MILFORD — Milford junior Isaiah Pantalone (four catches, 296 yards) touched the ball six times and accounted for three TDs and more than 350 total yards, and junior Evan Cornelius threw for two scores and ran for two others in the season-opening 49-28 victory over Foxboro. Senior Tyler Lane rushed for 116 yards and a pair of scores for the Scarlet Hawks.
“Losing nine kids on offense from last year’s team, but I knew we had a good core group of kids coming up,” said second-year Milford coach Dale Olson. “Our sub-varsity went undefeated and we had some talented kids. You saw that kid tonight, Isaiah Pantalone, he’s a special kid.
“They struggled to stop our run off-tackle and made them put everybody in the box and then you get one-on-one matchups, and Evan Cornelius delivered the ball a few times.”
Foxboro High coach Jack Martinelli conceded that his team struggled to contain Milford’s mighty attack and was ultimately undone by allowing too many big plays. “They were a lot more physical than we were, and they deserved to win the game. We didn’t quit, we kept coming back, but just didn’t have the ability to stop them in any way or fashion.”
It took only 13 seconds to show how explosive the Hawks’ offense could be, as Milford set the tone with an 80-yard strike from halfback Matt Girard to Pantalone for a game-opening 80-yard strike, but Foxboro’s offense answered right back on its first possession. The Warriors marched 64 yards on 10 plays, twice converting third downs thanks to penalties against Milford, to knot the game. Tom Marcucella rolled out and threw a strike to Tre Stith for a 10-yard score to bring Foxboro even. Marcucella was solid throughout the contest, completing 26-of-45 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns.
“Offensively, we did what we had to do,” Martinelli said. “It was the other end, the defensive end, we had no answers for them. We’d put seven in the box to stop the run and they were good enough to throw the ball.”
On Foxboro’s second possession, Sam Carpenter (4-for-4 on extra points) attempted a 52-yard kick that was short to the left, and Milford responded with a 74-yard pass play from Cornelius to Pantalone to take a 13-7 lead.
The Warriors had an opportunity to rebound after Cornelius’s fumble was recovered by Dylan Kerrigan at midfield, but Milford’s defense came up with another three-and-out to get the ball back. Carpenter did his job in the punting game, pinning the Hawks at their own two-yard line.
Nonetheless, Milford then staged a 10-play, 98-yard drive to extend the lead to 21-7.
But Foxboro answered right back, and three plays later, Marcucella threw the ball to Dylan Gordon (158 total yards), who broke three tackles on the sideline and broke free for a 76-yard touchdown. But Milford’s Pantalone returned the ensuing kickoff 61 yards to the Foxboro 37, and Cornelius eventually ran it in to restore a two-score lead for the Scarlet Hawks.
After nearly connecting on a Hail Mary pass to end the first half, Foxboro came out and put together another strong drive to start the third. Marcucella was 5-for-5 and hit four different receivers on the possession, eventually connecting with Tommy Sharkey on the outside for an 18-yard TD that got the Warriors back within one score.
Lane came up less than a yard short on fourth down at midfield on Milford’s subsequent drive, giving the Warriors the chance to even the score, but again the home team was able to make a key defensive stop and force a punt. With Foxboro attempting to stop the Milford running game, Cornelius hit Pantalone on another slant route for 76 yards, but Sharkey hustled to prevent the touchdown. Nevertheless, two plays later Lane got his second score of the day, rumbling in from four yards out.
Jaden Agnew then proceeded to intercept Marcucella and returned the ball all the way back to the Foxboro 12. Pantalone went 11 yards to the one-yard line and then, after Foxboro’s line repelled two attempts from close range, Cornelius started the final quarter by finally getting into the end zone to up Milford’s lead to 42-21.
“They’ve got skill all over the place, the quarterback puts the ball on the money, and them coming down and making it a one-score game, but then we answered and then we answered again,” Olson said after the game.
Following a Foxboro punt, Milford clinched the victory, with Pantalone coming up big again. The Warriors had bulked up at the line expecting a rushing play, but Milford connected on a 66-yard pass from Cornelius for his third TD pass of the game.
Despite the big deficit, the Warriors would not go down without a fight. Marcucella went 6-of-10 on the next drive, including a sidearm throw to Rashaad Way (nine catches, 121 yards) and a 10-yard touchdown to Gordon. After Agnew was ruled to have fumbled out of the end zone as he dove for the goal line, the Warriors staged one more drive to try and make it close, and marched all the way to the Milford six with five minutes to play, but couldn’t punch it in.
“They’re a good program, they’re well-coached, but we kind of thought we’d be able to enforce our will,” Olson explained. “We did graduate a lot but we’re good up front, we’ve got some good kids, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Foxboro (0-1) will try to rebound with a trip to Whitman-Hanson on Friday for a non-league contest.