Below are the official 2019 Hockomock League Football All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Hockomock League MVP
Vinnie Holmes, Mansfield
Kyle Fitzgerald, Canton
Hockomock League All Stars
Qualeem Charles, Attleboro
Michael Strachan, Attleboro
Jason Weir, Attleboro
Austin Jordan, Franklin
Thomas Gasbarro, Franklin
Evan Wertz, Franklin
Jack Nally, Franklin
Jake Davis, Franklin
Sean Piller, King Philip
Ryan Halliday, King Philip
Robert Jarest, King Philip
Terence Guy, Mansfield
Vincent Holmes, Mansfield
Michael Debolt, Mansfield
Nicholas Marciano, Mansfield
Cincere Gill, Mansfield
Jason Comeau, Mansfield
Nathan Cabral, Oliver Ames
Daniel MacDougall, Taunton
Jack Connolly, Canton
Kyle Fitzgerald, Canton
John Hagan, Canton
James Murphy, Canton
Robert Gallery, Canton
Aidan Dow, Foxboro
Shayne Kerrigan, Foxboro
Anton George, Foxboro
Michael Sheehan, Foxboro
Luke Rosa, Milford
Colby Pires, Milford
John Kummer, North Attleboro
Ethan Mottinger, North Attleboro
Ethan Friberg, North Attleboro
John Saab, Sharon
Carlvin Laguerre, Stoughton
Anthony Pizzano, Stoughton
Chris Ais, Stoughton
Christin Ais, Stoughton
NATICK, Mass. – As the celebrations took place all around him at Natick’s Memorial Field, Mansfield coach Mike Redding was able to smile and joke about the old adage that an ugly win is so much better than a beautiful loss. That counts double this time of the year.
The Hornets racked up nearly 100 yards in penalties, had three first half drives stall inside the red zone, and didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of Friday night’s Div. 2 South title game, but still walked away with a 22-3 road win against top seed, and previously unbeaten, Natick.
It was the defense that carried Mansfield to its first Super Bowl since 2013. The Hornets allowed only 45 rushing yards, six yards passing, had three sacks, and held Natick to only two first downs on the night. Both first downs came on one drive in the first half, and one came by way of a penalty.
“As sophomores they lost in the semis, lost last year in the finals, this year we get there and win it, so every year they just go a step further,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said of his senior class. “They’ve overcome a lot of stuff, injuries, and it’s a great group and it will be a lot of fun taking them to Gillette. I told them they’ve been through a lot but it’s all worth it when you walk down the ramp at Gillette Stadium.”
Senior running back and linebacker Vinnie Holmes (18 carries, 131 yards) added, “This just means the world to everyone. We’ve just worked so hard for this. Winter, spring, in the weight room, we just knew that this was our goal. We wanted to get to Gillette and that’s exactly what we did.”
On its second possession of the game, Mansfield started to move the ball. Jack Moussette (6-of-11, 64 yards) hit Cincere Gill for a perfectly executed 16-yard completion to the near sideline on third down to jumpstart the drive. Gill (seven carries, 41 yards) then weaved his way for 17 to the far sideline and Michael DeBolt (six carries, 41 yards) added 10 more to the Natick 14.
A chop block penalty backed the Hornets up and, despite a completion and a draw play to Holmes making it a manageable third and four, the Natick defense held firm. DeBolt booted the Hornets into the lead with a 26-yard kick.
The hosts answered right back. Natick started at its own 40 and two plays later were given a boost on a 15-yard penalty to reach the Mansfield 37. Two five-yard runs, including one by quarterback Will Lederman, who had missed the last four games with a knee injury and wasn’t expected to start the final, and an offsides call made it first and five at the 22.
Holmes stuffed a play for a three-yard loss and a pair of incomplete passes forced Natick into a 41-yard field goal by Sam Waltzman to tie the game. It was as close to the end zone as the Redhawks would get all night.
Mansfield again marched into the red zone in the second quarter but an illegal push call backed them off the goal line and a hold backed them up to the 13. In the end, DeBolt was forced to come on and get Mansfield three more with a 21-yard kick.
Natick fumbled the ensuing kick and Mansfield appeared to recover it, but the officials ruled that the ball went out of bounds first. Lederman nearly hit Nick Ofodile on a bomb on the first play but it was dropped. Nico Holmes and TJ Guy stuffed the next play for no gain and on third down Everett Knowlton pressured Lederman into an incompletion.
Vinnie Holmes broke free for the first time on a 53-yard run to get the Hornets to the 32. After a nine-yard pass from Mousette to Danny Rapoza, Mansfield had first and 10 at the 17. Moussette tried two passes to the corner but both fell incomplete and DeBolt came out again to kick a 28-yard field goal and make it 9-3 at the half.
“We moved the ball but just couldn’t finish,” Redding explained. “They’ve got some big dudes and once we got in the red zone, they know we’re not going to throw and it just got tough and then we shoot ourselves in the foot with all the penalties. It felt like at the half we should’ve been up 14, 17-3.”
On the opening drive of the second half, Mansfield was struck by a controversial penalty on Gill. The junior running back was ruled out for the rest of the night, but Redding saw the ejection as adding even more fuel to his team’s second half push.
“I thought it was unwarranted,” he said, “but it rallied the troops for sure and emotionally everybody stepped up and everybody got more physical. Backs were running hard and it was like, this is our game and we’re going to take it.”
Late in the third quarter, Mansfield appeared to convert a third and 14 on a screen pass to Holmes only to have it called back on a penalty. On the next play, Mousette connected with Nick Marciano for a sliding, 15-yard grab. Facing fourth and one, Marciano gained eight on a draw play to keep things moving. Marciano (nine carries, 41 yards) got the call again at the three, running the wildcat and finding a hole on the right side for a touchdown.
“We couldn’t punch one in, settled for three field goals,” said Holmes about Mansfield offense. “In the locker room we were just saying we need to punch this next one in. We need to punch it in and that puts us in a good position to win.”
Chris Graham sacked Lederman to start the next drive and then he and Holmes pressured the quarterback into an incompletion for a three-and-out. Mansfield’s offensive line and running game seemed to have worn down the Natick defense. Holmes and Marciano combined for nine plays and 53 yards, with Holmes breaking an 11-yard rush, to make it 22-3 with just 4:45 to play.
“Defense played great all night,” said Holmes. “Everyone just played their hearts out, played with enthusiasm. It was a great game.”
The Hornets continued to make plays defensively. Graham got his second sack of the night, then combined with Nico Holmes to stuff Natick running back Jalyn Aponte for no gain. On third down, Nick Bertolino stepped up from his cornerback position to make a big hit and a fake punt came up short.
“Oh my God, it’s crazy,” said Graham following the trophy celebration. “It’s great to be able to go back to Gillette. We wanted it so bad, we’ve been working so hard, trying so hard. Every morning in the summer we were up early in the weight room.”
He added, “When we got into the locker room on Monday, we had a note taped on the locker that a Natick player said we weren’t going to score one point on them. That their defense was too god. Well, we came out 22-3.”
Mansfield (9-1) will take on North champion Lincoln-Sudbury in the D2 Super Bowl at Gillette the weekend of Dec. 7. The date and time of the state title game has not been set.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The past two seasons, the Mansfield football team has had its hopes of competing for a state championship dashed by rival King Philip.
The Hornets weren’t going to let that happen again this year.
Mansfield senior quarterback Jack Moussette tossed four touchdowns in one of his best performances of the season and junior Cincere Gill accounted for four total scored to help the Hornets roll to a 34-6 win over #3 King Philip.
“I was just trying to make the most of my opportunities,” said Moussette, who completed 12-of-17 passes for 230 yards. “We run the ball the majority of the time but Coach Redding told me ‘I trust you, go out there and do your thing tonight.’ I just tried to do the best I could. We had a great game on the ground and in the air, it was overall a great team win, I’m really proud of the guys. The offensive line stepped up big when we needed them too.”
While the Hornets have won the past two regular season meetings (28-27 in 2018, 15-13 this season), the Warriors have been the ones with the last laugh. KP knocked off Mansfield 13-11 in the semifinals in 2017 and celebrated with the D2 South trophy on Alumni Field last season after a 10-7 triumph.
“We’ve won the last two regular season games to win the league title but back-to-back losses, when you’re this close to Gillette…the guys have been waiting a year for another chance,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “We got the monkey off the back in the league, the playoff thing was like a gorilla on our back. It would have been another long year if we blew this one. But being home, being healthy for a change in the playoffs has made a difference. We’re doing it in all three phases right now and with confidence.
“Every year we play them we seem to get seven and get stuck. Last year in the playoffs, we got seven early and didn’t score. This year we got seven and didn’t score until the end. We harped on that, get to 14, get the 14-point lead, build off that. Tonight we got more than that which is great but extending the lead was critical.”
Mansfield made it clear early on that repeating that feat would be a tough task. After a punt and a red zone turnover, the Hornets got on the board on their third series.
Moussette hit Danny Rapoza (three catches, 58 yards) for 32 yards on first down, and four plays later, used play action before connecting with Gill (five catches, 107 yards, three touchdowns) out in the flat and the junior used his speed to race inside the pylon for a 7-0 lead with 11:54 left in the second quarter.
The Hornets’ defense helped set up the next score. Nico Holmes and Chris Graham combined for a tackle for loss, and the front seven helped pressure King Philip quarterback Robert Jarest (8-for-23, 107 yards, touchdown) into a throwaway that was flagged for intentional grounding.
Stuck at their own 11, KP chose a quick kick from Jarest on third down trying to flip the field. Mansfield took over at the KP 46-yard line and quickly cashed in. Gill faked outside to shake his defender and Moussette delivered a pass on the mark for a 46-yard touchdown with 9:19 left in the second quarter.
“It’s a lot of people to cover and I think their quarterback has come along,” said King Philip coach Brian Lee. “He’s the one piece that’s the difference for them right now. He’s getting better and better, it was tough. It’s a lot to defend, and on a short field, you’re asking for trouble.”
Makhi Baskin broke up a third down pass on KP’s next drive and the Hornets took over at their own 32-yard line with 7:12 left to play in the half. Vinnie Holmes (12 carries, 70 yards) broke off a 17-yard run and Gill hauled in a 27-yard pass but Mansfield was faced with a third down when they entered the red zone.
Moussette faked to his right before dropping off a pass to the left on a screen to Everett Knowlton. Junior TJ Guy came up with a big block to spring Knowlton for an 18-yard touchdown, and Michael DeBolt’s third of four successful extra point attempts gave the hosts a 21-0 lead with 3:41 left in the quarter.
“We had a great night throwing, and I think that was the difference,” Redding said. “Jack was on, we had some good matchups with Cincere [Gill] out as a receiver, Danny [Rapoza] did a good job. I think that was the difference was our ability to throw the ball. We ran pretty well but we had to throw it.
“And our defense was lights out, and the field position was a pretty big factor with the kicking game. We fed off the field position, defense got stops. Now you can take chances on offense because you have four downs. Things went our way from the beginning.”
Mansfield nearly added more points before the break with runs from DeBolt and Nick Marciano helping get the Hornets inside the red zone. But a pass fell through a receiver’s hands in the end zone and KP sophomore Crawford Cantave snatched the interception with under a minute to play.
King Philip looked to have a bright start to the second half when Jarest connected with Alex Behling for almost 30 yards down the sideline but a holding call erased the completion and two plays later, Marciano came up with an interception to give Mansfield the ball back with good field position at the KP 23-yard line.
Four plays later, Gill took the handoff, cut up field and found the end zone with an 11-yard touchdown, and a 28-0 advantage with 7:59 left in the third quarter.
“One thing that was a little disappointing was that we got beat up, we got out-physicaled, out-played,” Lee said. “I’m not sure what was so different this time than last time but it definitely was a big difference. When they are out in front, they get on you. You have to keep it close with them. They are loaded, they have a lot of guys. They are coached well and they believe.”
The Warriors put together their best drive of the game in response. Jarest had a first down pass to Behling and Ryan Halliday (13 carries, 47 yards) barreled his way for a first down. Jarest linked up with Behling again for a 42-yard gain to get inside the red zone.
On the next play, Mansfield’s Joe Plath broke up a pass intended for KP’s Drew Danson, but the loose ball was hauled in by Andrew McKinney along the back of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown.
Sophomore Mark DeGirolamo recovered an onside kick attempt from the Warriors, and the Hornets needed just three plays to strike. DeBolt hauled in a 19-yard pass, Holmes grinded out nine yards, and Moussette connected with an open Gill for a 24-yard touchdown, and a 34-6 lead with 3:14 left in the third quarter.
“We have great receivers,” Moussette said. “Cincere is unbelievable, I worked all summer with Danny Rapoza, I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the league. We have guys on the sidelines like [Joe] Cappelletti that can come in and make plays. We’re loaded with weapons and coach is doing his best to get everyone involved.
“This means the world to me. We got up in the summer every day at 5 in the morning to work out. Our main goal is to win a state title and we wanted to beat KP. We were lucky enough to do it twice this year, I couldn’t be prouder of the team. We really battled and put it all together to show everyone what we’re all about.”
Mansfield football (8-1) will play at top-seeded Natick in the D2 South Final, but the date and time have yet to be posted by the MIAA. King Philip (7-2) will enter the non-playoff pool for one week.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – An early turnover gave Franklin the ball in Mansfield territory and the Panthers gained a couple of first downs before kicking a field goal to grab the lead. Then the Hornets took control with their defense, not allowing the Panthers another first down until inside five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Using a three down linemen look, Mansfield consistently got into the backfield without needing to blitz and, with a little assist from Mother Nature, disrupted Franklin’s typically potent passing attack on Friday night at Pisini Stadium. The Hornets scored 26 straight points to take control and rolled to a 39-9 victory that keeps them unbeaten in league play and alone atop the division standings.
“We’ve got a very, very good defense,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “They’re as athletic a team as we’re going to play but fortunately we’re pretty loaded in the secondary, but it’s a combination of us playing great ‘D’ and terrible weather conditions for them.
“We can run to the ball, we can cover, we can pressure, you throw in the conditions on top of that and it’s going to be hard for anyone to move the ball against us.”
The Panthers came in knowing that they still had a chance at possibly sharing the league title and the energy on the sideline was palpable. It got even louder when Jack Nally picked off Jack Moussette’s third-down pass on the opening series of the game and gave Franklin the ball at the Mansfield 37.
A 15-yard run by Owen Palmieri got the offense going and then a pair of completions from Thomas Gasbarro (18-30, 125 yards) to Jake Davis (seven catches, 92 yards) got Franklin down to the seven-yard-line. After going nowhere on three plays, Franklin got on the board with a 24-yard Parker Cheuvront kick.
It would be Franklin’s only possession of the half with the wind at its back.
Mansfield’s running attack was better suited for the blustery conditions and the Hornets used Michael DeBolt, Vinnie Holmes, Cincere Gill, and Anthony Comer on the opening drive to get into Franklin territory. A personal foul against the Panthers got the ball as far as the 18, but the Hornets went backwards and had to settle for a 41-yard kick by DeBolt to tie the game early in the second quarter.
The teams traded punts and Mansfield made its field position advantage pay off. Starting at its own 49, Mansfield would use five plays to grab the lead for good. Nick Marciano lined up at quarterback on the drive to give a different look and, on third and 12, he took a direct snap and found a seam on the left side of the line, racing 35 yards for the go-ahead score.
Marciano would also contribute to the game’s turning point. He hustled to down a Gill punt, pinning Franklin back at its own one. The snap flew over the head of Gasbarro and out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 12-3 Mansfield lead.
After the kick-off, the Hornets started again in great position, at the Franklin 36. Moussette had a pair of completions to Danny Rapoza and one to Joe Cappalletti to get down to the 23. DeBolt took a sweep 10 more yards and, after a spike to stop the clock, Moussette hit Gill in the front corner of the end zone for a 13-yard strike.
Redding said, “It went to a two-score game and then the throw to Cincere when we weren’t even supposed to throw to, Jack saw the one-on-one and took advantage of it. We did a lot of good things keeping them at a healthy distance to keep the lead.”
Mansfield added to its lead in the third quarter, again making good starting field position pay off. The Hornets needed only four plays to score from the Franklin 29, with Holmes (nine carries, 55 yards) finding a hole on the left side and bursting through for a 21-yard touchdown run.
The Franklin passing attack was finding it hard to get going, mostly due to the pressure put on Gasbarro by TJ Guy, Chris Graham, and the Hornets’ defensive line. Mansfield was getting into the backfield and not giving the Panthers time to look downfield, while being able to keep plenty back in coverage in case the ball did get out.
“I don’t think he ever felt comfortable,” Redding explained. “Even when we didn’t bring people, our three guys were getting enough pressure to make him throw a little early. We funneled in six guys in those three spots to stay fresh.”
Franklin coach Eian Bain said, “We had planned to try and get the ball out quick, but it was kind of a tough spot going into the wind. We tried to run the football. I think we only had the first possession and didn’t have the ball with the wind until the fourth quarter.”
A glimmer of hope came with three minutes left in the third. Gasbarro hooked up with Davis on a 41-yard completion, the receiver juggling it before hauling it in and getting to the Mansfield 35. The same combo connected again a few plays later for a 20-yard touchdown.
Momentum was fleeting. Holmes burst through the line to block the extra point and then Gill took the ensuing kick-off 84 yards right up the middle of the field for a back-breaking touchdown.
“We still had our chances,” Bain said, “but we just couldn’t get out of our end of the field tonight and I think that was what was pretty frustrating.”
Ethan Thevenot tacked on a late touchdown for the Hornets with a 65-yard run to extend the final margin.
The Hornets were coming off a big win against King Philip last week, but Redding wasn’t afraid of a letdown from his team. He said, “There was no way we could have a letdown. Our guys knew how good Franklin was, so I think it was maybe best game we could’ve had after KP because we knew they were next in line and we had to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Mansfield (4-1, 3-0) will look to solidify its position atop the Kelley-Rex division and clinch at least a share of back-to-back league crowns when it hosts Oliver Ames on Friday. Franklin (3-2, 1-2) will try to solidify its position in the Div. 1 South bracket when it travels to Attleboro next Saturday.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – With four of the last five meetings between King Philip and Mansfield football being decided by three or less points, it’s no surprise the teams were locked in another tight battle on Friday night.
And in games so tightly contested, it’s often a small play here or there that can make the biggest difference.
Mansfield senior Nick Marciano blocked an extra point attempt and later converted a two-point conversion rush to help the Hornets secure a 15-13 win on Macktaz Field over the host Warriors.
“It’s a great win, but its Mansfield-KP, it’s gotta go to the wire,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. “Both teams are going to find a way to get points and it’s always great defensively. It’s business as usual between these two.
“They really battled, this is just such a great rivalry, there’s so much pride on both sides.”
The Hornets held a 15-6 advantage and took over on offense after Mahki Baskin hauled in an interception in the end zone with just 5:30 left. But Mansfield was unable to kill much of the clock, and in true fashion this rivalry, King Philip made a game of it.
Just two minutes after turning it over, the Warriors were in the end zone. Senior quarterback Robert Jarest (14/26, 194 yards) orchestrated a four-play, 64-yard drive that took little time off the clock. Jarest hit Alex Behling for a 16-yard touchdown, and suddenly the Warriors were down just 15-13 with 3:18 to go after Dylan Conti‘s extra point.
But KP’s onside kick attempt failed to travel 10 yards, and the Hornets took over in Warrior territory. Senior Vinnie Holmes (13 carries, 106 yards) did the rest, sealing the deal with a 23-yard first down rush that allowed Mansfield to kill the rest of the clock.
“It was circled on our calendar from the beginning of the season,” Holmes said. “We knew this was going to be our biggest game so far that counts. La Salle didn’t really count. This one counts for us and it was great to get this win.
“We always know that they can always inch back. They did it last year versus us, almost got that two-point conversion to win. We knew they could do it. We knew we had to put the pedal to the metal. Stop them. Get that first down at the end that was big and then eventually run out the clock.”
Mansfield got off to a perfect start, needing just four plays to cover 52 yards in 2:22 to take the lead. After three run plays, the Hornets went play action and senior quarterback Jack Moussette (6/10, 72 yards) found Danny Rapoza open down the right sideline. Michael DeBolt split the uprights for the extra point to make it 7-0.
That would be all of the scoring in the opening half. King Philip’s first drive went for 12 plays but only 35 yards, stalling around midfield. The Warriors’ two other possessions were three-and-outs with a total of four yards.
Mansfield had solid field position throughout but couldn’t solve the KP defense. The Hornets had to punt on their second and third drives of the game and failed to convert a fourth down as time expired in the first half.
King Philip lost star running back and linebacker Ryan Halliday (eight carries, 25 yards) to an injury early in the second quarter but the Warriors’ offense was able to overcome, putting together its best series out of the break. The Warriors marched 80 yards on 14 plays, converting four third downs on the drive. Jarest hit Brian Wassersug for 24 yards on one third down to move into Hornet territory, and two plays later, the senior quarterback connected with Drew Danson for 38 yards to get down to the one-yard line.
It took four tries from there, but sophomore Crawford Cantave was able to punch it across to get the Warriors on the board.
But Marciano came up with one of the biggest plays of the game, flying across to get just enough on the ball to block it and keep it low.
Mansfield failed to convert on fourth down on back-to-back possessions but the Hornet defense held the Warriors to a combined -11 yards on its next two series. DeBolt and TJ Guy (sack) had key stops to help Mansfield get the ball back.
This time the Hornets did cash in on the good field position. After converting a first down, Cincere Gill took the handoff to the left before cutting back to the right, getting around the defense and sprinting his way to a 20-yard touchdown.
After an injury timeout, the Warriors were whistled for too many men on the conversion attempt. Mansfield pulled its kicking unit off the field, and after a timeout, went with the wildcat offense. Marciano took the snap himself, ran forward and jumped over the pile and into the end zone to make it 15-6 with 7:18 left.
“We thought about it from the three [yard line] but they are so good defensively,” Redding said. “When they got the penalty, we felt we had to go for it then from the one-yard line. That was obviously big because it became a two-score game, that makes a big difference.
Andrew McKinney (five catches, 55 yards) grabbed a 19-yard catch, and Wassersug made a terrific catch on the ensuing drive, hauling in a 36-yard completion to set the Warriors up in the red zone before Baskin came away with an interception in the end zone.
“We’ve been more impressed with Robert with what he’s been able to do,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “He’s a senior, he’s been around. He brought us down there at the end.”
“I’ll tell ya, Jarest was unbelievable in the second half,” Redding said. “They lose Halliday and they just found a way to make completions, he can run and throw. They did a great job of getting the offense going without one for the best running backs in the state in the lineup. They made a game of it, their defense played tough.
“We blew some opportunities to extend the lead, and this is what [KP] does, they hang around and manufacture a drive. All of a sudden you’re an onside kick away from them having the ball again with the chance to win.”
This was Mansfield’s second win in the rivalry since 2013, earning their second straight regular season contest. The two teams have also played in the playoffs in two straight seasons.
“Our defense really battled in there,” Lee said. “Ryan is as good of a player and means just as much on defense as he does on offense. So everyone was stepping up for us. The overall takeaway…we made a ton of mistakes, a lot of new guys out there but we hung in there and battled as hard as we could. I think going forward if we can play well, and we’re fortunate enough to see them again, we know we’re not out-classed by them.”
Both teams are likely to make the playoffs again this year and could be on a collision course for a third straight postseason meeting.
“It’s great football, great defense, and I’m sure part two is coming in November,” Redding said.
“We have the utmost respect for KP, they are a great football team,” Holmes said. “They produce great players like Halliday, and we’ll probably see them again.”
Mansfield football (2-0 Hockomock, 3-1 overall) is on the road again next week at Pisani Field to visit Franklin for another key division showdown. King Philip (1-1, 3-1) will host Attleboro on Friday.
Attleboro got off to a strong start to the 2018 season, jumping out to a 4-1 record with its only loss coming against eventual D2 South champ King Philip, and allowing only five points per game. But a last-minute loss in a shootout against Mansfield and a fourth quarter comeback by Franklin the following week sparked a six-game losing streak to close out the season. The Bombardiers come into 2019 looking to turn that around and use its experience to make a run at the Kelley-Rex title.
Offensively, the Bombardiers will be led by senior quarterback Jason Weir. At a bruising 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Weir is a punishing runner and has a big arm to make plays downfield in the passing game. Junior Justin Daniels will be the starting tailback with senior Isaac Guidel and a big offensive line trying to open holes for the running game, led by senior Qualeem Charles (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds), who has a host of colleges recruiting him. Senior Ethan Cameron will provide a weapon on the outside, while junior Michael Strachan offers another threat over the middle from his tight end position.
Charles will dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball as well, but the strength of the Attleboro defense will be its experienced linebacker corps. Strachan, a three-year starter who is getting looks from some Div. I colleges, will be joined by Guidel and senior Nolan Jaeger. Weir will play strong safety, after two seasons at defensive end, and will be counted on to step in to help stop the run. Cameron will be at free safety and giving the cornerbacks help over the middle. Attleboro has a large contingent of sophomores who could step in to contribute right away, including Alvin Harrison, Chris Leonardo, Adam Pearlstein, and Freddy Wheaton.
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “We are looking forward to the season getting underway and with the leadership of our four captains we are looking to be explosive on offense and very physical defensively. The Hockomock League is one of the best leagues in the state with some great teams. We will have to play our very best each week if we are going to compete at a high level.”
Franklin nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2018 season when the Panthers forced perennial power Xaverian to double overtime in the Div. 1 South semifinal. It was a big step forward for the program and head coach Eian Bain hopes it will be a building block for even more success in 2019.
Offensively, the graduation of quarterback Nick Gordon will be a big loss for the Panthers but senior Thomas Gasbarro saw a lot of time under center last year and he will step in and take the starting job. Gasbarro will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as the Panthers have plenty of speedy, athletic players in the skill positions. Senior Jack Nally is a threat out of the backfield or split out wide and his classmate Jake Davis is a solid receiver over the middle or downfield. Senior Matt Lazarek is a potential target from the tight end position and Owen Palmieri is another dangerous ball carrier. Junior Parker Cheuvront emerged last season as one of the top kickers in the Hock and is another weapon that the Panthers can count on if a drive does stall.
The defense is an experienced group. Senior Evan Wertz has been one of the league’s tackle leaders for the past two seasons and he is the team’s top playmaker from his linebacker position. Nally, Davis, Palmieri, and senior Ben Greco give Franklin a tough secondary to throw against and all are capable of coming up with the big turnover to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Luke Cunningham and Dom Natale will give the Panthers strength at the line of scrimmage.
“The challenge for this group is to continue to improve and build the program,” said Bain. “They need to add their own chapter and their own stamp on the program. We have the right people in the room. We need to play with the swagger and confidence of a contender, but be humble in our preparation. If we stay true to the process, we have great potential.”
Despite not winning the league title last year, the target on King Philip’s back continues to grow.
The Warriors might have missed out on the Kelley-Rex crown, but they won their third straight sectional title and made their this straight appearance in the state final, this time falling to North Andover (6-0). While this year’s senior class knows other than Super Bowl appearances, head coach Brian Lee says this group is focused on taking it one game, starting with the opener against North Attleboro. KP has a strong core of players back on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback Robbie Jarest and running back Ryan Halliday. Both players had really strong junior seasons and should be the leaders of the group this year. The offensive line includes returners Nolan Gunning (left tackle), Sean Piller (center), and Pat Zarba (right guard) while Wyatt Manzi, Jack Collentro, and Griffin MacKay are in the mix to fill the remaining spots. Having an experienced line bodes well for the KP run game that will heavily feature Ryan Halliday plus fullback Shawn Conniff and halfbacks Sam Callanan and Crawford Cantave.
The Warriors’ defense has been one of the best units in the state in recent years, and while the expectations remain high for the group, there will be a lot of new faces. KP graduated its entire secondary so the Warriors are turning to senior Brian Wasserug and Cantave, a sophomore, to take on starting spots. Halliday and Callanan, both captains, will handle outside linebacker duties with Mike Malatesta in the mix for the middle spot. Gunning and Manzi will also see action on the defensive line alongside Conniff. Dillon Conti takes over kicking duties for the departed Cole Baker.
“These kids know how much work, how much effort it takes to get where we want to be,” Lee said. “But it’s all about going game by game, starting this week with a team [North Attleboro] that we have a ton of respect for.”
Looking at the long list of returning players, it is no surprise that expectations around Alumni Field are sky high this fall. Mansfield enters the season with experience at just about every position and with the bitter taste of last year’s South final loss to rival King Philip still stinging. Despite a rash of injuries that forced running back Aidan Sacco to play as an emergency quarterback for most of the season, Mansfield still won a league title and this year’s team may be even more talented, which has ramped up the hype and put the target squarely on the Hornets’ backs.
The line of scrimmage will be a strength for the Hornets on the offensive side of the ball, as they return four of five starters from last year’s unit that allowed the team to rush for more than 2,600 yards. Senior Jason Comeau and reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year TJ Guy will be two key cogs in the line, while senior Noah Jellenik and junior Jake McCoy are also back. Senior Andrew Cowles will step into the fifth spot. They will seek to protect senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who had a cameo under center last year before an injury forced him to miss the bulk of the season. The skill positions will be loaded with athletes. Cincere Gill had a breakout sophomore season at running back and senior Nick Marciano is back after an injury cut short his junior season. Senior Michael DeBolt was one of the top kickers in the league but also gives Mansfield another weapon on the edges, while senior Vinnie Holmes adds a bruising presence coming out of the backfield.
Holmes is the headliner on the defensive side of the ball. Along with fellow linebackers Marciano, DeBolt, and senior Joe Plath, Holmes will be expected to make big plays all over the field. The defensive line will be strong with three returning players: senior Chris Graham, McCoy, and Guy. Junior Nico Holmes will step in as the fourth man on the line. Much like on offense, speed will be a strength and the secondary is loaded with playmakers, including Gill, junior Matt Boen, and senior Makhi Baskin.
“We have a bunch of experience all over the field, but we really have to develop depth with the second team to handle a tough schedule and challenges every week,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “This is one of the fastest group of skill guys we’ve ever had and we could be explosive on offense. We lack a little size up front on defense, but we should be able to overcome that by flying around with pursuit to the ball with our speed.”
There was no question that 2018 was a tough season for the Tigers. Oliver Ames lost by a point in the season opener to Concord-Carlisle and didn’t earn its only win until the penultimate game against Durfee. The Tigers will hope to turn things around quickly with an infusion of young talent under new head coach Ed DeWitt.
On offense, the players will be learning a new system, but there is experience in the backfield to try and implement different schemes. Senior running back Nathan Cabral figures to see plenty of the ball again this year after his breakout junior season in which he ran for more than 1,100 yards. He will be joined by senior quarterback Cam Perron and senior running back Sam Stevens to give the Tigers a strong core. Seniors Harrison Webster and Adam Cann (who is coming off an injury) will give Perron weapons to utilize on the outside.
There will be a lot of new faces on the defensive side, as DeWitt can call on three or four returning starters and will need a number of players to provide contributions on both sides of the ball. The linebacking corps was particularly hit by graduations, although senior Tyler Campbell can provide some experience and leadership in that position and Cabral brings athleticism to the role. Max Anderson and Anthony DeCosta will be important at the line of scrimmage, while Stevens will step into the secondary along with senior corner Nick Gillis and junior corner Jadon Ricci.
“The competition in camp has been great,” DeWitt said. “The players have committed to the program and bought into the day to day work that we need to do. We are focusing on making sure we treat every day as an opportunity to improve and string together some positive momentum.”
The Tigers started last season with three straight wins and then finished with three wins in their final four games to end 2018 with a winning record. Taunton enters this fall with a relatively inexperienced roster, but one that is looking to continue the momentum in the program and try to push forward so it can challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division.
One of the biggest changes for the Tigers will be under center. Noah Leonard was the starter for three seasons, but junior Danny MacDougall will take over this year. MacDougall will also see time at receiver to try and take advantage of his athleticism. He will be joined in the backfield by classmates Bretton Heggs and Josh Lopes, who both got time at running back as sophomores. Juniors Kedrick Santos and Devante McPhail will be the primary weapons at receiver. Up front, the Tigers have decent size. Senior Mike Murray will be at center, senior Hussein Kassab at one tackle, junior Marquis Dalomba at the other tackle, and junior Jordan Manning at guard.
Similar to the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers lack experience on defense and are still learning the schemes, but physical scrimmages have helped prepare them for the season. Senior Woudanly Danger is a force at the line of scrimmage and will require attention from opponents and senior Jackson Wellman has been one of the team’s top tacklers from linebacker. Junior defensive end Deandre McPhail adds to the strength of the line. Senior Curt Marshall and MacDougall will be the safeties and senior Cam Carroca will be at corner.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better and to be competitive in the league,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re definitely inexperienced, but physically we have guys who can do it and we need to coach them up so they’ll be ready to go once the season gets started.”
King Philip senior Sam Callanan could be poised for a breakout season as a vital piece of the Warriors’ defense. The bar has been set for the three-time defending South Sectional champs but King Philip did graduate a good amount of its top players from last year’s defensive unit. Callanan will bring experience to the King Philip defensive group and, as a captain, will be relied upon for his leadership both on and off the field. Last year, Callanan had a lot of success coming off the edge, using his speed to get past the offensive line and be disruptive in the backfield. He does a nice job of reading the play and using his speed to track down the play. He’s a versatile player that does a nice job in coverage as well, giving the Warriors some flexibility on defense.
Taunton senior defensive lineman Woudanly Danger lives up to his name, giving the Tigers a force at the line of scrimmage that opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers need to watch out for on every play. Danger had 30 tackles and three sacks from his tackle position, despite regularly facing double teams and blocking schemes designed to try and contain him. He also had 9-1/2 tackles for loss, helping the Tigers finish 2018 with a winning record and build momentum for a run at a playoff spot this fall. Strong and quick, Danger brings his wrestling background to the gridiron, finding ways to gain leverage, clog holes, and get into the backfield. With Danger back in the middle of the line, Taunton’s defense has a solid foundation and could be the strength of the team this season.
Canton senior Kyle Fitzgerald could easily have been on the Players to Watch list for offense as well because the running back and defensive back had a breakout season on both sides of the ball to help the Bulldogs secure a share of the league title for the first time in nearly three decades. Fitzgerald’s speed and his versatility made him a weapon on offense (16 touchdowns), but also made him a tenacious member of the Canton secondary. He recorded 41 tackles, had two interceptions, and recovered a pair of fumbles. A ballhawk, who gives the Bulldogs a solid cover guy on the corner but who can also step up and stop the run, Fitzgerald will be a key to Canton’s defense this season and one of the reasons that the Bulldogs have confidence that they can win back-to-back titles for the first time since winning a fifth straight in 1981.
Foxboro’s Anton George seemed to play better and better throughout the 2018 campaign and will be looking to carry that into 2019 for the Warriors. A HockomockSports.com Hock 5 selection for defensive line, George is a disrupter and we mean that in a good way. He had 62 tackles last season, including five sacks and 11 quarterback hurries — simply put, he was a handful to deal with. He forced a pair of fumbles and deflected a pair of passes as well. A captain this year, George will be looking to anchor Foxboro back to the playoffs. The combination of speed and size helps set him apart from others and makes him a tough matchup for opposing tackles.
The term playmaker is often used when talking about players on the offensive side of the ball, but Stoughton junior Christian Georges does it on the defensive end. Georges made a big splash as a sophomore, playing mostly as a defensive end but also a little time at outside linebacker. He has the strength to power his way past opponents but is also a very quick player and can use his speed to get around. That combination made him a tough match-up last season as he recorded 58 tackles (including 20 for a loss), six sacks, eight pass deflections, and a fumble recovery. He will likely line up at linebacker this season so the Black Knights will rely on him heavily to continue to make plays. He does a great job of tracking the play and then coming up to make the play. Stoughton is typically known for its defense and Georges could be one of the top players in that group.
Mansfield junior lineman TJ Guy, the 2018 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, returns on the edge of the Hornets defensive line after a dominant first season on varsity. Guy, who was also in the running for Underclassman of the Year in basketball, had 30 tackles, including 10 solo stops, and was second on the team with seven tackles for loss. His quickness and athleticism at defensive end allowed him to set the edge, take up blockers, and open spaces for Mansfield’s talented linebacking corps. He was also part of an offensive line that opened up holes for the Mansfield ground game, which amassed more than 2,600 yards last season. With expectations sky-high at Alumni Field this fall, Guy is one of the main reasons that this Hornets defensive unit is drawing rave reviews.
One of the premier linebackers in the state, Mansfield senior Vinnie Holmes will close out his record-breaking career with the Hornets as one of the leading candidates for MVP in the Kelley-Rex division this season. Holmes has already eclipsed the 200-tackle mark for his two-year varsity career, was named the 2017 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, and has developed into a sideline-to-sideline presence for the Hornets defense. He is one of those players who seems to be in the middle of every play, no matter where on the field it ends up. Holmes had 92 tackles as a junior, including 41 solo, and led Mansfield with 10 tackles for loss. He added three sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries, not to mention eight touchdowns as a running back. Opposing offenses know that they have to account for Holmes, one of the top defensive playmakers in the league, on every single play, and his tenacity drives one of the league’s most complete defensive units.
If you go to a Milford football game this year, one name you’re probably going to hear a lot from the announcer is Luke Rosa. A two-way starter, Rosa was one of the Hawks’ top players last season and earned captain this year. On the defensive side, Rosa lines up at linebacker and is at his best when he’s attacking the ball carrier. He reads the offense really well and does a nice job of finding the gap and is among the top tacklers in the league. Even if it looks like there’s someone to block for the back, Rosa has shown the ability to fight through the first line and get to either the back or quarterback. Offensively, he’s one of the more versatile backs in the league and does everything well. He has great vision with the ball in his hands and can also sneak out and catch a pass in the screen game. Look for Rosa to have a big year on both sides of the ball this year.
Attleboro junior linebacker Michael Strachan is the rare football player who has been on varsity since his freshman season. He enters his second year as a starter in the Bombardiers defense as a highly-recruited prospect and as the team’s leading tackler from 2018. Strachan led Attleboro with more than 80 stops last season and is poised for an even bigger year in the middle of an experienced corps of linebackers. He is also a dangerous weapon at tight end for the Attleboro offense, taking advantage of his size and athleticism to create matchup challenges for opponents. The Bombardiers didn’t finish 2018 the way that they would have hoped, but with Strachan back in the middle behind a big defensive line, Attleboro will be hoping to replicate the 4-1 start they had last year and the meager five points per game that they allowed during that dominant stretch.
Franklin senior linebacker Evan Wertz has been a dominant presence in the heart of the Panthers defense, having already set program records by racking up huge tackle totals every week. Wertz had 122 tackles in 11 games last season (a remarkable 11 per game), including 45 solo stops and 10 tackles for loss. He can also drop into coverage, recording three pass breakups and an interception. Just like Mansfield’s Vinnie Holmes, wherever the ball goes Wertz is there, ranging from sideline to sideline and covering as much ground as any linebacker in the Hock. The Panthers nearly stunned powerhouse Xaverian in the playoffs last season and that has ramped up the momentum and expectations coming into this year. With Wertz leading the defense, Franklin will hope that they can push for the Kelley-Rex title and another long tournament run.
TAUNTON, Mass. – The Taunton Tigers were on the verge of a big upset.
With just over two minutes to go in a tied game, Taunton senior Wesner Charles found an open lane for an easy layup to give the 14th-seeded Tigers a 58-56 lead. And on Mansfield’s ensuing trip up, Charles came up with a block that gave the Tigers the ball back and all of the momentum in front of a packed crowd inside the Rabouin Field House.
But the Tigers couldn’t slam the door shut on the second-seeded Hornets, as a potential dagger three rimmed out. And there aren’t many teams better at making you pay than the Hornets.
Senior Tommy Dooling (19 points) launched a corner three that bounced twice off the rim before falling, putting the Hornets up by one with 1:34 to go. Taunton couldn’t answer as a three-point shot was off the mark, and Mansfield sophomore TJ Guy (career-high 19 points, eight rebounds) concerted off his own miss with 44.5 seconds left to put Mansfield up 61-58.
“We started the second half pretty well but [Taunton] came back and the crowd got pretty loud,” Dooling said. “We kept telling each other it was going to be okay, we stuck with what we do well. Sam Stevens had a nice screen and Damani [Scott] had a nice pass and I shot the three, it hit every part of the rim then finally went in, that felt great.”
The Hornets got the stop they needed, Guy broke free for another layup and Mansfield came out with a hard-fought 65-59 win over a gritty Tigers team.
With the win, the Hornets advance to their third straight Division 1 South Sectional Final, and seventh appearance in the last 10 years in the game.
“When the wheels started falling off, with this atmosphere, I was a little nervous with how some of our young guys, guys that haven’t been here before, were going to respond,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “We looked panicked there for a little bit. But I reminded them ‘Don’t get too high, don’t get too low, come out and do what we do’ and we needed a couple of possessions of basket, stop, basket, stop, and we were able to do that.
“Taunton is playing really good right now, they were not going to go down easy. They were ready for the big moment, and a couple of bounces things might go the other way. Taunton did some good things in that second half.”
It was a close game throughout as the Hornets had a brief eight-point advantage in the first half, and led by only seven at one point early in the second half. Taunton had an early 11-8 advantage but didn’t take another lead until midway through the fourth quarter.
A three-pointer from Sam Stevens that came off an offensive rebound had the Hornets up 51-48 entering the fourth quarter. Free throws from Taunton senior John Martins (14 points) got the Tigers within two but Damani Scott answered with a strong take for the Hornets. A free throw from Lou Vendrell followed by a steal and bucket from Naz Kenion (career-high 20 points) knotted the score at 53-53.
Kenion continued his stellar play with a nice move baseline to give the Tigers a 55-54 lead, their first advantage of the second half. Kenion came up with a steal to get Taunton the ball back, but the Tigers missed a three. A free throw from Kenion extended the lead to 56-54, and Charles knocked away a pass to get the Tigers another chance to extend the lead, but Taunton’s layup was off the mark. Mansfield tied the game on the other end as sophomore Matt Boen had a layup off a feed from Drew Rooney.
“I thought we played great defense. It felt like we took them off the three-point line for the most part, which is a lot of their offense, But as usual, they adjust and they didn’t panic. If you’re not composed for 32 minutes, you make a mistake, they take advantage of it, that’s Mansfield.
“A game of inches, I think it came down to three plays in the end. Two offensive possessions on our end that we didn’t do well with, and one blown defensive possession. All of a sudden, it’s six points, and that feels like an insurmountable lead against them.”
The two teams battled back-and-forth in the opening quarter with Taunton jumping ahead 11-8 behind a three-pointer from Dante Law (nine point, seven rebounds) but Dooling had a pair of triples and Guy added six points to help the Hornets take a 17-14 lead after one.
Mansfield extended its lead to 22-14 — the largest lead of the game by either side — but Taunton clawed back into it. Sophomore Tyler Stewart came off the bench and scored four points, Law added four more, and Kenion scored his first seven points of the game, including a late three-point play to bring the Tigers within two, down 31-29 at half.
Martins sank two free throws to open the second half to tie the game but the Hornets grabbed momentum back with a 10-3 spurt. Stevens converted a putback, Boen and Dooling hit consecutive threes, and Guy scored down low for a 41-34 advantage.
Taunton ramped up its defensive pressure to get back into the game. Martins scored off a steal, and minutes later, Kenion and sophomore Danny MacDougall had back-to-back takeaways that led to layups to tie it at 46-46 with 2:34 left in the third quarter.
“They were a lot more disciplined. Sometimes you can get them on back cuts or dribble handoff action, and we didn’t get any of those,” Vaughan said of Taunton’s defense. “We really had to score the old fashion way and gut through some possessions. Even on offense too, this was probably the most disciplined Taunton team I’ve seen on both ends of the floor, they really bought in to what [Coach Dacey] was selling. It made it brutal. When guys do that, you can’t go on runs, you can’t create separation, it makes it tough.
“All the threes we got were either contested, or we got them off half broken plays.”
For Taunton (15-9), it was an end to a playoff run that saw upsets over league rival Attleboro and former league rival Bridgewater-Raynham.
“We discovered something, I don’t know exactly what it was,” Dacey said. “We work, work, work a lot on defense in practice. It clicked against Attleboro, then again against B-R, it’s something we’ve been looking for all year long.
“It hurts, it should hurt, and hopefully it’s a lesson for the underclassman. We have to get kids to want to be in the gym in the offseason. This was fun, so I hope the guys coming back realize it and say we can be here [again], but you have to put the work in.”
Mansfield boys basketball returns to Taunton High on Friday to take on #5 Newton North (20-5). Newton North defeated the Hornets in the regular season on February 10th. The D1 South Final is set to tipoff at 7:30.
#10 Xaverian, 62 @ #2 Mansfield, 77 – Final – The Hornets hit on all cylinders to begin the game, pouring in 29 first quarter points to take a commanding lead that they never relinquished. Mansfield hit five three-pointers in the first with Damani Scott (15 points) and Tommy Dooling (20 points) each hitting a pair and sophomore Matt Boen (11 points) adding another. TJ Guy (11 points) and Khristian Conner (eight points) each added five points in the opening quarter while junior Sam Stevens added nine points in the game. The Hornets led 49-25 at halftime and took a 61-46 lead into the final quarter.
Girls Basketball D2 South
#16 Notre Dame Academy, 56 @ #1 Foxboro, 58 – Final – Shakirah Ketant scored 16 points and Katelyn Mollica added 15 for the Warriors, who held off the Cougars to reach the D2 South quarterfinal.