Milford Holds Off Taunton, Wins First Holiday Meeting

Milford Football
Milford senior Tyler Lane (21) break away for a first quarter touchdown, helping the Hawks earn a win in their inaugural Thanksgiving Day game against Taunton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Taunton Takes The Tiger Bowl Behind Big Offensive Night

Taunton football Trent Santos
Taunton senior Trent Santos hauls in a 61-yard touchdown pass in the first half against Oliver Ames. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 TAUNTON, Mass. – Taunton’s two-game losing streak came to an emphatic end on Thursday night.

The Tigers had their best offensive outing in three seasons, scoring six touchdowns plus a field goal to grab a 45-20 win in the Tiger Bowl over Oliver Ames in a non-league crossover clash.

After a close loss to King Philip two weeks ago and a setback to Franklin last week in a game that was closer than the scoreline indicated,

Taunton football

Taunton got back into the win column for the fourth time this season.


“Offensively we knew we’d have the chance to score some points and we did a good job there,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “I’m proud of our guys, we haven’t scored that many points in a while.”

Taunton football

Taunton picked up points on its first three drives — a field goal followed by two touchdowns — which all came in the opening quarter of the game. The host Tigers scored inside the final two minutes of the first half and less than two minutes into the second half and added two more in the third quarter to get the win.

The defense set the tone by forcing Oliver Ames into a three-and-out on the first series of the game. OA punted on each of its first three drives, had two series end on turnovers, and one turnover on downs.

A high snap slowed Taunton’s first drive of the game and the hosts settled for a 31-yard field goal off the right foot of senior Nate Keenan.

The offense didn’t need much time on its second drive to find the end zone. After Evan Perrotta (13 carries, 56 yards) moved the chains with a 10-yard run on first down, junior quarterback Jacob Leonard found Trent Santos in single coverage down the right sideline. Leonard dropped the pass into Santos’ hands in stride and the senior, who missed last week due to injury, did the rest for a 61-yard touchdown.










OA couldn’t get anything going offensively on its third series, partly due to a tackle for a loss from Ryan MacDougall, and the visiting Tigers had to punt, pinning Taunton inside its own 20-yard line.

The long field didn’t phase Taunton, who scored on its first play of the drive. Leonard dropped back and hit Perrotta on a screen. The senior back squirmed through the defense up the middle but OA kept with the play and forced a fumble. But before any OA player could pounce on the loose ball, Taunton senior tightend Faisal Mass scooped up the loose ball and raced his way to the end zone from 54 yards out.

Just like that,

Taunton football

Taunton held a 17-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.

“We have to come out better,” said OA head coach Ed DeWitt. “I don’t think it’s an X’s and O’s, I think they are blocking their stuff right…we just came out flat tonight. There wasn’t enough emotion…and when something goes wrong, we have to fight back.”

Oliver Ames put together a much-needed response that took nearly six minutes of the clock. Senior quarterback Jake Grimaldi connected with classmate Sean Friel, who fought for some extra yards to move the sticks with a 24-yard gain. Junior running back Collin Williamson (15 carries, 142 yards, 2 TD) broke free for 21 yards on the next play and then converted a third down inside the red zone three plays later. After that, Williamson took the handoff to the left and found his way into the end zone to make it 17-7.

“Collin’s great, he runs hard,” DeWitt said. “Sometimes it takes us a little bit to figure out where his seam is but when we do, he hits it and when he gets through, he’s a hard tackle and finishes runs for us. He’s been doing it all year for us.

OA’s defense held Taunton to just four yards on its next series, getting good coverage from junior Jordan Young on second down to help get the ball back. OA started to move the ball on its next drive but Nathen LaPlante had a big tackle for loss, OA was hit with a holding call, and Taunton sophomore Troy Santos intercepted a third down pass near midfield, taking it all the way to the OA 25-yard line with just 3:31 left in the half.

Taunton football

Taunton kept it on the ground for this series, handing it off to Perrotta four consecutive plays, the last for a 2-yard touchdown and a 24-7 lead going into halftime.

OA took a chance to start the second half, going for an onside kick on the opening kickoff. The visiting Tigers got the blocks they wanted but the ball bounced out and Taunton took over with good field position. The hosts took advantage of that field position, needing just three plays to add to its lead.




Leonard hit Perrotta with a swing pass out in the flat that went for 28 yards and then the Perrotta took back-to-back handoffs, the latter going for a 4-yard touchdown and a 31-7 lead with 10:20 left in the third.

“We haven’t finished the last two weeks so the whole thing this week was about finishing, and we did which was good to see,” Sidwell said.”With the new playoff system, you’re winning a game and you’re trying to keep that certain lead, keep it at the max. You’re not being unsportsmanlike, you’re trying to do the math figuring out the difference.”

It didn’t take long for Oliver Ames to respond. On just the second play of the ensuing drive, Robert Jenkins (68 receiving yards, 87 rushing yards) took a counter to the left before cutting up the field and through the difference, running away for a 77-yard touchdown with 9:13 to play in the third.

Chad Silva recorded a tackle for loss on second down and junior defensive end Chris Young made a nice play by getting his hands up to bat down a third down pass at the line, forcing Taunton to punt. Grimaldi hit Jenkins for 22 yards and a first down and Williamson gained five on the next play but Troy Santos read the play nicely on the next play, undercutting the pass for his second interception of the game.

Facing 3rd and 11, Leonard hit sophomore Jose Touron on a comeback route on the right side and he was able to break free from the defense and took off for 62 yards, tackled at the 1-yard line. Keenan burst up the middle and into the end zone for a touchdown and Taunton pushed the lead to 38-14 with 3:58 left in the third.

OA’s offense had another response to keep within striking distance. Williamson broke out for 35 yards on first down and Grimaldi kept it on a QB sneak four plays later to convert a fourth and short. Two plays later, Williamson bounced it outside to the right and used his speed to sprint away from the defense for a 34-yard touchdown. That cut the deficit to 38-20 with just 10 seconds left in the third.

“We fought a bit, tried the onside kicks to get back into it but there were some positives we can take from the second half,” DeWitt said.”We felt like we really came out flat in the first half, not much to build on. We put our knee down on the opening kickoff and then had a false start on the first play…and it spirals from there.

“When we got it to 17-7, we have to hammer down there and keep that score going into the half. We just have to come out strong and playing within the aspect of the game, managing the game a bit better.”

Taunton football

Taunton recovered the ensuing onside kick and march 55 yards on 7 plays to add another touchdown. Leonard hit Santos early in the drive to move the sticks and Keenan had a 21-yard gain on third down to keep the drive alive. Touron took the sweep to the right and Santos blocked the corner to allow the ball carrier to get into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown and a 45-20 lead with 9:21 to play.

“Our offense did a good job moving the ball but we have to establish the run game a little bit more, especially when you’re having a little trouble stopping the run. But I’m proud of the way our guys played. We’re trying to get healthy and better for the remainder of the season. The gauntlet of the Kelley-Rex [division] is really hard.”

Both teams have a tough schedule as they head into the final two weeks of division play. Taunton football (0-2 Kelley-Rex, 4-2 overall) hits the road to take on Mansfield while Oliver Ames (1-1 Davenport, 2-4 overall) returns home to host North Attleboro.