NORTH EASTON, Mass. – As the old football adage says, a good week of practice can pay off.
Coming off a tough fourth quarter loss at Sharon last week, Stoughton lived up to that adage with a great week of practice. And the results paid immediate dividends in a 44-21 victory over Oliver Ames Friday night at Muscato Stadium.
Stoughton coach Greg Burke and quarterback Dan Eckler wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
“We were feeling pretty bad after that loss [to Sharon]. That was a must win game and we just couldn’t get it done.” said Eckler. “This game [against OA] was even more important. We just came out with fire [after a good week of practice] and we wanted to win. And that’s what we did.”
“We had one bad quarter all year – against Sharon last week – and we lost. No excuses, that was it,” Burke said. “Our kids are very tough kids. [OA] beat us two years in a row and we had a great week of practice.”
Once again the backfield tandem of Malachi Baugh (15 carries, 129 yards, 1 touchdown) Frankie Morris (20 carries, 124 yards, 1 touchdown) Marcus Middleton (105 all-purpose yards, 2 touchdowns) and Aaron Mack (7 carries, 88 yards, 1 touchdown) gave the Black Knights a spark on the ground. But thanks to Eckler’s passing in the first half, the floodgates were open from the get-go.
After holding OA to a three and out on its first offensive series, Eckler drove his team upfield on the team’s opening possession connecting with tight end Andrew Kelley for 20 yards on a 3rd and 13 from Stoughton’s 34 yard line. Two plays later, the OA defense overcommitted on play-action and the senior threw a bullet to a wide-open Middleton for a 41-yard touchdown.
That was not the only time Eckler connected on play-action. Shortly after Matt Berksa scored his first of two rushing touchdowns midway through the second quarter, Eckler connected with Kelley on the first play of the ensuing possession from 62 yards to give his team a 22-7 lead following the two point conversion. Eckler capped off his three-touchdown night with a seven-yard quarterback keeper during the third quarter.
“The linebackers bit hard on the play-action,” Eckler said about his first touchdown. “When they bite like that, it makes it easier to throw it over the top. And Marcus and Shawn made it happen from there.”
Unquestionably, Burke relies heavily on the wing-t, but it was certainly a nice sighting for him to see the passing game.
“It was nice to get some play-action,” Burke said. “But we ran four run plays all week on the wing-t but whatever we ran we executed it tonight.”
The victory for Stoughton keeps them in the thick of the Davenport Division race. But for OA, the chances of repeating as small Hock champs is likely out of reach.
After its loss to Foxboro last week, head coach Jim Artz knew his team would be fighting for its playoff lives for the second straight season. But the Tigers dug themselves another early hole and couldn’t recreate the magic from last year that began with a win over this same Stoughton team last November.
“It was not indicative of what I thought our team is,” Artz said about the loss. “We didn’t play very well…they were bigger, stronger and tougher than us and we just fell behind from the very beginning.”
Despite the loss, Artz was pleased to see Nick Cidado put in a solid performance at quarterback. Even with the large deficit, the junior threw for 167 yards on 18-of-33 passing and compiled 55 yards on nine carries that included a 4-yard touchdown run during the third quarter.
“I was proud that he hung in there through the end,” Artz said about Cidado.
Stoughton, now 7-1 overall and 2-1 in the Davenport, only has one game left in the Davenport against Canton on Thanksgiving. However, they’ll have a couple of nice tuneups against Attleboro and Bridgewater-Raynham beforehand.
OA (5-3, 0-2) will try to bounce back against King Philip in an inter-division contest next Friday night before returning to Davenport play against Canton on Nov. 9, and its Thanksgiving Day finale against Sharon.