Foxboro High coach Jack Martinelli knows how explosive the Mansfield High football team can be come Thanksgiving morning.
But Martinelli also is well aware the strength of the Warrior offense is their players at the skill positions. And their defense, which has led the way all year, has both players in the secondary and the linebacker corps.
“I think we feel like, with this year’s group, we match up athlete-for-athlete with anybody we play,” Martinelli said. “That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s some sort of comfort zone, to think that we can match up where we have to.”
Foxboro will host Mansfield in the 89th holiday rivalry game on Jack Martinelli Field on Thanksgiving morning with aspirations of keeping the Don Currivan Trophy in Foxboro after last year’s Fenway Park classic. That game, however, despite how memorable it was, is now just that — a distant memory. It's something the Warriors have not addressed in this year’s preparations.
“Not a mention,” Martinelli said about the triple-overtime victory. “You never really compare one year to the next because you never pick up where you leave off. And what happened last year belongs to someone else.”
The 2019 Warriors have enough to worry about with the Division 2 South Sectional champion and Super Bowl-bound Hornets, who will have all hands on deck according to Mansfield coach Mike Redding.
Martinelli said the fact the Hornets are Super Bowl-bound does not carry any extra motivation, though. Foxboro has enough motivation with it being Thanksgiving.
“To our kids and their kids, it's Thanksgiving. It’s Foxboro-Mansfield,” Martinelli said. “And it doesn’t matter what has happened the week before or what’s going to happen the week after. Once Thursday morning rolls around, it's Foxboro-Mansfield and everything else is kind of put on hold, I would say.”
The Kelley-Rex champion Hornets come up without a loss to any team in Massachusetts (loss to La Salle High, Ohio). Mansfield ran through the Division 1 South Sectional with wins over Marshfield, King Philip and Natick and goes in ranked first in the Hockomock League in point scored (294 in 10 games, 29.4 average) and second in the league in points allowed (104 in 10 games, 10.4 average).
“I would say they’re talented at every position,” Martinelli said. “Offensive line is very big, well coached and their skill kids, they have a good combination of speed to the outside and power between the tackles.
“Their linebackers are very good and their defensive ends are very good as well,” Martinelli added of the Mansfield defense. “They’re a team that doesn’t have a hole. Any one of their kids can make something happen.”
The Warriors, on the other hand, put together a solid postseason run of their own while advancing to the Division 5 South Sectional semifinals prior to a loss to runner-up Canton. Led by its defense, Foxboro ranked fifth in the league in points allowed (128 in 10 games, 12.8 average) and eighth in the Hockomock in points scored (161 in 10 games, 16.1 average). Foxboro, however, enters Thursday after consecutive losses, looking to finish above .500.
“Like every year, we’ll show up,” Martinelli said. “We go into the game usually as the underdog, but I think over the years, nobody has beaten Mansfield more times than we have.”
Foxboro will host Mansfield at Jack Martinelli Field at 10 a.m. on Thursday.