The Tigers had their best offensive outing in three seasons, scoring six touchdowns plus a field goal to grab a 45-20 win in the Tiger Bowl over Oliver Ames in a non-league crossover clash.
After a close loss to King Philip two weeks ago and a setback to Franklin last week in a game that was closer than the scoreline indicated,
Taunton got back into the win column for the fourth time this season.
“Offensively we knew we’d have the chance to score some points and we did a good job there,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “I’m proud of our guys, we haven’t scored that many points in a while.”
Taunton picked up points on its first three drives — a field goal followed by two touchdowns — which all came in the opening quarter of the game. The host Tigers scored inside the final two minutes of the first half and less than two minutes into the second half and added two more in the third quarter to get the win.
The defense set the tone by forcing Oliver Ames into a three-and-out on the first series of the game. OA punted on each of its first three drives, had two series end on turnovers, and one turnover on downs.
A high snap slowed Taunton’s first drive of the game and the hosts settled for a 31-yard field goal off the right foot of senior Nate Keenan.
The offense didn’t need much time on its second drive to find the end zone. After Evan Perrotta (13 carries, 56 yards) moved the chains with a 10-yard run on first down, junior quarterback Jacob Leonard found Trent Santos in single coverage down the right sideline. Leonard dropped the pass into Santos’ hands in stride and the senior, who missed last week due to injury, did the rest for a 61-yard touchdown.
OA couldn’t get anything going offensively on its third series, partly due to a tackle for a loss from Ryan MacDougall, and the visiting Tigers had to punt, pinning Taunton inside its own 20-yard line.
The long field didn’t phase Taunton, who scored on its first play of the drive. Leonard dropped back and hit Perrotta on a screen. The senior back squirmed through the defense up the middle but OA kept with the play and forced a fumble. But before any OA player could pounce on the loose ball, Taunton senior tightend Faisal Mass scooped up the loose ball and raced his way to the end zone from 54 yards out.
Just like that,
Taunton held a 17-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.
“We have to come out better,” said OA head coach Ed DeWitt. “I don’t think it’s an X’s and O’s, I think they are blocking their stuff right…we just came out flat tonight. There wasn’t enough emotion…and when something goes wrong, we have to fight back.”
Oliver Ames put together a much-needed response that took nearly six minutes of the clock. Senior quarterback Jake Grimaldi connected with classmate Sean Friel, who fought for some extra yards to move the sticks with a 24-yard gain. Junior running back Collin Williamson (15 carries, 142 yards, 2 TD) broke free for 21 yards on the next play and then converted a third down inside the red zone three plays later. After that, Williamson took the handoff to the left and found his way into the end zone to make it 17-7.
“Collin’s great, he runs hard,” DeWitt said. “Sometimes it takes us a little bit to figure out where his seam is but when we do, he hits it and when he gets through, he’s a hard tackle and finishes runs for us. He’s been doing it all year for us.
OA’s defense held Taunton to just four yards on its next series, getting good coverage from junior Jordan Young on second down to help get the ball back. OA started to move the ball on its next drive but Nathen LaPlante had a big tackle for loss, OA was hit with a holding call, and Taunton sophomore Troy Santos intercepted a third down pass near midfield, taking it all the way to the OA 25-yard line with just 3:31 left in the half.
Taunton kept it on the ground for this series, handing it off to Perrotta four consecutive plays, the last for a 2-yard touchdown and a 24-7 lead going into halftime.
OA took a chance to start the second half, going for an onside kick on the opening kickoff. The visiting Tigers got the blocks they wanted but the ball bounced out and Taunton took over with good field position. The hosts took advantage of that field position, needing just three plays to add to its lead.
Leonard hit Perrotta with a swing pass out in the flat that went for 28 yards and then the Perrotta took back-to-back handoffs, the latter going for a 4-yard touchdown and a 31-7 lead with 10:20 left in the third.
“We haven’t finished the last two weeks so the whole thing this week was about finishing, and we did which was good to see,” Sidwell said.”With the new playoff system, you’re winning a game and you’re trying to keep that certain lead, keep it at the max. You’re not being unsportsmanlike, you’re trying to do the math figuring out the difference.”
It didn’t take long for Oliver Ames to respond. On just the second play of the ensuing drive, Robert Jenkins (68 receiving yards, 87 rushing yards) took a counter to the left before cutting up the field and through the difference, running away for a 77-yard touchdown with 9:13 to play in the third.
Chad Silva recorded a tackle for loss on second down and junior defensive end Chris Young made a nice play by getting his hands up to bat down a third down pass at the line, forcing Taunton to punt. Grimaldi hit Jenkins for 22 yards and a first down and Williamson gained five on the next play but Troy Santos read the play nicely on the next play, undercutting the pass for his second interception of the game.
Facing 3rd and 11, Leonard hit sophomore Jose Touron on a comeback route on the right side and he was able to break free from the defense and took off for 62 yards, tackled at the 1-yard line. Keenan burst up the middle and into the end zone for a touchdown and Taunton pushed the lead to 38-14 with 3:58 left in the third.
OA’s offense had another response to keep within striking distance. Williamson broke out for 35 yards on first down and Grimaldi kept it on a QB sneak four plays later to convert a fourth and short. Two plays later, Williamson bounced it outside to the right and used his speed to sprint away from the defense for a 34-yard touchdown. That cut the deficit to 38-20 with just 10 seconds left in the third.
“We fought a bit, tried the onside kicks to get back into it but there were some positives we can take from the second half,” DeWitt said.”We felt like we really came out flat in the first half, not much to build on. We put our knee down on the opening kickoff and then had a false start on the first play…and it spirals from there.
“When we got it to 17-7, we have to hammer down there and keep that score going into the half. We just have to come out strong and playing within the aspect of the game, managing the game a bit better.”
Taunton recovered the ensuing onside kick and march 55 yards on 7 plays to add another touchdown. Leonard hit Santos early in the drive to move the sticks and Keenan had a 21-yard gain on third down to keep the drive alive. Touron took the sweep to the right and Santos blocked the corner to allow the ball carrier to get into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown and a 45-20 lead with 9:21 to play.
“Our offense did a good job moving the ball but we have to establish the run game a little bit more, especially when you’re having a little trouble stopping the run. But I’m proud of the way our guys played. We’re trying to get healthy and better for the remainder of the season. The gauntlet of the Kelley-Rex [division] is really hard.”
Both teams have a tough schedule as they head into the final two weeks of division play. Taunton football (0-2 Kelley-Rex, 4-2 overall) hits the road to take on Mansfield while Oliver Ames (1-1 Davenport, 2-4 overall) returns home to host North Attleboro.