CANTON — Foxboro High senior quarterback Shayne Kerrigan rolled right and unleashed a deep ball to senior receiver Ryan Hughes, who beat the man-coverage from Canton High as the Bulldogs had no safety help over the top. Hughes took the ball down to the Canton 3-yard line for a 41-yard completion and the Warriors’ lone red zone trip of the game.
Three plays later, after a pair of carries up the middle from Kerrigan, a high snap at the Canton 1 yard line resulted in a loss of 22 yards for the Foxboro offense. The No. 4 seed Warriors turned the ball over on downs to top-seeded Canton the next play.
That possession, along with a 15-yard touchdown by Canton quarterback Johnny Hagan with 2:40 remaining in the Division 5 South Sectional semifinals, resulted in the Warriors being handed a 15-0 defeat and thus eliminated from MIAA Tournament contention on Friday night.
“We had a chance to make it a game,” Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli said, referencing the possession which could have helped the Warriors cut their deficit to 8-6, or potentially tie the game early in the fourth quarter. “We just couldn’t get out of our own, we couldn’t change field position at all. And 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. They’re (Canton is) 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. Foxboro twice intercepted first-half passes while the play of Anton George, Austin Read and Jon Moses, along with the linebacker corps of Mike Norvich and Mike Sheehan led the way.
Canton, however, was equally impressive on that side of the football with 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman Jack Connolly, who deflected two passes at the line of scrimmage and also had one of the Bulldogs’ four sacks. Foxboro compiled five first downs in the game, the first of which came nearly 22 minutes into the contest. The Warriors were limited to 101 yards of total offense, 97 of which came through the air with 41 coming on one play. Canton finished with four sacks for a total of 43 yards while the hosts forced four fumbles of which Foxboro lost three. On the other hand, the Bulldog offense finished with 247 yards of offense with 188 of those coming on the ground.
“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.”
The Foxboro defense, along with some timely penalties on Canton, helped limit the Bulldogs on the scoreboard as the Warriors defense allowed just six points (two field goals) prior to the late, fourth-quarter score.
On Canton’s first possession, Mike Develin intercepted a pass on the Foxboro 1 yard line to end the Bulldogs’ offensive drive. Two plays later, the Bulldogs benefited from a high Foxboro snap which rolled through the back of the end zone as Canton took a 2-0 lead.
Canton extended its lead to 5-0 with 2:44 left in the first quarter on a 22-yard field goal. It followed the Warrior defense buckling down, limiting the Bulldogs after they had advanced to the Foxboro 10 yard line. Norvich made a tackle on first down while George and Read stuffed a run on second down prior to an incompletion.
With Canton knocking on the door again, advancing the Foxboro 15 yard line, Moses came away with a crucial third-down sack to take Canton out of field goal range and force a punt.
After one of Foxboro’s three lost fumbles in the game, the Warrior defense again took the field with Canton having favorable field position, starting at the Foxboro 45 yard line. Six plays later, after a pair of first downs, George rushed the quarterback and forced an errant throw to defensive back T.J. Perry for the senior’s second interception in as many games.
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 later, after a tackle for loss on first down from Sheehan, Canton extended its lead to 8-0 on a 32 yard field goal with 4:00 left in the third.
With the Warriors trailing 8-0 with 6:11 left in the contest, a penalty, two incompletions and the Bulldogs third sack of the night forced a Foxboro punt. Canton put the game away five plays later with the lone touchdown of the game, a 15-yard run by quarterback Johnny Hagan.
The top-seeded Bulldogs (9-0) will take on No. 2 Holliston in the Division 5 South Sectional title game while the Warriors (5-4) move into the non-playoff bracket next week.