MILFORD, Mass. – The North Attleboro boys basketball team built its lead over Milford through its full-court pressure defense, so it’s only fitting the game came down to one final stop for the Rocketeers.
North got it, and then another, surviving a pair of highly contested three-point attempts from the host Hawks to break into the win column for the first time this year with a 53-50 decision on Tuesday night.
Senior Brody Rosenberg scored a career-high 30 points, including a key three-pointer midway through the fourth, and anchored North’s full-court pressure, grabbing six steals along with six boards.
“I think our group has been pretty good defensively all year, we’ve held four of the six teams we’ve played under their average entering tonight but we just haven’t really found our footing on offense,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “But I was proud of our guys making enough plays tonight. Milford, hats off to them, they didn’t quit and if there are another two minutes in this game, I’m not sure who the winner is.
The Scarlet Hawks capitalized on a turnover from the visitors inside the final minute, getting a three-pointer from Wyatt Zagami (eight points) in the corner after breaking North’s press to make it a one-point game, 51-50, with 18 seconds to play.
North Attleboro junior Givany Carney (nine points, seven rebounds) was fouled before the ensuing inbounds pass and hit both of his free throws to push the advantage back to three. Milford got the ball up the court but a contested corner three was off the front rim, and despite a tip out from Justin Lucini (23 points, 10 rebounds), the Rocketeers surrounded the shooter and the last-second heave was off the mark.
North Attleboro surged ahead in the second quarter and led for the entire second half. The Rocketeers led by as much as eight points in the third quarter, but the offense stalled against Milford’s 2-3 zone. After being shut out over the final four minutes of the fourth, North managed just six points over the first four minutes of the fourth.
North extended its lead back to seven early in the fourth behind a steal and score from Rosenberg, and then a layup from Carney after a good defensive play from senior Casey Poirier, making it 42-35.
Milford made a game of it with a quick 8-2 surge, getting five points from Lucini, who made his sixth three of the game, and then three straight from freshman Andrew Rivera (eight points, three rebounds, three assists) made it 44-43 as the clock ticked under four minutes to play.
“I thought every single time in the late third and early fourth that we could have separated ourselves, we hurt ourselves. Either a turnover there, missed one, or we fouled. And we were in the bonus before I blinked. At that point, I think guys started looking at the scoreboard and got away from being the more aggressive team. We’re still learning how to win, we have a lot of young guys, a lot of new juniors so hopefully this helps us down the road.
Rosenberg came back down the other end and came up short on a layup attempt but Carney secured one of North’s 17 offensive rebounds. After kicking it around the perimeter, Rosenberg faked a shot to get the defender in the air, took a step into space, and sank a three — his first triple since the second quarter, and just North’s fourth three in the game.
The Rocketeers got a stop on the defensive end and Rosenberg sliced to the basket for two more and North had some breathing room at 49-44 with 2:33 to go.
A quick foul led to a free throw from Paul Roberts, and a steal on the defensive end resulted in two more from the line from Roberts, and the Hawks got the ball back down just two. But North’s pressure paid off again as Jack Munley came up with a loose ball and Rosenberg drained two from the line to extend the lead to 51-47.
“I’m really proud of him,” Mulkerrins said of Rosenberg, who accounted for over half of the team’s points. “He hasn’t filled it up like he expects to and I think he’s feeling the weight of the record, the youth and inexperience and at times, maybe pressing like all four of our seniors have. Everyone in that locker room has a lot of confidence in him and when he shoots the ball, we assume it’s going in. There’s no one else we want taking the big three in that moment so I’m proud of him for staying the course and hitting the big one.
After a back-and-forth start, Milford separated itself on Lucini’s sharpshooting. The senior hit his first two attempts from deep and Zagami added one of his own to help the Hawks overcome eight turnovers to grab a 16-9 lead.
But North’s full-court pressure continued to limit the Hawks’ offensive chances as the Rocketeers forced 10 turnovers in the second quarter. North Attleboro turned that into 15 of its 23 points in the middle frame, including a four-point play from Rosenberg and a putback from Nate Bennett. North ran a nice inside-out play with Munley finding Poirier for an open three, leading to a 31-29 halftime edge.
“Even if it wasn’t getting a turnover, I thought it was keeping our guys mentally engaged,” Mulkerrins said. “We saw in our scout that we could possibly turn them over a little bit, and even when we weren’t getting that turnover, I felt like we were speeding them up. We just thought at halftime if we were able to keep it up and then get to [Lucini] a bit better in transition, I thought it was the appropriate defensive decision.”
North Attleboro boys basketball (1-5 Hockomock, 1-6 overall) is on the road again on Friday when it visits Stoughton. Milford (0-7, 0-8) has two games to end the week, hosting Brockton on Thursday and then visiting Franklin on Friday night.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2021-2022 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview
2020-2021 Record: 9-4
Coach: Brianna Bracken
Attleboro finished second in the Kelley-Rex division last year and, despite only returning one starter, have an experienced corps that will be looking to push the Bombardiers back to postseason contention this season. There was a big change a few weeks ago when Marty Crowley stepped down as coach (after taking the athletic director job at Cumberland High) and former player and freshman coach Brianna Bracken was promoted to take over.
The change in coach won’t change the emphasis on defense and trying to use the roster’s athleticism to get easy baskets in transition. Attleboro’s lone returning starter is senior forward Meghan Gordon, who has improved every season on varsity and averaged nearly 17 points per game last year. Gordon will get help from classmates Lindsey Perry and Lillian Froio, who have both improved offensively and will help the Bombardiers take some of the pressure off Gordon on that end of the floor.
Injuries and transfers will have an impact as well. Senior Hailey Perry suffered a knee injury that will keep her out and last year’s freshman point guard Narissa Smith transferred to Rivers. Junior Lily Routhier has transferred in this year from Wheeler School and will help out on the boards. Sophomores Kayla Goldrick and Rylie Camacho will add to the Attleboro attack after getting experience as freshmen and senior Avery Vieira and sophomore Sarah Maher will try to fill Perry’s role in the backcourt. Sophomore Merry Bosh and Molly Moore and freshman Vanessa Ellis have had impressive preseasons as well.
“We have a great mix of experience and youth,” said Bracken. “We are excited about what lies ahead. Practices have been intense and the kids have been working really hard.”
2020-2021 Record: 7-5
Coach: James Choquette
Canton could be poised for a big season with a mix of talented underclassmen and an experienced group of seniors who have played together on varsity for four years. The Bulldogs went 7-5 in the shortened 2020-21 season, but expectations are higher this winter, with hopes of challenging the top teams in the Davenport and putting together a playoff run.
Kiara Cerrutiis the team’s top returning scorer and the senior winger will be counted on to provide scoring punch with her mix of inside-outside skills. Fay Gallery is back to run the point for the Bulldogs, getting the team out in transition and finding ways to create good looks for teammates in the halfcourt. Sydney Gallery is also back to give Canton a strong post presence and scoring inside the arc. The three players combined to average 38 points per game last season and give the Bulldogs a strong foundation to build on and help spread the floor for a team that has the potential to be one of the top shooting teams in the league.
Marissa Staffiere and Carly Fitzgerald return to help run the point and give strong defensive effort in the backcourt and junior Samya DaSilva has stepped in to add another versatile weapon on the offensive end. If the Bulldogs can continue to improve defensively, they have the firepower to compete with anyone. Offensively, it will be about ball movement and making sure the ball doesn’t stick on the perimeter.
“Our program continues to grow and improve,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “With a strong senior class and a great group of underclassmen, we hope to improve each day we’re in the gym together and achieve the results we desire. Everyone knows how hard it is to win, but this group is willing to do whatever it takes and we’re so excited to see how this season unfolds.”
2020-2021 Record: 9-2
Coach: Lisa Downs
Foxboro had its four-year reign at the top of the Davenport division come to an end last season, as the Warriors came second to Oliver Ames. With a relatively young roster, Foxboro improved over the course of the shortened season and seemed to be peaking as it headed into what would have been the second half of a normal winter. The hope for this season is that those younger players will build on that experience to make another title challenge and playoff run.
With the graduation of the league’s leading scorer, Katelyn Mollica, the Warriors will have a lot of points to make up but have several players capable of taking on bigger roles this year. Senior forward Hannah Blake could help provide some of that scoring with her solid post-up game and mid-range jumper. Sophomore guards Erin Foley and Camryn Collins both had impressive rookie campaigns and showed versatile offensive games and both are aggressive and athletic defenders, who fit into Foxboro’s typical style.
Senior Andrea Slattery and junior Lauren Miley are under-sized forwards but both bring a lot of energy and aggression to the defensive end and hitting the glass. Freshmen Kaley Sullivan and Ava Hill will jump right into the varsity lineup this season and both could be ready to make instant impacts. Juniors Michelle Brandt and Maddie Maher and sophomore Isabelle Chamberlin will give the Warriors plenty of depth to call on this season, especially with their effort on the defensive end.
“Although we are young and have new faces, I am excited to see the potential and look forward to seeing the improvement every time they step onto the court,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs.
2020-2021 Record: 10-0
Coach: John Leighton
Franklin returns eight players, including six seniors, from last year’s team, which extended the Panthers’ win streak to 35 games and clinched a third straight Kelley-Rex division title. The Panthers will be leaning on that experience as they seek to continue their reign at the top of the league and defend the Div. 1 state title that they won in 2019-20.
Senior forward Olivia Quinn will be the focal point of the Franklin offense this year after leading the team in scoring last winter and emerging as one of the top players in the Hock over the past two years. The reigning Kelley-Rex MVP will have plenty of help, particularly in the paint. While Franklin doesn’t have someone with Ali Brigham’s size, the Panthers have seven players on their roster that are listed at 5-foot-9 or taller. Senior Brigid Earley was the team’s leading rebounder last year and junior Katie Peterson is an athletic forward with a versatile game. Senior Emma Sousa is another experienced forward that gives depth in the post.
On the perimeter, Franklin has graduated a lot of its ball-handlers and shooters but senior Stefany Padula, a Springfield College-commit, is back and will help stretch the floor. Junior Bridget Leo is coming off a strong soccer season and could step in at point guard along with seniors Julia White and Jessica Pingeton, who saw some time last year. Sophomore guard Sasha Tracey is the lone underclassman on the roster this season.
“I am very excited to get back on the court with this team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “There is a lot of work ahead of us but there has also been many glimpses of what we could develop into. We have a very strong senior class who has set the bar high for the team. We hope to develop into a close-knit, supportive team that can win in different ways and also play defense that will limit our opponents’ options.”
2020-2021 Record: 5-6
Coach: Jeff Miszkiewicz
There is going to be a transition period for King Philip this season, as the Warriors will be moving from former head coach Dan Nagle’s unique, non-stop pressure, quick-shot system to a new system brought in by first-year coach Jeff Miszkiewicz (who comes from LaSalle Academy in Rhode Island). With seven returning players, including five seniors, the Warriors should have the experience to adjust to the new style and be in the mix in the Kelley-Rex division.
Junior Emily Sawyer will be a major weapon for the Warriors on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-3 center may be the biggest beneficiary of a change in system and is poised for a breakout year in the paint. Her classmate Jackie Bonner will move into a starting role this season, with her ability to create instant offense and be a pest on the defensive side of the game.
Seniors Liv Lafond, Julia Marsden, and Elizabeth Molla also project to be starters for the Warriors this season. All three are versatile wings that can space the floor and attack in transition. Lafond may be the best off-the-dribble player for KP this season and her ability to get into the paint and create will be key. Marsden is a smart player who always seems to be in the right spot and a solid scorer at the rim or out on the perimeter. Molla is a knockdown shooter from the outside and can punish teams that sink down into the paint to guard Sawyer or prevent driving lanes.
“The team plays really hard and is very coachable,” said Miszkiewicz. “I think that’s why we have seen so much improvement over the first week of practice. You’ll see us take full advantage of our athleticism on both offense and defense. We’re going to be a fun team to watch.”
2020-2021 Record: 9-4
Coach: Heather McPherson
Mansfield closed out the shortened 2020-21 season with five straight wins and will hope to keep that momentum rolling into this winter, although the Hornets will need a lot of players to step into bigger roles. Six seniors graduated from last year’s team, including the bulk of the team’s frontcourt and two of its three leading scorers. New players will need the early part of the season to adjust to the pace of the varsity level.
The Hornets will be hoping that junior guard Abby Wager’s growing offensive game will allow her to improve on the nine points per game she averaged as a sophomore. Senior Anna Darlington brings tenacity on defense and will make it tough for teams to get into their half court sets. Seniors Kayla Doherty and Sophia Allen will also need to add experience to a lineup that is growing into the season.
Junior guard Olivia Salisbury and sophomore forward Kara Santos are going to be stepping up from utility roles into core pieces of the Mansfield offense this season. Salisbury has good vision and can create chances for teammates, while Santos will be a threat in the paint, making up for some of the size that graduated from last year’s team.
“After a shortened season under my belt I feel confident in the adjustments that the girls have made into a slightly different system than previous years,” said second-year Mansfield coach Heather McPherson. “We are emphasizing good fundamental defense and hoping that we can use it to create transition offense.”
2020-2021 Record: 3-8
Coach: TJ Dolliver
Milford ended last season with three wins in its final five games, building a little momentum that the Hawks are going to hope can get them off to a good start this winter. There will be a lot of changes from last year’s squad, as Milford graduated seven players, including a few four-year members of the team, so there may be some growing pains as new faces adjust to a new level.
Four seniors return to add experience and leadership to this year’s team. Guards Jess Douglas, Olivia Morelli, and Aubrey Korpi, and forward Jill Araujo are all back and will give Milford a foundation to build around. With so many new faces in the team this year, head coach TJ Dolliver will be leaning on his upperclassmen to help the younger players adjust, as the coaches work through the best way to utilize everyone’s skills on the court.
Junior forward Emily Croteau and guard Brooke Ferreira will be key players as well. The team’s top two returning scorers, Croteau and Ferreira will have to take on bigger roles this year and may be asked to carry a lot of the scoring punch. A three-year starter at point guard, Ferreira is the team’s top ball-handler and will be expected to get the Hawks into their sets while also looking for her own shot. An undersized forward, Croteau gives the team energy and rebounding, keeping possessions alive and getting chances thanks to her work rate.
“We are making a lot of changes this season,” Dolliver said. “It will be very important how we approach practice in regards to how successful we are this season. We have a lot of potential and I am excited to see where it goes.”
2020-2021 Record: 4-9
Coach: Nikki Correia
North Attleboro had a tough finish to the 2020-21 season, losing five straight to close it out, but all five were against teams with winning records, including two against division champ Oliver Ames. With a full season ahead, North has two of its top scorers back and has added more size in the frontcourt to try and make a postseason push.
The two key returning players will be senior Summer Doherty and junior Ava McKeon. The two aggressive guards give North extra energy on both ends of the floor and push the Rocketeers into the transition game that head coach Nikki Correia prefers. Their defensive effort will be critical for North this season. Senior forward Taylor McMath has improved each year and adds scoring in the paint and is an aggressive rebounder on both ends.
Size hasn’t been a strength for North the past few seasons but freshman Maryellen Charette will be an important addition in the paint. Despite being just a rookie, Charette has shown good footwork with back to the basket and is a strong rebounder. Sam Sweeney is the other freshman on the roster, while North has seven seniors on the roster to provide necessary experience for the younger players.
“I am looking forward to this season with a full schedule and many returning players, so lots of familiarity with each other and playing more under control and trusting each other more,” said Correia. “They are already showing more confidence and being in the right spots, running the offense, and letting the game come to them instead of forcing it.”
2020-2021 Record: 10-0
Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames finished unbeaten and won the Davenport division title last season, but the Tigers will be disappointed to have missed out on a potentially deep tournament run. Coming into this year, expectations remain high with a good mix of experienced players and youth that will be getting their first taste of a full Hockomock League campaign.
Senior guard Caroline Peper is a four-year starter for the Tigers and has always been one of the league’s top long-range shooters, but continues adding to her game and her scoring will be critical. Senior Hailey Bourne is another four-year regular and one of the top defensive players in the league, capable of guarding multiple positions. Their leadership will be a key to OA’s success this winter. Senior forward Anna Murphy has improved each year and has a solid all-around game, making an impact on both ends of the floor, and junior guard Maddie Homer is a quick, tenacious defender and her improved offensive game will be important.
In addition to the more experienced players, OA is excited about the potential of the trio of sophomores who made cameos last year. Forwards Jasmyn Cooper, Kaydance Derba, and Sarah Hilliard all had good rookie seasons that gave a taste of their capabilities. Cooper and Hilliard provide size and scoring in the paint and both are excellent rebounders. Derba also has good size to be a tough matchup on the defensive end and is a dangerous three-point shooter who can stretch the floor.
“The Hockomock League, as always brings its share of tough competition, which will help us better prepare for the new standards established for the power rankings needed for the state tournament,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “The thing that I am most proud of is the fact that my players have worked tirelessly to improve themselves as players and we are ready to give it our best fight.”
2020-2021 Record: 1-10
Coach: Sandy Lombardi
It is hard to predict what type of season this will be for Sharon because the Eagles will be incorporating so many new faces and many of the players will be experiencing their first full season on varsity. After one win in 2020-21, the Eagles return only one senior on this year’s roster, so there is the potential to spring a few surprises on teams this season.
Trinity Payne is the lone senior for the Eagles. The four-year varsity player is a strong defensive presence and can control the glass, especially on the defensive end. Sharon coach Sandy Lombardi is looking for more offensive punch from Payne this season. Junior point guard Tess Lentendre returns after missing a few games last winter. A leader in the backcourt, Letendre is a three-year varsity player and will help control things on the offensive end.
The rest of the starting five for Sharon will be sophomores. Rachel Hager and Eva Poulton both saw time on varsity last season and play out on the wings. Jasmine Davis didn’t play last year but will start at center and should give Sharon extra size in the middle and should be a force on both ends of the court. Junior forward Emily Freeman is back from last year, but the rest of the Sharon roster are newcomers to the varsity team, although Lombardi is expecting good contributions from the bench.
“The girls have been working hard,” Lombardi said. “We are excited for the season and hopefully we can make some noise in the Hock this year.”
2021-2022 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview
2020-2021 Record: 1-9
Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
Last year was a little bit of a transition season for Stoughton, as the Black Knights graduated a lot from a team that was a win away from tournament qualification. An inexperienced Stoughton roster had some growing pains in 2020-21, but with five seniors this year head coach Charmaine Steele Jordan is hoping that last year will set a foundation for this year’s team to build on.
Senior Jess Maddalena is an important returning player for Stoughton. After missing her junior season to an injury, Maddalena will give the Black Knights additional scoring and depth on the wing. Senior guard Kate Bulger will be back to run the offense and provide strong perimeter defense. Senior Vanessa Philemond adds athleticism, energy, and rebounding and her length can be a weapon on both ends of the floor.
In addition to their three captains, the Black Knights will also be hoping for big seasons and lots of leadership from senior guards Makaiyah Singleton Rivera and Evie Lam. Stoughton also has three sophomores, Katrina Varnum, Alyssa Edwards, and Maiya Merritt, and freshman Raina Tat, who will be handling their first full season of varsity basketball this season.
“It’s so good to be back on the hardwood to compete this season,” said Steele Jordan. “We will continue to play hard on both ends of the court this season. I am looking forward to the five seniors taking charge and setting the pace for us. We will play tough, be gritty, and battle until the final buzzer sounds each night in the Hock.”
2021-2022 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview
2020-2021 Record: 0-10
Coach: Amy Siggens
Taunton coach Amy Siggens is in her third year in charge of the program (and second season on the sidelines after not coaching last winter) and she will have a very different looking roster to the one that she first inherited. The Tigers graduated six seniors from last year’s team and there will be a lot of untested players getting their first taste of varsity action this season.
There is excitement about the return of junior guard Kameron St. Pierre. After a breakout rookie season in which she averaged more than 14 points per game, St. Pierre sat out last winter and will be back to carry a heavy load for the Taunton offense. The lefty point guard will get the Tigers into their sets and her long-range shooting should open the floor for teammates.
In addition to St. Pierre, the Tigers will have a host of guards to rotate through. Seniors Braeley McDonald, Kyanna Barros, and Abby Souza will give the Tigers plenty of energy on both ends of the floor and could benefit from the attention paid to St. Pierre to get decent looks from the perimeter. Sophomores Cali Melo and Lexi Haywood also have experience at the varsity level. Inside, Taunton will have several new faces but senior forward Olivia Gannon and junior Sayla DePina bring some size in the paint.
“As we look toward the beginning of this basketball season, caution and patience are the words that ring true for us,” said Siggens. “Baptism under fire is an appropriate description for our girls this season but with enthusiasm, hard work, and a commitment to improving, we have a chance to be competitive in a typically demanding Hockomock League.”
MILFORD, Mass. – Across the Hockomock League, there are Thanksgiving Day rivalries that stretch back decades. On Thursday morning, the two newest programs in the league squared off in the league’s newest holiday rivalry, kicking it off with a game that went right down to the wire.
Milford (9-3) pulled ahead by two scores in the fourth quarter but then had to hold on in the final minute, watching a deep pass drop incomplete to seal a 34-28 victory over Taunton (5-6) in their inaugural Thanksgiving Day game. It was Milford’s third win in three meetings between the two teams and during the trophy presentation both athletic directors spoke about their hopes that this will develop into a great end-of-season rivalry.
“A great program like Taunton, they’re going to continue to get better and better,” said Milford coach Dale Olson. “Milford had a great Thanksgiving opponent here back in the Mid-Wach days with Shrewsbury, hopefully we can turn that game into this game with Taunton.
Taunton coach Brad Sidwell added, “It’s great. If it’s anything like this one then it’s going to be a little bit of stress on Thanksgiving. It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth.”
Taunton had an extra week to prepare for the game, as the Hawks were playing a state semifinal last Friday, and the Tigers put that extra work into practice on the opening drive. Jacob Leonard ( 20-of-28, 202 yards) threw a perfect strike to Trent Santos (seven catches, 118 yards) for 19 to get to the Milford 37. Three plays later, Leonard’s sneak converted on fourth and inches and then he hooked up with Santos again for 25 yards and a touchdown.
The Hawks looked sluggish at the start, needing an emotional boost after the disappointment of the loss to King Philip. After a halfback pass went incomplete and Nathan LaPlante stuffed a play for a loss of five, Olson called timeout and gave his team a much-needed wakeup call.
“We sensed it. Only having a few days to prepare for a very good Taunton team, there’s a ton of skill on that team and the kids get after it, we knew we were going to have our hands full,” Olson explained.
Evan Cornelius (17-of-24, 154 yards) swung a pass to Tyler Lane for 17 and a first down. A 12-yard pass to Grant Scudo got the ball down to the Taunton 32 and Lane (16 carries, 108 yards) did the rest. The senior running back barreled through the line, breaking tackles, and then broke free in the secondary for a game-tying score.
After forcing a three-and-out, thanks to a sack by Cornelius (who was named Defensive MVP), the Hawks went right back to work. A completion to Jayden Agnew got the ball to the goal line, but then Taunton stuffed back-to-back runs, with Kasaan Jean-Baptiste and Ryan MacDougall combining to drop Lane at the four. On third and goal, Cornelius looked to the right and Faisal Mass tipped, picked off, and returned the pass 97 yards to put the Tigers back in front.
Milford’s offense was still moving the ball well and the Hawks marched right back down the field on the following possession. John Castillo sacked Cornelius for a loss of seven but on third and 17, Cornelius connected with Isaiah Pantalone (seven catches, 56 yards) for 18 and the first. Another third down and long pass hit Scudo for 25 to the one. This time, Cornelius was able to punch it in for the TD and tied it at 14-14.
Pantalone also provided a defensive spark, as his hit forced an Evan Perrotta fumble that was recovered by Alex McColl at the Taunton 41. Lane got an inch more than he needed on fourth and two to keep the drive moving but the Tigers were able to hold and force a field goal. Nicholas Araujo booted a 41-yard kick to make it 17-14.
“We get the deflection and the kid goes back 97 yards and changed the whole outlook on the game,” said Olson, “but I’m thankful we have a sophomore kicker who can kick the ball like that, he’s a huge weapon.”
The Tigers thought they had a chance to take the lead with a two-minute drive. Leonard scrambled for 21 yards on two plays to get to the Milford 22. On third and three from the 15, Leonard hit Jose Touron for 10 yards to the five and the Tigers scrambled to spike the ball and stop the clock with six seconds left. Sidwell was adamant the clock should’ve stopped seven seconds earlier on the first down and given Taunton two shots at the end zone. Instead, the Tigers got one and Scudo tackled Troy Santos a couple yards short as time expired.
Sidwell said, “The clock should stop on a first down, which it didn’t. I thought there were 12 seconds left, there were six. It was bad. It was awful. We had a timeout in our pocket to save. I’m very frustrated by the way that happened.”
Things went from back to worse at the start of the second half. Milford was forced to punt, but the ball appeared to bounce up off the leg of Nathan Keenan and was recovered by Eric Landry at the 32. On third and goal from the three, Cornelius was able to power into the end zone over the right side of the line for a 24-14 edge.
A three-and-out gave Milford the ball back with a chance to make things comfortable heading into the fourth quarter, but Taunton’s defense held again, stopping the Hawks at the 28. Araujo made sure that Milford got at least three points with a 45-yard field goal.
The visitors needed a break and Trent Santos gave them some momentum with a 31-yard return out to the 48. Two plays later, Santos was able to get separation on the near sideline and pulled in a 46-yard touchdown that cut the lead to six with 12 minutes to go.
Araujo was unable to hit from 51 yards, which gave Taunton the ball at its own 20. Leonard scrambled away from pressure but then attempted an underhand pass that Scudo was able to pick off and give the Hawks the ball at the 23. Pantalone followed the block of Marco Monteiro on a sweep, scoring from 10 yards out and seemingly putting the game away.
It only appeared to be over, as Taunton roared back into the game with a huge drive. Leonard moved the chains with a 13-yard scramble and then hit Santos for 16 yards to the Milford 31. On the next play, he threw a strike to Touron, who had gotten behind the secondary. Keenan’s extra point cut the lead to six.
“Our kids fight hard all the time,” Sidwell said. “It is hard on a younger quarterback when you have to throw it and they know it. He gave us a chance to win there at the end.”
The onside kick attempt was recovered at the Taunton 48 and the Tigers had one last chance. On third and two, Cornelius and Angelo Romero combined on a sack to force fourth and nine from the Taunton side of the 50. Leonard bought time in the pocket and looked deep for Santos, who beat his man, but the throw was a yard too far and Milford took home the win.
“That’s kind of been our M.O.,” said Olson. “We haven’t done anything easy over these past two seasons. We’ve played in a lot of tight games.
“When the kids needed to dig in, they dug in today. It’s been a great ride these last two years and to finish 9-3 the future is bright here in Milford.”
BROCKTON, Mass. – King Philip has been in these type of games before. Despite trailing by two points going into halftime of Friday night’s Div. 2 state semifinal at Brockton’s Marciano Stadium, the Warriors remained confident that they could turn things around.
In the third quarter, KP ran 20 plays to Milford’s one. The Warriors ate up more than nine minutes off the clock on a 16-play, go-ahead drive to start the half, forced a turnover, and then ran another 10 plays and used up more than four minutes to extend the lead. Before the Hawks had a chance to find their footing after the break, KP had taken control of the game.
The Warriors scored 17 unanswered in the second half, turning a two-point deficit into a 31-16 victory that sends KP to Gillette Stadium for the fourth time in the past six years (or four out of the past five seasons where a state title was up for grabs).
“We knew we weren’t getting that good of a push up front and we wanted to come out there and we wanted to set the tone for the second half,” said senior lineman Hunter Hastings about turning things around out of halftime. “We knew we had to do it on the first drive, so we came out there and we pounded the ball and we took up time and scored the ball, doesn’t get better than that.”
He added, “Coach Lee tells us what we need to do and he knows we’re going to be in these situations and he knows we’ve got to fight through the adversity and that’s what we do at KP.”
Milford came out with a hurry-up offense, trying to get the KP defense on its heels and slow down the pass rush. It worked on the opening drive, as the Hawks marched right down field, going 70 yards on 13 plays, and taking the lead. The big play was a 30-yard pass to the sideline from Evan Cornelius to Jayden Agnew to convert on third and long. Cornelius would finish off the drive with a 4-yard keeper.
“We wanted to go hurry-up early, but we just don’t have the numbers to sustain that for a whole game,” Milford coach Dale Olson said. “Tried to limit their blitz package and had a great first drive.”
The lead lasted all of 19 seconds. Although Milford is known more for the big-play offense, KP hit paydirt on its first play from scrimmage. An end around to Crawford Cantave caught the Hawks over-pursuing and the senior raced up the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown that quickly tied the game.
“You get knocked down, you’ve got to get up, you’ve got to have a response,” Lee explained. “Craw gets us right back in so we get a fresh start. I told them, let’s get through it, eventually the pace will slow, things will get down, and we’ll get back on schedule.”
Olson said, “Give them props, that’s a new formation we saw last week and they ran the double handoff. Our team’s chasing the first handoff and they give it to the kid going the other way and we haven’t seen it on film. It was a great call on their part.”
Isaiah Pantalone, who was held to one catch, broke a 54-yard return on the ensuing kick and the Hawks were back in business, starting at the KP 36. After a false start brought up first and 15 at the 30, Cornelius hit Nick Schuler for 13 yards. Tyler Lane (15 carries, 119 yards) got two to bring up fourth and one. The Hawks lined up to go for it but a false start backed them up, so the field goal unit came out. Another false start made it a 43-yard kick, which KP blocked.
On the final possession of the first quarter, KP struck again. Charlie Grant (4-of-9, 38 yards) converted a third and long with a 12-yard pass over the middle to Danny Clancy. On third and two from the Milford 49, Rudy Gately (22 carries, 134 yards) found a little seam between the right guard and tackle and burst through it, breaking away for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Milford again got into KP territory on its next drive. Lane had the big play with a 43-yard rush down to the 32, but that’s where the possession stalled. Sean King blocked a fourth down pass to get the ball back, but the Warriors went three-and-out and punted. With the short field, Milford was able to tack on three points. A nice play by Cantave and William Astorino on third down forced the Hawks to settle for a 32-yard kick by Nicholas Araujo.
The biggest play of the half came on KP’s next possession. Milford brought a big rush to try and block Grant’s rugby-style punt. Lane got through for the block, scooped up the loose ball, and took it the distance. He appeared to be tackled at about the five, but somehow managed to stay on his feet and find the end zone. Although a low snap led to a missed extra point, Milford regained the lead going into the break, 16-14.
KP came out intent on grinding down the Milford defense. Nathan Kearney converted on third and one, then Grant hit Clancy for eight yards to convert on third and eight. Gately converted back-to-back third downs, as KP just kept pounding the ball up the middle and moving the chains.
The Hawks were able to get stops inside the 30 and force the Warriors to settle for a 38-yard Matthew Kelley field goal, but KP had used up 9:19 off the clock, ran 16 plays, regained the lead, and stolen all of the energy from the opposite sideline. Milford tried to take a shot on the first play of its first possession, but Crawford was able to go up and intercept a pass to Pantalone and get KP the ball back at the Hawks 42.
“We ran one play in the third quarter and it’s a 50-50 ball that goes through Isaiah’s hands into one of their best player’s hands,” Olson said. “Usually Isaiah makes that play and it’s a big play down the sideline, but that’s the game of football.”
Four plays later, the third quarter came to a close. Milford had run one play in 12 minutes. After Grant found Cantave in the flat to convert third and five, Gately got four straight carries down to the 10. On third and six, Grant looked for Clancy in the end zone. The pass fell incomplete but the officials called defensive holding, which gave KP another chance. Now, on third and one from the five, Gately got the call, spun out of a tackle in the backfield, and scored for the second time.
“Rudy doesn’t look like your typical pound back but he finds a way to make things happen when he gets the ball in his hands,” said Lee. “Craw was able to do it and the offensive line had a response. We made some big pass plays. We made plays.”
A short punt on Milford’s next possession meant that the Warriors got the ball back near midfield and they went right back to grinding out first downs. Facing third and nine from the 14, Gately somehow managed to keep his feet moving, breaking tackles in the backfield again, and moving the pile down to the five for a first and goal. Two plays later, Cantave punched it in from the three for a 31-16 lead.
Thomas Brewster broke up a pass play on the sideline and Jake Sullivan sacked Cornelius (8-of-20, 63 yards), not allowing Milford to put together a drive to try and cut into the lead in the final two minutes.
When asked how it feels to be heading back to a state title game, Hastings replied, “It’s never felt better. We come to play every week. We don’t care who we’re against.”
Olson remarked, “I’m proud of my kids. We’re still trying to build this and for us to be in this game is huge for this program.”
This will be the fifth Div. 2 (2016 was D1A) Super Bowl in a row, and eighth in the last 11 years, that has featured either King Philip or Mansfield. Only two times in the past 11 years, 2014 and 2015, has the Hock not had at least one team reach a Super Bowl.
King Philip (9-1) will face Franklin on Thanksgiving Day to decide the Kelley-Rex division title and then will await the winner of No. 1 Catholic Memorial and No. 4 Marshfield in the Super Bow. Milford (8-3) will face Taunton in the first Thanksgiving Day matchup between the two programs.
“It feels awesome,” Lee said about heading back to Gillette. He added with a laugh, “I love that we have a humungous Thanksgiving Day game against, you know, the third best team in the state before. We can’t enjoy it for long.”
MILFORD, Mass. – There are days when an offense can be creative, going with trick plays, receiver screens, deep throws trying to stretch the opposition and score in a hurry. In the playoffs, sometimes a more straightforward approach is required.
In the second half of Thursday night’s Div. 2 quarterfinal, Milford decided to take a decidedly old school plan of attack. Over two drives, the Hawks ran 33 plays, covered 173 yards, used up nearly half of the clock in third and fourth quarters, and scored a pair of touchdowns. Out of those 33 plays, only five were passes.
The ground game and a stout defense proved to be Milford’s best weapons, as the Hawks pulled out a 21-7 victory that moved them within one win of a first-ever trip to Gillette.
“I just told them, buckle up, we need to run the football,” said Milford coach Dale Olson about his message at halftime. “Three down box and sometimes it was a 3-2 or a 3-1, they were so concerned about our pass game. It’s so simple, I told the quarterback if it’s a limited box then run the football. It wasn’t Evan’s best night throwing the football but he ran the ball like a man tonight.”
Natick was in Milford territory in seven of its eight drives on the night, but many times that was the result of great starting field position. The 35-yard-line was the furthest that Natick started any of its first half drives, but the Milford defense kept finding ways to keep them out of the end zone.
On the first possession, a big tackle on the edge by Nicholas Araujo and Jayden Archeval forced third and long. Grant Scudo broke up the third down play to end the drive. The second drive ended after Keith Lee stuffed a run on second down and then Scudo dropped a third-down screen pass attempt for a loss.
The visitors finally broke through on their third possession, which they started at their own 45. After converting on third down, Colby LeBlanc was able to buy time in the pocket, eluding the rush and giving time for a receiver to come free. Mathew Pole found himself open in the seam and it turned into a 43-yard touchdown.
Milford moved the ball on its second possession, with Evan Cornelius (13-of-25, 129 yards) hitting Cameron Phillipss for a big conversion on third and eight. Cornelius (11 carrries, 61 yards) also converted third and short with a 10-yard keeper. After getting inside the Natick 30, things stalled. David Seiche nearly intercepted a pass and on fourth and four a screen pass to Damien Carter was stuffed for a loss.
Its first possession after Natick took the lead ended with a Seiche interception, but Milford’s defense forced a punt and the Hawks took over at their own 20. Scudo broke an 18-yard draw up the middle that put Milford into Natick territory and, on third and eight, Cornelius looked down the near sideline to Isaiah Pantalone (four catches, 54 yards), who was finally able to get just enough separation to haul in a 34-yard touchdown and tie the game with 2:20 before halftime.
Momentum seemed to be with the home side, especially when Nizayah Montas fumbled near midfield and Scudo recovered. A big completion over the middle to Jayden Agnew (five catches, 45 yards) gained 17 and got the Hawks to the 26. They managed to spike the ball with one tick remaining on the clock, but Araujo’s 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Seiche had a big kickoff return to start the third quarter, putting Natick at the 46, but on third down and short Alex McColl was able to stop Montas for no gain and force a punt. The ball was downed at the nine and Milford went to work behind its big offensive line.
Scudo, Cornelius, and Tyler Lane were finding running room and grinding out yards and first downs. An 11-yard keeper got the Hawks out to the 35 and then Lane went up the gut for 11 more. On third and one from the Natick 35, Lane burst through the line and then bounced it out to the left, finally being dragged down after a 23-yard gain. Three plays later, he was able to cash in from the one to put the hosts ahead for good.
Milford’s pass defense continued to be excellent with Archeval and Matt Girard both breaking up passes to force another punt. This time, the Hawks started at their own 18 but 18 plays and nearly 9-1/2 minutes later they were back in the end zone.
Olson said, “I said to them we need a championship drive right now and we’re going to run the football right down their throats and, if we can do that, we’re going to go play for the right to go to Gillette.”
Cornelius started the drive with a 13-yard completion to Nick Schuler and he kept the chains moving with a five-yard pass to Pantalone for a first down at the Natick 43. Lane followed that with a 17-yard carry. Scudo, Cornelius, and Lane all got the ball, grinding down to the goal line and it was Lane (29 carries, 157 yards) who would punch it in from a yard out, making it 21-7 with just 4:27 to play.
“Tyler’s a dude,” Olson said. “I don’t want to give him the ball that much because he’s a great linebacker and early in the season we gave it to him 29 times in one game and the first two days after that game he was in an ice bath. He’s not the fastest kid in the world, but man he runs hard.” When told Lane’s stats for the game, Olson said with a smile, “That’s a great night.”
Milford (8-2) will face a rematch with a league foe in next week’s semifinal at a location to be determined. The Hawks will face either No. 3 King Philip, which beat Milford 17-14 on a last second field goal, or No. 6 Mansfield, which Milford beat 27-24 in overtime, for the right to play in the D2 Super Bowl.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this program in 20 months where it’s gone and it’s been the kids,” Olson explained. “They bought into the system and they’re playing well.”