- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – King Philip’s path to clinching the Hockomock League Kelley-Rex division title wasn’t without ease.
Of course, the Warriors had to go through rival Mansfield, and KP hadn’t claimed a win over the Hornets in 13 years. But even as they put the finishing touches on an outright championship victory Saturday against Attleboro, there were complications.
KP played most of the game without top running back and safety Mark Glebus, who suffered a hip injury in the first half. The Warriors fell behind at the half, 14-6, after committing three turnovers.
Yet, they soldiered on – even without Glebus for most of the second half – and found a way to come away with a 20-14 win, earning the Kelley-Rex title outright. It marks the Warriors first Hockomock outright football title and their first of any kind since 2012, when they shared the league crown with Mansfield.
The Warriors (7-0) had a chance to tie the game in the third quarter with a plodding 15-play, 69-yard drive capped by Giovanni Fernandez, making the score 14-12. However, Steven Eaton’s carry on the 2-point try was ruled no good after being pushed out of bounds before he could sneak the ball inside the pylon.
Holding Attleboro (3-4) to a three-and-out on its only series of the third quarter, the Warriors maintained possession for all but a minute and 56 seconds of game clock in the period.
KP was able to get the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, as Glebus (8 carries, 75 yards, 2 TD) returned to action for the game-winning drive. Glebus knocked in his second touchdown of the game from 16 yards with 1:57 remaining. Kyle Loewen ran in the 2-point conversion, despite having a holding penalty flagged on the Warriors’ first attempt, tacking on 10 yards to the try.
“Something with his hip was twinged,” KP head coach Brian Lee said. “We’re going into the playoffs, we don’t need to get him hurt right now. Every game counts, but we can win it without him, or try. Then, he comes up to me and said, ‘Coach, put me back in.’
“If a kid says that, what are you going to do?”
The Blue Bombardiers moved swiftly down field on their ensuing possession, knocking on the door of the red zone with just a shade less than a minute to play.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler McGovern stood in the face of a ferocious pass rush to deliver a perfect ball to Matt Elliott on a crossing route for a 23-yard gain, setting up a first and 10 from the KP 21. McGovern paid a price for making the play, however, and Attleboro was assessed an injury timeout as McGovern was slow to get off the field. On the next play, Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan called a running play to allow his quarterback the opportunity to get back on the field for the next play. The run was bottled up by KP defensive front through and, when the ball was ripped free from Elliott’s grasps, Lukas Cepkauskas fell on the loose ball, effectively ending the game.
“I wanted to try to get a run there because I wanted to give him a play to get back into the game,” Strachan said. “Usually, we’d throw the ball in that situation, but it didn’t work out.”
Next man up: When Glebus went down, the KP sideline held its collective breath. In their final regular season game before opening play in the Division 2 South playoffs, the Warriors had greater considerations at mind when Glebus was roughed up.
The good news for KP was that not only was Glebus able to return for the game’s most important drive, but the Warriors also were able to continue moving the chain behind Eaton, Fernandez and fullback Andrew Damico against a deep Attleboro defensive front seven.
“They did a great job defensively,” Lee said. “When you look at those guys on film, they’re big up front, they can all run and they have some playmakers.”
A diminished title?: Lee, always one of the more colorful characters (both in dress and in character) in Massachusetts high school football had some interesting comments on his team’s league title in regard to the statewide playoff system – which officially enters its second year with the commencement of the Eastern and Central district games next weekend.
“I realize the Hockomock League, the way I want it to be, is never coming back,” Lee said. “I wish we were playing Stoughton next week and all of us were beating the heck out of each other for that real Hock championship because it used to really mean something.
“Now, you’ve got a league where four teams are going to the playoffs. I don’t know how that works, it seems silly.”
A new season: Despite a tough loss, the Blue Bombardiers will still qualify for the Division 1 playoffs. A year ago, Attleboro was within a game of playing at Gillette Stadium, reaching the sectional final in a tough game against Xaverian.
So the Blue Bombardiers have the blueprint for postseason success, now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
“I feel better about this group now than I did the last couple weeks,” said Strachan, who’s in his second year at the helm. “We had a couple of tough weeks, including the Mansfield game, but I thought we finally put four, hard-fought quarters together today and, at the end of the day, you just have to learn from this.”