ATTLEBORO — The numbers were what head coach Mike Strachan and his Attleboro High Bombardiers have been searching for all season.
Not just the 31 points on the scoreboard Thursday at Tozier-Cassidy Field. A shutout and the first win of the season as well with a 31-0 blowout over Canton High in an inter-divisional meeting of Hockomock League members.
The numbers for Attleboro included their drives of 25, 59 and 35 yards in the first half resulting in points, then 53 and 46 yard marches for more points during the second half. With nearly 400 yards of offense, with 171 of those supplied by senior Alex Bakowski on the ground.
In snapping a four-game losing skid, the Bombardiers scored more points in the first quarter (10) than they had through the first 12 quarters of the COVID-19 laced abbreviated season.
“We’re getting better, but we finally started putting drives together,” Strachan said after the Bombardiers had taken a 17-0 advantage by halftime, recovered an uncovered kickoff and intercepted two passes.
On the very first play of the game, a kickoff by Colby Briggs, the Bulldogs watched the ball roll without taking possession and Bombardier sophomore Ethan Lako alertly recovered it at the Canton 25-yard line.
It was Lako who put a halt to Canton’s fourth drive of the first half with a pass interception at the AHS 16-yard line. Senior Steve Frazier plucked off the last of the Bulldogs’ 18 passes, intercepting the ball in the end zone with two minutes remaining.
“Defensively, we’ve played well all year,” Strachan said.
AHS allowed Canton to cross midfield just once (to the AHS 33) on five first-half series and twice on four second half drives, having only one play inside the 20-yard line in the game.
Bakowski rambled for gains of 36, 22 and 35 yards during a 115-yard second half rushing performance and two touchdowns. Senior fullback Mike Strachan totaled 73 yards and scored twice on 2-yard runs, junior running back Kaiden Murray accounted for 63 yards on the ground, while sophomore quarterback Aiden Hochwarter completed a trio of first half passes for 69 yards.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a little,” Strachan said, alluding to the Bombardiers losing a first-half fumble at the Canton 5-yard line and another at the AHS 37-yard line two plays into the second half, while being flagged five times in the first half (for 40 penalty yards) and three times in the second half (for 50 penalty yards).
The AHS defense limited Canton to gains of three yards or less on 13 of its 24 running plays, to just three first half first downs and to just five completed passes.
Senior Colby Briggs drilled his third field goal of the season, a 29-yarder, to finish off the Bombardiers’ first series, in addition to booming four conversion kicks through the goalpost.
What turned the wheels of fortune in Attleboro’s favor were finishing off their third and fifth offensive sets of the first half for touchdowns.
A 16-yard run by Strachan to the Canton 33 and a 22-yard run Murray to the Canton 7-yard line set up the first TD with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
The Bombardiers scored again with seven seconds left on the clock in the first half, a short 35-yard, three-play drive. Gaining possession of the ball with just 29 seconds left, Bakowski bolted for nine yards, Hochwarter completed a 24-yard pass to Strachan, then Bakowski followed the blocking by junior back Keigan Conley for the first of his two TDs.
The Bombardiers overcame two penalties and 25 yards in losses to score for a third time with just over a minute left in the third quarter to take a 24-0 lead. Bakowski raced for a 31-yard gain to the Canton 13-yard line and then scored from 35 yards out after the two flags.
Another big gain on the ground, a 45-yard romp by Murray to the Canton 6-yard line set up Strachan’s second TD, once again with Conley providing the lead block.
“The kids were really excited to finally be rewarded because we’ve been playing well,” Strachan said.
Next on the calendar for the Bombardiers is The Century Game, a 100th meeting with North Attleboro High on April 24 at Community Field.