- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.”