Boston High School: Kyle Rodriguez

D3 Southwest: North Attleborough 35, Walpole 7

November, 2, 2013
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – James Kummer and Jack Blasé each accounted for three touchdowns for North Attleborough, as the Rocketeers rolled 35-7 over Walpole in a Division 3 Southwest first-round game on Friday night at Community Field.

North Attleborough scored on five of its seven possessions and did not give up a touchdown until the final five minutes of the game. However, the result could have been very different, but for a huge defensive play early in the first half.

On the first play of the second quarter, trailing 7-0, Walpole was just two yards away from tying the game. The Rocketeers defense needed to make a play and it was senior linebacker Kyle Rodriguez that provided it.

As sophomore running back Steve Cuqua crossed the line of scrimmage, Rodriguez put two hands on the ball and ripped it away. North took over at the one and proceeded to march 99 yards on seven plays for a touchdown, which made it 14-0 and took all momentum away from the Rebels.

“It was a big momentum changer,” said Rodriguez, who also recovered a fumble on the opening Walpole possession. “Down on the one-yard-line, if they score then it changes the game. He had the ball in front of him a little bit and I just knew that I had to make a play.”

Head coach Don Johnson admitted that the North defense needed those turnovers, as the Rocketeers were struggling to contain Cuqua.

“It was really important at the time because I don’t think you can say we stopped them much in the first half. That’s actually something that we work on – getting takeaways. We haven’t gotten too many this season, but we had two big ones tonight.”

The North offense took advantage of the Walpole turnovers thanks in large part to the Rocketeers offensive line creating huge running lanes. North racked up 286 yards on the ground led by quarterback James Kummer (13 carries, 74 yards) and tailback Chris Hunter (13 carries, 118 yards).

The play of the line also helped North in the passing game with the Rocketeers line opening a huge hole up the middle for a shovel pass from Kummer to Blasé for a 22-yard touchdown that capped the 99-yard drive.

The Kummer to Blasé combination had a big first half with five completions for 78 yards. In the final minute of the second quarter, they hooked up for a 25-yard reception on fourth and 18 from the Walpole 35. The play kept the drive going and Kummer would finish it off with a one-yard sneak, which made it 21-0 at the break.

Johnson credited the experience of playing against the strong teams in the Hockomock League for developing his young offensive line. He remarked that the offense is starting to click and the Rocketeers were able to put together three long scoring drives.

He explained, “We knew it was going to take time and then the one senior that we had in there, [Evan] Sweeney, got hurt playing those three monster teams in the Hock. So, we finally got all our guys back and we’ve just continued to get better every week; it really showed it tonight.”

Walpole had an opportunity to get back into the game early in the third quarter after a Hunter fumble, which junior Jack Lavanchy recovered. But the Rebels went three and out and North took its next drive 72 yards in 14 plays, which ran out the clock in the third quarter. Kummer’s second one-yard touchdown of the game put North ahead 28-0.

Walpole head coach Barry Greener was blunt about his team’s performance. He said, “They beat us every which way to Sunday. They just took it to us; we just had no answers.”

Greener added, “We looked good in practice all week. They didn’t run anything that we didn’t work on; we’re just not very tough on defense. If our offense isn’t rolling, we have serious issues.”

Blasé finished off a strong day with a 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Cuqua broke one long run for Walpole on its final possession to pass 100 yards for the night (14 carries, 106 yards). The drive was finished by backup quarterback Brendan Chaisson to avoid the shutout.

Johnson noted that the game plan for the Rocketeers to was to try and make Walpole quarterback Will Bolster beat them in the passing game. Bolster finished 5-10 for just 38 yards.

“We felt like we had to stop the run first and put them in a position where they had to throw the ball,” said Johnson. “I think we did a fairly decent job of controlling their run game.”

Rodriguez added, “In the film, they were running all over teams; we knew they had a good offense. We knew that we had to have out best defensive game of the year and we did today.”

The Rocketeers advance to play fellow Hockomock League team Oliver Ames in the second round.

Recap: North Attleborough 20, No. 19 BC High 12

September, 7, 2013
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – BC High had one more chance.

Down by eight points and with the clock closing in on 30 seconds remaining in Friday night’s season opener at Community Field, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-13 from the North Attleborough 31-yard-line. BC High had gotten the ball as close as the 24, but a bad snap had pushed the ball back.

Junior quarterback Sean Heffernan took the shotgun snap and was immediately under pressure from a North blitz. He rolled out to his right and decided to keep it, but his eight-yard carry was five yards short of the marker and turned the ball back over to the Rocketeers, who took a knee and ran out the clock on a season-opening 20-12 upset.

It was the Eagles’ sixth drive of the game that ended in North territory without garnering any points. Following the game, head coach Joe Gaff rued the team’s mistakes and missed opportunities.

“We’ve got to finish,” he explained. “We’ve got to make plays and we just didn’t do that tonight. Some of that is on North Attleborough. They were fast; they blitzed us a lot. It was a little bit of that and a little bit of us making mistakes.”

It was a game filled with turning points. On the opening drive of the game, the Eagles (0-1) took just three plays to get into the red zone junior running back Brendan Smith fumbled as he was headed toward the end zone and North (1-0) recovered for a touchback.

The Rocketeers would promptly march 80 yards on eight plays for the go-ahead score. Senior quarterback James Kummer, making his first career start, was 3 of 3 for 62 yards on the opening possession and found Jack Blasé on a play-action bootleg pass for the seven-yard touchdown to make it 7-0.

“We just can’t come down on the opening drive, third play, and fumble in the end zone,” reflected Gaff after the game. “Especially a young team, it took a long time to rebound. I thought we did really well tonight, just every time we needed something – we made a mistake.”

Kummer would finish the game with an efficient line of 10 of 13 for 131 yards and drew praise from head coach Don Johnson after his composed performance, but Johnson also noted the importance of developing a balanced attack.

“He’s got to be a dual threat for us,” Johnson said. “He’s got to be able to run and throw the ball and we have to put him in a good position. He’s not a guy that can just drop back; he can’t see a thing if he drops back, so we got to play action them. But that’s only going to work if the run game is effective, so I thought the run game was key.”

It was a North misstep that got BC High back into the game in the second quarter. On a Rocketeers’ punt, the snap sailed way over the head of Kyle Rodriguez, who chased it down on the edge of the goal line. Starting the drive mere feet away from the end zone, the Eagles would only need one play to score. Fullback Steve DiCienzo powered in for the one-yard TD, but the extra point was missed keeping it 7-6.

The Rocketeers responded immediately. Senior captain Matt D’Attilio returned the kick-off 43 yards to the 49-yard-line. Six plays later, he took the ball into the end zone from nine yards out to build the lead to 13-6. D’Attilio finished with 69 yards on nine carries and had three sacks and a forced fumble on defense.

With 4:29 left in the third quarter, following a fumble by Heffernan, North Attleborough had a chance to pull away, but Mike Lambert fumbled as he was about to cross the goal line. The Eagles recovered in the end zone and turned to workhorse senior running back Robert Harnois to try and get back into the game.

After 84 yards in the first half, Harnois would take over the Eagles offense in the second. After the Lambert fumble, BC High marched 80 yards on six plays, all of them carries by Harnois. He would finish the drive with a three-yard score but the attempted two-point conversion was stopped, which kept the Rocketeers up by a single point at 13-12.

Johnson could only marvel at the struggles that his team had with Harnois, who finished with 217 yards on 26 carries.

“I didn’t have an answer for it,” said Johnson. “They’re running that counter play. They ran it weak, they ran it strong, and you think that you have it shut down and he cuts it back to the other side of the field. We really didn’t have an answer for him.”

With momentum on the visitors’ side, North responded again. The Rocketeers moved the ball inside the BC High 10-yard-line, but the drive was in danger of stalling. On fourth-and-goal from the 10, Kummer rolled out and hit senior split end Dan Moore at the front pylon. It was right on the edge of the end zone and the official on the line signaled touchdown.

BC High would have two more possessions and both ended in North Attleboro territory, but the Rocketeers defense held both times. North’s linebackers and safeties blitzed relentlessly in the second half and Heffernan struggled to find open targets. He would complete only 3-10 (his first seven passes were incomplete) and two completions were for negative yards.

Gaff insisted, “I’m proud of my guys, you know, they kept fighting back. We just couldn’t get over that edge. We just couldn’t catch up with them.”

As the crowd and players streamed onto the field following the final whistle, there was a palpable feeling that North had proved the doubters wrong. Johnson hopes that his young team will not allow one impressive win to impact the focus for the next game.

He remarked, “We’re a young, inexperienced game with a lot of guys playing their first varsity game, so you hope that this gives them the confidence to propel. The danger with a young, inexperienced team is that they overreact to this one and they come out and flop in the next one.”

BC High will have a quick turnaround with a game next Thursday against Andover. North Attleborough will have its bye week before a rivalry game against Bishop Feehan on Sept. 20.