Facing a three-point deficit in the final minute of the third quarter with the Foxboro High football team unable to reach the end zone on four plays inside the North Attleboro High 10-yard line, the Rocketeers were faced with a long field to travel Friday.
The Big Red could not have executed the playbook in any better fashion, having jersey No. 6 on the field, the most dynamic quarterback in the Hockomock League in junior Tyler DeMattio.
The Rocketeers went 92 yards on 20 plays, DeMattio and the Big Red owning possession of the ball for 9:52 to produce the winning touchdown in a 14-10 victory at Sam Berns Field.
“That last drive was epic,” North Attleboro coach Donny Johnson. “That’s one you don’t see too often.”
DeMattio carried the ball nine times for 72 yards in the drive, converting on fourth-and-1 at the North 33-yard line with an 8-yard run, converting a third and-5 at the Foxboro 44-yard line with a 7-yard run and then converting a fourth-and-1 at the Foxboro 17-yard line with a 4-yard run.
DeMattio finished off the series by bowling over a trio of Warrior defenders en route to a 16-yard, go-ahead TD with 2:39 left on the clock for his second TD of the game.
North Attleboro extended its unbeaten streak to five games and clinched the Davenport Division of the Hockomock League, leaving once-beaten Stoughton and now twice-beaten Foxboro in its wake.
“They have other weapons, but he’s (DeMattio) tough, he’s a special kid,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said.
DeMattio personally accounted for five first downs in the game-winning drive and booted a pair of conversion kicks.
“They left everything they had, every once of their ability on the field — and then some,” Martinelli said of his Warriors, who were unable to score a touchdown on three second-half drives, starting at the North 37, 4 and 32-yard lines.
Foxboro forced a pair of second half takeaways — a fumble recovery by Dylan Kerrigan, forced by Mike Norvish, and a Rashaad Way interception — but came away emptyhanded.
“North is a good football team, so you give credit where credit’s due,” Martinelli said. “We had our chances to put it away. If you don’t take those opportunities against a good team, you give them a shot. I would have liked it to end differently.”
Late in the third quarter, Foxboro senior quarterback Cam Prescott twice converted passes to Way (27 yards to the North 27-yard line; and 23 yards to the North 5-yard line), a 12-play, 91-yard drive. However, Foxboro had a first down rush stuffed for a 3-yard loss and had two passes fall incomplete. Then on fourth down, the Warriors opted for six points instead of a second Sam Carpenter field goal and a potential 13-7 lead — that pass alertly defended by North’s Matt Penta.
”We thought that we’d be able to run, but we thought that we might be able to throw the ball a little more,” Johnson said of the North offense of which DeMattio threw the ball 13 times, just twice in the second half. “We didn’t do a good job of protecting DeMattio,” while North undermined its forward motion in the first half with 47 yards of penalties. “We went back to what we do best, what we feel most comfortable with.
DeMattio amassed 123 yards on the ground, ably aided by Jacob Silva (51 yards on nine carries), Tommy Whalen (39 yards on nine carries) and Alex McCoy (36 yards on eight carries). “They made it hard,” Johnson said of the Warriors. “It seemed like we were third and long on every drive.”
North steamrollered its way to a go-ahead TD on its very first series, a 63-yard, 13-play sequence resulting in a 1-yard TD run for DeMattio with senior guard Harry Bullock escorting him into the end zone. In that series, DeMattio rushed for 14 yards, completed two passes for 26 yards, while McCoy had 20 rushing yards.
Once again it was DeMattio’s play-making skills which kept the set alive, converting a third down and 10-yard play at the North 33-yard line with a 14-yard pass to Colby Feid out to midfield.
“It wasn’t our best night, we were sluggish on both sides of the ball, but that’s the sign of a good team if you can battle through that,” Johnson said.
Foxboro responded to the Rocketeers’ go-ahead TD with a dramatic tying TD five plays into the second quarter. Prescott and Way combined skills on a 48-yard gain to the North 8-yard line, then Luis Sulham snared a Prescott pass two plays later for the six points.
Foxboro was limited to just 76 yards of offense and two first downs in the first half on four series. But, the Warriors flexed their might in denying North on a drive (with a 24-yard run by Silva to the 18) as Way and James Stamatos artfully and successfully defending third and fourth down passes.
Kerrigan’s fumble recovery, two plays into North’s first series of the second half, resulted in Foxboro taking its first lead. Thanks to a North pass interference and a personal foul penalty, Carpenter then drilled a 25-yard field goal three minutes into the second half for a 10-7 margin.
“We haven’t done that (penalties) all year, maybe it’s a little of getting worn down,” Johnson said of the Rocketeers also feeling more confident than hoped.
“I was happy that they only got three (points) out of that one,” Johnson said. “I was surprised a little bit when they went for it on fourth down (again in the third quarter).”
But then with the ball in DeMattio’s hands, magic can be made.
“In the spread offense, he’s (DeMattio) like the I-fullback,” Johnson said. “When you want to control the clock and the line of scrimmage, you give it to the fullback.”