Here are three thoughts on Stoughton's 12-7 win over North Attleboro at Community Field on Friday night. Click here for a full recap of the game.
1. North Attleboro needs Alex Jette
The Rocketeers offense did manage an impressive 17-play, 89-yard drive to take a lead with just under seven minutes remaining, but they looked nothing like the team that put up over 40 points against LaSalle (RI) on opening night. While Mike Lambert has had a good season and shown the ability to make big plays it is much harder to find openings without the defense worrying about Jette. Sean Peters is also missing, but there were holes to run through just not the explosiveness and breakaway speed of Jette to take advantage.
Without that potential of breaking each and every play for a score, North are forced into long drives that “matriculate” the ball up the field. The Rocketeers have gone from a high-powered offensive team to a grind it out, move the chains unit. Execution has been an issue from the start of the season, but now that each drive has to feature so many plays, there is a greater potential for mistakes. On the opening drive of the game against Stoughton it was a critical chop block penalty, while against Feehan it was a goal line fumble. Either way this is an offense that has lost its ability to break a game open and, until they get Jette back, that will put a lot of pressure on the defense.
2. Stoughton is for real
This is not news. The win over Mansfield proved that the Black Knights should not be overlooked. Last week’s win over Foxboro was simply confirmation of that, but this was my first time seeing them live. The linebackers are very quick to the ball and the secondary (but for one big fourth down play that Coach Burke was very displeased with) covers well and helps out to stop the run. The hope is that the injury to Adam Leonard will not be too serious because that will be a huge hit and put even more pressure on leading tackler Shawn Connolly.
Offensively, Stoughton is sort of a throwback in a league that has emphasized creativity and up tempo play in the past few years. Frankie Morris (two touchdowns against North) and Aaron Mack deserve the praise that they receive, but it is the make-you-miss running of Malachi Baugh that really opens things up and keeps defenses honest. The Rocketeers shutdown the middle of the line and forced Stoughton to the edges and the Black Knight offensive line showed surprising agility to create mismatches with defensive backs on the outside. An occasional deep ball to Marcus Middleton (who I would love to see in a footrace with Malique Clark of Attleboro) racing past a cornerback always helps too.
3. The Hockomock is all twisted up
Stoughton beat North Attleboro for the first time since 2006. North also lost to Franklin and Foxboro. The Warriors beat Attleboro on Friday. The Davenport division has suddenly become a hotbed of football talent and has asserted itself over the larger schools (much like it has in other sports such as soccer). These things tend to be cyclical, but the all-time records show a distinct and overwhelming advantage to certain teams (namely Mansfield, North, and until recently Foxboro). The Davenport teams should enjoy the dominance while it lasts.
The most notable reaction following the Black Knights victory over North was from Stoughton coach Greg Burke, who did not celebrate the rare win, but rather fumed about a blown coverage that led to North’s only score. As one reporter said to me after the interview, it is not often that you meet a winning coach that angry. This is the clearest example that the expectation for the smaller teams is to go out and win games. The intimidation factor that history suggests should be there seems to have dwindled. I can’t help feeling this is a good thing in the long run for the Hockomock League.