Photos by Justin Braga. Check out a postgame video interview (posted in the media gallery) with Rob Allen, Mike Connelly, Marcus Middleton, Dan Eckler and Tim Porter.
A week after four running backs picked up more than 50 yards rushing apiece in a blowout win at Oliver Ames, Attleboro was able to keep the Stoughton running game in check Friday night, but it didn't matter - Black Knight quarterback Dan Eckler turned in his best game of the season as Stoughton rolled to another win, 26-8, at home.
The Stoughton High football team is now 8-1 on the season, while Attleboro, once 4-0, is now 4-5. This is Stoughton's first win over Attleboro since the Blue Bombardiers joined the Hockomock League in 2010.
Against Attleboro, no Stoughton back cracked 50 yards rushing, but Eckler finished 8 of 12 passing for an even 200 yards, with 3 touchdown passes to three different receivers.
While Stoughton didn't have its usual success with traditional runs, many of Eckler's passes were screens or short- to mid-range throws, allowing the receiver open space to run and pick up additional yards.
"We just didn't move the ball running wise...but they can't take away both," Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. "[Eckler] made some nice passes."
"The line does a great job. The kids just get wide open and all i have to do is just throw it up and they catch it," Eckler said. "I think the first half of the season since we were running the ball so well teams had to adjust to that. Now we can just run play-action and throw it over their heads."
On defense, it was more of the same for same for the Black Knights - bend, but don't break. Each time it looked as if Attleboro might be driving, a defender came up with a big play or a turnover.
In its first nine drives of the game, Attleboro turned the ball over on downs four times, had two interceptions, a fumble and punted twice (one of which was blocked setting up a Stoughton touchdown). This is the sixth time in nine games this season Stoughton has surrendered less than 10 points.
"This win is very important even though it is [a non-Division game]. We wanted to come out, we wanted to show we can keep rolling, keep bouncing back from our Sharon game," Marcus Middleton said. "It was a physical game with pushing and shoving and we wanted to show we could also play through that and come out with the victory."
Stoughton took a 12-0 lead into the locker room at the half.
On the Black Knights' first drive, following an Attleboro turnover on downs, Stoughton went 67 yards in 6 plays, highlighted by a 34-yard scren pass from Eckler to Middleton. Eckler and Middleton capped the drive with the quarterback finding his receiver in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown.
Stoughton doubled the lead with a lengthy second quarter drive, which spanned nearly 7 minutes and featured three third down conversions (Eckler run, Eckler pass to Andrew Kelly and Eckler pass to Frankie Morris) to keep the chains moving. Morris finished the 13-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
With an experienced roster, most of Stoughton's contributions this season have come from seniors and juniors, but it was a sophomore who made the first big play of the second half, setting up Stoughton's third touchdown.
Lennox Green and Brian Crimmins rushed Attleboro punter Tim Walsh, and Crimmins, the sophomore, blocked the punt, giving Stoughton the ball at the Attleboro 25. Three plays later, Eckler threw a short pass to Morris, who went 25-yards for the touchdown, putting the Black Knights up 18-0 in the third quarter.
Following the Stoughton touchdown, Attleboro punted again, but Stoughton fumbled on its ensuing drive, turning the ball over. The Blue Bombardiers couldn't take advantage, however, giving the ball right back to Stoughton when Aaron Mack came up with a diving interception on the second play of the Attleboro drive.
Two plays later, Eckler hit Mack in stride for a 57-yard touchdown, with Mack sprinting to the end zone. A Malachi Baugh two-point conversion run gave Stoughton a 26-0 lead with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Attleboro advanced the ball to the Stoughton 1, but a goal line stand kept the Blue Bombardiers out of the end zone. Attleboro was able to score later in the quarter with Walsh at QB finding Cotey Martinez for a 2-yard touchdown. Walsh connected with Luke Morrison for the two-point conversion pass, making it 26-8 with about 4:30 to play, but Stoughton already had the game in hand.
Morris had 50 yards receiving and added 12 rushing, scoring two touchdowns in the Stoughton win; Middleton had 61 yards receiving and a touchdown; Kelly had 32 yards receiving and an interception on defense; and Mack had 57 yards receiving, 9 rushing, a touchdown and an interception.
Green had a sack and a number of quarterback pressures. Joey Wilder was also disruptive behind the line of scrimmage on the defensive side. Baugh had a number of bone-crushing hits and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Imani Pina.
"I think we deserved to win," Burke said. "So now we got two left [at Bridgewater-Raynham, home vs. Canton] and we'll see what happens. The kids are playing hard."
Stoughton (8-1, 2-1 in the Davenport Division) will travel to Brigewater-Raynham for a non-league contest. The game won't impact Stoughton's playoff chances but will be a good test for the Black Knights - Brigewater-Raynham is considered one of the better teams in the state and was edged by Barnstable Friday night, who is regarded as the top team in Eastern Mass.
A game which will impact Stoughton's playoff fate takes place next Saturday when Foxborough (2-1 in the Davenport) travels to Sharon (2-0 in the Davenport). Stoughton needs a Foxborough win to stay in the Davenport playoff race heading into Thanksgiving, but Burke is not focusing on that game.
"I've got Bridgewater to worry about," Burke said. "Whatever happens there that happens. We're just more concerned with our team. I can't be worried about Sharon-Foxborough to be honest with you."
Josh Brown contributed reporting.
The Stoughton High football program will be holding its 3rd annual alumni flag football game Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. The game will also involve parents of current seniors and juniors. Cost is $35 per person, which goes to fund scholarships for graduating Black Knight seniors. Anyone interested in participating, contact Coach Greg Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org.