NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass -- The Red Rocketeers had done their homework.
They knew No. 16 King Philip’s defense was going to blitz -- and blitz often. With that in mind, No. 13 North Attleborough used the Warriors’ aggressiveness against them to rush for 311 yards en route to a 28-14 win.
Senior co-captain and running back Dan Johnson (12 carries, 168 yards) took two second-half misdirection carries, designed to exploit an aggressive defense, and ran them both for scores. The plays turned what was a tied game into a commanding two-touchdown Red Rocketeer lead.
“They were running all over the place,” said Johnson of the Warriors' defense, whose blitz scheme helped make them one of the state’s best. They allowed just 6.1 points per game before Saturday. “They were blitzing and sending guys everywhere. They were jumping all over the first look so we used a little counter action and that opened everything up.”
After King Philip (7-2) had tied the game at 14 with 2:30 left in the third quarter, North Attleborough (9-1) responded with a 72-yard drive punctuated by Johnson’s first touchdown run from 26 yards out. The series took five plays. All runs.
The Red Rocketeers forced a King Philip turnover on downs to start the fourth quarter, and a minute and a half later, Johnson (12 carries, 168 yards) was in the endzone again. This time he took a counter handoff up the middle and outran the Warriors defense for 71 yards to pay dirt. It was the same play as what had been called in the huddle for Johnson’s first score.
“Especially against a team that blitzes like that, if you can seal everybody down and don’t get any penetration on the inside, you have the potential for it to be a big play,” said North Attleborough coach Don Johnson. “It’s one of those, you’re either going to gain 10 or 20, or you’re going to lose 10.”
King Philip was down 14-0 late in the second quarter after Red Rocketeers quarterback Paul McCarthy (4-7, 53 yards; 15 carries, 108 yards) ran for a touchdown in the first quarter and threw for another to Ryan Flannery (2 catches, 34 yards) in the second. But the Warriors found some life when coach Brian Lee reached into his bag of tricks with just seconds remaining in the first half.
Warriors quarterback Jake Cox (11-17, 131 yards) led his team down the field with just under two minutes to play in the first half, leaving King Philip a 25-yard field goal try before halftime. But instead, Lee called for a field goal fake. Cox received the ball as the place-kick holder, and threw to Jim Johnston (3 catches, 39 yards), who plowed across the goal line from eight yards out to cut North Attleborough’s lead in half.
King Philip had momentum going into the third quarter as it recovered a McCarthy fumble and drove 49 yards to tie the game on a Charles Ruffin (15 carries, 83 yards) 16-yard touchdown carry.
The Red Rocketeers never relinquished the lead, however. Johnson took the first of his two touchdown carries on the ensuing North Attleborough drive.
“They answered,” said Lee. “That’s what a good team does. We had flashes but you have to be consistent against the top programs.”
The Red Rocketeers forced two turnovers on downs in the fourth quarter to stop any potential Warriors comeback.
“We learned a little lesson against Mansfield [two weeks ago],” said Don Johnson. “They converted five fourth downs against us. We didn’t come up with the big play when we need it. Today it was different. Today we came up with those big plays.”
North Attleborough 28, King Philip 14
NA – 7 7 7 7 – 28
KP – 0 7 7 0 – 14
NA - McCarthy 6 run (Zach Horton kick)
NA – McCarthy 21 pass to Flannery (Horton kick)
KP – Cox 8 pass to Johnston (Nick Muscatiello kick)
KP – Ruffin 16 run (Muscatiello kick)
NA – Johnson 26 run (Horton kick)
NA – Johnson 71 run (Horton kick)