Mansfield comes up tough

(Game Four - 2003) NORTH ATTLEBORO

League honors on line

Mansfield hosts North Attleboro

By Mike Grimala, Globe Correspondent, 10/3/2003
Last season, North Attleboro was 1-2 heading into its Week 4 matchup with Mansfield. Losses to Bridgewater-Raynham and Bishop Feehan had drained the team of confidence, and after falling behind Mansfield, 12-0, at the half, the Red Rocketeers' season was on life support.

Fortunately for coach Paul Sullivan, the offense came alive, scoring two second-half touchdowns and earning North Attleboro a 12-12 tie. "That was a big game," said Sullivan. "Coming back to tie kind of gave the kids the confidence that they could be a good football team." Indeed, North Attleboro didn't lose again en route to the Division 3 Super Bowl title.

Tonight, the teams meet again in Mansfield for a crucial Hockomock League battle that could go a long way in determining the postseason fate of both. "It's critical in terms of the league," said Mansfield coach Michael Redding. "Whoever wins this game pretty much controls their own destiny. There are a lot of tough games after this but over the last 10-12 years, the winner of this game has usually won the league."

He's right. In nine of the last 10 years, the Hockomock winner has been either Mansfield or North Attleboro. Foxboro won it in 2000.

Redding hopes to ride his team's explosive offense to the Hockomock crown. The No. 7 Hornets have scored 117 points in their first four games, good for third in EMass (and only 2 points behind leader Swampscott). Redding attributes the early success to every offense's best friend: balance.

"I think we have great balance for a high school team," he said.

"John Sperrazza is one of the finest quarterbacks in the state. And we've got guys at the skill positions who are experienced and talented." Sperrazza has four touchdown passes on the season, while running backs Brian Kiley and Tom Farrell each has scored five times.

"It's a tough matchup for us, or for anybody," said Sullivan. "They can run it, they can throw it. It's going to pose a real challenge." Sullivan did offer one possible way of neutralizing the Mansfield offense.

"If we can move the ball in the first half, hold onto the ball, maybe we can keep them off the field," he said.

The offense for No. 5-ranked North Attleboro is led by senior quarterback Ryan Ven De Geisen, who has four touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns. "The game's at our place, and we're playing good football," said Redding.

"If we want to win the league and get to the playoffs, they're the league and Super Bowl champs. We're anxious for the challenge." . . .

From the Attleboro Sun

Mark Farinella Sun Chronical staff

MANSFIELD -- It took seven years for the football team from Mansfield High to produce a game against North Attleboro that will be remembered for decades. Not since 1996 had the Hornets put together as complete an effort, both offensively and defensively, against their rivals from Big Red Country as they did in Friday night's 20-6 triumph over the Rocketeers at Memorial Park.

Before a crowd estimated to exceed 4,000 bone-chilled fans, it took two outstanding defensive stands and a poised, almost precognizant offense for Mansfield (4-0, 1-0) to gain a leg up in the Hockomock League race over their strongest challenger for the title.

``Now it's ours to control,'' Mansfield coach Mike Redding said of this fall's Hockomock campaign.

``We don't have to hope for them to lose or anything ... it's solely up to us to keep this thing going.''

The first sign that the Hornets were not to be deterred from taking its first victory over the Rocketeers since 1996 came when disaster almost befell them on the opening kickoff. Tom Farrell was hammered at his own 22, fumbled and North's Josh Fears recovered to give North (2-1-1) a golden opportunity right at the start.

But Mansfield's Ryan Kent made a big stop on a second-handoff play to Justyn Ainsworth for just 2 yards on third-and-8 at the 21, then Farrell knocked away a pass from Ryan Van De Giesen to Bob Patalano to turn the ball back over on downs.

``It was critical,'' Redding said of the defensive stop. ``We fumbled a kickoff and we stopped them, then we gave them good field position ... the defense played the game of their lives until the offense finally got it going.''

North coach Paul Sullivan said the stop wasn't the end of the world for his team, given the amount of time left in the game.

``I'm real proud of our kids and they gave it everything they had,'' Sullivan said. ``Maybe they were overmatched in a few areas, but did that affect us, no.

``We kept coming at them,'' he said. ``We were going to have to make plays to beat them, and when those situations came up, we weren't able to make those plays.''

In fact, North spent practically all of the first quarter in Mansfield territory, only to be stopped at the 11 by a fumble recovered by Gerry Willette and at the 38 on an overthrown pass by Van De Giesen to Ainsworth.

Van De Giesen (7-21-0, 88 yards, one TD) struggled mightily with his throws in the first half, completing only one of nine passes. But when the throws failed him, his legs didn't -- and the swift senior finished the night with exactly 100 rushing yards on 11 carries.

Still, it took some very smart football -- and the help of Mansfield's ``12th man'' -- to turn the momentum.

Facing fourth-and-4 at midfield inside the last two minutes of the half, Mansfield quarterback John Sperrazza (3-11, 65 yards, one TD) punted out of shotgun formation and backed North up against its goal line.

During the Rocketeers' possession, a cluster of Mansfield fans gathered behind the end zone and vocally gave it their all, making it impossible for anyone to hear Van De Giesen's signals.

The result was three false-start penalties, a net gain of no yards, and a punt to return possession to Mansfield with 55 seconds left.

``There was an awful lot of noise and the kids couldn't hear the cadence,'' said Sullivan, who also had to contend with clock-keeping confusion during the possession. ``It was a combination of all those things, and that circumstance came back to haunt us ... but that's part of the game.''

On the field, Mansfield linebacker Brian Kiley said it was important for his team to keep its wits while confusion reigned.

``We were just lining up and playing football,'' the hard-hitting senior captain said. ``We knew what we had to do ... our front line did great stopping them. Everything just came together. We'd been practicing all week and studying film, and we just came into this confident and ready to play.''

Farrell returned the 43-yard punt to the North 33, and after two incompletions, he took the next pass out of the hands of North's Kevin Mahoney and raced down the left sideline for the score with 37 seconds left. Bryan Young added the point after.

``We had practiced the quick kick with Sperrazza for that situation to pin them in there and maybe get the ball back,'' Redding said. ``That was really a big momentum swing going into the half.''

North put together a promising drive at the start of the second half, but on fourth-and-9 at the Mansfield 27, Van De Giesen avoided sacks twice before Jason Noonan stopped his sprint cold.

This time, Mansfield didn't wait to respond. The Hornets broke off two long-gain runs (Farrell for 17, Chris Joseph for 10) and reached the 28 with the help of a 15-yard penalty against North -- from where Kiley (10 carries, 115 yards) broke off right tackle for a 14-0 lead with 6:17 left in the third quarter.

The Hornets also sniffed out North's strategy on its next possession. Joseph buried Patalano at the North 35 for a 13-yard loss on a fourth-and-28 reverse, forcing a punt. Getting the ball at their own 19, the Hornets embarked upon a nine-play, 81-yard march entirely on the ground -- and again, were mentally one step ahead of the Rocketeers when they sniffed out a blitz and sent Kiley through the onrushing linebackers for a 37-yard gain to the North 3.

Two carries later, Kiley rounded out Mansfield's scoring from a yard out with seven minutes left.

Surprisingly, the Rocketeers passed on the temptation to attempt a quick-strike drive with that much time left. Instead, they marched 80 yards in 15 plays and finally scored on Van De Giesen's 22-yard pass to Patalano with three seconds left -- too little, too late.

``I thought they would probably be backed off a little bit,'' Sullivan said, ``and I figured we could get the ball up the field with some runs. Once we got up to midfield in a little bit more of our striking distance, we tried to open it up a little.''

Mansfield's win may have costly; Willette, the Boston College-bound two-way standout, suffered a left knee injury in the first half, the extent of which was unknown after the game.

``Ryan Kent stepped in and played great at tight end, and Chris Barry played good at defensive end ... two good seniors came in and filled his shoes,'' said Redding, hopeful that Willette's injury might have been just a temporary dislocation.

From the Boston Globe


Kiley has Mansfield on move

By Jon Hussey, Globe Correspondent, 10/4/2003
MANSFIELD -- Last night's Hockomock League battle between Mansfield and North Attleboro was touted as the biggest game of the weekend. In Week 4, it was touted as the battle for the league championship.

It should have been advertised as the Brian Kiley Show.

Mansfield's star back ran for 120 yards on 10 carries, scoring two touchdowns as the Hornets (4-0) beat North Attleboro, 20-6.

"Brian Kiley is the best football player in the state," said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. "If you want to start a football team, he's the first pick."

After a rocky start, including a fumble on the opening kickoff, the Hornets took momentum into the half following a 33-yard touchdown pass from John Sperrazza to senior Tom Farrell. It was Farrell's sixth touchdown this season.

Before the Mansfield score, North Attleboro had controlled the ball, managing three first downs in the first quarter to Mansfield's one. While North Attleboro star quarterback Ryan VanDeGiesen was failing to connect with the pass, his agility in the pocket allowed him to rush for 58 yards on six carries in the first half. "We were all out of sorts in the first half on offense," said Redding. "We just could not get into a rhythm.

"We finally got Sperrazza some good field position for the two-minute drill and he gets us the score. We got great momentum and in the second half, physically we just wore them down."

In the second half, the Kiley show began. With just more than six minutes left in the third quarter, Kiley broke three tackles down the middle and cut to the outside to run the ball in from the 27.

On North Attleboro's next possession, Kiley made three tackles, including a sack for a loss of 4. A 14-yard loss on a reverse forced the Rocketeers (2-1-1) to give the ball back to Kiley and the Mansfield offense. "We've been practicing all week, studying film and we just came to play," said Kiley. "No one person did it. It was everybody coming together and it worked out perfectly."

On the ensuing drive, Kiley again brought the ball in the end zone on a 1-yard run. Kiley ran for 45 yards on the 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive.

The Rocketeers' touchdown came with 3 seconds remaining on a 21-yard pass from Ryan VanDeGiesen to Bob Patalano.

"We have seven more games, six in the league, but at least we control our destiny," said Redding. "We don't have to worry about them losing. It's up to us whether we continue this thing." Mansfield defeated North Attleboro for the first time in seven years, but lost Boston College-bound tight end Gerald Willette, who injured his leg and was on crutches by the end of the game. "He's a great two-way player," Redding said. "That's a big loss for us. The best-case scenario, no ligaments are torn.

From the Boston Herald

Mansfield too much

By Michael O'Connor

Saturday, October 4, 2003
MANSFIELD - Senior co-captain Brian Kiley ran for two touchdowns and the Mansfield defense kept Hockomock League rival North Attleboro off the scoreboard until the final seconds last night in a convincing 20-6 victory.

Kiley scored on a 27-yard run in the third quarter and a 1-yard dive in the fourth. The Hornets captains all were busy, as quarterback John Sperrazza hooked up with Tom Farrell on a 32-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to open the scoring.

The lone Red Rocketeers tally came as time was running out in the game, when Ryan Van De Giesen hit Bob Patalano for a 21-yard scoring toss. Both defenses stood out in the first half, and it wasn't until the third quarter that the Mansfield running game got in gear.

"We finally got untracked in the second half," said Mansfield coach Michael Redding, whose team improved to 4-0. "North Attleboro always gives us a battle.'' Redding called Kiley, who also recorded a sack on defense, "the best high school football player in the state."

North Attleboro coach Paul Sullivan pointed to the Hornets defense.

"Mansfield deserves a lot of credit for how they played tonight," he said. "We did have some opportunities, some situations that we just were not able to convert on." The first quarter was scoreless and the second featured more of the same. A run down the right sideline by Kiley put the ball on the North Attleboro 46-yard line, and then Farrell ran for another first down to the 36. Like the Red Rocketeers earlier, however, a fumble dashed the Hornets' hopes.

North Attleboro (2-1-1) came back hard when Van De Giesen scrambled for a monster gain to the Mansfield 32. On third-and-7 from the 28, Van De Giesen lofted a pass into the left corner of the end zone, where Justin Ainsworth made a great catch but couldn't keep his feet in bounds.

Mansfield finally drew first blood in the final minute of the first half, when Sperrazza found Farrell down the left sideline. In fact, Farrell snagged the ball as it slipped through a defender's hands to complete the 33-yard touchdown pass.

The Hornets stretched their lead to 14-0 midway through the third quarter when Kiley bulled up the middle, found running room and raced for the right corner of the end zone with North Attleboro defenders vainly giving chase.

Kiley's second TD came midway through the fourth, and the hard-charging running back set up his own tally with a wild, 37-yard romp down to the Red Rocketeers' 3. Two plays later, he waltzed in over right tackle.

Scoring summary:


Scoring summary:
Second quarter
Mans. - Tom Farrell 33 yard pass fro John Sperrazza (Bryan Young kick), 0:37.
Third quarter
Mans. - Brian Kiley 28 yard run (Young kick), 6:17.
Fourth quarter
Mans. - Kiley 1 yard run (kick failed), 7:00.
NA. - Patalono 22 yard pass (kick failed), 0:03.

1st DownsTotal yardsRushing yardsPassing yardsPenalties
Mansfield1327320865 3-20
Individual Mansfield statistics
Giblin 6-30, Kiley 10-115, Sperrazza 3-(minus 3), Farrell 5-47, Joseph 2-19.

Sperrazza 3-11-0=65

MacLean 2-32, Farrell 1-33.


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