CANTON, Mass. – It was a championship theme inside the Canton Ice House on Saturday afternoon.
It started with a pregame ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of Canton’s 2010 D2 State Championship squad and it ended with the 2020 Bulldogs clinching the program’s 10th straight Davenport division title with a 3-1 win over rival Franklin.
The Canton boys hockey team is the only program in the entire Hockomock League in any sport to win ten 10 straight division championships. The Bulldogs are the only team to win a Davenport title for boys hockey, winning every year of the decade since the league split into two divisions.
“It’s a great thing, we’re very lucky to be apart of something like this here in Canton,” said Bulldogs coach Brian Shuman, who quickly went from one rink to the other inside the Ice House, coaching a 6th/7th grade Canton youth team immediately following the Bulldogs’ win over Franklin. “All of these guys were watching our game before coming over here for their game, and all of our guys watched the teams before them.”
Canton erased a one-goal deficit after a period of play, scoring twice in a two-minute window in the second period and tacked on an insurance goal in the third period to secure the win. The Bulldogs went a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
A pair of those kills came in the first period, including one just under three minutes into the contest. A tripping call put Canton down a man but an aggressive kill prevented the visiting Panthers from registering a serious chance on goal.
After Canton had a power play go without a goal shortly after, the Panthers once again had a man-advantage chance just past the midway point of the period. Again, the Bulldogs applied plenty of pressure, not allowing Franklin a good look in the offensive zone.
Instead, the best chance of that two-minute span fell to the Bulldogs. Senior Johnny Hagan pounced on a loose puck, slammed on the brakes as he crossed the blue line to shake a defenseman, dropped a pass to senior Chris Lavoie, who dished it back across to Hagan in front but the senior center couldn’t get his stick on the puck in time as the bid went just wide.
The Bulldogs knocked on the door against as the clock ticked under two minutes as Dylan Coyne connected with Donny McNeice but Franklin goalie Ray Ivers (18 saves) came up with the save and covered the rebound.
Although it was Canton who had the best chances for the majority of the period, it was Franklin that found the back of the net first. Junior Conor O’Neil connected with classmate Sean Connelly as the pair entered the offensive zone. Connelly worked his way past a defenseman and tossed the puck back in front and O’Neil completed a hard crash on net with the final touch into the back of the net.
Canton came out strong to start the second period, with Lavoie smashing a shot off the crossbar in the opening minute. The equalizer came just under four minutes into the period as sophomore Eamon Kelly drove hard behind the net, dishing the puck in front just before circling around. Hagan found the puck in the middle and dished it off to senior defenseman Jack Connolly, who deposited a shot into the top corner to make it 1-1 with 11:13 left in the second period.
The Bulldogs went on the power play shortly after and needed just seven seconds on the man advantage to go ahead. Lavoie dished it back to senior defenseman Owen Lehane after an offensive zone faceoff win and, after skating towards the center of the blue line, Lehane unleashed a wrist shot. With both Kelly and Hagan in front screening, Ivers had no chance as the puck found the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.
“Just a huge goal…when you think too much on the power play, you get in trouble,” Shuman said. “Our guys tonight, they really did a phenomenal job moving the puck. And when they had the opportunity, just rip it. If you wait a half second longer or think too much, you miss the chance. We want Owen to shoot more at the top and he just fired it, it was a huge goal.”
Franklin had a golden chance with five minutes left in the second as Connelly came up with a turnover in the attacking zone, firing a pass over to Shane McCaffrey in front but the senior forward couldn’t get all of it on his shot and it went just wide.
The Panthers went on a power play in the final minutes of the second but were unable to convert. Dylan Marchand had a shot denied by Canton goalie Joe Cammarata on one try, and Cammarata made a stop on a tip from Connelly on a shot from Joe LeBlanc.
“We gave them too much space,” said Franklin head coach Anthony Sarno. “We didn’t take good care of the puck…we have to be better in every facet of the game. We have to be committed to our game, stick to our game, we have to forecheck hard. We can’t give them that much space on the blue line…instead of forcing a dump in we were giving them 20 feet of room to maneuver. Against a good team like that, you have to minimize your mistakes.
“Special teams is going to make or break you in a game like that. They brought it and we didn’t. The first period was fine but after that, they wanted it more than we did.”
Coyne delivered the insurance goal for the Bulldogs. The junior forward whipped a low shot on goal as he crossed the blue line and the puck eluded Ivers and bounced into the back of the net for a 3-1 lead.
Franklin had a final power play chance to cut into the deficit but again without a goal. Tommy Tasker blasted a low shot but Cammarata read it the entire way without traffic in front. The Bulldogs went on to block two more shots and deflect another pair out of play to kill the penalty.
“We spend a lot of time on it, at least once a practice,” Shuman said. “And I think that was the best game we’ve had so far on the penalty kill. They were aggressive, and you have to be aggressive against [Franklin] because they are aggressive on their power play. You look at a kid like TJ McCabe, filling in for one of our best penalty killers in Tommy Ghostlaw, and he had a great game.
“It’s about being smart in those situations. You have to recognize what’s around you when you have the puck and make the right decisions, and we had some chances tonight. They put some forwards on the point [on the power play] so they aren’t used to playing defense so you can kind of take advantage of that.”
Canton boys hockey (6-0-0 Hockomock, 11-0-2 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it hosts North Attleboro. Franklin (3-1-2, 5-4-3) will host King Philip on Wednesday in a battle of the top two teams tied atop the Kelley-Rex division.
Senior Chris Savoie, the team’s leading goal scorer, returned after a three-game hiatus to join classmate Johnny Hagan and sophomore Eamon Kelly (who rejoined the lineup on Wednesday) and the Bulldogs found the back of the net in each period en route to a 5-2 decision over a good King Philip team.
With the win, Canton extends its unbeaten streak to 35 games.
“We checked a lot of the boxes tonight,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “We learned from some of the games in the past against KP where you have to come out and do the little things like winning the battles, getting pucks to the net, working hard on the backcheck, and good things will happen. We kind of got away from that, even in some of the games we’ve played well, we have to realize the little things will lead to the goal scoring opportunities.”
Canton’s top line combined for three goals while Shane Marshall scored twice, finding the back of the net for the second straight game. The Bulldogs never trailed, turning a one-goal lead after a period into a two-goal advantage through 30 minutes. Canton had a four-goal lead before KP scored in the final minute of play.
“They don’t make many mistakes and they have three lines, one is as good as the next,” said King Philip head coach Paul Carlow. “They are well-coached and a deep team, they are good every year for a reason. It’s a good measuring stick, we need to play better to do well down the stretch. I think all the Hock teams are good but I think they are clearly the best.”
After a relatively even first 10 minutes, Canton seized the lead with just 2:25 to go. Not only did it give the hosts the lead and the momentum before the first intermission, it was a sign of things to come for the Bulldogs’ offense.
Just seconds after a 4-on-4 situation ended, Kelly made a hard drive to the net down the left side, cutting in front of the net but KP goalie Jesper Makudera made the stop. But Marshall was first the loose puck and batted the rebound in to give the hosts the lead.
King Philip responded well to start the second period, cashing in on its offensive zone pressure. The Warriors were able to force a loose clearance and sophomore Shaun Fitzpatrick won a stick battle to unleash a wrist shot. Canton goalie Joe Cammarata made the kick save but the rebound popped right to senior Noah Ray and he buried it to make it 1-1 with 11:15 left in the second.
While the Warriors seemed to have the momentum, they were whistled for a trip and the Bulldogs went on the power play. Canton needed just over a minute to cash in as senior defenseman Owen Lehane skated down into the right circle, firing a shot that Kelly tipped in for a 2-1 lead.
“We were battling out front, looked like a stick might have hit a skate…it was just a tough time for that call,” Carlow said. “We got some momentum back there with the goal early in the second and I felt like if we could play 5-on-5 for a good stretch, we were okay. But they took the lead right back on the power play, and right after we had a bad turnover that led to a breakaway.
“I think 5-on-5 we were okay tonight but obviously, [Canton] is a good hockey team, you can’t make mistakes against them. I didn’t think we played our best and I would have liked to see us play more 5-on-5 hockey but giving them the momentum right back certainly hurt us.”
King Philip had a chance to answer when it went on the man-advantage less than two minutes after Canton’s second goal, but instead, it was the Bulldogs that struck. Hagan took advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone, used his speed to race across the blue line and fired a low shot five-hole for a shorthanded tally, giving the Dogs a 3-1 lead with 6:50 left in the second.
“Getting Chris Lavoie back on the power play particularly, having that third option is really important,” Shuman said. “Ironically, those are two guys [Owen and Eamon] that often times don’t touch the puck as much. Owen did a great job taking the ice he was given and Eamon doing what we preach all the time, going with his stick to the net and he made a good play.”
The Warriors had another chance to cut into the lead late in the period on a power play chance. A loose puck popped right in front to Conor Cooke and his shot looked destined for the back of the net but Cammarata made a terrific stop to keep the two-goal lead.
KP couldn’t convert on an early power play chance in the third period and junior David Lawler blasted a shot from the blue line that saw a rebound bounce around in front, but no one on KP could get a stick to it.
Canton made the visitors pay, scoring just before the midway mark of the third period. Ronan O’Mahony took and pass from Jack Connolly and laced a low shot through traffic from the blue line that Makudera stopped but Marshall was quick to pounce on the loose puck and buried it for a 4-1 lead.
With just under three minutes to go, Hagan skated in down the left boards and fired a shot that was stopped by Makudera but once again the Bulldogs were there for the rebound and Kelly tapped it in for a 5-1 advantage.
“The third was our best period, we talked about the next goal (in the third) was huge,” Shuman said. “If they scored, they’d have a ton of energy and be back in the game. Or if we got it, we’d take a huge step towards winning the game. The fourth one came from a good shot, the defense made a good play, and Shane buried it.”
King Philip’s Aidan Boulger finished off a scrum in front of the net with less than a minute to play in the game. Jack Coulter and Cooke earned assists on the goal.
Canton boys hockey (3-0 Hockomock, 7-0-2) will host Oliver Ames on Wednesday evening while King Philip (1-1, 6-3-0) returns home to take on North Attleboro on the same night.
The Tigers are going to be a young team this season so it will be important, especially early on, for the experienced players to lead the way. The good news for Taunton is that junior forward Michael Albert is back in the fold, a year after he led the team in scoring as just a sophomore. Albert was among the Hockomock League’s top scorers last year, scoring 10 goals and adding 19 assists for 29 points, which tied for ninth-most during the regular season. His 19 assists are what stand out the most, showing he can get teammates involved. The Tigers also have a couple of new additions to the roster through transfer so one of the early challenges will be finding the right combination of players that gel. While head coach Kris Metea sorts that out, he can lean on Albert’s speed, skill, and vision to carry the Tigers offensively again this year.
Bianculli has been one of the league’s top skating defensemen for the past two seasons, becoming a top playmaker at the blue line and opening up scoring opportunities for his teammates. This year, the goal for the Warriors to get back into the playoffs and Bianculli’s speed with the puck and his stick skills through the center of the ice give KP a different look that can be hard for teams to contain. As a sophomore, Bianculli scored seven goals and added seven assists and his continued development as a physical player to go along with his vision and accurate shot, he will be a difficult matchup. His speed also enables him to recover in the defensive zone, even when it looks like he’s beat. KP has a clear goal this year and Bianculli will be a key to the team ending its wait for tournament play.
Two of the things that has made Oliver Ames competitive year in and year out is effort and versatility. Senior Hunter Costello has been on the Tigers’ roster for three years for a reason, and now a senior captain could be poised to have a breakout senior season. The Tigers lost a talented group to graduation but boast a good amount of experience, and a lot of players that are familiar with former assistant-now head coach Mike Zucarelli. Costello is one of those players back, coming off back-to-back seasons in which he recorded double-digit points. He had five goals and six assists during the regular season as a sophomore, and then last year took a big step forward with nine goals and 15 assists. As a captain and one of the most experienced players on the squad, OA will be relying on his leadership both on and off the ice.
During Canton’s historic run to an unbeaten state title last winter, the one player that drew the most attention from scouts and opposing coaches was Hagan. They saw what anyone who followed the Bulldogs for three seasons already knew, Hagan has that killer combination of speed, toughness, and skill that makes him so difficult to contain in the offensive zone, while he has the physical, competitive nature to go and battle for loose pucks in the defensive zone. Hagan scored 51 points as a junior, 21 goals and 30 assists, and seemed to always come through in the clutch, including a hat trick in the state title game at the TD Garden. The loss of center Ryan Nolte will be difficult, considering his record point total last year, but Hagan’s return gives Canton plenty of firepower to try and make a run at back-to-back titles and maybe an elusive Super 8 berth.
Every winter, the Mansfield roster goes through a number of changes, as players leave for prep schools or juniors programs and several players make returns to the Hornets. One of the players that will be coming back this season is Jenkins. The senior forward returns after two seasons with the South Shore Kings and should give the Hornets a much-needed boost on the offensive end, especially after Matt Copponi moved on. During his freshman season with the Hornets, Jenkins made an instant impact, scoring 11 goals and recording 10 assists. His 21 points was third-best on the team. A smooth forward with good size and an accurate shot, Jenkins should give Mansfield a little extra punch in the zone and is a talented skater who can cause problems in transition. The Hornets were so close to unseating Franklin at the top of the Kelley-Rex division last year and they will be happy to have Jenkins back in the fold to try and make another run at the league title.
Last year was the best season in program history, as the Warriors set records for wins (12) and points (27) in a season while earning an impressive victory over Mansfield and a point against Franklin. Leach is the team’s top returning scorer and will be counted on to try and keep the upward trajectory of the past two seasons by taking on a bigger role in the attack after the graduation of Brendan Tully. As a sophomore, Leach scored 18 goals and recorded 20 assists and showed off impressive speed that made it difficult to contain him in the transition game. He was also a player willing to mix it up in the corners or get physical in the middle of the ice and his size gives the Warriors a player who can cause matchup problems for the opposition. With Leach’s determination to get to the net and cause problems and several returning players who have gained experience last winter, Foxboro will still have a dangerous attack and will still have the postseason on its mind as the new year gets started.
The offense gets most of the press for the Bulldogs, but the Canton defense was also dominant last season and a critical component to a historic, unbeaten state title. Lehane is a guaranteed top-four defenseman for the Bulldogs again this year and his ability to control the blue line as a physical player and as a skilled passer will be important against this winter. Last year, Canton held teams to just 23 goals in 26 games and the combination of Lehane and classmate John Connolly make the defensive unit just as formidable this season. Lehane also chipped in with four goals and 10 assists last year, including the opening goal in the state championship game. Expectations are sky high for the Bulldogs again this season and Lehane’s experience at the blue line is one of the reasons that Canton will have hopes for back-to-back titles.
North Attleboro is another team with a new coaching staff and several new faces this season but the Rocketeers will be able to count on an explosive scorer on the wing, as Morehouse comes back this year after tying for sixth in the Hock in goals last year. A big, physical forward with a cannon for a shot, Morehouse scored 15 goals in the regular season and added four assists. North may need him to be more of a playmaker this year to make up for several graduations, but he has been a consistently solid scorer flying down the right wing and someone who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the corners, using his body to push aside defenders and give himself space to create. As the only player to hit double digits for goals last year, Morehouse will be expected to be the primary scoring threat again for North, which is looking to continue its progress as a program and keep its string of playoff appearances alive this winter.
Attleboro has been a team that is consistently in the playoff mix in Div. 3 and one of the main reasons that the Bombardiers have the tournament as a goal again this winter is the return of Morry. The senior forward is coming off a season in which he was third in the league in scoring with 40 points. He finished with 16 goals and added 24 assists, as the Bombardiers turned to him to pick up some of the scoring touch from the graduation of Jake Parker. This year, Morry will be counted on even more to give Attleboro a creative force in the attacking zone, while continuing to be an all-around player that can help out the defense and is capable of playing on the power play or penalty kill. The Bombardiers will ask a lot of Morry this season, in terms of ice time and production, but his physicality, speed, and stick skills give him the potential to bring Attleboro back to the postseason again this year.
There is a lot of change around the Franklin program this season, with a new coaching staff taking over after the retirement of Chris Spillane. The Panthers have become one of the top public school programs in the state and Tasker will be one of the players that the new staff relies on to keep that consistency this season. The senior defenseman is a strong, aggressive player who is tough to beat in the corners but is also capable of stepping up into the attack and has one of the league’s hardest shots from the blue line. He scored three goals and had 10 assists last year and showed the ability to play different brands of hockey depending on the opponent. He can race up and down the ice or he can sit back in the defensive zone and be the physical presence that the Panthers needed. In a season where there is a lot of changes, Tasker’s return for a third year on varsity gives some much-needed stability to the defensive pairings.
2018-2019 Record: 10-10-2 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South Preliminary Round Coach: Mark Homer
The Bombardiers will be looking to stretch their postseason streak to three years this season. It showed how deep the Kelley-Rex division was last year that the Bombardiers, who did not fare well in league games, made it to the state tournament.
One reason that Attleboro is hopeful for a spot in the state tournament is the addition of a couple of transfers to the program. Jake Ward joined the program and will apart of the Bombardiers top line alongside senior captain Ryan Morry and junior Aidan Diggin. Both Morry and Diggin have a plethora of experience at the varsity level so expect Attleboro’s top line to be a dangerous one in the offensive zone. Attleboro picked up some needed depth with the addition of junior Owen Dryjowicz and freshman Aidan Dryjowicz, who will join sophomore Nate Parker on the second line.
The third line could see some rotation but will mostly feature junior Austin Blais at the center spot, and senior Liam McDonough, junior Owen Graney, and senior Kyle Miniati on the wings. The Bombardiers will have some experience on the blue line with senior Sam Flynn and junior Zach Pierce holding down two of the top spots, with sophomore Sean Marshall also in the mix. The fourth spot between the top two defensive pairs is still up for grabs in the early going. Sophomores Nick Piazza and Michael Dutremble are battling for minutes in net.
“We hope to improve our record from last year through commitment and hard work collectively, and gain entry to the state tournament,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Homer.
2018-2019 Record: 25-0-1 2018-2019 Finish: D2 State Champions Coach: Brian Shuman
Having won nine straight Davenport division titles, Canton is used to having a target on its back as the rest of the Hockomock League tries to knock the Bulldogs from the top. But this year, that target is even bigger than before.
Fresh off one of the best seasons in both program and league history that ended with a D2 State Championship, the Bulldogs will be getting everyone’s best game in and game out. And while Canton certainly graduated some key pieces, like two-time HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Ryan Nolte, the Bulldogs enter this season as not only the favorite for a 10th straight division crown but will certainly be in the mix when it comes to the 2020 D2 State title.
While replacing Nolte will be tough, the Bulldogs have several key forwards back from last year’s championship team. It will all start with senior Johnny Hagan, who was named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year as a sophomore and racked up 51 points with 21 goals and 31 assists on the season. Hagan will have a lot of experience to work with in senior Timmy Kelleher (seven goals, seven assists last regular season), senior Tommy Ghostlaw (five goals, six assists), and senior Chris Lavoie (13 goals, 12 assists). Lavoie could be poised for a breakout year, scoring twice in the season-opening win over Franklin.
Canton also brings back top players along the blue line with Jack Connolly and HockomockSports.com Second Team selection Owen Lehane. Both seniors, Connolly and Lehane not only are among the best defensive players in the league but play a big part of the Canton offense with their shooting. Seniors Ronan O’Mahony and Declan Pfeffer are also experienced defensemen that will see increased roles this year. Canton turns to senior Joe Cammarata to start in between the pipes with junior Liam Polles impressing early on and could push for starting minutes.
“We have a lot of experience returning, but that’s true for a lot of teams across the state,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. If our preseason was any indication, there are a lot of outstanding, talented teams this year that improved greatly in the offseason. We will have our work cut out for us in the Hock and with a tough non-league schedule.”
2018-2019 Record: 12-7-3 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South First Round Coach: Mark Cedorchuk
Foxboro built upon its 10-season win two years ago with its best season in program history last year, picking up 12 wins including one in the postseason. After posting back-to-back successful seasons, the Warriors are hoping that trend continues.
With a good amount of returners back this year, the Warriors will be in good position to compete in the Hockomock League and will be aiming to make a deeper run into the state tournament behind a beefed-up schedule. One strength for Foxboro this year will be its offense with its two top regular season point producers back in junior Kirk Leach (15 goals, 20 assists) and senior Ronnie MacLellan (14 goals, 20 assists). That duo provided the Warriors with a lot of its offense last season and will be one of the top returning duos this season. Senior Sebastian Ricketts brings a vast amount of experience to the offense while sophomore Jack Watts (10 goals, four assists) will be looking to build on an impressive freshman year. Brady Daly, Eoin Reager, Josh Bertuman, Ryan Jacobs and Ben Ricketts will provide needed depth offensively.
Defensively it all starts with senior goalie Espen Reager, the defending Hockomock League MVP back after a strong junior season between the pipes for the Warriors. Reager has the ability to keep his team in teams, and he showed last year that he can help steal a game like he did against Mansfield. In front of Reager, senior Kyle McGinnis is one of the more experienced defensemen in the league and will be the anchor of the blue line group for Foxboro. Freshman Alex Coviello has impressed early on and will be a key piece of the defense.
“Our strength on offense this season will be our depth and overall team speed,” said Foxboro head coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We have more depth on offense than we’ve ever had. We’re looking forward to this season, with a lot of depth up front, excellent team speed and a great goalie we feel we can compete with any team on our schedule.”
2018-2019 Record: 12-10-4 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Final Coach: Anthony Sarno
A new chapter begins in Franklin boys hockey with Anthony Sarno taking over on the bench after longtime Panther coach Chris Spillane stepped down following last season. While the Panthers might have a bit of a new look, expectations are still high inside Pirelli for the defending Kelley-Rex champs.
Sarno is hoping that momentum will carry over from the Panthers’ impressive playoff run from a year ago when Franklin upset Mansfield in overtime and knocked off Catholic Memorial in the semifinals. But there won’t be any nights off for Franklin with a loaded schedule that features Malden Catholic, Pope Francis, and a loaded Mt. Hope tournament — and that’s just December.
“It will be a work in progress and we will look to develop a solid team chemistry with a relentless work ethic, staying true to consistency, and discipline in an environment where effort and attitude is paramount, and not up for discussion,” Sarno said.
Up front, the Panthers will be leaning on seniors Shane McCaffrey, Kevin O’Rielly, and Shea Hurley to lead the way. McCaffrey is the team’s top scorer returning from a year ago so it will be vital for new players to step up and contribute. Juniors Conor O’Neil and Declan Lovett are also going to be important pieces to the Panthers’ offense. Senior Ray Ivers returns between the pipes are stepping in last season and playing well. In front of Ivers, Franklin will have two of the best defensemen in the league with senior Tom Tasker, a HockomockSports.com First Team selection last year, and junior Joe LeBlanc, who had a breakout sophomore campaign.
2018-2019 Record: 10-11-0 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Paul Carlow
After missing out on the state tournament in back-to-back seasons, the Warriors have a chance to end that drought in 2020 behind an experienced group of players after losing just five players to graduation.
Head coach Paul Carlow says this is the most experienced group he’s had at his disposal since taking over behind the Warriors’ bench in 2015. There are nine seniors back this year and eight juniors so King Philip certainly boasts a lot of depth, and players that have played plenty of minutes at the varsity level. It starts with senior captain Chris Daniels, senior assistant captain Joe Boselli, and senior assistant captain Jack Coulter. All three have skated plenty of minutes for Carlow over the past couple of years and will be relied upon for their leadership.
Daniels is a crafty forward that scored five goals and had six assists while Coulter is the top returning scorer back this year after scoring six goals and recording nine assists a year ago. Seniors Bryan Lucente and Noah Ray will also be in the mix offensively alongside Daniels, Coulter, and Boselli. The Warriors will also rely on a handful of juniors to chip in offensively including forward Conor Cooke. Cooke had a terrific season with 10 goals and four assists and could be poised for a breakout year.
Defensively, there is a lot of veterans along the blue line for King Philip. Seniors Kyle Gray and Ethan McGuire are joined by junior Rocco Bianculli, a Hockomock League All Star and a HocomockSports.com All Underclassman selection a year ago. Gray is a three-year player that provides physicality while Bianculli is one of the top scoring defensemen in the entire league, scoring seven goals and adding seven assists during his sophomore season. Seniors Nate Ihley and Jesper Makudera will battle for minutes in net.
“I’m really looking forward to this season,” Carlow said. “On top of the seniors and juniors, we also have a strong sophomore class competing for spots. We have speed up front, we’re strong on the back end, and we have two good goalies. I’m looking forward to working with this group and fully expect them to make the tournament.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-6-3 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Mike Balzarini
Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini was a little concerned about his team’s depth coming into the season after graduating nine players and losing two top players to prep school. But after tryouts and a strong preseason, Balzarini believes this year’s squad will be just as deep as last year’ 14-win squad.
Losing a talented senior class hurts, and with Matt Copponi (eight goals, 28 assists, 2019 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year) and Brian Grant (HockomockSports.com All Underclassmen Team) off to prep schools, the Hornets will need new faces to step up and contribute on both ends of the ice. But Balzarini and the Hornets have something that none of the other Hockomock teams have and that’s senior goalie Sean McCafferty. Now in his fourth year starting, McCafferty is a game-changer. Even if the Hornets aren’t having their best games, they’ll still likely have a chance to win because of McCafferty.
In front of McCafferty, the Hornets will turn to senior Joseph Troiano to anchor the defensive unit. He will be joined by Jack Gormley and Conor Benoit, both of whom picked up valuable minutes last season and should help Mansfield be one of the stingiest defensive groups. Offensively, the Hornets do get a boost with the return of senior forward Chris Jenkins. Jenkins was named to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassmen Team in 2017 after he had 11 goals and 10 assists as a freshman. He will join veterans Jake Lund and Kevin Belanger to form a talented first line for the Hornets. Cam Paige, Liam Anastasia, and Ben Ierardo will team up on Mansfield’s second line.
“We have a little bit of a sour taste after how last year ended,” Balzarini said. “We want to get over that hurdle of the first round of the playoffs. This group really plays well together, they play as a team. They’ve gelled nicely since the first day of tryouts.”
2018-2019 Record: 11-9-2 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinals Coach: Ben McManama
North Attleboro will be leaning on its defense in order to get back to the tournament again this season. With the defending state champs in Canton as well as an improved Foxboro squad, the Rocketeers have their hands full with a difficult three-team Davenport division.
Seniors Jake McNeany, Will Yeomans, Jeff Baker, and junior Charlie Connolly are all back this season to give North Attleboro a veteran defensive group. With a handful of experienced players leading the way defensively, it should make the transition from four-year starting goalie Ryan Warren a bit smoother. Another reason that transition should go smoothly is senior goalie Nick Digiacomo, who has been impressive in the preseason so far this year.
Senior Dennis Morehouse is back after a breakout junior campaign and will be in the mix as one of the top players in the Hockomock League this season. Morehouse was second on the team in points last year with 15 goals and four assists and is the top returning scorer back for the Rocketeers. Senior Jack Connolly is another experienced forward that will be a key piece of the offense while junior Tyler Sarro will look to build upon a solid sophomore season.
“For us to be successful, we need to be discipline and get scoring from our second and third lines,” said North Attleboro coach Ben McManama. “We are not as big as we were in years past so we need to play tough and physical.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-9-1 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Mike Zucarelli
There is a new face at the helm of the Tigers this season, but its a familiar one. Mike Zucarelli takes over after serving as an assistant coach and is optimistic about the upcoming season.
Replacing one of the league’s top forwards in Brett Williams won’t be easy, but the Tigers boast experienced returners at every position on the ice. Senior Owen Connor is back for his third year in between the pipes. He took a big jump from his sophomore to junior year and that Zucarelli expects that trend to continue for the 2019-2020 season. In front of Connor, OA returns senior defensemen Ryan Gottwald and Matt Nosalek. Gottwald, one of the team’s two captains, had an impressive junior year and will be the leader of the defensive group this season.
Offensively, there will be some familiar faces including senior captain Hunter Costello. Costello, who scored nine goals and had 15 assists in the regular season a year ago, is joined by fellow returners Jake Gottwald, Duncan Pereira, and Brad Powers. All four of those seniors will be vital in the attack while juniors Ross Carroll and Matt Nigro should see expanded roles this year.
“We are going to be a gritty, hardworking team this year,” Zucarelli said, citing a preseason scrimmage with Milton. “We held our own during the first as Milton took it to us. We came out flying in the second, tied up the game and took the momentum into the third period with a huge penalty kill. The overall play of the team after one week was great to see.”
The Tigers enter the season with a relatively young squad but the goal is to integrate all of the youth with the returners and make a push for the state tournament by the end of the season.
Junior Mike Albert will be the main guy on the offensive end. Albert, who scored 10 goals and added 19 assists last season, was the leading scorer for the Tigers as a sophomore and is looking to take the next step this year. Junior Steve Roderick and sophomores Jack DeMoura and Michael Lucier are all new to the program and should be in the mix right away to help bolster the Taunton attack.
Head coach Kris Metea is also counting on some of the younger players to have breakout seasons, including sophomores Nathan Fernandes, Loren Corcoran, and Evan Perreira. On the defensive side, junior Brady Nichols will anchor the blue line unit. Although just a junior, Nichols has a wealth of varsity experience and the Tigers will lean on him to guide a young defensive core. Senior Andrew Gomes and junior Sean Bunker will battle for minutes in net.
“We have a group of young players that we will look to continue to develop over the course of the season,” Metea said. “The key to our success will be the meshing of the new players with the development of young players. The sky’s the limit for this group with continued commitment.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Canton was on its heels for large portions of Saturday night’s season opener at Pirelli Veterans Arena, struggling with the speed of the Franklin forwards and struggling to find the outlet passes that would send the Bulldogs racing forward into the offensive zone.
Still, the Bulldogs know how to find ways to win games. Senior forward Shane Marshall took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off a skate to score a power play goal with 11:27 to play and it turned out to be the difference in a 3-2 victory that extends Canton’s unbeaten run to 27 games and makes it four straight wins against the Panthers.
“It was probably not as tightly played as we’re used to, but that’s a really good team,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said. “They’re a very skilled, high-flying team this year. They were doing some stuff that we hadn’t seen them do in the past. I was very impressed with them, they played very well, and they took it to us.”
He added, “We got a lucky bounce on the power play goal to go up and then we just kind of hung on.”
The first period was relatively even, the teams putting nine shots on goal apiece. Owen Lehane had the first good chance for the Bulldogs, pushing forward from defense, splitting a pair of Franklin players, but having the puck roll off the blade at the last second. A face-off win set Shea Hurley up for a chance that was saved by Canton’s Joe Cammarata and the rebound was tipped over the glass.
Chris Lavoie got into the act with a pair of chances off a Canton attacking zone face-off win, but was unable to beat Franklin goalie Ray Ivers at the near post.
With 6:34 left in the first, just after a power play had ended, Lavoie would put the Bulldogs in front. Johnny Hagan weaved his way behind the Franklin net and sent a pass right on the tape for Lavoie, who was left open in the slot, to one-time past Ivers.
Canton cleared off a two-man advantage but sophomore Dylan Marchand nearly tied the game before the end of the period when another face-off win set him up for a look from the slot. Declan Lovett dangled past the Canton defense on the left wing and forced another save from Cammarata, as the Panthers turned up the pressure.
It didn’t take long after the first intermission for Franklin to even the score. Sean Connelly was able to push past the first defenseman and then laid off a perfect pass across the crease to Shane McCaffrey, who smashed a one-timer into an open net less than a minute into the period.
The Panthers almost grabbed the lead when Marchand stole an outlet pass in the neutral zone and sped past the retreating Canton players. Cammarata stayed big and was able to stop the breakaway and then also recover to stop JT Dwyer’s follow-up effort.
Lavoie gave the Bulldogs back the lead on the power play. He corralled a loose puck in the slot, spun quickly onto his forehand, and fired a wrister just under the bar to make it 2-1.
Tom Tasker nearly set up a tying goal with a perfect angled pass from the right point to the far post, but Hurley was unable to knock it into the empty net. It was one of several good looks that the Panthers failed to capitalize on, as they outshot Canton 10-5 in the second. Franklin was also 0-for-5 with the man advantage in the first two periods.
“We had our chances, but I felt like we left a little on the table there and didn’t pull the trigger when we had to,” said first-year Franklin coach Anthony Sarno. “We were trying to be a little bit too polished and a little bit too cute and sometimes you just have to get the puck to the net.”
Just like in the second period, Franklin wasted no time to tie the game in the third. With 14:17 to play, Tasker stepped up to a loose puck on the near boards and let fly with a rocket of a slap shot blocker side, which gave Cammarata no chance.
Sarno said, “He’s got a shot like I’ve never seen before. He’s a big, strong kid and that goal he scored to tie the game was incredible. We need more of that. We need everybody to step up and contribute. We have to be committed.”
Also just like the second period, Canton wasted little time grabbing the lead back thanks to its dangerous power play (2-for-6 on Saturday). Ronan O’Mahony stepped up from the blue line to fire a shot on goal, which hit a skate in front and deflected directly to the stick of Marshall, who was stepping in from the left face-off dot. He didn’t need a second touch to knock it past the dive of Ivers.
“For the most part, for the first game we have a lot to learn,” said Sarno. “We need to take better care of the puck in our own zone. I thought we gave up a little too much space, especially on the initial rush. We need gap up a little better, take away their speed coming in, and force them to dump it in.”
Hagan nearly got his second assist when he set up Timmy Kelleher in front but Ivers was able to stay with the partially deflected shot and push it aside. The Bulldogs had an opportunity to put the game away after a major penalty was assessed to the Panthers, but Franklin managed to clear it off and also create a couple of chances to tie it in the final 1:15.
Lovett had the first chance with a shot from a face-off win, but it was stopped at the near post. Seconds later, Marchand had a slap shot that was sticked aside. Despite the Franklin pressure (the Panthers held a 29-21 advantage in shots for the game), and Canton looking shaky in its own zone, the Bulldogs managed to hang on.
“Our guys who have been around struggled tonight,” Shuman admitted. “Usually our strength is in the ‘D’ zone and breaking out and the guys who’ve been around really struggled. Hopefully it’s just first game jitters.”
They are now 26-0-1 in their last 27 games dating back to the start of last season, although Shuman is quick to turn the page on last year’s state championship.
“We rarely talk about last season, unless we’re asked about it and even then we kind of dismiss it,” he explained. “Based on scrimmages, based on this game, other teams got a heck of a lot better and we’re still figuring out how much better we got it. We had some magic last season and this season is going to be totally different.”
Canton (1-0) will host Shrewsbury in another tough non-league contest on Wednesday. Franklin (0-1) will host perennial power Malden Catholic on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs (10-1), who won the Davenport division outright this season, capped a historic season with a 30-8 win over the Black Knights (10-1) in the 94th annual Thanksgiving meeting between the neighbors.
It marks just the fourth time in program history the team has won 10 games, joining 1979, 1981, and 1987.
“The kids were disappointed last year, we didn’t play great and Stoughton came to play,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “You see it over there on their sidelines…we had to live with that for a whole year. We didn’t want to let that happen again. I always knew it was important to the program, but that win two years ago and that whole feeling. It was a great day for the program, as is today, and it kind of started this run.
“We have a healthy rivalry. There’s a lot of talk about how the playoffs have taken the luster out of Thanksgiving, but not around here. I know how [Stoughton] values this rivalry, and I know how much we value it. Its two teams with mutual respect. Stoughton has a very good team that is very well-coached. Beating them on Thanksgiving is quite an accomplishment, that’s how we view it.”
Canton scored twice in the second quarter to take the lead and its defense pitched a second half shutout out, holding the Black Knights without a first down for nearly the entire second half.
Not only did the Bulldog defense prevent the Black Knights, who were without star two-way players Christopher Ais and Christian Georges due to injury, from moving the chains after the break, they limited the visitors to less than five yards on its first five series of the second half.
“For this program, for our class, this means everything for us,” said Canton senior David Allen, who had a second half touchdown catch. “We’ve won a lot together from when we were young. Getting knocked out of the playoffs hurt but to be able to take this trophy home to end the season means a lot to everyone on our team.
“It’s such a big rivalry. After a loss, you get to think about it but then it’s on to the next game, and especially with Stoughton, there’s a lot of extra motivation behind playing on Thanksgiving against them. We played very well defensively today, and we just had to grind it out on every play.”
After a scoreless first quarter that saw Canton come up with a stop against a goal-to-go situation for the Black Knights, the Bulldogs started the second quarter with 1st and goal from the 10 after a nice run from senior Kyle Fitzgerald (eight carries, 85 yards, touchdown) and 21-yard pass from Johnny Hagan (5-for-15, 99 yards, two touchdowns) to senior Jace Emma.
But similar how to the Black Knights were denied in the opening quarter, the Bulldogs couldn’t solve Stoughton’s defense. Despite getting down to the one-yard line, Stoughton got a good push up front from the likes of Carlvin LaGuerre, Oluwole Fabikun, Jerry Brisson, and Kelven Rodriquez, and senior Jaden McCall and junior Sproul Derolus combined for a huge tackle for loss on third down, and a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
Despite not scoring, the Bulldogs were able to flip field position, and cashed in on its next drive. On the first play from the Stoughton 35-yard line, Hagan floated one down the middle that Fitzgerald went up and grabbed over the defender and battled his way the final five yards for a touchdown. Owen Lehane’s point after made it 7-0 with 8:14 left in the second quarter.
Stoughton’s next drive didn’t go far thanks to a tackle for a loss on second down from Canton senior Jack Connolly, and a sack on third down from senior Lucas Ragusa. A good punt return from senior Gersom Rivera gave the Dogs the ball at the Stoughton 20-yard line.
Two plays later, Fitzgerald took his second straight handoff on a jet sweep and cut right up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5:39 left in the first half.
“It was a long break coming off the Holliston game, and you always worry if there will be a hangover from that loss,” Bohane said. “There was a couple of days I was a little worried but once we got back together, I could sense it. They are a very mature group, a lot of them play multiple sports and compete all the time. I could tell by the way they were acting that we’d be alright. The coaches did a great job preparing them and the kids came to play today.”
Stoughton responded with its best drive of the game to make it a one-score contest. Senior Clayton Rahaman (7-for-20, 147 yards) lofted one down the sideline that junior John Burke made a nice adjustment to haul in for a 35-yard catch, earning a first down on 3rd and 20.
Junior Jake Queeney got open and drew a pass interference call two plays later, and then moved the chains with an 11-yard catch. Sophomore Anthony Girolamo (11 carries, 30 yards) scampered for 13 yards to move inside the 10-yard line, and two plays later junior Christian Ais extended at the goal line for a 6-yard touchdown.
Rahaman connected with senior Anthony Pizzano for the two-point conversion to make it 14-8 with 1:14 left in the second quarter.
A good return from Rivera and a run from Hagan got Canton into scoring position with under a minute to go, but Ais came up with an interception in the red zone to put an end to the drive.
Neither team moved the ball to open the second half as Canton punted after a three-and-out, and Stoughton did the same after going backward. Field position benefitted the hosts again as they started at the Stoughton 29-yard line. Canton moved into the red zone but a holding penalty pushed them back and Burke broke up a pass in the end zone.
The Bulldogs settled for a 28-yard field goal from Lehane to make it 17-8 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
While Canton’s offense tried to establish itself in the second half, the defense came it plenty of chances. Stoughton’s first four drives all resulted in punts and totaled -14 yards. Its fifth drive didn’t yield any yards and ended with an interception two plays in.
“The defense has been outstanding all year,” Bohane said. “We played great against Stoughton the first time too. We had a couple of lapses but Coach Eckler did a great job with his adjustments at halftime and we really never had any issues with the defense the rest of the way, it was an outstanding performance.”
Stoughton senior Savion Scott put an end to Canton’s next series with a terrific diving interception but the Bulldogs were back in business on their next series. Starting at their own 47-yard line, the Bulldogs needed just four plays to extend the lead.
Fitzgerald sprinted for a 19-yard gain, junior Cam Sanchez took a handoff for six yards, Hagan kept it himself for 20 yards, and Rivera capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown and a 23-8 lead with 1:41 left in the third.
Canton started its next drive at the Stoughton 33-yard line, and back-to-back runs from Sanchez and Rivera moved the sticks. Back-to-back penalties put Canton into 1st and 26, but Hagan delivered a pass to Allen right to the marker for a first down. Three plays later, Hagan hit Allen on the slant for a 7-yard touchdown and a 30-8 lead.
“When we lost last year, it was tough,” Gallery said. “Throughout the year, we were all looking forward to the Thanksgiving game and getting payback, that’s what it’s all about. It was a good win and it’ s nice to go out on a high note.”
This article was updated on Saturday, November 30th to include the 1987 Canton team as a 10-win team.
Attleboro, 13 @ North Attleboro, 7 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: (A) Michael Strachan 5-yard rush, Colby Briggs XP good; (A) Jason Weir 52-yard rush, XP no good.
2nd Quarter: (NA) Jared Penta 3-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Stoughton, 8 @ Canton, 30 – Final – Click here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game. 1st Quarter: No scoring.
2nd Quarter: (C) Johnny Hagan 35-yard pass to Kyle Fitzgerald, Owen Lehane XP good; (C) K. Fitzgerald 4-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good; (S) Christian Ais 6-yard rush, Clayton Rahaman 2pt pass to Anthony Pizzano.
3rd Quarter: (C) O. Lehane 28-yard field goal; (C) Gersom Rivera 8-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (C) J. Hagan 7-yard pass to David Allen, O. Lehane XP good.
Mansfield, 22 @ Foxboro, 12 – Final 1st Quarter: (M) Safety; (M) Nick Marciano 46-yard pass to Danny Rapoza, Michael DeBolt XP good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Vinnie Holmes 46-yard rush, 2pt failed; (M) M. DeBolt 9-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (F) Shayne Kerrigan 2-yard rush, 2pt failed; (F) Chris McNamara 3-yard rush, 2pt failed.
Franklin, 0 @ King Philip, 14 – Final 1st Quarter: (KP) Ryan Halliday 5-yard rush, XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (KP) R. Halliday 2-yard rush, XP good.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
Milford, 12 @ Maynard, 15 – Final 1st Quarter: (Mi) Luke Rosa 13-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (Mi) Carter Scudo 22-yard rush, XP failed.
Oliver Ames, 34 @ Sharon, 0 – Final 1st Quarter: (OA) Connor Murphy fumble recovery, Sean Friel XP good; (OA) Nathan Cabral 2-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.
2nd Quarter: (OA) N. Cabral 3-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.
3rd Quarter: (OA) Cam Perron 40-yard pass to Nick Marks, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (OA) Sam Stevens 5-yard rush, S. Friel XP good.
Game of the Week Staff
Attleboro @ North Attleboro
Stoughton @ Canton
Mansfield @ Foxboro
Franklin @ King Philip
Milford @ Maynard
Oliver Ames @ Sharon
Attleboro @ North Attleboro
Ryan Lanigan: North Attleboro
Josh Perry: Attleboro
Matt Bosh: North Attleboro
Jeff Pickette: Attleboro
Stoughton @ Canton
Ryan Lanigan: Canton
Josh Perry: Stoughton
Matt Bosh: Canton
Jeff Pickette: Stoughton
Mansfield @ Foxboro
Ryan Lanigan: Mansfield
Josh Perry: Mansfield
Matt Bosh: Mansfield
Jeff Pickette: Mansfield
Franklin @ King Philip
Ryan Lanigan: Franklin
Josh Perry: King Philip
Matt Bosh: King Philip
Jeff Pickette: King Philip
Milford @ Maynard
Ryan Lanigan: Milford
Josh Perry: Milford
Matt Bosh: Milford
Jeff Pickette: Milford
Oliver Ames @ Sharon
Ryan Lanigan: Sharon
Josh Perry: Oliver Ames
Matt Bosh: Oliver Ames
Jeff Pickette: Oliver Ames
Ryan Lanigan: 58-25
Josh Perry: 65-18
Matt Bosh: 67-16
Jeff Pickette: 66-17
CANTON, Mass. – After struggling to gain any traction on offense for the majority of the game, the Bulldogs looked they were just about to get back on track.
Trailing 14-7 to Holliston with just under 10 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs quickly moved into Panther territory and even converted a fourth down that seemingly put the momentum with the hosts.
But two plays later, Canton fumbled in its backfield and Holliston pounced on the loose ball to put an abrupt halt to the drive.
It was just one of those nights for the Bulldogs, who dropped a 27-14 decision to the visiting Panthers in the D5 South Sectional Final. Canton also hurt itself with nearly a dozen penalties.
“We kind of flirted with that all year, I take full responsibility, we were kind of an undisciplined team and got away with it for many games,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane on his team not helping themselves with penalties. “Tonight, in a game like this when you get to the sectional championship, we had some bad penalties and we paid for it. I don’t want that to take away from Holliston though, they executed very well like we thought they would. I thought our defense didn’t do a bad job, we just didn’t do enough to move the ball.
“[Holliston] is a good team and they’re going to do well going forward. I’m just super proud of my guys overall. Just an outstanding two years, it’s been great to be apart of it. It’s a sour taste to lose in the final twice but I don’t want to lose sight of all the accomplishments along the way.”
Canton’s fumble summed up a frustrating night on offense for the Bulldogs, who had to punt five times, turned the ball over on downs twice and finished with a pair of turnovers.
The Bulldogs had just forced Holliston’s high-powered offense (entered the game averaging over 30 points per game) to a three and out and started at their own 40 with 9:14 left in the game, trailing just 14-7.
Senior Johnny Hagan (11/26, 124 yards) hit classmate Jace Emma for eight yards on third down, and senior tailback Kyle Fitzgerald (18 carries, 101 yards; four catches, 26 yards) barreled his way for three yards on fourth and one to give the hosts the ball at the Holliston 44-yard line.
But after the fumble with 6:26 left, the momentum swung in favor of the Panthers and they cashed in on their chance. The Bulldogs defense did its part to force Holliston into a fourth and seven from the Canton 34-yard line, but the Panthers elected to go for it.
Matt Arvanitis dropped back and floated a pass up the middle to a wide-open Kevin Lyons, who had released off the line of scrimmage, and the play went for a touchdown to give Holliston a 21-7 advantage with just 3:58 left in the game.
In true Bulldog fashion, the hosts refused to go away without a fight. Canton orchestrated its best drive of the entire game, marching 73 yards on nine plays to find the end zone for the first time on the offensive side of the ball.
Hagan connected with Gersom Rivera for 32 yards on a fourth-down play to keep the drive alive early and then linked up with Cam Sanchez for 22 yards on third down to move deep into Holliston territory. Two plays later, Fitzgerald made a terrific diving catch in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown, bringing the hosts back within a score at 21-14 with 2:09 left in the game.
Canton elected a squib kick up the middle with their entire kicking unit charging but a Holliston player was able to handle the play and the Dogs were whistled for a penalty on the hit, giving the Panthers possession at the Canton 36-yard line.
Holliston running back Tristan Benson (14 carries, 138 yards, two touchdowns) put an exclamation point on a superb second half, running for 28 yards on first down to get inside the 10 yard line, and two plays later plunged into the end zone from three yards out to restore the Panthers’ two-score lead, up 27-14 with 1:44 to go, securing the D5 south crown.
“I think Holliston had a lot to do with the outcome of the game,” Bohane said. “I don’t think we played our best but I don’t want to take anything away from the opponent that played great tonight and deserved to go on to the next round.
“These kids that have played for us have left an incredible mark on the program. I can’t say anything but great things about all of them, it’s been a pleasure to coach them. It’s been such a fun ride for me personally. I’m a proud coach and I just feel bad because they are crushed. We thought we could move on.”
The majority of the game played out as a defensive chess match with the teams trading stops. Holliston had to punt on two of its first three drives and had its other series come to a screeching halt when Robbie Gallery read a screen pass and hauled an interception.
Canton’s offense didn’t fare much better, turning it over on downs on the opening series after starting in Holliston territory, and then had to punt on its second series. Canton moved the ball on its third series, using nine plays to cover 44 yards but there was another big momentum swing when Holliston blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt. The ball ended up in the hands of Holliston’s Teddy Ratcliffe and he returned it all the way to the Canton 32-yard line.
With good field position, Holliston’s offense went to work and found the end zone two plays later. Arvanitis dropped a perfect pass to Christian Schneeloch, who hauled the pass in despite strong coverage, for a 6-0 lead with 9:45 left in the second quarter.
Canton’s next drive was slowed down early by a holding call but Hagan hit Emma down the left sideline for 26 yards to keep the drive alive. The Bulldogs converted another fourth down and moved into the red zone but a pair of incomplete passes resulted in a turnover on downs at the 11-yard line.
Canton’s defense came up with a big response on the next series though. On 2nd and 10 from the 21, senior linebacker Ben Guerini came flying in and landed a monster sack, jarring the ball free. Senior Jahmi Aldin scooped the ball up at the 12-yard line and raced into the end zone for a touchdown. Owen Lehane’s extra point gave Canton a 7-6 lead late in the second, a lead the hosts took into the halftime break.
“That defense kept me up late all week long, a lot of hours,” said Holliston coach Todd Kiley of the Bulldogs’ defense. “There is no weakness on that team, they are a phenomenal football team, one of the best ever I’ve had to prepare for. We’ve been through a lot of games with this program. That team, that coaching staff has done a phenomenal job, we just made a couple more plays than them.
“Our guys dug down and we made a big play when we needed to. Tristan Benson was huge in the second half, he kind of just took it over. Our line did awesome, and how about our defense today? It was just a total team effort. I’m going through all of our kids that made plays tonight, and it’s a long list.”
The Bulldogs had a chance to add to their lead on the opening drive of the second but went backward and had to punt. Holliston started with good field position at the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line and once again took advantage of the strong starting spot.
After throwing for the majority of the first half, the Panthers turned to Benson. The tailback’s speed gave the Dogs trouble, as he had runs of 12 and 19 before plunging in for a 5-yard score, and then the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.
Canton’s ensuing series ended with a three and out after Hagan and Fitzgerald just missed linking up on third down. On the next Canton series, Hagan had a 14-yard scramble erased by a holding call but responded to move the sticks. However, four plays later, a 38-yard pass and catch to Fitzgerald on third down was taken off the board after another hold, and Canton had to punt two plays into the fourth.
“I think they were just a little better in the middle than we thought,” Bohane said. “We’ve been able to stay the course and stay the course, and eventually wear teams down. But in a game like this, kids dig real deep and I give [Holliston] a lot of credit, they are very well-coached. They played hard, and I thought our kids played hard too. It was a good game that got away from us a little bit. [Holliston] does a lot of things offensively to put pressure on you.”
Canton football drops its first game of the season to push its record to 9-1. The Bulldogs will host rival Stoughton (8-2) on Thanksgiving at 10:00 AM.
Canton’s defense tossed its fifth shutout in nine games this season and the Bulldogs did just enough on the offensive side to pull out a 15-0 win against Foxboro to remain unbeaten and to advance to is second straight sectional final.
“Our defense was outstanding, our special teams was very good tonight, and as usual these kids stepped up and got things done for us and I’m very proud of them,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “
The Bulldogs set the tone right from the start when Owen Lehane got into the backfield to stop a jet sweep for a five-yard loss on the game’s first play. Foxboro almost struck on a deep ball to Elijah Lewis on second down, but the Warriors went three-and-out.
Starting at its own 40, Canton moved the ball upfield quickly in search of an early lead. The Bulldogs got as far as the Foxboro 28, but then on second and short Johnny Hagan (7-of-11, 77 yards) was picked off on the one by Mike Devlin. Two plays later, the snap sailed over the head of Foxboro quarterback Shayne Kerrigan (7-of-22, 93 yards) and out the back of the end zone.
On the ensuing kick-off, Gersom Rivera (91 yards of offense) broke free down the near sideline for a 60-yard score only to have a penalty take the points off the board. The Bulldogs drove into the red zone but defensive linemen Anton George and Austin Read stuffed a second down play and Hagan’s third down pass to David Allen fell incomplete. Lehane booted a 22-yard field goal for a 5-0 lead.
Bohane said, “We’d get in that nice second and three and okay here we go, and then we’d jump offsides or on third down we’d take a bad penalty. We’d get momentum going, be on their side of the field, and find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The baseball score continued into halftime because both defense remained on top. Jahmi Aldin had a sack and recovered a Kerrigan fumble to end a pair of Foxboro drives, while TJ Perry had an interception in the red zone to stop a Bulldogs possession. With time winding down in the half, Foxboro got to the Canton 24, but a sack by Lucas Ragusa and Jack Connolly kept Canton in front at the break.
To start the third quarter, a Rivera kick return and a personal foul penalty put Canton at the Foxboro 48. The Bulldogs got to the 28, but on fourth and three Kyle Fitzgerald (17 carries, 63 yards) was stopped a yard short of the marker.
Foxboro’s next possession stalled and Robbie Gallery came flying off the edge to block the punt, putting Canton back in business at the 19-yard-line. A false start to begin the possession stymied the momentum and the Bulldogs had to settle for another Lehane kick, this one from 31 yards, to put another three points on the board with four minutes left in the third.
“They played great,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said about his defense. “I felt pretty good at halftime down 5-0, still a one-score game. The blocked punt hurt us to give them the eighth point on a field goal and then we responded and came up empty-handed.”
The Warriors finally put together a drive and gave themselves a shot at tying the game. Kerrigan hit Luis Sulham for 11 yards and then Ryan Hughes for 12. Back-to-back penalties made it third and 12, but Kerrigan hit Hughes in stride for a 41-yard completion down to the Canton three.
Kerrigan gained two yards on two plays against the Canton defensive line to set up third and goal at the one, but misfortune struck as a snap sailed over his head. He scrambled to recover it but lost 22 yards on the play. His fourth down pass fell incomplete.
“We couldn’t change field position at all and we held on as long as we could and if you don’t cash in on the one or the two then you don’t deserve to win the game,” said Martinelli. “They’re a great team but our kids played their hearts out.”
“We feel like w’re never down defensively,” said Bohane. “The quarter ended and one coach thought they were going for the conversion and it was like, no they haven’t gotten in yet, and it was like okay well let’s keep them out. Good fortune on the snap but good effort by the defense.”
After an Allen punt pinned Foxboro deep, Gallery and Connolly combined on a sack to force the Warriors to punt from their own end zone. Canton took over at the 28 and for the first time was able to make field position count.
Hagan finally found a seam on the right side, followed his blockers and burst into the end zone for a 15-yard score and a 15-0 lead. Aldin and Lehane capped the evening with a sack of Kerrigan with two minutes left to seal the shutout and the trip to the final.
“They had probably 10 guys in the box, the whole game,” said Martinelli. “They weren’t going to let [Shayne] run and they didn’t. They had the kids to do it and executed and hence no points on the board. We felt we needed three scores to win the game because we felt our defense was good enough to keep us in it and it did.”
Canton (9-0) will host No. 2 seed Holliston in the South final next Friday night. Foxboro (5-4) will await its next opponent in the non-playoff bracket.
“Couple guys said that to me over the off-season who’ve been through this and they were like you want to get that third game at home and we’ve done it,” Bohane explained, “but Holliston we’ve never played and I’ve only heard great things about them. So, we’re going to get to work on them now, probably tonight, and just try to crack that riddle.”