The Attleboro Sun Chronicle
North Attleboro/Mansfield pre game coverage.
BY MATT KAKLEY SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
On the Mansfield Gridiron Club's website, a section called "Greatest Games" allows former players and supporters to highlight their most memorable games from the past 20 years.
It's no surprise that almost a third of those games listed are Hornet battles with archrival North Attleboro. "The rivalry here ... is as intense as Mansfield-Foxboro," Al DiSimone, head of the Mansfield Gridiron Club, said, referencing the Hornets' Thanksgiving Day rivalry with Foxboro High. "You can feel the intensity."
That intensity will be felt again tonight as the two rivals tangle at 7 p.m. at Community Field in North Attleboro. The winner will be in the driver's seat with regards to postseason play, while the loser will have a tall task in front of them to make the playoffs.
Big games between the two Hockomock League schools are nothing new. The Hornets and Red Rocketeers have been battling, more or less, every year since 1921, often with postseason dreams on the line. "Whoever won the game had a leg up," said Rocketeer superfan Tony Calcia. "It's what you put in all the hard work for."
North leads the all-time series 47-29-4, but Mansfield has enjoyed more success lately, winning five of the last seven contests.
Peter DeGirolamo, a 1960 Mansfield grad, can remember suiting up against the Red Rocketeers and the energy and excitement that had encapsulated the rivalry before he ever wore Hornet green.
"We had a rivalry a long time before that," he said. "We've been going at each other for so many years." While high-stakes games can often lead to intense battles on the gridiron, those around the two teams say the rivalry rarely gets personal.
"I see the rivalry as friendly - but intense - football," DiSimone said. "It became a respectful rivalry." Still, that respect shouldn't be confused with a lack of competitive fire.
"You want to beat one another," DeGirolamo said.
During the 1980s, the rivalry became relatively dormant, as Mansfield struggled and North pulled off eight consecutive victories against the Hornets.
Things began to change, however, in 1989, when Mansfield coach Mike Redding took over for his first full season. Redding, a former star at North Attleboro, reinvigorated the Hornet program and rivalry. And, the teams again began duking it out for Hockomock League supremacy.
"He made an immediate impact on the football program," DeGirolamo said. "After that, (the rivalry) probably intensified."
Redding and Mansfield went on to defeat his old school in 1989 and the rivalry has been back and forth ever since.
In another personal aspect of the modern rivalry, Redding and North head coach Don Johnson are longtime friends and former teammates at North Attleboro and Holy Cross College in Worcester.
While they remain close, there's no doubt that both coaches would love to grab the bragging rights for the next year.
Like the annual rivalry game has so many times, Friday's contest will go a long way toward determining who represents the Hockomock League in the postseason.
Both teams come into the game undefeated in league play and the winner will be able to control its own destiny for the league's only postseason bid.
"It just adds to the anticipation," Calcia said of the high-stakes nature of the game. "That's what makes it so much fun for the fans."
DiSimone, who plans to be watching the game from the Mansfield 20-yard-line agreed.
"It definitely adds more incentive for both teams," he said.
For the players on the field, the big crowds in the stands help add even more intensity to the rivalry games.
"As a high school kid playing in a high school football game, it definitely pumps you up and gets you excited," said Mark Vandette, of North's Class of 1998. "The crowd plays a big role. They know it's a big game."
Another large crowd is expected tonight as the teams tangle.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere," North Attleboro Athletic Director Kurt Kummer said. "I don't think it gets better than North-Mansfield."
They're at it againBY PETER GOBIS SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
NORTH ATTLEBORO - Ray Beaupre pretty much knew that he had a pair of very special athletes, a duo of very clever receivers on the flank representing the North Attleboro High School football teams back in 1977 and 1978.
He figured, too, that they would not only do well at the next level, playing football at the collegiate level, but in their professional careers - whatever that would be.
True to form, Mike Redding and Donny Johnson, North Attleboro High School, class of 1979 never ventured far from home. Both were teammates as Rocketeers, then as Crusaders in Worcester at the College of the Holy Cross. And probably, from those days of listening to Beaupre and Jack Harris and Paul Sullivan and Jeff Grant, the seedlings were planted that, perhaps, someday they'd like to be coaches.
True to their pedigree form, Redding has coached the Mansfield High football team to a 6-1 record this season. Johnson has positioned the North Attleboro High football team into a 7-0 start.
And tonight at Community Field in North Attleboro, not only do the former Rocketeer and Crusader teammates create another chapter in their personal odysseys, Redding and Johnson write another chapter in the long-fabled football script that has become a dandy of a series between the Hornets and Rocketeers.
Because the Hockomock League championship is probably at stake.
In going unbeaten thus far, North Attleboro has not allowed a single foe to score more than one touchdown in a game. And the Rocketeers have never scored fewer than 23 points in a game.
Since losing a season-opening game at Aquinas Institute in Rochester, N.Y., the Hornets have won six straight games, averaging 38 points per game - outscoring foes 72-9 in the first quarters of games, 74-14 in the second quarters.
"Donny and I played for Ray Beaupre and graduated in 1979, then we both chose Holy Cross but he went over to DB's (defensive backs) and I went with WR's (wide receivers)," recalled Redding the other day. "We have been good friends since middle school and I have the highest respect for him as a person and a coach. Coaching against him is a great challenge every year."
For Johnson, it seems like yesterday that he and Redding were in the bowels of the North Middle School listening to a pre-game pep talk from Beaupre.
"Mike and I have been doing this so long - this is the 28th game against Mansfield that I have coached in," said Johnson, in his second season as North's head coach. "Our personal history is old news and it really has no bearing on the game. There is no time to think about those kinds of things when I'm squeezing every minute out of the day to teach, grade papers, watch film and practice.
"We have been friends since playing Pop Warner together in the 70's, and teammates in high school and college, so it adds more flavor to the game for us personally, but that's all trumped by the rivalry and the history of what has transpired on the field between the two teams over the last several decades."
Over the past decade, Mansfield has won five games, North four and the Hornets and Rocketeers played to a 12-12 tie in 2002. Of the last 10 games, seven have been decided by margins of a touchdown or less - North taking a 28-25 victory at Mansfield a year ago.
"Between (Paul) McCarthy, (Danny) Johnson, (Ryan) Flannery, (Erik) Everton, (Brady) Shorey and (Colby) Johnson and Sully (offensive coordinator and former head coach Paul Sullivan) calling plays they put pressure on you every play," said Redding in praise of the Rocketeers.
"You have to play every, gap, every responsibility properly all they will make big plays. They are easily the most explosive team we have played thus far, but I think we're the best defense they have seen as well."
According to Johnson, "for us to be successful against them, we can't give up big plays on defense. They have great balance, with (RB Jamel) Marshall's ability to score quickly in the run game, and (QB George) Busharis's ability to hit his big targets in (Jeff) Hill and (Dan) Hershman. They are also very good on defense, mixing things up and coming after people aggressively".
"On offense, I think we have shown the ability to score in a lot of ways using a lot of different people. We can adapt to what they might be taking away, so if that means we need to throw 50 times or run 50 times, we will do it."
To North's credit, much of the danger posed by the offense is due to the development of the offensive line. And Johnson beams with pride of their progress.
"Our offensive line has exceeded our expectations," he continued. "I think the real key has been the speed of our guards, Brendan Curtis and Tyler Dean, enabling us to get the extra blocker outside on our sweeps. Also, the athleticism of our center, Anthony Plante, and our two tackles, Sean Peters and Connor Crosman, has allowed us to be able to do multiple things in our spread offense.
"I think two things cannot be overlooked in this kind of game - special teams and turnovers. In games involving teams with good offenses and good defenses, the outcome is usually determined by who makes the fewest mistakes in the kicking game and who takes care of the football the best," added Johnson.
For that matter, Mansfield cannot merely show up.
The Hornets can boast five Super Bowl championships since 1992. North has been to nine Super Bowls, winning seven. The Hornets can talk about 10 Hockomock League titles since 1989. But, that's history. The Hornets have to play with passion, poise and a purpose. To that extent, Redding too believes that whoever controls the line of scrimmage will have an edge.
"Our offensive line's performance has been a huge factor in our success," continued Redding. "They lack great size, but are very strong and very smart. They will be a key to us having a chance to win.
"We need some ball control drives to control field position and limit their offensive opportunities. I believe we are the most balanced offense they have defended thus far, but when you (North) give up less than four points per game, your defense is very good and we'll have to execute very well."
And for the record, since Redding and Johnson were Rocketeer sophomores, North has a 23-10-1 edge in the series. And since 1983 when Johnson began his coaching career at North, the Rocketeers are 17-9-1 against the Hornets.
Big showdown in Hockomock
By Michael Grossi, Globe Correspondent October 29, 2010
For 15 of the last 17 years, North Attleboro or Mansfield has won or shared the Hockomock League title.
When asked how both teams are so dominant in the league, North Attleboro coach Don Johnson and Mansfield coach Mike Redding credited tradition with playing a huge role.
"Also, I think coaching stability and having great assistants helps, too, "said Redding.
Tonight at Community Field in North Attleborough, the teams will battle again with the top spot in the Hockomock League standings on the line.
Fourth-ranked Mansfield (6-1, 5-0) will be one step closer to winning the league title with a victory. For No. 7 North Attleboro (7-0, 5-0), the road is a little tougher because it still has to face King Philip and Attleboro. Not only does this game have playoff ramifications, it is also the latest installment in a huge rivalry.
"It doesn't get much better than this," said Redding. "The games between us are always close and I expect it to be a one-touchdown game this year. You better get there early if you want a parking spot within a mile of Community Field." "This is going to be a great show," said Johnson. "Over the years, these games have been great and you can't get a better atmosphere."
Both teams are on the smaller side this year. Mansfield usually has big offensive linemen to pave the way for its ground game, but this year's line is made up of smaller but more athletic blockers. North Attleboro always is on the small side and the Red Rocketeers use athleticism and quickness to beat teams. "Most of the kids are less than 200 pounds, but there is some serious speed on the field for both teams,'' said Redding.
"We match up with [the Hornets] a little better this year, but they are still bigger," said Johnson. "But we have been the smaller team in every game this year."
Mansfield likes to control the game with a power rushing attack, with Jamel Marshall the workhorse.
"We like to get 200 yards on the ground, but that probably won't happen against North Attleboro,'' said Redding. "If we can get 150 yards rushing and use the play-action pass we will have a chance. Also, we want to control the ball and keep it away from North Attleboro's offense."
The Red Rocketeers use a spread offense and want to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers.
BY MARK FARINELLA SUN CHRONICLE STAFF Saturday, October 30, 2010
Mansfield's Jamel Marshall (4) tries to avoid the tackle attempt by North's Dan Johnson. Marshall rushed for 156 yards in the game. (Staff photo by Mark Stockwell)
Hornets hold off Rocketeers,
take control of league race
NORTH ATTLEBORO - The preparation started weeks ago, Mansfield High football coach Mike Redding said. And at each point in the game plan, he said, paying attention to the little things was at the root of it.
Even something as simple as covering an onside kick in the waning minutes of the game, something that burned the Hornets in last year's game against North Attleboro, had to be executed flawlessly if Mansfield was to emerge victorious in Friday's battle of the Hockomock League's best teams.
So when senior Dave Eberhart smothered the Rocketeers' onside kick with 2:06 left to play and gave his Hornets the ball to either hold a two-point lead or add to it, Redding could be satisfied that his Hornets followed the game plan.
Mansfield (7-1, 6-0) stayed on a fast track to the league championship and the MIAA playoff berth by fending off the Rocketeers, 24-15, before more than 4,000 partisans at Community Field. No doubt, the big crowd (which filled every parking space in downtown North Attleboro and swelled the 50/50 raffle jackpot to $1,084) got its money's worth from the taut, tension-filled battle that represented the best that local high school football has to offer.
"It was just both teams making big plays to stay alive," said Redding, who couldn't rest until Greg Donahue broke a 28-yard touchdown run with 43 seconds left to play, and Eberhart added his third conversion kick. "We're just glad we were able to put it away there. We didn't want to give it back to them, the way they were moving the ball."
Mansfield's Bob Brunelle celebrates during the final seconds. (Staff photo by Mark Stockwell) "They deserved to win," North Attleboro coach Don Johnson said. "They made more plays than we did, no question about that."
But not too many more. In fact, the Rocketeers (7-1, 5-1) raced down the field in the fourth quarter and made it a two-point game when the coach's son, Dan Johnson, threw a left-handed, 8-yard option pass to fellow senior captain Ryan Flannery with 2:07 left. It took a superb effort by Mansfield linebacker Joe Oram to burst through the line and stop North quarterback Paul McCarthy on the conversion try to preserve the Hornets' lead.
The seven-play, 67-yard drive featured a roughing call against the Hornets on a short completion by McCarthy (11-22, 120 yards) and a 30-yard run by Brady Shorey to set up the halfback-option pass.
"It was funny, we talked about Donny's son throwing it," Redding said. "We thought he was right-handed, and he's actually left-handed. We covered it pretty well, but that was a great catch by Flannery. That was the story of the night ... we'd defend things, but the kids are such great players, they find a way to make things happen."
"We knew we were going to use it at some point in this game," the elder Johnson said. "Danny made a great decision on it and Flan made a great catch, too."
Near the end of a scoreless first quarter, Mansfield's Jamel Marshall broke free of the smothering defensive attention he faced and broke a 53-yard run to the North 30, and it looked as if the Hornets were off to the races. But they needed a fourth-and-13 catch of 18 yards by Jeff Hill to keep the drive alive at the North 15, and again facing fourth-and-13 at the 18, quarterback George Busharis (9-14, 106 yards) threw the jump-ball pass over the middle to Hill for a 7-0 lead with 6:59 left in the half. An interception by Ted Ferreira set up a second Mansfield score, a 23-yard field goal by Eberhart with 1:38 left, but North raced 61 yards in 12 plays in the remaining time and Zach Horton matched the field goal and the distance as time expired. McCarthy had runs of 16 yards (on fourth-and-10) and 20 (on third-and-8) to get into range for the kick.
On their second possession of the second half, the Rocketeers cut the deficit to 10-9 on a 51-yard screen pass from McCarthy to Shorey. But the 6-foot-4 Hill blocked the conversion kick to preserve Mansfield's lead.
"That changed the whole complexion of the game, I thought," Redding said.
The Hornets seized momentum on the ensuing drive. Marshall (24 carries, 156 yards) carried seven times for 32 yards and caught a big fourth-down pass for 10 yards to set up his own 4-yard off-tackle slant for a 17-9 lead with 4:57 left, but North roared back to pull within two on the option pass, and the nail-biting was far from finished.
"I thought they won on third and fourth down," Johnson said. "We played great defense on first-and-10, and then we struggled. I'm afraid to look at the stats on that, because I thought that was the difference in the game." Mansfield was 5-5 on fourth-down conversions.
MANSFIELD 24, N. ATTLEBORO 15
Hornets surge to winNo. 4 Mansfield tops N. Attleboro
By Michael Grossi, Globe Correspondent October 30, 2010
NORTH ATTLEBORO - Mansfield coach Mike Redding was sure that his squad's game against Hockomock League rival North Attleboro last night would be a one-possession game decided in the fourth quarter.
His assessment was dead on as the No. 4 Hornets staved off No. 7 North Attleboro's comeback bid, winning, 24-15, and gaining the inside track to the league title in the process.
"That was a great back-and-forth game between two unbelievable teams,'' said Redding. "Both teams were making plays, I am just glad we could put it away."
With 2:07 remaining in the game and leading, 17-9, the Hornets (7-1, 6-0) were backed against a wall. North Attleboro (7-1, 5-1), thanks to Brady Shorey's 32-yard scamper, was at the Mansfield 7-yard line.
On second and goal, Danny Johnson swept right but pulled up. He lobbed a pass to Ryan Flannery, who tipped it to himself for the touchdown.
On the 2-point attempt, Paul McCarthy was stuffed on a quarterback keeper by Joe Oram, keeping the Hornets ahead, 17-15. "They just made a few more plays than we did,'' said North Attleboro coach Don Johnson. "Our inability to stop Mansfield on third and fourth down really hurt us."
Dave Eberhart recovered the onside kick for Mansfield and Greg Donahue sealed the game with a 28-yard touchdown jaunt with 43 seconds left. The touchdown came two plays after Jamel Marshall converted a third-and-7 with a 17-yard reception.
Marshall toyed with the Red Rocketeers' defense, rushing for 157 yards and a touchdown despite being stopped for a loss nine times. He also had 36 yards receiving.
"My offensive line opened holes and I just did my job and got through them," said Marshall.
Said Redding about his workhorse running back, "I was a little worried because Jamel's knee was a little gimpy heading into the game. But he is tough, fast, and gets the tough yards. He turns 2-yard plays into 12- or 14-yard plays."
Mansfield got on the board first, midway through the second quarter. On a fourth-and-13 at the North Attleboro 18-yard line, George Busharis lofted a pass to the end zone that Jeff Hill was able to snare at its apex.
The teams then traded field goals as Eberhart was true with a 23-yarder and North Attleboro's Zach Horton hit a 22-yarder as time expired, making the score 10-3 at the end of the half.
The Red Rocketeers got within 1 point after Shorey took a screen pass from McCarthy and weaved 51 yards for the touchdown. However, on the point-after attempt, Hill hopped over the offensive line and blocked Horton's kick, leaving the score at 10-9.
Marshall's 5-yard touchdown rush pushed the lead to 17-9 in the fourth quarter.
Hornets have the planJamel Marshall runs past NA
By Bruce Lerch, Boston Herald, Saturday, October 30, 2010
NORTH ATTLEBORO - A matchup hyped up all week long as the de facto Hockomock League championship game certainly lived up to its billing.
Jamel Marshall rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries behind a terrific offensive line and Mansfield defeated North Attleboro, 24-15, at Community Field last night.
The victory puts Mansfield (7-1, 6-0) in the driver's seat atop the Hockomock's Kelly-Rex Division, one game in front of the Red Rocketeers and King Philip.
"I'm really getting too old for these," joked Mansfield coach Mike Redding. "It was what it was billed to be, just a great back-and-forth game, two unbelievable teams. We're lucky to win. Either team could have had it. I think the fans got their money's worth. This was a classic."
Two outstanding defenses spent the first half slugging it out. Following a scoreless first quarter, the Hornets' passing game finally broke through.
Marshall got the drive started with a 53-yard run to set the Hornets up at the hosts' 30. Mansfield quarterback George Busharis completed three passes on the drive, finishing things off with an 18-yard TD strike to Jeff Hill, who made a spectacular leaping grab.
Linebacker Ted Ferreira came up with an interception on NA's next possession, eventually setting up a 23-yard field goal by David Eberhart to give Mansfield a 10-0 lead.
North Attleboro responded with a field goal of its own at the end of the half, a 22-yarder by Zach Horton.
The Rocketeers had a chance to tie when Brady Shorey broke loose on a screen pass from Paul McCarthy for a 51-yard score, but Hill blocked the extra point to keep Mansfield ahead by a point heading into the final quarter.
Marshall and the Hornets offensive line took over from there, with the tailback carrying seven times on a 12-play, 57-yard drive - capped by a 4-yard Marshall score. Eberhart's extra point put Mansfield ahead, 17-9, with 2:07 remaining.
"They were doing a lot of blitzes, but our line just adjusted in the second half and we did a great job running the ball," said Marshall (193 total yards). "My offensive line, my fullbacks, everyone just opened the holes for me and I hit them. They did their job so I could do my job."
The Hornets still needed a big play to ice things, and North made sure of that on a 7-yard option pass by Dan Johnson to Ryan Flannery, who tipped the ball to himself and caught it while falling down in the end zone.
McCarthy tried to break through the middle on the conversion run, but Mansfield's Joe Oram stuffed him at the line to preserve the 17-15 lead. Five plays later, Greg Donahue broke loose for a 28-yard Mansfield touchdown to seal it with 43 seconds to play.
From ESPN Boston High School Sports 10/29/10
At the time, Joe Oram's tackle looked like a game-saver.
When No. 5 Mansfield added a final-minute touchdown, giving the Hornets their final margin of victory at 24-15, it only distorted the importance of Oram's stop while providing further clarity to what could have been a photo finish.
"I'm glad I didn't have to deal with that scenario," Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said. "If they score and tie up with two minutes to go, then I'm thinking, do we go for it or do you play it safe. I'm glad it didn't have to come down to that."
North Attleborough was two points down with 2:07 to play, after Dan Johnson broke left into the flat and hit Ryan Flannery with a 7-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option. Leading up to the ensuing two-point try, both Redding and Red Rocketeers head coach Don Johnson played each other's bluff in aligning their squads. When No. 10 North Attleborough broke the huddle, the play call was for a run, a keeper for quarterback Paul McCarthy. His lane up the middle collapsed, so he bounced to the outside in an effort to find space.
There he was met by Oram, who drove McCarthy back short of the goal line and, in effect, put the Hornets in control to win the Hockomock League title this season.
"He was running inside on the dive, but Kyle McGuire came down and plugged the hole," Oram said. "When he bounced it outside, I just met him at the line and drove him back."
The linebacker continued, "This win is just huge. It means a lot to us."
Mansfield (7-1, 6-0) still had to finish the win by recovering an on-side kick attempt following the missed two-point play. It looked as though the Red Rocketeers (7-1, 5-1) might force a punt and get the ball back again, holding the Hornets to a third-and-seven. But George Busharis hit Jamel Marshall for a crushing 17-yard pickup on a throw to the flat.
Two plays later, Greg Donahue added a point of emphasis with a 28-yard touchdown run.
"I think the difference was, and it happened in both halves, they won on third down," the elder Johnson said. "We played great defense on first and 10 and, then beyond that, we struggled."
Mansfield broke the defensive maelstrom in the second quarter, when Jeff Hill used every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame to come down with an 18-yard score from Busharis. Dave Eberhart added a 23-yard field goal later in the second stanza for a 10-0 Hornet lead.
North Attleborough got back three points just before the half on Zach Horton' 22-yard field goal as time expired.
Big Red found greater offensive consistency in the second half, when McCarthy tested Mansfield with his arm (11 of 22, 131 yards) and his feet (8 carries, 63 yards).
"I thought we were able to mix it up," Johnson said of the Red Rocketeers offense in the second half. "We kept finding ourselves in long-yardage situations early. We kind of got stuck where we had to throw a little too much. We were able to run the ball a little inside and then that opened up the outside, then we could pass on other downs."
McCarthy hit Brady Shorey on a perfectly executed screen pass for a 51-yard touchdown with 44 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Hornets answered with a plodding 12-play, 6:40 drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown by Marshall, who carried the ball on seven of those plays while finishing the game with 25 carries for 159 yards.
North Attleborough bounced back with a score of its own, on the halfback option play from Dan Johnson. Redding was prepared for trick play, but didn't quite have the particulars down.
"We'd talked about Donny's [Johnson] son throwing, [but] we though he was right-handed," Redding said. "He's actually left-handed, so going left and throwing, we covered him pretty well, but it was a great catch by Flannery."
Then, it was left to Oram's anticipation.
Mansfield was determined not to let McCarthy beat them and wanted to neutralize his top target, Flannery.
"I think when they saw us in that defense, they went to the run," Redding said, "and fortunately, that weak-side blitz caused some penetration. That made the difference."
Mansfield Jeff Hill 18-yard pass from George Busharis (Dave Eberhart kick)
Mansfield Dave Eberhart 23-yard field goal
North Attleborough Zach Horton 22-yard field goal
North Attleborough Brady Shorey 51-yard pass from Paul McCarthy (kick blocked)
Mansfield Jamel Marshall 5-yard run (Eberhart kick)
North Attleborough Ryan Flannery 7-yard pass from Dan Johnson (rush failed)
Mansfield Greg Donahue 28-yard run (Eberhart kick)