Taunton Edges Oliver Ames In Game of the Week

Taunton football
Taunton quarterback Noah Leonard (left) converts a third down with his legs in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Whatever Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell was selling at halftime, his defensive unit was buying.

Taunton posted a second half shutout, limiting Oliver Ames to negative yardage on each of its first two drives and then stopped a late red zone attempt to seal a 13-12 win.

“Our defense hung in there for us in the end,” Sidwell said. “We had to keep them in front of us to make the play. We turned the ball over too much on offense. And even though our defense didn’t force a turnover, they didn’t give up too many big plays.

“I give [Oliver Ames] a lot of credit. The back they have there [Anthony Berksza] is an unbelievably hard runner. They do a good job of getting him the ball and doing some formational things that make it difficult for us on defense.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Oliver Ames had an ideal start to the game, scoring on each of their first two drives while Taunton had just 10 yards of offense on its first two series of the game.

With the wind at its back, Oliver Ames’ defense came out blazing, forcing a three and out. Because of the wind, Taunton’s punt went just eight yards giving the hosts great field position at the Taunton 35-yard line.

OA used eight plays to cover the 35 yards, with junior Anthony Berksza (19 carries, 94 yards, two touchdowns) cutting up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown. A two-point attempt was stuffed in the backfield by Taunton’s Nuno Camara but OA took a 6-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first.

The hosts were back on offense just three plays later. Facing a third down, Taunton went to the air for the first time in the game but OA’s Michael Mulrean came away with the interception, giving the home team a first down at the Taunton 42-yard line.

OA took advantage of good field position once again, using just six plays to double its lead. Highlighted by a 25-yard rush from Noah Fitzgerald on third down, the home-Tigers moved into the red zone. Three plays later, Berksza took the toss to the right and plunged across the goal line inside the pylon. Another two-point attempt was stopped but OA had a 12-0 lead with less than 10 minutes gone in the game.

“Our kids came out strong,” said OA head coach Mike Holland. “The weather definitely impacted both teams, especially with what we were both doing offensively. We played a good first quarter but we just have to be able to put together an entire game. They made two big fourth down conversions and had a huge third down conversion too. They made plays when they needed to.”

Taunton’s offense finally got in gear behind three straight runs from TJ Mendes (16 carries, 41 yards). Facing a fourth down at OA’s 20-yard line, Taunton went back to the air and junior Noah Leonard (4-for-11, 62 yards, two total touchdowns) hit classmate Wesner Charles for an 11 yard gain and a first down.

Three plays later, Leonard used a QB sneak from two yards out to get Taunton on the board. A dropped snap on the extra point try resulted in a failed attempt, cutting the deficit to 12-6 with 4:19 left in the second quarter.

OA received the kickoff to start the second half, but a chop block penalty on second down set the offense back and resulted in a punt into the win for just 16 yards.

Taunton’s offense capitalized on the momentum its defense created and took a shot on the first play. Leonard dropped back and floated a perfect pass down the right sideline to senior Collin Hunter, who hauled in the pass and raced just inside the pylon for a 36-yard touchdown. John Teixeira‘s extra point put Taunton up 13-12 and ended up being the winning kick.

“I thoroughly am enjoying coaching these kids,” Sidwell said. “Each day, we’re coaching hard, the kids are working hard. Tomorrow morning the kids and my coaches will be working on how to get better and it’s awesome for the kids and the city of Taunton.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The team’s traded punts after OA’s next drive went for negative yards (with big tackles from Edgardo Navarro-Cruz and Coryn Nompleggi) and Taunton’s drive stalled after a key third-and-one stop by OA.

OA moved the ball into Taunton territory on its next drive, highlighted by a 28-yard burst by Berksza. But Taunton’s defense stopped OA for a loss, then a fumble on the handoff went for no gain. On fourth down, Taunton’s defense was able to stop the rush and force a turnover on downs.

Taunton’s next drive didn’t result in points but did take nearly seven minutes off of the clock. Malik Richardson (nine carries, 37 yards) rushed for back-to-back first downs before Mendes took two straight carries for another first.

“In a game when the weather is like this, you have to be stubborn and stick with the run,” Sidwell said. “Even though they were crowding the line, we had to stick with it. There was a drive toward the end that we leaned on [the running backs] heavily and they came through.”

Facing fourth and nine from OA’s 30-yard line, Leonard (six carries, 56 yards) took the carry himself, bolting for 12 yards to move the chains and keep Taunton’s drive alive.

“He had two huge runs for us,” Sidwell said of Leonard. “He’s a real threat. He can really throw the ball but if he can be a dual-threat quarterback by running the ball, that will be huge for us.”

The visitors almost put the game away on a play action play but Leonard’s pass into the wind to senior lineman Alex Simon held up and the pass ended up incomplete despite a diving effort. Taunton tried to throw for the first on fourth down but OA’s Cobey Williamson came up with an interception and returned it to the OA 29-yard line.

With just over five minutes to play, Berksza went for 28 yards on OA’s second play of the drive. Jay Fruci (13 carries, 56 yards) followed it up with a 29-yard dash, putting the ball at Taunton’s 11-yard line.

Taunton’s defense then held OA for runs of four, one and two, setting up fourth down. OA elected to try a 21-yard field goal but it was just wide right with 1:45 to play.

The visitors ran out the rest of the time as OA had no timeouts left.

“We talk to the kids to just live in the week that we’re in, focus on the team we’re playing that week,” Sidwell said. “Right now we just have to get them ready for Attleboro.”

Taunton football (3-0 overall, 1-0 Hockomock) returns home to Aleixo Stadium next week to welcome Attleboro (0-3, 0-1) on Friday night. Oliver Ames (1-2, 0-1) will welcome Franklin (1-2, 0-1) to Muscato Stadium on Thursday night.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Football: 2017 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2017 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
Attleboro senior Cam Furtado (14) will be one of the key contributors for the Bombardiers this fall as they look to challenge for the Kelley-Rex title. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017 Kelley-Rex Football Preview

Attleboro

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

Outlook:
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.”

Franklin

2015 Record: 2-9
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Eian Bain

Key/Returning Players: Jake Noviello, Sr., QB; Sean Leonard, Jr., WR/TE; Brian Kosicki, Sr., OT; Nolan McLaney, Jr., S; Jackson Gilbert, Sr., DE; Ryan Driscoll, Jr., CB; Riley Downing, Jr., OL/DL

Outlook:
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.”

King Philip

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.

Outlook:
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.”

Mansfield

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

Outlook:
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.”

Oliver Ames

2015 Record: 2-9
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Holland

Key/Returning Players: Jack Mills, Sr., OL/DL; Curtis Cann, Sr., QB; Jay Fruci, Sr., FB/LB; Michael Mulrean, Sr., DB/WR; John-Michael Cole, Sr., OL/DL; Noah Fitzgerald, Sr., WR/DB

Outlook:
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.”

Taunton

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

Outlook:
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.”