ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Thanks to some aggressive baserunning and a fantastic pitching performance from Russell Dunlap, the North Attleboro baseball team avenged their loss earlier in the season to Attleboro with an 11-3 win at Hayward Field in Attleboro.
Despite the game being played in Attleboro, it was a home game for North as the game was previously scheduled to be played at Community Field before a time change necessitated the location be switched.
The Red Rocketeers got off to a quick start in the bottom of the first, as Jared Penta singled and stole second and then advanced to third on a Nick Raneri groundout. A wild pitch then brought Penta home to give North a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning, Todd Robinson singled and then stole second and came around to score on a throwing error by the catcher trying to nab him stealing third.
After Robinson scored, Jake Palmer singled and was brought home by Shawn Watters’ double to left to give North a 3-0 lead after an inning of play.
North’s aggressiveness on the basepaths paid dividends, as it tallied five steals in the game.
“We were just trying to put the pressure on, that’s the kind of team we are, that’s what we need to be, aggressive, and I know the kids really like to be,” North Attleboro manager Mike Hart said about his team’s strategy on the bases.
Attleboro picked up a run of its own in the top of the second, as Lorenzo Wilson singled and stole second and then advanced to third on a single by Ryan Morry. Wilson scored on a balk when North attempted to pick off Morry, who left early for second. Back-to-back strikeouts by Dunlap (CG, three hits, six strikeouts), stranded Morry at second.
“That was his first varsity start, not his first time pitching varsity this year, but his first start, he did a great job mixing it up and showed a lot of poise in his first time out there,” Hart said about his starter.
In the bottom of the second, the North bats got back to work, as Kyle Briere singled, stole second, and then came around to score on a hard-hit grounder to short by Brendan McHugh that Attleboro committed an error on. However, Eoin Kelleher (4.2 innings pitched, nine hits, four strikeouts) would strike out the next batter and strand McHugh on first.
Attleboro battled back from there, picking up a run in the top of the fourth, as Camden Fitzpatrick walked, stole second, Wilson walked, and on Fitzpatrick’s attempt to steal third, the throw hit the batter’s helmet and went out of play, which allowed Fitzpatrick score and moved Wilson to third. Wilson would then score on a double by Mason Houle, but Houle was stranded at second after Dunlap struck out the next batter to end the inning and leave North with a one-run lead.
The Rocketeers would get both runs back in the bottom of the fourth, as McHugh doubled home Nate MacKinnon from first after MacKinnon walked, and McHugh would come home on a sac fly from Penta. North Attleboro added another insurance run in the bottom of the fifth, as Robinson singled and stole second and Jake Palmer singled him home.
With a 7-3 lead in hand, North wasn’t done yet, as it tacked on four runs in the bottom of the sixth. After back-to-back singled by MacKinnon and McHugh to lead off the inning, Nick Raneri was hit by a pitch with one out and Robinson then singled home Joe Barrows (who ran for MacKinnon) and McHugh to extend the lead to 9-3.
Raneri scored on a passed ball, while Robinson scored on a throw to second to try to catch Watters stealing, who reached on a walk earlier in the inning. Kyle Bolger followed with a single, but Morry, in a relief appearance, was able to strike out the next batter to end the inning. Dunlap would get the first two batters he faced out in the top of the seventh, but Nick McMahon reached on an error but Dunlap was able to retire the next batter to give North an 11-3 win and finish the complete game.
Tuesday’s game was the final regular season game for both teams before playoff’s start.
“We got guys feeling good about themselves at the right time, and I’m interested to see what we can do,” Hart said about North Attleboro heading into the playoffs.
With the win, North finishes the regular season at 11-9. Attleboro closes out the regular season with an identical 11-9 record.
CANTON, Mass. – Entering Monday’s contest with Canton, the North Attleboro baseball team had just two wins in its first eight games.
The defending D2 State Champions had just finished warmups when head coach Mike Hart gathered his team in, delivering a passionate pregame plea for his Rocketeers to play to the best of their abilities.
The speech seemed to light a fire under the Rocketeers, scoring three runs in the first inning to set the tone for a 7-4 win on the road over Canton.
“We have to play the game the right way and we have a certain expectation to play a certain way,” Hart said of the pregame talk.
“I thought we’ve been playing really good baseball, just haven’t been making those winning plays. We’re starting to see that more and more as we’re going through. We played well today and got the win. Now we just have to continue to have those high expectations and put in the same effort each game.”
While North Attleboro’s big first inning was canceled by a three-run second from the Bulldogs, the tone had been set. The Rocketeers cashed in on bases-loaded situations in both the third and fifth innings and tacked on two more key insurance runs in the sixth inning for the win.
For the Bulldogs, it was a matter of missed chances to limit the Rocketeers. A trio of errors gave North second chances, while walks and wild pitches also hurt Canton’s chances.
North sophomore Jared Penta singled on the first pitch of the game, stole second, and came around to score when senior Jake Palmer singled, giving the Rocketeers a lead just five pitches into the contest. Senior Brendan McHugh reached when Canton couldn’t handle a potential double play ball up the middle, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch.
Sophomore Dennis Colleran brought a run home with a sacrifice fly and senior Todd Robinson smacked a single up the middle to bring McHugh in for a 3-0 lead. Canton starter junior Chris Rota escaped further damage, getting a fielder’s choice and a strikeout, stranding runners at second and third.
“I think, if anything, it just gives us confidence,” Hart said of the early runs. “It gives our pitcher confidence and everyone in the lineup. They see the guys in front of them are hitting so that carries over to them.”
In the bottom of the second, senior Max Macort earned a one-out walk and sophomore Sawyer Julier-Albert singled to put runners on first and second. North Attleboro senior starter Matt Wanless got a pop up to get to two outs but the Bulldogs were able to score three runs.
Senior Mike Konzal hit a line drive to bring Macort home and senior Matt Pigeon doubled to right field to bring in two more runs. North Attleboro limited the damage when senior Shawn Watters hit a relay throw to third, preventing a triple for Pigeon.
The Rocketeers quickly jumped back ahead, putting a run up in the top of the third. Colleran and senior Nick Raneri draw back-to-back walks and Robinson that could have potentially been a double play. Rota got back-to-back ground balls to third, and sophomore Steve Burbank got the lead runner both times with a throw home. With two outs, Robison came home on a wild pitch with senior Ryan Warren up at bat.
Rota issued another walk to load the bases again but got a fly ball to right for the third out.
“It comes down to mental mistakes,” said Canton head coach Ben Shuffain. “You can’t blame the kids for physical errors because they happen in baseball, especially high school baseball. But you have to be able to come back from it, let it go, and move on. Have to have a short memory.”
Canton had the winning run 90 feet away in the bottom half after senior Paul Corcoran doubled and moved to third, but Wanless induced a ground ball with Raneri making a nice scoop at first for the third out.
Robinson opened the fifth with a single and junior Russell Dunlap reached on a bunt. Senior pinch hitter Jake Carroll singled, giving the Rocketeers the bases loaded with no outs for the second time in the game. After getting an out with a shallow fly ball to left, Penta hit one deep enough for a sacrifice fly to score Robinson. Canton reliever senior Kevin McGonigle got a swinging strikeout for the third out.
“We left some runners on base but I’ll give Canton’s pitchers credit, they kept us off balance in certain at-bats and certain counts,” Hart said. “They made plays when they needed it.
“We’ve been grinding through some situations but we’re starting to finally come through with the plays we need. We’re trying to get guys more used to the varsity competition and meeting the expectations we have.”
North tacked on key insurance runs in the sixth inning. Back-to-back singles (from Colleran and Raneri) and then a fielder’s choice put pinch runner Joe Barrows and Robinson on the corners. After Robinson stole second, Dunlap slapped a deep rouble to right to bring both runners and a 7-3 lead.
Canton got one back in the bottom half when Julier-Albert and pinch hitter junior Lucas Bryant both singled, the former coming in to score on an infield error from the Rocketeers to make it 7-4.
Rocketeer junior reliever Kyle Briere allowed just one base runner (walk) in 1.2 innings of relief, striking out one to get the save.
North Attleboro baseball (2-4 Hockomock, 3-6 overall) is scheduled to play at home on Wednesday against King Philip. Canton (3-5, 5-5) will try to snap a two-game skid when it hosts Taunton on the same day.
Foxboro, 12 vs. Blue Hills, 0 – Final (4 inn.) – Foxboro’s offense exploded for nine runs in the bottom of the first inning, helping the Warriors win big in a mercy-rule shortened contest. The Warriors totaled 12 hits in the contest with senior Brian Duncan leading the way with three hits (one double) and two runs scored. Junior Kyle McGinnis added two doubles and two runs scored and junior James Kaeser had two hits, a run, and two RBI for the Warriors. Michael Develin and Joe Cavaleri each had a double and knocked in a pair of runs in the win. Sophomore Cam Prescott earned the win, allowing just one hit in four innings of work while striking out two. Foxboro will take on Milton in the championship game of the third annual Steven J. Sullivan tournament on Thursday at 2:00.
Franklin, 12 @ Catholic Memorial, 1 – Final – Franklin’s offense plated six runs in the top of the fifth inning, turning a 6-1 lead into a 12-1 win on the road at Catholic Memorial. Senior Scott Elliott blasted a three-run home run to pace the offense while senior Alex Haba went 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored. Joe Lizotte (three RBI, run), Shane O’Neil (run, RBI), JB Floris (double, two runs, two RBI), and Jack Nally (run, RBI) each had a pair of hits for the Panthers. Junior Brennan Rivera tossed a complete game, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and two walks while striking out six to get the win.
North Attleboro, 10 vs. Somerset Berkley, 1 – Final – North Attleboro burst into the win column behind a strong team offensive performance and a stellar showing on the mound from sophomore Dennis Colleran. The Rocketeers, who trailed 1-0 early, tied the game with a run in the second, plated five runs in the third (all with two outs), tacked on one run in the fourth, and put the game out of reach with three more in the sixth. Colleran allowed just two hits in a complete game effort, striking out seven with no earned runs allowed. Russell Dunlap (four RBI) had a bases-clearing triple with two outs in the third to help the Rocketeers create separation. Jake Palmer led off the fourth with a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-1. Jake Carroll added an RBI single in a three-run sixth. Sophomore Jared Penta added two hits in the win.
Oliver Ames, 5 vs. Dighton-Rehoboth, 3 – Final – With the game tied at 3-3, Oliver Ames senior Matt McCormick delivered a two-run single to put the Tigers ahead for good. Senior Reid Latham earned his third win of the season, striking out eight and walking in two with two earned runs allowed in six innings of work. Senior Tyler Avery recorded the save, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning to secure the win. Jake Erlich went 2-for-3 while Cam Perron and CJ Deveau each had a hit and an RBI. Chris Pearsons added three hits, two runs scored, an RBI and was strong in the field defensively, including turning a key double play.
Sharon, 0 vs. Hingham, 4 – Final
Stoughton, 7 @ Brockton, 6 – Final – For the second time this season, Stoughton junior Jacob Kaplan has delivered a big hit with the bases loaded. After helping the Black Knights beat North in the season opener with a big hit, Kaplan was at it again on Tuesday. This time, with Stoughton holding a 2-1 lead, Kaplan cleared the bases with a two-out double in the top of the fifth and later scored himself to give the visitors a 6-1 advantage. Brockton cut the deficit to one with a four-run fifth, and the teams traded runs in the sixth to make it 7-6. Sophomore Brady Conlin earned the two-inning save with no hits allowed and one strikeout. Senior Evan Jackman picked up the win, scattering seven hits and three walks in five innings of work, striking out two.
Taunton, 8 vs. Durfee, 4 – Final – Durfee cut Taunton’s lead to just one with a run in the top of the fourth inning but the Tigers scored once in the bottom half and added three runs in the fifth inning to conquer the Hilltoppers. Jack Moynihan earned the win on the mound, scattering six hits over six innings of work, striking out five with three earned runs allowed. Logan Lawrence had a hit and two RBI and Colby Lariviere added two hits and two RBI for the Tigers.
Mansfield, 12 vs. Duxbury, 5 – Final – Mansfield pounded out 14 hits in total and scored four runs in each the fourth and sixth innings to earn a win over visiting Duxbury. Mady Bendanillo got the offense started with a home run in the bottom of the first and was a part of the Hornets’ two-out three-run rally in the third. Megan Letendre singled, Mady Bendanillo (two hits) walked, and Mary Muldoon, Caty DeMassi (two hits), and Ella Verheggen (two hits) each had RBI singles. Kara Bendanillo, Casey Mousette, and Sydney Woods also had two hits for Mansfield. Sarah Cahill allowed five hits while striking out seven.
North Attleboro, 7 vs. Dartmouth, 3 – Final – North Attleboro prevailed in a battle of unbeatens, handing Dartmouth its first loss with a 7-3 verdict. Junior Bella Erti struck out eight without issuing a walk, scattering six hits in a complete game. Erti did not allow any earned runs in the win. Sophomore Emily Nardelli had two hits, a sacrifice fly, and a walk, junior Ashley Cangiano added a triple, and freshman Mandi Hanewich had a single and a run scored. Junior Annabelle Hebard, junior Abby Gallagher, and sophomore Belle Clarkin each had two walks and a run scored.
Stoughton, 5 vs. Brockton, 4 – Final – Stoughton sophomore Nicole Baker hit a walkoff solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to cap the Black Knights’ comeback against Brockton. The Boxers held a 4-3 lead entering the bottom of the sixth but senior Karly Estremera (two hits) delivered a two-out double to score Sarah McGrath to tie it 4-4. After Baker shut the Boxers down in the top of the seventh from the circle, she gave Stoughton the win with her home run. Senior Brianna Ferrandiz went 2-for-3, junior Lexi Baptista added a double, and freshmen Melody Casna and Sydney Menz each had a hit. Baker earned the win in the circle, striking out 12.
King Philip, 1 vs. Bishop Feehan, 18 – Final
Attleboro, 2 @ Sharon, 13 – Final
Foxboro, 13 vs. Hanover, 7 – Final – Foxboro held a three-goal advantage at half and entering the final period but the Warriors were able to pull away to get the win over Hanover in Chowda Cup competition. The Warriors led 6-3 at the break, and 9-6 going into the fourth. Foxboro outscored the Indians, 4-1 in the final frame. Brendan Tully had four goals and one assist, Bobby Yerardi added four goals, and Shayne Kerrigan netted a hat trick and added one helper. Pete Conley and Charlie Baughan each scored once for the Warriors, who will take on Marshfield on Thursday at 12:00 at Westwood High.
Mansfield, 3 @ Marshfield, 16 – Final – Mansfield trailed by just two after the first quarter and at half but couldn’t keep pace with the Rams in the second half. Connor Quirk and Jake Quirk each scored in the second quarter, helping the Hornets stay within two at half (down 4-2). Jake Quirk added a second goal in the second half for Mansfield, who will play Hanover on Thursday at 10:00AM at Westwood High.
Milford @ Dighton-Rehoboth – Postponed to a date and time to be announced.
North Attleboro @ Silver Lake – Postponed to Wednesday, 4/17 at 4:00.
Oliver Ames, 19 vs. Norton, 4 – Final – Seven different Tigers found the back of the net as Oliver Ames improved to 5-0 with a win over visiting Norton. Junior Frankie Ireland had two goals and five assists, sophomore Remi Creighton added two goals and three assists, and sophomore Ross Carroll recorded a hat trick in his varsity game.
Stoughton, 2 @ Milton, 9 – Final
Canton, 11 @ Milton, 14 – Final
Foxboro, 11 vs. Natick, 15 – Final
North Attleboro @ Walpole, 11:30
Oliver Ames, 9 @ Pembroke, 10 – Final
Sharon, 14 vs. Cardinal Spellman, 3 – Final – Sharon senior Emma Eberhardt and sophomore Jenna Goldstein combined for nine goals as the Eagles rolled to a win over visiting Cardinal Spellman. Goldstein netted a team-high five goals while Eberhardt finished with four tallies. Mia Lappen and Cass Barbera each had two goals, and Bridget McManus scored once.
King Philip, 3 @ Dighton-Rehoboth, 0 – Final – King Philip went on the road and earned its sixth straight win, sweeping D-R (25-18, 25-12, 25-23). Senior Billy Hughes and senior Max Armour both had strong games for KP, with Hughes recording five digs, three kills, and two blocks while Armour added seven kills and six digs. Junior Kyle Desrochers anchored the defense with nine digs while senior Eric Altobello finished with eight kills.
Mansfield, 10 vs. Foxboro, 3 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery of this game. – Mansfield held a 2-1 lead through four innings of play but scored eight runs in the final three innings to pull away from Foxboro. The Warriors scored in the first inning as Anthony Mollica walked, advanced to second on a passed ball, took third on a ground out, and scored on an RBI triple by Joe Cavaleri. Mansfield answered back with two runs in the top of the second. Kyle Moran led off with a double and Eric Longley reached on an error. Both advanced on a wild pitch and Moran scored on a groundout from Nick Dumouchel. Longley scored on a double from Connor Smith.
In the fifth, Sam Nugent reached on an error, stole second and third, and scored on a sac fly from Dan Saraceno. Jake Gerraughty, who walked and stole second, scored on an RBI single from Moran to make it 4-1. Tim Rockett (John Carney single), Doumouchel, Chris Jenkins (3 RBI), and Nugent scored in the sixth inning while Will Giffen and Brandon Kemp came around for runs in the seventh inning.
Moran got the win for the Hornets, allowing three hits and one walk over five innings of work, striking out eight eight one earned run allowed. Foxboro sophomore Cam Prescott had a solid outing, allowing five hits and one walk in five innings of work, striking out three with five runs allowed but just one of them earned.
King Philip, 3 vs. Sharon, 2 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery of this game. – Sharon loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but could only push across one run as the Warriors escaped the new Taunton turf field with a win. Junior Alec Filipkowski brought in a run with a sacrifice fly but KP starter Terry Murray (CG, 5H, 1BB, 2R, 0ER, 5K) got his fifth strikeout to end the game. KP sophomore Jake Silveria singled and took third on an error and scored on a double from Zach Zarba to make it 1-0 in the second inning.
KP added two more runs in the top of the fifth. Tom Weir reached on an error, stole second and third, and scored on an RBI single from Robbie Jarest. Jarest stole second and took third on a pop up, then came home when a throw from the catcher back to the pitcher got away. Sharon got on the board in the sixth as Filipkowski got to second on a two-base error and then came in to score on an infield error on a hit by Jared Reef.
Sharon junior Max LeBlanc pitched a complete game, striking out six while allowing four hits and two walks. He allowed a total of three runs but just on earned.
North Attleboro, 4 @ Taunton, 6 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery of this game. – In a back and forth contest, Taunton scored three runs in the top bottom of the fifth and added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to get the win. North jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring in the first inning (Evan Melo walk, stolen base, to third on Danny MacDougall fly ball, scored on Josh Lajoie’s RBI groundout) and in the third inning (Lucas Martins walk, to second on Gavin Leahy grounder, and scored on an infield error).
North cut the deficit in half with a run int he top of the fifth (Russell Dunlap walked, took second on a wild pitch, to third on Shawn Watters sac bunt, scored on two-out single from Jake Palmer). Taunton had an immediate answer, plating three runs in the bottom of the inning. Martins walked and stole second. Leahy reached on an error and Melo hit an infield single to load the bases. Lajoie was hit by a pitch to bring a run in and Logan Lawrence drove in a pair with a single.
North Attleboro made it a one-run game with three run in the top of the sixth. Kyle Briere walked and came around to score on a single from Dennis Colleran, and Watters drove in two with a two-out single to make it 5-4. Taunton added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when pinch runner Curt Marshall (running for Colby Lariviere after a double) came home after a throw from home sailed into the outfield when Martins stole second. Lajoie got the win, striking out nine in six innings of work, scattering five hits and two walks with four runs allowed. Justin Rollo earned the save with a perfect seventh inning. Colleran (5.2 IP, 5H, 3BB, 6K, 6R, 2ER) was solid in his season debut.
Mansfield @ Holliston – Postponed to TBD.
2018 Record: 9-11 2018 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Steve Dunlea
After missing out on the playoffs by just one game last season, the Bombardiers are hoping to their experience will help them reach the state tournament this year.
Attleboro has experience in its pitching staff, behind the plate, and both in the infield as well the outfield. The Bombardiers pitching was a strength last season and should be again this year. Eoin Kelleher, the 2017 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, returns for his senior season and will be the anchor on the staff. Junior Ryan Morry impressed during his outings last season and lefty Camden Fitzpatrick will be in the mix as well.
The Bombardiers will be very strong on the left side of the infield. Senior captain Mason Houle will man third base while junior Tim Callahan, a starter last season, takes over at shortstop. Junior Lorenzo Wilson is slated to take the job at first base while Morry and junior Nick McMahon will split time at second base. While it’s a strong group defensively, all four will be relied upon to step up offensively. Attleboro had just 80 runs total last year, least in the Kelley-Rex division.
Another big part of the offense will be center fielder Alvaro Espinal. Espinal is arguably the best fielding outfielder in the league and will also bring a spark to the Bombardiers lineup at the plate. Senior captain Robbie Furtado will fill in at left field while Sam Larkin and Troy Gamache will both see time in right as well as designated hitter. Behind the plate, Troy Van Vliet gives the Bombardiers some experience while sophomore Bailey Camacho gives first-year head coach Steve Dunlea some flexibility at the position.
“The strength of this team is its senior class leadership and team chemistry,” Dunlea said. “We really have a well-balanced team that is strong in all phases of the game. It’s going to be a fun group to watch this year.”
2018 Record: 5-15 2018 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Ben Shuffain
A strong core of returning players along with some young talent should make for a fun season for the Bulldogs in 2019.
After losing a few key pieces from 2018, there is a good mix of experienced players and talented youth for first-year head coach Ben Shuffain to work with. The Bulldogs will look to three senior captains to the lead the way: Matt Pigeon, Paul Corcoran and Robert Sullivan. Pigeon is a three-year starter behind the plate who batted .368 last season. Corcoran and Sullivan will anchor a deep pitching staff that has looked solid in the preseason.
The pitching staff will also include seniors Kevin McGonigle, Nick Murray, and Joe Bates. Along with them Shuffain will also lean on junior Chris Rota and sophomores Nate Hewitt and Matt Connolly on the mound.
The infield has a double play duo that has shown to work well together featuring senior Mike Konzal and returning second baseman Nathan Quan. Offensively Canton will look to senior Max Macort along with juniors Owen Lahane and Lucas Bryant, and sophomore Steven Burbank.
“We have been very fortunate to have a lot of work outside so far this spring and I think it is going to help us start off on a positive,” Shuffain said. “The team is coming together and we have a great group of kids who really want to turn this program around.”
2018 Record: 5-16 2018 Finish: Reached D3 South First Round Coach: Derek Suess
Foxboro graduated 10 seniors from last year’s squad but there are 12 Warriors returning with varsity experience looking to make another trip to the state tournament.
The Warriors will be relying on their pitching staff this year to lead the way. There is a lot of optimism surrounding the rotation with senior Anthony Mollica and sophomore Sean Yoest each possessing plenty of varsity experience. Those two will be the top guys in the rotation while sophomore Cam Prescott has impressed during the preseason and could fit into the third starting spot. Seniors Guy Quartarone, Brian Duncan, and Philip Thomas as well as juniors Michael Devlin and Joe Cavaleri will be in the mix as well.
When he isn’t on the mound, Mollica will be the anchor of the defense from the shortstop position. He will be joined by sophomore Michael O’Toole at first base, Cavaleri will man third, and Thomas will take over at second base. Senior Adam Lanctot will also see time at second base this season for the Warriors.
In the outfield, Duncan — a senior captain that missed all of last season — will be the anchor, with Devlin handling center field duties and junior James Kaeser rounding out the Warrior outfield. Junior Zach Jenkins will also be in the mix for time in the outfield while junior Kyle McGinnis takes over behind the plate and will be relied upon as a key piece of Foxboro’s offense.
“Mentally, we have to have the same focus, energy, and intensity every single game,” said Foxboro coach Derek Suess. “There are no easy games in the Hockomock League. We must be consistent in our everyday approach in order to have a chance to compete for a league title.”
2018 Record: 21-5 2018 Finish: Division 1A (Super 8) State Champions Coach: Zach Brown
Coming off the program’s first-ever Super 8 state championship, Franklin is going to have a big target on its back — and the Panthers know it.
Franklin lost its top three pitchers in Jake Noviello, Bryan Woelfel, and Jason Ulrickson. Those were the only three pitchers to play during the Panthers’ Super 8 run. This season, the Panthers will turn to the experience of Ben Guzman, Brennan Rivera, and Will Pacheco. All three made appearances a year ago with Guzman and Pacheco registering wins. Guzman is currently recovering from an injury suffered in the preseason but the Panthers are excited for his contributions when he returns. Juniors Liam Dailey and Cody Trotin will also be in the mix after starting for JV last season.
While the pitching staff gets settled in, the Panthers will rely on its defense and offense. After an up-and-down regular season last year offensively, Franklin will be trying to carry over the success it had in the state tournament. Senior Alex Haba is back at shortstop and is one of the best two-way players in the Hockomock. Jake Macchi had a terrific postseason and will be looking to carry that over into his final year starting at catcher for Franklin. Scott Elliott will be the veteran in the outfield for the Panthers as well as a top offensive weapon. All three players — Haba, Macchi, and Elliott — are committed to playing baseball at Merrimack.
Cooper Ross is coming off a strong postseason and will start at third base while junior Jack Nally had a standout sophomore campaign in center field and will move up to the top of the order to set the table for the Panther offense. JB Floris will move from the designated hitter spot to first base and brings an experienced bat with him. Senior Joe Lizotte should see time in the outfield while senior Shane O’Neil’s versatility gives Franklin a lot of options defensively.
“We know this isn’t last year, this is a totally different team with different dynamics,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “We like the makeup of our team, with guys working hard and the seniors being good leaders. I think we could be pretty good defensively, and we’ve shown at times in the preseason to be pretty versatile on offense.”
King Philip is returning a lot of experienced players from last year’s squad and is hoping that will turn into an improved season and berth in the state tournament.
One big reason for optimism is a seasoned pitching staff, which features seniors David Morganelli and Terry Murray. Morganelli posted a 1.99 ERA last season along with 43 strikeouts in 38.2 innings pitched. Murray will be the second starter for the Warriors while juniors Chris Sawyer and Robbie Jarest are expected to factor into the rotation as the season progresses.
“David’s size, strength, and velocity make him a formidable pitcher,” said KP’s second-year head coach Greg Kessler. “His slider and ability to locate his fastball are one of the best in the league. David has an opportunity to be one of the best pitchers in the Hock. He is competitive and has improved a lot in terms of accuracy.”
Sawyer and Jarest will handle the left side of the infield again this year, with Jarest returning as the starting shortstop and Sawyer back manning third base. Both players will be key pieces at the top of KP’s batting order. Senior Ian Zimmerman returns at second base while senior Jake Anderson and sophomore Conor Cooke will both see time behind the plate.
Timmy Nault (.311 last year) will lead the way in the outfield while Zachary Zarba will figure in as well. There is a lot of competition for some open spots in the KP lineup as well.
“We have a lot of work to do this season, we need to improve on our hitting and driving the ball,” Kessler said. “We have a great group of seniors who are dedicated and excited to compete for a Hock Title. This senior group is a collection of great student-athletes and really represent KP well. They are leaders on and off the field”
2018 Record: 19-5 2018 Finish: Super 8 First Round Coach: Joe Breen
Mansfield had a very successful 2018 season that saw the Hornets win the Kelley-Rex division and earned a berth into the Super 8 tournament. But the Hornets enter the 2019 campaign hungrier than ever.
After seeing an early exit from the Super 8, Mansfield is aiming to get back and make some noise in the tournament this year. There will certainly be holes to fill after graduating two top pitchers in Tyler Dalton and Kevin Dow, as well as the steady bat of Justin Pena and the terrific defense of catcher Cullin Anastasia. However, there are 11 players due back from last year’s team and a handful of new faces ready to make an impact of their own.
Junior John Carney and senior Kevin Moran will anchor the rotation; the Hornets unfortunately lost ace Connor Sheehan for the season to an injury. Both Carney and Moran have experience though, and Mansfield is looking to seniors Jake Gerraughty, Matt Scibilia, Aidan Angland, Connor Smith, and sophomore Greg Coyle to fill the relief and spot start roles.
Mansfield brings back two of its three outfielders from last year with centerfielder Sam Nugent and right field Dan Saraceno both returning. Speedy shortstop Mike Hargadon is also back so the Hornets have three key pieces from the top half of the lineup back to pace the offense this year. Look for Eric Longley, Jenkins, Smith, Gerraughty, and Scibilia to also factor into to the Hornet lineup this year.
“It’s been a wild offseason here between losing some of our top guys and coming down with the injury bug but we have a great group of self-motivated returning players that we will look to keep our program going in the right direction,” said Mansfield head coach Joe Breen. “There are a lot of positional battles and innings on the mound to be sorted out, but the staff is excited to see the boys compete over the first couple weeks of the pre-season to get ourselves ready for [the first game]. While we had some great success last season, the boys know that we are 0-0 and they are ready to carve their own path.”
2018 Record: 5-15 2018 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Alex Dion
After having a relatively young, inexperienced group in 2018, the Scarlet Hawks have flipped the script, bringing back six starters and eight total players and will be looking to ride that experience to an improved 2019 campaign.
Half of the returning starters are the three starting pitchers from last year, including senior Danny Corsini and juniors Colby Pires and Luke Rosa. Despite a 1-3 record last year, Rosa had a solid 2.97 ERA in 30.2 innings of work with 19 strikeouts. Corsini logged over 35 innings while Pires had over 24, so there is plenty of experience in the Hawk’s rotation.
Senior captain Matt Shaver returns to his shortstop position and will anchor the infield. Corsini and Pires will both see time at third base when they aren’t pitching, Justin Applebee is back for another season at second base, and Tyler Almeida continues his duties as the starting catcher for the Hawks. Senior captain Nick Marcolini gives the Hawks a left-handed option on the mound. Sophomores Carter Scudo (outfield) and Mario Lee (first, pitcher) will also factor in this year.
“I’m looking forward to the 2019 baseball season and am excited about the players that are on our team,” said Milford head coach Alex Dion. “This is a tough league with a lot of good teams and good coaches. I think we have an opportunity to be very competitive this year. I will lead on our returning seniors and captains to push this team in the right direction and I am excited about the young players we have in our program.”
2018 Record: 22-2 2018 Finish: Division 2 State Champions Coach: Mike Hart
North Attleboro is looking to replicate its success from last season, the best year in program history that resulted in the D2 State Championship. And with a solid group of returning players, there is optimism but the Rocketeers know it certainly won’t come easy.
“We are a team with a decent amount of returning players, but we will need everybody contributing to be successful,” said North Attleboro coach Mike Hart. “We are looking for guys to be more consistent, especially on the offensive side of the game.”
The Rocketeers have three returning starters in the infield, so that will certainly be relied upon as the season gets underway. Senior Nick Raneri started at third last season but will move over to first this year while seniors Shawn Watters and Ryan Warren will take care of business up the middle. Hart says there is a lot of competition for the final spot in the infield with a handful of players possibly seeing time. Brendan McHugh returns as the starting left fielder while Kyle Bolger, Russell Dunlap, and Kyle Briere are all in the mix.
Behind the plate, senior Todd Robinson and junior Owen Harding are battling for the starting spot.
While the Rocketeers look to get the offense going, they will rely on their pitching staff early on. Matt Wanless had a very strong junior year and will be counted on heavily this season while seniors Matt Seavey, Jake Palmer, Jake Carroll, as well as Dunlap and Briere, should be in the mix for innings. Sophomore Dennis Colleran will see an increased role this season and could emerge as a top option for the Big Red.
“We will rely heavily on our pitching staff to lead us, and with smart, mistake-free defense, we will be able to win some games,” Hart said. “I really like the competitiveness our team brings every day. If we can learn from our failures and grind through the tough parts of the season that are sure to come, I believe we can win some ball games.”
2018 Record: 16-8 2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Final Coach: Joe Abarr
Oliver Ames is coming off one of its most successful seasons, reaching the D2 South Final last year. The Tigers graduated some key pieces but there is a lot of players back that gives OA hopes at replicating last year’s success.
Senior Chris Pearsons will be a leader on and off the field for the Tigers, moving over from third base to take over the starting shortstop spot. Pearsons is one of the top players in the league, earning HockomockSports.com First Team honors last year after belting out 30 hits for an impressive .448 average. Not only is he a dangerous offensive player, he’s one of the top defensive players in the league as well.
Another key returner for the Tigers is catcher Jake Erlich, who will begin his third year starting behind the plate. Erlich is one of the top defensive catchers in the region and OA is looking for him to have a breakout season at the plate. Junior Jacob Levine showed flashes last season with some timely hits as a pinch hitter. This year, Levine takes over at first and the Tigers will be looking for him to bring a consistent bat to the lineup.
Reid Latham, who went 2-1 last season with a 2.85 ERA, focused heavily on pitching this offseason and will take over as the top starter in the Tigers’ rotation.
“We have an established lineup of varsity hitters with a handful of underclassmen that will be filling in gaps for us,” said Oliver Ames coach Joe Abarr. “Our pitching rotation should be solid as long as everyone stays healthy. Last year, the Hock proved to be one of the best leagues in the state. We need to show up and compete every day if we want to be successful.”
After a couple of seasons of being on the outside looking in, the 2019 Sharon Eagles are looking to make strides towards a state tournament berth.
Although it will be a relatively young group, there is strong senior leadership. Head coach Kee Arguimbau is hoping that a nice mix of veterans and new faces will result in a successful season.
Tarlin was also the ace of the staff for the past couple of seasons but senior Noah Kamens should be ready to step into the top spot after some real strong outings last year. A lefty, Kamens does a nice job mixing up his pitches and will be a key part of Sharon’s defense. Kamens will be complemented by 6’6 righty Max LeBlanc, who burst onto the scene a year and had some impressive outings. Jared Reef returns behind the dish and the Eagles are looking for him to have a breakout year offensively.
Junior Alec Filipkowski is moving in from the outfield to second base while sophomore Justin Brown returns to shortstop after picking up valuable experience last season as a freshman. Noah Martinez, who recently returned to Sharon after living in Florida, could be a key piece of the offense while playing the hot corner defensively.
Seniors Dairell Martinez and Matty Jacobsen will be doing their part for the Eagles in the outfield while = senior Ben Reinbold looks to have an impact for Sharon on the mound.
“This year’s team is young. Luckily, what we lack in experience, we make up for in solid leadership,” Arguimbau said. “The seniors have done a phenomenal job in establishing the culture for the team this season. The young guys in the program have followed their lead and have been working hard in the offseason and are ready to continue to put the work in every day.
2018 Record: 10-9 2018 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Mike Armour
Stoughton had a solid season a year ago, but an early exit from the state tournament has left the Black Knights hungry for more in 2019.
It starts with the two co-captains for the Black Knights: senior Zak Paquette and senior Robert Seaman. Paquette emerged as Stoughton’s top option on the mound last season and will be counted on to take on a lot of innings again this season. Paquette isn’t the most flashy pitcher but he helps put Stoughton in position to win games. Seaman will start at shortstop and the Black Knights are looking to him for a big bat in the middle of the lineup.
Last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year George Currier is looking to pick up where he left off last season, giving the Black Knights flexibility with his ability to play anywhere on the field defensively. Seniors Cian Swierzewski, Kevin Dixon, and Kyle Gagnon are all experienced outfielders, James Genest III gives Stoughton a nice presence at the plate offensively, and Mike Nazzaro will handle catching duties.
Newcomers Clayton Rahaman and Jacob Kaplan should log some innings in the outfield, along with Cam Dirosa in the infield and Brady Conlin in the infield and on the mound. Senior pitcher Evan Jackman has impressed so far this preseason and will be a key piece of Stoughton’s starting rotation.
“The goal this season will be to compete every time we set foot on the field, playing sound fundamental baseball and doing the little things to put us in a position to win some ballgames,” said Stoughton head coach Mike Armour. “The boys have been working hard and I expect us to have some fun this year and play the game the right way.”
2018 Record: 1 2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Blair Bourque
There is a lot of excitement in Taunton with its new turf field, but the Tigers are hoping it’s their performance on that field that will have people talking by the end of the year.
It all starts with pitching for Taunton this year. With two DI commits in Jack Moynihan (Siena) and Josh Lajoie (St. John’s), the Tigers will certainly be boasting one of the top pitching groups for another season. Moynihan posted a 1.44 ERA with 43 strikeouts while Lajoie fanned 36 batters and had a 1.52 ERA.
Both Moynihan and Lajoie provide a lot of offense as well, but the Tigers will need others to step up to fill some voids from graduation. Tyler Medeiros (.375) and Trevor Pietrzyk (.373) both graduated some Taunton’s offense so head coach Blair Bourque will be looking for some new faces to step up.
The Tigers will be looking to senior Evan Melo to give the offense a spark. Melo will patrol center field and set the table to the offensively from the leadoff spot. Junior Logan Lawrence impressed last year batting .336; Taunton will need his bat to provide pop in the middle of the lineup in 2019.
“We’re certainly excited about having the opportunity to showcase our new turf field,” said Taunton head coach Blair Bourque. “It’s really a dream come true. There’s something special about this year’s team, the senior leadership and camaraderie are substantial.”
North Attleboro, 42 @ Sharon, 14 – Final 1st Quarter: (NA) Russell Dunlap fumble recovery in the end zone, Tyler DeMattio XP good; (NA) Brendan McHugh 2-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
2nd Quarter: (NA) B. McHugh 3-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (S) Jeremy Ruskin 26-yard pass to Chris Gong, Mitchell Director XP good; (NA) Nick Raneri 17-yard pass to Ryan Gaumond, T. DeMattio XP good; (NA) N. Raneri 24-yard pass to R. Gaumond, T. DeMattio XP good.
3rd Quarter: (NA) Brett Labonte 4-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
4th Quarter: (S) J. Ruskin 4-yard pass to C. Gong, M. Director XP good.
Canton, 2 @ Foxboro, 2 – Final – Twice Canton took a one-goal lead and twice Foxboro responded in a quick manner to earn a draw at home. Paul Corcoran converted a sliding shot in the 2nd minute to give the visitors an early advantage but Nic Beigel brought Foxboro level, converting a penalty drawn by Matt Garcia. In the second half, Simon Cruz made a nice near post run in the 59th minute and hit a one timer to make it 2-1 in favor of Canton. But just four minutes later, Beigel grabbed his second with a nicely placed shot from outside the area.
Canton, 2 @ Foxboro, 2 – Final – Foxboro built a 2-0 lead but Canton scored twice in the final 20 minutes to earn a draw. Sophomore Katelyn Mollica put the hosts up 1-0 in the 10th minute, an advantage Foxboro took into halftime. Ten minutes into the second half, Kaitryn Franchino scored her second goal in as many games to make it 2-0. But Canton scored on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute and tied the game in the 71st minute to earn a point on the road.
Taunton, 0 @ North Attleboro, 9 – Final – North Attleboro’s Ashlyn Gaulin recorded four points and sister Emma Gaulin had three points as the Rocketeers rolled at home. Ashlyn Gaulin scored three goals and had one assist while Emma Gaulin scored once and had two helpers. Olivia Bishop, Lauren Pezzi, Lexi Sinacola, Tess Collins, and Emma Noreck all scored once for North Attleboro.
Canton, 0 @ Walpole, 4 – Final – Canton sophomore Riley O’Connor made 16 saves in goal, but the Bulldogs fell on the road to the Porkers.
North Attleboro, 0 @ Taunton, 4 – Final – Taunton scored a pair of goals in each half to pick up a win over visiting North Attleboro. Alana Tavares scored both goals in the first half to give the Tigers the lead. Seniors Lauren Torres and Cierra Bartel each scored once in the second half for Taunton while Emma Sheehan made five saves in goal. THS head coach Liz Hathaway said Jillian Pagliuca, Jocelyn Pagliuca, and Kathryn Robinson all played well for the Tigers.
Oliver Ames, 2 vs. West Bridgewater, 1 – Final – Oliver Ames scored once in each half to pick up a win over West Bridgewater. The Tigers had 13 corners and peppered the West Bridgewater net with 21 shots. Meaghan Rockey scored OA’s first goal on an assist from Maggie Woods. Rockey then set Maura Kiernan up for the game-winning goal at the midway point of the second half.
Boys Cross Country Ocean State Invitational – Mansfield’s Patrick Heavey earned a third place finish to help the Hornets take a third overall as a team. Heavey clocked in at 16:33.8 for third while Paxton Howard (17:30.9, 38th), Mike Mullahy (17:31.5, 40th), and Cullen Lancaster (17:32.3, 42nd) all had top 50 finishes for the Hornets. Oliver Ames was fifth as a team led by Zane Reservitz’s (16:51.1) 10th place finish and Rory McLaughlin’s (16:54.9) 12th place finish. North Attleboro senior Liam Monahan was 11th overall, crossing the finish line at 16:54.7. In the other varsity race, Foxboro’s Ryan Proulx finished in 17:33.1, taking 22nd overall.
Girls Cross Country Ocean State Invitational – Foxboro had two runners finish in the top 10 of the Division 1 Varsity race, helping the Warriors earn a fourth place finish. Junior Abby Hassman was fourth overall at 19:28.4 while senior Lexi Quinn took seventh at 19:34.5. Lindsey Nelson was the third Warrior to cross, taking 17th overall in 20:41.4. In the Division 2 Varsity race, Mansfield girls were 20th overall. Senior Margaret Riley (20:50.3) and sophomore Tessa Lancaster (20:51.7) took 43rd and 44th respectively. North Attleboro was 22nd overall with junior Olivia Forbes having the top time, taking 80th in 21:41.1. Attleboro junior Shea Jamieson had the top finish of any Hockomock runner, clocking in at 20:41.1 for 37th.
Outlook: After playing plenty of sophomores last season, the Bulldogs will be looking to boast a balanced, experienced team aiming to compete for the Davenport division title in 2018.
Canton brings back six starters on offense and seven starters back on the defensive side of the ball. The Dogs are one of the few teams with their starting quarterback returning as junior Johnny Hagan continues under center after a solid sophomore season. He showed the ability to pass and run with the ball, and he has almost all of his running back options back to work with. Gersom Rivera had a terrific sophomore year and will be counted on to be a big piece of the offense during 2018. Rivera’s athleticism and speed will be complemented by the hard nose running and blocking of junior Kyle Fitzgerald and senior Brendan Albert.
Junior Jack Connolly will anchor the offensive line and will be joined by senior Brian Campagna and junior Lucas Bryant at the center position. Ryan Lentol, who came on strong at the end of last year, picked up right where he left off and will be a top option at split end.
The strength of Canton’s defense is its linebacker group, which is full of experience and talent. Albert is back at one of the outside spots after earning Hock All Star last year while senior Ben Seaman is back on the other side. Junior James Murphy will fill in the middle after impressing last season and junior Robbie Gallery has impressed early on as the other inside option. Canton will also rely on a seasoned secondary with Fitzgerald and David Allen returning as starters. Ryan Colby should see time in the secondary and Owen Lehane is in the mix for the defensive line.
“We’re very excited for the season,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “The kids have put the work in, we think we can play with anyone in the league but its a very good league so you have to be on your ‘A’ game every night. Every team is well coached and competitive so any time you can win in the Hock, its a success. We have to take it game by game, do the best we can, and keep plugging.
Outlook: The Warriors are aiming to make it two straight years in the postseason and will use a mix of returning players and new faces to try and get it done.
Foxboro graduated 35 seniors last year so there are some spots that need to be filled, but the Warriors are off to a good start with Liam Foley back in the fold at quarterback. The senior saw time under center last season along with Devin Hassett. And Foley will be in good shape as the Warriors have a lot of experience on the offensive line. Senior Tom Cullen is back in the middle of the line as the center, senior Andrew Longa and sophomore Sean Ferguson take on the tackle positions, and senior Hunter Williams and junior Aidan Dow will fill out the interior of the line.
Mike Luong got touches as a junior out of the backfield last season and will be a main part of the offense this season. Pat Stapleton is a returning split end, classmate Rob Fay will step into the same role, and junior Shayne Kerrigan will a top target for Foley.
The Warriors have experience and good size up front on defense, led by returning starting tackles Shawn Teixeira (6’4, 260) and Bill McNeil (6’0, 265). Senior William Ogbebor and Anton George will be called upon to fill out the defensive line on the ends while Williams and Martin McElroy will be joined by Mike Sheehan at linebacker. Russell Neale is back as the place kicker after a strong junior season.
Outlook: After reaching the quarterfinals last season, the 2018 version of the Scarlet Hawks are aiming for a deeper run into the postseason. And not just that, the Hawks are looking to be serious contenders for the Davenport crown.
Milford has a strong core of returning players back, a group of eager new faces looking to make an impression, and big new piece on the line. Kevin Pyne (6’8, 280) transferred to his hometown high school and will anchor what looks to be a big, physical line. Pyne is rated as the top recruit for his class and holds D1 offers from over a dozen schools including Notre Dame and Michigan. Senior Josh Ligor returns as a starter on the line while sophomore Nick Yohn will also be a two-way lineman.
The Hawks bring back both their quarterbacks: senior Ryan Pearl handled the team’s ‘WAR’ package while junior Colby Pires stepped in when Milford spread it out. Junior Luke Rosa will step in as an option at halfback along with sophomore Dominic Schofield. Brendan White (WR/S) brings toughness to both sides of the ball for the Hawks.
Shapel Feaster is one of the most experienced defensive backs in the Hockomock League and should be an important piece of the 2018 Hawks’ defense. Junior CJ Cerella will step in to anchor the linebacking group. On special teams, Sean Lehane is one of the strongest kickers in the area and will try to give Milford a spark at wide receiver this season.
“The goal of the 2018 football season for the Milford Scarlet Hawks is simple: start fast, play physical, and be the toughest team on the field on Friday nights,” said Milford head coach Anthony Vizakis.
Outlook: The target on North Attleboro’s back continues to grow. Coming off their third straight league title, including two straight Davenport titles, the Rocketeers made it all the way to the D3 State Final before falling, 35-33, to St. John’s Shrewsbury.
Big Red is hopeful it can continue its string of success but knows it will be tested with a difficult schedule, including a non-league game with two-time defending state champion King Philip. The biggest challenge will be finding a replacement for three-year starter Chad Peterson, who graduated with a handful of program records and three Hock titles as the starter. Seniors Nick Raneri and Luke LaBonte are both in the mix, and both saw time last year throughout the season. Raneri started all 13 games at tailback but also filled in at QB at times.
Whoever ends up getting the nod at quarterback will have one of the best offensive linemen in the entire state with senior Ryan Clemente anchoring the protection unit. Clemente is joined by senior Jack Puccio as returning starters on the line while seniors Joe Larkin and John Nally, and juniors John Kummer, Ethan Friberg, Trevor Hewitt, Montrel Jackson, and Ethan Mottinger are all competing for time. The Rocketeers also have solid skill options back with senior Brendan McHugh (14 total touchdowns) back at the starting slot back. Omar Jasseh offers size and speed at split end while Ryan Gaumond’s quickness gives the Rocketeers another option down field.
North Attleboro returns six starters on the defensive end, including McHugh, Gaumond, and Jasseh in the secondary. Clemente will be a big piece of the defensive line while Raneri and captain Jonathan James, who will also see time at tight end, will lead the linebacker unit. Russell Dunlap, Puccio, Mike Carty, Friberg and Jackson are all in the mix for defensive end spots while Ryan Boyle, Tom O’Neill, Duane Bryant, and Owen Harding are competing for time at linebacker.
“We expect a very challenging schedule, opening with KP on our new turf field and then an improved Bishop Feehan team in Week 2,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “The Davenport division will be extremely competitive this year, with several teams able to beat anyone on any given night. We have a nice core, but if we are going to compete at a championship level, then we are going to need several new faces to mature very quickly. There’s a lot of work still to be done, and not a lot of time to do it.”
Outlook: For the first time in Sharon, there will be football on Friday nights.
With the installation of lights at the high school field, the Eagles will be hosting teams on Friday nights instead of Saturday afternoons. And the 2018 Eagles are hoping to put a show under those lights. Sharon brings back a handful of key returning starters on both sides of the ball, and with one more year experience under their belts, will be looking to compete in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive seasons top to bottom in the Davenport.
Sharon averaged nearly 20 points per game in its six non-league games last year and is hoping to carry that over into Davenport play this season. Senior quarterback Jeremy Ruskin (six total touchdowns) is back under center to lead the offense and last year’s starting running back Aaron Strong (three touchdowns) also returns to give the Eagles a solid 1-2 punch on offense right away. Coleman Loftus’ size and strength will be a vital part of the line on both sides of the ball while Chris Gong and Alec Filipkowski return as Ruskin’s main two targets.
Not only goes Gong give Sharon options on offense because of his speed, he is one of the most dangerous kick returners in the state. He had an 80-yard punt return touchdown and a 99-yard kickoff return last season so opposing special team units will have to pay a lot of attention.
Despite the numbers, the Eagles had a strong defense last season. This season, Sharon boasts a lot of speed (on both sides of the ball) and is looking to use that to be more aggressive. Juniors Kiran Chandrasekaran will step in to be a big part of the secondary while classmate Nic Marrero will be relied on to anchor the linebackers.
“With a lot of returning starters and a sprinkle of new talent, I am expecting this team to take a huge step forward from last year’s inexperienced team,” said Sharon head coach Dave Morse.
Outlook: It feels like a fresh start for the Black Knights after graduating a bunch of players that had multiple seasons of experience under their belts.
But the focus remains the same for the Black Knights, who are aiming to be in contention for the Davenport title and make another appearance in the state tournament. Similar to previous seasons, Stoughton will have talent in the backfield and that will be the focal point of the offense. Jeff Grier is one of the fastest players in the league and will make defenses pay when there is space. Alex Iverson is a shifty option out of the backfield, Malachi Green-Hightower brings power to the run game, and sophomore Chris Ais could emerge as a playmaker for the Black Knights.
Junior George Currier and sophomore John Burke will battle it out for the starting quarterback position while Matt Piana, Ali Awad, and Evan Jackman have solidified spots on the offensive line. Frank Derbes will factor into the offense as a tight end and junior Ajahn Rue is back as a receiver.
Defensively, Iverson and Green-Hightower will be right in the heart of the lineup as linebackers while Grier will help as a member of the secondary. Cian Swierzewski has impressed throughout the offseason and the preseason and will be a key piece of the defense from the safety spot. Stoughton is looking for other names to step up and help anchor its hard nose defense.