Milford Walks Off With Overtime Win Over Mansfield

Milford football Damien Carter
Milford sophomore Damien Carter hauls in the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Mansfield. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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 MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Kelley-Rex division of the Hockomock League is always competitive and one of the best in the state.

This year, it might be the deepest it’s ever been.

There isn’t much separation among all six teams, but even less between the top three or four teams vying for the Kelley-Rex crown.

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On Friday night, it turned out the difference between Milford and Mansfield was only a matter of inches.

Sophomore Damien Carter went up and hauled in a 9-yard touchdown over a pair of defenders and landed just inches inside the touchline for the walk-off winning score, giving the Hawks a 27-24 win over the Hornets in overtime at Alumni Field.

After early fireworks that saw Milford score on its first two drives and Mansfield orchestrate a pair of good drives, scoring on the latter, the teams settled down in the second half. Mansfield took an early lead on its second drive of the half but Milford responded in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

Both defenses buckled down in the final quarter as the teams combined to punt five straight times and the game went into overtime.

Mansfield went on offense first but a pair of incomplete passes sandwiched for a loss of yards on second down meant the Hornets had to settle for a 30-yard field goal off the right foot of James Gilleran.










Milford went next, gaining just a yard on first down. The Hornets nearly ended the game on an interception on second down but instead, it was Milford putting the game to bed when Evan Cornelius (11-for-20, 156 yards, two TD) floated one just past the pylon on the right side and Carter came down with it; the sideline ref ruling his foot landed in-bounds before his body did out of bounds.

“I hope people believe now that Milford is for real,” said Milford head coach Dale Olson. “We knew coming into this year that we had some young kids but some talented kids. If we’re not a top 6-8 team in this state, I don’t know who is.

“I had actually called for the play before to go over there and [Cornelius] decided to go to the other side. After that, we wanted the 1-on-1 on that side. [Mansfield] did a great job on Isaiah. We went up 14-0 and they started to double on him. I thought early on we ran the football at-will on them. But that’s a great program, they did a great job tonight. But in the end, our kids buckled down and played great defense.”

It was a dream start for the visitors, who were making their first trip to Alumni Field since joining the Hockomock League nearly a decade ago. The Hawks needed less than five minutes to march 75 yards on 12 plays to get into the end zone. A 21-yard scamper from Tyler Lane (18 carries, 90 yards) helped move Milford into the red zone and Cornelius kept it himself to convert 4th and less than a yard for a 7-0 lead.

Mansfield looked poised to respond right away as the Hornets started to move the sticks. But the drive came to a sudden halt on its 10th play when Mansfield lost the ball on a run up the middle and the Hawks recovered the ball for their first red zone takeaway.

The Hawks’ offense picked up right where it left off, this time orchestrating an 88-yard drive in just seven plays. On the final play of the first quarter, Cornelius hit Isaiah Pantalone (eight catches, 94 yards) on a slant that went for a 67-yard gain. Three plays later, Lane plunged into the end zone on third down from a yard out to give Milford a 14-0 lead with 10:47 left in the second.

The turnover didn’t seem to bother the Hornets’ offense and they came up with a much-needed response. On third down, junior Conner Zukowski (12-for-21, 146 yards) connected with sophomore Trevor Foley for a big 40-yard completion. Three plays later, Drew Sacco took the handoff and sprinted in for a 5-yard touchdown that cut the deficit on the scoreboard in half.

Mansfield’s defense gained some momentum with back-to-back stops. The Hornets forced the Hawks into back-to-back three-and-out series to get the ball back. The offense rewarded them with a 6-play, 54-yard drive that resulted in the tying score just before the half. Zukowski hit Foley for a first down and then dropped one to CJ Bell for 31 yards and a visit to the red zone. Milford’s defense came up with some stops to make it tough but Zukowski got low and kept it himself to convert a fourth down with a 1-yard touchdown keeper.




The Hornets looked to pull a double, scoring on both sides of the half, and it looked like there was a good chance they’d complete it. Mansfield marched 44 yards on 7 plays but Milford’s Jaden Agnew made a terrific read and a diving interception inside the red zone to put the Hornet drive to a halt.

Mansfield’s defense had an answer of its own and on third down, defensive lineman Pedro Cruz got his paws up to bat down a pass and force a punt. Given a second chance to take the lead, Mansfield took care of business. Bell made a great move to evade a defender and get a first down on a 16-yard reception and a holding call in the secondary moved the sticks again for the hosts. On fourth and one from the 3-yard line, Zukowski tossed it to James Fichera on a sweep to the right and the senior captain rushed it in for a score and Mansfield’s first lead, 21-14, with 1:53 left in the third quarter.

“We finally get the lead and had a big score in the second and one in the third and then we just couldn’t get a first down,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “We tried to run it but they were doing a good job defending that. They were doubling our receivers. That was the key…we needed to get some first downs. We didn’t need to score but at least punt from midfield and give them a long field but we gave them way too many chances in the second half and sooner than later they capitalized.

“We’ve got to start better. it’d be nice to be up a touchdown instead of down one. We have to find a way to get a lead and play ahead. The last three weeks we’ve been playing from behind. We play hard and we catch up but these teams, it’s too much to overcome early.”

Milford’s offense couldn’t find its rhythm as it had to punt again on its next drive after a fumble on second down set them back. But the Hawks’ defense did its job and forced Mansfield into a three-and-out. That was a big swing and the Hawks found their footing on offense again. A penalty on third and short gave Milford life, and a holding call in the secondary moved the sticks again on the next play. Cornelius connected with Carter twice on the drive, the first for 13 yards and a first down and, three plays later, on a slant on the right side that turned into a 40-yard touchdown. Nick Araujo’s third successful point after attempt made it 21-21 with 7:56 left.

“In past, I think this program would have [panicked], they didn’t know how to win big games like that,” Olson said of Mansfield scoring 21 straight points to take the lead. “Tonight, we had that 14-0 lead and it felt like the Natick game all over again. I was hoping for one more stop and I thought, if we can go up three scores against a Mike Redding team, we’re going to force them into throwing the football more than they want to. But our defense stepped up in the end.

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Mansfield had two drives in the final minutes of the fourth but only totaled 19 yards on its eight plays. Milford also had a shot at the go-ahead score but their five plays had a total of 7 net yards and they had to punt both teams as well, sending it to overtime.

“Every drive is important, every third down conversion is critical,” Redding said of the tight competition in the Kelley-Rex this year. “We’re learning as we go with young kids and they are playing hard but they need to realize how every series is critical in terms of momentum. You have to move the chains when you have the ball. And we just have to find a way to start better. We almost overcame it again but just not enough.”

Milford (2-0 Kelley-Rex, 5-0 overall) hits the road for the third straight week with a trip to Wrentham to take on King Philip. Mansfield (0-2, 3-2) will look to snap a rare two-game skid when it hits the road to take on Attleboro.

Mansfield Shakes Off Stoughton, Cruises To Big Win

Rocco Scarpellini Mansfield football
Mansfield running back Rocco Scarpellini (22) is tackled by a host of Stoughton players, including junior Timmy Chung (11). (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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 MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield might be a young team with a lot of inexperience on both sides of the ball, but through three games the Hornets have looked like veterans.

For the third straight game,

Mansfield football

Mansfield rallied from a deficit to earn a win, this time in impressive fashion in the form of a 42-14 win over Stoughton, the first meeting between the longtime Hockomock rivals since 2012.

The Hornets had to score a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to take home a win against St. John’s Shrewsbury after seeing a halftime lead disappear. Last week, it took a last-minute drive the length of the field to force overtime against North Attleboro, a game in which they won in double overtime.

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On Friday night, Stoughton stunned the home side by scoring the first two touchdowns of the game. The Black Knights scored on their second drive of the game and on the first play of the second quarter, and were just five minutes away from taking a 14-0 lead into halftime.

“When the first quarter ended, this was not what I expected to be on the scoreboard at the end,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “I thought we were going to be in a dog fight and the way it was going, I thought we’d be lucky to pull it out. We were making mistakes, they were capitalizing and they were aggressive on both sides of the ball.”

Mansfield football

Stoughton had to punt after going three-and-out on its first possession of the game, but on Mansfield’s second play of their first drive, the ball came loose on the handoff, and Anthony Girolamo, making his season debut after suffering an injury during the Fall 2 season, pounced on it to give the visitors possession.

The Black Knights got the first down on a gift when the Hornets jumped offside on fourth down but the visitors earned the next one when Girolamo rumbled for 12 yards on a fourth and two situation. On the next play, Jonah Ly bounced to the left side and Girolamo delivered a big block to a member of the secondary, springing Ly for a 14-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 5:38 left in the first quarter.










Stoughton’s defense held when Emmett Pearl came up with a big tackle for no gain on fourth down at the Black Knight 40-yard line, forcing a turnover on downs. A sack from Mark DeGirolamo set Stoughton back but on third and 10, the Knights ran a screen play and sophomore quarterback Jarred Daughtry found Ly on the left side and he took off down the sideline. Junior Tyler Noel came up with the final block and Ly went in for a 50-yard score and a 14-0 lead just moments into the second quarter.

Mansfield football

But from there, Mansfield showed how quickly it can change a game.

The Hornets overcame self-inflicted penalties to complete their largest drive of the game: 15 plays for 73 yards, capped by a two-yard plunge from Rocco Scarpellini. Stoughton looked to have a huge stop on third down in the red zone but were flagged for pass interference.

Mansfield football

Mansfield converted the short third down and Scarpellini scored on the next play to halve the deficit with 4:04 left until halftime.

Momentum completely swung in favor of the Hornets when senior Braeden Veno came up with a strip sack on Stoughton’s next drive and Jephte Jean recovered for the home team.

Five plays later, the Hornets found the end zone. Junior Conner Zukowski (15-for-18, 174 yards, three touchdowns) floated a screen pass to sophomore Brian Butler, who won the jump ball just over a Stoughton defender and went in for a 6-yard touchdown. Mansfield knotted the score, 14-14, on James Gilleran’s point after with 21 seconds left in the first half.

“The big drive was the first touchdown, we had all those penalties and still overcame it and got it to 14-7, and just a little bit of change in momentum and kind of took some pressure off,” Redding said. “Then we get the fumble and another one before halftime and that just changed the whole game, kind of flipped it on its head. If we don’t convert there and it’s 14-0 at halftime, this is a whole different game.”

Mansfield football

Mansfield received the kickoff to start the second half and the offense continued to roll. The Hornets scored on four straight possessions in the second half, the only drive that didn’t end in points was the final one when the clock ran out.




“The second touchdown really hurt,’ said Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “We should have just run the ball, punted if we had to, and go into half at 14-7. Next thing you know, they’re ahead. They had one or two big runs and they hurt us on a couple of passes. If you don’t move the ball and you give them the ball, you’re in trouble.

“I wish we had a better result but the kids tried. We’re down in numbers overall, we had three starters out. I’m not saying it changes everything but it would have helped for sure. It was great to get Girolamo back, once he gets going he’ll be fine. We had some chances to play better but we just didn’t get it done. But we’ll keep working hard at it.”

It took just four plays for the hosts to find the end zone in the second half. Faced with third and 12 near midfield, Zukowski found sophomore CJ Bell wide open downfield and dropped a pass into his hands. Bell spun free from a tackle and dove across the goal line for a score.

“We knew coming in after looking at their lineup, they have eight or nine kids that play every snap,” Redding said. “I thought that meant we could win the fourth quarter, which turned into maybe we had to score to win in the fourth, but I thought we wore them down a little running the ball.”

Sophomore Trevor Foley came away with an interception on the next Stoughton series and took it all the way to the house for a 50-yard interception return but a block in the back nullified the score. Instead, on the first play of the ensuing series, Zukowski threaded the needle up the seam to Foley for a 24-yard touchdown.

After a Stoughton punt, the Hornets were looking at 3rd and one from midfield. Stoughton sent a lot of pressure up the middle and Scarpellini got free after he bounced out wide, scampering the rest of the way for a 50-yard touchdown.

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Sophomore quarterback Connor Curtis took over midway through the next series and had back-to-back option keepers, the latter going for an 11-yard touchdown to cap the scoring.

“It’s good to know with all the youth that we’ve got some character,” Redding said of the ability to come back in each week so far. “No one has really panicked, I think the kids realized at the end of the [first] quarter we had got get it going in a hurry. But for a bunch of young kids, especially at the skill positions, they don’t seem to get rattled and just move onto the next possession. In all three games, we’ve had a really good 36 minutes but we’ve had a 12-minute span where one quarter we just don’t play well but fortunately, we had enough time to overcome it.

“But we have our hands full the next two weeks with Franklin and Milford back-to-back, whoever did the schedule didn’t do us any favors. We’ve gotta bring our ‘A’ game for 48 minutes for the league schedule, there are some heavy hitters in the Kelley-Rex division. The next two weeks should be fun in the Hockomock.”

Mansfield football (3-0) opens Kelley-Rex division play next week when they hit the road to take on Franklin (3-0), who took down Duxbury on Friday night. Stoughton (1-2) is also back on the road, taking a trip down Route 138 to take on Oliver Ames (1-2).

Instant Classic: Mansfield Knocks Off North In 2OT

Mansfield sophomore Trevor Foley (26) hauls in a touchdown pass in the first overtime against North Attleboro. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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 NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It had been nearly seven years since Mansfield and North Attleboro last met on the gridiron, the longest drought in a rivalry that dates back a century.

It turned out to be worth the wait.

Mansfield football

The Hornets tied the game with under a minute to go and then scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion in both overtime periods to upend the Rocketeers, 31-29, in double overtime at Community Field.

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It marked the first time the rivals played one another in overtime.

“It was a special environment here at Community, one of the last old school places. I have such respect for their coaches, we knew they were going to be ready to play,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “I thought we just hung on in the second half. It wasn’t going our way, we couldn’t get much going. We did just enough.”

North Attleboro was close to putting the game out of reach with just over four minutes to play. Nathan Shultz sliced through the Mansfield defense to the tune of 65 yards to put the Rocketeers in prime position near the red zone. North got a first down but nothing more as Mansfield’s defense held, forcing the Big Red into a field goal attempt.

The Hornets got a second life when the 28-yard attempt went wide, but they had just 4:11 to play with no timeouts and 80 yards to gain.

Junior Conner Zukowski (18-for 29, 302 yards, four touchdowns) led the game-tying drive for the Hornets. After converting a third down early in the drive, the Hornets went on to march 80 yards on 10 plays, finished off when Zukowski floated one to sophomore Trevor Foley (7 catches, 113 yards, three touchdowns) in the corner of the end zone. Zukowski also hit Dana Johnson three times on the drive for 63 yards.










Foley hauled in the two-point conversion pass right at the goal line, was hit back, stayed on his feet, and then stretched out over the line to tie the game, 15-15, with 0:49 seconds to play.

“I felt like we really played young in the first half but in the second half we showed a lot of character, they really stepped up and played like veterans,” Redding said. “Every week I think we’ll make progress but we just have to learn to play for four quarters.”

Mansfield football

Mansfield started on offense for the first overtime and on the first play, Zukowski went right back to Foley, floating one to the back right corner and the 6’4 sophomore did the rest, out-leaping the defender to grab the score. Zukowski found Drew Sacco cutting across the middle for the two-point conversion and the Hornets jumped ahead 23-15.

North got the ball down to the 1-yard line on its first three plays and senior Tyler DeMattio — who made the switch from quarterback to running back this week — bulldozed his way in on fourth down to keep North alive. Freshman quarterback Chase Frisoli (6-for-9, 86 yards) fired a low bullet and Gavin Wells made a nice catch for the two-point conversion to knot it 23-23 and send it to double overtime.

The Rocketeers took their turn on offense first and despite a big push from the Hornet defensive line, DeMattio (19 carries, 65 yards) was able to bounce it outside and scamper into the end zone. A false start pushed North back five yards and the conversion pass was swatted away by Foley at the goal line.

Mansfield football

On Mansfield’s first play, Zukowski backpedaled before dumping off a screen pass to Rocco Scarpellini, who broke free of a pair of tackles to get into the end zone. On the two-point try, Zukowski lofted a pass to the back left of the end zone to Foley for the win.

“It was a great game, both teams played tough and it’s tough for any team to walk away from a game like this with a loss,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “We’d rather but on the other side of it but I’m proud of our kids, especially after the disappointing loss last week. I thought our kids worked really hard to bounce back.

“We played better. We didn’t play good enough to win but we played better this week than we did last week so we’re happy about that. And with the new rating system, a two-point loss isn’t so bad anymore.”

Mansfield opened the game with a touchdown on the first drive. The Hornets went 3-for-3 on third down on the drive, moving the ball all the way down to the 2-yard line after Zukowski linked up with Foley for 26 yards. A high snap forced Mansfield into a 3rd and goal from the 24 but Zukowski found Foley in one-on-one coverage on the left side. James Gilleran’s point after put the visitors up 7-0 with 7:16 left in the first quarter.

North was forced to punt but DeMattio pinned the Hornets at their own 2-yard line. The ball came free on a handoff attempt and it was ruled DeMattio recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. A scramble on the point after attempt ended up intercepted and Mansfield held its advantage at 7-6 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.

“We had used him last year at back in the Century Game so it’s always been in the package but it gives us the ability to do some different things on offense, and it also lets us play him on defense,” Johnson said of moving DeMattio from quarterback to running back and linebacker. “We haven’t had the luxury to have him play both ways but he’s a senior now, sometimes you have to roll the dice and just get your best players on the field.”




Wells put an end to another Mansfield drive with an interception and the Rocketeers forced a punt on the next series. Tyler Bannon converted a third down with a 12-yard run, and Shultz followed suit with a 12-yard run on his own, followed by a late hit call to get the hosts inside the 10-yard line.

Two plays later, DeMattio ran it in from four yards out to put North Attleboro ahead. Caden Colby and Mark DeGirolamo combined to stuff the two-point rush attempt.

Mansfield football

Mansfield drove into North territory late in the first half, going 65 yards on eight plays but Danny Curran read the pass perfectly and stepped in front for an interception in the end zone to prevent any further damage, keeping a 15-7 lead at halftime.

The defenses were the stars for the majority of the second half. North was forced to punt after a three-and-out to start the second half, fumbled on its second possession, and had to punt again at the end of the third quarter after a big sack from Mansfield’s Aidan Devlin.

Meanwhile, Mansfield had a turnover on downs due to a fourth down sack from Tyler Bannon and had back-to-back punts. On its first three drives of the second half, Mansfield had a total of 62 yards before the final drive of 80 yards to tie the game.

“They didn’t play great against Feehan but we knew they were better than that,” Redding said of the Rocketeers. “They came out with a whole different look with DeMattio at running back and he runs really hard. The quarterback played well for a freshman, they were much better tonight than they were on film. They had us on our heels with their blitzing, with DeMattio coming, with Bannon coming off the edge — he’s a big, fast kid. We’re fortunate Zuk stepped up and had a heck of a night throwing the football, that was the difference.”

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Mansfield football

It marked Mansfield’s first win over North since 2013, although the team’s hadn’t played since 2014. It was the first overtime game in the rivalry; games previous ended in a tie at the conclusion of four quarters but that rule was changed about a decade ago.

“That was a classic, just about as good as high school football gets,” Redding said. “I’m glad the rivalry is back and we’ll see them at Alumni next year but maybe we’ll go up to Memorial [Park] and keep playing on the old-school fields.”

Mansfield football (2-0) will have its first home game of the season next week when it welcomes another member of the Hockomock League’s Davenport division in Stoughton. North Attleboro (0-2) hits the road for the first time to take on another Kelley-Rex division foe in King Philip.

Mansfield Leans On Defense To Deny Scarlet Hawks

Mansfield football Cincere Gill
Mansfield’s Cincere Gill tries to break free from the grasp of Milford’s Tyler Lane in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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 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.

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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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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

Teams of the Decade #3: 2013 Mansfield Football

Mansfield football

Team: Mansfield Football
Year: 2013
Record: 13-0
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.






Listening Options:

                                        


Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Opponent
Result
Dunbar (MD)W, 29-26 (Preview)
MiltonW, 21-0
North AttleboroW, 35-14
AttleboroW, 49-42 (Recap)
TauntonW, 42-8
King PhilipW, 20-7 (Recap)
FranklinW, 35-13 (Recap)
WellesleyW, 31-14 (Recap)
NeedhamW, 42-35 (Recap)
BarnstableW, 41-16
WalthamW, 41-0 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 14-7
St. John's ShrewsburyW, 28-14 (Recap)






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Mansfield football

Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football


2013 Mansfield (MA) Hornets Football Highlights from Ryan Lanigan on Vimeo.

Teams of the Decade #9: 2019 Mansfield Football

Mansfield football

Team: Mansfield Football
Year: 2019
Record: 11-1
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.”






Mansfield football
Mansfield football

Opponent
Result
BC HighW, 31-10 (Recap)
La Salle (OH)L, 38-16
TauntonW, 31-6
King PhilipW, 15-13 (Recap)
FranklinW, 39-9 (Recap)
Oliver AmesW, 36-6
AttleboroW, 46-7
MarshfieldW, 24-6
King PhilipW, 34-6 (Recap)
NatickW, 22-3 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 22-12
Lincoln-SudburyW, 41-0 (Recap)






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Mansfield football

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Mansfield football

Mansfield football

Mansfield football


Mansfield football
Mansfield football

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OA Sweeps Mansfield, Clement-Holbrook Hits 700 Wins

Oliver Ames girls basketball
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook celebrates with her players after earning the 700th win of her career. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Attleboro Uses Balanced Attack to Beat Mansfield

Attleboro girls basketball
Nyah Thomas (3) scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Attleboro to an important win against division rival Mansfield. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Jackie MacDonald got it started in the post, Liv McCall (13 points) added a steal and a layup, and then Emma Reilly scored back-to-back baskets, one on a jumper off a Lindsey Perry dish and the second on a putback. Ryan Johnson (eight points) and Meghan Gordon (10 points and 13 rebounds) also scored, as Attleboro dominated the paint.

“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.

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Hottleman Drives Mansfield to Dramatic Win at Sharon

Mansfield girls basketball
Senior Becca Hottleman (15) scored with 4.5 seconds remaining to lift Mansfield to a 52-50 victory at Sharon. It was the first win of the season for the Hornets. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

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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.

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2019 HockomockSports Football Awards