STOUGHTON, Mass. – Bend but don’t break.
That was the story for Stoughton in Friday's 27-7 victory over Pembroke thanks in a large part to its opportunistic defense.
“They were driving in scoring position and we were able to make some big plays,” said Stoughton defensive back Marcus Middleton, who had an interception in the victory. “And that was the difference defensively tonight.”
It all started in the second quarter after Dan Eckler threw an interception to Pembroke defensive back K. Matthew Benting on a 2nd and goal, giving his team the ball on its own 15. But despite driving the ball at midfield just four plays later, the Titans turned the ball over on a fumble by Nicholas Burns – after a completed pass by quarterback Cory Brandon (9-of-14, 133 yards, 2 interceptions) – giving the Black Knights the ball again just two minutes later.
Stoughton capitalized on the ensuing possession when senior running back Frankie Morris scored his first of two touchdowns from 8 yards out giving his team the lead for good at 13-7 with 5:30 left in the second quarter.
“The kids are tough,” Stoughton coach Greg Burke said about the sequence. “They were ticked off after giving up the interception and they wanted the ball back. And that’s a great sign. It’s just something you can’t teach… so I was very happy.”
With time running out in the second quarter, Pembroke attempted to bounce back to take the lead heading into the locker room. The Titans drove the ball to the Stoughton 25 in eight plays – after starting from their own 24 – but Middleton made a tremendous interception taking the ball away from receiver Robert Queen with 1:25 left.
That last defensive stand in the first half turned out to be the difference.
“They score on that [series] and who knows what happens?” Burke asked. “It’s a different ball game from there."
Not to be lost in all this is the impressive performance from the Stoughton backfield.
Behind some great blocking from the offensive line, the tandem of Morris (13 carries, 47 yards) Middleton (3 carries, 23 yards, 2 receptions, 24 yards), Aaron Mack (5 carries, 34 yards) and Malachi Baugh (7 carries, 100 yards, 1 reception, 22 yards, 1 touchdown) were able to pounce on the opportunities that the Stoughton D provided off of four takeaways.
“We have to give a lot of the credit to our offensive line tonight,” Middleton said. “They gave us some big holes to run through and it gave us a big boost.”
Stoughton’s o-line prowess showed on its first two offensive series of the second half.
After holding Pembroke to a three-and-out, the o-line went to work on the next possession and eventually paved the way for Baugh’s 40-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to give Stoughton a 21-7 lead following the 2-point conversion.
“That was a huge run to bring us on top and it gave us a big mental boost,” Baugh said about the touchdown run.
Now 3-0, Stoughton awaits a hungry Mansfield squad looking for revenge after last year’s loss. The two teams renew acquaintances Friday night in Stoughton.
“The coaches are going to design plays for us all week and we need to go out and execute,” Mack said about preparing for next week’s inter-division showdown.
“We need to minimize our mistakes, but if we can minimize those and execute, we can beat any team [in the Hockomock league].”