MILFORD — Having scored a touchdown on their very first offensive series of the season and having delivered the game-tying touchdown three minutes into the fourth quarter, the Bombardiers of Attleboro High were well-posed for leaving Milford High Saturday with a victory in their season debut.
Alas, the Bombardiers were unable to solve the passing schemes and sizzling tosses of Colby Pires, the Scarlet Hawks’ catalytic quarterback, in suffering a 20-13 setback.
Pires competed 25 passes for 259 yards, including a 21-yard scoring strike to Carter Scudo with 1:34 remaining to put Milford ahead for the second time in the meeting of Hockomock League members. “We went over that no less than 150 times,” Mike Strachan, the AHS coach said of the Bombardiers’ pass coverage of a crossing pattern over the middle.
The Bombardiers undermined the best of their intentions by being unable to generate enough offense through the second half, as senior QB Jason Weir was able to complete just three passes, and the AHS ground game — minus senior Mike Strachan (56 first-half yards before being hospitalized with leg cramps) — netted just 10 rushing yards over the final 24 minutes.
Moreover, that presented the Bombardiers with a long field — starting second-half series at the 36, 30, 13, Milford 47, 31 and 20 yards. And a pair of AHS fumble recoveries were neutralized by a pair of pass interceptions.
The AHS defense was on the field for 64 Milford plays from scrimmage, 24 more offensive snaps than the Bombardiers, excluding 13 other plays which were flagged for penalties.
“It’s been a long time, we don’t get this type of action; it was an advantage for them to have played last week,” Strachan said of the season-debut game, including extended 12-minute quarters and new rules. “We’re young, we’re very disappointed — we have to build off of it.”
The Bombardiers — limited to minus-7 net yards of offense and without a first down in the third quarter — jump-started their bid for a victory when Weir connected with Ethan Cameron on an 87-yard scoring strike three minutes into the fourth quarter. Colby Briggs’ conversion kick knotted the score at 13.
And when Cameron recovered a Milford fumble, presenting AHS with possession of the ball at its 31-yard line with five minutes left, the Bombardiers were seemingly geared to regain the lead. However, a holding penalty negated a first-down passing gain of 12 yards.
And when AHS regained possession of the ball, facing a seven-point deficit with just over a minute left, Weir suffered a first-down sack, while a third-down pass was picked off by Milford’s Evan Hazard, ending the comeback bid.
“They played man (defense) the whole game, they locked up and they would just come and bring it,” Strachan said of the pressure (five QB sacks yielding 37 yards of losses) on Weir. “We had some success running the ball early, that was our intent. But then Mikey (Strachan) got hurt.”
AHS seemingly had a golden formula the first time that it had the football in its hands — Weir and the Bombardiers converting an 80-yard, nine-play series that took four minutes off of the clock. Weir completed a 14-yard pass to Cameron, then a 30-yard strike to Justin Daniels. And Strachan followed that up with consecutive rushes of 13 and 16 yards. Strachan eventually scored from a yard out, with tackle Qualeem Charles and fullback Isaac Gudiel ushering him across the goal line.
Milford responded on its second set of downs, with Pires engineering a 12-play, 89-yard drive, completing five passes for 53 yards.
The Scarlet Hawks overcame two holding penalties, then a first-down-and-38-yard scenario by scoring again for a 13-7 halftime lead. Pires — 11-for-15 for 134 yards in the first half — converted a third-down-and-18-yard play with a 20-yard pass to Max Martin.
“We did a lot of good things, we were able to run the ball, we have to build off that,” Strachan added. The Bombardiers make their Tozier-Cassidy Field debut Saturday afternoon against Dartmouth. “We have to fix some things.”