ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The combination of Attleboro quarterback Jason Weir and running back Justin Cote is going to be a handful for opposing teams this season. Milford found that out firsthand on Friday night.
Weir and Cote combined for over 200 yards on the ground, helping the Bombardiers open their season with a 21-7 win over the visiting Scarlet Hawks.
“We want to run the ball first,” said Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan. “Jason is big and tough and Justin is a dynamic running back. We’re able to move some things around and we’re still trying to find our identity a bit but I think what you saw tonight is what we’re going to be.”
The Bombardiers had 28 rushing plays in the second half compared to just one passing attempt.
Weir accounted for 139 yards of offense, going 6-for-8 for 41 yards and one passing touchdown while picking up 98 yards and one rushing touchdown on 17 carries. Meanwhile, Cote had 125 rushing yards on 15 carries and scored once.
Both defenses stood tall to start the game but a mistake of special teams opened the door for Attleboro to cash in. A punt from Attleboro’s Nolan Jaeger was dropped at the 10-yard line and Bombardier Isaac Guidel pounced on the loose ball to get possession back for the hosts.
Milford’s defense stood tall for the first three plays, including dropping Cote for a loss on third down but Attleboro decided to go for it. On the first play of the second quarter, Weir hit junior Ethan Cameron as he faded to the corner of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.
Colby Briggs’ extra point put Attleboro up 7-0 with 10:54 left in the second quarter.
Milford’s offense stalled at its own 28-yard line but senior punter Sean Lehane drilled a deep kick that just rolled into the end zone for a touchback, forcing Attleboro to drive 80 yards.
Attleboro got halfway there before having to punt. The Bombardier defense came up with a big stop again, forcing Milford to punt from its own 33-yard line. Lehane once again came up big as his punt was downed at the Attleboro 12-yard line.
With little time left in the half, Attleboro couldn’t get much further than midfield and a strip sack from Ryan Hazard ended the drive as time expired on the first half.
The Bombardiers’ offense set the tone for the second half with its first drive, going 80 yards on 10 plays.
Cameron had a 9-yard rush, Weir had a 12-yard run and Cote rattled off a 28-yard rush during the drive. A 9-yard rush from Cote got Attleboro to the 1-yard line and Weir did the rest from there, using a sneak to squeeze up the middle for a score and a 14-0 advantage with 5:42 left in the third quarter.
Milford ran its only three plays of the quarter but Attleboro’s defense came up with a stop on third and short and had to punt.
“Defensively we’re pretty physical up front, the front four is a pretty good group,” Strachan said. “I’m proud of our kids and we just have to build on this one and now we have Dartmouth next week and that’s where the focus has to be on.”
Starting at its own 28-yard line, Attleboro used 13 plays — all rushing — to cover 72 yards. Weir converted the first three third downs on the drive before the Bombardiers were faced with fourth from the 33-yard line.
Cote burst out to his right, hesitated to fake out a defender, and then took off again, racing through defenders for a 33-yard score and a 21-0 lead with 7:02 in the fourth quarter.
“The defense was on the field far too long,” said Milford head coach Anthony Vizakis. “We had a couple of missed opportunities but we’ll work on them and try to get better tomorrow. Attleboro is a big, strong, and physical team and they use it to their advantage.”
Milford put together its best drive of the game in response to Attleboro’s third touchdown. Junior Colby Pires (16-for-23, 101 yards) hit Lehane and Hugo Lopes on back-to-back nine yard completions, earning Milford’s first first-down of the second half.
Brendan White (six catches, 60 yards) hauled in an eight yard pass, and one play later, went for 23 yards on fourth down. Four plays later, Luke Rosa broke through two tackles in the backfield and plunged through the defense for a 1-yard touchdown.
Lehane hit the extra point and then used a perfect chip that allowed Dylan Ortiz to go up and catch the onside kick. Milford began to move the ball again, picking up back-to-back first downs but Pires was hit as he threw on the next play and Cameron hauled in the pass for an interception.
Although Milford’s defense stopped Attleboro on three straight plays, Attleboro’s defense got the ball right back when Jaeger intercepted the Hawks’ first play of the next drive.
“[Milford] played us really tough, they did a good job defensively,” Strachan said. “That’s a good football team with a lot of good players, I think they’re going to do well in their division.
Attleboro football (1-0) is back in action on Friday when it travels to Dartmouth. Milford (0-1) has its home opener next week when it hosts Franklin.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
He capped the drive by hitting senior tight end James Weir (just back from injury) for a seven-yard score. Furtado then completed a pass to Justin Cote for the conversion.
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.