Time and time again, the defensive unit of the No. 4 seed Foxboro High football team answered the call during its Division 5 South Sectional semifinal game on Friday.
The top-seeded Canton Bulldogs started first-half drives on the Canton 40, the Canton 49, the Foxboro 43, the Foxboro 42, the Foxboro 45 prior to a final drive of the first half at the Canton 29.
It makes it noteworthy the Warriors allowed just five first-half points, with the defense allowing merely three as the special teams was responsible for a first-quarter safety. Foxboro defensive backs Mike Develin and T.J. Perry intercepted first-half passes while defensive end Jon Moses came away with a crucial third-down sack on the Bulldogs’ third drive to keep it a one possession game after the opening 24 minutes.
“We just couldn’t get out of our own, we couldn’t change field position at all,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said after the Warriors were eliminated from MIAA Tournament contention following a 15-0 loss to the Davenport Division champion Bulldogs.
The second half was not much different. The Canton offense started drives at the Foxboro 48, the Foxboro 19, the Canton 23, the Foxboro 28 and the Foxboro 11.
But the Foxboro defense, paired with being aided by few timely penalties on Canton, continued to keep it a one-possession game for 45 of the 48 minutes. That was until Canton quarterback Johnny Hagan put the game away, capping a five-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:40 left in the contest.
“We had a chance to make it a game,” Martinelli said, noting perhaps the biggest game-changing moment as the Warriors failed to score any points on their best opportunity of the night — a first-and-goal at the Canton 3.
Foxboro had two runs up the middle result in just one yard before a high snap resulted in a loss of 22 yards.
A desperation, fourth-and-goal pass fell in the end zone as the Warriors turned the ball over on downs. The opportunity was set up as Shayne Kerrigan hit receiver Ryan Hughes on a 41-yard completion as Hughes beat the man-coverage with no safety help over the top. It was the Warriors’ lone red zone trip of the night and a touchdown would have cut the Canton deficit to 8-6 while an ensuing two-point conversion would have tied it with just over 9:30 left in the game
“We held on for as long as we could and if you can’t cash in when you’re on the 1 or 2 (yard line), then you don’t deserve to win the game,” Martinelli said. “They’re (Canton) a great team, but our kids played their hearts out and I can’t ask for anything more, other than maybe a ‘W,’ but that wasn’t in the cards, I guess.”
It was a defensive battle between two of the best defensive teams in the Hockomock League with the line play of Anton George, Austin Read and Moses, along with the linebacker corps of Mike Norvich and Mike Sheehan led the way for Foxboro. Sheehan recorded 17 tackles (two for loss), which Martinelli believes is the most in a single game in program history. Read compiled 11 tackles (two for loss) while Norvich contributed 11 tackles of his own.
Canton also recorded four sacks for 43 yards while Foxboro lost three fumbles.
“They had probably 10 guys in the box, the whole game,” Martinelli said of Canton’s defensive strategy. “So, they weren’t going to let No. 11 (Kerrigan) run and they didn’t. They had the kids to do it and executed, hence no points on the board. We figured we needed three scores to win the game because we felt our defense was good enough to keep us in it. And it did.”
On the other hand, the Bulldog offense finished with 247 yards of offense with 188 of those coming on the ground.
After Foxboro’s second drive, which started at its own 1 yard line, resulted in a Canton safety, the Bulldogs extended its lead to 5-0 with 2:44 left in the first quarter on a 22-yard field goal. The Bulldogs started that drive on their own 49 while Norvich made a first-down tackle prior to George and Read stuffing a run on second down before an incompletion.
The Foxboro defense forced a turnover on downs on Canton’s first second-half drive, but the Bulldogs blocked a punt eight plays later to set themselves up again. Four plays after, following a tackle for loss from Sheehan, Canton extended its lead to 8-0 on a 32-yard field goal with 4:00 left in the third.
The Bulldogs (9-0) host on No. 2 Holliston in the Division 5 South Sectional title game Friday while Foxboro (5-4) travels to Somerset Berkley for a non-playoff game on Friday at 6:30.