MILFORD, Mass. – Milford went for a home run on its first play of the game and had an open receiver, but the receiver got turned around and the pass fell incomplete.
It was one of the very few misses the Hawks had all game.
Four plays later, Milford ran the same play, this time connecting for a long touchdown. The Scarlet Hawks went on to score on four of its five first possessions, including three straight, as well as a defensive score and rolled to a 45-19 win over North Attleboro, the program’s first victory over the Rocketeers since joining the Hockomock League.
“We couldn’t have scripted it any better, it was almost a perfect start,” said Milford associate head coach and defensive coordinator Robb McCoy. “The kids executed really well. Our job as coaches is to have the game plan but its ultimately up to the kids and they executed the game plan very well. We trimmed [the game plan] down this week, we had a great week of preparation and practice, they were mentally ready and focused for this game. It’s all about the kids, they did a tremendous job.”
Senior quarterback Colby Pires (17/28, 296 yards, three touchdowns) connected with Max Martin up the middle for a 62-yard touchdown just 2:35 into the game. It was a sign of things to come for the Hawks’ offense.
On the second offensive series, Milford again needed just five plays, this time to cover 48 yards with Pires hitting Martin (six catches, 136 yards) on a slant route on third down for a 14-0 lead with just over three minutes left in the opening quarter.
And when the Hawks got the ball back once again, they ran seven offensive plays to cover 44 yards, capped off with Carter Scudo (five catches, 92 yards) taking the direct snap in the wildcat, using a block from Pires at receiver, and sneaking inside the pylon for a two-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead following an extra point from CJ Cerrella (6-for-6).
Meanwhile, Milford’s defense wasn’t giving the Rocketeers much offensively. The Rocketeers went three-and-out on their first two series with a total of 16 yards, and despite running nine plays on their third series, a fourth down pass fell incomplete after pressure from Hawks linebacker Luke Rosa.
Milford’s offense stalled for the first time on the fourth series and had to punt. But the defense came up with the big play as junior Dom Schofield came flying in on a blitz, sacking North quarterback Tyler DeMattio (10/23, 167 yards, two touchdowns) and forcing the ball free. Herrick Louis scooped the loose ball up and raced in from 28 yards out for a touchdown, the Hawks assuming a 28-0 lead with 4:29 left in the second quarter.
North Attleboro was able to get on the board with under three minutes left in the half. Aided by back-to-back unsportsmanlike penalties on the Milford bench that resulted in the disqualification of Hawks head coach Anthony Vizakis, and then a 15-yard late hit call, the Rocketeers moved 72 yards on five plays.
After DeMattio connected with Ethan Friberg for 14 yards, the sophomore quarterback took up the middle himself, plunging in from a yard out to make it 28-76 with 2:39 left in the half.
The Hawks’ offense wasn’t content with its lead and responded just 19 seconds later. On the first play of the next series, Pires aired one out to Scudo, who made a man miss and raced his way for a 64-yard touchdown and a 35-7 lead at halftime.
“I think we’re good enough on the perimeter with our athletes, and Colby is good enough, that we can be a take what they give you offense, and that’s what we did,” McCoy said. “At times, [North Attleboro] loaded up the box, sometimes they bring pressure, and they are very good up front. It was a matter of us executing what we can do. Colby is very smart, he’s like a coach on the field…and the receivers like Max [Martin], Matty [Varteresian], Carter Scudo…it’s kind of like your poison.”
It looked like the Rocketeers were going to punt for the second straight possession to open the second half but kept DeMattio in the game in the punter’s spot. Instead of a kick, the sophomore connected with Russell Dunlap on a seam route, the senior sprinting away for a 44-yard touchdown.
It looked like Milford was ready to respond as Pires hit Martin for 41 yards to get into North territory but on the next play, senior Owen Harding came up with a blind side sack to force the ball loose and junior Dan Hayes pounced on it to give the Rocketeers the ball back.
The offense cashed in, needing just two plays before DeMattio hit junior Alex McCoy. Milford gambled for the interception and McCoy raced the distance for a 59-yard touchdown to bring the visitors within two scores, down 35-19.
The momentum began to swing as North forced the Hawks into a three-and-out but the Milford defense came back and forced three straight takeaways. Xavier Hilton had the first interception that led to a 25-yard field goal from Cerrella.
“The second half, it was about tabling the emotions and just playing football,” McCoy said. “We think this team is athletic enough, good enough, and tough enough to play with anybody. North Attleboro is kind of like the Patriots, they’ll take advantage of any mistake you make.”
Max Martin intercepted the first pass of the next North series and Rosa broke through a pair of tackles on the first play for a 10-yard touchdown. Scudo came up with an interception on North’s next series.
“We had some bulletin board material that we saw on Friday so our defense used that, and I think they played well,” McCoy said. “[DeMattio] is such a great runner, we wanted to try and take that away. He did a good job at times but we were able to change our coverage and get some turnovers. [DeMattio] is a really good player, he’s going to be a great player so we wanted to be aggressive with him.
Milford football (2-0 Hockomock, 3-1 overall) returns to action on Friday at Canton in a huge clash of the top two teams in the division. North Attleboro (0-2, 1-3) will try to bounce back on Saturday when it hosts Sharon.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – After controlling the game for over three quarters, the Foxboro football team was on its way to a rare comfortable win over North Attleboro.
The Warriors held a 21-0 lead and had just forced their second turnover of the game, this one an interception just before the goal line, to halt another North Attleboro drive. With under 10 minutes to go, Foxboro was well on its way to its first win over the Rocketeers since 2012.
But suddenly, the hosts had life. North Attleboro scored a pair of touchdowns in just 2:03, the latter coming with just under five minutes left in the game to make it a one-score game. And after another defensive stand, the Rocketeers had the ball back with three minutes left with a chance to tie or win the game.
In the end, Foxboro’s defense delivered — as it had done all game — by getting a fourth down stop with under a minute to go to secure a 21-14 win at Community Field.
“Not too many people beat North so we’ll take it any which way that we can,” said Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli. “I thought we dominated, the first three quarters, but it doesn’t take much to throw off the applecart, whether it’s a penalty or a miscue. And North isn’t going to quit.”
It marks the 273rd career win for Martinelli, which moves him into a tie for eighth all-time in Massachusetts history according to the Boston Herald’s Danny Ventura.
Foxboro scored on its second drive of the game, again just before halftime, and once more midway through the third quarter. The Warriors’ defense held the Rocketeers to just over 100 yards of offense through the first three quarters, forcing the hosts to punt on three of their first four drives and getting fourth down stops on two others.
A Foxboro fumble recovered by North Attleboro’s Tommy Whalen set the Rocketeers up with terrific field position at the Warriors’ 38-yard line. But the momentum was short-lived when Elijah Lewis leaped to intercept a pass on the goal line just a minute into the fourth quarter.
Foxboro’s offense stalled and sent out the punting unit, but a high snap sent the ball into the end zone and a group of Rocketeers came crashing down onto punter Michael Devlin. North Attleboro’s Dan Hayes ended up with the loose ball and a touchdown, getting North on the board. Evan Vigorito hit the first of his two point after attempts to bring North within 21-7 with 6:48 to go.
This time, the momentum stuck with the Rocketeers, who forced a quick three-and-out. On the punt, Foxboro was whistled for catch interference and North Attleboro started with its best field position of the day at the Foxboro 31-yard line.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler DeMattio (6-for-11, 66 yards passing; 11 carries, 60 yards rushing) wasted little time, lofting a pass down field that senior Ethan Friberg went up to get above a pair of defenders for a 30-yard catch. On the next play, DeMattio scored from one-yard out and suddenly the Rocketeers were down just one score, 21-14, with 4:45 to play.
Foxboro’s Dylan Gordon fell on top of the onside kick attempt, and the Warriors killed 1:45 of clock before punting back to North Attleboro with 3:00 to go. DeMattio had a long run negated by an illegal shift call, and on fourth and four, a completion to Russell Dunlap nearly converted a first down. But after a measurement, the ball was an inch shy and Foxboro took over on downs to seal the win.
“It definitely felt like the momentum swung there but we had that eerily feeling all along that it was too little, too late,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson.
“I think [it’s a lesson learned]. We’ve known all along we’re a pretty immature football team, so this is the stuff that’s going to happen. We have a lot of guys still learning, a lot of juniors playing their first varsity action. We’re just a terribly inconsistent football team right now in every phase. We just have to keep working to get better and I think it will come in time.”
Foxboro took the lead in the first quarter on its second drive of the game. The Warriors went 77 yards on 11 plays that including a pair of first down passes from Shayne Kerrigan (14-for-24, 135 yards passing; nine carries, 85 yards rushing) to Luis Sulham (eight catches, 77 yards). On third and 10 inside the red zone, Kerrigan connected with senior Ryan Hughes for a 12-yard touchdown. Tyler James’ extra point made it 7-0 with 1:18 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors orchestrated an eight-play, 64-yard drive just before halftime to double their lead. Highlighted by a first down run from Bobby Yerardi (11 carries, 38 yards) and ridiculous catch from Lewis that went for 22 yards, the visitors advanced into the red zone. On third and 11, Kerrigan floated one to the corner of the end zone and senior Brian Derba came down with the catch for a 13-yard score and a 13-0 lead with just eight seconds to go in the first half.
“I think our offense came alive today,” Martinelli said. “Kids did what we felt they were capable of doing like Luis, Shayne, who had a great game, Ryan Hughes, Derba…they all made some great plays, some great catches. They did a great job. To me, that was the difference in the game that we were able to move the ball and get some points.”
North Attleboro opened the second half with a successful drive with sophomore Tyler Bannon moving the sticks on a 15-yard rush, and DeMattio taking off for 18 yards of his own. A run and late hit call moved the ball all the way to the Foxboro 19-yard line but with the new rules, the hosts didn’t get an automatic first down. Instead, on fourth and 2, Foxboro’s Mike Norvish and Anton George got to the Rocketeer runner in the backfield for a loss and a turnover on downs.
“We played seven in the box and took our chances,” Martinelli said of defending DeMattio. “Next year and the year after, I’m sure [DeMattio] is going to be a triple threat, not that he throws a bad ball now, but we had to stop him running first, before we could do anything else and I thought the kids did a nice job, I’m very proud of them.”
Three plays into the ensuing Foxboro drive, Kerrigan fooled the defense by keeping the option himself, broke through a tackle in the secondary, and darted his way for a 64-yard touchdown. A two-point pass from Kerrigan to Sulham made it 21-0 with 6:25 left in the third quarter.
“I thought Foxboro did a good job pressing our quarterback and not letting us get comfortable doing anything on offense,” Johnson said. “We never really got that run game going because they were good inside. And then when we had to throw the ball, they did a nice job getting pressure off the edge. DeMattio is still young and not quite comfortable in every phase of the game but he’s getting better every game.”
Foxboro finished with 279 yards offensive, a strong balance between passing (127) and rushing (152) while picking up an impressive 15 first downs.
“The game got moved so many times, we had two weeks of practice which made Thanksgiving break look [short],” Martinelli said. “So I’m just happy for the kids. But we have to get right back at it. This is the best the league has ever been from top to bottom. Each week there seems to be an implication no matter what the matchup is so this was a key for win us.”
Foxboro football (1-0 Hockomock, 2-1 overall) travels the other defending Davenport division champion in Canton (3-0) on Friday night. North Attleboro (0-1, 1-2) takes a trip to visit Milford (2-1).
Canton had its best season in recent memory a year ago, but the 2019 squad is aiming to take it one step further.
With starters back at almost every position, Canton is aiming to defend its Davenport division title and get back to the sectional final for the second straight season. Johnny Hagan is back under center this season and has all of his weapons back. The Bulldogs ran a mix of Wing-T and spread offense a year ago so Hagan is comfortable running whatever is needed this year. Kyle Fitzgerald, Gersom Rivera, and Cam Sanchez are all talented backs that can help grind down opposing defenses while Hagan makes a lot of plays with his feet as well. Jace Emma was one of Hagan’s favorite targets last year and he will be joined by David Allen as options in the passing game. The offensive line will be anchored by senior Jack Connolly, who missed a good amount of last season with an injury. Matt Connolly, Derrell Brown, and Lucas Bryant return to the line as well while Carson Campbell and Brandon Baran are in the mix for the final spot.
A lot of the same names will make plays on the defensive end as well with Jack Connolly and Matt Connolly teaming up with Nnamdi Onyemelukwe to provide size on the line. The strength of the defense will once again be with the linebackers as the Bulldogs have James Murphy back in the middle alongside junior Lucas Ragusa. Owen Lehane and Robbie Gallery both had strong seasons coming from the outside. The entire secondary is back for the Bulldogs with Rivera and Sanchez handle the corners and Fitzgerald and Allen provide physicality from the safety spots. And for special teams, Lehane handles kicking duties, Allen returns as the punter, and Rivera and Fitzgerald handle return duties. The Bulldogs will look to build some depth with so many two-way players in the lineup.
“We have a lot of experience with a lot of guys that have played at this level, and we had the playoff run so that should definitely help us down the road,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “We are focused on Dighton-Rehoboth, focusing on one game at a time. We have a lot of competitors that don’t quit.”
Foxboro’s biggest win of the season came in its final game, a thrilling overtime win over rival Mansfield at Fenway Park two days before Thanksgiving. If the Warriors are able to carry any of that momentum into the 2019 season, Foxboro will certainly be in the mix for the Davenport division title.
The Warriors return a good amount of talent from last year but will need to find a replacement for Liam Foley, who came on strong at the end of last season. Senior Shayne Kerrigan and junior Cam Prescott have both taken reps this preseason so longtime coach Jack Martinelli and his staff will have two good options to work with under center. Last year’s leading rusher Mike Luong also graduated so there will be an opportunity for someone to take on carries out of the backfield. The Warriors have good skill options in Brian Derba (three touchdown catches last year) and split ends Elijah Lewis and Ryan Hughes. Foxboro has some experience on the line as well as Zach Jenkins and Aidan Dow are both returning starters at the guard position.
Foxboro’s defense has returning players at all three levels so the Warriors will likely rely on that side of the ball, especially early on against two strong non-league foes. Anton George, a HockomockSports Hock 5 selection for defensive line, is back and will be a force to deal with for opponents. Austin Read will be key in Foxboro’s run defense from the defensive tackle spot. Mike Sheehan returns to anchor the linebackers group after a standout junior season. The secondary should be one of the top units in the league with a lot of experienced playmakers. Derba and Kerrigan made a lot of plays defensively last year and Michael Devlin could be poised for a big year for the Warriors.
“With a challenging scrimmage schedule and formidable non-league opponents, we should be prepared for the Hock grind,” Martinelli said “We have several key components returning to make this possible, but it’s one game at a time.”
Milford just missed out on the playoffs last season but the 2019 Scarlet Hawks are determined to get back to postseason play.
There is a lot of experience on both sides of the ball, and maybe most importantly, at key positions both offensively and defensively. The Hawks have Colby Pires back at quarterback after a big junior season that saw him toss 22 touchdowns, second most in the Hockomock League. But the challenge will be developing chemistry with a brand new set of receivers. Brendan White (12), Sean Lehane (5), and Shapel Feaster (5) all graduated so Milford is looking for new names to step up and make plays offensively. Junior Carter Scudo is a terrific athlete and will be one of the top options while Max Martin, Matt Varteresian, Herrick Louis, Kevin O’Connor, and Xavier Hilton are all battling to get reps on the field. Milford does bring back its leading rusher in Luke Rosa (seven rushing touchdowns), a very powerful back that will help the Hawks pound the ball. Juniors Nick Yohn, Dom Schofield, Mario Lee, and Dom Stallbaum provide a physical yet athletic offensive line.
The linebackers will be the heart of the Hawks’ defense this season. CJ Cerrella had a breakout junior year and will be on the top linebackers in the Hockomock League this season. He will be joined by Rosa, Louis, and O’Connor. A lot of the offensive line will see action on the defensive side of the ball as well while Scudo returns as a top defensive back at the safety position. Look for Martin, Varteresian, and Hilton to factor into the secondary as well for Milford this season.
“We have a very focused, determined, and excited team this season,” said head coach Anthony Vizakis. “They are a hard working group of guys with their eyes on one goal, one mission, and they are determined to do it together.”
The Rocketeers have won four straight league titles, the last three in the Davenport division, and will be looking to make it five straight this year.
If North Attleboro does make it five straight, they will need some new players to step up into new roles to do so. The Big Red graduated a lot of talent in almost every position but the Rocketeers are a program that doesn’t rebuild, they reload. The strength of the offensive will start with the offensive line as there are three returning starters. Ethan Mottinger (6’6, 294), who committed to UMass over the offseason, and John Kummer (5’11, 256) man the tackle positions while Ethan Friberg (6’5, 252) adds additional protection from the tight end position. Senior Casey Poirier, junior Matt Penta, and sophomore Tyler DeMattio are locked in a healthy battle at quarterback with each bringing a unique skill set to the offense. North lost almost all of its skill position players but there are a variety of versatile junior backs battling for time. Friberg, Russell Dunlap, and Robbie Donovan will be options in the passing game.
The strong suit of the Rocketeers’ defense will be in the front seven with several returning lineman and senior captain Tom O’Neill anchoring the linebackers. Friberg will be on one end while Montrel Jackson will see time at the other defensive end position. Kummer is joined by Trevor Hewett at defensive tackle to give North a strong, experienced defensive line. Owen Harding and Jacob Silva are in the mix to join O’Neill at linebacker while North will look for some new names to step up in its secondary alongside Jared and Matt Penta. DeMattio returns as the kicker after a standout freshmen campaign (32-for-35 PAT, 3-for-4 field goals).
“We will need to find a way to stay healthy and quickly develop some depth,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “With the inexperience in the skill positions, we expect there to be some early growing pains, but we are hopeful that the great attitude and work ethic that has been displayed in the preseason will help us overcome the lack of experience.”
Sharon might not have as many players as some of the other programs in the league and might not match up in terms of size, but the Eagles have plenty of fight and are looking to showcase that this year.
The Eagles are going to look to capitalize on their team speed this year. Junior Nic Morrero was strong on both sides of the ball last season and will likely feature in the backfield this season for the Eagles. John Saab is another returning play that should pick up carries for the Eagles this year. Junior Kiran Chadrasekaran looks set to take over under center for the Eagles and will have a couple of experienced players to work with in senior receiver Alec Filipkowski and junior tight end Ike Ogbonnanze while junior receiver Owen Conway will likely see an expanded role this season.
Senior Jaden Williams-Thomas returns to anchor both the offensive and defensive lines and will be joined by junior Shea Letendre. Williams-Thomas will handle defensive tackle duties and should be a big part of the Eagles’ defense this year. Marrero anchors the linebackers alongside Saab and Ogbonnanze while Filipkowski and Conway will see time in the secondary.
“We have a great group of relentless players that have the right attitude and understand that they have a ton to prove,” said Sharon head coach Dave Morse.
Stoughton didn’t have the season it wanted in terms of record, but the Black Knights were competitive in just about every game last year and are hoping to get back in the hunt for the Davenport crown this year.
Despite finishing 4-7, Stoughton beat both Davenport champions in North Attleboro (21-10) and Canton (28-7 on Thanksgiving) during the year. If the Black Knights are able to string together those type of performances throughout the year, they will definitely be competing for their first division crown since 2015. Offensively, Stoughton has a good battle at quarterback with junior John Burke and senior Clayton Rahaman. Both saw time last year so head coach Greg Burke has two experienced options to start under center. The offensive line should be a strength for Stoughton with a good group of seniors that includes Oluwole Fabikun, Jaden McCall, Carlvin LaGuerre, and Jerry Brisson. Having a strong and experienced line will set things up nicely for the Black Knights strong run game, which will feature Savion Scott, Christopher Ais, and Christian Ais. Tight end Anthony Pizzano, junior Jake Queeney, and track star David Peters will provide options in the pass game.
Stoughton is often known for its defense and will be looking for that to continue during the 2019 season. Kelven Rodrigues will be a big part of the defensive line for the Black Knights, joined by Brisson, LaGuerre, and Fabikun. Georges had a very strong season on the end last season but will mostly line up as a linebacker this year, alongside Scott and Christopher Ais. Stoughton will have a hard hitting secondary once again this season with Burke, Pizzano, Christian Ais and Kamari Grant all likely to see time.
“We hope to stay healthy and be competitive in the league, all of our athletes improved their strength and conditioning,” Burke said. “We have many juniors also playing and will be a big part of the team. We will need help from all players and try to improve depth.”
Outlook: After playing plenty of sophomores last season, the Bulldogs will be looking to boast a balanced, experienced team aiming to compete for the Davenport division title in 2018.
Canton brings back six starters on offense and seven starters back on the defensive side of the ball. The Dogs are one of the few teams with their starting quarterback returning as junior Johnny Hagan continues under center after a solid sophomore season. He showed the ability to pass and run with the ball, and he has almost all of his running back options back to work with. Gersom Rivera had a terrific sophomore year and will be counted on to be a big piece of the offense during 2018. Rivera’s athleticism and speed will be complemented by the hard nose running and blocking of junior Kyle Fitzgerald and senior Brendan Albert.
Junior Jack Connolly will anchor the offensive line and will be joined by senior Brian Campagna and junior Lucas Bryant at the center position. Ryan Lentol, who came on strong at the end of last year, picked up right where he left off and will be a top option at split end.
The strength of Canton’s defense is its linebacker group, which is full of experience and talent. Albert is back at one of the outside spots after earning Hock All Star last year while senior Ben Seaman is back on the other side. Junior James Murphy will fill in the middle after impressing last season and junior Robbie Gallery has impressed early on as the other inside option. Canton will also rely on a seasoned secondary with Fitzgerald and David Allen returning as starters. Ryan Colby should see time in the secondary and Owen Lehane is in the mix for the defensive line.
“We’re very excited for the season,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “The kids have put the work in, we think we can play with anyone in the league but its a very good league so you have to be on your ‘A’ game every night. Every team is well coached and competitive so any time you can win in the Hock, its a success. We have to take it game by game, do the best we can, and keep plugging.
Outlook: The Warriors are aiming to make it two straight years in the postseason and will use a mix of returning players and new faces to try and get it done.
Foxboro graduated 35 seniors last year so there are some spots that need to be filled, but the Warriors are off to a good start with Liam Foley back in the fold at quarterback. The senior saw time under center last season along with Devin Hassett. And Foley will be in good shape as the Warriors have a lot of experience on the offensive line. Senior Tom Cullen is back in the middle of the line as the center, senior Andrew Longa and sophomore Sean Ferguson take on the tackle positions, and senior Hunter Williams and junior Aidan Dow will fill out the interior of the line.
Mike Luong got touches as a junior out of the backfield last season and will be a main part of the offense this season. Pat Stapleton is a returning split end, classmate Rob Fay will step into the same role, and junior Shayne Kerrigan will a top target for Foley.
The Warriors have experience and good size up front on defense, led by returning starting tackles Shawn Teixeira (6’4, 260) and Bill McNeil (6’0, 265). Senior William Ogbebor and Anton George will be called upon to fill out the defensive line on the ends while Williams and Martin McElroy will be joined by Mike Sheehan at linebacker. Russell Neale is back as the place kicker after a strong junior season.
Outlook: After reaching the quarterfinals last season, the 2018 version of the Scarlet Hawks are aiming for a deeper run into the postseason. And not just that, the Hawks are looking to be serious contenders for the Davenport crown.
Milford has a strong core of returning players back, a group of eager new faces looking to make an impression, and big new piece on the line. Kevin Pyne (6’8, 280) transferred to his hometown high school and will anchor what looks to be a big, physical line. Pyne is rated as the top recruit for his class and holds D1 offers from over a dozen schools including Notre Dame and Michigan. Senior Josh Ligor returns as a starter on the line while sophomore Nick Yohn will also be a two-way lineman.
The Hawks bring back both their quarterbacks: senior Ryan Pearl handled the team’s ‘WAR’ package while junior Colby Pires stepped in when Milford spread it out. Junior Luke Rosa will step in as an option at halfback along with sophomore Dominic Schofield. Brendan White (WR/S) brings toughness to both sides of the ball for the Hawks.
Shapel Feaster is one of the most experienced defensive backs in the Hockomock League and should be an important piece of the 2018 Hawks’ defense. Junior CJ Cerella will step in to anchor the linebacking group. On special teams, Sean Lehane is one of the strongest kickers in the area and will try to give Milford a spark at wide receiver this season.
“The goal of the 2018 football season for the Milford Scarlet Hawks is simple: start fast, play physical, and be the toughest team on the field on Friday nights,” said Milford head coach Anthony Vizakis.
Outlook: The target on North Attleboro’s back continues to grow. Coming off their third straight league title, including two straight Davenport titles, the Rocketeers made it all the way to the D3 State Final before falling, 35-33, to St. John’s Shrewsbury.
Big Red is hopeful it can continue its string of success but knows it will be tested with a difficult schedule, including a non-league game with two-time defending state champion King Philip. The biggest challenge will be finding a replacement for three-year starter Chad Peterson, who graduated with a handful of program records and three Hock titles as the starter. Seniors Nick Raneri and Luke LaBonte are both in the mix, and both saw time last year throughout the season. Raneri started all 13 games at tailback but also filled in at QB at times.
Whoever ends up getting the nod at quarterback will have one of the best offensive linemen in the entire state with senior Ryan Clemente anchoring the protection unit. Clemente is joined by senior Jack Puccio as returning starters on the line while seniors Joe Larkin and John Nally, and juniors John Kummer, Ethan Friberg, Trevor Hewitt, Montrel Jackson, and Ethan Mottinger are all competing for time. The Rocketeers also have solid skill options back with senior Brendan McHugh (14 total touchdowns) back at the starting slot back. Omar Jasseh offers size and speed at split end while Ryan Gaumond’s quickness gives the Rocketeers another option down field.
North Attleboro returns six starters on the defensive end, including McHugh, Gaumond, and Jasseh in the secondary. Clemente will be a big piece of the defensive line while Raneri and captain Jonathan James, who will also see time at tight end, will lead the linebacker unit. Russell Dunlap, Puccio, Mike Carty, Friberg and Jackson are all in the mix for defensive end spots while Ryan Boyle, Tom O’Neill, Duane Bryant, and Owen Harding are competing for time at linebacker.
“We expect a very challenging schedule, opening with KP on our new turf field and then an improved Bishop Feehan team in Week 2,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “The Davenport division will be extremely competitive this year, with several teams able to beat anyone on any given night. We have a nice core, but if we are going to compete at a championship level, then we are going to need several new faces to mature very quickly. There’s a lot of work still to be done, and not a lot of time to do it.”
Outlook: For the first time in Sharon, there will be football on Friday nights.
With the installation of lights at the high school field, the Eagles will be hosting teams on Friday nights instead of Saturday afternoons. And the 2018 Eagles are hoping to put a show under those lights. Sharon brings back a handful of key returning starters on both sides of the ball, and with one more year experience under their belts, will be looking to compete in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive seasons top to bottom in the Davenport.
Sharon averaged nearly 20 points per game in its six non-league games last year and is hoping to carry that over into Davenport play this season. Senior quarterback Jeremy Ruskin (six total touchdowns) is back under center to lead the offense and last year’s starting running back Aaron Strong (three touchdowns) also returns to give the Eagles a solid 1-2 punch on offense right away. Coleman Loftus’ size and strength will be a vital part of the line on both sides of the ball while Chris Gong and Alec Filipkowski return as Ruskin’s main two targets.
Not only goes Gong give Sharon options on offense because of his speed, he is one of the most dangerous kick returners in the state. He had an 80-yard punt return touchdown and a 99-yard kickoff return last season so opposing special team units will have to pay a lot of attention.
Despite the numbers, the Eagles had a strong defense last season. This season, Sharon boasts a lot of speed (on both sides of the ball) and is looking to use that to be more aggressive. Juniors Kiran Chandrasekaran will step in to be a big part of the secondary while classmate Nic Marrero will be relied on to anchor the linebackers.
“With a lot of returning starters and a sprinkle of new talent, I am expecting this team to take a huge step forward from last year’s inexperienced team,” said Sharon head coach Dave Morse.
Outlook: It feels like a fresh start for the Black Knights after graduating a bunch of players that had multiple seasons of experience under their belts.
But the focus remains the same for the Black Knights, who are aiming to be in contention for the Davenport title and make another appearance in the state tournament. Similar to previous seasons, Stoughton will have talent in the backfield and that will be the focal point of the offense. Jeff Grier is one of the fastest players in the league and will make defenses pay when there is space. Alex Iverson is a shifty option out of the backfield, Malachi Green-Hightower brings power to the run game, and sophomore Chris Ais could emerge as a playmaker for the Black Knights.
Junior George Currier and sophomore John Burke will battle it out for the starting quarterback position while Matt Piana, Ali Awad, and Evan Jackman have solidified spots on the offensive line. Frank Derbes will factor into the offense as a tight end and junior Ajahn Rue is back as a receiver.
Defensively, Iverson and Green-Hightower will be right in the heart of the lineup as linebackers while Grier will help as a member of the secondary. Cian Swierzewski has impressed throughout the offseason and the preseason and will be a key piece of the defense from the safety spot. Stoughton is looking for other names to step up and help anchor its hard nose defense.