NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a game where defense ruled, it was the Stoughton football team’s offense that ensured the Black Knights came out on top against North Attleborough, winning, 12-7, on the road at Community Field on Friday night.
A 17-play Red Rocketeers drive that spanned 10 minutes – the last six of the third quarter and the first four of the fourth – resulted in a touchdown with 6:53 left in the game put them up 7-6, and seemed like it shifted momentum completely in their favor.
Until the kickoff, when Malachi Baugh picked up a rolling kick at the 13-yard line and returned it 42 yards to the North 45.
“Through that whole drive, I was just trying to keep strength and focus,” Baugh said. “On the kickoff, I just saw some holes and took advantage and ran up the field.”
Baugh followed up with a 12-yard carry and an 18-yard carry to move the ball down to the 15-yard line.
“That was huge,” Stoughton coach Greg Burke said. “I don’t know what else to tell you. The fourth-down conversion before they scored shouldn’t have happened, but that’s high school football. It was a big play, though. Baugh is real tough.”
Frankie Morris finished the job two carries carries later, scoring on a 14-yard sweep left to put Stoughton back on top.
The flurry of late scoring played out completely different than the rest of the game, in which North Attleborough (3-3) totaled 180 yards of offense and Stoughton had just 163.
The teams each possessed the ball just once in the first quarter, and North’s 14-play opening drive stalled out after a chop block penalty erased a 1st-and-goal opportunity from the 4-yard line.
After a couple of penalties and plays that resulted in a loss of yards, Stoughton took over on downs at the 25.
The Black Knights (6-0) piled up a 16-play drive, but eventually came up short at the 4-yard line. Stoughton’s defense turned in an impressive three-and-out, forcing a punt from the 10. The punt wobbled out of bounds at the 24, setting the Knights up for an easy score.
Five plays later, Morris took off on a sweep left – the same play he scored the game-winner on – and plunged into the end zone from six yards out with 2:14 left in the first half.
From there, the teams traded defensive stands until the Red Rocketeers took over with 5:09 left in the third, when they set out on the 17-play drive.
Quarterback Ryan Perron, who finished with 13 carries for 45 yards and was 9-for-13 passing for 65 yards, was the driving force behind the extended scoring series.
On fourth and 2 from the 19, he delivered a 16-yard pass to a wide open Tyler Sellner, who had three catches for 32 yards.
On the ensuing first-and-goal play, Perron plunged three yards into the endzone. A made point after try gave them a brief lead.
The Red Rocketeers went into the game knowing two of their best players would be watching from the sidelines.
Alex Jette, the team’s starting running back and their most dynamic playmaker, was in a walking boot with a stress fracture in his foot.
Fellow senior captain Sean Peters missed the game after his shoulder flared up earlier this week in practice. Peters, a two-way lineman who is catching some Div. 1 interest, tore his labrum playing basketball last year.
“We didn’t lose this game because of who we didn’t have,” North Attleborough coach Don Johnson said. “We lost this game because, like the last few weeks, we didn’t make plays we needed to make. If we had those guys, would we have won this game? I think so, but we didn’t have them and we didn’t get it done.”
Late in the game, Stoughton lost Adam Leonard to a leg injury that required splinting before he was carried off the field.
“I hope Leonard is OK,” Burke said. “He’s one of the best players in the state, and not having him is going to be a big blow to us. I don’t know what the injury was, I’m not a doctor, but we’ll find out soon.”