The Mansfield Hornets took control of their destiny in the battle for the Kelley-Rex Division Championship Saturday night with an important divisional win over the King Philip Warriors. Refusing to let the Warriors gain any sort of momentum during the game, the Hornets made a statement with a 46-33 win.
"We’re kind of finding out identity a little bit; we’re turning the corner and getting more consistent,” Mansfield head coach Mike Reading said.
Bad luck plagued the Warriors early in the first quarter as a pass from QB John Dillon (261yds passing, 4 TDs) found it’s way into the hands of Mansfield’s Mike Cunningham at the KP 31 yard line.
Despite getting the ball back on a fumble recovery only a play later, the Warriors were forced to punt and give the ball back to Mansfield at their own 20 yard line, late in the first quarter.
All it took was the next play for Mansfield to get on the board as a Robbie Rapoza (198 yards on 15 carries, 2TDs) 80 yard run was good enough for the game’s opening score. A blocked extra point kept the score at 6-0.
In a game where almost everything went right for Mansfield, things took a turn into the near impossible as a pass from Kyle Wisnieski (185yds passing, 3 TDs) that looked liked it was heading out of bounds was tipped back in bounds near midfield by Brendan Hil into the hands of Mike Hershman (4 catches, 109yds, 2 TDs) for a 53 yard touchdown pass. The play gave the Hornets a 12-0 lead after the first quarter of play.
“We were running routes and he was right near me, I saw his guy collapse on me so I thought he’s wide open, might as well tip it to him,” Hill said.
Later in the second quarter, Rapoza broke away for his second touchdown of the day with a 53 yard run to extend the Hornets’ shutout of the Warriors to 18-0.
After recovering a blocked punt at the Hornets’ two-yard line, the Warriors got on the board with a keeper by Dillon, but Mansfield’s ability to kill the Warriors’ momentum was on display on the very next drive.
Faced with a third and 14 from their own 31, Mansfield QB Kyle Wisnieski found a wide open Hill down field who made it a three score game again with a 69 yard touchdown reception.
“I think in the first half we had some mental mistakes again. When you don’t cover somebody, that was a real killer,” King Philip head coach Brian Lee said.
Down 32-12 at the half, Dillion did everything he could to get the Warriros back into the game with a four-touchdown performance. Yet, anytime the Warriors scored in the second half, the Hornets quickly responded with a score to cancel out the efforts of King Philip.
“We just couldn’t get a break there or turnover. They were just not going to let us back in the game,” Lee said.
With a pair of touchdown passes to Christian Vilante and Sam McDonald (7 catches, 115yds, 2TDs), the Warriors were able to cut the Hornets’ lead to 13 halfway though the fourth quarter. One play later however, a 61 yard run by Kevin (146yds rushing, 2TDs) brought the lead back up to 20 as the KP defense struggled to find an answer for the Hornets.
Like Rapoza, Makie got the better of the KP defense with an additional 38 yard rushing touchdown at the beginning of the second half. The score was a result of an interception by Kyle Hurley on KP’s opening drive of the half.
A final 10-yard touchdown pass from Dillon to Joe Cochrane with less than four minutes to play was too little too late for a KP team that now finds their backs to the wall in the race to win the Kelley-Rex crown.
Next week the Warriors will look to get their first divisional win against Attleboro while Mansfield will be a town over against their rival North Attleboro Red Rocketeers.
“We got three to go and we control our fate. We don’t have to hope for things like last year at this point but we got a lot of football to go,” Reading said. “We got a good North team to play on the road.“