ATTLEBORO, Mass. – In a shortened fifth set, getting off to a good start is paramount. After battling back to even Wednesday night’s match at two sets apiece, Milford carried the momentum over, winning seven of the final set’s first eight points and never looking back.
The Hawks came back from down a set twice in the match before finally pulling out a 3-2 (17-25, 25-7, 19-25, 25-14, 15-7) road victory that completes a hard-fought season sweep of the Bombardiers and moves Milford back to .500 on the year.
“The consistency wasn’t there tonight, that’s for sure,” admitted Milford coach Tammy Webber, who praised her team for being able to battle and still come out with the win. She added, “That’s a sign of growth that they were able to do that because I’d say in the past we would’ve folded in the fifth set.”
Attleboro has struggled in the opening set of its last two matches (at Taunton and at Milford) and found it hard to climb back out of the early hole. On Wednesday, the Bombardiers came out with extra energy and an emphasis on starting quickly. It worked.
The Bombardiers used a 7-0 run to turn a 6-3 deficit into a 10-6 lead in the first. Gabriella Bolduc gave Attleboro an early spark with a couple of kills and Summer Pereira stepped up in the middle with three blocks in the first. After Milford answered with three straight, Attleboro rattled off 10 of the next 14 points to take control of the set.
“Playing on the road is always difficult,” said first-year Attleboro coach Mary Katherine Runey. “Our fans aren’t there and we’re staying on the bus until we’re allowed to come in and that’s definitely taking a hit on us, but I was excited to get back at home because I know we have way more energy.”
“The block has not been there all season and the defense has really taken a hit,” Runey said, “but tonight the switch was flipped and Summer was hot and I was so happy to see it. She really need that for her own play and I was happy for her.”
After such a great start, it looked like Attleboro was on its way, but the second set was all Milford. The Hawks scored 13 of the first 14 points in the set and then closed it with the final eight points to earn a lopsided point in the match.
Cressida Michalowski had three aces during the first portion of the set. Lexi Starks had a bump drop in for a point and Sarah Brogioli started to heat up on the outside. During the final run to close out the set, Starks added a pair of aces and Aliza Syed scored with a tip and a block. The combination of Brogioli on the outside and Syed in the middle was tough for Attleboro to contain.
Webber said, “I’m happy with the balance of our hitters this year. We have a good mix of strength and finesse and consistency. It’s been good.”
The hosts quickly set aside the difficult second set and got back to the strong serve-receive game that they played at the start of the match, but a Syed kill had the Hawks up 14-11. Attleboro didn’t panic and scored the next seven points to take the lead.
Pereira got it started with a block that fired up the Bombardiers and Kate Petrosso had a big swing in the middle to tie the set at 14-14. Milford kept things close but a couple of errors a service point from Lily Boedeker gave Attleboro a cushion to restore its lead in the match.
Milford seemed to thrive in the even numbered sets. With Attleboro leading the fourth 7-6, nine of the next 10 points to put themselves in front to stay. Starks got it going with a kill and then a well-place tip and Brogioli had back-to-back aces for a 15-8 lead. Brojek answered with a nice tip over the block but Brogioli had a pair of kills and Michalowski had an ace.
After Fauerbach scored with a swing off the Attleboro block, Syed added a kill. Brogioli closed out the fourth with another big hit on the outside.
“If the other team gets three or four in a row, then they start to lose their confidence in themselves,” Runey explained. “We need to develop our winning mindset and as soon as they see that start to slip away it really takes its toll on their confidence.”
Now that Milford was back in it, the Hawks made sure to close things out. Syed had a kill and a block and Emily Croteau added an ace as the visitors scored the first four points of the fifth set. Michalowski added back-to-back aces, the first hitting the top of the net before dropping in, and Attleboro never recovered. The Bombardiers got no closer than four and the Hawks pulled away to get the win.
“You never want to have to come back in the fifth set,” said Webber. “Our serving has been our go-to so far this season and when it fails us it really affects our game and we scored a lot of points of it but we really needed it in the fifth game.”
After starting with two tough matches against league-leading Franklin, Milford (2-2) has built a little momentum heading into two matches against King Philip.
“We were trying not to gauge our whole season off of Franklin,” Webber said. “It was a little measuring stick, but we knew we could play better than that and we played better this week.”
Attleboro (1-3) will look to rebound when it hosts Mansfield on Monday.
MILFORD, Mass. – Milford didn’t get the chance to scrimmage in the abbreviated preseason, so the Hawks needed to work out some of the kinks early in Saturday afternoon’s season opener against Attleboro. Luckily for Milford, its defense was in mid-season form right from the opening kick, giving its offense time to get settled in.
Once things clicked into gear, Milford proved unstoppable, overcoming three first half turnovers by scoring on four straight possessions between the second and third quarters to beat Attleboro 34-0 in the program’s first Kelley-Rex division game.
Attleboro couldn’t have asked for a better start. Alexander Bakowski recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff to give the visitors the ball at the Milford 32, but the Bombardiers went backwards and three plays later punted.
The ball rolled down to the Milford two-yard-line and Attleboro’s defense forced a three-and-out. Milford’s punt hung up in the wind, so Attleboro regained possession at the 23-yard-line. Again Attleboro went nowhere, as Michael Strachan was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on fourth and three.
“The offense didn’t help us out there,” said first-year Milford coach Dale Olson, “and put the defense behind some tough situations but I think the defensive game plan that my brother (Dana Olson) and Coach (Eric) Riley put together, I’d be hard-pressed to think they had over 100 yards of offense today. Defense was lights out today for sure.”
Two more times in the first half Attleboro would get the ball deep in Milford territory, after Milford fumbles recovered by Strachan and Ryan Betts. They started possessions at the Hawks’ 36 and 26, but ran four plays combined after the turnovers and gained no yards.
Attleboro had only two first downs in the game and one came in the final minute of regulation. Dom Schofield, Mario Lee, Tyler Lane, and Angelo Romero, among others were winning every battle at the point of attack and the Bombardiers struggled to find a way through.
“You can’t make the mistakes,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said. “I just thought they were more physical than us up front. [Being physical] is our game but they’re good up front. They’re a good football team.”
Milford’s offense was hardly lighting up the scoreboard early, but at the end of the first quarter the Hawks started to move the ball. Brady Olson, who transferred from Bishop Feehan, was able to connect with his talented crop of receivers. He hit Carter Scudo, Schofield, Max Martin, and Keithley Sutton to move into the red zone.
Two plays into the second quarter, he swung a pass to the near sideline for Scudo (six catches, 38 yards), who cut upfield and dove for the goal line. The ball came loose as he landed and Attleboro was sure that he had come up short, but the officials ruled it a touchdown and Milford took a 7-0 lead.
The score stayed the same until late in the half. After Attleboro lost the handle on a snap to give the Hawks back the ball just one play after Milford had themselves turned it over, the Hawks put together a 14-play, 73-yard drive to grab control of the game.
Olson (18-of-33, 296 yards) found Martin sliding across the middle for a 14-yard gain on third and eight inside Attleboro territory. The duo connected again on an out route to the sideline for another 14 yards on fourth and eight down to the Attleboro 25. A personal foul call moved the ball to the 10 and Olson showed off his poise in the pocket, biding time until Jaden Agnew came open in the back of the end zone and then he fired a strike for a 14-0 lead just before halftime.
“They’re big up front, they can sling it, they’ve got good athletes, and you can’t get caught not capitalizing on the turnovers early in the first half,” Strachan said. “That was our chance to really do something. I think defensively we played pretty well…just spent too much time on the field.”
Momentum carried over in the third quarter. Nick Yohn sacked Attleboro quarterback Blake Garzaro (5-of-19, 17 yards) on the first play of the second half and the Bombardiers were forced to punt. Milford struck just two plays later. Olson fired a deep ball to Agnew, who went up between a pair of defenders to pull down a 48-yard completion to the seven and Schofield punched it on the next play.
After completing only 12-of-25 passes in the first half, Olson would complete 6-of-8 in the second. He completed passes to six different receivers in the game. A 15-yard screen to Schofield converted a third and five. Matt Varteresian was next with a 23-yard grab down to the Attleboro 15. After a two-yard run by Kevin O’Connor, Sutton got open on the far sideline for a 13-yard touchdown.
Olson explained, “Both [Attleboro’s] inside linebackers are good football players, the down-four are good football players, and we knew they were young, inexperienced in the secondary so we knew we’d have some opportunities in the pass game. Early, Brady was just off and obviously he got on. That makes us dangerous offensively if we can keep spreading the wealth.”
Attleboro ran nine plays on its first three possessions of the second half. Milford only ran 11 on its first three possessions but scored all three times it had the ball. The third was the highlight, as Sutton beat his man down the seam and Olson hit him in stride for a 62-yard score and a 34-0 lead with 1:15 left in the third.
After earning its first win in the Kelley-Rex division, Milford (1-0) will now get its biggest test. The Hawks will host defending league (and state) champion Mansfield next Saturday. It will be the first-ever meeting between the teams. The Hawks are aware of the challenge ahead and relishing this opportunity.
“We get to see what we’re all about,” said Olson. “That’s it, it’s the opportunity to play a top team in the state, the defending Div. 2 Super Bowl team. To tell you the truth, these kids were ready to play Attleboro but they’re excited to play week two, week three, week four too, and they’re just excited for the opportunity.”
Attleboro (0-1) will host King Philip in its home opener at Tozier-Cassidy Field next Saturday.
Attleboro was able to incorporate a number of underclassmen last season and will be hoping that experience pays off with the junior class being asked to step up all across the field this season, as the Bombardiers look to challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Size won’t be an issue for Attleboro and the offensive line should be a strength this season led by junior tackles Chris Leonardo (6’3, 275 pounds) and Alvin Harrison (6’3, 255) along with seniors Trainor Sherck and Ryan Grover and junior Adam Struminski. The Bombardiers are going to use that line a lot this season with new quarterback Blake Garzaro, who saw some action as a sophomore, handing the ball off frequently to junior Kaiden Murray, who looks poised for a breakout season, and bruising fullback Michael Strachan. Junior Freddy Wheaton is another physical back who will get touches this year. In the passing game, Garzaro can look for 6’4 tight end Christian Dame, who leads a largely new cast of receivers.
The strengths on offense should mirror the strengths for Attleboro’s defense as well. Leonardo, Dame, and Harrison will be the core of the defensive line with junior Isaac Pereira another big body that will be tough for opposing teams to run against. Strachan leads the linebacking corps. The URI-commit is the program’s all-time leading tackler and he’s a four-year varsity player. Wheaton will join Strachan at inside linebacker and Sherck and Ryan Betts will be on the outside. The secondary will have several new faces, but Murray is a tough tackler at free safety and William Runey will be one of the more experienced cornerbacks on the roster.
Franklin is coming off an impressive run to the Div. 1 South final but the Panthers also graduated a host of important pieces from last year’s team, particularly at the skill positions, and will need some younger players to step in to stay competitive in the Kelley-Rex this season.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Junior Jared Arone will step in at quarterback this season, hoping to have the same level of success running Franklin’s up-tempo style as Thomas Gasbarro did last year. Junior running back Mack Gulla got some time in the backfield last season but will be getting the bulk of the touches this year. A new receiving corps will also have to learn on the job, including senior Jake O’Brien and junior Shane Kindred, and junior tight end Jonathan Martins, but there is potential for this to be an explosive group. Seniors Brady Duncan and Vincent Lackey will be counted on to provide leadership on the offensive line. The consistency of senior kicker Parker Cheuvront will be a huge boost to a Franklin offense that may have some growing pains early in the season.
Defensively, the Panthers return several players and will rely on that experience to combat the top offenses in the league and to allow time for the younger players to get up to speed. Seniors Xander Honor and Dan Cormier will spearhead the defense from their linebacker positions, while seniors Anthony Quintina and Lackey are stout in the middle of the line. Martins will be a force at defensive end and Griffin is a playmaker at safety.
“We need to focus on getting better every day,” said Franklin coach Eain Bain. “Appreciate, and focus on, the here and now. Don’t look ahead or behind, but stay in tuned to the task at hand. And always, Row the Boat.”
This is an atypical season in so many ways, not least of all because King Philip, one of the perennial powers in the Kelley-Rex, is going through a transition. The Warriors will have a lot of new faces this year, using a number of underclassmen who will have to quickly learn the KP style of play through a tough slate of divisional games.
KP returns only two starters on offense from last year’s team that reached the D2 South semifinal. Senior guard Pat Zarba and junior tight end Drew Danson will be the lone holdovers, although several other players did see action at times. Junior Crawford Cantave filled in for an injured Ryan Halliday at running back last year and has the potential to be next in a long line of standout backs at KP. Mike Malatesta will also be in the backfield at fullback and sophomore Ryan Gately is a newcomer to keep an eye on. Junior Charlie Grant is set to be the new quarterback and will have Danson, senior Michael Zagrodney, and junior Nick Viscusi as targets in the passing game. Senior Kevin Pierro will be the center to add some experience to what is otherwise a largely new group on the line.
Defense has always been a priority for KP and this year’s group has a lot of players who will be learning on the job. Zarba and Danson will be on the defensive line, along with junior Hunter Hastings and senior Harry Brown. Malatesta and Gately will be joined by junior Jake Sullivan at linebacker. The secondary is young but has some experience, as Cantave and Viscusi both are coming off strong sophomore seasons at safety.
“I am hoping that our weakness (inexperience and lack of seniors) will be a strength in the fall as we are forced to play a lot of juniors and sophomores now,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “I’m also worried about injuries, as we have not been in our weight room in a year.”
It has been 15 months since Mansfield rolled to a D2 state title at Gillette Stadium and the Hornets are excited to get back on the field, searching for a third straight league title and looking forward to a 90th anniversary game against Foxboro at Alumni Field to close out the season.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
While Mansfield graduated a number of key players from last year’s state championship-winning team, the Hornets return plenty of offensive firepower, especially in the backfield. Senior Cincere Gill will be the focus after racking up nearly 1,000 rushing yards last season, but he will get plenty of help from classmates Anthony Comer and Nico Holmes and newcomer sophomore Rocco Scarpellini. In addition, the Hornets will have Matt Boen and Nick Bertolino back at receiver and Everett Knowlton returns at tight end. Juniors Jake Wall and Dana Johnson will add to the depth in the passing game. The offensive line should be a strength for Mansfield this season with three returning starters, seniors TJ Guy and Jake McCoy and junior Joe Forte. Juniors Jimmy Gilleran and Braedon Veno will fill out the rest of the line.
The Hornets were dominant on defense last season and they remain solid on that side of the ball, particularly in the front seven. With Guy on the end and junior Mark DeGirolamo and McCoy in the interior of the defensive line, Mansfield will be stout up front. Holmes is a standout at linebacker and senior Sean Weber will be a player to watch in his outside linebacker position. The secondary has depth with a handful of players fighting for three defensive back spots.
“Toughest part is mentally, everything’s backward with the weather – feels like November and the end of a typical season, but it’s pre-season,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Just hoping Friday nights under the lights feel the same once games get going and it feels like we’re starting to finally get into a groove with execution. We’re all thankful to be playing and trying to enjoy every day we can go out and be a team.”
There are a lot of changes at Milford this season, with a new coaching staff taking over and the Hawks making the switch to the Kelley-Rex for the first time, but there is a lot of experience on the field to make that transition with nine starters returning on both sides of the ball.
One of the biggest changes for Milford will be under center, as Brady Olson takes over following his transfer from Bishop Feehan. The UMass-commit will have plenty of targets to aim for, as Milford returns arguably the deepest group of receivers in the league led by seniors Carter Scudo, Max Martin, and Matt Varteresian. They combine deep threat potential with the willingness to make the tough catches in traffic. Up front, Sean Murray and Nick Yohn will lead the protection for Olson and try to open up lanes for a new crop of running backs.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Experience will be a strength on the defensive side of the ball as well. Dom Schofield highlights a tough defensive line. Another of the team’s UMass commits, Schofield will be a force at the defensive end position, while Mario Lee and Josh Kravets return in the heart of the line. Milford lost a couple of standout linebackers from last year’s squad, Luke Rosa and CJ Cerrella, but Kevin O’Connor and Angelo Romero are playmakers who should be ready for breakout seasons. Grant Scudo and Evan Hazard are back in what should be a strong secondary for the Hawks.
“I have a strong senior class that has played a ton of football and we’ll lean on them to help us compete in the Hock large this year,” said new Milford coach Dale Olson.
With 10 returning starters and 18 returning lettermen, Taunton will be relying on its senior leadership to stay competitive against what has the potential to be a daunting Kelley-Rex division schedule.
The Tigers have plenty of athleticism on both sides of the ball and also versatile players who can line up in multiple positions, making it difficult for opponents to match up. Senior Danny MacDougall moves under center this season, although he has also lined up at receiver in the past. Seniors Josh Lopes and Bretton Heggs give Taunton a pair of dangerous backs, while Trent Santos, Kedrick Santos, Nigel Choate, and Nolan Tomaszycki are weapons in the passing game. Senior Nathan Arieta, at 6-foot-5, is a big target at tight end. Seniors Tommy Ambrose and Jorden Manning are two returning starters on the offensive line. The depth on the line will be tested, as Taunton has several underclassmen with the size to step in but not a lot of experience.
Defensively, Taunton relies on its quickness and athleticism, but also has plenty of size up front. Ambrose, Manning, and Arieta will all play on the defensive line, along with classmate Deandre McPhail and junior Faisal Mass. Lopes, Kedrick Santos, Caleb Nicholson, and Evan Perrotta have experience in the linebacking corps. The secondary is filled with playmakers, including Trent Santos, MacDougall, Heggs, Tomaszycki, and Choate.
2020 (Fall II) Kelley-Rex Division Football Preview
Three Hawks scored in double digits and Milford rolled to a 58-39 victory. It was not only the first win of the season for Milford, but also the team’s first league win since the final game of the 2017-18 regular season. It was also nearly 20 points better than the previous top scoring night for the Hawks this season.
“Obviously I’m very excited and I’m happy that the girls are able to experience this because we haven’t had a Hockomock win in a while,” said Milford coach TJ Dolliver. “I’m just happy for the girls, we didn’t even know if we would be here. I have a lot of seniors and I’m happy that we’re here and I’m happy that we’re doing this.”
Although the game wouldn’t end the way that Taunton wanted, the Tigers did have a special moment at the opening tip. Senior guard Kelsey White, who injured her knee last winter and is a non-playing member of this year’s team, was able to celebrate senior night by registering her first minute and her first two points of the season.
“It was awesome,” said Taunton assistant Jenna Olem. “She’s such a great kid to have around the program and the fact that she still wants to be a part of this is really, really special.
Milford came right back with an 8-0 run to take a lead it would never relinquish. Taunton answered with a 6-0 run to tie the game, including a three by Kyanna Barros, but Emma Lawrence (16 points and six rebounds) nailed a three on the other end to restore the lead and Emily Croteau turned a steal into a layup for a 13-8 advantage after one.
The Hawks were just getting started offensively, scoring the next seven points and putting up 20 points total in the second to extend the lead to double digits by halftime.
Lawrence had back-to-back steals where she was able to race past the Taunton players for layups and Brooke Ferreira buried a three to make it 20-8. The Tigers tried to hang around behind senior forward Sonya Fernandez (15 points). She scored 11 of her team’s 13 points in the second (the other two coming on free throws by her sister Jaelyn Fernandez) and knocked down three from beyond the arc.
“She was a big difference tonight,” said Olem, who is filling in on the bench for head coach Amy Siggens this season. “She kind of kept us in the game to begin with, we just couldn’t get a stop for the life of us.”
Milford’s balanced attack proved too much for Taunton to handle. Croteau continued to make plays. She took a Katie Maietta feed and was able to score plus the foul. She missed the free throw, but chased down the rebound and went back up for what was essentially a four-point play. Croteau finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
“Emily rebounds the ball like crazy,” said Dolliver. “She’s our leading rebounder on the year. She does such a good job. My assistant coach made this comment the last couple games, when Emily is on the court you just know because she makes a difference one way or the other.”
Carly Ferreira (nine points and seven rebounds) also hit a big three in the quarter to push the lead up to 15 and Milford went into the break ahead 33-21.
Taunton came out for the second half and tried to get back into the game, cutting the lead to as little as nine points, but the Hawks continued to answer the bell every time they needed a big basket. Jaelyn Fernandez hit Maddie Michenzi for a layup to make it 35-26, but a 12-2 run put Milford in control.
Brooke Ferreira followed her own shot and hit a short jumper to start things. Jillian Michelson (10 points) took an outlet pass from Ashanty Barreto and got a layup and then knocked down a triple off a Lawrence skip pass. Ferreira nailed a corner three, one of six threes for the Hawks on the night, and it was 47-28 heading to the fourth.
The Tigers kept coming. Kristy Gorman had a three-point play after an offensive rebound and Izabella Russell hit a pair of runners high off the glass, but Taunton was never able to get the lead any lower than 14.
“It was tough to get stops tonight,” said Olem, who acknowledged the team is still building after the late start to the winter. “They were pretty much shooting the lights out. Every time we could get back in the game, we could never cut that deficit close enough to really make it a game.”
Croteau drove baseline and had a nice feed to Carly Ferreira for a short jumper and then Ferreira knocked down a stepback jumper to keep the Tigers at arm’s length. Lawrence went end-to-end for a layup and Croteau capped things with another offensive rebound and put-back.
“We don’t exactly play from ahead very often so I told them at the beginning of the fourth quarter, by no means is this game over but you can take your time a little bit,” Dolliver explained. “It would inch closer, but then we would come down and get a big bucket and those were from some of our experienced players.”
Milford (1-6) and Taunton (0-3) will meet again on Thursday night in Milford.