench with his arm wrapped in ice, the Hornets turned to senior Aidan Sacco to be the emergency QB.
Sacco only threw five times in the game, but he completed three of those passes for 42 yards and the Mansfield defense clamped down, forcing three turnovers in the second half and shutting Franklin out until the final two minutes of a 24-6 victory.
“It’s a gutsy win,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Jack comes in and did a nice job running the ball but the danger doing that is your QB is going to run and get hit and he just landed funny. Aidan Sacco came in…he’s never played quarterback in his life and he leads us to a win against a good football team, so we’ll take it.”
Franklin started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2012 and was looking for its first win against Mansfield since its unbeaten 2009 season. The Panthers moved the ball well, but failed to finish drives, twice reaching the red zone but both times coming away with no points.
“It was one of those night where try as we may, we did everything wrong that we could’ve from bad special teams snap, we dropped two touchdowns, every time they put the ball on the ground they got it back” Franklin coach Eian Bain said. “I even think we executed, we just didn’t finish the big plays.”
The Panthers drove all the way to the Mansfield 15-yard-line on their opening possession. Junior Thomas Gasbarro completed two of his three passes, both to Sean Leonard (six catches, 82 yards), but a draw play at the 19 lost six yards and eventually his keeper on fourth and 15 only gained nine to end the drive.
Mansfield made quick work of an 85-yard drive, needing only four plays, to take the lead, but in the process lost its starting quarterback. After Nick Marciano broke free on the right side for a 28-yard gain out to the 43, Mousette raced for 38 yards down to the Franklin 19 but was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury. Two plays later, Sacco went up the middle for a 14-yard score.
Sacco also fielded punts and his 29-yard return gave the Hornets the ball back at the Franklin 41. Junior Vinnie Holmes (11 carries, 65 yards) gained 27 yards on two carries to get the ball all the way to the Panthers 12, but a fumble on the next hand-off forced Sacco to retreat 18 yards. Two plays later, Michael DeBolt, who was also 3-for-3 on extra points, booted a 35-yard kick for a 10-0 lead.
Franklin’s offense went right back to work on its next possession. Senior Nick Gordon (10-23, 174 yards) was the new quarterback and he found Leonard twice in a row for 43 yards down to the Mansfield 17. On third and seven from the 14, Gordon scrambled and his pass to Ryan Driscoll in the back of the end zone was inches over the receiver’s head. The Panthers settled for a field goal attempt but Parker Chevrant’s kick was wide right from 30 yards.
Gasbarro intercepted a Sacco pass to end the next Hornets drive, but he slipped on the return and couldn’t gain extra yards after the turnover. Franklin was forced to punt from its own 32, but a high snap rushed the play and it was sliced out of bounds just six yards downfield.
Mansfield made the great starting field position count to add a score before the break. After an incomplete pass, Sacco hit Holmes in the flat for a 28-yard gain. Sacco was unable to handle the next shotgun snap but Holmes was able to scoop the loose ball and gain eight yards. On the next play, he bulldozed for two more and a three-score lead.
Redding said of the late touchdown to end the first half, “That was big. You outplay them but it’s only 10 and you give them the ball to start the half and they score and it’s a whole different game. Then we thought, if we can win the third quarter, which it ended up 0-0, as long as we didn’t let them get back to two scores.”
The third quarter was marred by turnovers by both teams. Gordon was intercepted by Cincere Gill and then sacked by Chris Copponi and Daenin Walker to end a possession. Austin Jordan recovered a Mansfield fumble to get it back for the Panthers but only three plays later the Panthers put the ball on the ground and Jack Barry recovered.
“We do a pretty good regrouping, but I think we pressed a little on the first drive coming out,” said Bain. “Then we moved the ball again and we moved the ball again, but we all took turns tonight, coaches included, making the little mistakes. When you play the best, you can’t play anything but your best and we weren’t at our best tonight.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Walker forced another fumble that was recovered by Copponi at midfield. Gill (eight carries, 95 yards) gained four yards on first down and then burst through the right side of the line and raced 46 yards for the touchdown that sealed the win.
The Panthers didn’t give up and responded in just four plays. Gordon hit Driscoll on a go route down the near sideline that made sure there wouldn’t be a shutout. The two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.
Mansfield came away with a win, but the Hornets will now head into a showdown with two-time defending league champion King Philip with a third-string quarterback at the helm. According to Redding, the Hornets will be relying even more on their defense to come through.
“We had to get this one,” Redding admitted. “We lose this with a quarterback going down, now we’re fighting a losing battle. Now, Aidan’s got some confidence playing in a game. Our guys will be ready for next Friday. They’ve had our number the last few years and we’ll be ready to play.”
Mansfield (2-1, 1-0) will host King Philip at Alumni Field on Friday night, while Franklin (2-1, 0-1) will try to bounce back right away when Oliver Ames visits Pisini Field.
Injuries hampered Attleboro right from the start of the 2017 season, but the 2018 Bombardiers are healthy and hoping for a big turnaround this fall to compete with the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division and make a return to the postseason.
The graduation of quarterback Cam Furtado is a significant loss on offense, but the Bombardiers will hand the ball to junior Jason Weir, who has a big arm and a lot of potential at the QB position. Size and strength won’t be a problem for Weir, who played defensive end as a sophomore. Seniors Justin Cote and Alex Rodriguez will be the primary backs for Attleboro this year and give the Bombardiers dynamic weapons out of the backfield. The offensive line is bolstered by 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior Qualeem Charles and 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior Nick Evans. At 6-foot-3, junior Nolan Jaeger will be a weapon at receiver along with senior Josh Therrien and sophomore tight end Michael Strachan.
Evans battled injuries at the start of last season, but he is one of the top defensive linemen in the league and is drawing Div. I college offers. Attleboro will be a tough team to run against this season with Evans on the end and Charles (who is also getting DI looks) and 6-foot-3, 365-pound senior Eddie Porreca on the inside. Strachan and junior Isaac Gudiel will be starting at inside linebacker, while senior Desmond Woodson will be starting on the outside. Therrien is capable of making plays downfield at his free safety position and will be the leader of the secondary.
“I am looking forward to the 2018 season,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have a strong senior class and we have strong leadership on our football team. Our team worked out hard in the off-season and I am looking forward to that hard work paying off this season.”
Third-year head coach Eian Bain is optimistic about the 2018 season, and the long list of players returning with plenty of experience is a big reason why. The Panthers have over a dozen players back that started or saw significant time on offense and the same goes for the defense, include a very seasoned secondary.
Franklin must replace three-year starter Jake Noviello at quarterback but Bain is confident that a healthy competition between senior Nick Gordon and junior Thomas Gasbarro will result in a strong option starting under center for the opening week. While Franklin has to replace its quarterback, they return a ton of skill players on offense including senior tight end Sean Leonard, who hauled in a league-best eight touchdown passes last season. Ryan Driscoll (five touchdowns), Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Jake Davis will fill out the receiving corps while Sean Hofferty and Owen Palmieri man the backfield. Seniors Riley Downing and Liam Arsenault are experienced and will anchor the offensive line.
Junior Evan Wertz will be a key piece in the middle of the Panthers’ defense after having a breakout campaign last year with nearly 100 tackles from his linebacker spot. Senior Spencer Briggs and sophomore Alex Honor will also see time at linebacker while Downing is joined by Jack Jarosz, Dom Natale, and Keenan Bassma on the defensive line. The Panthers boast a seasoned secondary with Nolan McLaney and Driscoll both back, along with Palmieri, Jake Davis, and both Gasbarro and Gordon.
“We have experience on both sides of the ball,” Bain said. “It is a cohesive group that has been working hard together for our first two years and they are eager to the turn the corner with our program.”
The target on King Philip’s back is bigger than ever as the Warriors pulled off a second straight undefeated season and another state championship.
So how will head coach Brian Lee get this year’s team to focus on 2018 and not the past two seasons?
“The work and preparation have been the same but now it’s up to this season class to leave their legacy,” Lee said. “The previous two classes had their moments, now it’s up to these seniors to make their own moment. This team will go as far as these seniors lead them.”
The seniors will have plenty of opportunities to make their mark because King Philip doesn’t have a returning starter on offense. The Warriors need to replace quarterback Brendan Lydon, who didn’t lose a game as a starter. Junior Robbie Jarest looks poised to take over under center this season. While it isn’t a lot of experience, Jarest took over in the second half of the state final after Lydon got hurt and helped the Warriors finish off Lincoln-Sudbury. The toughest shoes to fill will be those of Shane Frommer, who will go down as one of the best players in KP history.
Junior Ryan Halliday will be the feature back while Aidan Bender and Sam Callanan will be in the mix as well. Jack Webster and Jack Collentro will be keys to the offense from the fullback position. Senior Terrell Jacobs Bastons has some experience on both sides of the ball and will likely start at guard while classmate Josh Fice will fill in the other guard spot. Junior Nolan Gunning is likely to get a starting spot as well, either at center or tackle.
Defense has been a staple for the Warriors throughout their successful run over the last couple of years, and that’s what KP will count on again this season. The strength will come from the linebackers with Webster back in an outside spot and Max Armour returning in the middle. Jacobs Bastons will be a big presence in the middle of the defensive line while the secondary will have familiar faces back in Aidan Bender, Timmy Nault, and safety Luke D’Amico.
And as we saw in the state final, having a reliable kicker is priceless. Cole Baker, who booted the winning field goal in the final, is back for his third year. Not only will he be a big help on offense, his kickoffs will be a weapon for the defense.
Mansfield has finished second in the Kelley-Rex in each of the past three seasons and the Hornets will be counting on experience under center and depth at the skill positions to end King Philip’s two-year reign atop the division and return to the top of the league standings for the first time since 2013.
Senior Damani Scott will be the starter at quarterback for the second straight season and he will be backed up by the capable Jack Mousette, giving the Hornets plenty of experience and reliability from their signal caller. Scott will also have a ton of weapons to call on this year with a skill position group that head coach Mike Redding calls one of the best that Mansfield has had in a while. Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco will be weapons in the passing game while junior Vinnie Holmes is back in the backfield. Juniors Makhi Baskin, Michael DeBolt (who was also an outstanding kicker last year), and Nick Marciano will provide depth in the slot/running back positions. Senior Daenin Walker and junior Jason Comeau will add experience to the offensive line.
Defensively, Holmes will return to the linebacking corps after setting a program record for tackles in a season as a sophomore. Seniors Chris Copponi and Philip Dinov also return and can play as linebackers or as defensive ends depending on matchups. The secondary will be strong for the Hornets this year with Conner and Sacco at the corners and Marciano and Baskin at the safety positions. The only new additions on the defense are Anthony Capece at noseguard and junior Joe Plath at linebacker.
Redding said, “We have an experienced, athletic, aggressive defense that should be tough to score on and we’re young on offense, but have a ton of depth and talent at skill positions. Just need to gain some experience up front with our new guys on OL and DL.”
The 2018 version of the Oliver Ames Tigers have already had to make an audible after star running back Anthony Berksza suffered a season-ending injury over summer. Berksza had a breakout year last season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and finished with 16 total touchdowns, 15 of those rushing.
With Berksza out, Oliver Ames will rely heavily on the rest of its returning starters to carry the load. Junior Cam Perron returns under center after taking over the starting job during the regular season last year. While Perron looks to find some of his options, he has an offensive line protecting him that has some experience but will be looking to form cohesiveness throughout the year. Dean Pacini, Shane Murphy, Billy Tat, Luke Thibeault, and Garrett Wood all return with experience playing on the line. One challenge will be finding someone to step up and be a leader of that group after the graduation of two-time all star Jack Mills.
Nathan Cabral takes over as the feature tailback and OA head coach Mike Holland is confident the junior can get the job done. Holland says Cabral runs hard and is a tough player. Perron will also have the likes of Shane Kilkelly, Jake Erlich, and Evan Craig to work with as targets.
The heart of the defense will be at the linebacker position. Both Pacini, Murphy, and Darnele Ryan return after starting there last year and Holland will count on both senior captains to lead the way for the Tigers. Sam Stevens is back in the secondary at the safety position but OA will need some new faces to emerge alongside him.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season,” Holland said. “We have a great group across the board. We have some experienced players back and some talented players competing for jobs.”
Taunton started last season with a 3-0 record, one of the program’s best starts in years, but then lost five straight games, including a playoff game against BC High, the top seed in Div. 1 South. The Tigers turned it on again from that point, winning the final three games of the season, including an impressive win against Brockton, to finish with a winning record under second-year head coach Brad Sidwell.
Experience will be a key for the Tigers this season, as Taunton tries to build on that playoff appearance and the momentum from a strong closing stretch. Senior Noah Leonard will be the starting quarterback for the third straight year and is now fluent in Sidwell’s offensive system. Leonard will have familiar targets in senior wideouts Brayden Merrill, Tryton Zavala, and Wesner Charles, while junior Cam Carroca looks to step in as a feature running back and junior Javon Franklin is a new target in the passing game. On the line, Taunton returns plenty of size in 6-foot-3, 337-pound tackle Christian Tourinho and his fellow senior Cam Correiro. Senior Ryan Williams will be the center, while junior Mason Frank, listed at 6-foot-2 and 274 pounds, will be back to battle at the line of scrimmage.
Size and athleticism will be strengths for Taunton on the defensive side of the ball as well. Tourinho, Correiro, and Frank can bottle up opposing running games and will be joined on the line by seniors Corey Pintabone and John Rockwood. Williams will lead the linebacking corps along with classmates Max Moitoso and Kyle Cuoto. Senior Prince Brown will be back at corner and senior Sebastien Celestin looks to step into the safety position.
“Taunton football is progressing forward,” said Sidwell. “Like all teams, we’d like to gain some confidence early in the season and carry it on. The Kelley-Rex division is challenging with great programs, coaching staffs, and communities. We are happy to be a part of it and want to represent Taunton High well by competing at the high standard set by the other league members.”