STOUGHTON, Mass. – One of the characteristics that first-year Milford coach Dale Olson has talked about with his team is resiliency. On Friday night at Stoughton’s new Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Hawks showed that they have been listening to the coach’s message.
Milford overcame two first half turnovers and three first half drives that ended inside the Stoughton 10, and twice in the fourth quarter the Hawks answered Stoughton touchdowns with scoring drives of their own. All of that allowed Milford to pull out a hard-fought, 28-21 road win against their former division rival.
“We always talk about adversity and we faced it again tonight,” said Olson. “The kids handled it. We didn’t score two times inside the five and that’s a great football team and you can’t do that, but I’m proud of our kids tonight. They fought and good teams find a way to win.”
The visitors were able to move the ball almost all night. Milford finished with more than 300 yards passing and nearly 200 yards on the ground, but the Hawks missed several opportunities to break the game open early.
On the opening drive of the game, the Hawks put together a 10-play drive and marched all the way down to the Stoughton three. Milford was finding success with the short passing game, as senior Brady Olson (25-of-42, 312 yards) completed seven passes to three different receivers on the first possession. But, on first and goal, his pass into the end zone was intercepted by Emmett Pearl.
“We were trying to get as much pass rush as we could and they just nickel-dimed it,” said Stoughton coach Greg Burke. “They had a couple simple patterns and we were trying to cover, but we didn’t stop them right there.”
Stoughton got the ball at it own three and just four plays later was in the lead. A 19-yard carry by Christopher Ais (17 carries, 68 yards) gave the Black Knights some breathing room. On third and five, John Burke (11-of-24, 187 yards) fooled the Milford defense with play action and hit Christian Ais (five catches, 108 yards) in stride for a 73-yard score.
Not to be outdone, the Hawks hit back with a big play of their own. Facing third and 13, Olson fired a strike to Max Martin (seven catches, 121 yards), who hauled it in, took a big hit, spun free, and got a good block from Jayden Agnew to race 75 yards. Both extra points were blocked, so it was tied 6-6.
Following and Evan Hazard interception and return, Milford started its next drive at the Stoughton 25. The Black Knights managed to stop the Hawks on three plays inside the 10 and blocked Nicholas Araujo’s 21-yard field goal attempt.
A short punt again gave Milford great starting field position, this time at the Stoughton 34. On second down, Jake Queeney picked off a pass in the end zone to again deny Milford a go-ahead score.
With a 53-yard punt, Christopher Ais pinned Milford down to start its next drive at its own two, but with horrible starting field position the Hawks finally got back into the end zone. Olson started working down the left sideline to Matt Varteresian (seven catches, 74 yards) out to almost midfield.
As Stoughton’s defense prepared for the pass, Carter Scudo took a draw play up the middle for 52 yards and the visitors’ first lead. Olson hit Agnew on the conversion to make it 14-6.
Milford had one more possession to try and extend its lead before halftime. The Hawks used 15 plays and got all the way to the Stoughton three but were denied again by the Black Knights defense. Andrew Medina made a good play on the ball to breakup one pass and Olson saw his fourth down try get batted down at the line.
It definitely looked like the story of the game would be missed chances, as Stoughton put together a 14-play, 76-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly 7-1/2 minutes of the third quarter. The big play was a play action pass from Burke to Pearl for 31 yards into Milford territory.
Burke capped the drive on third and goal from the five, as he rolled out to his left and went full extension to hit the front pylon. His two-point pass to Pearl in the back of the end zone tied the game at 14-14.
“He had some good throws,” Burke said of his quarterback. “We just missed a couple of home runs. We worked hard and we had some good runs.”
After an intentional grounding call stalled Stoughton’s next drive inside Milford territory, the Hawks answered to get back in front. On third and six, Olson went deep to Keithley Sutton, who just got his hands under the ball and pulled in the 37-yard reception. On third and three from the 26, Olson showed off his legs, scrambling for 25 yards down to the goal line. Scudo (11 carries, 68 yards) punched it in for his second touchdown of the night.
“We knew that we could take the short stuff,” Olson explained. “Take what they give you and [Brady] did it tonight. At times, it didn’t look good and we struggled to run the football and in the end we rushed for 173 yards. In the end, we needed to be able to run the football to win this game and we did.”
For the second time in the game, Ais pinned Milford deep, this time with a 60-yard boot that rolled down to the two. On first down, the Black Knights nearly caught Scudo in the end zone, but he was able to dive to the one and avoid the safety. Stoughton took advantage of a short punt to even the game up. Christian Ais cut upfield on a sweep to the left and raced for a 22-yard score, his second touchdown of the night, and it was 21-21 with 4:38 to play.
Momentum seemed to be with the home team, but Milford’s offense continued to be hard to stop. An eight-yard pass to Sutton converted a third and four and kept the drive alive. With the ball at the Stoughton 22 and the Black Knights expecting a pass, Tyler Lane (seven carries, 58 yards) burst up the gut on a draw play, cut to the far sideline, and flung himself at the front corner of the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
“I was trying to blitz there at the end, thinking they were going to throw, and that kid just went over us,” said Burke. “Their QB is just tough. He had a pretty good day. Second half I thought we did better.”
Stoughton had two minutes to try and answer. Burke started it with a 15-yard keeper and was able to recover from an intentional grounding call with an 11-yard pass to Queeney on fourth and eight. In the end, the Milford defense forced three straight incompletions and a turnover on downs to seal the win.
“It was a rock fight,” said Olson. “Burke has a done a great job and Stoughton kids are tough kids. We’re 4-1 and almost every game we’ve been in a rock fight, it’s just a slugfest.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Considering Milford’s track record in this long-running series against neighboring Franklin, it should be no surprise that if the Hawks were going to pull out just their second win against the Panthers since 1990 that it was going come right down to the final play.
Evan Hazard’s interception in the end zone sealed a wild, 34-27 victory for the Hawks on Saturday afternoon at Pisini Stadium, ending a wait of more than three decades for a road win against Franklin.
The Milford defense, which had recorded two shutouts in its three games so far this season, was given a stern test by Franklin’s spread offense but forced four turnovers and scored a pair of touchdowns, including Kevin O’Connor’s late interception return that proved to be the game-winner.
“I’ll take a win,” said first-year Milford coach Dale Olson. “I knew this rivalry had been one-sided in the past, I didn’t know it was that one-sided. I’m happy for our kids and we’ve just got to keep getting better. That’s it.”
He added, “The pick-six was huge by Kevin. They’d been hitting us all day in the flat…We knew it was going to be a challenge, facing a quality team in Franklin.”
It was 27-20 after first half in which both teams were able to move the ball at will. Things settled down in the third and fourth quarters and the score remained the same until O’Connor sat on the short out route, intercepting the Jared Arone pass and returning it 60 yards for the touchdown with 3:33 left to play.
Although that pushed the lead to two scores with time quickly running out, it was hardly the end of the action.
Franklin came right back on its next possession to cut the lead in half. Keith Nally returned the kick 27 yards out to the 40 to give the Panthers good starting field position. A 10-yard completion from Arone (24-of-35 for 292 yards) to Jake O’Brien (five catches for 57 yards) converted a third and nine to keep the drive alive. After a 28-yard pass to Mack Gulla, Arone hit O’Brien in the front corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.
With just 1:35 left, Milford was able to recover Parker Cheuvront’s onside kick attempt and took over at its 48. Carter Scudo (23 carries for 174 yards) got a first down in Franklin territory and the Panthers started to use their timeouts. On fourth and four, Matt Varteresian’s jet sweep was stopped short of the marker and the Panthers took back over on their own 30 with just 19 seconds on the clock.
Arone went to work on the far sideline, hooking up with Will Tracey (nine catches for 161 yards) on gains of 14, 12, and 10 to get to the Milford 34 with seven seconds left. Franklin tried to take a shot at the end zone, but the Hail Mary attempt was intercepted by Hazard as the clock ran out.
Franklin coach Eain Bain said, “Having a young team, it’s not as easy as saying okay veteran you know what to do, you’ve seen this a million times, but when you look at what we put in for today and what we were trying to do, I’m happy with the execution for about 90% of the game plan. We made some mistakes but we’ll learn from them. We know the talent we have.”
The hosts opened the scoring in the first quarter. Kyle Palmieri caught a blocked punt to start the Panthers in Milford territory. A holding call forced Franklin into a third and 23, but Arone was able to find Tracey deep down the far sideline for a 44-yard completion down to the two. Gulla (27 carries for 114 yards) punched it in from there for a 6-0 lead.
Milford responded on its next drive. On third and five from the Franklin 37-yard-line, Brady Olson (5-of-15, 83 yards) had his swing pass tipped but fortuitously it fell into the hands of Jayden Agnew who weaved his way for 27 yards inside the Franklin 10. Scudo took a sweep to the left and found the corner from eight yards out to put the visitors in front.
“They came out in a five-man box and that dictates you have to run the football,” Olson said. “I thought Carter did a great job. We’ve got to get better in general at our pass game. We’re too good Monday through Friday passing the ball and then Saturday comes and we’re not great.”
Now it was Franklin’s turn to answer. The Panthers put together a nine-play, 67-yard drive to regain the lead. After Gulla was able to get two yards on fourth and inches, Arone again looked deep down the sideline to Tracey and he was able to pull in the 32-yard touchdown pass.
“I thought we threw the ball well and ran the ball well,” said Bain. “[Jared’s] grown a ton, the receivers have grown a ton, our line, I think we run the ball as well as we have in four years here. I thought they had to gear up to stop our run and that almost never happens.”
The lead didn’t last long and Milford was able to take control with two scores in just 28 seconds. Scudo’s 38 yard, winding run through the Franklin defense set up Milford inside the 10. Olson (nine carries for 23 yards) capped the drive with a one-yard sneak. Two plays into Franklin’s next drive, Milford was able to force a fumble right in front of its bench and the ball was scooped by Hazard, who raced 35 yards for a 21-13 advantage.
After Jonathan Martins recovered a fumble, Franklin cut the lead back to just one. Despite being surrounded by the Milford pass rush on third and 11, Arone again went deep to Tracey, this time for 31 yards. Gulla bounced left for 24 on the next play down to the Milford seven. Two plays later, Arone hit Tracey on a three-yard slant for the score.
“We knew we needed to defend the whole field today against a good spread team and they got us on a couple long passes,” Olson explained. “That just can’t happen. At times I thought we did it well today and two big plays that turned into scores for them we had them behind the chains. Third and  and third and  and they scored touchdowns. That hurt.”
That was not the end of the first-half scoring. Milford took over with little more than two minutes left in the half. Olson was able to find Keithley Sutton down the far sideline, after the pass slipped through the hands of a Franklin defensive back, for 35 yards into the red zone. A Scudo draw got the Hawks to the four but the Panthers stuffed back-to-back plays. Olson spiked the ball, bringing up fourth and goal.
The Milford QB was able to push forward for the one-yard sneak with 17 seconds left in the second quarter. The XP was no good and the Hawks went into the break up 27-20.
Bain said, “We’re not huge up front. We put a lot on their plates to try and stop the run and that [Milford] line, that’s a really, really good offensive line and I thought our guys played so well. I’m so proud of them.”
Milford (3-1) will travel to Stoughton next week, the first of two crossover games against two of the top teams in the Davenport division (league-leading North Attleboro being the other). Franklin (2-2) will try to bounce back when it hosts Oliver Ames on Saturday.
This time around, not only did the Scarlet Hawks put on an encore performance on the defensive side of the ball, they were even better than a week ago.
Milford handed King Philip its first league shutout in over a decade, and its first division loss to a team besides Mansfield since 2015 in a 12-0 shutout of the Warriors.
Behind a pair of interceptions and a goal line stand that changed the complexion of the game, the Scarlet Hawks earned one of their biggest league wins since joining the Hockomock in 2013.
“Our kids get down hill and they play physical football,” said first-year Milford head coach Dale Olson. “We just went through the grinder… Attleboro, Mansfield, King Philip to open the season. We knew [today] wasn’t going to be pretty, and it certainly wasn’t at times, but we got a great defense. To hold that team…they’re big, physical, they have a tremendous running back. I don’t know how much they ran for today but it couldn’t have been a lot. KP hasn’t lost too much in the Hock [recently] so to beat them, I couldn’t be prouder of the kids.”
Not only did the Hawks keep the Warriors out of the end zone, they limited the visitors to under 200 yards of total offense and held KP to just 2-for-12 on third down. KP was forced to punt six times, had one turnover on downs, and two interceptions.
“We just can’t move the ball so it’s been difficult,” said KP head coach Brian Lee. “Overall I’m pleased with our defensive effort. For a team of 140-pound guys, I think we’re doing pretty good. We’re out there fighting. We had some momentum, we had the long drive and get all the way down and we don’t score…that really was difficult, could have been a boost for us. It’s just frustrating because we were in it.
“It doesn’t get any easier. Mansfield is a lot meaner and a lot more experience. For us not to be able to just go lean on our culture a little bit in this game was a little disappointing in this game.”
King Philip’s defense did its part to keep the Warriors in the game but the Scarlet Hawks hit on one big play in the first half and cashed in one good field possession in the second half to find the end zone twice. Senior quarterback Brady Olson (8/28, 190 yards, two touchdowns) hooked up with classmates Carter Scudo and Max Martin in the end zone for the two scores in the game.
For Milford, getting the ball to Scudo was a priority. Scudo lined up in the backfield (11 carries, 97 yards) and at receiver (two catches, 93 yards, touchdown) to get involved as much as possible. It was evident the Hawks were trying to get him the ball as much as possible and he rewarded them early, taking his first carry for 30 yards on the third play of the game.
In fact, neither team had much success on offense early on as the first quarter ended scoreless. KP’s first drive ended on an interception from Evan Hazard and the Warriors punted on their next two series. Milford turned it over on downs on its first series and went three-and-out on its next two drives.
Scudo was on the receiving end of Milford’s biggest play of the first half. On their fourth drive of the game, the Hawks were faced with 3rd and 13 but a penalty against the KP secondary gave Milford 10 yards and another chance at third down. Brady Olson hit Scudo on a quick slant and Scudo broke free of his man and sprinted his way to the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead (after the PAT was blocked) on the first play of the second quarter.
“We didn’t make a ton of plays in the passing game but we made a couple of big plays,” Olson said. “We tried to move Carter around because through the first two games, we weren’t getting our best kids enough touches. We got him in the backfield, and he’s an explosive kid and there were a couple of times he was so close to breaking it and being gone. So it was good to get him more involved.”
King Philip looked poised to respond with a scoring drive on its own, albeit in different fashion, but came up just inches shy. The Warriors relied on the ground game, giving carries to Crawford Cantave (17 carries, 56 yards) and Mike Malatesta (seven carries, 47 yards). Junior quarterback Charlie Grant (8/19, 69 yards) connected with Eli Reed for a key third down conversion, and Malatesta bulldozed his way inside the 10-yard line.
Milford’s defense held but on 4th and goal from the five, Grant fired a pass near the pylon but the receiver was held. With pass interference, not an automatic first down anymore, KP had a second chance but just 4th and goal from the 3-yard line. Grant kept it and the pile moved close to the goal line but the referees ruled he was down before crossing the line, giving Milford the ball back just an inch outside the goal line.
“What a huge stop,” Dale Olson said. “If they get in there, now it’s a tie game…but we’re big and physical too. I think that’s propelled this program and what we want this program to be moving forward, we want physical kids. To stop them down on the six-inch line like that? [King Philip] is even bigger than Mansfield is upfront so I couldn’t be prouder of our kids.”
King Philip received the opening kick of the second half but the Hawks stuffed the Warriors on a 3rd and 2 and forced the visitors to punt. A high kick went out of bounds at the KP 46-yard line, giving the Hawks good field position to start the second half.
The Hawks moved the ball but a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty backed Milford back up. That only delayed the drive as Brady Olson dropped a 30-yard pass down the sideline into the hands of Matt Varteresion to move the sticks. Two plays later, Olson went play action before hitting Martin on a slant to the right for another touchdown. KP’s Hunter Hastings blocked the extra point to make it 12-0 with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
The Warrior defense did its part to stay in the game. On the final four drives of the game, the Hawks were forced to punt twice after a total of 10 yards, and turned it over on downs inside the red zone on back-to-back possessions.
“We only gave up 12 points, we’re supposed to win with that,” Lee said. “We’re supposed to win that game only giving up 12 but we haven’t been able to figure out a constant response on offense yet. And we lost another starter so it’s only getting harder.”
Even as the KP defense put a stop to the Hawks’ offense, the Warriors couldn’t move the sticks in the second half. King Philip went three-and-out on its first three drives of the second half, punted after getting one first down on the fourth drive, and had its final drive of the game come to an end with Scudo hauled in an interception in the end zone during the final minutes of the contest.
Milford football (2-1) will hit the road for the first time this season when it travels to take on rival Franklin on Saturday at 12:00. King Philip (2-1) will look to bounce back from its first loss when it takes on league-leading Mansfield on Saturday at 6:30.
In week two, it was all about the Hornets’ defense.
Going up a powerful Milford offense that put up 34 points in their first game of the season, Mansfield’s defensive group was near perfect. The Hornets forced four turnovers, limited the Hawks to under 200 yards of offense, and pitched a shutout for the final three quarters to earn a 20-7 win on the road.
It marked the first meeting between the two squads since Milford joined the Hockomock League for football in 2013 with the Hawks making the switch to the Kelley-Rex division at the start of the 2020 school year.
“Story of the day, the defense played lights out,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “Scoring a touchdown for us, which in this game, was huge. Instead of just a six-point lead, it’s 13. The defense did a great job against a very good collection of receivers and [Brady] Olson can throw the ball. We gave them a few but nothing big, they popped the one run but after that, we were lights out, and thank goodness because this was really one of our sloppiest offensive performances in a long time.”
Mansfield 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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“Realistically, I look up at the scoreboard and it should have been 7-7. We had our opportunities, could have had 1st and goal but instead, it was an interception. They ball-controlled us but our defense was outstanding today. All of the film I’ve watched, I haven’t seen a team hold Gill like that. They didn’t really hurt us today with their offense, I thought it was more a matter of our offense couldn’t get going.”
However, the Hawks’ offense just could never get going, punting twice to start the second half and then had its third drive of the second half come to a sudden stop when Gill intercepted a pass at his own 30-yard line.
Mansfield was able to move the ball enough to kill a lot of clock in the fourth quarter and Milford’s final drive ended on downs.
Mansfield football (2-0) is on the road for the second straight week when it travels to Taunton for a 4:30 kickoff on Friday. Milford (1-1) will face another stiff test next week when it hosts King Philip (2-0) on Saturday at 1:00.