NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The game was moved from Friday night to Sunday evening because of inclement weather and the atmosphere was not nearly as charged as it usually is at Community Field. The Rocketeers started sluggishly, falling behind against visiting Milford but turned it on in the second half to break open a close game and stay unbeaten in the division.
Behind 139 yards of offense from Bobby Mylod and 134 from Nick Rajotte, North Attleboro scored 35 straight points (21 unanswered after the break) and allowed only one first down in the second half to roll to a 35-7 victory.
“Especially with our field situation,” North Attleboro coach Don Johnson said of the difficulty of preparing for a Sunday game. “We get two extra days where we can practice, but we had to go in the gym because we couldn’t get a good field where we can practice. I think that explains some of the lethargic play that we saw in the first half.”
Milford got a first down on its opening possession behind senior Blake Hill (19 carries, 83 yards), but a pair of incompletions under pressure from the North defense forced a Sean Lehane punt. Rajotte had it ricochet off his shoulder pads and Tony Mobiliarecovered for the Hawks at the Rocketeers 26.
Matt Curran (2-9, 24 yards) hit Jack Cappalletti for 10 yards down to the 15 and Hill followed with a 14-yard burst through the middle to get a first down at the one. Two quarterback sneaks later, Curran squeezed over the goal line to give Milford the 7-0 lead.
North bounced back on its next possession with Rajotte accounting for 43 yards on the ground and through the air to get in Milford territory. With North facing fourth and 13, Chad Peterson (10-12, 125 yards) looked down field to Mylod for a 30-yard strike to tie the game.
On its next possession, Milford had a chance to look down field, but Kayden Kelly could not haul in a pass on the sideline with Kyle McCarthy in tight coverage and the Hawks would give the ball back to the Rocketeers. Peterson hit David Engler twice and Mylod had a 26-yard gain on a sweep to get down to the Hawks 29. After Hill stuffed Rajotte for a loss, Peterson again laid out a pass for Mylod to run under and the 32-yard touchdown made it 14-7 at the break.
“We had a couple opportunities early in the game to keep it neck-and-neck,” said Milford coach Joe Todd. “Our defense played well at times, but we gave up too many big plays in critical situations.”
North received the ball to start the second half and set up about taking control of the game. The Rocketeers engineered a 10-play, 76-yard drive to go up by two scores. Rajotte had the first 35 yards of the drive and McCarthy broke a 20-yard run down to the 13. Mylod went straight up the gut to the one, where the ball popped loose. Engler followed the play and dove on it for the touchdown.
“I think that was important,” said Johnson of the second half drive, “and good teams should be able to do that, come out and move the ball on the first drive and establish it. We haven’t done that all the time this year, so it was good for us to do that for once.”
Milford’s next possession ended on a sack by Jack Dakin. The Hawks would not get another first down for the remainder of the game, as the North defense locked down the running game. The Rocketeers held Hill to only 17 yards on eight carries after the break by dominating the line of scrimmage, particularly Thomas Reynolds, Thomas Kummer, and Jay Loring, who battled Milford’s big lineman Riley Burns all night.
“I think we wore them down a little bit,” said Johnson. “Nice to see us doing that to someone for once, instead of King Philip doing it to us.”
With the gap widening, the Hawks were also forced to go away from their strengths needing to score quickly. Todd explained, “Once we came out of halftime and they scored on that first drive, we really needed to score after that and we didn’t. Offensively, it’s tough for us to score fast, it’s not our style, so I think that was a big advantage for them.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, North took over at its own 27. Rajotte needed only one play to add another score, breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage and then winning a foot race against several Hawks for the 73-yard score. After Loring sniffed out a fake punt on Milford’s next possession, Jonathan Shultz tacked on a 31-yard TD.
“It was nice to see Rajotte break that long one in the second half,” Johnson said. “We haven’t had that opportunity yet where we had everyone in their in the second half. We’re going to need it.”
Todd concluded, “Our strength is obviously running the football and I think they were able to find our tendencies and offensively I thought they did a great job of attacking some things that we were trying to take away.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2016 Davenport Football Preview
2015 Record: 6-5
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Dave Bohane
Key/Returning Players: Dan Alice, Sr., HB/DB; Dennis Ross, Sr., QB; Alec Ragusa, Jr., FB/LB; Brian Smith, Sr., OL/DL; Mark Whalen, Sr., OL/DL; Joe Mulkay, Sr., HB/DB; Thomas Monagle, Sr., K/FB/LB; Dan Pierre, Sr., TE/DE; Tony Harris, Jr., WR/DB; Ben Paolillo, Sr., OL/DL; Mike Marino, Sr., HB/LB.
Outlook: After falling victim to the playoff system’s alignment and just missing out on a postseason berth, Canton will be relying on a mix of experience and youth to try and get back to the state tournament under the new alignment.
Davenport division MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jake Ragusa is off playing at Merrimack so that will be a major void for Canton to fill. However, the Bulldogs do return some players in key spots that will help them out of the gates. Senior Anthony Ross is back under center and could see an expanded role in 2016. Dan Alice is back after suffering an injury last season and should lead a stable of running backs, led by fullback Alec Ragusa. Joe Mulkay, Dan Pierre, Tony Harris and Mike Marino should all factor into the offense as well for Canton.
Defensively, Canton has some experience on the line in Brian Smith, who also plays as a tackle on offense, as well as Mark Whalen, who saw valuable minutes last year, and Ben Paolillo. Alec Ragusa will be the anchor in the linebacking corps alongside Thomas Monagle (also the team’s kicker) and Marino. Harris, Alice and Mulkay figure to be important pieces in the Bulldogs’ secondary this year.
“The kids have a strong work ethic and had a good offseason and now a good preseason,” head coach Dave Bohane said. “I think we’ll be strong up front on both sides and we have kids in key spots with experience.”
2015 Record: 8-3 (Davenport Division Champions)
2015 Finish: Reached D4 South Semifinal
Coach: Jack Martinelli
Key/Returning Players: Jamaine Few, Sr., WR; Mark Clagg, Sr., QB; Joe Bartucca, Sr., OL/DL; Trey Guerrini, Sr., WR/DB; Alex Parillo, Sr., OL/DL; John Cronin, Sr., K; Matt Mullally, Sr., LB; Brandon Corey, Sr., LB; Paul Darcy, Sr., DB; Matt Pond, Jr., LB.
Outlook: Coming off the program’s first league title since 2010, the Foxboro Warriors are hoping to stay near the top of the Davenport division again this year. And with one of the top returning quarterbacks in Mark Clagg under center for another year, the Warriors will likely be in the thick of the division race.
Clagg threw for nine touchdowns last season, third most among returning quarterbacks. After splitting some time with Darren Kelly last year, it looks like it was be Clagg’s spot full time in 2016. Another positive for having Clagg back is the experienced wide receivers he will have to work with. Jamaine Few is a big, experienced target at 6’3 and will be a tough one on one matchup for defensive backs. Trey Guerrini also has experience with Clagg while Phil Dure and John Whitehouse could be viable options as well. Foxboro will have to fill the void at running back, after the stability of Ronnie Martin and Keeyon Neal in previous years. Eseosa Omuemu, Matt Mullally and Anthony Capachietti are all possible choices to start in the backfield.
Defensively, the Warriors will rely upon experience in the linebacking and defensive back corps. Junior Matt Pond and senior Brandon Corey will be key cogs among the linebackers while Paul Darcy and Guerrini will be key pieces in the Warriors’ secondary. Foxboro will look to develop solid options on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“As always, the senior leadership plays a key role in the success of the 2016 campaign,” head coach Jack Martinelli said.
2015 Record: 7-4
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Joe Todd
Key/Returning Players: Blake Hill, Sr., RB/LB; Ryan Gray, Sr., OL/DL; Asong Aminmentse, Sr., RB/LB; Riley Burns, Sr., OL/DL; Harrison Bliss, Sr., RB/LB; Tony Mobilia, Sr., WR/DB; Jack Cappelletti, Sr., WR/DB; Alec Salamone, Sr., RB/DB; Pat Brogioli, Jr., OL/DL; Tyler Joyce, Jr., TE/LB; Shapel Feaster, Soph., RB/DB, Matt Curran, Jr., QB.
Outlook: The Scarlet Hawks have posted back-to-back 7-4 seasons and are hoping to continue their winning ways in 2016. With 11 starters returning, Milford is on the right track to do so.
It all starts with Yale-commit Blake Hill, who will be a top player on both offense and defense this season. Offensively he can hurt you in many ways, including running with the ball or catching passes. Hill will have some space to run thanks to an experienced offensive line that includes Riley Burns, Ryan Gray and Pat Brogioli. Junior Matt Curran will take over under center for the Scarlet Hawks and will have Jack Cappelletti, Tony Mobilia and Tyler Joyce as pass catching options to work with.
Defensively, Hill is one of the top linebackers in the league. He’ll be flanked by Harrison Bliss, Asong Aminmentse and Joyce. Burns, Gray and Brogioli will all be two-way linemen for the Scarlet Hawks. Shapel Feaster, who will also see touches on offense, will be in the secondary along with Alec Salamone, Mobilia and Cappelletti.
2015 Record: 9-2 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions)
2015 Finish: Reached D3 Southwest Semifinal
Coach: Don Johnson
Outlook: As with any defending league champion, the North Attleboro Rocketeers will have some holes they’ll have to fill this year. But Big Red also has a slew of talented, experienced players back as North Attleboro looks to make a splash in its first season in the Davenport division.
Junior Chad Peterson is back under center after a breakout sophomore season in which he tossed 13 touchdowns, second most in the Hockomock League. While Kelley-Rex MVP Nick Morrison has graduated, North Attleboro returns Bobby Mylod and Nick Rajotte, who will give the Rocketeers a variety of attacking options. Thomas Reynolds will anchor the offensive line from the center position while Peterson will look for Hacmoni Cuevas, David Engler, Mario Bresko and Nick Dean to emerge as receiving threats.
It will be a lot of the same faces making plays on the defensive side of the ball. Reynolds and senior Tom Kummer are two major pieces and will take up the center of the defensive line. Mylod emerged as one of the top linebackers in the Hockomock and in the state last season and will be complemented at the position by Ryan Kingston, Zach DeMattio and Cuevas. Rajotte and Kyle McCarthy both had solid years in the secondary last season and will be big pieces to the defensive puzzle again this season.
“It’s going to be an interesting year switching to the Davenport division,” head coach Don Johnson said. “It certainly isn’t going to be any easier.”
2015 Record: 4-7
2015 Finish: Reached D3 Southeast Quarterfinal
Coach: Dave Morse
Key/Returning Players: Juvan Elisma, Sr., RB; Josh Rotman, Sr., WR/CB; Nate Hirsh, Sr., OL/DL; Ian Langol-Leonard, Sr., OL/DL; Wilhelm Bolt, Sr., OL/DL; Xavier Hackett, Sr., OLB; Drew Naisuler, Jr., QB; Austin Dodes, Jr., WR; Sam Spencer, Jr., RB.
Outlook: A lot of the players listed as key and returning players for Sharon this season were also on last year’s list, and that’s a good thing for the Eagles, who are looking to take the next step forward in 2016.
Junior Drew Naisuler will step into the starting role at quarterback and will have some weapons at his disposal right away. Running back Juvan Elisma had a stellar 2015 campaign as a junior, rushing for eight touchdowns – tied for fourth most in the Hockomock League and tied for second in the Davenport. Now Elisma will look to cap a strong football career at Sharon by leading an Eagles’ rushing attack that will likely include junior Sam Spencer as well. Naisuler will have an experienced receiver as Josh Rotman is back for another year while junior Austin Dodes figures to be another target this season.
“Our season will be decided by how physical we can be and if our new varsity players can step up and make an impact,” head coach Dave Morse said.
The Eagles will also bring back some experience on both sides of the line. Nate Hirsh has been a key cog of the line on both sides of the ball for the Eagles. Ian Langol-Leonard and Wilhelm Bolt also will likely be key experience pieces up front for Sharon. Defensively, Rotman also is back as a talented defensive back. Xavier Hackett is another name to keep an eye on, as the senior has been able to make plays for Sharon in the past and looks to do more of the same in 2016.
2015 Record: 6-5
2015 Finish: Reached D3 Southwest Semifinal
Coach: Greg Burke
Key/Returning Players: Ryan Sullivan, Sr., RB/DB; Izon Swain-Price, Sr., RB/WR/DB; Dave Cellucci, Sr., QB; Nick Hardy, Sr., RB/DB; Jack Connelly, Sr., TE/LB; Harry Kimball, Sr., OL/DL; Lino Azul, Sr., OL/DL; Andrew Iverson, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Pierre, Sr., OL/DL; Justin Ly, Jr., FB/LB; Brendan Walsh, Sr., OL/DL.
Outlook: No matter what team, it’s always going to be difficult to replace a three year starter at quarterback. But with the talented offensive line Stoughton has back this season and senior Dave Cellucci taking over under center, the Black Knights’ offense is in good shape.
The offensive line returns starters Lino Azul, Ryan Pierre and Andrew Iverson while Harry Kimball and Brendan Walsh – who both started on the defensive line – will play on both sides of the ball now. That experience will help give Cellucci a little more time in the pocket when he’s called upon to throw. Meanwhile, Ryan Sullivan, Izon Swain-Price and Justin Ly all figure to be key pieces in the backfield. Sullivan and Swain-Price caused havoc for defenses last season with a combined 10 rushing touchdowns. Swain-Price will also be a receiving option while Jack Connelly is back for another year at tight end.
Stoughton will look to continue its tradition of having a staunch defense. The Black Knights have depth on the defensive line with Pierre, Azul and Kimball all seeing time there along with junior Jason Joseph. Iverson, Ly and Connelly will all see reps at linebacker and Sullivan and Izon Swain-Price will likely be two of the top defensive backs in the entire league.
“We hope to stay healthy and get into the playoffs,” head coach Greg Burke said. “This has been a great group in the weight room and conditioning, that will have to carry us in the league. We know it will be a tough league this year.”
By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield coach Mike Redding has North Attleboro roots. Although he has been in charge of the Hornets for over 25 years and bleeds green, he took a moment after Friday night’s installment of this fierce rivalry to go to the Rocketeers celebrating at Alumni Field and congratulate them on the league title and urge them to bring home the Div. 3 state title.
It was a classy move by the Mansfield coach at the end of another emotional matchup between longtime rivals and perennial title challengers that North Attleboro won 14-13 to clinch the Kelley-Rex title outright and potentially the No. 1 seed in Div. 3 Southwest.
“This is great high school football,” said Redding. “It was a slugfest, two great teams, two great defenses, yards were hard to come by but both teams did enough to put themselves in position to win.”
The win gives North Attleboro its first league title since 2011 and its first outright Hockomock title since 2008. Once again, as has been the case all season, it was the Rocketeers defense that came up with the plays to win the game.
Leading by just a point with time winding down in the fourth quarter, North punted. Mansfield took over at its own 37 with less than five minutes remaining.
The Hornets got to the Rocketeers 33 and threw incomplete on first down. On second and 10, North dialed up a blitz and Bobby Mylod shot the gap to stuff Brian Lynch for a six-yard loss. On third down, the Rocketeers came again and sacked Anthony DeGirolamo for a seven-yard loss back to the 46. On fourth down, Kyle Gaumond leapt and swiped the ball out of the hands of Hunter Ferreira to end the drive.
North Attleboro ran out the clock and celebrated the victory.
“What we were trying to do is just get pressure on the quarterback,” said North coach Don Johnson. “I thought they had guys that they could throw to in the passing game…We were worried about it the whole game.”
“Defense has been doing it for us all year,” he added with a smile. “I’d just like the offense to score a couple more and make it a little easier for us.”
The Rocketeers offense looked great at the start of the game. Against a Mansfield defense that has been solid all season, North took the opening kickoff and marched 67 yards on 14 plays to take the lead.
Nick Morrison (12 carries, 68 yards) was big on the drive with six rushes, including a crucial fourth down and one gain of seven yards near midfield. Sophomore quarterback Chad Peterson showed off his arm hitting Davon Andrade for 18 yards and then snuck a shovel pass to Mylod on fourth and one from the four for the go-ahead score.
North Attleboro would not get another first down until its second possession of the third quarter.
Johnson said, “I think they frustrated us a little on offense. We had some blown assignments that we haven’t had in a few weeks, but I think that had a lot to do with their scheme over there.”
Mansfield was not able to get much going offensively but got a little spark right before the half. Ben Budwey’s punt return set the Hornets up at the North 37. DeGirolamo (7-11, 165 yards) hit Ferreira for 18 yards and then, following a four-yard loss, hit him again for another 10.
The Hornets had to settle for a 23-yard Diogo DeSousa field goal but were on the board and went into the break down 7-3.
To start the third quarter, DeGirolamo was strip sacked by Thomas Reynolds and Thomas Kummer jumped on the loose ball at the Hornets 37. But the Mansfield defense forced a turnover on downs, helped in part by Joe Bukuras’ tackle in the flat on Nick Dean for a four-yard loss on third and one.
The Hornets offense took advantage of the momentum swing and drove 71 yards on eight plays to take Mansfield’s first lead. DeGirolamo and Ferreira (six catches, 164 yards) hooked up for a 32-yard completion into North territory and then combined again on a 12-yard touchdown pass to the front pylon that put Mansfield ahead 10-7.
“He made some great passes,” said Redding of DeGirolamo. “Hunter is a great athlete and we tried to get him the ball tonight.”
“The offense is coming together. We just need to find a way to get to 21-24 and with our defense we’re going to win games.”
The lead was short-lived, as North Attleboro showed its resiliency to bounce right back. Peterson hit Ridge Olsen on the far side of the field for 14 yards and Nick Rajotte got 11, before Morrison broke free down the North sideline sprinting past his cheering teammates and the Hornets defense for a 39-yard score.
“We had the momentum,” said Redding, “and if we get one stop there and get the ball back with the lead, I think we win it. But, they’re a championship team, they answered, and they scored.”
Mansfield was not done. After a Connor Flynn sack pushed the Hornets back to third and 21 from their own 27, DeGirolamo and Ferreira connected on a 64-yard pass (taking advantage of a slip by the defensive back) down to the North nine. Again, the Hornets had to settle for a field goal and trailed 14-13 with 7:58 left.
Redding explained, “We thought we outplayed them in the second half and probably needed to score on the drive before, but we didn’t want to come up empty and thought that if we got a field goal and got the ball back that we felt good about driving.”
“Tonight we were just one drive away.”
Mylod, Gaumond, and the North defense did enough to stymie the Hornets on their final drive. When a personal foul flag was thrown for a late hit out of bounds on Mansfield with 1:30 left, the game was won and so was the title.
“I felt this team got over the hump and gained that confidence,” said Johnson. “This week in practice I had that feeling that everyone knew what they were doing for the first time. They entered the game with a lot of confidence.”
Even in defeat, Redding felt that this game had plenty of positives for the Hornets with the Div. 2 playoffs looming. He said, “We get a second life next week; this isn’t the end of the season. If we play like we did tonight, then we can make a run.”
He shook hands with the media and walked over to the North Attleboro players. As Mansfield made its way to the locker room, turning its back on the loss and focusing on next week, the Rocketeers stayed on the field taking a couple of moments to savor the win for a few more moments before moving forward.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.