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.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Taunton ran 60 plays to Franklin’s 27. The Tigers had seven drives that reached Franklin territory, including three that reached the red zone, but came away empty on each possession. The Panthers put together only two drives of more than five plays, but they found the end zone four times.
Although it felt closer than the final score, Franklin made the big plays on both sides of the ball and rolled to a comfortable 35-0 win over Taunton on Friday night at Pisini Stadium. The win keeps Franklin unbeaten overall and in a three-way tie for first in the Kelley-Rex.
“They had a ton of chances,” Franklin coach Eian Bain admitted. “[Taunton] put the pressure on us, they did some things that made it hard to do what we wanted. When you play bad football, you can’t win games. The first thing we had to do was get rid of the bad football and once we got rid of bad football, we were able to compete a little better and we made some plays.”
Taunton coach Brad Sidwell was rueing missed opportunities for his offense in each of the past two weeks and a missed opportunity to end his former team’s perfect record. “We’ve got to capitalize when it’s our opportunity and we didn’t do it,” he said. “I knew their offense was pretty potent and their defense is kind of underrated. They’re pretty fast and and they run to the ball and make plays. We’ve got to make sure we punch it in early on.”
The Tigers, helped by two third down penalties, moved the ball near midfield on their first drive before punting. Just two plays later, they were behind. Jared Arone started away from the Franklin sideline then looked back and hit a wide open Mack Gulla (240 total yards),who had leaked out of the backfield, for a 69-yard score.
Nathan Keenan returned the ensuing kick 33 yards out to the 44 to give Taunton good starting field position for its next drive. A 15-yard screen pass from Jacob Leonard to Evan Perrotta and a 19-yard sweep by Jose Touron got the Tigers into Franklin territory. The Panthers clamped down on the ground game and on fourth and three from the 15, Leonard’s pass to Touron fell incomplete.
Mckyen Gonsalves recovered a Gulla fumble two plays later to give Taunton back the ball at the Franklin 35. A sack by Jay Gulla and Nick Quintina pushed the Tigers back, but on fourth down Leonard connected with Touron on a 21 yard catch and run to get the ball to the five. Taunton only managed two more yards and Keenan’s 20-yard field goal slid wide right.
Two personal foul calls ended Franklin’s next drive quickly and Taunton again started in opposition territory. A good tackle on third down by Jack Marino forced a Tigers punt. Nick Lima’s sack of Arone forced a three-and-out and Taunton got the ball at the Franklin 39. This time the Tigers gained six yards but Leonard (14-of-34, 182 yards) couldn’t connect with Touron on fourth and short.
With just over two minutes remaining in the half, Franklin went into its hurry-up offense and put together its best drive of the game. Helped by a face mask call, the Panthers quickly got into Taunton’s end of the field but a touchdown pass to Will Tracey was called back because an ineligible receiver downfield. Arone (8-of-11, 132 yards) would eventually fire a strike down the middle to Shane Kindred, who held on through contact for a 15-yard score with just eight seconds left in the half.
It was the third time in five games that Franklin has put together a drive like that to close out a half.
“That was the backbreaker and then it turned the tide the rest of the way,” Sidwell explained. “I felt like we could keep fighting if we could put one in there but after that it was tough to keep it together. I was worried we were going to have to match their scores and we certainly didn’t.”
Although it felt like Taunton had the ball for the bulk of the first 24 minutes, the Panthers led 14-0. Just 1:13 into the third quarter and the lead grew to 21-0. After another touchdown pass to Tracey was called back by penalty, Gulla (10 carries, 170 yards) took a carry to the left, cut inside the tackle, and then bounced it to the sideline, racing away from Taunton defenders for a 56-yard touchdown.
“Mack really took off in the second half,” Bain said. “We haven’t used him a lot catching the ball but tonight we were like we’re going to get him a ball or two out of the backfield and he caught that one and went with it. Mack is a very powerful kid but he’s very fast. He’s got a lot of breakaway speed so when you give him enough room he can make a big play.”
Taunton tried to mount a scoring drive to stem the home team’s momentum. Leonard found Touron with a nice pass on the run to convert third down and then followed that with a 29-yard pass down the near sideline to Troy Santos. The Tigers got as far as the Franklin 27, but a sack by Jay Gulla set up third and long and two incomplete passes later the drive was over.
On the very next play from scrimmage, the game was effectively over too. Mack Gulla broke through the line and into the secondary where he spun off a hit, cut to this right to the sideline and was gone. The 73-yard score put Franklin up four scores with 18 minutes left to play.
A 39-yard screen pass to Perrotta, who appeared to be dragged down but actually landed on a Franklin player before getting up for an extra 15 yards, gave Taunton first and goal, but Cullen Pek stuffed a run for a loss of one and then Jase Lyons intercepted a pass at the goal line. Lyons would later add his second pick of the night, perfectly reading and undercutting an out-route, and returned it 24 yards for the game’s final score.
Bain praised his team’s ability to not have a letdown after last week’s big win over Mansfield. He said, “There’s something to be said about getting used to people talking about you, having articles about you, we had Homecoming going on, but we talked to the kids about championship mentality. I thought we responded in the second half and that was big.”
The Bombardiers, who trailed by a pair of goals in the second half, cashed in during the final minute of play on a penalty kick to steal a point on the road in a 3-3 draw with the Tigers.
A long throw-in into the area in the final minute of play took an unlucky bounce and hit off the hand of a Tiger defender, giving the visitors a penalty kick. Sophomore Alex Vecchioli sent the keeper the wrong way, tucking his shot into the corner to bring the Bombardiers level with seconds left.
While it was an unfortunate bounce, the call was correct. But the throw-in before that, the one that led up to the handball, was more than just your average throw-in.
Seconds before, Taunton keeper SuJavonte Fernades grabbed a loose ball in the area off a cross but a teammate went down with an injury right in front of him. Fernandes immediately punted the ball out for the injury, but the Bombardiers didn’t buy it and elected to keep the throw instead of playing it back to the keeper.
“When you’re that close, you go for it,” explained Attleboro head coach Peter Pereira. “They were playing with the time delay, which is all part of the game but when you start doing that, we can play it too. But they are a good team, and they are young so they’ll be good for a couple of years now.”
While Attleboro took the early lead, it was the hosts who dominated play for a solid 50 minutes of action.
Attleboro junior Esvin Morales won a free kick from 25-yards out off a handball just eight minutes into the game, and before the ref could stop the time to map out 10 yards for the wall, Morales floated a shot to the far post before the keeper was ready and just like that, the Bombardiers built a 1-0 advantage on the road.
Taunton was coming off its first loss of the season after opening the year with four wins and now found themselves in an early hole against a division foe. But the Tigers, who have a very young roster with just three seniors, responded like a veteran squad.
Seven minutes after falling behind a goal, Taunton found the back of the net with the equalizer. Junior Aidden Fitting drove a free kick into the attacking third where junior Riley Rebello was the first to it, flicking it on with his head to put the ball in behind the defense. Junior Conal Scully made the run onto it and tapped it in from in close to make it 1-1.
It looked like the visitors would retake the lead just minutes later when Morales drove a low corner to the near post and Liam Bischoff faked the defense with a terrific dummy, but the ball went through the area and the chance went begging for the Bombardiers.
Taunton started to knock on the door over the next couple of minutes. A bit of “Route One” soccer saw Fernandes blast a long ball over the top of the defense that Rebello nearly chased down but Attleboro defender Cashel Stuger did well with his position to shield it back to sophomore keeper Tyler Rocchio.
Three minutes later, Taunton sophomore Delano Costa-Hanlon won a loose ball in the midfield, linked up with Rebello but his blast was denied by a nice diving effort from Rocchio.
The Tigers finally broke through on their third good chance in a 10-minute span. A quick throw from Scully down the left sideline found Rebello, who used his size and skill to create enough space to launch a cross to the far post where Sete de’letoile was all alone and tucked away his header.
“I’m really proud of them because even at the end of the game, they kept their head up and got together as a group and were focused on moving on,” said Taunton head coach Taylor Whitters. “They are working hard, we have a great group of guys that are very talented. We just have to keep learning from these mistakes.”
It was a dream start to the second half for the hosts, tacking on a third goal less than a minute in. Scully cut the ball back to his right foot at the top of the area and curled a shot past the outstretched keeper and off the far post and in.
“They play good soccer, they have nice ball control,” Pereira said of the Tigers. “They got a couple of goals to go ahead and then that third one was beautiful, no one is going to stop that. With 20 minutes left, we had to push people up. We got a break on the second goal and we went from there. That’s a good point away for us…they probably should have had the game but it’s not over until it’s over.”
As time ticked into the latter portions of the second half, the Bombardiers elected to push numbers forward. Luke Hagopian nearly linked up with Morales on a nice diagonal ball but Taunton defender Jonathan Trinh did well to recover and deny the through pass. A minute later, Vecchioli’s shot from distance was gobbled up on the bounce.
Attleboro got a big boost in the 63rd minute when Stuger blasted a free kick from midfield into the area and the ball slipped through the keeper’s hands and into the net, cutting a two-goal deficit in half to make it 3-2.
The Bombardiers were on the front foot for the rest of the game. Vecchioli found classmate Billy Badger in behind the defense but the latter’s touch was too heavy and grabbed by the keeper.
Before the pen, it looked like Fernandes had saved the two points for the hosts. Thomas Russo came flying out of the back with possession for Attleboro and he found Vecchioli, who did well to drift away from the defender. Vecchioli carried in the area, cut back to get space from the defender, and ripped a left-footed blast from 12 yards out but Fernandes parried it away with a diving effort.
“Any time we have a setback or a failure, we take it as a lesson and try to turn it around for future games,” Whitters said. “We have to have more of a success rate for a long stretch of the game. They are working hard at it and they’ll get there.”
Taunton boys soccer (4-1-1) will try to bounce back at home on Monday when they entertain Oliver Ames. Attleboro boys soccer (3-2-1) returns home for a date with Stoughton.