ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – So much for the welcoming party.
Attleborough High made its initial foray into Hockomock League play on Friday night, hosting No. 19 King Philip. As a rude party guest, the Warriors’ intent was to indoctrinate Attleborough to “The Hock” way.
“In the pregame, we talked about showing them what The Hock is all about,” Warriors running back Jim Johnston said.
True to form, King Philip head coach Brian Lee emptied out his cache of weapons at running back, divvying up carries between his acclaimed duo of Chris Cacciola and Charles Ruffin. But it was the less-heralded Jim Johnston who left his mark — or perhaps a bruise as it were — on the Warriors’ 14-0 win over the Bombardiers.
“In most normal circumstances, Jimmy [Johnston] is a tailback,” Lee said. “It’s just one of those things that we have a lot of backs this year.”
Johnston, a 5-11 senior, totaled 11 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown. But it was the manner in which Johnston ran in the second half, keeping the ball out of Attleborough’s hands in a tight game, which was more impressive.
After breaking off a 16-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Johnston helped King Philip (2-0, 1-0) play keep-away from the Bombardier offense. He delivered the final blow to Attleboro’s hopes for a comeback with a key 25-yard run on the Warriors’ final drive that bled the clock dry in the fourth.
“I thought we played better defensively in the second half,” Attleboro head coach Kevin Deschenes said, “but they just held onto the ball for long stretches of time and we couldn’t get it back. When we did get it back, we went three-and-out.”
In the second half, Attleborough (1-1, 0-1) was forced to go without the services of quarterback Nate Robitaille, who was shaken up on a play just before halftime. Robitaille left the game after the big collision, which occurred while scrambling out of the pocket, but he returned to start the second half on defense. After a couple of plays, the Bombardiers training staff ruled Robitaille out for the remainder of the game.
“We erred on the side of caution, especially with concussions, you can’t mess around with that,” Deschenes said.
Junior Chris Walsh called the signals for Attleborough in the second half and didn’t fare much better than his predecessor in solving the Warriors defense. The Bombardiers managed only two yards of offense in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, King Philip kept hammering away on the ground.
Cacciola, who took in the Warriors’ first touchdown on a 13-yard run to start the second quarter, finished with 19 carries for 83 yards. Ruffin also got in the fray with 10 rushes for 71 yards.
“Cass [Cacciola] is our leader, no doubt about it,” Johnston said. “He’s played for three years now. We all listen to him when it comes down to it. And Charles [Ruffin] has the breakaway speed.”
With all the pomp and circumstance behind, Lee was focused simply on the fact that his team had secured an ever-important win on the road in the ever-competitive Hockomock.
“It’s a huge win,” Lee said. “Looking at their team on film and seeing all the team speed from the quarterback to the running back; they have a lot of playmakers. We knew it was going to be tough.
“We had a game plan. But did we expect to shut them out? Not exactly.”