Boston High School: North Attleborough

D1 South final: B-R 2, North Attleborough 0

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10

TAUNTON, Mass. – Bridgewater-Raynham was extremely motivated going into Monday’s Division I South championship softball game against North Attleborough.

Just ask winning pitcher Sarah Dawson.

“I think we were pumped to be here,” Dawson said after she tossed a 2-0 no-hitter at the sixth-seeded Rocketeers. “We just wanted this because everybody’s been saying that we don’t play in the ‘Hock’ (i.e. the Hockomock League). We play a less-tougher schedule (in the Old Colony League). So, obviously North Attleboro is a better team because it plays in the Hock.

“We just wanted to show that B-R is a good team even though we don’t play in the Hock. The Hock’s not the most important thing in the world. I think we showed that.”

But beating a Hockomock League team wasn’t the only reason the top-seeded Trojans (23-1) were pumped to play the Red Rocketeers (18-4).

“Ever since that day I wanted to come back to this field,” Dawson said while referring to the 7-0 pasting B-R endured last year against Milford in the South Sectionals. “I felt it was a huge disappointment to me team last year because it was a 7-0 shutout and we lost.

“It was good to shut out this team now and get back in the game.”

Worthy opponent: Dawson, who’s already committed to Pittsburgh, had her own reason to be motivated considering her mound opponent was Megan Colleran, who finished with a one-hitter.

“There may have been a little [motivation] because she was the Gatorade Player of the Year and it was well-deserved,” Dawson said. “She’s a great pitcher and a great athlete. She’s done a lot for her team.

“I think we wanted to show we were just as good as her team.”

The Trojans were so good on Monday that now they advance to the state semifinals where they’ll take on Revere in a 7 p.m. game on Saturday at Lowell’s Martin Park.

And just how good was Dawson?

This good:
  • *She threw 57 of 81 pitches for strikes.
  • The Rocketeers only hit one ball to the outfield, Colleran’s liner to center with one out in the seventh.
  • She only walked one batter, struck out five and extended her consecutive tournament scoreless streak to 28 innings.
  • After issuing her lone walk (to Jillian Costello who led the third), Dawson retired the last 15 Rocketeers and finished with five strikeouts.
  • The no-hitter was her second of the tournament and fifth of the season.

“I didn’t even know it to be honest,” Dawson said of her no-hitter. “I don’t really focus on that when I’m in a game.”

What coach Mike Carrozza focused on was the fact the Trojans have out-scored their four tournament opponents by a combined margin of 23-0.

“We have four shutouts and she’s got two no-hitters,” Carozza said. “It almost was like another day at the office for her because it was her fifth no-hitter this season.”

B-R played the “iron": Carozza also dismissed the contention that B-R played a “soft” schedule.

“I’ve been coaching for 17 years and there always are little people saying ‘It depends on who you’re playing or who you’re not playing’ and this and that,”

Carozza said. “When we started going into the tournament this year, eight out of the nine teams we played this year we’re all in the tournament.”

In retrospect, B-R scored the only run Dawson would need in the first. Madi Shaw and Stacey Korotsky drew leadoff walks and Emily Kurkul dropped down a sacrifice bunt. Stephanie Cavallaro was hit by a pitch to load the bases and, one out later, Kelsey Luenberger walked to force in Shaw.

The Trojans added the obligatory insurance run in the third. Kurkul led with a single and courtesy runner Taylor Poulin stole second. Poulin advanced a base on Cavallaro’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Colleran threw away Jenny Heller’s bouncer to the mound.

In addition to Dawson’s near-flawless pitching, her teammates backed her with flawless defense.

“Depending on how many strikeouts we had in between, the defense played errorless ball and they made a lot of nice plays,” Carozza said. “It could have gone either way.”

D1 South: B-R 7, Hopkinton 0

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
TAUNTON, Mass. – The trio is back.

After experimenting with hitting All-State infielder Madi Shaw in the cleanup spot, Bridgewater-Raynham softball coach Mike Carrozza went back to his regular lineup for the Trojans’ Division 1 South semi-final game with Hopkinton on Saturday. With Shaw back leading off, center fielder Stacey Korotsky hitting second and catcher Emily Kurkul following third, the Trojans’ “trio” was unstoppable.

Both Kurkul and Shaw hit home runs while beating the Hillers, 7-0, while punching their ticket to Monday’s sectional final against North Attleborough.

“When I told them I was hitting lead-off again, they were so fired up,” Shaw said of Korotsky and Kurkul. “I think even that gave them a little oomph today. It’s good to be back.”

Kurkul provided the biggest hit of the day with a three-run homer to left, her 12th home run on the season, breaking up a scoreless game in the third inning.

“I was just looking to move my runners and maybe get at least one [run],” said Kurkul, a junior Merrimack commit.

Shaw was the fulcrum. While going 3-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases, the Fordham commit set the table effectively, including during the third. Shaw led off with a base hit before Korotsky turned a sacrifice bunt attempt into a hit as well. Kurkul followed with the blast on a Alissa Karjel fastball.

“It was a good, balanced effort,” Carrozza said. “Emily [Kurkul]set the tone early with that blast to left and then Madi, [Shaw] but the offense, we had runners on base in just about every inning.”

And then there was B-R starter Sarah Dawson. The junior Pitt commit cruised through with four strikeouts while not surrendering a walk, as she continued her streak of scoreless postseason appearances this year.

“Sarah was dominant again in the circle, hitting her spots,” Carrozza said. “When your pitcher’s dominant like that, it frustrates the offense on the other side.”

Kurkul’s homer would have been enough, but the Trojans (22-1) continued adding to their lead with Shaw’s one-out blast in the fourth before striking for three more in the fifth. Kelsey Leuenberger scored on a wild pitch and Taylor Poulin added run-scoring single before Shaw picked up her second RBI of the game on her third hit of the day.

Return to full strength: Shaw was frustrated as she missed two weeks at the end of the regular season due to injury but is rounding into form in the postseason. But after a performance like Saturday’s, Shaw’s back to normal.

“It was excruciating sitting and watching,” Shaw said. “I’m feeling more myself though.”

While Shaw has been a key cog to the Trojans’ lineup throughout her four varsity seasons, the protection in the lineup offered by Kurkul has been a key to B-R’s success this season. Although Shaw hit fourth in the Trojans’ lineup earlier this postseason, her return to the leadoff spot was welcomed by her teammates, creating the opportunities for Kurkul to drive in runs.

“She’s a threat, everybody’s afraid of her,” Shaw said.

D1 South: North Attleborough 5, Franklin 1

June, 7, 2014
Jun 7
TAUNTON, Mass. - North Attleborough scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning and that turned out to be enough for Gatorade Massachusetts Softball Player of the Year and Hockomock League MVP Meg Colleran, who got plenty of help from her defense against free-swinging Franklin.

The Red Rocketeers (18-3) advanced to their first Division 1 South sectional final in program history with a 5-1 win over the Panthers in an all-Hockomock semifinal on Saturday afternoon at Jack Tripp Field.

“We didn’t strikeout many times. She’s the strikeout queen, Gatorade Player of the Year and we only struck out twice so we’ll take the good points,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon. “We put the ball in play. It just stunk that we gave them three runs in the first inning.”

Against a team willing to swing at the first pitch, Colleran threw her fewest pitches in a game this season (60) and had her fewest strikeouts (two). The Panthers approach did cause the UMass-bound senior to come up with a different mentality.

“We were just trying to get outs any way that we can,” said Colleran. “They were swinging at the first pitch, so I think me and [catcher Mycala Moody’s] strategy was just put it somewhere where we’re going to get easy groundball outs, easy fly ball outs so we could get back in and hit.”

The strategy was aided by the Rocketeers putting up three runs in the first inning.

Marissa Gifford led-off with a walk against Franklin senior starter Lily Criscione, which was followed by an infield single by Moody (3-for-4). Colleran lined a single to right that scored one run and she advanced into scoring position on the throw. MacKenzie Sherman and Danielle Gorman each followed with RBI-groundouts to give North a solid lead.

“All three of our tournament games, we’ve scored in the first inning,” said North Attleborough coach Bill Wallace. “That lead is huge because late in the game, if they want to bunt or do something, we’re getting outs versus trying to cut down lead runners.”

Of the first inning, Fallon said, “It was a tough start; you can’t spot them three and try to comeback. We weren’t ready to go in the first inning and then we settled in and I thought we played great innings two through five.”

She admitted that the Panthers plan at the plate was to attack early in the count. She said, “Just be aggressive -- you’re the 18th seed and you ‘don’t belong here’ and just get in there and swing.”

The Panthers (14-10) were able to put the ball in play a lot against the Hockomock’s leader in strikeouts. In fact, the Rocketeers had to make 19 outs in the field (with no errors) and several were of highlight reel-caliber. Julianna Johnson made a diving grab in the second to rob Olivia DiGiacomo of extra bases and third baseman Lindsey Paquin snared a grounder Sabrina LoMonaco in the seventh that seemed destined for left.

“It’s a testament to our coaching staff being loyal to the kids and not panicking,” said Wallace. “[The players] stepped up this year. This is the farthest this program has ever gone.”

Colleran added, “They’ve put in the work all year long and some games they don’t get as much action maybe, but today they had all but two outs and they did a really, really good job. If you don’t have confidence in your defense then they’re not going to have confidence in you.”

Franklin got its lone run in the top of the sixth. With one out, leadoff hitter Erin Hanley was hit by a pitch then promptly stole second. She advanced to third on a deep line drive to center and was able to come home on a wild pitch to make it 3-1.

The momentum did not last long as North tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning. Gorman smacked a single to left and Rachel Murphy followed with a bunt single. After a strikeout, Emily Knobel bunted and it was thrown away to load the bases.

Gifford grounded to second but the ball was bobbled and then thrown into left and two runs came home to score. Moody got her third infield single of the game by beating out a bunt to reload the bases, but Criscione limited the damage by striking out Colleran (who was also one of the league’s leading hitters).

Criscione also came up in the seventh and blasted a one-out double to straightaway center, but was doubled off on a hard liner back to Colleran by DiGiacomo to end the game.

There was some disappointment from Fallon that the Panthers could not get past the semifinal stage for the second straight year, but she recognized what a great achievement it was to make it to this stage as the No. 18 seed.

She said, “There’s no quit. There’s no quit. Even Lily, ended her career with a double over the centerfielder’s head. I can’t ask for anything more from them. I’m proud of them.”

Jack Tripp Field has not been a favorite venue for the Rocketeers in recent years with several playoff runs ending in the semifinal stage, as well as a first round loss to Taunton last year. But earlier this season, North beat the Tigers and Colleran admitted that it may have given the team a little more confidence going into Saturday.

“Being able to get a win at this field probably helped us out,” she said. “We’ve been wanting to do this for a while and it feels really good to finally be here.”

North Attleborough will face top seed Bridgewater-Raynham in the sectional final on Monday at 5 p.m. in Taunton.
North Attleborough boys' track and field coach Derek Herber became the subject of national headlines this week when he reported a scoring error that cost his team a second straight Division 2 Eastern Mass. title.

After a whirlwind week, Herber joined the crew on ESPN's Inside Out podcast to talk about his decision to do the right thing.

Listen HERE.
North Attleboro pitcher Megan Colleran was today named Gatorade Massachusetts Softball Player of the Year.

Here's more from today's release:
In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Megan Colleran of North Attleborough High School as its 2013-14 Gatorade Massachusetts Softball Player of the Year. Colleran is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Softball Player of the Year to be chosen from North Attleborough High School.

The 5-foot-8 senior right-handed pitcher compiled a 17-3 record and a 0.33 ERA in the circle for the Rocketeers (17-3) entering the Division I South sectional semifinals, scheduled for June 4. Through 20 games, Colleran fanned 237 batters and issued just 17 walks in 151 innings pitched. A two-time returning Boston Herald All-Scholastic selection, Colleran owned a .451 batting average with 13 extra-base hits, 20 runs scored and 29 RBI at the time of her selection. Her 776 career strikeouts are a school record, and she needs only eight more to match North Attleboro's single-season mark of 245.

Colleran has maintained a 3.24 GPA in the classroom. A member of the Spanish Honor Society, she has volunteered as a peer tutor and a youth softball instructor. She also organized a personal Strike Out Hunger campaign, collecting one pound of food to donate at a local food pantry for each strikeout she has registered in her final two high school seasons.

“I've seen a lot of great pitchers over the past few years, and Megan Colleran ranks up there with the Meg Ricos [King Philip] and Shannon Smiths [Milford],” said Kate Fallon, head coach of rival Franklin High. “She is a great competitor in our league as well as a great ambassador of the sport. I’ve watched her grow as a player over the past four years, and she is a true role model for all young girls that want to play softball.”

Colleran has signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball on scholarship at the University of Massachusetts this fall.

Colleran joins recent Gatorade Massachusetts Softball Players of the Year Shannon Smith (2012-13, 2011-12 & 2009-10, Milford High School), Emma Mendoker (2010-11, Amherst Regional High School), Nicole D'Argento (2008-09 & 2007-08, Ashland), and Kara Nilan (2006–07, Taconic) among the state’s list of former award winners.
A Massachusetts high school track and field coach took away a district championship from his own team after realizing a scoring error was made at this weekend’s meet.

After North Attleborough High was awarded the boys’ track and field Division 2 Eastern Mass. title on Sunday, Red Rocketeers coach Derek Herber on Monday noticed a discrepancy in the scoring of the 110-meter hurdle event. Herber notified race director Rick Kates of the error.

As originally tabulated, North Attleborough edged second-place Central Catholic by one point, with the Red Rocketeers tallying 69 points to the Raiders’ 68. After adjusting with the correct scores, North Attleborough placed third with 63 points behind both Central Catholic (68) and Woburn (65).

It would have marked the Red Rocketeers’ second straight district title.

Central Catholic coach Mike Leal was notified of his team’s championship Monday afternoon.

“I was shocked,” Leal told ESPN Boston Monday afternoon. “We had finals today, so we were already out of school, but I couldn’t wait to tell my coaching staff and my captains.”

The announcement marked quite a turnaround in the spirits of Leal’s athletes. With top-two finishers in five events, the Raiders felt good about their chance in taking home the title, only to fall a single point short. Or so they thought.

“It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride the last twelve hours,” Leal said. “To come so close in a meet like that can really deflate a team, especially because we’d had such a good day. It’s easier if you lose by 15 points, but to compete like that and lose by one point is really tough.”

Leal was contacted by Herber, North Attleborough’s athletic director and the race director on Monday, to elucidate the error. He remained thankful for Herber’s act of humility and for immediately bringing it to the attention of the organizers.

“It speaks volumes to his integrity,” Leal said of Herber. “I don’t know him that well, but I see him a couple times a year at the meets. I look forward to shaking his hand again and to wish them the best of luck in the future. I’m sure it’s tough for their kids.

“I don’t want to say that other coaches wouldn’t do the same thing -- I’d like to think that we’d all do the same thing -- but he actually stepped forward and did it. He should be commended for it.”

Central Catholic is holding a gathering on Friday to honor the team’s individual achievements throughout the year.

“Now, we’ll have something more to celebrate now,” Leal said.

Recap: No. 23 King Philip 4, No. 3 Taunton 3

May, 20, 2014
May 20
TAUNTON, Mass. - When King Philip lost four out of five games in one stretch during the middle of the season, including losses to Hockomock rivals North Attleborough and Taunton, it seemed as though the Warriors’ run of league championships would come to an end this spring.

But with wins over the Rocketeers on Sunday and a 4-3 win over Taunton on Monday night at Jack Tripp Field, King Philip (14-4, 14-2) closed out its Hockomock League schedule with nine straight victories and earned at least a share of another Kelley-Rex division title.

“It was gut check for them, but they’ve got tradition and they know all about it,” said KP coach Norm Beauchemin, who has won titles in each of his two seasons at the helm. “It was up to them to break the tradition or to carry it on and they stepped up. I’m very proud of them.”

“It’s always great living up to that legacy,” said junior Renee Poirier, who go the final five outs on Monday night. “We have such high expectations to live up to but that’s what we strive for to be more successful than those that came before us. We just left it all out there -- we had nothing to lose.”

The Warriors jumped out early on Taunton (17-2, 13-2) starter Jesse Aleixo and were aided by several uncharacteristic defensive mistakes by the Tigers to build a 4-0 lead after three innings.

“An early lead is always awesome,” said Poirier. “Once you get one [run], it seems like the rest are easier to follow and then it gives more confidence out in the field because you have a little cushion. “

With one out in the first, third baseman Shannon Jones and starting pitcher Kali Magane had back-to-back singles. Aleixo struck out Poirier for the second out but shortstop Ashley Hession stepped up with a base hit to right that slipped under the glove of Kelly Reading to bring home both base runners. Hession would advance to third on the error and would score on a single by Brianna Sebio.

In the third, Poirier led off with a double and would come home to score when Hession’s ground ball found its way past shortstop Jordan Wade. Taunton head coach Dave Lewry credited Poirier for great base running to distract Wade on the play, but admitted that those early mistakes turned out to be the difference.

He said, “We’ve been a good defensive team all year -- it’s been one of our strengths -- and we made a couple of mistakes early on and that amounted to four runs and that’s the ballgame.

After a perfect first three innings, Magane ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fourth. A lead-off single by Kailey March gave Taunton its first hit and base runner of the game and Reading followed with a walk. McKenzie Navarro laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move March to third and Wade hit a sac fly to right to get the Tigers on the board.

In the fifth, a two-out triple to right center by eighth grade catcher Kya Enos led to a run for the Tigers when March beat out a grounder to short. Taunton would claw another one back in the sixth when Wade singled with one out to knock Magane out of the game and Poirier hit Aimee Kistner with a pitch. Two wild pitches later and Wade scored to make it 4-3.

Poirier would escape the jam and preserve the lead by striking out Kim McCone.

“I came in trying to be calm and thinking one pitch at a time,” Poirier said. “I had complete confidence in the defense behind me. There’s always nerves in that situation but that’s what helps you thrive.”

After the game, Beauchemin explained his reasons for making the switch in the sixth, saying, “[Magane] threw a lot of pitches [Sunday] night and it looked like she was running out of gas. It was the third time through the order and they were starting to catch up to her … and we have Renee, who threw well at the beginning of the year, so why not utilize what you have?”

As Taunton was starting to make noise offensively against Magane, Aleixo was settling into a groove. The senior didn’t allow a base runner after the fourth inning and retired the final 11 hitters that she faced.

Lewry said, “None of her pitches were really working and every time we threw a breaking pitch they tattooed it, so the last four innings we went strictly fastballs and located and that seemed to do the trick. She kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win tonight.”

Poirier pitched a perfect seventh to wrap up the victory for KP, which has the chance to avenge its other two losses with games against Coyle-Cassidy and Bishop Feehan remaining in the regular season.

Taunton will face a trip to Mansfield on Tuesday knowing that a win will earn the Tigers a share of the Hockomock title, which would be the program’s first and just the school’s second team title since entering the league.

Lewry remarked, “Not exactly what we were shooting for but at this point it’s our best shot so we have to do what it takes to get it done.”

B-R debuts at No. 1 in softball Top 25

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Bridgewater-Raynham starts the season ranked No. 1 in our statewide MIAA softball Top 25 poll.

The Trojans, who spent a good portion of last season in the top spot, lost just one game last season, coming in the Division 1 South final, look to take the next step forward behind a pair of All-State performers in pitcher Sarah Dawson and shortstop Madi Shaw.

For the complete poll, click HERE.

Here are a couple other points of note:

South up for grabs: While B-R nabs the top spot to start, the Division 1 South race should be compelling throughout, with all of the three top teams in our poll hailing from within the district. Silver Lake is on the Trojans' heels at No. 2 while North Attleborough checks in at No. 3.

Third time's a charm?: Burlington begins the season in the Top 25 for the third straight season. The two-time Division 2 state finalists and North sectional champions are looking toward a third straight trip to Worcester State, but hope to come away with some hardware after twice being knocked off by Central champion Grafton in the state final.

The Red Devils start the season at No. 7, while Grafton enters at No. 13.

Recap: No. 6 Duxbury 42, No. 20 N. Attleboro 32

February, 16, 2014
Feb 16
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Defense is definitely the calling card of Duxbury girls’ basketball. On Sunday afternoon at Bridgewater State University’s Tinsley Center, the undefeated Dragons (19-0) showed off their strength on that end of the court by holding Division 2 rival North Attleboro to just 20 points through three quarters in a 42-32 victory in the first round of the Harry Lehmann Memorial Tournament.

When asked about his team’s approach to the game, head coach Bob Sullivan responded, “We’re a grinder. We average about 51 points per game and give up about 27-ish. We play half court man and we grind. A ‘W’ is what we’re looking for.”

Duxbury had a considerable advantage in the paint with 6-foot-1 forward Catherine Harrison (12 points and 13 rebounds) and 6-foot-4 Molly Quilty (10 rebounds), but the Rocketeers were able to limit both of their touches by using a 2-3 zone with Emily Peters fronting Harrison and Ali McHugh on the weak side, preventing passes over the top.

The defensive work of the Rocketeers forced Duxbury to look for scoring from the perimeter and junior captain Maddie Foote stepped up to provide it. She hit a jumper to spark an early 7-2 run that gave the Dragons a 10-5 lead after one quarter. Then she knocked down a three-pointer in the second (Duxbury’s only made shot in the quarter) and added two more three’s in the third, including one from several feet behind the line to close the quarter.

She finished with 17 of the team’s 42 points.

“Maddie is our leader,” said Sullivan. “She plays 32 minutes a night in competitive basketball games -- I never take her off the floor. [She] made some shots, stayed confident, and made her free throws down the stretch, which I think was the difference in the game.”

North Attleborough head coach John DelBonis remarked, “The plan was to get out on [Foote] and make the other kids shoot. She made a couple when we lost her a few times. She might have been the difference in the game.”

Offensively, the Rocketeers were getting decent looks for guards Danielle Perron and Jill Costello, but could not make the perimeter shots that have been such an integral part of the team’s run to a Hockomock League title. Costello had a particularly atypical shooting night -- she missed all 13 of her shots from the field.

Without the ability to consistently go inside to Peters, McHugh, and junior forward Melissa Beaupre, North needed to knock down shots, but the Rocketeers made only one three in the game and that was from freshman Julia Strachan in the third quarter.

“I mean...We’re not going to get a lot of inside looks against them,” admitted DelBonis. “We got some decent looks -- we just didn’t hit any perimeter shots.”

Sullivan credited the effort of his defenders. He said, “We’ve seen them a couple of times and we know how good they are. We know how well they can shoot the ball and one of our keys today was to get out on the shooters.”

Duxbury led 27-20 heading into the fourth quarter, but struggled to shake off the Rocketeers. Beaupre hit a layup for her only basket of the game and Costello (six points -- all from the free throw line) hit a pair from the line to make it 28-24.

That was when the Dragons started to find ways to get the ball to Harrison on the post.

She took a pass on the left block and dove to the rim for a three-point play. Harrison then caught a pass over the top of the fronting defender for a layup and showed off a drop-step move into the lane to knock down a shot over the top of Peters. She scored seven of her 12 points in the fourth.

Explaining the change in approach that got Harrison some space to work in the fourth, Sullivan said, “That’s a match-up 2-3 zone...a lot of front and back on Catherine. The worst thing we can do at that point is force the ball inside. For that to work, you need dribble penetration from Emma [Gill] and Jackie [Sullivan] on the baseline.”

In the final few minutes, it came down to free throw shooting and Gill (seven points) and Foote combined to go 7-10 from the line to clinch the win and continue the unbeaten season for Duxbury.
There's no more exciting play in hockey than the penalty shot and correspondent Josh Perry was on hand to catch this sweet, top-shelf finish from junior forward Sean Young North Attleborough's win over rival Attleboro on Saturday.

The Red Rocketeers (2-1-0) went on to a 4-0 win over the Blue Bombardiers.

Here's a look at the play, courtesy of

Thanksgiving: A long line, Red and Blue

November, 29, 2013
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – Joe Rabuffo walked softly, solemnly.

He wore a mix-match of clothing items: a North Attleborough letterman jacket, a camouflage New England Patriots knit cap, a pair of shorts and work boots. As he and his teammates streamed out of the subterranean locker room outside of Community Field in a funeral-like march, Rabuffo took his time passing by the Red Rocketeers’ assistant coaches who spilled out into the cooridor. He started at the far end of the line and moved station to station, stopping at each face with a handshake and a "Thank you."

The senior had just played his final high school football game.

[+] EnlargeHelmet
Scott Barboza/ESPNNorth Attleborough senior captain Jack Blase honored his late brother, Alex, in his Thanksgiving Day helmet decorartion.
He held his helmet by the facemask in his left hand, with shoulder pads and game jersey draped over. Rabuffo’s, like all of the Thanksgiving Day football game participants in the Attleboro, North Attleborough rivalry, helmet was decorated. Nobody quite remembers how the tradition was started, but it’s one of the more colorful aspects of Massachusetts high school football and its more than century-long history on Thanksgiving mornings.

Rabuffo’s helmet creation had the Patriots logo on either side, a nod both to his favorite team and the honest to goodness patriots who give their lives in service. Wrapped in white tape, he stenciled out the Flying Elvis and, across the back, the letters “USMC” for the Marine Corps. He wanted to honor former North quarterback Kyle Van De Geisen, a Marine captain who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2009.

Rabuffo, who wore No. 67, also paid tribute to a long-lost Big Red great, Thomas Bury. Bury was killed in 1983, in an auto accident on Cape Cod, while en route to his first assignment with the Coast Guard. His name is immortalized on the scoreboard at Community Field and a college scholarship set up in his memory is still offered at the high school. Bury was gone long before Rabuffo was born and he has no other familial connection to Bury other than the playing number which they share.

“I wanted him [Bury] to play one last time along with me,” said Rabuffo, who started at center and long snapped for the Red Rocketeers.

They all played to remember.

For North senior captain Jack Blase, he carried with him the memory of his older brother, Alex. In 2008, Alex Blase — then a North football player, himself – died suddenly at 17 of a brain aneurysm that ruptured while playing a game of pickup basketball. A popular young man among his teammates and school community, it was a devastating loss for all associated with North athletics.

Despite that loss, miracles emerged from Alex’s untimely death. Mere days before his death, Alex listed himself as an organ donor on his learner’s permit at the Massachusetts Registry. When he passed, several of the young athlete’s organs were preserved for waiting recipients.

Jack Blase attached a sticker with his brother’s initials “AMB” to the front of his helmet. With the words “MOM” and “DAD” scrawled out on the bars of his facemask, it formed a kind of trinity as Blase led his team onto their home field for the last time.

“I wanted to honor the seniors, the kids who’ve had my back through everything and, of course, remember my brother,” Jack Blase said.

Perhaps no design displayed on Thursday conveyed what Thanksgiving Day means more than that of Attleboro senior Scott Friedlander.

Standing 6-feet, 10-inches tall, Friedlander is impossible to miss in a crowd. A backup offensive and defensive tackle, as well as a musician, Friedlander estimated he spent about six hours creating an elaborate tribute to his teammates. Wrapped around the back of his helmet, the phrase “Band of Brothers” was stenciled out. An homage to the World War II miniseries, Friedlander found his inspiration in the art of its promotional poster.

The concept worked on multiple levels, as Friedlander comes from a service family – his father (retired), brother and sister were all enlisted in the Navy. The Friedlander family can trace their United States military roots back the Revolutionary War and their service encapsulates every major conflict since.

Using a kind of bas-relief method, Friedlander created a line of figures, encircling the neck of the helmet, standing as one, but indentified with the numbers of his fellow seniors.

Everything that could be said, that was said by Henry V on St. Crispin’s Day, they said on their helmets:
“But we in it shall be remembered —

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”

Recap: Attleboro 34, North Attleborough 19

November, 28, 2013
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – Hilda has left the building.

For all the accolades heaped upon Attleboro football this season, pulling itself from the depths of more than a few sub-.500 seasons in recent years, the truest bellwether to a successful season by the Blue Bombardiers is how they fared against border rival North Attleborough.

The Thanksgiving Day rivals, and Hockomock League foes, already had met in the regular season –the result of the MIAA’s new playoff scheduling plan. Attleboro won Round 1, but still, the Division 1 South tournament finalists wouldn’t have found true redemption without a Thanksgiving win over the Red Rocketeers.

Attleboro capped its statement season with a 34-19 win over Big Red in the 93rd edition of the holiday classic. The victory marked the second straight season the Blue Bombardiers took the “Hilda” trophy home to Attleboro and ends the season at 9-2, having made a playoff run which ended just one win shy of a Gillette Stadium appearance.

“It’s a new era in Attleboro,” senior defensive and tight end Luke Morrison said. “It’s going to be strong.”

Morrison helped the Blue Bombardiers to a fast start. Attleboro claimed a 13-0 lead before North (6-5) even touched the ball.

Following a 69-yard opening drive with quarterback Tim Walsh running for a 34-yard touchdown, the Blue Bombardiers recovered the ensuing kickoff. Set up on the plus-side of the 50-yard line, Attleboro again moved methodically down the field in 11 plays. Walsh (13 carries, 74 yards) had his second score in as many drives with a 1-yard plunge over center.

Nearly eight minutes had elapsed before the Red Rocketeers set up shop on their first drive. It was a brief one, however, as Morrison set up shop in the backfield, registering three straight tackles for loss, including two sacks of quarterback James Kummer (10 of 19 passing, 124 yards, TD).

“As a defense, we’re a whole team, not an individual,” Morrison said. “We all contributed.”

Morrison finished with four sacks and five tackles for loss. Attleboro’s Ryan Bowen was named Defensive Player of the Game while junior running back Damon Belin (96 yards, 2 TD) was awarded the honor on offense.

Despite threatening to run away with the game early, North clawed its way back to tie the game at 13-all behind two rushing touchdowns from Chris Hunter.

Yet, Attleboro was still able to regain the lead before the first half was out, with Belin running for his first score of the game (from 5 yards out) with 23 seconds remaining.

“I think everybody now sees that he can play,” said Walsh of Belin, who shockingly started the season on Attleboro’s J.V. squad.

The Blue Bombardiers parlayed the momentum into the second half, with Tommy Burns providing the capstone to a 9-play scoring drive with a 1-yard run with 5:16 to go in the third.

North had one last rebuttal, as Kummer hit Jake Lang on a slant for a 31-yard touchdown with 7:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, before Attleboro put it out of reach on an 8-yard run from Belin.

“We went down with a seven-game losing streak last year and we just wanted to up our work ethic,” Walsh said. “We hadn’t had a great season in a long time. And somehow beating North twice? That’s just amazing.

“I just feel like pride in the town is back.”

D3 Southwest: Oliver Ames 27, North Attleborough 13

November, 9, 2013
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – The Oliver Ames football program is having an historic season. The Tigers already completed their first undefeated regular season since 1964, and, on Friday night at Muscato Stadium, OA added its first victory over North Attleborough since 1994.

Oliver Ames outscored the Rocketeers 20-6 after halftime and behind a punishing defensive line claimed a 27-13 victory that sends the Tigers to the Division 3 Southwest final.

OA head coach Jim Artz knew that his team was in uncharted waters at this stage of the season and was taking on a team that had dominated the overall series record. He expected his team to battle nerves early on and said that if the team was close after a quarter, then the Tigers would be alright.

He noted, “With their team speed and the way that they attack, we knew that the first quarter was really going to be tough. If we felt comfortable with where we were at and okay at the end of the first quarter then we’d be fine.”

He added, “We just had to wear them down a little bit because I think that we’re bigger and stronger and I think that we showed that.”

The Tigers (9-0) dominated the North offensive line from the first series, although on the second possession Rocketeers quarterback James Kummer somehow stood in the pocket and took a huge hit to complete a 32-yard pass to Dan Moore. North (5-4) took advantage of the big play and finished the drive with Jack Blasé running it in from five yards out to make it 7-0.

The Oliver Ames offense has been explosive this season and it was a big play by running back Matt Berksza (17 carries, 135 yards) that got the Tigers going at the end of the second quarter. His 45-yard run as the first quarter ended put OA at the North 11. Two plays later he finished the drive with a one-yard dive to tie the score.

Oliver Ames had the chance to take the lead before the break, but Nick Sanborn’s 43-yard field goal attempt, into the wind, came up short.

In the second half, the Oliver Ames offense started to click into gear behind senior quarterback Nick Cidado. Facing third and 11 at midfield on the opening possession, Cidado picked out senior wide receiver Reid Starr down the center of the field for a 50-yard, go-ahead touchdown. The North defender tried to jump in front for the interception but could not get there in time.

North head coach Don Johnson remarked, “We had good coverage, but he just misplayed the ball and it turned into a big play; caught us on the man-to-man blitz.”

Artz praised his senior quarterback for his ability to run the offense with both his arm and his legs.

“I’ve been touting him all season long. We used him a little more leg-wise tonight because they were doing a lot of slanting and trying to take away zone with Matt [Berksza] and we said if you’re going to slant that way then we’ll run back this way.”

North tried to get back on its next possession, but after reaching the OA one-yard-line, Kummer fumbled on a play that looked like his knee may have been down. The Tigers could not take advantage.

The Rocketeers forced a Berksza fumble and took over on the Tigers 22. Five plays later, Mike Lambert took a sweep to the right for six yards and a touchdown. A penalty forced the extra point back five yards and Connor Flynn missed wide left to keep OA on top, 14-13.

The Tigers responded immediately. OA went 69 yards in eight plays to extend the lead back to eight points with 9:57 remaining in the game. Cidado and Berksza rushed for 68 of the yards on the drive and junior Joey Tepper took it the final yard into the end zone.

On its next possession, the Tigers appeared to be trying to run down the clock. Instead, on second and eight, Artz took a chance and called for a play-action pass. Cidado threw a 31-yard strike to sophomore Sam Kelly (four receptions, 88 yards) to make it 27-13.

When asked about the play, Artz explained, “As long as they kept two high safeties, then we were going to run but we saw them creeping down and creeping down and they still had timeouts to burn. We could either play it safe or be aggressive and I thought it was the appropriate time to be a little bit aggressive and go for it.”

He added, “Sam Kelly is an outstanding young receiver and Cid put it right where it needed to be. It gave us a lot more breathing room and a whole different comfort level.”

Johnson was disappointed that his team was surprised by the call. He reflected, “It shouldn’t have [surprised us]; we know that is something that they like to do. It was just a poor play on defense.”

Down by two scores, North was forced to start looking downfield in the passing game, but Kummer was constantly under pressure from the OA defensive line. Chris Duggan, Josh Briggs, and Pat McNeeley each had shots on Kummer in the fourth quarter, as well as linebacker Tepper. It was a problem for which North had no answer.

Johnson admitted, “We didn’t do a good job protecting him to give him a chance. They’ve got some good, fast, strong players up front that overpowered us tonight.”

The win sets up an all-Hockomock League D3 Southwest final with Oliver Ames hosting rival Stoughton in a rematch of the Tigers' 35-7 win from earlier this season.

Soccer tourney roundup: Newton North girls advance

November, 3, 2013
NEWTON, Mass. – Shannon Fitzgerald scored a brace and tacked on an assist as the No. 2 seed in Division 1 North (and No. 2 ranked team in the statewide rankings) Newton North moved into the sectional semifinals with a 3-0 victory over No. 10 seed Andover on Sunday afternoon.

The final score was comfortable for the Tigers (15-0-2), but the start of the game was anything but easy, as the visitors stormed out of the gates and put pressure on the Newton North back line. Forward Veronica Alois, in particular, caused problems for the Tigers and helped the Warriors (11-5-4) earn three corner kicks in the opening five minutes.

There is a cliché in soccer that goals change games. In the 20th minute, Newton North proved it right again.

A long ball forward by Fitzgerald caught Tigers forward Angela Ward one-on-one with Andover senior defender Sarah Van Antwerp. The two players came together and van Antwerp went to ground, but the official waved play on and Ward took advantage of the breakaway to score what turned out to be the game winner.

Andover head coach Meghan Matson commented, “It stinks because we were dominating to start the game possession-wise and just our opportunities on goal. I think we did a really good job stepping up and winning the 50/50s and being a real defensive presence on the field.”

She added, “It was a non-call that from our perspective should have been a call but it is what it is and you kind of have to move on from there.”

The Warriors had to move on without Van Antwerp, who pulled her hamstring in the collision with Ward. Four minutes after her injury, with Andover still reshuffling its back line, Newton North struck again. Fitzgerald this time was the scorer. With a deft touch to take the ball inside a defender on the edge of the 18, she struck a shot inside the post to make it 2-0.

Newton North head coach James Hamblin remarked, “The first five minutes, I think we were all over the place. They were nervous, excited…I don’t know and to be fair Andover came at us. The first five minutes we couldn’t get out of our own half.”

He continued, “That old cliché - the goal turned the game and they had to take her out and we got the second while they got organized.”

After halftime, Newton North took control of the game with Andover keeper Emily Masterson forced into strong, diving saves at her near post to stop both Ward and Fitzgerald from finding the third goal. Matson acknowledged the improvement in her senior goalkeeper this season.

“This season our starting keeper was out with a concussion and she stepped in and she’s been incredible for us. She’s made some really clutch saves and it’s amazing to see the transformation in her confidence.”

Bay State Conference MVP Christina Callahan and fellow midfielder Amelia Williams started to get control of the center of the pitch in the second half and the Tigers grew increasingly willing to hit long diagonals to the forwards, as the clock ran down.

“We definitely have good power, strength, and speed up top,” noted Hamblin. “The front two of Ang and Shannon are excellent and we’ve had a rotating system on the other forward. We used our pace and power to get in behind them and it worked at times.”

Andover did create a couple of chances in the dying minutes as it grew increasing desperate to find a goal.

Alois took advantage of a slip to break into the box and rounded Tigers keeper Maddie Bledsoe only for right back Maya King to come across the field and make a last-ditch block. A minute later, Alois’ footwork created space at the top of the 18 for Meredith Van Antwerp, but her shot was right at Bledsoe.

As the game entered the final 30 seconds, the Tigers had one more flurry on offense, but Masterson made two sliding blocks in the 18 and one slide tackle well outside of the box. Despite the keeper’s best efforts, the ball fell to Fitzgerald who fired home her second and clinched the game.

Hamblin remarked,” I said to the girls at halftime that the next goal is huge. I said that if we get it, it’s game over. I would have liked for it to come early, not with 10 seconds left, but I thought the more we defended well then the more frustrated that they got and started hitting longer balls that we soaked up.”

Matson was disappointed that the final score was not indicative of how well Andover played against the still unbeaten Tigers.

You look at the score and see 3-0 and think that’s kind of a rough game, but it was definitely not indicative of how the game went,” she said. “To go down 2-0 like we did and keep attacking says a lot about their heart.”

Newton North will advance to Tuesday night’s semifinal at Manning Field in Lynn to take on Masconomet.

Tournament Notes:
  • The No. 1 seed in D1 North also advanced on Sunday, as Central Catholic (the No. 1 team in the final regular season, statewide rankings) defeated Lincoln-Sudbury, 4-2. It was the second game in a row that the Raiders have won by that score, after giving up only a single goal in the first 17 games of the season. Central Catholic will take on another DCL Large team in the semifinals – No. 5 Acton-Boxborough.
  • On Sunday, several of the defending state champions advanced in the tournament: In D1, the Needham boys scored late to beat league rival Weymouth, 1-0, in a rematch of last year’s sectional final and the Franklin girls scored five goals to beat league rival Milford. In D2, the Medfield girls went on the road to beat Foxborough, 4-2. In D3 girls, Weston will take on Hamilton-Wenham on Monday.
  • There is guaranteed to be a new champion in D2 and D3 for the boys, although each of the state champions from 2012 is still alive in the postseason. Groton-Dunstable was moved from D2 to D1 in the Central (D2 no longer exists outside of Eastern Mass.), and pulled off an upset of No. 2 seed Doherty on Sunday. Sutton was also moved during realignment, from D3 to the newly created D4 in Central, and will take on Maynard as the No. 2 seed on Monday.
  • To this point (although to be fair not all of them have taken the pitch yet) each of the No. 1 seeds are still alive. The biggest upset to this point happened on Sunday evening as the Walpole girls, the No. 19 seed in D1 South, knocked off No. 3 seed Oliver Ames, the Hockomock’s Davenport division champ and 2012 sectional finalist, on penalties after 100 scoreless minutes. It was the second straight PK victory for the Rebels, who also beat No. 14 Plymouth South on Friday. Walpole advances to face No. 6 North Attleborough, which beat Whitman-Hanson, 3-2, in overtime on a goal by Hana Caster. The Rocketeers had their own penalty let off on Sunday when a Panthers PK struck the post in a tie game with fewer than 10 minutes remaining.
  • The D1 South boys’ quarterfinals are set with four very intriguing match-ups. Top seed and top ranked Silver Lake crushed Milford on Sunday and will host another Hockomock League opponent, Mansfield, on Tuesday. The winner of that game will face the winner of New Bedford (beat Marshfield, 3-1), which spent several weeks ranked no. 1 this season, and Franklin (beat Taunton, 2-1), which took home a Kelley-Rex division title and has only lost once all season.* On the other side of the bracket, Needham will face Brockton (beat Bridgewater-Raynham, 2-0) in a rematch of last year’s first round meeting and the winner faces whichever team advances out of a Top 20 battle between Wellesley (beat Braintree, 4-0) and BC High (beat King Philip, 4-0).
  • In D1 North, there were a pair of upsets on the boys’ side with No. 13 Malden beating No. 4 Peabody, 1-0, in overtime and No. 12 Lowell advancing past No. 5 East Boston, 3-2, on penalties. Those two will face off in the quarterfinals. Top seed Somerville moved on with a comfortable 4-0 win and will take on a talented Bay State team, Brookline, which beat Lincoln-Sudbury, 1-0). Second seed Madison Park beat Chelmsford, 1-0, and will next face perennial power Acton-Boxborough, which beat Framingham, 1-0, in overtime. St. John’s Prep (beat Andover, 2-0), the No. 3 seed, will play No. 11 Lexington (beat Revere, 5-0) in the final second round match — all to be played on Tuesday.
*Franklin also lost, 2-0, to Attleboro, but the game was officially changed to a 1-0 win after Attleboro was forced to vacate its wins.

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.