NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass - A wild season in the Hockomock League took another turn for the unexpected on Friday night at Community Field.
Ryan Perron accounted for four touchdowns, two passing and two rushing, to lead North Attleboro (5-3) to a 36-21 victory over the Mansfield Hornets (5-3), which leaves four teams tied atop the Kelley-Rex division each with one league defeat.
North, who were buoyed by the return from injury of senior captains Sean Peters and Alex Jette, took a 20-7 lead into halftime. Mansfield stormed back into the game and took its first lead on the final play of the third quarter. Quarterback Kyle Wisnieski hit Michael Hershman on a double move down the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown that made the score 21-20.
During the Rocketeers’ three-game losing streak, which ended last week at Taunton, this would have been the point where they folded.
That was not going to happen on Friday.
On its next possession, North took 9 plays to go 62 yards in 4:23, highlighted by Dwayne Hunter Jr.’s 25-yard run on 4th and 2 at the Hornets’ 35. Perron scored his fourth touchdown of the day from 10 yards out on the very next play and Mike Lambert tacked on the two-point conversion to put the Rocketeers back in front.
The Rocketeers emphasized the passing attack right from the start of the game. Perron, who finished 7-12 for 158 yards and two touchdowns, hit Jake Dallaire on the second play of the game for a 62-yard score that set the tone.
According to head coach Don Johnson, “It’s something that we’ve been working on a lot and having (Alex) Jette back in the lineup helps and allows us to do some different things. Ryan stepped up and made some plays for us.”
Alex Jette, who is working his way back into the lineup after a hairline fracture in his leg, scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Perron just before halftime, but was most effective on the defensive side of the ball in shutting down Hornets receiver Brendan Hill.
The Rocketeers defense stymied the Mansfield passing attack for much of the game. Wisnieski struggled and completed only 9 of 20 passes and was intercepted by Lambert on the team’s first possession. Reid Holden and Ben Jette were constantly making tackles and putting pressure in the backfield, while Peters and Eric Beckwith were strong on the line.
Star running back Robbie Rapoza rushed for 118 yards on 15 carries and one score for Mansfield, while Kevin Makie had 74 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson credited his team’s attitude and ability to stay focused despite some of the struggles that the team has faced this season.
“It’s a great group of kids. I mean obviously we went through a tough stretch with injuries and losing three games in a row, but it’s been great going out to practice every day because these kids have just bounced right back every time and given us everything we’ve asked.”
The cheers of the North Attleboro crowd when it heard that Franklin had lost at Taunton should strike fear in teams across the league. This is a program that expects to win every year and it has been given a second chance at winning a league title.
At least on Friday night, the swagger was back for Big Red.