Below are the official 2018 Hockomock League Football All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Hockomock League MVP
Nick Gordon, Franklin
Ryan Clemente, North Attleboro
Hockomock League All Stars
Nick Evans, Attleboro
Justin Cote, Attleboro
Jason Weir, Attleboro
Michael Strachan, Attleboro
Nick Gordon, Franklin
Ryan Driscoll, Franklin
Jack Nally, Franklin
Terrell Jacobs-Baston, King Philip
Ryan Halliday, King Philip
Jack Webster, King Philip
David Morganelli, King Philip
Daenin Walker, Mansfield
TJ Guy, Mansfield
Aidan Sacco, Mansfield
Vinnie Holmes, Mansfield
Dean Pacini, Oliver Ames
Woudanly Danger, Taunton
Cory Pintabone, Taunton
Ben Seaman, Canton
Brendan Albert, Canton
Brian Campagna, Canton
Johnny Hagan, Canton
Anton George, Foxboro
Hunter Williams, Foxboro
Mike Sheehan, Foxboro
Brendan White, Milford
Colby Pires, Milford
Kevin Pyne, Milford
Brendan McHugh, North Attleboro
Nick Raneri, North Attleboro
Ryan Clemente, North Attleboro
Ryan Gaumond, North Attleboro
Chris Gong, Sharon
Alex Iverson, Stoughton
Evan Jackman , Stoughton
Malachi Green-Hightower, Stoughton
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The North Attleboro players looked around for Hilda, the trophy awarded to the winner of this Thanksgiving rivalry, but the trophy was nowhere to be found. So, instead, the Rocketeers lifted freshman kicker and quarterback Tyler DeMattio to celebrate another win in the long-running series with Attleboro.
It was fitting that DeMattio’s teammates would lift him up after the game, since he stepped up in the second half and propelled North to the victory.
In his first snaps as varsity quarterback, DeMattio scored three touchdowns and accounted for all of North’s points on Thursday morning at a bitterly cold Tozier-Cassidy Field, sparking North to a come from behind 20-7 win over the Bombardiers.
“Tyler is a talented player, who has had a great year as a freshman and we’ve been watching him all along and felt like he was the next best available quarterback, so got him ready,” said North coach Don Johnson about DeMattio stepping in for the second half. He joked that DeMattio was North’s “secret weapon” and agreed that he was the “spark” that the Rocketeers needed.
Attleboro came close to adding to its 7-0 halftime lead on its first possession of the second half. Justin Cote (24 carries, 114 yards) and Jason Weir (14 carries, 95 yards) continued to find seams in the North defense and moved the ball down to the Rocketeers eight, using up almost the entire third quarter in the process.
DeMattio took over from sophomore quarterback Matt Penta (nine carries, 43 yards), who replaced Nick Raneri as the starter following Raneri’s shoulder injury against Duxbury. After a pair of keepers, the freshman dropped back and heaved a ball down field. It avoided a group of Attleboro defenders and fell into the hands of Ryan Gaumond, who raced the rest of the way to the end zone for an 85-yard score that tied the game with just 59 seconds left in the third.
“That was the momentum changer no question,” said Johnson. “That was a pop-up thrown by the freshman but that’s pretty good that your first varsity pass is a touchdown on Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter what it looks like.”
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “The catch that Gaumond made in the wind, I think that turned the game for us. It really did and DeMattio gave them a spark.”
Attleboro’s next possession ended with a turnover. Brendan McHugh (nine carries, 38 yards) took advantage of a slip by Michael Strachan and picked off Weir’s pass to get the ball back at the Attleboro 30. Three keepers later and DeMattio slipped through the middle of the Bombardiers defense for a seven-yard score and the lead.
The game had turned around for the visitors in just three minutes.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” Strachan said, “we just got away from a few things, fundamentally, in the second half and I think DeMattio did a good job.”
The Bombardiers had a chance to tie the game. After a Strachan carry, Attleboro was as close as the North four-yard-line, but Duane Bryant got into the backfield and stuffed Cote for a six-yard loss on third down. On fourth and nine, Cote’s pass to Ethan Cameron was tipped aside by Bryan Engler.
“A couple turnovers down inside and we just can’t do that,” said Strachan. “I said turnovers would play a big part in this and ended up being a huge part of it in the end.”
North still needed a first down to seal the win. The Rocketeers got that and a lot more, as DeMattio broke through the middle and raced 90 yards for his third touchdown of the game and the cue for the Attleboro crowd to head to its cars.
“They were running Weir on the quarterback follows, so we had trouble with that, and Cote was doing a great job bouncing the powers outside and we weren’t getting good force,” said Johnson about the change North made defensively in the second half. It was mentioned that the defensive line, led by Kummer and Davenport division MVP Ryan Clemente, dominated after the break and Johnson responded, “They did, but I thought the secondary did a good job coming up and making plays in the run game.”
Attleboro was on its heels at the start of the game, as North drove into the wind all the way to the Bombardiers 10. On first and goal, the Rocketeers fumbled the hand-off and Raneri dove on the ball for a loss of two. Penta was stopped by a host of Bombardiers on second down, including Nick Evans, and gained only one. Isaac Guidel pressured Penta into an incomplete pass on third down and then the fourth down pass to McHugh was inches out of the back of the end zone.
“It was disappointing, I think it would’ve changed the complexion of the game,” said Johnson of the first drive. “But, give Attleboro credit, they played good defense and stopped us.”
The Bombardiers flipped the momentum by driving down field and taking the lead. Cote gained 18 yards on a third-down toss to the left and Weir broke free for 44 yards on a pair of keepers to get inside the North five. Cote punched it in from two yards out to make it 7-0.
The teams traded turnovers for the remainder of the half. Desmond Woodson recovered a fumble, but Attleboro went three-and-out to give it back. Then Cameron picked off a Penta pass, only for Engler to intercept a Weir pass inside the 10. Weir got the ball back with a fumble recovery just before halftime to keep the Bombardiers in the lead at the break.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – All the build-up to Friday night’s Kelley-Rex division title showdown at Alumni Field presumed that Mansfield and Attleboro were going to slug it out in a defensive battle with points difficult to come by. It turned out to be the exact opposite.
Senior Khristian Conner scored with 32 seconds remaining in the game to give Mansfield the edge over the Bombardiers 42-35 and clinch the Hornets at least a share of the league title. It is Mansfield’s first division championship since 2013.
“It means everything,” said Conner about getting back on top in the league. “We worked hard over the summer for it. We just kept with it, didn’t let anything stop us and we just got the win. It feels amazing. It feels awesome.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding added, “This was an unbelievable high school football game. They came to play, they answered every time we had the momentum. Thank god we answered when they did.” Redding joked, “So many plays on both sides…it will be a fun one to watch; it was a tough one to coach.”
Attleboro took its only lead of the game with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. Justin Cote (seven carries, 50 yards), who had also caught a 20-yard pass on the go-ahead drive, raced up the middle for a 12-yard score that tied the game at 34-34. Two false starts pushed the extra point attempt back 10 yards but sophomore Colby Briggs was unfazed and split the uprights to put the visitors in front.
The Bombardiers had forced Mansfield to punt just twice on the night, but after Nick Evans sacked Hornets quarterback Aidan Sacco for no gain the hosts faced fourth and 10 from their own 26. Sacco (5-of-8, 111 yards) bought time and hit Cincere Gill for 28 yards over the middle. The sophomore, who rushed for three touchdowns on the night, was covered but managed to pull in the pass to keep the game alive.
Sacco (nine carries, 79 yards) rushed for nine yards and then broke free on a keeper to the left sideline for 26 yards and got out of bounds at the Attleboro 11. On the next play, Conner completed the comeback by finding a seam right up the gut for the score.
“They’re a really good team – good defensive team, good on offense – and they have great players but we just had to fight through it to be the better team,” Conner said.
Attleboro’s offense had found ways to come back all game long, but with only 32 seconds, there just wasn’t enough time to get up the field and a pass to Cote for four yards on fourth and 10 ended the game.
“Our offense played really, really well,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “Weir played awesome, it was just back-and-forth. We could definitely win the game, we just didn’t give him enough time at the end.”
Both offenses were able to move the ball from the opening kick-off. Mansfield took its opening possession 56 yards on seven plays to get a quick lead. Gill finished off the drive with a seven-yard sweep.
The Bombardiers returned the favor with a 12-play, 75-yard drive on its first possession. Attleboro surprised the Hornets by going to the air with greater frequency than usual and junior Jason Weir (18-29, 251 yards) had a big night, hitting nine different receivers. After catching a halfback pass from Ethan Cameron (five catches, 69 yards), Weir capped the drive with a three-yard toss to Jacob Weatherford.
Mansfield got the lead back late in the second quarter when Sacco threw a 26-yard strike to Conner, who had gotten wide open in the front corner of the end zone. Attleboro answered right back, as Weir connected with sophomore Justin Daniels to make it 14-14 with 2:28 left in the half.
That was plenty of time for Mansfield to add another touchdown. Sacco got the Hornets to the Attleboro 31 and then Gill broke free for his second score of the night. He cut back on a sweep, finding a hole in the middle of the line and exploding through it.
“He’s special and I think we have a very good running back,” Redding said of Gill. “Vinnie [Holmes] had some decent runs, but they were bottling us up inside and Khristian ran hard, Cincere ran hard, Aidan had some nice runs and throws and just doing enough to overcome some injuries.”
Even with just a minute on the clock, Attleboro was able to get the ball into the red zone again and had a touchdown called back when the officials ruled Weir had cross the line of scrimmage before he threw. Makhi Baskin picked off the final throw of the half. Coming out of the break, the Bombardiers got the ball again, but on the first play Weir was stripped of the ball and Holmes recovered for the Hornets at the Attleboro 23.
Mansfield took advantage of the short field and Sacco got on the board with an 11-yard keeper to make it 28-14. It felt like the Hornets were about to break the game wide open. Instead, Attleboro came right back down field and cut the lead to one score. A 13-play, 75 yard drive ended on a one-yard sneak by Weir to make it 28-21.
The track meet continued on Mansfield’s next possession. Sacco hit Conner for a 26-yard completion to get into Attleboro territory. Four plays later, on fourth and two from the 21, Gill took another sweep around the end and broke free, adding his third touchdown of the night. Attleboro would give itself a lifeline by blocking Michael DeBolt’s extra point attempt, but it was a 13-point Mansfield lead.
Attleboro made it a quick response. Weir got the ball out to the sideline to Kevin Velazquez-Rivera, who then turned up field and showed off his speed for a 45-yard touchdown. Evans made a huge stop on third and five, stuffing Sacco for a four-yard loss and forcing a rare Mansfield punt.
The Bombardiers came right back, with Weir connecting with Cameron on a fourth down pass to the near sideline that kept the drive going. After a 20-yard completion to Cote, the senior running back took it himself, going straight up the middle for the 12-yard TD. Briggs held his nerve to put Attleboro in front and on the verge of arguably the program’s biggest win since its move to the Hock.
But, Mansfield showed that it has some grit as well. The Hornets found a way to pull out the victory and will go into the final week of the regular season with a chance to clinch the title outright.
“These games just always seem to go back-and-forth,” Strachan said. “We’ve just got to bounce back against Franklin and play well. I thought we did a good job; they’ve got athletes everywhere, you’ve got to defend everything.”
Redding noted that the Hornets lost a pair of seniors, Chris Copponi and Daenin Walker, to injuries. He said, “We’ve had adversity every week but still find a way to beat an awfully good football team.”
Mansfield (5-1, 4-0) will travel to Oliver Ames next week to try and close out a perfect league campaign and potentially take the top spot in Div. 2 South. Attleboro (4-2, 2-2) will try to bounce back and possibly secure a first round home game in the Div. 1 South tournament with a trip to Franklin.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2018 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
2017 Record: 5-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan
Key/Returning Players: Justin Cote, Sr., RB/OLB; Nick Evans, Sr., OT/DE; Eddie Porreca, Sr., DT; Alex Rodriguez, Sr., RB; Josh Therrien, Sr., WR/FS; Desmond Woodson, Sr., OLB; Qualeem Charles, Jr., OT/DT; Isaac Gudiel, Jr., OG/LB; Nolan Jaeger, Jr., WR/CB; Jason Weir, Jr., QB/DE; Michael Strachan, So., LB/TE
Injuries hampered Attleboro right from the start of the 2017 season, but the 2018 Bombardiers are healthy and hoping for a big turnaround this fall to compete with the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division and make a return to the postseason.
The graduation of quarterback Cam Furtado is a significant loss on offense, but the Bombardiers will hand the ball to junior Jason Weir, who has a big arm and a lot of potential at the QB position. Size and strength won’t be a problem for Weir, who played defensive end as a sophomore. Seniors Justin Cote and Alex Rodriguez will be the primary backs for Attleboro this year and give the Bombardiers dynamic weapons out of the backfield. The offensive line is bolstered by 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior Qualeem Charles and 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior Nick Evans. At 6-foot-3, junior Nolan Jaeger will be a weapon at receiver along with senior Josh Therrien and sophomore tight end Michael Strachan.
Evans battled injuries at the start of last season, but he is one of the top defensive linemen in the league and is drawing Div. I college offers. Attleboro will be a tough team to run against this season with Evans on the end and Charles (who is also getting DI looks) and 6-foot-3, 365-pound senior Eddie Porreca on the inside. Strachan and junior Isaac Gudiel will be starting at inside linebacker, while senior Desmond Woodson will be starting on the outside. Therrien is capable of making plays downfield at his free safety position and will be the leader of the secondary.
“I am looking forward to the 2018 season,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have a strong senior class and we have strong leadership on our football team. Our team worked out hard in the off-season and I am looking forward to that hard work paying off this season.”
2017 Record: 3-8
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Eian Bain
Key/Returning Players: Ryan Driscoll, Sr., WR/DB; Sean Leonard, Sr., TE; Evan Wertz, Jr., LB; Sean Hofferty, Sr., RB; Liam Arsenault, Sr., OL/DL; Nick Gordon, Sr., QB/DB; Riley Downing, Sr., OL/DL; Will Davis, Sr., WR; Jack Jarosz, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Nally, Jr., WR; Jake Davis, Jr., WR/DB; Dom Natale, Jr., OL/DL; Thomas Gasbarro, Jr., QB/DB; Nolan McLaney, Sr., DB;
Third-year head coach Eian Bain is optimistic about the 2018 season, and the long list of players returning with plenty of experience is a big reason why. The Panthers have over a dozen players back that started or saw significant time on offense and the same goes for the defense, include a very seasoned secondary.
Franklin must replace three-year starter Jake Noviello at quarterback but Bain is confident that a healthy competition between senior Nick Gordon and junior Thomas Gasbarro will result in a strong option starting under center for the opening week. While Franklin has to replace its quarterback, they return a ton of skill players on offense including senior tight end Sean Leonard, who hauled in a league-best eight touchdown passes last season. Ryan Driscoll (five touchdowns), Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Jake Davis will fill out the receiving corps while Sean Hofferty and Owen Palmieri man the backfield. Seniors Riley Downing and Liam Arsenault are experienced and will anchor the offensive line.
Junior Evan Wertz will be a key piece in the middle of the Panthers’ defense after having a breakout campaign last year with nearly 100 tackles from his linebacker spot. Senior Spencer Briggs and sophomore Alex Honor will also see time at linebacker while Downing is joined by Jack Jarosz, Dom Natale, and Keenan Bassma on the defensive line. The Panthers boast a seasoned secondary with Nolan McLaney and Driscoll both back, along with Palmieri, Jake Davis, and both Gasbarro and Gordon.
“We have experience on both sides of the ball,” Bain said. “It is a cohesive group that has been working hard together for our first two years and they are eager to the turn the corner with our program.”
2017 Record: 12-0
2017 Finish: MIAA D1A State Champions
Coach: Brian Lee
Key/Returning Players: Jack Webster, Sr., FB/LB; Aidan Bender, Sr., RB/DB; Max Armour, Sr., LB; Luke D’Amico, Sr., DB; Terrell Jacobs Baston, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Halliday, Jr., RB; Josh Fice, Sr., OL/DL; Nolan Gunning, Jr., OL/DL; David Morganelli, Sr., WR;
The target on King Philip’s back is bigger than ever as the Warriors pulled off a second straight undefeated season and another state championship.
So how will head coach Brian Lee get this year’s team to focus on 2018 and not the past two seasons?
“The work and preparation have been the same but now it’s up to this season class to leave their legacy,” Lee said. “The previous two classes had their moments, now it’s up to these seniors to make their own moment. This team will go as far as these seniors lead them.”
The seniors will have plenty of opportunities to make their mark because King Philip doesn’t have a returning starter on offense. The Warriors need to replace quarterback Brendan Lydon, who didn’t lose a game as a starter. Junior Robbie Jarest looks poised to take over under center this season. While it isn’t a lot of experience, Jarest took over in the second half of the state final after Lydon got hurt and helped the Warriors finish off Lincoln-Sudbury. The toughest shoes to fill will be those of Shane Frommer, who will go down as one of the best players in KP history.
Junior Ryan Halliday will be the feature back while Aidan Bender and Sam Callanan will be in the mix as well. Jack Webster and Jack Collentro will be keys to the offense from the fullback position. Senior Terrell Jacobs Bastons has some experience on both sides of the ball and will likely start at guard while classmate Josh Fice will fill in the other guard spot. Junior Nolan Gunning is likely to get a starting spot as well, either at center or tackle.
Defense has been a staple for the Warriors throughout their successful run over the last couple of years, and that’s what KP will count on again this season. The strength will come from the linebackers with Webster back in an outside spot and Max Armour returning in the middle. Jacobs Bastons will be a big presence in the middle of the defensive line while the secondary will have familiar faces back in Aidan Bender, Timmy Nault, and safety Luke D’Amico.
And as we saw in the state final, having a reliable kicker is priceless. Cole Baker, who booted the winning field goal in the final, is back for his third year. Not only will he be a big help on offense, his kickoffs will be a weapon for the defense.
2017 Record: 8-3
2017 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Michael Redding
Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Damani Scott, Sr., QB/FS; Michael DeBolt, Jr., WR/DB/K; Vinnie Holmes, Jr., RB/LB; Makhi Baskin, Jr., RB/DB; Nick Marciano, Jr., RB/DB; Aidan Sacco, Sr., RB/DB; Philip Dinov, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Copponi, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Graham, Jr., OL/DL; Jason Comeau, Jr., OL/DE; Khristian Conner, Sr., WR/DB; Daenin Walker, Sr., OL/DL
Mansfield has finished second in the Kelley-Rex in each of the past three seasons and the Hornets will be counting on experience under center and depth at the skill positions to end King Philip’s two-year reign atop the division and return to the top of the league standings for the first time since 2013.
Senior Damani Scott will be the starter at quarterback for the second straight season and he will be backed up by the capable Jack Mousette, giving the Hornets plenty of experience and reliability from their signal caller. Scott will also have a ton of weapons to call on this year with a skill position group that head coach Mike Redding calls one of the best that Mansfield has had in a while. Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco will be weapons in the passing game while junior Vinnie Holmes is back in the backfield. Juniors Makhi Baskin, Michael DeBolt (who was also an outstanding kicker last year), and Nick Marciano will provide depth in the slot/running back positions. Senior Daenin Walker and junior Jason Comeau will add experience to the offensive line.
Defensively, Holmes will return to the linebacking corps after setting a program record for tackles in a season as a sophomore. Seniors Chris Copponi and Philip Dinov also return and can play as linebackers or as defensive ends depending on matchups. The secondary will be strong for the Hornets this year with Conner and Sacco at the corners and Marciano and Baskin at the safety positions. The only new additions on the defense are Anthony Capece at noseguard and junior Joe Plath at linebacker.
Redding said, “We have an experienced, athletic, aggressive defense that should be tough to score on and we’re young on offense, but have a ton of depth and talent at skill positions. Just need to gain some experience up front with our new guys on OL and DL.”
2017 Record: 6-5
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Holland
Key/Returning Players: Cam Perron, Jr., QB; Dean Pacini, Sr., OL/LB; Darnele Ryan, Sr., LB; Sam Stevens, Jr., DB; Shane Kilkelly, Jr., WR; Nathan Cabral, Jr., RB; Shane Murphy, Sr., OL/LB; Billy Tat, Sr., OL/DL; Luke Thibeault, Sr., OL/DL; Garrett Wood, Sr., OL/DL;
The 2018 version of the Oliver Ames Tigers have already had to make an audible after star running back Anthony Berksza suffered a season-ending injury over summer. Berksza had a breakout year last season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and finished with 16 total touchdowns, 15 of those rushing.
With Berksza out, Oliver Ames will rely heavily on the rest of its returning starters to carry the load. Junior Cam Perron returns under center after taking over the starting job during the regular season last year. While Perron looks to find some of his options, he has an offensive line protecting him that has some experience but will be looking to form cohesiveness throughout the year. Dean Pacini, Shane Murphy, Billy Tat, Luke Thibeault, and Garrett Wood all return with experience playing on the line. One challenge will be finding someone to step up and be a leader of that group after the graduation of two-time all star Jack Mills.
Nathan Cabral takes over as the feature tailback and OA head coach Mike Holland is confident the junior can get the job done. Holland says Cabral runs hard and is a tough player. Perron will also have the likes of Shane Kilkelly, Jake Erlich, and Evan Craig to work with as targets.
The heart of the defense will be at the linebacker position. Both Pacini, Murphy, and Darnele Ryan return after starting there last year and Holland will count on both senior captains to lead the way for the Tigers. Sam Stevens is back in the secondary at the safety position but OA will need some new faces to emerge alongside him.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season,” Holland said. “We have a great group across the board. We have some experienced players back and some talented players competing for jobs.”
2017 Record: 5-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Brad Sidwell
Key/Returning Players: Noah Leonard, Sr., QB; Brayden Merrill, Sr., WR/DB; Tryton Zavala, Sr., WR/DB; Wesner Charles, Sr., WR/DB; Christian Tourinho, Sr., OL/DL; Cam Correiro, Sr., OL/DL; Corey Pintabone, Sr., TE/DL; Ryan Williams, Sr., OL/LB; Jared Rockwood, Sr., TE/DE; Max Moitoso, Sr., RB/LB; Prince Brown, Sr., WR/DB; Mason Frank, Jr., OL/DL
Taunton started last season with a 3-0 record, one of the program’s best starts in years, but then lost five straight games, including a playoff game against BC High, the top seed in Div. 1 South. The Tigers turned it on again from that point, winning the final three games of the season, including an impressive win against Brockton, to finish with a winning record under second-year head coach Brad Sidwell.
Experience will be a key for the Tigers this season, as Taunton tries to build on that playoff appearance and the momentum from a strong closing stretch. Senior Noah Leonard will be the starting quarterback for the third straight year and is now fluent in Sidwell’s offensive system. Leonard will have familiar targets in senior wideouts Brayden Merrill, Tryton Zavala, and Wesner Charles, while junior Cam Carroca looks to step in as a feature running back and junior Javon Franklin is a new target in the passing game. On the line, Taunton returns plenty of size in 6-foot-3, 337-pound tackle Christian Tourinho and his fellow senior Cam Correiro. Senior Ryan Williams will be the center, while junior Mason Frank, listed at 6-foot-2 and 274 pounds, will be back to battle at the line of scrimmage.
Size and athleticism will be strengths for Taunton on the defensive side of the ball as well. Tourinho, Correiro, and Frank can bottle up opposing running games and will be joined on the line by seniors Corey Pintabone and John Rockwood. Williams will lead the linebacking corps along with classmates Max Moitoso and Kyle Cuoto. Senior Prince Brown will be back at corner and senior Sebastien Celestin looks to step into the safety position.
“Taunton football is progressing forward,” said Sidwell. “Like all teams, we’d like to gain some confidence early in the season and carry it on. The Kelley-Rex division is challenging with great programs, coaching staffs, and communities. We are happy to be a part of it and want to represent Taunton High well by competing at the high standard set by the other league members.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Player are listed alphabetically
Brendan Albert, Senior – Canton
Last fall was somewhat of a rebuilding season for the Bulldogs, who had a roster loaded with underclassmen, and this season the expectations will be much higher as Canton looks to make a push for the postseason. On defense, Albert will be expected to make the difference from his linebacker position, stuffing the run or showing off his athleticism to make plays outside the tackles and against the passing game. Albert’s leadership and reading of the game will be important, as Canton continues to be a relatively young team, and he will be expected to make plays all over the field, chasing down runners or getting into the backfield to harass opposing quarterbacks. Defense has been a priority under head coach Dave Bohane and Albert gives Canton another centerpiece to build around this season.
Khristian Conner, Senior – Mansfield
Mansfield senior Khristian Conner was one of the league’s top defensive backs last season and is one of the reasons the Hornets are expecting to have one of the best defenses in the league. Conner is one of the quickest players in the league so its not easy for receivers to get away from him. If they are able to get some space and make a catch, Conner is a solid tackler so its rare to see a big play happen his way. His experience will give him and advantage as he looks to build upon a strong junior campaign (31 tackles, four pass breakups, and one interception). Conner’s ability to stick with his man is going to allow the Hornets’ front seven to cause a lot of havoc in the backfield.
Ryan Driscoll, Senior – Franklin
Despite having his 2017 season cut a couple of games short, Driscoll was one of the top defensive players for the Panthers and also one of the best cover guys in the league. He made 35 tackles, two for loss, last season, broke up four passes, and had one interception from his cornerback position. He also chipped in on offense, catching 23 passes, and his speed and athleticism will be important for Franklin’s defense this fall, as he regularly lines up against the opponents’ top threat in the passing game but also steps up against the running game. Franklin coach Eian Bain called him the team’s “most explosive athlete” at the end of last season and Driscoll will be counted on again to make plays, force turnovers, and help the Panthers stifle opponents to make another playoff push.
Nick Evans, Senior – Attleboro
Attleboro senior Nick Evans uses the combination of size, strength, and speed to cause headaches for opposing offenses. Whether he’s lined up on the left or ride side, or has a hand on the ground not, Evans is a versatile hybrid of a defensive end/outside linebacker. Evans is very aggressive and if he gets a head of steam, can be a nuisance in the backfield, against both the pass and the run. His speed and strength allow him to get into the backfield to cause issues while his size and length factor in when disrupting the passing game at the line of scrimmage. Even if the play runs away from him, he can use his athleticism to to track the ball down and make a play.
Shapel Feaster, Senior – Milford
Milford knows that it can always count on the infectious energy that Feaster brings to the field, whether he is making plays in the secondary or snagging passes on offense, but he is also one of the top ball-hawks (no pun intended) in the league. Feaster was Milford’s team leader in pass deflections last season and picked off three passes, while also being willing to step up into the running game to make tackles. Fast, with good hands and solid positioning, Feaster can close quickly on passes and makes plays even when it looks like he may be beat. He will typically be stationed over the opponent’s best receiver and his ability to lockdown on the outside allows Milford to be aggressive in other parts of the field even against some of the top passing attacks, such as North Attleboro or Duxbury.
Vinnie Holmes, Junior – Mansfield
Mansfield has long been one of the premier football programs in the area, so it is big news when a sophomore just gets a starting role in the linebacker corps…let alone set a new program record for tackles in a season and emerge as one of the top defensive players in the Hockomock League. That is exactly what Holmes did last fall, with 108 tackles for the season, including 18 tackles for a loss. His speed and strength made him tough to block at the line of scrimmage and he showed an impressive ability to read the play, find a seam, and make plays. He also added four sacks, a forced fumble, and broke up two passes and was named the HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. As he showed during an impressive winter on the wrestling mat, Holmes is tenacious and he is a tough player to move off the spot he is trying to get to, which should only get tougher for opponents as he gets more experienced. With Holmes back in the middle, Mansfield should once again have one of the league’s top defensive units as the Hornets try to unseat King Philip at the top of the league standings.
Alex Iverson, Senior – Stoughton
Stoughton has developed a reputation for having a hard nosed defense and will be trying to fit that description during the 2018 season. Senior Alex Iverson is a throw back type of player that fits in nicely with head coach Greg Burke’s style. The Black Knights are in need of some names to step up after graduating a strong class. Iverson plays both inside and outside the box. The senior isn’t the most flashy but gets the job done using toughness and intensity. He isn’t the biggest player on the field but he’s the type of player that will be all over the field making plays. Whether it’s defending the pass, stuffing the run, or getting downhill to get at the quarterback, Iverson is in a position to make big plays for the Black Knights.
Nick Raneri, Senior – North Attleboro
Despite playing more games than any team in the league last year (13), North Attleboro was tied for third in fewest points allowed, giving up only 173 total or a little more than 13 points per game. Senior linebacker Nick Raneri will be one of the players that the Rocketeers will be counting on to continue that defensive strength as they go after a fourth straight league title and a return to the Super Bowl. Raneri, who is also stepping in at quarterback this season, is an athletic linebacker, who can cover ground outside the tackles but also step in and make plays up the middle. Never one to shy away from contact, Raneri is a vocal leader for the North defense. He is also capable of following receivers out of the backfield and making plays in the passing game. Raneri could be the quarterback on both sides of the ball and will be looking to fill big shoes after the graduations of last year’s quarterback Chad Peterson and linebacker Zach DeMattio.
Jack Webster, Senior – King Philip
King Philip has been defined by its defensive performances under head coach Brian Lee and that has led to back-to-back Kelley-Rex division titles, a pair of Super Bowl crowns, and 25 straight wins. Webster was the lynchpin of the Warriors defense last season, stepping into the linebacking corps and making an instant (and title-winning) impact. His strip sack in the Super Bowl led to the game-winning field goal. Webster was a presence all over the field, making 46 tackles (16 for loss), six sacks, five pass breakups, and even two interceptions. He reads the game like a much more experienced player and a motor that does not stop, which allows him to make big plays at the end of the game when KP needs it most. Webster is in the mold of previous KP linebackers and his attitude on both sides of the ball gets the rest of his teammates going. With him back in the middle, KP remains the team to beat in the Kelley-Rex.
Hunter Williams, Senior – Foxboro
When you talk about kids who did it all on the field last year, Hunter Williams is certainly on that list. Williams was apart of the Warriors’ offensive line, linebacker group, and the kick off coverage unit. This year, it looks like Williams will be a vital part of the Foxboro front seven on defense. The combination of speed and strength is what makes him an effective guard on the offensive line and those same traits are what help him stand out at linebacker. He can get down hill and help stop the run, or as he showed last year, can drop off in coverage and make a play. Williams’ work in the offseason has him in position to possibly be one of the top linebackers in a league that is very deep at that position.
The Bombardiers ran twice as many plays as the visiting Panthers over the first 10 minutes of the frame, and found the end zone three times, turning a close game into a 37-18 runaway win and securing Big Blue a playoff berth.
“We made the plays,” said Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan. “We made some adjustments at halftime that worked for us. And just overall I thought we played physical. I think that wore them down a little bit by the end.
“We came to win. We had a good week of practice and now we have to build off that. I’m proud of our team – I’m proud of the special team, proud of the offense, proud of our defense. We just have to build off of it and see where the chips fall now.”
After going three and out in its first drive, Attleboro’s defense went on a tear over its next three series. Meanwhile, the Panthers were forced into three and out on each of their first three drives of the second half.
“That’s the difference, [our defense] was on the field for a long time, and they played as well as they could,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “Offensively we just didn’t execute. It wasn’t that the kids weren’t prepared, we didn’t take Attleboro lightly. We executed great to start. Then we couldn’t run the ball, then we missed open guys. We missed some running lanes.
“The scoreboard is going to say we gave up 37 points but I don’t think it speaks at all to how our defense played and executed.”
Attleboro’s second drive of the second half almost didn’t get going at all. A bad snap on third down looked like it was going to end the drive, but senior quarterback Cam Furtado (12 carries, 119 yards, two total touchdowns) bought some time and hit Elvin Sam on the sideline, who was ruled in bounds, for an eight-yard gain. Then Furtado’s sneak on fourth down moved the chains.
Big Blue committed to the ground game from there, running out of its “tank” formation for the majority of the drive. Justin Cote (16 carries, 94 yards, three total touchdowns) had two carries for a total of 15 yards, Furtado converted a second down with a six-yard run and Cote capped the drive with a seven-yard score. Furtado’s two-point rush made it 16-6 with 5:27 left in the quarter.
Another quick stop got the ball back for Attleboro at their own 26-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Furtado went play action but had to escape a pair of rushers in the backfield. He juked past another would-be tackler at the line of scrimmage, found a hole and raced his way for a 73-yard touchdown and a 23-6 lead with 3:56 left in the third quarter.
Franklin didn’t gain a yard on its next drive, and was forced to punt from its own 23-yard line. But Attleboro junior Nick Evans broke free and blocked the punt with Myles Haynes jumping on the loose ball.
Attleboro turned a two-point lead (8-6) into a 24-point advantage in just a matter of four minutes.
“Midway through the third quarter, we committed to the run,” Strachan said. Attleboro racked up 234 rushing yards. “We went with what we call our tank. We just felt like we were wearing them down in the second half. We just settled into it, so it was really a good win for us.”
Franklin took the lead in the first quarter. After its first drive got down to the Attleboro three-yard line, the Panthers’ offense couldn’t punch it in. However, they forced a quick three and out to get the ball out. A 22-yard completion from Jake Noviello (19/40, 228 yards, two touchdowns) to Ryan Driscoll put the Panthers inside the 10-yard line.
Three plays later, Noviello linked up with Driscoll again for a four-yard touchdown and 6-0 lead.
Attleboro’s defense set the offense up for its go-ahead score. On the eighth play of Franklin’s drive, Furtado – playing safety – picked off Noviello and brought it back to the Franklin 15-yard line.
On the third play, Furtado hit Cote for his only other completion of the game for an 11-yard touchdown. Furtado kept it himself for the two-point rush and an 8-6 lead in the second quarter.
Attleboro thought it had added to its lead twice late in the second quarter, but penalties erased a pair of touchdowns. First, Furtado hit Cote for an 88-yard touchdown, but a holding penalty at the line of scrimmage and a block in the back down field took the score off the board. Two plays later, Sam got behind the secondary and Furtado hit him for an 89-yard score, but another holding penalty took points off the board.
“[Franklin] is a good football team, [Noviello] is one of the best quarterbacks in the league,” Strachan said. “I just think we settled down. The offense needed some time to get going, the defense hung in there. We had two big turnovers, two picks, that came at the right time for us.
“It was a must-win for us.”
Franklin tried to orchestrate a second half comeback, scoring a pair of touchdowns. First, Noviello kept it himself for a one-yard touchdown. The Panthers got the ball and needed just three plays to cover 56 yards, with Noviello hitting Evan Wendell on back-to-back 22-yard gains, the latter for six points.
Attleboro iced the game when Furtado converted a fourth down run. On the next play, Cote sprinted his way for a 30-yard touchdown to cap the scoring.
Attleboro football (3-4 overall, 3-2 Hockomock) will likely be the sixth seed in the D1 South bracket, according to The Boston Herald’s rankings. If that stands, the Bombardiers could be traveling to visit a familiar playoff foe in Xaverian.
Franklin (2-5, 1-4) is currently in the ninth spot in the Herald’s rankings, just 0.06 points out of the final playoff spot. However, there are still games to be played Saturday and nothing is official until the MIAA releases its rankings on Sunday or Monday.
TAUNTON, Mass. – It had been a rough opening three weeks of the season for the Attleboro football team, losing all three games against strong opposition (two by a combined seven points) and seeing the roster decimated by injuries.
But on Friday night at Aleixo Stadium, the Bombardiers got healthy and got on the board with their first win, beating Taunton 45-21 to end Tigers’ perfect start to the season.
Senior quarterback Cam Furtado led the way for Attleboro once again, running for a pair of touchdowns and throwing for two more while amassing nearly 250 yards of offense. The Bombardiers also showed off an array of skill position players, with seven players getting at least one carry and six players having at least one reception.
“He had great poise tonight,” Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said of Furtado. “He handled things, getting guys lined up, and I thought that was really important for him. He’s a had a good year for us and he’s done it with really not the full cast of characters, so hopefully we can build off this.”
Penalties killed Attleboro’s first possession of the game, which got as far as the Taunton 15 before stalling and ending in a punt. The Tigers immediately took advantage and took the lead. T.J. Mendes gave warning with an 11-yard draw up the middle and then broke through the line again on the next play, racing 53 yards for the opening score.
Attleboro bounced right back with a 73-yard drive, keeping the ball on the ground almost the entire way. Junior Alex Rodriguez (eight carries, 73 yards) had three rushes on the drive, senior Marcus Blaise had three and Furtado (16 carries, 86 yards) had back-to-back keepers that totaled 31 yards.
Nathan Barboza picked off Leonard on the first play of Taunton’s next possession and returned it to the Tigers eight-yard-line. Two plays later, Furtado’s six-yard keeper and ensuing two-point conversion made it 16-7.
Taunton was not going away in the first half and answered right back. A 55-yard kick-off return by Tryton Zavala gave the Tigers ideal field position at the Attleboro 20. On fourth and 11, Leonard threw a receiver screen to Collin Hunter on the near sideline and the senior wideout broke tackles on his way to the end zone.
The game changed on Attleboro’s last possession of the half. Starting in Taunton territory, it looked like the Bombardiers were going three-and-out, but a running into the punter penalty on fourth and four kept the drive alive. On fourth and six from the 22, Furtado and Barboza hooked up for a seven-yard completion.
Again the Taunton defense held and had the Bombardiers on the edge. Senior Billy DeRosa sacked Furtado on third down for a 12-yard loss pushing the visitors back to the 26 and facing fourth and 21. Attleboro tried a trick play with wideout Elvin Sam tossing a pass, but it was incomplete. Taunton celebrated and both teams walked to the sidelines thinking the drive was over. No one noticed the flag sitting next to the Tigers sideline.
The call was unsportsmanlike conduct on the Taunton bench. The official explained later during a timeout that he had warned the Taunton coaches to give him room on the sideline, but during the fourth down play he ran into a coach and gave a penalty. Taunton was stunned and Attleboro made it worse on the next play as Furtado threaded the needle to Sam (three catches, 68 yards) for a 13-yard score and a 24-14 lead.
“That was a difficult call,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “On a fourth down, when we’re getting the ball back…but even that, the roughing the punter we had before that was killer.”
Strachan said, “I don’t know what happened, I just know that we had opportunities all half and we just kept getting a penalty here and a penalty there. We just couldn’t seem to get going and then we settled in and that gave us a lot of momentum. That was a huge moment for us.”
Attleboro came out of the locker room fired up and took control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Sophomore Qualeem Charles (also back from an injury) blocked a Taunton punt to give the Bombardiers the ball at the Tigers 29. After a 20-yard screen pass from Furtado to Cote, Rodriguez went up the middle for a seven-yard touchdown.
Taunton scored on its next possession with Leonard (4-11, 78 yards) finding Brayden Merrill underneath the coverage and the junior breaking it for a 41-yard touchdown. But that renewed energy was short-lived, as the Tigers had no answer for Furtado.
The senior signal caller kept a third and nine play alive, scrambling to his left, and then firing a perfect deep ball to Josh Therrien for a 50-yard completion. Cote punched it in from a yard out. Barboza added a one-yard run on the next Attleboro possession and Nolan Jaeger added an interception in a dominating second half for the Bombardiers.
“Attleboro is a good team,” said Sidwell. “They had a couple games that they should’ve won and they’re a big, strong team and they took it to us in the second half. We’ll keep working.”
Strachan was happy to welcome a few of his key players back, including junior Nick Evans who had a cast on his arm, and also to have players that could make plays and take some of the pressure off Furtado.
“We’re getting some kids healthy in the backfield,” he explained, “and it takes a lot of pressure off him and we’re throwing the ball and getting Elvin on the outside. We just had to be patient. It’s been a frustrating three weeks but this was good for us.”
When asked if this might be a turning point for the season, Strachan replied, “I just told the seniors that it gets the monkey off our backs. We just have to keep working hard. There’s a good team every single week.”
Attleboro (1-3, 1-1) will try to build on the first win of the season when it hosts Oliver Ames next Friday. Taunton (3-1, 1-1) will look to get back on track next Friday when it travels to Alumni Field to take on Mansfield.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense
Jude Albert, Senior – Canton
The Bulldogs will have a young squad this year, but one spot they have some experience is at linebacker, with senior Jude Albert leading the way. Starting at outside linebacker last season, Albert was a big time playmaker for Canton. Whether it was using his speed to get around the edge or through the gap up the middle to pressure the quarterback or stuff a runner, or it was reading the play and dropping back in coverage to matchup with a back, Albert is able to do it. Often times, it will take more than one blocker to take Albert out of the play and he showed last year that he won’t give up on a play either. If the defense fails to put someone in the way, opposing quarterbacks need to be on the lookout for Albert coming their way.
Mario Bresko, Senior – North Attleboro
Standing at 6’4, its no surprise that Mario Bresko will be one of the top receiving options in the league this year, especially with Chad Peterson at quarterback. But Bresko will also be one of the top corner backs in the league as well. After starting last season and playing in some high pressure games, Bresko will bring experience to a secondary that might have some new faces this season. The speed that he shows on the offensive side of the ball is also a reason he can cover opponents defensively. And when it comes to a jump ball, you’re going to want to pick Bresko, who stars for Big Red’s track and field team in the high jump, placing first in the event at Hock Championships in both winter and spring.
Mansfield has plenty of experience returning in its front seven and that group will be led by Cox, a tenacious linebacker who should be involved in plenty of action for the Hornets defense this fall. Cox is coming off an all-star season on the lacrosse field and his speed and ability to read the game translates to football as well, where he can make plays from his outside position against both the ground game and in the pass rush. His quickness also allows him to drop into coverage when needed to cover tight ends or running backs downfield. The Hornets have high expectations for this season and Cox’s leadership on defense will be a big key to achieving their goals.
Zach DeMattio, Senior – North Attleboro
North Attleboro graduated a handful of all-league players on the defensive side of the ball from last season, but one of the key returning pieces is senior Zach DeMattio at the inside linebacker spot. While DeMattio will also see time on the offensive side of the ball in the backfield, he will be one of the anchors for the front seven on defense. Strength is certainly not a question for DeMattio, who is committed to play baseball at Wheaton College and is one of the top power hitters in the league. On top of his strength, he’s shown the ability to read the play and attack. His ability to make the tackle in one-on-one situations makes him one of the best linebackers in the Hock.
Andrew Dittrich, Senior – King Philip
On a team blessed with depth and talent on the defensive side of the ball, Dittrich stood out for last year’s Div. 1A Super Bowl and Kelley-Rex champions. A ball-hawking defensive back, he seemed to always come through in the clutch for the Warriors. Three times – twice in the playoffs – he sealed a KP victory with an interception, including the D1A South sectional final. While the Warriors are known as a team that can bottle up a running game, Dittrich also gave them a playmaker in the secondary. In addition to his coverage skills, he can also help out in the running game and rush the passer from the edge.
Ryan Driscoll, Junior – Franklin
Driscoll stepped into the lineup as a sophomore and started all 11 games at cornerback for the Panthers in 2016. He demonstrated the natural speed and instincts to be a top cover corner and second-year head coach Eian Bain said this his improvement from day one means that Driscoll will be one of the focal points of the Franklin defense this fall. With Driscoll and junior safety Nolan McLaney, the Panthers secondary should be a strength of the team for the next couple of seasons, as they try to shut down high-powered passing attacks like Mansfield, Taunton, and Attleboro.
Nick Evans, Junior – Attleboro
Consistency was an issue at times for the Bombardiers defense last season, but they also showed flashes of versatility and talent. One of the players that emerged as a force for Attleboro was Evans, who played linebacker as a sophomore and was a constant presence around the ball. This year, he is listed as a defensive end, where he can use his speed to get around the edge on the pass rush, but he is also big enough to set the edge on running plays that head his way. There is a lot of optimism about Attleboro this preseason and Evans is a player who opponents will have to plan for in order to have success against a deep Bombardiers squad.
When it comes to the top two-way players in the league, Stoughton senior Justin Ly has to be near the top of the list. He showed off his speed and power running game last year and will certainly be one of the top backs again this season. But more importantly, Ly will relied upon to anchor Stoughton’s front seven after the Black Knights graduated so many starters. The combination of speed and strength that makes him a successful back are also the reasons he’s one of the top linebackers. Whether it’s in pass coverage, or in pursuit of a quarterback or running back, Ly shows great instincts to make the right play.
Jack Mills, Senior – Oliver Ames
Mills is entering his third fall as a starter for the Tigers and has been an anchor for both the offensive and defensive lines. Last season, he was named a league all-star for OA and was named a HockomockSports.com Hock 5 Defensive Lineman. He made 30 tackles and used his imposing size and quickness off the ball to disrupt the opposition. Even when he did not make the play himself, Mills regularly draws double teams and holds up blocker to open lanes for teammates. It has been a difficult stretch for OA over the past two years, but Mills has earned his place as one of the top linemen in the league.
Anytime you have a player that lines up at both linebacker and fullback you know one thing is for sure: they like to hit. Matt Pond will see time at both positions this year but his main role will be as Foxboro’s starting inside linebacker. And because of his combination of football IQ and speed, expect Pond to be among the leaders of tackles in each game. The Warriors didn’t have a ton of experience on defense a year ago, but Pond stepped up to be a leader. Not only is Pond strong in the pass game, but when a blitz is called, he’s one of most dangerous linebackers in league because of his speed and ability to tackle in the open field.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2017 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
2016 Record: 4-7
2016 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan
Key/Returning Players: Cam Furtado, Sr., QB/CB; Elvin Sam, Sr., WR/CB; Justin Cote, Jr., RB/OLB; Matthew Corrado, Sr., OL/DL; Matthew Jimenez, Sr., OL/DL; Dan Perry, Sr., OL/DE; James Weir, Sr., LB/TE; Nate Barboza, Sr., LB/FB; Nick Evans, Jr., TE/DE; Kyle Walsh, Jr., OL/DL; Jacob Weatherford, Jr., LB/FB; Josh Therrien, Jr., FS/WR
The Bombardiers started the season 3-2, but closed with only one win in the final six games, including a pair of losses to league rival and eventual Super Bowl champion King Philip. Injuries piled up for Attleboro in 2016, but it gave a number of players the chance to gain valuable varsity experience and the Bombardiers have high hopes for improvement this fall.
Experience at the skill positions is one of the reasons for optimism at Attleboro. Senior Cam Furtado is slated to start the season at quarterback and has proven to be a dynamic playmaker. Classmate Elvin Sam emerged as a big play weapon last fall, whether in the backfield or split out wide, and tight end James Weir gives Attleboro an option in the middle of the field. Wideout Josh Therrien and running back Justin Cote could also play bigger roles with running back Marcus Blaise adding depth.
Attleboro also has a strong returning core on defense with Furtado, Sam, and Therrien in the secondary and Weir joining senior Nate Barboza and junior Jacob Weatherford at linebacker. Matt Corrado, Matt Jimenez, and Kyle Walsh will give the Bombardiers strength on both sides of the line and junior Nick Evans could be poised for a breakout year after moving from linebacker to defensive end. Sophomore Qualeem Charles is also a player to watch on the line.
“I am extremely excited about our senior group of players,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have some dynamic players in Cam Furtado and Elvin Sam and hopefully they can maximize their athletic talents. We have many returning starters from last season so we hope to build on that experience.”
2015 Record: 2-9
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Eian Bain
The first season for the Panthers under new head coach Eian Bain was a struggle at times for a young roster that was adapting to new systems on both sides of the ball, but there is hope that the experience gained last fall will pay dividends in 2017. Franklin will have a number of returning players to count on this season.
Offensively, Franklin will have to find ways to make up for the production of graduated running back Jacob Wolowacki, who was a go-to weapon in the ground and passing games. Senior quarterback Jake Noviello will be counted on to lead the offensive unit after more than 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall. Junior wideout Sean Leonard started all 11 games last year and will be a tough matchup for defenses along with fellow receivers Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Evan Wendell and running back Sean Hofferty. Three-year starter Brian Kosicki will be the leader of the offensive line and tight end Patrick Morrison will be a weapon in the passing game.
On defense, the Panthers have depth in the secondary, including junior safety Nolan McLaney, who was second on the team in tackles last year. Junior Ryan Driscoll has speed on the corner and Bain called him the “focal point” of the defense. Nick Gordon will hold down the other corner spot. Senior defensive end Jackson Gilbert is coming back from injury that cut short his junior season and will add strength on the edge. Junior Riley Downing gives Franklin size and speed in the middle of the line.
“We are in year two of our process,” said Bain. “We are in a different place than we were a year ago…Fans should expect to see a better team in 2017. We have a roster full of experience and had great participation through the Franklin speed and conditioning program. In a league this good we have to bring our best every week.”
2016 Record: 12-0
2016 Finish: MIAA D1A State Champions
Coach: Brian Lee
Key/Returning Players: Brendan Lydon, Sr., QB; Evan Rice, Sr., RB/LB; Shane Frommer, Sr., RB/DB; Dylan Leonard, Sr., RB/LB; Cole Baker, Soph., K; Andrew Dittrich, Sr., WR/DB; David Morganelli, Jr. WR/DB; Anthony Vahue, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Webster, Jr., LB.
What will the Warriors do for an encore? King Philip won its third league title in the past five years, second outright Kelley-Rex title in the past three seasons, and completed an unbeaten season with a win over Reading in the Div. 1A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
Despite losing a large and influential senior class, the Warriors are being picked by some to repeat at champs this fall. One reason for continued belief is the return of senior quarterback Brendan Lydon, who showed poise in the pocket and the ability to make accurate passes downfield in his first year under center in 2016. Yale-commit Shane Frommer is also back for his senior season and will be the feature back for the Warriors in a system that prides itself on pushing teams around on the ground. Beyond that, it will be up to a group of rookies to make an impact. KP will boast an entire new offensive line, anchored by senior Anthony Vahue, and all new receivers. Junior David Morganelli will be one of the options for Lydon.
The Warriors boast a bit more experience on the defensive side of the ball. Even though a good chunk of starters are gone, KP’s rotation last year allowed for players like Evan Rice (defensive end), Jack Webster (linebacker) and Dylan Leonard (safety) to see action. Frommer will be back opposite Webster while Vahue will also play on the defensive line. Andrew Dittrich returns as a starting corner back to anchor the secondary.
Although there are a lot of new faces on this year’s roster and a lot of leadership missing from last season’s championship squad, head coach Brian Lee has instilled a toughness that permeates the program and expectations are that KP will have a decent chance at lifting a trophy again this fall.
“We don’t get any points for last year, we don’t get spotted a touchdown because we went undefeated last year,” Lee said. “When it comes to high school football, it’s about taking those rookies and getting them ready for varsity speed, they have to be able to handle the bright lights on Friday nights. If we can get them up to speed, we should be okay.”
2016 Record: 8-3
2016 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Michael Redding
Key/Returning Players: Will Shield, Sr., OL/DL; Colbey Eason, Jr., OL/DL; Jareme DiLorenzo, Sr., DE/TE; Hunter Ferreira, Sr., WR/OLB; Danny DeGirolamo, Sr., RB/DB; Joe Cox, Sr., RB/OLB; Khristian Conner, Jr., RB/DB; Chris Copponi, Jr., FB/LB; Aidan Sacco, Jr., RB/DB; Mike Shannon, Sr., TE/DE
The Hornets finished second in the Kelley-Rex division last year, with the only Hock loss coming by three points to league champ King Philip. Mansfield was stunned in a playoff thriller against Marshfield, but then bounced back to beat Div. 1 playoff teams Needham and Newton North and will enter 2017 with typically high expectations, as the Hornets look to win their first league title since 2013.
A strength for Mansfield this fall will be the experience it returns at the skill positions led by senior wideout Hunter Ferreira, who has emerged as one of the area’s top receivers. The backfield will once again be loaded for the Hornets, who will count on seniors Danny DeGirolamo and Joe Cox and juniors Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco. New quarterback Damani Scott will try to make use of that talent and the 6-foot-3 junior has a big arm to make plays downfield.
Cox and Ferreira will add strength and speed to the linebacking corps, while seniors Mike Shannon and Jareme DiLorenzo will provide a pass rush at the defensive end positions. Conner, Sacco, and DeGirolamo will all return in the secondary. If there are questions for the Hornets, it will be at the line of scrimmage; senior Will Shield and junior Colbey Eason have returned and will be the players to build around on the offensive and defensive lines.
“After one week, we are happy with work ethic and development of linemen,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding, who is in his 30th season with the Hornets. “If we can get pieces of the puzzle sorted out up front on OL and DL, we’ll be a tough out. We have a very good collection of playmakers that can run and catch and we should score some points this year.”
2015 Record: 2-9
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Holland
The Tigers got off to a promising start to 2016, winning two of the opening three games including a dramatic one-point win over Franklin, but Oliver Ames struggled down the stretch against a difficult schedule. Now entering his third year, head coach Mike Holland is confident the program is heading in the right direction this fall.
According to Holland, the Tigers’ strength on the offensive side of the ball is the experience of playing in the system for several seasons and a greater understanding of the concepts. Senior Curtis Cann will lead the attack after taking over as the starting quarterback last season and he has several talented weapons on the outside in seniors Michael Mulrean and Noah Fitzgerald. Jay Fruci will be one of the returning players in the backfield, lining up behind a big offensive line.
Jack Mills will be a mainstay in the middle on both sides of the ball and is one of the top lineman in the league. He will be paired with fellow senior John-Michael Cole on the line, giving the Tigers depth in the trenches. Fitzgerald and Mulrean will also be important contributors in the secondary, while Fruci will bring athleticism to the linebacking corps. Holland wants his defensive scheme to take advantage of the team’s speed.
“Looking forward to the start of a new season. Our guys’ preparation and approach leading up to the season has been excellent,” Holland said. “We have guys with experience that need to play big, as well as some new guys that are in the mix to compete for spots.”
2016 Record: 5-6
2016 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Brad Sidwell
Key/Returning Players: Noah Leonard, Jr., QB; Brayden Merrill, Jr., WR/DB; Collin Hunter, Sr., WR/DB; Paul Corrao, Sr., T/DT; Cam Correiro, Jr., G/DT; Antonio Mendes, Sr., RB; Zakim Harrow, Sr., DT/NG; Nuno Camara, Sr., LB/FB
The Tigers narrowly missed out on a winning record in their first season under head coach Brad Sidwell and showed signs of improvement, including a narrow, three-point loss to Mansfield. In year two, Sidwell is hoping for even more and Taunton has potential on the roster to be a tough out in the league.
Losing wide receiver Adam McLaughlin to graduation will certainly impact the offensive attack, but junior quarterback Noah Leonard returns for his second season under center and will look to build on the experience he gained last fall. With a number of athletes at the skill positions, including senior Collin Hunter and junior Brayden Merrill at wideout and T.J. Mendes in the backfield, Taunton will use a number of formations and styles to cause matchup problems. Sidwell expects the passing game to be a major strength for the Tigers.
Defensively, Taunton will have a number of new faces, but has size and experience at the line of scrimmage. Seniors Paul Corrao and Zakim Harrow and junior Cam Correiro will all make a significant impact on the battle in the trenches. Senior Nuno Camara provides experience to the linebacking corps, while Merrill and Hunter will be important in the secondary.
“Moving into the second year, the players, coaches and fans are excited for the season but there is lots of work to be done,” Sidwell said. “Hopefully we can get off to a good start and provide some confidence to gain momentum into the difficult Hockomock League season.”