KP Relies on Special Teams, Grinds Out Win at Attleboro

King Philip Football
KP junior Crawford Cantave (2) scoops up a blocked field goal and breaks away from the attempted tackle by Attleboro’s William Runey. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – King Philip has developed a reputation for being able to grind out victories, relying on its defense and special teams to pull out close games. On Saturday afternoon at Attleboro’s Tozier-Cassidy Field, the Warriors bolstered that reputation.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

KP recorded only 43 yards of offense in the first half, had only one play from scrimmage in the third quarter (a fumble), and only had two drives in the game that lasted more than three plays, but they still walked off the field with a 17-3 victory and a 2-0 record.

“I don’t know how?” KP coach Brian Lee replied when asked about his team’s ability to win the game despite its struggles. “I don’t know if we deserved to. I don’t think those numbers are very good…we’re trying to get things organized and it doesn’t feel like it’s coming together for us yet.

“The kids did enough. They made a big play bringing it back and that’s the difference in the game. Special teams actually played well.”

Special teams was the spark that got the Warriors going on Saturday. Jake Silveria’s 52-yard punt pinned Attleboro inside its own 10. After a three-and-out, Jonathan Joseph’s punt return put KP at the Bombardiers 22 to start its second drive. Mike Malatesta dove for two yards on fourth and one to keep things moving to the Attleboro 11.

Charles Grant just missed a touchdown pass to Drew Danson towards one corner of the end zone (landed just out of bounds) and on third down Anthony Salviati made a great breakup on the other side of the field to keep KP, momentarily, off the board. Matthew Kelley stepped in and made a 28-yard field goal (the first of his varsity career) to make it 3-0.

After admitting that his team lost the physical battle up front in the season opener against Milford, Attleboro coach Mike Strachan was pleased with his team’s effort up front.

On their third possession, the Bombardiers started to pick up some first downs in the running game. Alexander Bakowski (23 carries, 67 yards) was the primary back on Saturday and he had success getting to the edge. Blake Garzaro’s two-yard sneak on third and one kept the drive moving and his hard count drew an offsides penalty on fourth and three for another first down.

After getting to the KP 33, Attleboro tried to look downfield with Crawford Cantave making a good play to knock away one pass to Christian Dame and two passes to Salviati falling incomplete. The Bombardiers moved the ball much better on Saturday, but still struggled to finish drives.

“That’s what we’re going to improve on,” Strachan said of his team’s improvement up front. “Bakowski did a good job and Michael got going a little bit more on offense but we just don’t have that team, breakaway speed and that’s the difference. We matchup [with KP] and that’s a battle right there.”

KP went three-and-out to give Attleboro back the ball in the closing minutes of the half. Michael Strachan broke a 19-yard counter to the Warriors 27. Three plays later, on fourth and two, Attleboro elected to go for a 36-yard field goal. Pat Zarba went up the middle and blocked the kick, which was grabbed in stride by Cantave and he had no one in front of him, racing 72 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

“In a game like this, it’s going to be about possessions,” said Strachan about the decision to go for the kick. “You saw what they did in the fourth quarter, they grind it and that’s what we do. Hindsight, I was trying to get back to the point where we could tie it up. I thought we had momentum at the time. We were moving the ball.”

Attleboro got the ball to start the second half and didn’t look like it was going to give the ball back until the quarter was over. The Bombardiers put together a 17-play, 64-yard drive that ate up more than 10 minutes off the clock.

Strachan powered ahead for two yards to convert a third down, another hard count drew an offsides call to convert a second third down, and Garzaro hit Salviati on a slant for 12 yards to convert on fourth and eight. It was his only completion of the game.

On third and five, Freddy Wheaton broke a 12-yard run up the middle to get down to the KP eight, but there the KP defense stiffened. Hunter Hastings stuffed Strachan for a two-yard loss back to the nine and a pass to Dame in the back of the end zone fell incomplete. Colby Briggs split the uprights with a 26-yard kick, cutting the lead to 10-3 and recording Attleboro’s first points of the season.

Malatesta returned the ensuing kick out to the 41, but the first snap of the drive was fumbled and recovered by Wheaton. KP had less than 20 seconds of possession in the third.

KP got the ball back at its own 10 and finally strung together a few plays to switch field position around. Cantave (17 carries, 66 yards) started to work between the tackles, powering the Warriors out to the 31. KP converted twice on third down (one on an offsides penalty) and moved 54 yards on 12 plays. After stalling at the Attleboro 36, they pinned the Bombardiers back to their own seven.

Down by a touchdown, Attleboro nearly hit a big play on first down, but the bomb to Salviati was just out of his reach with no KP player between him and the end zone. The Bombardiers tried four passing plays in a row, but none connected, giving the Warriors back the ball.

Cantave put the game out of reach just two plays later, finding a seam for a four-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead with just 1:55 remaining.

Lee was happy to be undefeated while still trying to figure everything out, but admitted that they’re going to need to improve to keep racking up wins. He said, “It’s good to be 2-0 and we’re not there, but Milford looks really good. And then it’s Mansfield. It gets harder as we’re going here so we need to figure things out. At least let’s stop making mistakes at this point.”

King Philip (2-0) will go on the road again next week to face Milford for the first time in program history. Attleboro (0-2) will travel to Franklin on Friday night.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Fall II Hockomock Football: Players to Watch on Defense

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense
Attleboro’s Michael Strachan, pictured intercepting a pass in the closing seconds on Thanksgiving Day, will be one of the defensive players to watch when Hockomock League football kicks off. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

Player are listed alphabetically

Matt Connolly, Senior – Canton

Canton was one of the best teams in the Hockomock League over the past two seasons because of how well-balanced they were with impact players all over the field. The majority of those players graduated so this year’s Bulldogs will be leaning on the few experienced players back. One of those is two-way lineman Matt Connolly, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound guard/defensive tackle that demands attention no matter what side of the ball he’s playing on. When the ball is snapped, Connolly almost always requires a double-team defensively to try and slow him down. He does a great job of taking away gaps and rushing lanes, and when it comes to pass rush, he can really put opposing linemen on skates, driving them backward. Canton will have a lot of new faces on the line this year but Connolly will be a familiar force for foes.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense

Christian Georges, Senior – Stoughton

Georges was a dominant presence on the Stoughton defensive line last season, whether it was setting the edge, taking on extra blockers to open gaps for his teammates, or bursting into the backfield to make a big play behind the line of scrimmage. A versatile weapon for the Stoughton defense, Georges could line up on the outside as a pass-rushing linebacker or with his hand down on the line ready to stuff the opposition ground game. George combines speed, strength, and football IQ to always find the point of attack and destroy the offense’s best-laid plans. He was a major factor in the Black Knights allowing 12 points or fewer in seven games last year, finishing with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He will be hoping to do even better this season, as Stoughton seeks out a first league title since 2015.

TJ Guy, Senior – Mansfield

Guy was a one-man wrecking crew for the Mansfield defense last season, which was a huge problem for teams facing the Div. 2 state champions since the Hornets had a few players who qualified for that title. At times unblockable, Guy dominated the line of scrimmage, forcing teams to double-team him and opening gaps for Mansfield’s ball-hawking linebackers to get into the backfield. Combining strength and a quick first step, he finished with 34 tackles, including four for loss, and had four sacks. The University of Michigan-commit was a disruptive force in both the ground game and in the pass rush, while also being one of the top linemen on the other side of the ball as well. Guy’s presence in the heart of the Mansfield defensive line is one of the reasons the Hornets will be favored again to bring home another Kelley-Rex division title.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense




Nico Holmes, Senior – Mansfield

Mansfield has a big void to fill with the graduation of league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Vinnie Holmes, who had 91 total tackles last season. It just so happens it will be Nico Holmes, Vinnie’s younger brother, that will be one of the candidates to step up into that role. Holmes has plenty of experience at the varsity, starting along the defensive line last season for the D2 State Champions. Now he’ll line up with the linebackers and look to continue to make plays from that spot. We know he’s not afraid to hit people, we saw it last year on both sides of the ball as he led the way for the Hornets’ rushing game as a fullback. The senior is one of four captains for Mansfield this season so the Hornets will be counting on his leadership both on and off the field.

Jon Moses, Senior – Foxboro

Foxboro has always leaned on its defense to be successful and Moses is an imposing figure in the heart of the linebacking corps and will be key to the Warriors remaining a tough team to move the ball against. At 6’4 and 215 pounds, Moses looks more like a defensive lineman and uses his size and strength to set the edge against the ground game. Not someone who allows runners to get away once he gets his hands on them, Moses is also capable of using his quickness to get into the backfield and disrupt things right at the point of attack. His big frame makes him an important piece of the Foxboro pass rush, as it’s not easy for quarterbacks to look over him and try to make plays downfield. Also a solid blocker at tight end and a big target in the passing game, Moses can make an impact on both sides of the ball. The Warriors will be hoping to make a run at a league title this season and Moses and a hard-hitting defense will have to be a big part of that title challenge.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense

Jadon Ricci, Senior – Oliver Ames

Oliver Ames is hoping to surprise some teams this year in its first season back in the Davenport division. While the Tigers’ division record hasn’t been great, they have done a really good job against their non-league foes and their defense has really stood out in those games. A major player in that defensive unit is back this season in senior Jadon Ricci, a defensive back specialist that has a nose for the football. Ricci can line up in the slot or outside, or even take a step back into a safety role, but no matter where he is on the field, he seems to find his way to the football. Whether it’s reading a quarterback’s eyes and making a play on a pass or flying to a ball carrier, Ricci seems to always been in the mix.

Dom Schofield, Senior – Milford

Sometimes flying under the radar last season because of the attention that went to fellow linebackers Luke Rosa and CJ Cerrella, Schofield emerged as a consistent playmaker on the outside. Capable of making big plays in the pass rush, against the run game, and dropping into coverage, the UMass-commit is poised for a breakout season as the Hawks take on the challenge of facing a Kelley-Rex division schedule. An imposing presence at 6’5 and 230 pounds, Schofield has the quickness to cover ground in a hurry and the strength to step up and set the edge to bottle up the opposing running game. Milford has seen its fair share of talented linebackers in recent years and Schofield is continuing that trend and is poised for a breakout season as the Hawks look to make noise in their first season in the Kelley-Rex.




Jacob Silva, Senior – North Attleboro

North Attleboro’s lineup was torn apart by injuries last season but one player that really stood out on both sides of the ball is now senior captain Jacob Silva. Whether it was at tailback or outside linebacker, Silva gave it his all on every play and was a real bright spot for the Rocketeers. Silva is the type of player that isn’t afraid of running tight at — and on some occasions through — the opposition, whether it’s when he’s carrying the ball or flying off the edge to try to make a play on a running back or sacking a quarterback. Silva reads the game really well and reacts accordingly, using his speed to drop into coverage when needed to cover tight ends or running backs downfield. The Rocketeers have high expectations for this season and Silva’s leadership on defense will be a big key to achieving their goals.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense

Michael Strachan, Senior – Attleboro

A rare four-year varsity player, Strachan comes into his senior season as one of the league’s top returning linebackers. He has led the Bombardiers in tackles each of the past two seasons, including 80.5 tackles (66 of them solo) last year. Strachan, a University of Rhode Island-commit, is also strong in the passing game, dropping into coverage and recording two pass breakups and a clutch end zone interception that sealed the Thanksgiving Day win at North Attleboro. His toughness and physicality were also on display on offense, where he finished with 512 all-purpose yards and six rushing touchdowns. Able to read the play and with the speed to cover a lot of ground, Strachan has been a force to be reckoned with in the Attleboro defense and will be hoping to close out his high school career by helping Attleboro challenge the top teams in the league.

Pat Zarba, Senior – King Philip

If you’re looking for a player that defines King Philip football, look no further than senior Pat Zarba. A three-year starter, Zarba is a blue-collar type player that works incredibly hard on both sides of the ball, doesn’t do anything overly flashy, but is an incredibly effective player. Offensively, Zarba really sets the tone with his physicality and creates a lot of opportunities for the backs. Zarba lines up at defensive tackle defensively, and at 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, in a one-man wrecking crew in the middle. He almost always sees a double team but that doesn’t stop him from using his strength to get free and clog up the middle. Expect more of the same when it comes to toughness along the line from King Philip this season with Zarba setting the example.

Hockomock Football Players to Watch on Defense

King Philip Uses Ground Game, Defense To Beat Franklin

King Philip football Ryan Halliday
King Philip’s Ryan Halliday breaks a tackle during a run against Franklin. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The King Philip offense has had some success from the new wrinkles it’s added this season, but when it mattered most, the Warriors turned to their signature ground and pound running attack.

Senior Ryan Halliday rushed for 150 yards on 33 carries, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and scored a pair of touchdowns to pace the Warriors to a 26-14 win over rival Franklin, KP’s 16th straight win over the Panthers.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

After getting just one touch on each of King Philip’s first two drives of the second half — both quickly ended in punts — and Franklin playing with the momentum after cutting the deficit to six at 20-14, the Warriors turned to Halliday.

The senior back was the focal point in the game-clinching drive that spanned 75 yards over 13 plays, taking over eight minutes off the clock. Halliday ran behind an offensive line featuring senior Nolan Gunning, senior Wyatt Manzi, senior center Sean Piller, junior Pat Zarba, and senior Dan Mullen.

The senior back took 10 consecutive handoffs, picking up four first downs that included a fourth down conversion on 4th and 1 on the Panthers’ 28-yard line after an offside call on the defense.

After sophomore Crawford Cantave burst up the middle for nine years, the Warriors went back to Halliday for back-to-back carries, the latter an 11-yard dart up the middle that put the visitors ahead 26-14 with just 5:23 left. The drive started with 1:34 left in the third quarter.

“We’ve switched up the offense a bit this year and we’ve been passing a lot,” Halliday said. “But in the end, we kind of just played old KP football, played some nice defense and ran the ball.

“I’m gassed but I’m sure my hoggies are gassed too, I give a lot of the credit to them.”

Franklin ran just seven offensive plays after that King Philip drive and was limited to a total of 16 offensive snaps total in the second half.

“It worked for us last year,” said KP head coach Brian Lee of going back to the ground game. “[Franklin] is so explosive on offense, they have so many playmakers that you feel like if keep giving them chances…our defense was hanging in there but we just wanted to slow it down a little bit.”

King Philip’s defense did its part as well, holding the Panthers to 175 yards of total offense, 0-for-5 on third down, forcing three turnovers, and limited Franklin’s high-powered offense to just three plays over 20 yards.

“It’s hard to get pressure on them, the ball is out quick and they have a lot of playmakers,” Lee said. “Overall I’m very pleased with how the defense played.”

The Panthers didn’t help themselves much in the first half, fumbling on the opening possession after a completed pass. A quick three-and-out was followed by another fumble, giving KP great starting position at the Franklin 25-yard line.

It took KP just three plays to take advantage of the good field position as senior quarterback Robbie Jarest (11-for-17, 93 yards passing; 8 carries, 75 yards rushing) hit Brian Wassersug, who broke a tackle and sprinted up the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown. Dylan Conti’s point after attempt was good to put KP up 7-0.

Franklin had a quick response as senior quarterback Thomas Gasbarro (16-for-22,193 yards) scrambled to buy some time before finding a wide-open Cole Lakatos on the sideline, and the senior took it the rest of the way, getting a big block from Jake Davis, for a 51-yard touchdown. Parker Cheuvront connected on his first of two extra points to tie it 7-7.

Jarest got it done with his legs on KP’s ensuing drive, taking a QB option for 48 yards to get the Warriors’ offense going. A pass to Alex Behling got the Warriors into the red zone, and six plays later, Halliday followed Gunning into the end zone for a 1-yard score, converting a 4th and goal situation.

“He’s come a long way, he’s really bought in,” Lee said of Jarest. “For us to be throwing the ball as much, it’s different. But we have a new offensive coordinator [Cory Bailey] and he’s really stretching me to try and do some other things and take more risks. Robert’s making those plays with his arm and his legs, and in the end, I think that makes us more balanced.”

Franklin’s defense came up big two series later, stopping the Warriors on 4th and 1 from the Panthers’ 30-yard line with under a minute to go in the half.

But the momentum didn’t last long as KP’s Shawn Conniff applied pressure, forcing a fumble and sophomore Nick Viscusi came out of the pile with the ball.

Franklin nearly stopped the series when they grabbed an interception, but the Panthers were flagged for roughing the passer and KP kept possession. On the ensuing play, with just eight seconds left on the clock, Jarest delivered, finding an open Andrew McKinney for an 11-yard touchdown with only two seconds left on the clock, giving KP a 20-7 lead at halftime.

“We had the recipe of how to never play American football never again,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain of the first half. “I’m at a loss for words for how to describe that first half really. You can’t beat great teams like KP when you have that many self-inflicted errors. Credit to a good opponent, sometimes they make you do that. We felt comfortable with our game plan but you can’t win putting the ball on the turf.”

Momentum swung in favor of the hosts as Franklin forced a three-and-out on King Philip’s opening drive of the second half. The Panthers’ offense capitalized, driving 77 yards on nine plays to make it a one-score game.

Highlighted by a pass and catch from Gasbarro to Jack Nally, and a fourth down completion between the same pair, Franklin marched down the field to the KP 1-yard line. Sophomore Mack Gulla punched it in from there, making it 20-14 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin only ran seven more offensive plays the rest of the game.

“They took the fourth quarter,” Bain said. “That’s what they do well, and that’s what we don’t do well. And by that point, they made us one dimensional but we continued to make mistakes. I’m disappointed because I think we can play better and execute better.”

King Philip football (1-0 Hockomock, 3-0 overall) now turns its attention to Mansfield, as the two rivals will do battle on Macktaz Field on Friday night. Franklin (0-1, 2-1) will try to get back into the win column when it travels to Oliver Ames on Saturday.

Football: 2019 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

King Philip football Ryan Halliday
King Philip’s Ryan Halliday carries the ball against Foxboro in the third quarter in 2018. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Kelley-Rex Football Preview

Attleboro

2018 Record: 4-7
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan

Key/Returning Players: Qualeem Charles, Sr., OT/DT; Isaac Gudiel, Sr., OG/LB; Nolan Jaeger, Sr., WR/CB; Jason Weir, Sr., QB/DE; Michael Strachan, Jr., LB/TE; Ethan Cameron, Sr., WR/DB; Justin Daniels, Jr., RB/DB

Outlook:
Attleboro got off to a strong start to the 2018 season, jumping out to a 4-1 record with its only loss coming against eventual D2 South champ King Philip, and allowing only five points per game. But a last-minute loss in a shootout against Mansfield and a fourth quarter comeback by Franklin the following week sparked a six-game losing streak to close out the season. The Bombardiers come into 2019 looking to turn that around and use its experience to make a run at the Kelley-Rex title.

Offensively, the Bombardiers will be led by senior quarterback Jason Weir. At a bruising 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Weir is a punishing runner and has a big arm to make plays downfield in the passing game. Junior Justin Daniels will be the starting tailback with senior Isaac Guidel and a big offensive line trying to open holes for the running game, led by senior Qualeem Charles (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds), who has a host of colleges recruiting him. Senior Ethan Cameron will provide a weapon on the outside, while junior Michael Strachan offers another threat over the middle from his tight end position.

Charles will dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball as well, but the strength of the Attleboro defense will be its experienced linebacker corps. Strachan, a three-year starter who is getting looks from some Div. I colleges, will be joined by Guidel and senior Nolan Jaeger. Weir will play strong safety, after two seasons at defensive end, and will be counted on to step in to help stop the run. Cameron will be at free safety and giving the cornerbacks help over the middle. Attleboro has a large contingent of sophomores who could step in to contribute right away, including Alvin Harrison, Chris Leonardo, Adam Pearlstein, and Freddy Wheaton.

Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “We are looking forward to the season getting underway and with the leadership of our four captains we are looking to be explosive on offense and very physical defensively. The Hockomock League is one of the best leagues in the state with some great teams. We will have to play our very best each week if we are going to compete at a high level.”

Franklin

2018 Record: 7-4
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Eian Bain

Key/Returning Players: Evan Wertz, Sr., LB; Jack Nally, Sr., WR/DB; Jake Davis, Sr., WR/DB; Dom Natale, Sr., OL/DL; Thomas Gasbarro, Sr., QB/DB; Owen Palmieiri, Sr., RB/DB; Ben Greco, Sr., WR/DB; Xander Honor, Jr., RB/LB; Austin Jordan, Sr., OL/LB; Luke Cunningham, Sr., TE/DE; Matt Lazarek, Sr., TE; Parker Cheuvront, Jr., K

Outlook:
Franklin nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2018 season when the Panthers forced perennial power Xaverian to double overtime in the Div. 1 South semifinal. It was a big step forward for the program and head coach Eian Bain hopes it will be a building block for even more success in 2019.

Offensively, the graduation of quarterback Nick Gordon will be a big loss for the Panthers but senior Thomas Gasbarro saw a lot of time under center last year and he will step in and take the starting job. Gasbarro will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as the Panthers have plenty of speedy, athletic players in the skill positions. Senior Jack Nally is a threat out of the backfield or split out wide and his classmate Jake Davis is a solid receiver over the middle or downfield. Senior Matt Lazarek is a potential target from the tight end position and Owen Palmieri is another dangerous ball carrier. Junior Parker Cheuvront emerged last season as one of the top kickers in the Hock and is another weapon that the Panthers can count on if a drive does stall.

The defense is an experienced group. Senior Evan Wertz has been one of the league’s tackle leaders for the past two seasons and he is the team’s top playmaker from his linebacker position. Nally, Davis, Palmieri, and senior Ben Greco give Franklin a tough secondary to throw against and all are capable of coming up with the big turnover to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Luke Cunningham and Dom Natale will give the Panthers strength at the line of scrimmage.

“The challenge for this group is to continue to improve and build the program,” said Bain. “They need to add their own chapter and their own stamp on the program. We have the right people in the room. We need to play with the swagger and confidence of a contender, but be humble in our preparation. If we stay true to the process, we have great potential.”

King Philip

2018 Record: 9-3
2018 Finish: Reached D2 State Final
Coach: Brian Lee

Key/Returning Players: Ryan Halliday, Sr., RB/LB; Sam Callanan, Sr., RB/LB; Nolan Gunning, Sr., OL/DL; Robert Jarest, Sr., QB; Sean Piller, Sr., OL/DL; Pat Zarba, Jr., OL/DL; Shawn Conniff, Sr., FB/DL; Brian Wasserug, Sr., WR/DB; Crawford Cantave, So., WR/DB;

Outlook:
Despite not winning the league title last year, the target on King Philip’s back continues to grow.

The Warriors might have missed out on the Kelley-Rex crown, but they won their third straight sectional title and made their this straight appearance in the state final, this time falling to North Andover (6-0). While this year’s senior class knows other than Super Bowl appearances, head coach Brian Lee says this group is focused on taking it one game, starting with the opener against North Attleboro. KP has a strong core of players back on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback Robbie Jarest and running back Ryan Halliday. Both players had really strong junior seasons and should be the leaders of the group this year. The offensive line includes returners Nolan Gunning (left tackle), Sean Piller (center), and Pat Zarba (right guard) while Wyatt Manzi, Jack Collentro, and Griffin MacKay are in the mix to fill the remaining spots. Having an experienced line bodes well for the KP run game that will heavily feature Ryan Halliday plus fullback Shawn Conniff and halfbacks Sam Callanan and Crawford Cantave.

The Warriors’ defense has been one of the best units in the state in recent years, and while the expectations remain high for the group, there will be a lot of new faces. KP graduated its entire secondary so the Warriors are turning to senior Brian Wasserug and Cantave, a sophomore, to take on starting spots. Halliday and Callanan, both captains, will handle outside linebacker duties with Mike Malatesta in the mix for the middle spot. Gunning and Manzi will also see action on the defensive line alongside Conniff. Dillon Conti takes over kicking duties for the departed Cole Baker.

“These kids know how much work, how much effort it takes to get where we want to be,” Lee said. “But it’s all about going game by game, starting this week with a team [North Attleboro] that we have a ton of respect for.”




Mansfield

2018 Record: 8-3
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Final (Kelley-Rex Champions)
Coach: Michael Redding

Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Jack Moussette, Sr., QB; Michael DeBolt, Sr., RB/LB/K; Vinnie Holmes, Sr., RB/LB; Makhi Baskin, Sr., RB/DB; Nick Marciano, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Graham, Sr., DL; Jason Comeau, Sr., OL/DL; TJ Guy, Jr., OL/DE; Cincere Gill, Jr., RB/DB; Dan Rapoza, Sr., SE/TE; Everett Knowlton, Jr., TE/DE; Matt Boen, Jr., WR/DB; Nico Holmes, Jr., TE/DL; Noah Jellenik, Sr., OC/NG; Andrew Cowles, Sr., DE/OG; Jake McCoy, Jr., OG/DT; Joe Plath, Sr., RB/LB

Outlook:
Looking at the long list of returning players, it is no surprise that expectations around Alumni Field are sky high this fall. Mansfield enters the season with experience at just about every position and with the bitter taste of last year’s South final loss to rival King Philip still stinging. Despite a rash of injuries that forced running back Aidan Sacco to play as an emergency quarterback for most of the season, Mansfield still won a league title and this year’s team may be even more talented, which has ramped up the hype and put the target squarely on the Hornets’ backs.

The line of scrimmage will be a strength for the Hornets on the offensive side of the ball, as they return four of five starters from last year’s unit that allowed the team to rush for more than 2,600 yards. Senior Jason Comeau and reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year TJ Guy will be two key cogs in the line, while senior Noah Jellenik and junior Jake McCoy are also back. Senior Andrew Cowles will step into the fifth spot. They will seek to protect senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who had a cameo under center last year before an injury forced him to miss the bulk of the season. The skill positions will be loaded with athletes. Cincere Gill had a breakout sophomore season at running back and senior Nick Marciano is back after an injury cut short his junior season. Senior Michael DeBolt was one of the top kickers in the league but also gives Mansfield another weapon on the edges, while senior Vinnie Holmes adds a bruising presence coming out of the backfield.

Holmes is the headliner on the defensive side of the ball. Along with fellow linebackers Marciano, DeBolt, and senior Joe Plath, Holmes will be expected to make big plays all over the field. The defensive line will be strong with three returning players: senior Chris Graham, McCoy, and Guy. Junior Nico Holmes will step in as the fourth man on the line. Much like on offense, speed will be a strength and the secondary is loaded with playmakers, including Gill, junior Matt Boen, and senior Makhi Baskin.

“We have a bunch of experience all over the field, but we really have to develop depth with the second team to handle a tough schedule and challenges every week,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “This is one of the fastest group of skill guys we’ve ever had and we could be explosive on offense. We lack a little size up front on defense, but we should be able to overcome that by flying around with pursuit to the ball with our speed.”

Oliver Ames

2018 Record: 1-10
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Ed DeWitt

Key/Returning Players: Cam Perron, Sr., QB; Sam Stevens, Sr., DB; Shane Kilkelly, Sr., WR; Nathan Cabral, Sr., RB; Harrison Webster, Sr., WR; Max Anderson, Sr., OL/DE; Anthony DeCosta, Sr., OL/DL; Nick Gillis, Sr., CB; Jadon Ricci Jr., CB; Tyler Campbell, Sr., LB; Noah White, Sr., OL

Outlook:
There was no question that 2018 was a tough season for the Tigers. Oliver Ames lost by a point in the season opener to Concord-Carlisle and didn’t earn its only win until the penultimate game against Durfee. The Tigers will hope to turn things around quickly with an infusion of young talent under new head coach Ed DeWitt.

On offense, the players will be learning a new system, but there is experience in the backfield to try and implement different schemes. Senior running back Nathan Cabral figures to see plenty of the ball again this year after his breakout junior season in which he ran for more than 1,100 yards. He will be joined by senior quarterback Cam Perron and senior running back Sam Stevens to give the Tigers a strong core. Seniors Harrison Webster and Adam Cann (who is coming off an injury) will give Perron weapons to utilize on the outside.

There will be a lot of new faces on the defensive side, as DeWitt can call on three or four returning starters and will need a number of players to provide contributions on both sides of the ball. The linebacking corps was particularly hit by graduations, although senior Tyler Campbell can provide some experience and leadership in that position and Cabral brings athleticism to the role. Max Anderson and Anthony DeCosta will be important at the line of scrimmage, while Stevens will step into the secondary along with senior corner Nick Gillis and junior corner Jadon Ricci.

“The competition in camp has been great,” DeWitt said. “The players have committed to the program and bought into the day to day work that we need to do. We are focusing on making sure we treat every day as an opportunity to improve and string together some positive momentum.”

Taunton

2018 Record: 6-5
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Brad Sidwell

Key/Returning Players: Mason Frank, Sr., OL/DL; Danny MacDougall, Jr., QB/DB; Woudanly Danger, Sr., OL/DL; Marshall Curt, Sr., RB/DB; Mike Murray, Sr., OL/DL; Josh Lopes, Jr., RB/LB; Brett Heggs, Jr., RB/S; Everett Ferreira, Sr., WR/DB; Javon Franklin, Sr., WR/DB; Dylan Gookin, Sr., WR/DB; Kedrick Santos, Jr., LB/WR; Jackson Wellman, Sr., OL/LB

Outlook:
The Tigers started last season with three straight wins and then finished with three wins in their final four games to end 2018 with a winning record. Taunton enters this fall with a relatively inexperienced roster, but one that is looking to continue the momentum in the program and try to push forward so it can challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division.

One of the biggest changes for the Tigers will be under center. Noah Leonard was the starter for three seasons, but junior Danny MacDougall will take over this year. MacDougall will also see time at receiver to try and take advantage of his athleticism. He will be joined in the backfield by classmates Bretton Heggs and Josh Lopes, who both got time at running back as sophomores. Juniors Kedrick Santos and Devante McPhail will be the primary weapons at receiver. Up front, the Tigers have decent size. Senior Mike Murray will be at center, senior Hussein Kassab at one tackle, junior Marquis Dalomba at the other tackle, and junior Jordan Manning at guard.

Similar to the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers lack experience on defense and are still learning the schemes, but physical scrimmages have helped prepare them for the season. Senior Woudanly Danger is a force at the line of scrimmage and will require attention from opponents and senior Jackson Wellman has been one of the team’s top tacklers from linebacker. Junior defensive end Deandre McPhail adds to the strength of the line. Senior Curt Marshall and MacDougall will be the safeties and senior Cam Carroca will be at corner.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better and to be competitive in the league,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re definitely inexperienced, but physically we have guys who can do it and we need to coach them up so they’ll be ready to go once the season gets started.”