Late Interception Secures Attleboro Thanksgiving Win

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Attleboro junior linebacker Michael Strachan (7) intercepts a pass in the end zone with just 20 seconds remaining to secure a 13-7 Thanksgiving Day win at North. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Attleboro scored twice in its first five plays from scrimmage but with less than a minute remaining on the clock North Attleboro (4-7) was driving with a chance to steal the 99th annual Thanksgiving Day meeting between the two neighboring rivals on the soaked grass at Community Field.

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Rocketeers backup quarterback Casey Poirier, who took over from sophomore Tyler DeMattio (17 carries, 83 yards) in the fourth quarter, engineered a 15-play drive from his own 20 all the way down to the Attleboro five-yard-line.

Fellow quarterback Jason Weir pushed North back when he grabbed hold of Poirier and swung him down for a nine-yard sack back to the 14 and on third and goal junior linebacker Michael Strachan came through with a game-ending interception in the end zone, sealing a dramatic 13-7 victory for the Bombardiers.

“I think we prepared really hard for this game and I think it just goes to show, this rivalry, what it means,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan after his third win in this holiday series. “[North] played great, they’re always prepared, but this is what it’s all about.”

While Attleboro (6-5) made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in D1 South, neither team had big postseason plans this year, so both had weeks to prepare for Thursday’s game and it took on added importance, as Weir, who won the Balfour Trophy for Offensive MVP, succinctly explained.

“It means so much,” he said. “This is our Super Bowl. It’s phenomenal.”

North was able to move the ball on its opening drives, but couldn’t finish. The Rocketeers got to the Attleboro 39 on its opening possession but a bad snap on fourth and one ended the drive, while the second possession reached the Attleboro 35 but another turnover on downs meant no points.

Attleboro had none of those problems at the start of the game. The Bombardiers went 52 yards in three plays on the their first possession and then 65 yards on two plays on their second to build a solid lead.

On the first play from scrimmage, Weir (7-of-10, 104 yards) hit Ethan Cameron (five catches, 88 yards) in stride for a 43-yard completion to the North five. Two plays later, Strachan burst through the left side for a five-yard score. After completing a 13-yard pass to Cameron to start the second drive, Weir took it himself, breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage and breaking free for a 52-yard touchdown to make it 13-0.

“That was the whole game plan, come out and throw the first punch,” said Weir. “That works against any high school team, they’re going to back down right away and that’s what we did today. Our line stepped up huge today.”

Coach Strachan said of Weir, “I think we finally put him in a situation where he could make some plays for us, make him comfortable, roll him out a little bit more, and that was good.”

The visiting Bombardiers felt like they might break the game wide open and put things away, but the North defense started to stiffen, with Tom O’Neil, Ethan Friberg, and Jacob Silva all making plays that kept Attleboro from gaining more traction offensively.

Also, the North offense finally found a way to complete a drive. The Rocketeers marched 77 yards on 11 plays to cut into the lead. DeMattio led the way, with help from Tommy Whalen and a 27-yard run up the gut by Silva. Attleboro forced fourth an 10 after pressure by Trainor Sherck and a breakup by Adam Pearlstein, but then Demattio scrambled for 12 yards to keep the possession alive.

DeMattio added 16 more on a quarterback draw to get to the Attleboro four and two plays later Jared Penta took a jet sweep over the left side for a three-yard score to make it 13-7 with a minute left before the break.

“We gave up two touchdowns in the first five plays of the game and that’s been the story of our season,” said North coach Don Johnson. “We give up too many easy ones like that and all of a sudden we have to dig out of a hole.

Johnson was asked if he changed anything defensively after Attleboro’s two quick strikes and he answered, “We played a little bit of a different front, but I don’t think that was the difference. I think we just started playing a little bit better.”

The third quarter was largely a stalemate. Weir had a sack to effectively end North’s first possession of the half and Attleboro just missed out on extending the lead when Cameron was ruled to be out of bounds on a catch in the end zone on fourth and 11.

After just missing out on the touchdown, Attleboro had a chance to break the game open two plays later. Justin Daniels tipped a DeMattio pass that was picked off by Pearlstein, setting the visitors up at the North 20. The Bombardiers managed six yards on three plays and a low snap led to a missed 31-yard field goal by Colby Briggs with 9:43 to play.

Attleboro wouldn’t see the ball again for more than nine minutes.

Starting at its own 20, North took over going into the wind and put together a drive that gave it a shot at the win. Defensive MVP Isaac Gudiel stuffed Silva (nine carries, 53 yards) for a two-yard loss to force a third and 10, but then a pass interference call gave the Rocketeers a much-needed first down.

Poirier picked out Ethan Friberg for 10 yards to the 33. After a penalty backed North up five yards, Silva gained 13 on a draw. Gudiel stuffed Silva for a loss to bring up third and 11, but Poirier again had the answer with a 12-yard pass to Whalen for another first down to the nine.

Coming out of a timeout with 1:14 to play, North drew an illegal substitution penalty that backed it up to the 14, but Penta gained nine on first and goal to get the Rocketeers up to the five. Weir came flying through on second down, dropping Poirier for a nine-yard loss and forcing North into its final timeout with 27 seconds on the clock.

On third and goal, Strachan made amends for allowing an earlier completion by jumping the route and picking off a pass two yards deep in the end zone to end the game and bring Hilda back to Attleboro.

“I was on him because he missed the play before,” joked Coach Strachan about his son’s game-clinching play, “so they ran the same route and he undercut it and it was good.”

When asked about how much winning on Thanksgiving means, Strachan added, “It’s huge. We battled injuries just like everyone else has, but this was a big game for the program. Like I said to the kids, these games mean something and these kids responded.”

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Foxboro Holds On For Win At North Attleboro

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North Attleboro’s Tom O’Neill tackles Foxboro’s Shayne Kerrigan at Community Field. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
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.

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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.”

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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).