The Bulldogs’ defense stuffed the Hawks from the one-yard line on back-to-back plays, securing the team’s third shutout of the season in a 35-0 rout over Milford in whipping winds and constant rain.
With the win, Canton takes sole possession of first place in the Davenport division.
Canton’s defense continued to shine, posting its second shutout in league play. The Bulldogs limited Milford to 53 yards of total offense and six first downs, with the majority of those yards and conversions coming on the final drive of the game with a running clock.
“We were looking at the weather all week and we were thinking it might work in our favor,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “[Milford] has such a good passing attack, they can throw the ball so well, so dynamic. Their slot [receivers] really got our attention. Sometimes our defense, we have to play the physical aspect against good running teams like Stoughton, and tonight we were challenged in the passing game. I’m very proud of the defense.”
The Bulldogs made life difficult for the Hawks, limiting the visitors’ potent passing game to just three completions in its first seven drives. But four of those drives ended in punts, another in an interception, a turnover on downs, and the end of the first half. The final drive, which spanned 66 yards on eight plays, was denied at the goal line to end the game.
“The conditions were advantageous with how we play defense,” Bohane said. “The defense has played any style we’ve asked them to play. I thought the coaches did a good job preparing, mimicking Milford’s offense and how they go about it — and they are very good, very explosive. We have some pretty big guys up front so we thought we’d be able to hold up against the run. It’s tough to get to their quarterback because he gets rid of it so fast, so we felt we had to have a body on a body, just accounted for everyone.”
Milford’s defense was equal to the task to start the game, forcing a turnover on downs on the opening series and then a three-and-out on Canton’s second offensive possession.
But Canton senior Jace Emma read a hitch route perfectly on Milford’s first play of their second series, jumping in front for an interception and giving the Bulldogs terrific field possession.
From there on out, Canton’s offense was unstoppable, scoring on its final five possessions of the game.
Following Emma’s pick, Canton needed just six plays to go 35 yards to take a first quarter lead. Highlighted by a 31-yard dash from senior Kyle Fitzgerald (19 carries, 109 yards), the Dogs punched it on fourth down when senior quarterback Johnny Hagan (11 carries, 56 yards, three touchdowns) kept it himself for a three-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 2:14 left in the opening quarter.
“Jace has been so good for us for so long,” Bohane said. “We lost one of our corners to injury and Jace stepped in. I was telling him that he belongs out there, I think he was up for the challenge. He stepped up and made that pick, and it was all him, he read it right in man coverage.”
After getting the ball back after a quick three-and-out, Canton marched 58 yards on 11 plays to double its advantage. An offside call shortened a fourth down and the Dogs gave the direct snap to Robbie Gallery on a fake punt to move the chains.
Fitzgerald converted another fourth down on the drive, and two plays later Hagan kept it himself and got around the edge to find the end zone for a 21-yard score.
Canton wasn’t done in the half though, with its defense once again forcing a three-and-out while pushing the Milford defense backward.
This time it took just seven plays to go 44 yards for the Bulldogs, After a healthy mix of Fitzgerald, Hagan, and Gersom Rivera (nine carries, 39 yards) on the ground, Canton caught the Hawks’ defense with a pass play as Hagan delivered a perfect pass to Emma on a slant for 22 yards.
On the next play, Hagan kept it himself for another three-yard touchdown, giving Canton a 21-0 lead heading into halftime.
Bohane and his staff were well aware the game was far from over, and with the firepower that Milford possesses, the Bulldogs’ put a big emphasis on the opening drive of the second half.
With its defense on the field, everything continued to go the Dogs’ way. An incomplete pass was followed by a second down sack from junior Matt Connolly, and a tackle from Jahmi Aldin for no gain on third down.
“We felt like the first series in the third quarter was going to be very important,” Bohane said. “The kids came out and played hard. I can’t remember how exactly it went down but we continued to play well on both sides of the ball. Everyone stepped up and contributed, it was overall a good night for us.”
The first offensive possession of the second half didn’t go exactly as the Bulldogs had planned but still ended up in points nonetheless. Hagan dumped a screen pass off for Fitzgerald, and he took it 45 yards to the end zone but the Bulldogs were whistled for a hold.
That meant Canton had to punt for the first time all night, but the Milford returner couldn’t field it cleanly and the Dogs pounced on the muffed ball.
Again, Fitzgerald found the end zone on a rushing play but again, a holding call negated it. Canton took advantage of a personal foul on the Hawks’ defense, as Rivera took it up the middle from three yards out to make it 28-0 with 5:12 to go in the third quarter.
But a couple plays later, Jack Connolly, Lucas Ragusa, and Gallery combined for a big sack on first down. And Ben Guerini delivered a third down sack two plays later, and the Bulldogs forced an incompletion on fourth down to get the ball back.
It took eight plays to cover the 35 yards, the longest play of the drive coming on Rivera’s 13-yard run up the middle as he bounced between defenders for a score and a 35-0 lead with seven minutes left in the game.
It was one of the very few misses the Hawks had all game.
Four plays later, Milford ran the same play, this time connecting for a long touchdown. The Scarlet Hawks went on to score on four of its five first possessions, including three straight, as well as a defensive score and rolled to a 45-19 win over North Attleboro, the program’s first victory over the Rocketeers since joining the Hockomock League.
“We couldn’t have scripted it any better, it was almost a perfect start,” said Milford associate head coach and defensive coordinator Robb McCoy. “The kids executed really well. Our job as coaches is to have the game plan but its ultimately up to the kids and they executed the game plan very well. We trimmed [the game plan] down this week, we had a great week of preparation and practice, they were mentally ready and focused for this game. It’s all about the kids, they did a tremendous job.”
Senior quarterback Colby Pires (17/28, 296 yards, three touchdowns) connected with Max Martin up the middle for a 62-yard touchdown just 2:35 into the game. It was a sign of things to come for the Hawks’ offense.
On the second offensive series, Milford again needed just five plays, this time to cover 48 yards with Pires hitting Martin (six catches, 136 yards) on a slant route on third down for a 14-0 lead with just over three minutes left in the opening quarter.
And when the Hawks got the ball back once again, they ran seven offensive plays to cover 44 yards, capped off with Carter Scudo (five catches, 92 yards) taking the direct snap in the wildcat, using a block from Pires at receiver, and sneaking inside the pylon for a two-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead following an extra point from CJ Cerrella (6-for-6).
Meanwhile, Milford’s defense wasn’t giving the Rocketeers much offensively. The Rocketeers went three-and-out on their first two series with a total of 16 yards, and despite running nine plays on their third series, a fourth down pass fell incomplete after pressure from Hawks linebacker Luke Rosa.
Milford’s offense stalled for the first time on the fourth series and had to punt. But the defense came up with the big play as junior Dom Schofield came flying in on a blitz, sacking North quarterback Tyler DeMattio (10/23, 167 yards, two touchdowns) and forcing the ball free. Herrick Louis scooped the loose ball up and raced in from 28 yards out for a touchdown, the Hawks assuming a 28-0 lead with 4:29 left in the second quarter.
North Attleboro was able to get on the board with under three minutes left in the half. Aided by back-to-back unsportsmanlike penalties on the Milford bench that resulted in the disqualification of Hawks head coach Anthony Vizakis, and then a 15-yard late hit call, the Rocketeers moved 72 yards on five plays.
After DeMattio connected with Ethan Friberg for 14 yards, the sophomore quarterback took up the middle himself, plunging in from a yard out to make it 28-76 with 2:39 left in the half.
The Hawks’ offense wasn’t content with its lead and responded just 19 seconds later. On the first play of the next series, Pires aired one out to Scudo, who made a man miss and raced his way for a 64-yard touchdown and a 35-7 lead at halftime.
“I think we’re good enough on the perimeter with our athletes, and Colby is good enough, that we can be a take what they give you offense, and that’s what we did,” McCoy said. “At times, [North Attleboro] loaded up the box, sometimes they bring pressure, and they are very good up front. It was a matter of us executing what we can do. Colby is very smart, he’s like a coach on the field…and the receivers like Max [Martin], Matty [Varteresian], Carter Scudo…it’s kind of like your poison.”
It looked like the Rocketeers were going to punt for the second straight possession to open the second half but kept DeMattio in the game in the punter’s spot. Instead of a kick, the sophomore connected with Russell Dunlap on a seam route, the senior sprinting away for a 44-yard touchdown.
It looked like Milford was ready to respond as Pires hit Martin for 41 yards to get into North territory but on the next play, senior Owen Harding came up with a blind side sack to force the ball loose and junior Dan Hayes pounced on it to give the Rocketeers the ball back.
The offense cashed in, needing just two plays before DeMattio hit junior Alex McCoy. Milford gambled for the interception and McCoy raced the distance for a 59-yard touchdown to bring the visitors within two scores, down 35-19.
The momentum began to swing as North forced the Hawks into a three-and-out but the Milford defense came back and forced three straight takeaways. Xavier Hilton had the first interception that led to a 25-yard field goal from Cerrella.
“The second half, it was about tabling the emotions and just playing football,” McCoy said. “We think this team is athletic enough, good enough, and tough enough to play with anybody. North Attleboro is kind of like the Patriots, they’ll take advantage of any mistake you make.”
Max Martin intercepted the first pass of the next North series and Rosa broke through a pair of tackles on the first play for a 10-yard touchdown. Scudo came up with an interception on North’s next series.
“We had some bulletin board material that we saw on Friday so our defense used that, and I think they played well,” McCoy said. “[DeMattio] is such a great runner, we wanted to try and take that away. He did a good job at times but we were able to change our coverage and get some turnovers. [DeMattio] is a really good player, he’s going to be a great player so we wanted to be aggressive with him.
Milford football (2-0 Hockomock, 3-1 overall) returns to action on Friday at Canton in a huge clash of the top two teams in the division. North Attleboro (0-2, 1-3) will try to bounce back on Saturday when it hosts Sharon.
MILFORD, Mass. – Prior to Friday afternoon’s game with Oliver Ames, Milford coach Brian Edwards was joking about his team’s lack of a long throw. The Hawks used one in the defensive zone to occasionally relieve pressure but rarely utilized a throw in the attacking third.
With the game tied 2-2 and the clock winding down inside the final two minutes, Milford won a throw on the near touch line. Sophomore defender Chris Tocci had made a rare foray forward and he grabbed the ball, stepped back, and unleashed a throw into the middle of the OA penalty area.
It pinballed around, taking several deflections off both teams before finding the foot of junior Joao Pedro Da Silva, who fired a low, hard shot through traffic and into the back of the net. That goal proved decisive for the Hawks, who pulled out a 3-2 victory in a playoff-like atmosphere worthy of two teams that entered Friday unbeaten and leading their respective divisions.
“We’re talking about how neither of us have a long throw and I was like, well Tocci has one but we only use it deep in our own end to get it out of there,” Edwards joked. “He just happened to be up there and said I’ll take it. Not how we drew it up but it was quite a finish.”
He added, “I told the guys after they tied it, ‘You have nine minutes. We’ve been here before. I’m not nervous now because I feel like you can score a goal or two.’ Overall I thought we played a good game, but they’re an awesome team. Anytime you get to play OA you get to test yourself, and I thought we rose to it today.”
The first half was an even contest with both teams creating chances. Milford junior Leo Coelho skimmed the post and found the side netting with a shot from 20 yards, then OA nearly grabbed the lead when junior Colin Milliken slipped a pass behind the defense for classmate Anthony DaCosta, but Milford keeper Leo Oliveira was out quick to smother the chance.
In the 14th minute, the Hawks took the lead. Senior Pedro Araujo created the opportunity with a slick through ball to Da Silva, but OA keeper Drew Nickla was off his line to block the shot. The ball flicked high in the air and had to be cleared off the line. The rebound effort was also sent goalwards but went off the arm of an OA defender.
Araujo, the league’s leading goal scorer, stepped up to the spot and slipped his shot under the dive of Nickla (five saves).
Milford had a couple of good chances to double its advantage before the break. Coelho latched onto a bad clearance, heading past the defender, but he skied a shot when clean through on goal. Jordan Borges set up Lucas Da Silva in the OA box, but his shot was skewed wide.
The Tigers had their own moments to try and get on the board in the first half, only to be denied by Oliveira (four saves). Milliken had the best chance but his curling free kick was palmed away by the keeper at full stretch. The junior almost grabbed a goal with another set piece from a tight angle but just missed the top corner. Jonathan Freeman also tested Oliveira with a long free kick that the keeper was forced to punch clear of the OA attackers.
“That’s the best game Leo’s played,” said Edwards. “He made some big saves. It was tough in the first half cause the sun was in his eyes and the wind in his face. I thought he played great and he’s come a long way because he’s working hard and he’s grinding.”
Just a minute after the break, OA was inches from equalizing. Brady deVos made a slide tackle on the far sideline, taking possession and driving towards the right side of the box. He hit a perfect cross to the back post where it was met by Kevin Louhis, but somehow Oliveira managed to get across and deny the shot in the bottom corner.
Five minutes later, Milford led 2-0. Araujo swung in a line drive corner to the near post and Dan Santos got across his marker to flick in the header, his second goal in as many games.
The Hawks seemed in control, but the Tigers took advantage of a defensive lapse to get right back into the game. Milliken sent in a corner and deVos was wide open in the middle of the box for a simple, close-range header.
“They kept working hard. They’re learning,” said Oliver Ames coach John Barata about his team’s ability to fight back after falling behind. “We gave up some really soft goals on set pieces, really poorly defended, so we have to learn, but it was good to see them come back. It was a good test and good to see them come back again and again.”
Leading by one, Milford had a series of chances to try and put the game away. Borges looped a cross into the box that landed directly on top of the crossbar and then he sprung Araujo on a break that was only stopped when Matthew Nosalek somehow got back in front and blocked the shot with a sliding tackle.
A minute after that chance, Borges whipped a free kick into the top corner from 30 yards, only to have it wiped away because the call had been for an indirect kick. With 10 minutes remaining, Araujo again cut in on his left foot and again was denied a goal, this time by the post. The rebound was put back on frame but Harrison Ahearn cleared it off the line.
The missed chances proved costly, as the Tigers kept going and managed to find an equalizer with nine minutes left to play. Mathias Taylor found himself in acres of space on the right and he hit a low cross to Milliken, who coolly finished over the onrushing keeper.
After letting the Tigers come back from two goals down, Milford could have settled for a draw, but instead fought back to find a winner and extend its lead in the Davenport title race to five points.
Barata said, “Their attack is deadly and we needed to work harder than any other game. It was a great test.”
Edwards noted, “I think you find out who you are when you play a team like that. Today, I think we took a step in the right direction.”
MILFORD, Mass. – Oliver Ames dominated the first two sets of Tuesday evening’s battle of division leaders at Milford, winning 25-11 and 25-14 to take control of the match. Everything was going OA’s way until the third set, when the Hawks stayed alive by grabbing a 25-19 win.
Just when it looked like the hosts might also be able to grab the momentum and add drama to the match, OA took back control. The Tigers rolled in the fourth and final set, winning 25-12, to earn an impressive bounce back 3-1 victory that keeps them just ahead of Franklin and King Philip in the Kelley-Rex division title race.
“I said, the game’s not over,” said OA coach Chelsea Cunningham about her message to the team heading into the fourth set. “The game’s never over until you hear the whistle blow and if you take it one point at a time, play together, it makes a world of difference.”
Milford entered Tuesday’s game in a three-way tie for first in the Davenport division with Canton and North Attleboro and the Hawks started well enough in the opening set. Lauren Corsini had a pair of kills and Sarah Brogioli had an ace to put the home team up 4-2 early. That was the high point of the set for the Hawks.
OA setter Allie Kemp (27 assists) started spreading the ball around to the Tigers’ talented hitters, with Jordan Bosse (team-high 13 kills) and Ryley McNeeley (10 kills) both finding the range on the outside. The balance in the OA attack proved difficult for Milford to control.
Cunningham explained, “It’s nice to have options rather than rely on one person and strain that player. I like having options and the kids know they’re all options, so being able to mix it up and have a flexible lineup is really fun to work with.”
The Hawks also hurt themselves. Shorthanded after an injury ruled junior hitter Elise Fauerbach out for the season, Milford looked out of sorts in all aspects of the game from serve-receive to hitting to defense. OA took advantage to jump in front and never look back.
“Everything was off,” said Milford coach Tammy Webber. “We didn’t have everyone at practice yesterday. Elise went off [injured] on Friday, so we didn’t practice as a team with the new lineup. Not that it matters…we were just flat. We adjusted finally and then we didn’t stick with our game plan.”
The second set started even worse for Milford. OA won eight straight points to build an 11-1 lead. McNeeley continued to find the range on the outside and Sarah Morley had a pair of aces during her eight-point run at the service line. The Hawks tried to battle back behind Allison Corsini’s kills from her middle position, but OA quickly snuffed out any momentum.
Jordyn Vella smashed a kill right down the middle to make it 17-6. Brogioli got hot at the service line with three aces that cut the lead to nine, but Bosse closed out the set with another kill that put OA in position to take the match.
While it was an admittedly rough night for the Hawks, they showed fight in the third set to keep from being swept. The hosts grabbed the lead on back-to-back Brogioli kills, a block by Lauren Corsini, and an ace by Lexi Starks. OA got back within five, but consecutive kills by setter Julia Riordan and hitter Alyssa Williamson made it 22-15 and essentially sealed the set.
“We started blocking and playing defense and we were able to set up our offense, swinging and not making unforced errors,” said Webber. She added, “We need to rise to the occasion. We need to play better against the better teams, consistently.”
After extending the match, it looked like the home team might make it an interesting finish, but instead the Tigers responded, leading 6-1 and 9-2 to halt any momentum. Sophomore Hadley Rhodes gave OA a spark in the fourth set with back-to-back kills that made it 14-5 and then a block that put the Tigers ahead 22-8.
“She’s awesome,” Cunningham said about Rhodes. “She’s young, she wants to play, will do anything to get on the floor and when she gets that time she puts 100 percent in. I’ll take someone who’s feisty and wants to take risks.”
It was an important road win for the Tigers, keeping them one ahead of Franklin in the loss column and now two ahead of King Philip in the win column (OA has played two more league games than the Warriors).
Cunningham said, “We had to take this one seriously and know that we had to earn it. They’re starting to learn that when they earn their points it’s more fun that relying on other teams making mistakes.”
Over her first two seasons at Salem State, Katie Brown scored six goals. It was a decent return for the Milford grad, who earned 25 starts and 33 appearances as a freshman and sophomore, but then something clicked heading into last season.
“It was all mentality,” Brown explained. “My spring semester at school I was struggling, my mental health was struggling, so I turned towards working out. I was lifting every day, which got me physically stronger and from that I was getting mentally stronger.
“From there, I was just ready to prove to myself that there was more in me. I only had two years left, so I just went for it. I was just ready. I knew I had more to prove than I did my freshman and sophomore year and I knew I had more in me.”
Brown committed herself to working out all summer, made every spring practice, and that extra effort paid off with a team-leading eight goals, helping the Vikings reach the MASCAC final. The momentum from 2018 has extended to her senior season, as Brown has already tallied three goals and two assists in seven games this fall, including one of each in the conference opener against Westfield State.
These last two seasons have propelled Brown up the career leaderboard at Salem State. She is now tied for third in career goals (eight behind the leader) and tied for fifth all-time in points (five behind second place). Brown, who was named a team captain this season, is also tied for sixth with three game-winning goals.
“I think that having those stats to back-up my passion for this game just shows all of the work that I’ve put in through basically my whole life,” Brown said. “It’s cool that even after I graduate those stats will still be there to remind me of the best times that I’ve had in my life playing soccer.”
Brown admitted that she has come a long way from the player that left Milford to come to Salem. For the Hawks, she was more of a playmaker, sitting in behind the forward or dropping back into the midfield to create opportunities for her teammates. Not that she wasn’t capable of scoring her fair share of goals, such as a five-goal game against Hudson that earned her HockomockSports.com Player of the Week honors her senior season, but it wasn’t her main focus.
Now, Brown is more than willing to take on defenders and has the confidence to go to goal herself, heeding the advice of her coaches and teammates.
“I feel like I’m a totally different player than I was in high school,” she said. “My confidence overall in taking players on one-on-one, taking those shots, just really finding that grit from down within to score for my team in those crucial moments.
“Coming in I think I was just very unsure of myself and now as a senior I’m definitely one of the quietest players but my coach always says, you are so important to this team because of leading by example and playing for your teammates.”
Brown talked a lot about her teammates. She credited the relationship and chemistry between her teammates for pushing the Vikings to last year’s conference final and for keeping the positivity high despite losing several key pieces from last year’s squad.
“Just having the team be my best friends, you just want to win for them,” she explained. “I train so hard in the summer so that, when I show up, I just want to play and I just want to win. If you show up for your teammates, then you’re going to start to win and develop that intensity.”
It wasn’t the best start to the season for the Vikings, with two wins in their opening seven games, but they did exact some revenge on Westfield State (the team that beat them in the final in 2018) with a 2-0 victory. Brown, who has dealt with an ankle injury and illness this season, assisted on the first goal and then added a second in the 78th minute with a half-volley to seal the points.
Although the Vikings would lose the following game, beating Westfield was a marker that Salem State would be able to challenge for a MASCAC title again this fall.
“I know coming in we had a lot of skeptics considering we lost all but one of our all-conference players, and definitely key players in our defense, but I think since we won against Westfield State that definitely made a statement in the league,” Brown said.
She has been playing soccer all her life. Her father and her older sisters both played and Brown talked about a photo of her holding a soccer ball at just two years old. It has been a long road to get to this point, a lot of training, a lot of club, high school, and college game, and Brown struggled to put into words what it would mean to close out her career with a conference title.
“I think it would just be a relief,” she said. “I’ve been playing soccer for 18 years, from club to all through high school, gone through all the struggles. I don’t even know how I would react, to be honest. It’s one of those things that you can’t explain how hard you’ve worked to win a championship and this is a team that I think can do it.”
Salem State will be back on the pitch on Saturday against conference rival Worcester State.