Ground Game, Defense Lead Stoughton Over Foxboro

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By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
FOXBORO, Mass. – If there’s one thing that Stoughton football has been able to hang its hat on for the past couple of years, it’s been defense.
If there was a second thing, it’d be running the ball.
With New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on hand for part of the first half, Stoughton used those two signature traits to pick up a key 14-0 win over previously unbeaten Foxboro on Friday night, keeping their playoff hopes alive and throwing their hat into a three way tie for the lead in the Davenport with the Warriors and Canton.
“It was a great game,” Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. “We’ve got some tough kids and we finally got our running game going and we went back to our three or four plays, that’s all we need. I don’t know what they had for total offense [yardage]. I think we deserved the win, I really do. The kids played great defense. Foxboro ran around a little bit but we made sure the kids stayed in their zones. We worked on not running around and not losing guys.”
The defense set the tone for the Black Knights, forcing a fumble and recovering on Foxboro’s opening drive only for it to be erased by an offsides call. But just two plays later, Stoughton was stuffing the Warriors on a fourth down rush to force the turnover on downs.
That’s when Stoughton’s second signature – the running game – came into play. Of the 50 plays that Stoughton ran on offense (minus a pair of QB kneels), 46 if them were either counters, sweeps or bursts right up the middle.
The first 11 of those plays were all rushing plays with Ryan Sullivan, Jake Gibb, Jordan Taylor and Izon Swain-Price all contrubting. On the 11th play of Stoughton’s opening series, Swain-Price broke a tackle up the left side and ran in for a 19 yard touchdown. Gibb’s extra point was good the Stoughton took a 7-0 lead.
The Warriors moved the ball some to start their next drive but eventually stalled at the start of the second quarter near midfield and were forced to punt. Quarterback Mark Clagg started in shotgun before dropping all the way back to punt formation. He took the snap and then took off running but Stoughton’s defense was alert and made the stop to get the ball back on downs.
Once again Stoughton went to the ground and moved the ball, highlighted by a 15 yard run from Taylor (13 carries, 60 yards). The Black Knights faced 3rd and 2 from the Foxboro nine yard line but a false start pushed them back five yards and a tipped pass on third down went incomplete. Gibb attempted a 31 yard field goal but it was just wide to the right.
Stoughton’s defense forced Foxboro into a punt six plays later but the Black Knights would be forced to kick it back. With under a minute to play, Stoughton attempted to punt but Jamaine Few came flying in for the block to give the ball to Foxboro at the Black Knights’ 32 yard line.
The Black Knights’ defense came up with a play right away though as Xzavian Marrero used good vision on the first play to get an interception and put an end to any hope of the Warriors scoring in the first half.
Coming out at halftime the Black Knights were able to double the lead on the opening drive. Nine yards from Sullivan on first down was followed two plays later by a sneak from Gibb to move the chains. Sullivan ran for seven more then Guy Eddy added four. Swain-Price’s (10 carries 97 yards) speed was key on the next play as he raced 55 yards to get inside the Foxboro five yard line, only stopped by a great hustle play from Austin Ryan.
Two plays later, Sullivan (15 carries, 61 yards) dove into the end zone to make it 14-0 Stoughton with 7:13 left in the third quarter.
“We just couldn’t establish any rhythm,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said. “It was 7-0 at half and we’ve been there before. They came out and did what every coach wants his team to do. If you have the ball you want to score and make it a two score game and they did that. Give them a lot of credit.”
It was a much improved look for Stoughton’s offensive line, who had struggled in the opening game of the season weeks ago. Now with some changes, Matt Soto, Matt Medina, Brendan Walsh, Donnie Foley, Lino Azul and tight end Jack Connelly stood tall and helped Stoughton rack up 245 yards on the ground.
“It’s a whole new line and they’re strong kids,” Burke said. “They are tough and blood and guts and they don’t quit. They’ve done great and they’re getting better. We’re back in the hunt for the league title now but the big goal, our first goal is to get into the playoffs. We have to win next week. I’m just so proud of the Stoughton kids, we’re never going to quit. They are as tough as they come. They could have packed it in after last week but they didn’t, they worked harder.”
oxboro put together it’s longest drive of the game next, moving into Stoughton territory to the 36 yard line but an incompletion on second down was followed by a sack from Stoughton senior Devlin Carroll and the Warriors had to punt again. The Black Knights, who didn’t complete a pass on three attempts, were able to kill more of the clock on six running plays before having to punt.
Marrero was at it again just two plays later as he leaped up to haul in his second interception and gave the ball back to the Black Knights.
“Terrific, he had two huge interceptions,” Burke said.
With the win, Stoughton improves to 3-3 overall but more importantly, 3-1 in the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division. Foxboro suffered its first loss and missed out on a chance to clinch at least a share of the division title. The Warriors now sit at 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the division. Canton, a team that beat Stoughton but lost to Foxboro, is also 5-1 and 3-1 in the Davenport, meaning there could be a three-way tie for the title if all three teams win next week.
Stoughton will travel to Milford and Canton will take a trip to Sharon on Saturday the 24th while Foxboro travels to Oliver Ames on Friday the 23rd.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Peterson, Defense Stand Out in North Attleboro's Win

North Attleboro's Nick Gaumond intercepts a pass in the second half that he eventually returned 49 yards for a touchdown. (Jeffrey Pickette/Stoughton Media Access)
North Attleboro’s Nick Gaumond intercepts a pass in the second half that he eventually returned 49 yards for a touchdown. (Jeffrey Pickette/Stoughton Media Access)

Click here for a photo gallery of the game.
By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
STOUGHTON, Mass. – It’s not often teams can throw a sophomore under center and get the results North Attleboro did on Friday night.
Chad Peterson earned the starting job at quarterback and in his fist career game, delivered a memorable performance as North Attleboro took down Stoughton, 14-6, in the HockomockSports.com Game of the Week.
It was a battle of two stout defenses but it was Peterson who ended up making the difference for the Rocketeers.
“I think he did a great job especially considering the fact he’s a sophomore and its first varsity game,” North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson said. “We think he’s going to be pretty good. He’s pretty mature for a sophomore.”
After North Attleboro’s defense forced Stoughton into a three and out to start the game, Peterson orchestrated an 11-play drive that went 63 yards for the lone offensive touchdown of the game for North.
Peterson started with comfortable throws to Ridge Olsen for nine yards and Nick Rajotte for 17 yards. Another nine yard completion to Olsen and a six yard carry from Nick Morrison gave the Rocketeers a first down at the Stoughton 26. The next three plays resulted in just two yards and North faced a 4th and 8 from the 24.
Johnson showed his confidence in the sophomore by not only electing to go for it, but letting Peterson throw it. Peterson looked calm in the pocket and delivered a perfect strike between two defenders to Olsen for 10 yards and a first. Two plays later, Peterson hit Morrison on the left side and he raced in for a 12 yard score. Connor Flynn’s extra point was good to make it 7-0 with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
The defenses for both sides continued to put in good work. North Attleboro’s next four drives in the first half ended in a punt, a fumble, another punt and on downs. Stoughton’s second drive ended in a punt again but the third drive was when the offense clicked.
On 2nd and 4 at their own 28, Stoughton went with running back Christian Hill (4 carries, 40 yards) for a gain of 26 yards. Ryan Sullivan rushed for three more and an incompletion had Stoughton facing a 3rd and 7. Gibb took the snap and fired a strike over the middle to Steven Elice who then did the rest of the work, racing past defenders on his way to a 43 yard touchdown. The extra point failed but the Black Knights cut the deficit to 7-6 with 10:28 in the second quarter.
Stoughton nearly took the lead late in the half but were unable to convert. Taking over on North Attleboro’s 48 yard line after Stoughton’s Izon Swain-Price sniffed out a Rocketeer fake punt, Stoughton’s offense started to move.
A run from Hill went for 16 yards and then one from Sullivan went for nine more Sullivan was able to get two more for a first down and Hill pushed the pile for three more. A penalty on North Attleboro gave Stoughton a first down at the 14 yard line but Tom Reynolds, Josh Morrison and Davon Andrade got to Gibb for a sack and an 11 yard loss. On the next play, Nick Morrison sacked Gibb again for a loss of five.
Gibb hit Connelly for 12 yards to set up a field goal chance, but the kick was just wide to send the teams into halftime separated by just one point.
Click here for a photo gallery of the game.
Things got worse for the Black Knights at the break as Gibb, who has started since his sophomore year, was out for the second half with an upper body injury.
Stoughton’s defense again came up big on the first drive of the second half as Sullivan intercepted Peterson. The Black Knights went three and out but got the ball back when Connelly forced a fumble on the punt return and Nick Hardy recovered it. But just a few plays later, North Attleboro got the ball back when Kyle Gaumond intercepted a pass from Dave Cellucci in the end zone.
“They stepped up and made some big plays when we needed them,” Johnson said of the defense. “Especially when we were sputtering a bit there on offense then they defense stepped up so it was nice to see.”
The Rocketeers produced their longest drive of the game, going 78 plays on 16 plays but Stoughton’s defense stood tall to stuff Peterson on a fourth down rush by a couple of inches. As Stoughton looked to try and take the lead, Gaumond came up big again. Gaumond elevated for an interception right around midfield and returned it the entire way for a 49 yard score. Connor MacIver’s extra point split the uprights to make it 14-6 with 1:38 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, Hill took the ball all the way back in North Attleboro territory to the 38 yard line. Xzavian Marrero rushed for 15 yards and three from Sullivan put the Black Knights at the 20 yard line. The teams traded penalties before North Attleboro’s stepped in front to intercept a Stoughton pass to ice the game.
“You hold your breath on just about every play with these guys,” Johnson said of Stoughton. “They have so many guys that have the ability to break a big one. You just have to be able to contain them and I think we were successful at it tonight.”
Peterson finished 12/18 for 95 yards and a touchdown and 45 yards rushing on 13 carries. Ridge Olsen had five receptions for 39 yards and Nick Rajotte had three catches for 32 yards. Defensively, Gaumond had two interceptions, McCarthy had one pick and Bobby Mylod, Nick Morrison, Tom Reynolds, Josh Morrison and Davon Andrade all had their hand in at least one sack.
For Stoughton, it will be a wait and see with Gibb.
“I don’t know Gibbs scenario but it’s probably not good,” Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. “But we just have to hang in there.
“It was a hard fought battle, no doubt about it. We’re a different team with Jake [Gibb]. But that’s the way it is, you’re only as good as your backups. We worked hard and got the ball back and had some opportunities but it’s would of, could of, should of now. For the first game, they are a good team. We bent a little bit but he missed on some opportunities. I think the kids played hard.”
Burke was happy with his defense, which allowed just one touchdown to North’s offense and kept the Rocketeers under 200 yards.
“That’s a great thing for defense,” Burke said. “I’ll take seven anytime. We have a lot of new guys playing defense. We’ve got to correct our mistakes this week. We gave a good effort, if we didn’t get the effort I wouldn’t be talking right now but the kids played hard.”
The win marked North Attleboro’s first win over Stoughton since 2011 when the Rocketeers won in overtime.
Both teams are in the D3 Southwest division for the playoffs so a rematch down the road could be in the cards.
“Maybe we’ll see them later on this year,” Burke said.
North Attleboro (1-0) will host Bishop Feehan (0-1) next Friday at Community Field. Stoughton will try to get back on track against the state’s top team Marshfield (1-0) on the road on Friday night.
Click here for a photo gallery of the game.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Football: Players to Watch on Defense

Shawn Cardoza
Oliver Ames senior Shawn Cardoza should be a force on the defensive line for the Tigers. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Mac Brown, Senior – Canton
One of the better lineman that didn’t get much attention last year was Canton’s Mac Brown. He’s got solid size but possesses his ability to move and find the ball was huge for the Bulldogs last year. We’d be remiss to not mention how impressive Brown is on offense but we expect a big year on defense this season. If teams want to run to Brown’s side, don’t expect a big hole to open up. He has the ability to take a lineman on one-on-one and will be a big factor for the Bulldogs this season.
Shawn Cardoza, Senior – Oliver Ames
One play that stands out was on special teams (a gigantic hit in a game against Stoughton) but it was just a taste of the power that Cardoza has. The burst he displayed coming off the line made it very tough for opponents to try and match up with him. It seemed with within a second of the ball being snapped, Cardoza was in the backfield disrupting the play. He’s strong enough to go through you and he;s fast enough to go around you. It won’t be very fun for the players who have to get hit by Cardoza this season.
Connor Downs, Senior – Foxboro
After graduating a handful of talented and experienced seniors, the Warriors are going to rely heavily on the returning players that did see substantial time last year. Downs saw plenty of time at linebacker this season and will be on of the best at that position in the Hock this year. Downs shows some patience at linebacker and reads the play well and attacks. As the play develops, Downs is quick to figure it out and react. Although it’s just one play, take last year’s game against Stoughton for example. Downs came right up the middle right to Stoughton back Joey Girolamo. Despite Girolamo being one of the toughest backs in the league, Downs was able to get right past him for a sack. We might be seeing that more often this season with Downs.
Connor Finerty, Senior – Mansfield
After recording a team-high in sacks last year, Connor Finerty is back for what could be a very big senior campaign. On top of his three sacks, Finerty had five tackles for loss, which was second on the game and forced a fumble. Strength is one of his biggest attributes which makes it tough for opponents to stop him – on both sides of the ball – but his speed complements his power which makes him even more dynamic. Finerty, a captain for Mike Redding this year, has the chance for a special 2015.
Connor Flynn, Senior – North Attleboro
On offense, Connor Flynn is part of a three-headed monster rushing attack with Nick Rajotte and Bobby Mylod. On defense, Mylod’s versatility makes him a dangerous player. Whether it be as a corner or a linebacker, Flynn is likely to make a play. He’s able to track the play well and then attack and make a play. The Rocketeers lost some good playmakers to graduation and will be looking for players to step into those roles. Flynn might be one of those players.
Tyler Gomes, Junior – Franklin
During his sophomore season, Tyler Gomes made himself familiar with opposing quarterbacks time and time again. In seemed like every game, Gomes was finding his way through the offensive line for a sack. Gomes’ athleticism and strength allow him to take opponents on one and one – if teams don’t double team him. Expect Gomes to draw a lot of attention and be a big factor as the Panthers make a push to return to the postseason.
Blake Hill, Junior – Milford
Blake Hill might have been one of the most underrated players on the defensive side of the ball last year. At the linebacker spot Hill was all over the field for the Scarlet Hawks. He did well to read the play and then attack and make a play. Milford graduated a lot of talent but with Hill back, he will be able to make an impact on both sides of the ball. Even if the play goes away from him, he doesn’t give up on the play and tracks it to the end. Hill is also a threat on the offensive side of the ball as he can take off with the ball in his hands and run over defenders.
Cory Lombardo, Senior – King Philip
There are only two Kelley-Rex Hockomock League All Stars coming back and Cory Lombardo is one of them. During the Warriors’ historic run last year, Lombardo was an anchor on defense and really helped define KP’s style and attitude. With KP graduating a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, Lombardo is the perfect player to help set the tone for the players stepping in. He does well to read the play and has real good strength. Good luck to anyone that’s trying to get past Lombardo.
Xzavian Marrero, Senior – Stoughton
The Black Knights lost a lot of talent when the Class of 2015 graduated but expect Stoughton to reload to be just as tough on the defensive side of the ball. One player that got some experience last season that is back this year is senior Xzavian Marrero. Marrero got time at corner last year and will be one of the top players at that spot this year. One reason Marrero is able to excel in the secondary is because of his tremendous athleticism. Whether it be going up and defending a pass, tracking down a ball carrier or laying a hit on someone, Marrero can do it.
Kyle Murphy, Senior – Attleboro
There are certain players that can change a team’s game plan and Kyle Murphy is one of them. Whether it be on the offensive line or the defensive line, Murphy is good enough to dominate on any given down. Since his sophomore year, Murphy has been a headache for offensive guards and tackles. Not only is Murphy’s size an advantage, his combination of quickness and strength is not something you see everyday. Last year in the playoffs, Murphy showed off how good he really is with his performance against eventual state champs Xaverian. Expect a lot of teams to pay plenty of attention to Murphy this season.