EASTON, Mass. – Inside of the two-minute warning, Oliver Ames was driving and had a goal-to-go, down by a score in the second quarter. The Tigers looked primed to tie Thursday night’s Hockomock League Davenport division game against No. 22 Stoughton.
From there, everything snowballed in Stoughton’s favor. The Black Knights scored two touchdowns within in the final 28 seconds of the half to propel them to a 40-19 win.
“It changes the game,” Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. “The game was pretty much over at that point.”
An interception and a fumble recovery gave the Black Knights (4-0, 2-0 Davenport) two possession within the final two minutes of the half. They capitalized on both them.
Stoughton senior Brandon Swain-Price hauled in an interception with 1:37 remaining in the half. It appeared Swain-Price had a 95-yard touchdown return as well, but a block in the back set up the Black Knights at the OA 11-yard line.
It wouldn’t matter, as Stoughton drove the length of the field in a minute and nine seconds, capped Joey Girolamo’s 4-yard touchdown run.
The Black Knights had the ball back again with 10 seconds remaining, after the Tigers (1-3, 0-2) fumbled on the first snap of the ensuing drive.
That’s when Swain-Price asserted his will again.
“Coach said, ‘Just jump up for it and get it,’” he said.
Stoughton quarterback Jake Gibb (6 of 8, 192 yards, 3 TD, INT) then used Swain-Price’s mismatch against single coverage to throw a 35-yard jump ball, which the 6-foot-3 senior cherry-picked in the back of the end zone.
In an instant, the Black Knights took a 34-13 lead to the locker room.
“We’re still making way too many mistakes,” OA head coach Jim Artz said. “We should be tied at the half going in, instead we’re down 34-13. Just a little too many lapses, broken tackles.”
Stoughton put the game all but out of reach with a score on the opening possession of the second half on an 8-yard touchdown run by Kirby Impoinvil.
The Black Knights had a near instant 6-0 lead as Ryan Sullivan ran back a punt return for a 37-yard touchdown. But OA responded and took a 7-6 lead on a 13-yard touchdown run by Jameson Dixon.
It was all Stoughton from then on, as Gibb and Swain-Price connected for touchdowns on two straight drives with passes of nine yards and 75 yards, respectively.
Go to the big man: Burke and his coaching staff looked to exploit the matchup against Swain-Price early and often Thursday night.
At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Swain-Price plays in tight and split wide – playing tight end on Stoughton’s double wing and goal-line formations, and moving to wide receiver on the Black Knights’ flexbone and pro-style looks.
“You’ve got to [get him the ball], he’s a tremendous athlete,” Burke said. “He can do anything he wants to.”
Swain-Price also was opportunistic on defense. The free safety had a prior interception wiped out by a pass interference call before he had what looked to be a 95-yard interception return for a score erased by a block-in-the-back call.
“We’re brining each other up when we’re down,” he said of Stoughton’s stout secondary. “If one person gets beat, we all help him out.”
And, like Swain-Price’s mates in the defensive secondary, he has a top-flight complement in the passing game with Gibb.
“Honestly, it was a great ball,” Swain-Price said of his 35-yard score at the end of the half. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. He’s a great quarterback, the line blocking for him, it was all a team effort.”
Road gets tougher: OA suffered its third straight loss following a win over Plymouth North in the season opener. Thursday’s loss was compounded by the fact the Tigers might also have lost starting quarterback John McMillan for the season.
McMillan left the game in the first quarter with a lower body injury. He was replaced by sophomore Travis Campbell (8 of 12, 74 yards) performed admirably in his first varsity appearance.
“He’s a sophomore thrown into the fire,” Artz said. “For a sophomore coming in and that being his first varsity start against a very good football team, not only did he do a good job, he did a great job.”
But the Tigers find themselves in some straits while looking to qualify for the Division 3 Southwest tournament. OA entered the weekend’s action in the bottom half of the divisional table, looking up a couple of Hockomock teams, including North Attleborough and Milford, along with the Black Knights.
“We're not were we need to be,” Artz said, “and we've got a week to figure out because we have to somehow sneak into the playoff picture because right now it's not good enough."