ATTLEBORO, Mass. – During the first three weeks of the season, Attleboro struggled to live up to the preseason hype against a difficult stretch of opponents and a roster in flux from a series of injuries that ensured trainer Wes Pondolfino was earning his paycheck. The Bombardiers lost key players on both sides of the ball and lost the opening three games.
But, over the last two weeks, the injured players have returned to the field and Attleboro has looked like the explosive team that many predicted. On Friday night at Tozier-Cassidy Field, the Bombardiers put it all together, dominating in all three phases and posting 38 points in the first half of a 44-0 victory over Oliver Ames.
“That’s what happens when you get healthy,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We’ve got a lot of good seniors and they worked hard all week. We had a good week of practice and we’ve just got to build off this win.”
Attleboro took control right from the opening kick-off, marching 58 yards in eight plays to take a quick lead. Alex Rodriguez had a pair of carries for 31 yards and senior quarterback Cam Furtado scored from 11 yards out. Furtado then took a hit, but completed the conversion pass to Nathan Barboza to make it 8-0.
The Bombardiers quickly got the ball back when running back Anthony Berksza fumbled trying to stretch a screen pass into extra yards, Desmond Woodson recovered for the hosts, but, after Furtado hit James Weir (one of the players back from injury) for 12 yards down to the OA 10, the Tigers held firm and forced a turnover on downs.
OA could not build momentum off the defensive stand, as Curtis Cann’s third down deep pass was intercepted by Josh Therrien. Attleboro moved the ball rapidly down field, showing balance between run and pass. Justin Cote extended the lead when he cut back against the grain on a sweep to the left and weaved his way for a 23-yard scored. Furtado got the pylon at full stretch for another conversion.
“Unfortunately, a lot of things went wrong for us,” said OA coach Mike Holland. “A few mistakes here or there that Attleboro capitalized on and Attleboro, their record is misleading and we knew that they’re a good team.”
Matt Corrado stuffed Berksza (12 carries, 63 yards) behind the line and Qualeem Charles batted down a Cann pass to end the next OA drive. Elvin Sam returned the punt 28 yards to the OA 42 and Attleboro again went to work offensively. This time the Bombardiers got to the end zone through the air, as Furtado (4-9, 70 yards) hit Cote in stride for a 41-yard score and added another conversion run.
“Lot of balance,” said Strachan about the Attleboro offense. “We’ve got a lot of senior leadership back, but now we’ve got a lot of the younger kids who’ve played the last four weeks and are really starting to put it all together. I’m very, very happy.”
On the ensuing kick, the up-back Darnele Ryan, who had a strong game for the OA defense, could not handle the bounce and Rodriguez was first to the loose ball for Attleboro. Furtado (nine carries, 35 yards) went 15 yards on the first play and then sophomore Joseph Llanos went straight up the middle for 12-yard touchdown.
“We’re getting better,” said Holland, “but we have to play mistake-free, which we didn’t. We have to hold onto the ball, which we didn’t, and if something goes wrong then you’ve got to keep fighting and we didn’t.”
Berksza broke a 19-yard run on the first play of the next OA drive, but Charles pressured Cann on third down and the pass fell incomplete. Berksza’s punt was fielded on a short hop by Sam at his own 26. The senior wideout took the ball straight up the middle and then cut to the far sideline where he found an opening to take it all the way to the end zone to make it 38-0.
“It was a tough few weeks for us but these kids have responded,” said Strachan. “This was a good week for us to get momentum and obviously Mansfield (Attleboro’s next opponent) is a great program and we’ll do our best to be ready for them.”
With an eye towards next week’s showdown with the Hornets, Attleboro turned to its bench in the second half, giving some of the younger players an opportunity. Dante Williams (eight carries, 46 yards) was one of those and with 1:46 remaining he punched it in from three yards out to put the icing on a dominant performance by the Bombardiers.
“Our team is getting better, but we have to be perfect for four quarters,” said Holland. “We have talent, we’re getting stronger, we’re getting bigger, but you just can’t make mistakes and tonight we made some mistakes.”
When asked if there was a different atmosphere in the Bombardiers’ locker room than during the first three weeks, Strachan responded, “Oh yeah. Oh yeah there is. We’re excited about where we’re at right now.”
Attleboro (2-3, 2-1) remains a game behind King Philip in the race for the Kelley-Rex division crown. The Bombardiers are currently tied with Mansfield and will host the Hornets next Friday night. Oliver Ames (2-3, 1-2) will try to play spoiler next week with a trip to Macktaz Field to take on league-leading KP.