Boston High School: Mike Viola

Recap: No. 18 King Philip 19, No. 25 North 7

October, 15, 2011
WRENTHAM, Mass. -- Backed up against its own goal line following a botched punt return and facing a fourth-and goal situation, King Philip linebacker Nick Lussier burst through the center of the line and grabbed onto North Attleboro quarterback Spyro Varetimos for all he was worth.

He managed to hold the QB long enough to allow the wall of defenders to build up behind him, resulting in a huge stop that turned what could have been a potential disaster into the spark that changed the course of the game.

Lussier and fellow linebacker Brett McEvoy each finished with eight tackles to lead the 'D' while Charles Ruffin rushed for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 23 carries as the Warriors picked up a much-needed 19-7 victory over Hockomock League Kelley-Rex Division foe North Attleboro Saturday afternoon at Macktaz Field.

"That was huge," KP head coach Brian Lee of said the goal-line stand. "Everything kind of went wrong for us in the first half and we were still able to be up 7 so I was very happy. Special teams kind of put us in a hole and I'm the special teams coach so I have nobody to blame but myself. The defense really just bailed us out there."

The No. 18 Warriors, who improved to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the league, thought they had the No. 25 Red Rocketeers (5-1, 1-1) stopped cold just beyond midfield. KP forced NA to punt, but the ball tailed toward the sideline and bounced several times, making it difficult to field. Reid Holden recovered for the Rocketeers at the KP 7, and they pushed it close to the goal line with a pair of runs and a short pass before Lussier came up with the big stop.

"We were all saying on the defense that we don't pick the situations when we go out there," explained Lussier. "We banded together, the whole unit. We don't have one standout player, we're a unit together. And we believed in each other and we just said, 'You know what? We didn't ask for this but we've got to make the best of it' and we did. We stopped them."

That set the tone for the Warrior defense, who held North to just 20 rushing yards, and 133 yards of total offense. KP allowed nine first downs in the game, five of which came on the Rocketeers final drive against a prevent defense while trailing, 19-0.

"We weren't able to run the ball and control the clock on offense. That's what we were able to do in all our other games," NA head coach Don Johnson said. "I think after we look at the film we're probably going to walk away and say KP's defense was pretty good. I'm sure we made our share of mistakes out there but I think they made us make those mistakes."

KP's star running back Charles Ruffin can't seem to catch a break when it comes to his right ankle. He originally injured it two weeks ago in a 27-26 loss to Mansfield and sat out last week's 28-13 win over Oliver Ames.

The talented senior rushed for 84 yards and a 2-yard TD in the first half, but had to leave the game for a brief spell after getting the ankle twisted on a draw play right before the break.

"Its just gonna be a labor here," said Lee on Ruffin's injury. "He's really dinged up and doing what he's supposed to do. We needed him today and he came back and played. And he knows he maybe shouldn't be playing but he's sucking it up and knows he wants to be a part of this. It killed him to not be playing last week so he wanted to get in there."

Ruffin sat out the Warriors first series of the second half, but returned in style with a 13-yard TD on a sweep around the right side and was able to grit his teeth enough to stay in the backfield and help KP eat up valuable clock time.

"Our coaches, what they have us do, they have us remember a definition called 'Accountability.' You have to have the quality state of mind to be an accountant for your team," Ruffin explained. "That's what I'm trying to through adversity for my team. I know it hurts but I gotta suck it up and have that mental toughness to go back in the game."

It's easy to get lost in the large shadow cast by the talented Ruffin, but the maturation and development of KP sophomore quarterback John Dillon is going to give opponents something to think about when they try to load up the box to attack the run.

Listed at 6-feet, 156 pounds, Dillon is displaying a knack for coming through with a big play when the Warriors need one. His final numbers are nothing a quick glance at the box score will get you excited about (4-for-6, 87 yards) but it was about when the completions came and what they led to that made a big difference.

In the second quarter of a scoreless game, after four straight Ruffin carries moved KP from its own 40 to the NA 32, Dillon fooled everyone by firing a quick pass over the middle to Sam McDonald, who was wide open behind the Rocketeer linebackers. The play went for 30 yards, and Ruffin went in from the two for the game's first score.

On a third-and-10 in the third quarter, Dillon executed a perfect play-action fake and connected again with McDonald for 30 yards to set his team up at the NA 30. The Warriors ultimately missed a 34-yard field goal attempt, but Dillon once again came up with a big play to keep a potential scoring drive alive.

Then in the fourth on second-and-8 at the Rocketeers 40, Dillon drilled a 22-yard pass to wideout Mike Viola. Two plays later, Ryan Dunn bulled through the middle for a 14-yard touchdown run that gave the Warriors a 19-0 lead with 8:02 remaining.

"He's a young kid back there but whenever we call on him to make plays, he's been able to do it in a tough league," Lee said in praise of Dillon. "He's playing smart and doing what we ask. Not trying to win everything but just trying to make a play when he can. He's very bright and he's played in two big games now and he's really done a great job in both of them for us."

NA (5-1) 0 0 0 7 - 7
KP (5-1) 0 7 6 6 - 19

KP - Charles Ruffin 2 run (Ryan Dunn kick)
KP - Ruffin 13 run (kick blocked)
KP - Dunn 14 run (rush failed)
NA - Wesley Nichols 1 run (Spyro Varetimos kick)

Recap: No. 15 Mansfield 27, No. 12 KP 26

October, 1, 2011

WRENTHAM, Mass. -- A late September game took on the feel of a late November must-win for No. 15 Mansfield football.

Facing perennial Hockomock League power No. 12 King Philip on Friday following an upsetting 8-0 blanking at the hands of Stoughton last week, the Hornets carried a playoff mentality into this week’s game. And it showed. Mansfield held on for dear life in the waning seconds of the 27-26 win over the Warriors, denying a KP attempt at a potential game-winning two-point conversion.

[+] EnlargeMansfield football
Jon Mahoney for ESPNBoston.comMansfield running back Greg Donahue had 15 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns in No. 15 Mansfield's win Friday night at No. 12 King Philip.
“This was pretty much a playoff game for us,” said senior captain Greg Donahue, who rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns. “If we didn’t get it, we would have a hard time making the playoffs.”

Both sides emerged energized for the rivalry game, with the teams trading off three touchdowns in the span of 33 seconds in the first quarter.

Donahue had Mansfield (3-1) to a 7-0 lead eight minutes in with a 33-yard touchdown run. On the next play from scrimmage, KP’s Charles Ruffin (21 carries, 158 yards) sped 61 yards down the field untouched to tie the score 15 seconds later. After the ensuing kickoff, Mansfield had the ball at their 43 before Blayne Taylor went 57 yards the other way for another rushing score.

After the point after was blocked, the Hornets held a 13-7 lead. That’s how the score would remain after much less crisply played second quarter when neither team could gain any offensive momentum.

In the second half, Mansfield got another big play via the passing game with quarterback George Busharis finding Zach Schafer down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown.

KP (3-1) responded in the fourth with John Dillon hitting Mike Viola on an 11-yard touchdown pass. But when Donahue punched in his second rushing score of the game with 5:08 remaining, it looked as though the Hornets had put it out of reach.

“I give our quarterback credit,” Warriors head coach Brian Lee said of Dillon, a sophomore. “He hadn’t really dealt with any adversity yet this season, like we saw tonight, and to come onto that kind of stage and play like did was impressive.”

Dillon, who completed 13 of 29 pass attempts for 188 yards, spread the ball around to get KP back within a score with a 9-yard pass to Ruffin with 2:29 to play. The 10-play drive was extended by a key fourth-down conversion on an 18-yard connection from Dillon to Matt Aucoin.

KP recovered the on-side kick that followed with Mike Winbourne pouncing on the ball.

Dillon again led the Warriors downfield, despite a persistent Mansfield rush from the weak side, and he again turned a clutch fourth-down conversion into a scoring drive. Dillon linked up with Joe Cochrane on a 33-yard play on fourth and 19, before Ruffin scored his third touchdown of the game with a 1-yard run.

It was 27-26 with 44 seconds remaining.

It was also a familiar, sinking feeling for Redding whose team has been involved in four straight one-possession games to start the season.

“We’ve had four of these [close games],” he added. “I can’t take it anymore.”

After a timeout, Lee went for the kill, sending his offense onto the field for the 2-point conversion. Dillon again dropped back to throw and looked to Ruffin, streaking on a crossing route. It looked as though he might have time to sneak the ball into tight coverage with a crisp throw, however, Hornets junior defensive back Kevin Makie made perhaps a season-saving lunge at the ball, knocking the pass down before it could reach Ruffin’s outstretched hands.

“We had one guy underneath and one guy over the top,” Makie described the defense on the play. “We did a nice job jamming it and I just read [Ruffin] going across the middle. We knew they were going to do that, so we played it like that.”

And, like that, the defending Division 2 Super Bowl champions kept their “postseason hopes” alive.

Seemingly no matter what the Hornets threw at Dillon in the fourth quarter, the Warriors’ young QB was able to handle. When Mansfield came at Dillon with a weak side stunt, the sophomore would coolly roll out and relieve the pressure. As the Hornets played more zone defense to neutralize the KP attack, Dillon had a knack for finding a receiver on the seam.

“They got into a groove,” Redding said. “When we blitzed, they got people open. When we backed off, we gave them too much time.”

Even two fourth-and-long situations didn’t confound him.

“I’m not looking forward to playing defense against him for two more years,” Redding exclaimed.

With its Wing-T and quick screen passing game, Mansfield made adjustments at the half to try to slow down the Warriors’ aggressive, athletic defense by running the ball more up the gut. The change was apparent on the Hornets’ fourth-quarter scoring drive finished off by Donahue’s 11-yard score. Redding has two talented runners in Taylor and Donahue, who complement each other well. But when push came to shove, it was time to simply run the ball up the gut.

“Taylor and Donahue ran hard,” Redding said. “We ran a lot of double tight [ends] to try to go north and south with them. We’re normally a Wing-T, perimeter team, but they have such great team speed that we wanted to go more north, south and attack them.”

After yet another 100-yard rushing performance to go along with three touchdowns, Ruffin showed why he’s one of the top backfield talents in the state. The KP senior made it a priority to bulk up in the offseason, adding more muscle to an already impressive frame. However, when Ruffin fell to the turf awkwardly after rolling his ankle on a third-quarter carry, it was as though the air had been let out of a balloon.

Ruffin missed the next offensive series, only to return and play an integral part of the Warriors’ final drive at victory. When the penultimate 2-point play was broken up, Ruffin again rolled up on the grass in pain.

It was yet another gutsy performance from the Warriors captain.

“Charles is our dude,” Lee said of Ruffin’s performance.

Somewhere Jeff Bridges is surely smiling.

Mansfield (3-1) 13 0 8 6 -- 27
King Philip (3-1) 7 0 0 19 -- 26

First quarter
M - Greg Donahue 33-yard run (Mike Hershman kick)
KP - Charles Ruffin 61-yard run (Ryan Dunn kick)
M - Blayne Kelley-Taylor 57-yard run (kick blocked)

Third quarter
M - Zach Schafer 81-yard pass from George Busharis (Donahue run)

Fourth quarter
KP - Mike Viola 11-yard pass from John Dillon (Dunn kick)
M - Donahue 11-yard run (kick blocked)
KP - Ruffin 10-yard pass from Dillon (kick failed)
KP - Ruffin 1-yard run (pass failed)