MANSFIELD — Senior quarterback Jack Moussette is sort of the unheralded star amidst the galaxy that the Mansfield High football team puts onto the field with the ball in its possession.
Moussette completed 10 passes for 204 yards, while throwing four TD passes — three to Cincere Gill — as the Hornets routed King Philip Regional High 34-6 Friday at Alumni Stadium in the semifinal round of the MIAA Division 2 South playoffs.
After having been denied a Super Bowl berth in each of the past two seasons, only No. 1 seeded Natick — a 30-0 winner over Wellesley in its Final Four round game — is between the Hornets and a ride along Route 140 into Foxboro and Gillette Stadium.
The Hornets dominated the first half, scoring on three consecutive second quarter drives to take a 21-0 lead by intermission.
“Jack (Moussette) was on, we had some good matchups, we had a great night throwing, that was the difference,” Mansfield High coach Mike Redding said. “That was the difference, our ability to throw against them. We ran pretty well, but we had to make a living throwing the ball.”
Most notably, Mansfield’s defensive front four of Mark DeGirolamo, T.J. Guy, Chris Graham and Nico Holmes were so demonstrative that KP was limited to 19 plays and 19 net yards of offense during the first half — never advancing beyond its own 35-yard line any of its five series.
“Field position has been a problem,” KP coach Brian Lee earmarked the root of the Warrior evils. “That was what was disappointing, we got beat up. We got out-physicaled, we got out-played. I’m not sure what so different this time than last time (a Mansfield 15-13 win).
“When they’re out in front, they get on you — you got to keep it close. They’re loaded, they have a lot of guys, they believe. Once you’re down three scores, what are you going to do? It was everything that you don’t want it to become.”
KP (7-2) scored its lone TD on its second series of the second half, an 84-yard, eight-play drive culminating with Andrew McKinney hauling in a 19-yard scoring strike from Robbie Jarest. During that march, Jarest completed a 12-yard pass to Alex Behling, then a 42-yard strike to the senior wide receiver on the left sideline, advancing the ball to the Mansfield 19-yard line.
Even the presence of senior running back Ryan Halliday (44 yards on 13 carries) could not generate much offense for the Warriors as 13 of their 20 running plays went for gains of three yards or less.
And Jarest was under siege, completing three first half passes (for 24 yards) and four in the second half (for 85 yards).
Field position was the culprit for KP, starting first half series at its 23, 20, 17, 17 and 20 yard lines, being forced to punt five times. Meanwhile, Mansfield crossed midfield on five of its six sets during the first half, twice starting drives on KP soil and twice initiating drives from its own 49-yard line.
Moussette directed the Hornets on a 51-yard, five-play scoring drive on its third series of the first half — completing a 32-yard pass to Danny Rapoza advancing the ball to the KP 19-yard line, then a scoring strike to Gill on the right side from nine yards out.
On the very first play of Mansfield’s fourth series, Moussette and Gill combined on a 46-yard TD toss, the Hornet being wide open for the catch.
Then Moussette marched Mansfield 69 yards on six plays for another TD. Vinnie Holmes galloped 17 yards to the KP 48 behind right tackle Jason Comeau; Moussette completed a 27-yard pass to Gill; and then an 18-yard TD toss to senior right end Everett Knowlton. And with three PAT conversions by Mike DeBolt, Mansfield had 21 points on the scorebard and 224 yards of offense over the first 24 minutes.
“Our defense was lights out and field position was a big factor,” Redding added, even though KP’s Brian Wassersug (to end Mansfield’s second series) in the end zone and Crawford Cantave (tipped by teammate David Dubois) in the end zone in the final seconds of the first half had pass interceptions.
“We fed off the field position, the defense got stops and now you can take chances on offense,” Redding added.
Mansfield then put more points on the scoreboard on its first two drives of the second half. Hornet senior captain Nick Marciano intercepted a KP pass, setting the Hornets up with ball possession at the KP 23-yard line. Four plays later, Gill, behind a DeBolt block, scored from 10 yards out.
Then Moussette orchestrated a 52-yard, three-play drive — completing a 20-yard pass to DeBolt on first down, then his fourth TD pass, a 23-yard six-point snare by Gill over the middle.
“Things went our way from the beginning,” Redding said. “We have so many skill guys, it’s tough to stop everything. Jack (Moussette) made them (KP) pay when we got one-on-one stuff. The last two years, we won the (Hockomock) league title, but back-to-back (playoff) losses when you’re this close to getting to Gillette — these guys have been waiting for another chance.”