FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It was an unfortunate set of circumstances for Foxborough on opening night. Practically from the get-go, it just didn’t seem like the Warriors’ night.
And, of course, with No. 14 Walpole visiting, the margin for error was thin. The Warriors first play from scrimmage was a botched snap that quarterback Nolan Rogers was forced to boot through the back of the end zone for a safety. On the Rebels first touch of the game, senior running back Conor Moriarty broke off a 49-yard touchdown run – his first of four.
It didn’t get much easier from there for Foxborough as the Rebels run away with a 37-15 win.
“I thought it would be a barn-burner, right down to the last minute of the game,” said a surprised Walpole head coach Barry Greener.
Moriarty paced the Rebels (1-0) with four rushing touchdowns, while running for 72 yards on 10 carries, coming primarily in the first half. Walpole built a 30-8 lead by the half.
While Moriarty was tough to stop in the red zone, Walpole senior quarterback Will Bolster was responsible for setting up several first-half scores. Bolster completed 9 of 15 pass attempts for 147 yards.
He showed a good rapport with rangy sophomore wide receiver Amire Loftis, who hauled in receptions of 21 and 49 yards – both of which directly preceded Moriarty touchdown runs.
Difference-makers: Greener gushed throughout the preseason about the deep and talented group of sophomores he has. They were on display during the season opener.
In addition to Loftis, running back Steve Cuqua showed great speed to the outside on jet sweeps and counters, running for a team-high 97 yards and a touchdown. Greener also praised the efforts of tight end/ linebacker Nate Porack, who was making his first career start.
The youngsters, along with some of the Rebels’ other first-year starters, such as 7-technique defensive end Munachiso Egbuchulam (1 sack), it was evident Walpole makes up for talent in what it might have lacked in game experience.
An evolution: Bolster reflected on the changes the Rebels offense has undergone during his high school career. It’s been a steady progression for the third-year starter under coordinator Bill O’Connell and new offensive assistant Todd Collins.
“When I was a sophomore, I did a lot of pro-style, under-the-center stuff,” Bolster said. “It was a lot of simple two-receiver, tight end and two running backs. Then, we’ve moved to more a spread style.”
With Collins – in his day, a Super Bowl winning quarterback at Walpole and veteran of 16 NFL season – assuming a role on Greener’s coaching staff, Bolster hinted at greater variations to come.
Even still, the Rebels attacked Foxborough with a wide variation of formations, which at times included bunch trips looks.
“When they’re playing Cover 1, Cover 3 like that, we can run all day against that,” Bolster said.
Next up: The main question surrounding Foxborough entering this season is how the Warriors could replace graduated running back Kiivone Howard.
Enter junior Keeyon Neal. The 6-foot, 175-pound back led all rushers with 121 yards on 16 carries.
And, while Neal’s performance was a bright spot on an otherwise tough evening for the Foxborough faithful, there’s other reason for optimism with the Warriors as they look ahead to Davenport division play. Rogers, a junior and first-time starter, completed 13 of 25 pass attempts for 106 yards and touchdown.
A new beginning: Greener remarked to the bus driver on the way to the Ahern Middle School that it would be his team’s shortest trip of the season – save that to archrival Norwood. But it’s surprising that the Rebels and Warriors had never met till Friday night – mostly due to the fact that Walpole, only under the provisions of the MIAA’s new playoff scheduling plan, is able to schedule outside of the Bay State League.