FRANKLIN, Mass. – After the game ended, after the bulk of the crowd had filed out of the gym that only a few minutes before had been packed to capacity, and after speaking with his team in the locker room, Franklin coach C.J. Neely was left to reflect on how different the emotions were for his players this year compared to the last time that the Panthers faced Algonquin.
“It’s total shock,” he explained. “I told the guys that I feel bad because you go into the locker room and try to gather your thoughts somehow and tell them how proud you are of them and how good they played all year and you’re just never really ready for the moment to break that down.”
Last season, Franklin (16-5) beat the Tomahawks to win the Div. 1 Central title on its way to a second straight state championship game appearance. This year, the Panthers hosted Algonquin in the opening round of the tournament and the Tomahawks took advantage of the opportunity to avenge that loss, pulling out a 63-60 thriller.
The visitors made their share of huge shots, whether it was freshman Alex Karaban burying a deep three in the fourth quarter to push the lead to four points or senior Sean Cullen ignoring the Franklin fans behind the basket to drain a pair of free throws with 22 seconds remaining.
But, the Panthers were also their own worst enemies, shooting only 13-of-25 from the free throw line. In a game that came down to the final possession, those missed opportunities were the difference.
“It’s a killer,” Neely admitted. “It’s been kind of an Achille’s heel all season in the games that we’ve lost. We joked around a lot that we’d be undefeated if we made free throws and here we are again. I think we can chalk up another one that we lost at the free throw line, unfortunately.”
When the game tipped off, there was still a long line of people waiting to get in the door, as the atmosphere felt more like a final than the opening round. The teams came out firing like it was a final as well, with Algonquin jumping out to an early 6-0 lead before Franklin answered with six straight of its own.
Sean Leonard scored four points in the first and Jalen Samuels (15 points,10 rebounds, and four blocks in his final game) got the Panthers within one when he drove baseline and finished with a one-hand slam. Chris Edgehill (team-high 20 points) gave Franklin its first lead with a deep three in the final seconds of the quarter.
Algonquin used a 4-0 run to grab a 17-16 lead but Samuels scored back-to-back buckets to get the lead back for the hosts. Another three from Edgehill opened up a five-point lead and then Jack Rudolph hit a pull-up jumper in the lane.
After Edgehill knocked down three free throws, Franklin led by seven, but Karaban scored on an offensive rebound and Brian Duffy (game-high 24 points) buried a three to cut the lead to just two. Samuels drove to the basket to finish the half with Franklin up 32-28, but the Panthers went only 5-of-10 at the line in the quarter and 8-for-16 in the half. Those points that were left on the board would prove costly in the end.
In the third quarter, Rudolph got things started by knocking down a three off a set play. It felt like Franklin was on the brink of breaking the game wide open but instead Brian Duffy (game-high 24 points) caught fire. He knocked down three free throws, drilled a three, and then hit a jumper. His personal 8-0 run put the Tomahawks up one.
Edgehill got into the lane to set up Will Harvey for a layup and then Rudolph hit his second three of the quarter before setting Harvey up for another layup. Rudolph and Harvey combined for all 12 of Franklin’s points in the third, keeping the Panthers up by three heading to the fourth.
“Those guys have been good for us,” Neely said about Rudolph and Harvey. “[Will’s] always been that kind of grinder who doesn’t get the notoriety because he does everything but when you’ve got Chris and Jalen scoring the way they do then you don’t get the chance to score the way he can.”
Duffy continued to have the hot hand in the fourth, tying the game with a three, but it was an unlikely source of offense that gave Algonquin the lead. Cullen had only two points through three quarters and was largely a passenger on offense, but he drilled a three to give the visitors a lead and then scored on a three-point play to extend the lead to four. He scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth.
Franklin kept battling back. Rudolph stole an errant pass, fed Leonard in the paint and he dished it off to Samuels for a layup that made it 52-51. Edgehill hit a pair at the line to make it 58-57 only to have Karaban come down and bury a deep three to make the deficit four.
Neely said, “That was a big three, NBA distance, from Karaban there at the end and we knew that coming in that he does that. It wasn’t a surprise shot or anything like that but it’s just big guts to take it and make it at that time.”
Edgehill answered with a deep three that made it 61-60, but on the other end he committed a foul with just 13 seconds left on the shot clock and 22 ticks left in the game. Cullen stepped to the line and seemed unfazed by the moment, hitting both right in front of the Franklin student section. While Franklin was struggling at the line, Algonquin was 8-of-10 at the stripe in the second half following Cullen’s makes.
Franklin ran the clock down to 11 seconds before Edgehill hit front rim on a very deep three.
“Chris has made some big shots for us and sometimes if you call that timeout the defense really gets the chance to set itself,” Neely said of the decision not to call a timeout on that possession. “I thought he had been able to really create space for his own shot tonight and made some big ones and it’s always that question mark whether you call it or not and let the game play out.”
A foul on the rebound put Algonquin at the line with a chance to seal the win. Ironically, the visitors missed them both and Franklin got one last chance to extend the game.
Samuels snatched the inbounds pass away from a defender at mid-court, but he couldn’t get an off-balance heave to the rim and the Tomahawks bench stormed onto the court to celebrate.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Having to try and match up with Attleboro’s 6-foot-5, 295-pound center Qualeem Charles for 32 minutes is one of the toughest covers in the entire Hockomock League.
Having to try and stop him for four more minutes in overtime just might be impossible.
Franklin stormed back from a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game in the final seconds and send the game to overtime but Charles scored half of Attleboro’s points in the overtime period to help the Bombardiers secure a 51-46 decision in overtime.
Charles scored 13 of his game-high 18 points after halftime and hauled of his 17 rebounds after the break as well.
“We always want to go inside, they did a nice job of challenging him early,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “He’s very unselfish so a lot of the times he got the ball he was kicking it out and we were getting great looks and we weren’t knocking them down. We told him in the second half when you touch the ball, you shoot the ball and he did that more consistently. If he didn’t score the field goal, he went to the line and he hit his foul shots which was key for us.”
After Mason Houle (nine points) and Will Harvey traded three-pointers to open the extra stanza, the Bombardiers got Charles going inside. Kevin Velazquez (six points, nine rebounds) found the big man in the post and Charles used a nice post move to go up two.
The teams traded misses before Attleboro came up short on a Tim Callahan three. But Callahan was quick to hustle back on defense and drew a charge to get the ball back with 1:32 to play and a 46-44 lead.
Attleboro went back inside and Charles was fouled, hitting one of two attempts to extend the lead to 47-44. Franklin missed a three and Charles came down with a big rebound. On the offensive end, the Panthers’ collapsed to try and cover Charles, allowing Velazquez to take it strong to the basket for two.
Franklin once again came up short on a layup attempt and Charles hauled in the rebound while being fouled. He hit two free throws to give Attleboro 51-46 lead with 28 seconds and that’s how the game finished.
After putting up just five shots in the first half total, Charles attempted five field goals in the third quarter and then went 2-for-2 in the fourth.
“I was definitely overlooking at times, I wanted to find teammates,” Charles said. “I know my teammates can make those big shots but they weren’t falling tonight so I had to try and close it out. Eventually my shot started falling. Their bigger players started getting in foul trouble, so I was getting more of a mismatch so I was able to convert.”
There wasn’t much happening for either side in the first half. The teams combined for just six made field goals in the opening eight minutes with Franklin senior Jalen Samuels (eight points, 10 rebounds, five assists) finding Thomas Gasbarro for a layup right before the buzzer to give Franklin a 9-7 edge.
But that would be the last field goal Franklin would make for the half. The Panthers were held scoreless for nearly the entire second quarter. Sean Leonard hit a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to get Franklin on the board.
Meanwhile while Attleboro’s offense didn’t exactly catch fire, it was able to use an 8-0 run over the first seven minutes. Bryant Ciccio and Nick McMahon made shots while Callahan and Houle sank two free throws apiece. A late bucket from Charles gave Attleboro a 17-11 lead at half.
“It’s a problem, he’s a big kid, and there’s not a lot of guys that can move him when he gets position where he wants to be,” Neely said of matching up with Charles. “We had a plan that was working early but late in the game, I think guys were a bit tired. I stuck with the same lineup for a long time. They get worn down banging around with him for a whole game and he was able to get some baskets, he’s a tough cover.”
The offenses for both sides came alive to start the second half. The Panthers matched their first half production in just over five minutes in the third quarter. Buckets from Chris Edgehill (12 points, eight rebounds), Jake Macchi, and Leonard brought the Panthers within two, 24-22, with 3:46 left in the third.
Attleboro answered with a 10-0 run to close the third quarter. Ciccio, Charles, and Houle hit back-to-back-to-back layups, and McMahon converted down low after a nice offensive rebound and pass from Velazquez to give the Bombardiers a 32-22 advantage heading into the final quarter.
“Coming into the game we talked about defensive stops and consecutive defensive stops and Franklin is terrific at it,” Houle said. “The last three games they’ve given up 40 points or less and they lead the league in defensive scoring average. So we knew we were going to have to execute. We wanted to take care of the ball, be strong with the ball, and attacking them when we can on ball reversals. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but neither did they, and I think that’s a credit to both defenses.”
It appeared the Bombardiers had the game in hand when they pushed the lead to 37-22 on a Callahan triple, a 15-point advantage with six minutes left.
But Attleboro’s offense stalled as the Panthers continued their pressure defensively. And over those six minutes, shots began to fall for the visitors. Steve Karayan drained a three after a steal from Will Harvey then Edgehill drained a transition three after an Attleboro turnover to make it 37-31 with three minutes to go.
Samuels hit a free throw and Harvey came up with another steal that led to two made free throws, cutting the deficit to 37-34 with two minutes left. After a five-second call on the inbounds, Harvey sank another free throw to make it 37-35.
Attleboro finally got some points on the board when Callahan hit Charles down low and the junior converted with a nice spin move. But Karayan drained another triple to make it a one-point game with just over a minute to go.
Velazquez missed but was fouled as he hustled for the offensive rebound and he sank two free throws with 42.6 to play.
Franklin came up short on the tying three, but the offensive rebound was batted out and corralled. Attleboro chose to foul with a three-point lead with 8.4 to go. The strategy worked as Franklin missed both free throws but the rebound was batted out to Edgehill, who alertly made an extra mass to Karayan for a straightaway three-pointer with 2.4 left, sending the game into overtime tied 41-41.
“We found something that was working down the stretch,” Neely said.”But in the end, we weren’t ourselves in the first half. We weren’t playing the way we needed to play if we wanted to win. You can get away with that sometimes but not on the road at Attleboro in a big game tonight. We played good defense in the first half but they opened it up in the second half. I’m proud of them, they stuck with it. They shared the ball and got back into the game. Free throws hurt us, and that’s cost us basically in every loss this year. It’s frustrating to have a good offensive possession and get to the line and come away with nothing.
“We had a 15 point lead and they whittled it down to go to overtime, that’s Franklin,” Houle said. “They are a very good, gritty team. We knew coming in it wouldn’t be an easy game. As they were coming back, it felt like we weren’t playing to win anymore, we were just trying to hold on. After one of the timeouts, we talked about playing to win. We started to play with a bit more energy and were able to make some plays.”
Attleboro boys basketball (9-1 Hockomock, 12-2 overall) is back in action on Tuesday on the road at Milford. Franklin (7-3, 9-4) is also on the road with a trip to Sharon on tap.
#3 King Philip, 1 vs. #2 Somerset Berkeley, 3 – Final
Volleyball D2 South
#2 Stoughton, 1 @ #3 Greater New Bedford, 3 – Final
Football – Non-Playoffs
Franklin, 42 vs. Natick, 26 – Final 1st Quarter: (N) Natick 24-yard pass, XP good; (F) Nick Gordon 67-yard pass to Ryan Driscoll, Parker Chevrant XP good.
2nd Quarter: (N) Natick 7-yard rush, XP failed; (F) N. Gordon 28-yard pass to Sean Leonard, P. Chevrant XP good.
3rd Quarter: (F) N. Gordon 22-yard pass to R. Driscoll, P. Chevrant XP good; (N) N. Gordon 64-yard pass to R. Driscoll, P. Chevrant XP good; (F) N. Gordon 33-yard pass to S. Leonard, P. Chevrant XP good.
4th Quarter: (N) Natick touchdown rush, XP good; (F) Sean Hofferty 4-yard rush, P. Chevrant XP good; (N) Natick 3-yard rush, XP failed.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Throughout the regular season, the headlines have focused on Franklin’s high-power offense and all of the different skill guys it uses.
In the first round of the Division 1 South tournament, the Panthers’ defense took center stage.
#4 Franklin’s defense prevented #5 Brockton from getting in the end zone, adjusted to limit the Boxers’ run game, came away with three interceptions and anchored the Panthers to a 26-3 win.
After Brockton’s offense combined for 97 yards and three points on its first two drives of the game, the Panthers’ defense limited the Boxers to just 66 yards the rest of the way. Of Brockton’s final seven drives, three ended with interceptions, one with a safety, and two turnover on downs.
“Our defense has been pretty good all year in all of our wins,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “It’s been pretty solid all year and in the second half, they won us that game. They put the nail in the coffin and sealed it for us.
“I love coaching and all that but the kids do all the work. From day one, they bought in. We’ve taken our bumps and we’ve grinded along the way but these guys earned everything they’ve gotten so far. I think we have great athletes but these guys have everything in their power to develop as people and as football players. That’s really shown this year.”
Brockton’s offense had its lone success of the first two drives of the game. After a good return, the Boxers offense quickly marched 47 yards — all on the ground — into the Franklin red zone on the first drive of the game. But the visitors couldn’t convert as Franklin’s Nolan McLaney and Austin Jordan combined for a tackle for loss on second down, and Brockton fumbled on third, meaning they had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Carlens Jean.
It took Franklin just over two minutes to respond, finding the end zone in just six plays on its first drive of the game. Junior quarterback Nick Gordon (11/16, 178 yards, two touchdowns) converted a third down by finding junior Jake Davis up the seam for a 36-yard gain – the only stopping him from going the distance was his own momentum.
After two plays without a gain, Franklin converted another third down, this time Gordon finding a streaking Jack Nally up the middle for a 32-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 2:08 left in the first quarter.
The Boxers nearly struck back with an immediate response of their own. Brockton junior running back Ahmik Watterson broke free for a 50-yard scamper to get inside the Franklin 10-yard line. Another run from Watterson put the ball at the 1-yard line. Franklin’s defense came up with a key stop and Brockton was whistled for a dead fall foul, pushing them back to the 15-yard line.
Two plays later, Jean’s 25-yard field goal attempt was just wide left and Franklin’s offense took over.
“They had a pretty cool set early where they where they were unbalanced one way with a power-I going the opposite,” Bain said of Brockton’s early running success. “You have to adjust the front while also maintain some integrity on the back and be gap sound. Once we settled down we felt OK.”
The Panthers marched up field, going 74 yards to get into scoring territory at the Brockton 6-yard line. The drive was highlighted by a 27-yard catch from Sean Leonard and a terrific leaping 30-yard catch from Ryan Driscoll on third down. But Brockton’s defense was up to the task, not letting Franklin get any closer.
The Panthers settled for a 23-yard field goal from Parker Chevrant and a 10-7 advantage with 6:55 to play in the second quarter.
Although Brockton’s defense just had a big stop to get some momentum, Franklin’s defense stole it right back. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Brockton quarterback Michael Norman was intercepted by Driscoll near midfield and he returned it all the way into the red zone at the 18-yard line.
Four plays later, on fourth and 2 from the 10-yard line, Bain elected to go for it and Gordon linked up with Leonard, who just got his feet down, in the end zone for a 17-3 advantage with 4:29 left in the first half.
“Any game you can really boil it down to about a half dozen moments and for us, that stretch was certainly one of them,” Bain said. “We’ve put a lot of stock in our kids and we really trust them. We went up to the line with a dummy call, we weren’t going to run a play but Leonard is a three-year guy, Gordon has stepped in the clutch all year so we let them do their thing.”
Brockton started its drive inside its own 20-yard line and junior linebacker Evan Wertz made a big tackle on third down to force the Boxers to punt. But the snap sailed high on the punter, and by the time he was able to pick it up he stepped out of bounds in the back of the end zone while under pressure from McLaney, resulting in a safety and a 19-3 lead for the Panthers.
Franklin had a chance to add onto that lead before half, getting to the Brockton 30-yard line on the ensuing drive but a fumble ended the drive.
Brockton moved 30 yards to get into Franklin territory in the final minute of the first half but Owen Palmieri came away with an interception to send the teams into the locker rooms for half.
“For us, our strength is our back end, our strength is our athletes,” Bain said. “I think we have very good linemen but we’re always going to be outsized, that just the way it is here. But we’re fast and athletic, so we if we can get a team to play to our strengths, we’re in a better spot. We wanted to make them throw it some and get out of their comfort zone.”
The second half featured a battle of ground games trying to solve two strong defensive fronts. Brockton had 20 plays in the second half with a total of 29 yards.
Franklin’s offense didn’t fare much better as it tried to get its ground game going and keep the ball away from the Boxers. The Panthers offense had 30 plays for a total of 57 yards.
“We like we had some opportunities to run, that was what they were giving us,” Bain said of keeping the ball on the ground for the majority of plays in the second half. “We didn’t want to give them a short field or anything. They have the athletes to get back in the game in one strike. I don’t want to say we were conservative, we truly believe they were the right play calls but hopefully we can have some more success on the ground next week.
The big play of the second half came when Franklin’s defense once again thwarted the Boxers trying to throw the ball. Midway through the fourth quarter, a sack from senior Adam McMorrow forced the Boxers into a 3rd and 15 scenario inside their own 20 yard line.
Norman tried to link up with a receiver down field but McLaney stepped in front for the interception. The senior returned it 26 yards to the 1-yard line, setting the Panther offense up.
After being stuffed on the first two tries on QB sneaks, Gordon took the next snap in shotgun and pushed his way up the middle for a 26-3 lead with 5:39 to play.
Franklin football (6-2) advances to the D1 South Semifinal and will take on top-seeded Xaverian (6-1) on Friday night at 7:00 in Westwood. The Hawks beat BC High 17-0 in the opening round.
Football – Playoffs D1 South
#4 Franklin, 26 vs. #5 Brockton, 3 – Final 1st Quarter: (B) Carlens Jean 27-yard field goal; (F) Nick Gordon 32-yard pass to Jack Nally, Parker Chevrant XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) P. Chevrant 23-yard field goal; (F) N. Gordon 10-yard pass to Sean Leonard, P. Chevrant XP good; (F) Safety.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (F) N. Gordon 1-yard rush, P. Chevrant XP good.
#6 Attleboro, 19 @ #3 Catholic Memorial, 42 – Final 1st Quarter: (CM) Barrett Pratt 16-yard pass to Hunter Tully, Thomas Leonard XP good; (CM) Darius Leclair 2-yard rush, XP blocked.
2nd Quarter: (CM) B. Pratt 30-yard pass to Brian Stubbs, Owen McGowen 2pt rush; (CM) Zach Mitchel 53-yard rush, Matt Sokol XP good.
3rd Quarter: (CM) B. Pratt 21-yard rush, M. Sokol XP good; (A) Jason Weir 1-yard rush, Colby Briggs XP good.
4th Quarter: (CM) B. Pratt 20-yard pass to B. Stubbs, M. Sokol XP good; (A) Justin Cote 94-yard kickoff return, XP failed; (A) Kevin Velazquez 44-yard fumble recovery, XP failed.
#1 Mansfield, 21 vs. #8 Bridgewater-Raynham, 7 – Final 1st Quarter: (M) Aidan Sacco 38-yard pass to Makhi Baskin, XP failed.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (BR) Anthony Morrison 56-yard rush, XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) Vinnie Holmes 12-yard rush, A. Sacco 2pt rush good; (M) Michael DeBolt 8-yard rush, M. DeBolt XP good.
#3 King Philip, 21 vs. #6 Braintree, 7 – Final 1st Quarter: (KP) Ryan Halliday 4-yard rush, Cole Baker XP good.
2nd Quarter: (B) Michael Tellier 1-yard rush, XP good; (KP) R. Halliday 1-yard rush, C. Baker XP good; (KP) Robbie Jarest 38-yard pass to David Morganelli, C. Baker XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: No scoring.
#4 North Attleboro, 21 vs. #5 Whitman-Hanson, 13 – Final 1st Quarter: (NA) Brendan McHugh 18-yard rush, Tyler DeMattio XP good.
2nd Quarter: (WH) Rian Schwede 5-yard pass to Nate Beath, Jake O’Brien XP good; (NA) Nick Raneri 2-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good; (WH) Ethan Phelps 7-yard rush, XP blocked.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (NA) B. McHugh 5-yard rush, T. DeMattio XP good.
#8 Stoughton, 14 @ #1 Duxbury, 35 – Final 1st Quarter: (D) John Roberts 11-yard pass to Will Prouty, XP good.
2nd Quarter: (D) J. Roberts 15-yard pass to W. Prouty, XP good.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (D) Tim Landolfi 12-yard rush, XP good; (S) Jeff Grier 18-yard rush, Jeff Cocchi XP good; (D) Jack Jacobson 42-yard rush, XP good; (S) John Burke 64-yard pass to Christian Ais, J. Cocchi XP good; (D) J. Roberts 15-yard pass to Ryan Prudente, XP good.
#4 Canton, 27 vs. #5 Hanover, 13 – Final 1st Quarter: (C) Brendan Albert 2-yard rush, Owen Lehane XP good; (C) Kyle Fitzgerald 5-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good.
2nd Quarter: No scoring.
3rd Quarter: (H) Andrew Carroll 60-yard pass to Drew Berard, Robbie Barrett XP good.
4th Quarter: (C) Johnny Hagan 13-yard pass to Jace Emma, XP missed; (H) Ethan Ritchie 66-yard rush, XP missed; (C) K. Fitzgerald 1-yard rush, O. Lehane XP good.
#8 Foxboro, 14 @ #1 Falmouth, 22 – Final 1st Quarter: (Fal) Jake Murphy 10-yard rush, J. Murphy 2pt rush; (Fox) Mike Luong 2-yard rush, Liam Foley 2pt pass to Brian Derba.
2nd Quarter: (Fal) J. Murphy 5-yard rush, Kyle Connolly 2pt rush; (Fox) L. Foley 15-yard pass to Shayne Kerrigan, 2pt pass failed.
3rd Quarter: No scoring.
4th Quarter: (Fal) J. Connolly 9-yard rush, 2pt failed.
Football – Non-Playoffs
Milford, 42 vs. Dartmouth, 6 – Final
Oliver Ames, 16 @ Medfield, 34 – Final 1st Quarter: (M) James Wilder 80-yard kick off return, Cameron Lund XP good; (M) Colby Gonser 3-yard rush, C. Lund XP good.
2nd Quarter: (M) Jimmy Cosolito 10-yard pass to Luke Slavick, C. Lund XP good.
3rd Quarter: (OA) Nathan Cabral 5-yard rush, Jake Erlich 2pt rush; (M) C. Gonser 5-yard rush, XP failed.
4th Quarter: (OA) N. Cabral 3-yard rush, Cam Perron 2pt pass to Ethan Eckstrom; (M) Luke Eilberto 3-yard rush, C. Lund XP good.
Sharon, 6 vs. Brookline, 24 – Final
Taunton, 47 vs. Weymouth, 20 – Final
Mansfield, 0 vs. Brockton, 1 – Final
Milford, 2 vs. Hopedale, 0 – Final – Milford scored once in each half to pick up a win at home over non-league rival Hopedale. Jordan Borges picked up where he left off from his game-winner against Canton, putting the Hawks up 1-0 in the first half on an assist from Leo Coelho. In the second half, junior Walisson de Oliveira doubled the lead on an assist from Joao Vitor Neiva. Lucas Caetano had a strong game defensively and Cam Doherty recorded the shutout in net.
North Attleboro, 3 @ Attleboro, 0 – Final – North Attleboro won the Blue-Red Cup behind two goals and an assist from Ashlyn Gaulin. Alex Moulson was also on the board for the Rocketeers, who got a team-record 10th shutout from goalie Emma Noreck. Morgan Silver, Bri Westcott, Sam Hawkins, Lydia Hershey, Liz Smahi and Olivia Bishop all had strong games defensively in front of Noreck.
Stoughton, 0 @ Sharon, 1 – Final – Sharon scored with 11 minutes to play to earn a win over Stoughton. The Black Knights thought they had the equalizer in the final minute but the goal was waved off for offside. Stoughton coach Tara Daniels said Nicole Weir had an outstanding game defensively for the Black Knights.
Mansfield, 1 @ Foxboro, 5 – Final
Milford @ Bellingham, 3:30
Stoughton, 1 @ North Attleboro, 3 – Final – Grace Cole, Jessica Stratham, and Hannah Alarie each scored once as North Attleboro earned a win at home over visiting Stoughton. Alanna McCormick scored for the Black Knights.
King Philip, 5 @ Algonquin, 0 – Final – King Philip built a 2-0 lead by halftime and finished strong with three goals in the second half. Meghan MacDonald (from Dana Truini) opened the scoring just over a minute into the game and then set up Abby Nixon five minutes later to go up 2-0. In the second half, Nicole Connor and Alli Meehan set each other up three minutes apart to increase the lead to 4-0. Claire Lawlor capped the scoring with 10 minutes to play on a feed from MacDonald.
Attleboro, 0 @ North Attleboro, 3 – Final
Canton, 3 vs. Quincy, 1 – Final – Canton fended off a comeback attempt from the Presidents of Quincy High, earning a 3-1 win at home (25-18, 25-18, 24-26, 25-18). Erin Devine had nine kills and six blocks to pace the Bulldogs at the net while Taylor Harris and Liz Bickett combined for 18 kills. Megan McDonough was amazing on defense with 22 digs and Nicole Brown continued her strong season with 25 assists and 10 digs.
King Philip, 0 @ North Quincy, 3 – Final – King Philip went on the road and suffered a 3-0 setback (21-25, 22-25, 13-25). For the Warriors, Catherine Waldeck had 11 kills and two blocks and Lily Carlow finished with five digs.
Oliver Ames, 1 @ Brockton, 3 – Final – Oliver Ames won the second set to knot the score at 1-1 but Brockton prevailed in the next two sets to get the win (17-25, 25-12, 12-25, 12-25). Jordan Bosse paced OA with 12 digs, eight kills, and a pair of aces. Sadie Homer added 37 digs, Allie Kemp finished with 22 assists, and Jackie Raymond chipped in with six blocks.
Sharon, 3 vs. Dedham, 0 – Final
Stoughton, 3 @ Cardinal Spellman, 0 – Final – Stoughton wrapped up the regular season with a sweep of Spellman. Molly Turner and Delaney Nagel combined for 23 kills and Amaya Morris (six blocks) and Mia Bennett (22 digs) provided strong defense for the Black Knights. Hanna Holden had 10 assists in the win.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Heading into Friday night’s contest against Taunton, Franklin head coach Eian Bain wanted to get as many of his skill players involved as possible to keep the Tigers’ defense guessing.
Senior quarterback Nick Gordon delivered with a near flawless performance, going 11-for-14 for 243 yards, connecting with six different receivers, and tossing four touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a dominant 42-7 win over Taunton.
Franklin was essentially perfect in the first half with Gordon completing all of his passes (7-for-7) and the team recording 254 yards of offense, scoring on all four of its drives for a 28-0 lead at the break.
“We got off to a very fast start and I thought we executed the game plan really well,” Bain said. “We try to think about players not plays so we wanted to get certain kids to touch the ball. We had a lot of different kids touch the ball tonight and that wasn’t by accident.
“Taunton does a nice job of changing up their looks, they don’t use the same coverages and fronts a lot. It’s a fun cat and mouse game to play but it’s tough. But we were ready, made some audibles, and when the run game hits, everything is easier and we had some nice runs.”
It was all Panthers from the get-go. After forcing Taunton to punt on its opening drive, Franklin needed just four plays to find the end zone. Owen Palmieri (10 carries, 50 yards) took the first play for 20 yards and the third for four more, sandwiched around a pass from Gordon to Jack Nally (75 all-purpose yards). On the fourth play, Gordon hit Ryan Driscoll (two catches, 88 yards) on a short bubble screen, and the senior got the block he needed to race for a 32-yard touchdown.
Parker Chevrant (6-for-6 extra points) drilled the point after for a 7-0 lead with 6:58 to play in the first quarter.
After another defensive stop that resulted in -5 yards for Taunton, Franklin needed just three plays this time around. On a broken play, Gordon scrambled to the left sideline and waited until the last second before linking up with Driscoll. After a nice block, Driscoll was able to cut inside and raced across the field for a 56-yard score and a 14-0 advantage with 2:59 left in the first quarter.
“We came out flat, we didn’t answer the bell at all to start the game,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “They are a good, athletic team and I know we’d have a tough matchup with them at spots defensively. I thought we might have been able to do a little more offensively but we didn’t. We had one good drive to start the second half running the ball, but we have to do that for all four quarters.
“We thought we’d be able to do some things but they did a nice job of getting the ball to their playmakers, they’re a skilled team.”
Taunton moved the ball some on its next drive but a tackle for loss from junior Austin Jordan put the Tigers in a hole and they were forced to punt. Franklin responded with its most methodical drive of the game, rattling off 10 plays to cover 50 yards. The longest play on the drive was from Gordon to Nally for 16 yards, and Palmieri finished with a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-0 with 5:31 left in the second quarter.
Franklin’s defense stuffed Taunton on a 3rd and 1 attempt to force another punt and get the ball back. And the offense wasted little time to move the ball yet again.
Nally and Gordon ripped off back-to-back runs that combined for 25 yards and then Gordon found Jake Davis in stride down the right sideline for a 45-yard touchdown and a 28-0 advantage heading into halftime.
“Keeping the offense on the field in a rhythm is a big part of it,” Bain said of his defense forcing quick three-and-outs. “Last week against KP, they had a lot of third and short opportunities. Tonight we were able to get ahead and get them into second and longs. When you can force a team to be one dimensional, it shrinks the playbook. Our staff is really good at creating different pressures. Noah is really dangerous, he can throw and run so you have to have smart pressure and I thought we did that this week.”
Taunton looked like a new team coming out in the second half, forcing its first three-and-out of the game to get the ball early in the third quarter. The Tigers offense rewarded the defense with its best drive of the game.
With a boost from senior fullback Damian Manning, who had two carries for 16 yards and one catch for five yards — two of those plays resulting in first downs, Taunton got on the board. On the eighth play of the drive, quarterback Noah Leonard used a QB sneak – with a push from Manning – to score from 1-yard out and cap an 80-yard drive to make it 28-7.
The momentum carried over to the Taunton defense, which again came up with a stop, including a big pass breakup from Curt Marshall. The Tigers got the ball back with 2:59 left in the third with a chance to make it a two-score game, but Franklin’s defense had other plans.
On third and 6, Franklin put pressure on Leonard and forced a quick throw on a screen attempt, and Taunton had to punt.
“It could have been closer there, but the defense did a nice job,” Bain said.
“We don’t scoreboard watch, we don’t care about what happened the previous drive or the previous play, we have to focus on the current play. We can’t worry that they scored the drive before, we have to make the stop on this series. That was huge for us.”
Franklin’s offense got back into gear, marching 71 yards on six plays, the big play a pass and catch from Gordon to Sean Leonard over the middle for 24 yards. Nally came across in motion and took a simple touch pass forward while on the run and went around the left edge for a 15-yard score and a 35-7 lead with 9:55 to play. It was Gordon’s fourth touchdown pass of the day.
“He’s like Ricky Bobby, he just wants to go fast,” Bain said of Gordon. “When I slow the game down in my play calling, I take away what he does well. He has that ability to go on the fly. The touchdown pass to Driscoll, the second one, that was a bad call and he made it a good one with his athleticism and vision. He does a lot of smart things too. He knows the situations and makes good decisions.”
Sean Hofferty added a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the final minutes.
Franklin football (4-2 overall, 2-2 Hockomock) returns home next Friday to take on Attleboro in what could be a potential playoff preview. Taunton (3-3, 1-3) will try to bounce back when it hits the road to take on King Philip.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – Coming off a difficult, emotional, last minute loss to Mansfield in last week’s title showdown, there was concern that King Philip may have a letdown against Thanksgiving Day rival Franklin. Both teams came into week five with one league loss and a setback on Friday night at Macktaz Field would effectively end that team’s chances of a league title this season.
The Warriors set aside any worries about the impact of last week’s loss by jumping out to an early lead and then put the Panthers away in the second half with 21 unanswered points.
KP beat Franklin 35-14 behind three touchdown passes from junior quarterback Robbie Jarest to earn its 13th straight victory in this series dating back to Thanksgiving 2009 and to stay just one game back of Mansfield in the division standings.
“I was definitely a little nervous about that,” KP coach Brian Lee said. “Our guys were talking about our maturity level and our compete level and [the Mansfield loss] was disappointing…but you’ve got to keep looking forward. You’ve got to think about playoffs and keep your eyes on a new direction.”
For Panthers coach Eian Bain, this was a missed opportunity for his team to earn that elusive marquee win against one of the league’s perennial powers.
“Our guys work hard,” Bain said. “But, it’s three years of working hard and not quitting and, eventually, we need to take the next step as a program and when that happens it’s going to be up to our team. King Philip isn’t getting off the pyramid and Mansfield’s not stepping off to give it to us, we need to go get it.”
The Warriors wasted no time in setting aside the disappointment of last week, driving 65 yards on eight plays on the opening possession of the game to take the lead.
Helped by a personal foul call against the Panthers and 26 yards on the ground from Ryan Halliday (25 carries, 134 yards), KP got the ball inside the red zone. Jarest (6-13, 94 yards) finished the drive by hitting Timmy Nault, who ran an angled route across the middle of the Panthers’ secondary, for an 18-yard score.
The KP defense was typically aggressive and allowed only one first down on Franklin’s first two possessions. Jack Webster’s sack pushed the Panthers back inside their own 10 and KP took advantage of solid starting field position to double the lead.
Halliday went up the middle for 21 yards on a draw that put the ball at the Franklin 28. Two plays later, on third and 10, Jarest again found the open receiver, connecting with Deric Casado for a 28-yard strike and a 14-0 lead.
“Every week he gets a little better,” said Lee about Jarest. “He gets a little crazy at times, but you saw it tonight, we’re feeling a little more comfortable with him, having more trust in him, and that’s only going to make our offense better. Our receivers are coming along too.”
Franklin got a much-needed response on its next drive. After an 11-yard run by Owen Palmieri, a 15-yard pass interference call moved the ball down to the KP 32-yard-line. A pair of Webster tackles at the line of scrimmage and an incomplete pass left Franklin facing fourth and nine, but Nick Gordon was able to hit Sean Leonard for 28 yards down to the three. Three plays later Gordon punched it in from a yard out.
KP got the ball back with 5:38 left in the half at its own 19. The Warriors proceeded to use up all but seven seconds of the quarter and got as far as the Franklin 21, but were forced to settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt from Cole Baker. The kick was on line but fell just a yard short and the score remained 14-7 at the break.
The Panthers went into halftime with the momentum, but KP turned that around quickly in the third quarter. The Warriors forced a three-and-out, scored a touchdown, forced a fumble and added another score to break the contest wide open in a little more than six minutes of game time.
“I felt like they had all the mojo,” said Lee. “They held us down there and I felt like, okay we’re in a game here. Now you’ve got to withstand that burst and they did that. They had a good response, so I was pleased.”
Jack Norgren returned the Franklin punt to the Panthers’ 47. From there, Halliday carried the ball five times for 22 yards. On first down from the 25, Jarest tossed his third score of the night, finding David Morganelli on a go-route down the left sideline to extend the lead back to two scores.
The Warriors pinned Franklin back at its own 13 on the ensuing kick-off and then two plays later Max Armour and Halliday forced a fumble when Gordon tried a keeper up the middle. Morganelli recovered the loose ball at the 12. On the next play Halliday, with a giant push from his offensive line, carried a pile of players into the end zone to make it 28-7.
Casado’s solid coverage on Leonard forced a turnover on downs inside the KP 30 on Franklin’s next possession and the Warriors turned it into another score. Sam Callanan (five carries, 46 yards) gave Halliday a rest and took the bulk of the plays on the drive. He found a seam on a toss to the left and was able to scamper home with a 12-yard rush that made it 35-7 with eight minutes remaining.
Gordon (5-13, 138 yards) did get the Panthers a consolation score just a minute later on an 84-yard pass to Ryan Driscoll, who showed off his speed in out-running the KP secondary from one sideline to the opposite corner. But, Nault intercepted a Gordon pass on the next possession to cap off an impressive second half display from the Warriors.
“It was Mansfield all over again,” Bain reflected. “There were moments where we could’ve made a play or two and maybe we don’t win but it’s a different game. We’ve got to turn it around because we’ve got two more left and if we want a shot at hosting a playoff game, then we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
King Philip (3-2, 2-1) will travel to Muscato Stadium to take on Oliver Ames next week, while Franklin (3-2, 1-2) will try to bounce back at Aleixo Tiger Stadium against Taunton.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield started Friday night’s league-opener at Alumni Field with back-up quarterback Jack Mousette under center. He lasted two series before an injury, following a 38-yard run, sent him to the sidelines for the rest of the night. With starter Damani Scott unavailable and Mousette on the bench with his arm wrapped in ice, the Hornets turned to senior Aidan Sacco to be the emergency QB.
Sacco only threw five times in the game, but he completed three of those passes for 42 yards and the Mansfield defense clamped down, forcing three turnovers in the second half and shutting Franklin out until the final two minutes of a 24-6 victory.
“It’s a gutsy win,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Jack comes in and did a nice job running the ball but the danger doing that is your QB is going to run and get hit and he just landed funny. Aidan Sacco came in…he’s never played quarterback in his life and he leads us to a win against a good football team, so we’ll take it.”
Franklin started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2012 and was looking for its first win against Mansfield since its unbeaten 2009 season. The Panthers moved the ball well, but failed to finish drives, twice reaching the red zone but both times coming away with no points.
“It was one of those night where try as we may, we did everything wrong that we could’ve from bad special teams snap, we dropped two touchdowns, every time they put the ball on the ground they got it back” Franklin coach Eian Bain said. “I even think we executed, we just didn’t finish the big plays.”
The Panthers drove all the way to the Mansfield 15-yard-line on their opening possession. Junior Thomas Gasbarro completed two of his three passes, both to Sean Leonard (six catches, 82 yards), but a draw play at the 19 lost six yards and eventually his keeper on fourth and 15 only gained nine to end the drive.
Mansfield made quick work of an 85-yard drive, needing only four plays, to take the lead, but in the process lost its starting quarterback. After Nick Marciano broke free on the right side for a 28-yard gain out to the 43, Mousette raced for 38 yards down to the Franklin 19 but was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury. Two plays later, Sacco went up the middle for a 14-yard score.
Sacco also fielded punts and his 29-yard return gave the Hornets the ball back at the Franklin 41. Junior Vinnie Holmes (11 carries, 65 yards) gained 27 yards on two carries to get the ball all the way to the Panthers 12, but a fumble on the next hand-off forced Sacco to retreat 18 yards. Two plays later, Michael DeBolt, who was also 3-for-3 on extra points, booted a 35-yard kick for a 10-0 lead.
Franklin’s offense went right back to work on its next possession. Senior Nick Gordon (10-23, 174 yards) was the new quarterback and he found Leonard twice in a row for 43 yards down to the Mansfield 17. On third and seven from the 14, Gordon scrambled and his pass to Ryan Driscoll in the back of the end zone was inches over the receiver’s head. The Panthers settled for a field goal attempt but Parker Chevrant’s kick was wide right from 30 yards.
Gasbarro intercepted a Sacco pass to end the next Hornets drive, but he slipped on the return and couldn’t gain extra yards after the turnover. Franklin was forced to punt from its own 32, but a high snap rushed the play and it was sliced out of bounds just six yards downfield.
Mansfield made the great starting field position count to add a score before the break. After an incomplete pass, Sacco hit Holmes in the flat for a 28-yard gain. Sacco was unable to handle the next shotgun snap but Holmes was able to scoop the loose ball and gain eight yards. On the next play, he bulldozed for two more and a three-score lead.
Redding said of the late touchdown to end the first half, “That was big. You outplay them but it’s only 10 and you give them the ball to start the half and they score and it’s a whole different game. Then we thought, if we can win the third quarter, which it ended up 0-0, as long as we didn’t let them get back to two scores.”
The third quarter was marred by turnovers by both teams. Gordon was intercepted by Cincere Gill and then sacked by Chris Copponi and Daenin Walker to end a possession. Austin Jordan recovered a Mansfield fumble to get it back for the Panthers but only three plays later the Panthers put the ball on the ground and Jack Barry recovered.
“We do a pretty good regrouping, but I think we pressed a little on the first drive coming out,” said Bain. “Then we moved the ball again and we moved the ball again, but we all took turns tonight, coaches included, making the little mistakes. When you play the best, you can’t play anything but your best and we weren’t at our best tonight.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Walker forced another fumble that was recovered by Copponi at midfield. Gill (eight carries, 95 yards) gained four yards on first down and then burst through the right side of the line and raced 46 yards for the touchdown that sealed the win.
The Panthers didn’t give up and responded in just four plays. Gordon hit Driscoll on a go route down the near sideline that made sure there wouldn’t be a shutout. The two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.
Mansfield came away with a win, but the Hornets will now head into a showdown with two-time defending league champion King Philip with a third-string quarterback at the helm. According to Redding, the Hornets will be relying even more on their defense to come through.
“We had to get this one,” Redding admitted. “We lose this with a quarterback going down, now we’re fighting a losing battle. Now, Aidan’s got some confidence playing in a game. Our guys will be ready for next Friday. They’ve had our number the last few years and we’ll be ready to play.”
Mansfield (2-1, 1-0) will host King Philip at Alumni Field on Friday night, while Franklin (2-1, 0-1) will try to bounce back right away when Oliver Ames visits Pisini Field.
Injuries hampered Attleboro right from the start of the 2017 season, but the 2018 Bombardiers are healthy and hoping for a big turnaround this fall to compete with the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division and make a return to the postseason.
The graduation of quarterback Cam Furtado is a significant loss on offense, but the Bombardiers will hand the ball to junior Jason Weir, who has a big arm and a lot of potential at the QB position. Size and strength won’t be a problem for Weir, who played defensive end as a sophomore. Seniors Justin Cote and Alex Rodriguez will be the primary backs for Attleboro this year and give the Bombardiers dynamic weapons out of the backfield. The offensive line is bolstered by 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior Qualeem Charles and 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior Nick Evans. At 6-foot-3, junior Nolan Jaeger will be a weapon at receiver along with senior Josh Therrien and sophomore tight end Michael Strachan.
Evans battled injuries at the start of last season, but he is one of the top defensive linemen in the league and is drawing Div. I college offers. Attleboro will be a tough team to run against this season with Evans on the end and Charles (who is also getting DI looks) and 6-foot-3, 365-pound senior Eddie Porreca on the inside. Strachan and junior Isaac Gudiel will be starting at inside linebacker, while senior Desmond Woodson will be starting on the outside. Therrien is capable of making plays downfield at his free safety position and will be the leader of the secondary.
“I am looking forward to the 2018 season,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have a strong senior class and we have strong leadership on our football team. Our team worked out hard in the off-season and I am looking forward to that hard work paying off this season.”
Third-year head coach Eian Bain is optimistic about the 2018 season, and the long list of players returning with plenty of experience is a big reason why. The Panthers have over a dozen players back that started or saw significant time on offense and the same goes for the defense, include a very seasoned secondary.
Franklin must replace three-year starter Jake Noviello at quarterback but Bain is confident that a healthy competition between senior Nick Gordon and junior Thomas Gasbarro will result in a strong option starting under center for the opening week. While Franklin has to replace its quarterback, they return a ton of skill players on offense including senior tight end Sean Leonard, who hauled in a league-best eight touchdown passes last season. Ryan Driscoll (five touchdowns), Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Jake Davis will fill out the receiving corps while Sean Hofferty and Owen Palmieri man the backfield. Seniors Riley Downing and Liam Arsenault are experienced and will anchor the offensive line.
Junior Evan Wertz will be a key piece in the middle of the Panthers’ defense after having a breakout campaign last year with nearly 100 tackles from his linebacker spot. Senior Spencer Briggs and sophomore Alex Honor will also see time at linebacker while Downing is joined by Jack Jarosz, Dom Natale, and Keenan Bassma on the defensive line. The Panthers boast a seasoned secondary with Nolan McLaney and Driscoll both back, along with Palmieri, Jake Davis, and both Gasbarro and Gordon.
“We have experience on both sides of the ball,” Bain said. “It is a cohesive group that has been working hard together for our first two years and they are eager to the turn the corner with our program.”
The target on King Philip’s back is bigger than ever as the Warriors pulled off a second straight undefeated season and another state championship.
So how will head coach Brian Lee get this year’s team to focus on 2018 and not the past two seasons?
“The work and preparation have been the same but now it’s up to this season class to leave their legacy,” Lee said. “The previous two classes had their moments, now it’s up to these seniors to make their own moment. This team will go as far as these seniors lead them.”
The seniors will have plenty of opportunities to make their mark because King Philip doesn’t have a returning starter on offense. The Warriors need to replace quarterback Brendan Lydon, who didn’t lose a game as a starter. Junior Robbie Jarest looks poised to take over under center this season. While it isn’t a lot of experience, Jarest took over in the second half of the state final after Lydon got hurt and helped the Warriors finish off Lincoln-Sudbury. The toughest shoes to fill will be those of Shane Frommer, who will go down as one of the best players in KP history.
Junior Ryan Halliday will be the feature back while Aidan Bender and Sam Callanan will be in the mix as well. Jack Webster and Jack Collentro will be keys to the offense from the fullback position. Senior Terrell Jacobs Bastons has some experience on both sides of the ball and will likely start at guard while classmate Josh Fice will fill in the other guard spot. Junior Nolan Gunning is likely to get a starting spot as well, either at center or tackle.
Defense has been a staple for the Warriors throughout their successful run over the last couple of years, and that’s what KP will count on again this season. The strength will come from the linebackers with Webster back in an outside spot and Max Armour returning in the middle. Jacobs Bastons will be a big presence in the middle of the defensive line while the secondary will have familiar faces back in Aidan Bender, Timmy Nault, and safety Luke D’Amico.
And as we saw in the state final, having a reliable kicker is priceless. Cole Baker, who booted the winning field goal in the final, is back for his third year. Not only will he be a big help on offense, his kickoffs will be a weapon for the defense.
Mansfield has finished second in the Kelley-Rex in each of the past three seasons and the Hornets will be counting on experience under center and depth at the skill positions to end King Philip’s two-year reign atop the division and return to the top of the league standings for the first time since 2013.
Senior Damani Scott will be the starter at quarterback for the second straight season and he will be backed up by the capable Jack Mousette, giving the Hornets plenty of experience and reliability from their signal caller. Scott will also have a ton of weapons to call on this year with a skill position group that head coach Mike Redding calls one of the best that Mansfield has had in a while. Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco will be weapons in the passing game while junior Vinnie Holmes is back in the backfield. Juniors Makhi Baskin, Michael DeBolt (who was also an outstanding kicker last year), and Nick Marciano will provide depth in the slot/running back positions. Senior Daenin Walker and junior Jason Comeau will add experience to the offensive line.
Defensively, Holmes will return to the linebacking corps after setting a program record for tackles in a season as a sophomore. Seniors Chris Copponi and Philip Dinov also return and can play as linebackers or as defensive ends depending on matchups. The secondary will be strong for the Hornets this year with Conner and Sacco at the corners and Marciano and Baskin at the safety positions. The only new additions on the defense are Anthony Capece at noseguard and junior Joe Plath at linebacker.
Redding said, “We have an experienced, athletic, aggressive defense that should be tough to score on and we’re young on offense, but have a ton of depth and talent at skill positions. Just need to gain some experience up front with our new guys on OL and DL.”
The 2018 version of the Oliver Ames Tigers have already had to make an audible after star running back Anthony Berksza suffered a season-ending injury over summer. Berksza had a breakout year last season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and finished with 16 total touchdowns, 15 of those rushing.
With Berksza out, Oliver Ames will rely heavily on the rest of its returning starters to carry the load. Junior Cam Perron returns under center after taking over the starting job during the regular season last year. While Perron looks to find some of his options, he has an offensive line protecting him that has some experience but will be looking to form cohesiveness throughout the year. Dean Pacini, Shane Murphy, Billy Tat, Luke Thibeault, and Garrett Wood all return with experience playing on the line. One challenge will be finding someone to step up and be a leader of that group after the graduation of two-time all star Jack Mills.
Nathan Cabral takes over as the feature tailback and OA head coach Mike Holland is confident the junior can get the job done. Holland says Cabral runs hard and is a tough player. Perron will also have the likes of Shane Kilkelly, Jake Erlich, and Evan Craig to work with as targets.
The heart of the defense will be at the linebacker position. Both Pacini, Murphy, and Darnele Ryan return after starting there last year and Holland will count on both senior captains to lead the way for the Tigers. Sam Stevens is back in the secondary at the safety position but OA will need some new faces to emerge alongside him.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season,” Holland said. “We have a great group across the board. We have some experienced players back and some talented players competing for jobs.”
Taunton started last season with a 3-0 record, one of the program’s best starts in years, but then lost five straight games, including a playoff game against BC High, the top seed in Div. 1 South. The Tigers turned it on again from that point, winning the final three games of the season, including an impressive win against Brockton, to finish with a winning record under second-year head coach Brad Sidwell.
Experience will be a key for the Tigers this season, as Taunton tries to build on that playoff appearance and the momentum from a strong closing stretch. Senior Noah Leonard will be the starting quarterback for the third straight year and is now fluent in Sidwell’s offensive system. Leonard will have familiar targets in senior wideouts Brayden Merrill, Tryton Zavala, and Wesner Charles, while junior Cam Carroca looks to step in as a feature running back and junior Javon Franklin is a new target in the passing game. On the line, Taunton returns plenty of size in 6-foot-3, 337-pound tackle Christian Tourinho and his fellow senior Cam Correiro. Senior Ryan Williams will be the center, while junior Mason Frank, listed at 6-foot-2 and 274 pounds, will be back to battle at the line of scrimmage.
Size and athleticism will be strengths for Taunton on the defensive side of the ball as well. Tourinho, Correiro, and Frank can bottle up opposing running games and will be joined on the line by seniors Corey Pintabone and John Rockwood. Williams will lead the linebacking corps along with classmates Max Moitoso and Kyle Cuoto. Senior Prince Brown will be back at corner and senior Sebastien Celestin looks to step into the safety position.
“Taunton football is progressing forward,” said Sidwell. “Like all teams, we’d like to gain some confidence early in the season and carry it on. The Kelley-Rex division is challenging with great programs, coaching staffs, and communities. We are happy to be a part of it and want to represent Taunton High well by competing at the high standard set by the other league members.”
Clemente is an imposing force on the offensive and defensive lines for the defending Davenport division champions and Div. 3 Super Bowl runners-up. As both a guard on the offensive line and defensive tackle, Clemente impacted the game on both sides of the ball and helped the Rocketeers control the battle in the trenches. He has the size and power that would be expected from someone in his position but also has quick feet and the athleticism to stay in front of opposing linemen or pick up blitzing linebackers. One of his most impressive traits is the ability to pull from his guard position, combining speed and power to clear the way for the run game. Clemente’s presence in the offensive line, opening up holes for the running game, makes North a favorite to claim a fourth straight league title this fall. Also, if you are into battles at the line of scrimmage, then keep the Sept. 28 game with Milford circled, as Clemente and North take on the Hawks and their heavily-recruited lineman Kevin Pyne.
The Bombardiers will have a lot of offense to try and account for after the graduation of Cam Furtado and Elvin Sam, and Cote is one of the players that will try to keep the Attleboro offense clicking this season. Cote is listed as a wide receiver but was used in a number of ways by head coach Mike Strachan last fall, scoring five touchdowns on the ground and catching four others, and that versatility causes matchup problems for opposing defenses that are trying to keep tabs on him. He is quick with a low center of gravity that makes it hard for defenders to corral him and Cote showed that he can also fight for the extra yards when needed. Whether out of the backfield or split out wide, expect Attleboro to find ways to get the ball in his hands often and let him make big plays.
Foley started last season splitting time with Devin Hassett and this year will take over the full-time job at starting quarterback, trying to get the Warriors back to the top of the Davenport division for the first time in three seasons. Foley tossed a pair of touchdown passes last year, and he will be asked to build on that experience to lead the Foxboro offense this fall. The Warriors typically focus on the ground game first, but Foley has shown that he can make plays downfield and has a strong arm that allows him to make quick, accurate throws. He can also keep the ball and, like Hassett last year, get crucial yards when necessary. Foxboro was very close to getting back on top in the league last fall, and Foley will be hoping to step in and get the offense going for the Warriors.
The Bulldogs were a young team last fall, and that experience will be critical for Canton to make a push for the state tournament. One of the players that will benefit from a year on varsity is Hagan. The junior quarterback tossed four touchdown passes last year and ran for two others, showing flashes of the dynamic, all-around game that earned him the starting role as a sophomore. Canton typically keeps the ball on the ground, but the graduation of Alec Ragusa could open the offense up more for Hagan to have the ball in his hands. He has the toughness and strength to grind out yards in the ground game and showed good accuracy throwing while on the run. His ability to make plays outside the pocket gives the Bulldogs additional options offensively, but it will be his improved decision-making after a year under center that could propel the young Bulldogs up the league standings.
Milford senior Sean Lehane made a big impact for the Scarlet Hawks last season. As the kicker, he was a game changer for both the offense and the defense. His kicking power and accuracy gives Milford a shot at points from spots on the field that other offenses don’t have. And on top of that, extra points aren’t always a sure thing at this level so Lehane gives the Hawks stability and confidence there. When it comes to helping the defense, his deep kickoffs and punts can help Milford dominate the field position battle. Lehane will also try to give the Hawks a boost while on offense as the senior will see time as a wide receiver. He’s shown what he can do with his feet so it will be interesting to see how he can help the Hawks’ offense with his hands.
Two years removed from being named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, Taunton senior quarterback Noah Leonard is now in his third season under center for the Tigers and a veteran in the system installed by third-year head coach Brad Sidwell. Leonard helped Taunton achieve a winning record last fall, despite his touchdown total dropping from 14 as a sophomore to 11 as a junior. With a cadre of returning receivers and plenty of size on the line, Leonard has the chance to be in complete control of the offense this year, continuing to develop as a runner (six touchdowns on the ground last year) to complement his accuracy out of the pocket. The Tigers will be hoping to build on the momentum of a three-game win streak to close out 2017 and if Leonard can keep the Taunton offense moving, and avoid turnovers, then another trip to the postseason could be in the cards.
Sean Leonard emerged as one of the top targets for Franklin quarterback Jake Noviello last fall and was one of the top big-play receivers in the league in his second season as a starter. Leonard had 36 catches for 561 yards as a junior and caught eight touchdowns. Capable of making plays down the sidelines with his speed, Leonard is also a threat through the middle, forcing defenses to cover that space and providing a tough matchup for coverage schemes by lining up in multiple positions. This season, Franklin may look to get the ball into Leonard’s hands in a variety of ways to take advantage of his playmaking ability while also using him as a good edge blocker to allow the ground game to flourish. With Noviello gone, the QB position is up for grabs this fall but Leonard will remain a player that the Panthers will look for as often as possible to keep the offense clicking.
North Attleboro’s offense is going to look a little different this season without three-year starter Chad Peterson under center, but the Rocketeers will have plenty of weapons for the next quarterback to utilize, including the multi-talented McHugh. One of North’s most dangerous weapons during its run to a third straight league title and the Div. 3 Super Bowl, McHugh rushed for 641 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for more than 300 yards and another three touchdowns. His speed to get to the edge and ability to turn upfield on a dime made North’s jet sweep effective even when teams knew it was coming. McHugh also has great hands and was able to find seams in the secondary either in the middle of the field or down the sidelines. The Rocketeers do not mind grinding out long drives, but McHugh gave them the capability for big plays on every snap and that will be a key this fall for the Davenport division favorites.
One of the most highly-recruited players in New England has made his way to the Hockomock League this season and will be an imposing addition to the Milford offensive line. Pyne is listed at 6-foot-8 and 275 pounds and has been a dominant force for Millis, helping that program continue its dominance in the lower divisions. With a number of Div. I college offers in his pocket, including the likes of Michigan and Boston College, Pyne will present a unique challenge for a league that has prided itself on the strength of its defenses. Coaches will surely be targeting pass rushes away from Pyne and will face the daunting task of trying to get around him to tackle the ball carrier. With quick feet, strength, and good balance, Pyne will be a wall that teams will have to try and maneuver to get into the Milford backfield and should give Milford more options on the offensive side of the ball to try and make a run at a league title and a return to the postseason.
Mansfield will be gunning for a return to the top of the Kelley-Rex division this season and the Hornets have a number of skilled players back to make it happen, including Scott. The senior signal caller will be in his second season as the full-time starter, after finishing fourth in the league with 12 touchdown passes last year. Scott has a big arm and great vision downfield to find receivers that other quarterbacks might have missed. Even with the graduation of record-setting receiver Hunter Ferreira, Scott will have plenty of weapons to take advantage of, particularly out of the backfield, and as he continues to get more comfortable in the pocket the Hornets offense will get increasingly dynamic. Expectations are typically high at Alumni Field this season and those expectations are further fueled by Scott’s experience and talent in running head coach Mike Redding’s balanced offense. Mansfield will be tested early and, as usual, the Sept. 28 game against King Philip is already circled as the biggest test for Scott and the Hornets in the league.