NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Even down by eight points and with a zero on the score board midway through the third quarter, Foxboro had confidence that its offense could figure things out. The top scoring team in the league, averaging more than 42 points per game heading into Friday night’s visit to Community Field, it felt like only a matter of time until the Warriors hit a big play.
It turned out that the confidence was far from misplaced. Foxboro scored on three straight possessions, needing only four plays combined, to flip the game around and beat North Attleboro 21-14, putting the Warriors in the driver’s seat to win its first league title since 2015 and first outright league title since 2010.
“They weren’t down,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli. “They weren’t doubting themselves. We just kind of had the will to hang in there and rely on the kids who’ve done it all year.”
He added, “Those kids (North) played their hearts out too. It was kind of a game that nobody should’ve lost and nobody should’ve won, but I’m sure glad we did.”
Leading 2-0 coming out of halftime, North tried to put together one of its patented long scoring drives to take control, but things stalled around midfield and the Rocketeers were forced to punt. On Foxboro’s first play of the third quarter, Dylan Gordon coughed up the ball trying to extend a play and Kaiden Leary recovered for North at the Warriors 25.
Two plays later, freshman Chase Frisoli (7-of-17, 71 yards) hit Gavin Wellss, who started on the opposite side of the field and worked his way across the entire secondary, at the front pylon for a 24-yard score. The extra point was no good.
On the first play of Foxboro’s next possession, Gordon (17 carries, 142 yards) finally broke free, bursting through the line for 30 yards into North territory. The next play finished in the end zone. Tom Marcucella, who only completed three passes on the night, fired the ball out to Rashaad Way (three receptions, 146 yards) on a receiver screen. Way somehow tiptoed down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown. The same duo combined on a two-point conversion to tie it.
North’s momentum may have been stalled, but the Rocketeers followed that with their best drive of the night. The hosts went 72 yards on 11 plays to regain the advantage. It was all done on the ground, as Tyler Bannon (17 carries, 97 yards) and Tyler DeMattio (21 carries, 109 yards) pounded out six first downs. DeMattio capped the drive with a one-yard plunge, taking a hit that sent his helmet flying in the process.
There was a long injury break before North lined up for the conversion and Bannon was stuffed at the one to keep the score 14-8.
Foxboro took over at its own 28. Just 13 seconds later, the Warriors had their first lead. Gordon flashed through the middle of the line untouched and sailed past the North secondary for a 72-yard touchdown run. Sam Carpenter’s kick put Foxboro ahead.
After forcing a three-and-out, the visitors took over at their own 42. A holding call backed them up an additional 10 yards, but that just added extra yards for Way to burn through. Another screen pass from Marcucella got Way into space and he did the rest, blowing past the secondary for 68 yards.
“That was our fear going in, they have that big-play capability,” North coach Don Johnson said. “Every single play Rashaad can score on the edge and Gordon inside. We didn’t give them any big plays in the first half and they hit them in the second half.”
North’s next drive reached Foxboro territory, but Bannon was dropped for a loss of one on second and six from the 40. Frisoli was then brought down on a keeper for no gain by Ryan Addeche and Steve Bridges. On fourth and seven, Frisoli went deep but Way made an acrobatic interception. North would get one more chance starting at its own 42, but this time it was Dylan Kerrigan stepping in to make the pick and seal the win.
It was appropriate that the defense got to make the final play for the Warriors because it was the defense that kept Foxboro in the game in the first half. North was getting pressure in the backfield from the opening kick, with DeMattio flying through for a sack to end Foxboro’s first drive and Bannon getting one on the second. Bannon turned the game around with a booming 50-yard punt that pinned Foxboro inside its own 10 to start the second quarter. Three plays later, Bannon got through on the punt block, knocking the ball out the back of the end zone for a safety.
“We hung around,” Martinelli said. “We bent defensively, but it didn’t hurt us on the scoreboard. It could’ve been a lot worse at halftime, not only on the scoreboard but emotionally and that didn’t happen.”
The Rocketeers had chances to break the game open, starting each of the next three possessions in Foxboro territory. Andrew Finn’s sack and a holding call stymied the first drive. Good pressure from Addeche helped slow down another drive in the red zone, which ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down. A good tackle by Gordon and more penalties helped keep the third drive from ending in points.
“We shot ourselves in the foot too often,” Johnson explained. “We had more holding calls in the first half then we’ve had all season. That was a big difference maker. We should’ve had more points and had a little lead to work with.”
He added, “We gave them too many opportunities.”
Foxboro nearly grabbed the lead heading into the locker room. Marcucella nearly was intercepted by Garrett Ingelese on first down but Gordon followed with a nice run and Way caught his first pass of the night and broke it 38 yards to set up a short Carpenter kick. The Rocketeers were able to get a tip on it and it stayed 2-0 at the break.
“At halftime, we just said it’s 2-0,” Martinelli said. “It’s a long game, especially with the 12-minute periods. The big play kids made the big plays. Gordon, Marcucella to Rashaad, then Kerrigan on defense all with big plays.”
Foxboro (5-1, 2-0) will travel to Canton next week looking to secure at least a share of the league title. North Attleboro (2-3, 1-1) will try to keep the pressure on Foxboro and keep alive hopes for a split with a trip to Oliver Ames.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – Last week, North Attleboro was a minute away from pulling off a win against longtime rival Mansfield, but the Hornets rallied to win in double overtime. On Saturday morning at Macktaz Field, against another league rival, the shorthanded Rocketeers turned the tables, coming from behind twice in the second half against King Philip to earn their first win of the season.
Trailing 13-0 at halftime, North came out of the locker room with renewed energy. Even without several players due injuries and COVID protocols, notably star running back Tyler DeMattio, the Rocketeers were able to take control of a game that KP had dominated. Tyler Bannon scored touchdowns on both sides of the ball and freshman Chase Frisoli threw his first career TD pass to Gavin Wells to pull out a dramatic 20-19 victory.
“We actually lit into them a little bit because I felt it was an uninspiring effort in the first half,” North coach Don Johnson said about the halftime team talk. “I think, without DeMattio here, we’ve got a couple kids out with COVID, and it hurt us and I think guys were doubting themselves in the first half.
“It was more about We’re not changing a thing that we’re doing, we just need to do it better and they did it.”
KP coach Brian Lee was understandably frustrated at how the Warriors let the game slip away. “A little bit of panic,” he explained. “I think they had a lot to do with it too. They changed up what they were doing, some of the stuff we were doing earlier took that away. We just couldn’t find a consistent answer after that.”
North’s offense struggled to go anywhere in the opening half. The Rocketeers had the ball four times but managed only one first down. Frisoli, who has had the unenviable task of playing Mansfield and KP in his first two varsity starts, completed only one pass for two yards and Bannon was held to just 18 yards on the ground.
The aggressive KP defense was winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and consistently getting into the backfield. Ryan Gately stuffed Bannon on one play for a loss of three, Crawford Cantave made a nice play on the ball to break up a pass, and Hunter Hastings was able to drag down Nathan Shultz on a jet sweep.
On the other side of the ball, the Warriors were just as dominant up front, allowing the ground game to eat up yards and keep the clock moving.
KP’s opening possession was a 13-play, 56-yard scoring drive. Twice KP was able to convert on fourth down to keep the drive alive. On fourth and six at the North 30, Charlie Grant (9-of-2, 146 yards) hit Danny Clancy (three catches, 84 yards) for 13 and the first down. Four plays later, Grant was able to dive forward for two yards to move the chains on fourth and a foot. The drive was capped by a three-yard pass from Grant to a wide open Gately (17 carries, 92 yards).
The hosts started at midfield on their second possession of the half. On third and 10, Grant was able to find Jonathan Joseph for 28 yards down to the North 9. Two plays later, Grant was able to scramble out of the pocket and swerve through the secondary for a 10-yard score. The XP was just wide but KP led 13-0 at the break.
When the teams came back to the field, there was a noticeable rise in the energy level on the North sideline. Despite being dominated for 24 minutes, the Rocketeers were only down by two scores and still in the game.
KP tried to change that on its opening possession of the third quarter. A pass interference call and a 23-yard pass from Grant to Clancy got the ball to the North 33. Bannon stepped up with a big tackle for loss on Gately and Greg Berthiaume followed with a sack of Grant.
North took over on its own 32 and started to go to work with Bannon (19 carries, 92 yards) taking direct snaps. He broke a 17-yard keeper to get into KP territory and another five-yard run on third and one to keep the drive moving. Thomas Brewster pressured Frisoli into an incompletion and then picked off the freshman on fourth and 13 to end the drive, but with the Warriors pinned back at their own four.
Bannon stuffed Cantave for a loss of two and then Kaiden Leary made a nice tackle on William Astorino to force a three-and-out and a KP punt. North had tilted the field and got the ball at the KP 27-yard-line. Bannon again stepped in to make the big plays. He had a seven-yard carry, spun out of a hit in the backfield and dove for a first down on third and short, and then got North on the board with a nine-yard keeper on the final play of the quarter.
“He’s tough as nails,” Johnson said of Bannon. “Those guys don’t care about technique or anything like that, they’re just football players, just snap them the ball and run downhill. He was a big factor.”
The extra point was no good, but the lead was cut to 13-6 and the game was definitely up for grabs with 12 minutes to play.
A holding call negated a huge gain on a pass to Joseph and pushed KP back inside its own 30. On third and 17, KP tried to go deep over the middle, but Bannon was there again. He pulled down a one-handed interception, managed to keep his footing, and then returned it 45 yards for his second touchdown. Frisoli picked out Wells on the conversion play and North had its first lead of the day.
Two possessions later, KP was able to answer. Grant hot Cantave for 14 yards out to the 38 then scrambled for 13 yards and another first down into North territory. On second and nine, he went deep down the near sideline to Clancy, who not only out-jumped the coverage to make the catch but was able to recover his balance and race into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown.
KP went with a trick play on the conversion but Gately wasn’t able to find Grant in the back corner thanks to pressure from Bannon. The hosts led 19-14 with 4:05 on the clock.
“It’s a good sign,” Lee said about his team’s response to going behind, “but then you’ve got to make plays. You should’ve had an interception, you’ve got to make that play and you shouldn’t intercept the ball down here. All that stuff comes back to me. I think we’re all guilty and I just think North never quit.”
Three plays later, North was back in front, this time for good. Bannon’s 18-yard burst got North to the 43. Frisoli then took a shot deep. Wells managed to jump above two defensive backs right in front of his bench, ripping the ball away, and then having a free run to the end zone for a 57-yard score. Bannon was stopped in the backfield by Gately on the conversion but North was in front 20-19 with just 2:30 remaining.
Johnson said of Frisoli, “He’s got to develop physically but his poise and his football intelligence, he’s a smart kid, how quickly he’s picked it up, very impressive.” It was mentioned that Frisoli had to play Mansfield and KP in his first two starts and Johnson said, “If he can survive that, that’s a good sign.”
The Warriors had one last shot to stay perfect on the season, but four straight incompletions gave North the ball back and Bannon was able to get the one first down the Rocketeers needed so they could take a knee and run out the clock.
“That was our first full-length game really,” Lee said. “I think they were tested, had been in an overtime game, and it served them well. I felt we kind of panicked a little bit.” Asked if he thought the Warriors would be served well having this game under their belts before league play kicks off, Lee joked, “Well, only if we play better!”
Johnson was asked how important it was to his team to avoid going 0-3 with the Hock opener looming next week. He said, “We didn’t play well against Feehan, but we played better and were who we thought we could be against Mansfield. Then we got hit by the injuries and the COVID and I think guys were doubting themselves again. More than ever, this win was needed. We needed to get in the win column.”
It turned out to be worth the wait.
The Hornets tied the game with under a minute to go and then scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion in both overtime periods to upend the Rocketeers, 31-29, in double overtime at Community Field.
It marked the first time the rivals played one another in overtime.
“It was a special environment here at Community, one of the last old school places. I have such respect for their coaches, we knew they were going to be ready to play,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “I thought we just hung on in the second half. It wasn’t going our way, we couldn’t get much going. We did just enough.”
North Attleboro was close to putting the game out of reach with just over four minutes to play. Nathan Shultz sliced through the Mansfield defense to the tune of 65 yards to put the Rocketeers in prime position near the red zone. North got a first down but nothing more as Mansfield’s defense held, forcing the Big Red into a field goal attempt.
The Hornets got a second life when the 28-yard attempt went wide, but they had just 4:11 to play with no timeouts and 80 yards to gain.
Junior Conner Zukowski (18-for 29, 302 yards, four touchdowns) led the game-tying drive for the Hornets. After converting a third down early in the drive, the Hornets went on to march 80 yards on 10 plays, finished off when Zukowski floated one to sophomore Trevor Foley (7 catches, 113 yards, three touchdowns) in the corner of the end zone. Zukowski also hit Dana Johnson three times on the drive for 63 yards.
Foley hauled in the two-point conversion pass right at the goal line, was hit back, stayed on his feet, and then stretched out over the line to tie the game, 15-15, with 0:49 seconds to play.
“I felt like we really played young in the first half but in the second half we showed a lot of character, they really stepped up and played like veterans,” Redding said. “Every week I think we’ll make progress but we just have to learn to play for four quarters.”
Mansfield started on offense for the first overtime and on the first play, Zukowski went right back to Foley, floating one to the back right corner and the 6’4 sophomore did the rest, out-leaping the defender to grab the score. Zukowski found Drew Sacco cutting across the middle for the two-point conversion and the Hornets jumped ahead 23-15.
North got the ball down to the 1-yard line on its first three plays and senior Tyler DeMattio — who made the switch from quarterback to running back this week — bulldozed his way in on fourth down to keep North alive. Freshman quarterback Chase Frisoli (6-for-9, 86 yards) fired a low bullet and Gavin Wells made a nice catch for the two-point conversion to knot it 23-23 and send it to double overtime.
The Rocketeers took their turn on offense first and despite a big push from the Hornet defensive line, DeMattio (19 carries, 65 yards) was able to bounce it outside and scamper into the end zone. A false start pushed North back five yards and the conversion pass was swatted away by Foley at the goal line.
On Mansfield’s first play, Zukowski backpedaled before dumping off a screen pass to Rocco Scarpellini, who broke free of a pair of tackles to get into the end zone. On the two-point try, Zukowski lofted a pass to the back left of the end zone to Foley for the win.
“It was a great game, both teams played tough and it’s tough for any team to walk away from a game like this with a loss,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “We’d rather but on the other side of it but I’m proud of our kids, especially after the disappointing loss last week. I thought our kids worked really hard to bounce back.
“We played better. We didn’t play good enough to win but we played better this week than we did last week so we’re happy about that. And with the new rating system, a two-point loss isn’t so bad anymore.”
Mansfield opened the game with a touchdown on the first drive. The Hornets went 3-for-3 on third down on the drive, moving the ball all the way down to the 2-yard line after Zukowski linked up with Foley for 26 yards. A high snap forced Mansfield into a 3rd and goal from the 24 but Zukowski found Foley in one-on-one coverage on the left side. James Gilleran’s point after put the visitors up 7-0 with 7:16 left in the first quarter.
North was forced to punt but DeMattio pinned the Hornets at their own 2-yard line. The ball came free on a handoff attempt and it was ruled DeMattio recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. A scramble on the point after attempt ended up intercepted and Mansfield held its advantage at 7-6 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
“We had used him last year at back in the Century Game so it’s always been in the package but it gives us the ability to do some different things on offense, and it also lets us play him on defense,” Johnson said of moving DeMattio from quarterback to running back and linebacker. “We haven’t had the luxury to have him play both ways but he’s a senior now, sometimes you have to roll the dice and just get your best players on the field.”
Wells put an end to another Mansfield drive with an interception and the Rocketeers forced a punt on the next series. Tyler Bannon converted a third down with a 12-yard run, and Shultz followed suit with a 12-yard run on his own, followed by a late hit call to get the hosts inside the 10-yard line.
Mansfield drove into North territory late in the first half, going 65 yards on eight plays but Danny Curran read the pass perfectly and stepped in front for an interception in the end zone to prevent any further damage, keeping a 15-7 lead at halftime.
The defenses were the stars for the majority of the second half. North was forced to punt after a three-and-out to start the second half, fumbled on its second possession, and had to punt again at the end of the third quarter after a big sack from Mansfield’s Aidan Devlin.
Meanwhile, Mansfield had a turnover on downs due to a fourth down sack from Tyler Bannon and had back-to-back punts. On its first three drives of the second half, Mansfield had a total of 62 yards before the final drive of 80 yards to tie the game.
“They didn’t play great against Feehan but we knew they were better than that,” Redding said of the Rocketeers. “They came out with a whole different look with DeMattio at running back and he runs really hard. The quarterback played well for a freshman, they were much better tonight than they were on film. They had us on our heels with their blitzing, with DeMattio coming, with Bannon coming off the edge — he’s a big, fast kid. We’re fortunate Zuk stepped up and had a heck of a night throwing the football, that was the difference.”
It marked Mansfield’s first win over North since 2013, although the team’s hadn’t played since 2014. It was the first overtime game in the rivalry; games previous ended in a tie at the conclusion of four quarters but that rule was changed about a decade ago.
“That was a classic, just about as good as high school football gets,” Redding said. “I’m glad the rivalry is back and we’ll see them at Alumni next year but maybe we’ll go up to Memorial [Park] and keep playing on the old-school fields.”
Mansfield football (2-0) will have its first home game of the season next week when it welcomes another member of the Hockomock League’s Davenport division in Stoughton. North Attleboro (0-2) hits the road for the first time to take on another Kelley-Rex division foe in King Philip.