MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. – It all started with a “Pop!”
After a lack-luster first half, No. 23 King Philip trailed Middleborough, 7-6, at Battis Field on Saturday. Then, Warriors linebacker Brett McEvoy set the tone for what was to come.
McEvoy, who also handles kick-off duties for KP, booted the opening kick downfield, wove through the return block like pylons and met the ball carrier with loud thud. The ball popped loose and the game was never the same.
The Warriors forced four turnovers in the second half and ran away with a 35-13 win over the Sachems.
“It’s nice when you have your kicker who can run down, lays somebody out and forces a turnover for you,” KP head coach Brian Lee said of McEvoy’s thunderous special teams play.
The Warriors (1-0) utilized a short field to set up several scores in the second half.
Andrew Hayward recovered the fumble McEvoy forced and, six plays later, KP had its first lead of the game on Christian Flaherty’s second rushing touchdown of the game.
On the ensuing Sachems (0-1) possession, Kyle Loewen grabbed the first of three Warriors interceptions. Again setting up shop on the plus-side of the 50-yard line, KP needed just two plays before Joe Johnston (13 carries, 110 yards) found the end zone for his first of two rushing touchdowns.
Owen Galvin then pocketed the Warriors’ second interception, taking back a pick-six 23 yards.
Finally, after collecting an interception of his own, Johnston capped another scoring drive with a 3-yard touchdown run two minutes into the fourth quarter for a 35-7 Warriors’ lead.
Sophomore running back Eddie Hart added a 39-yard touchdown run with a nice cut-back move in the open field to cap scoring for the Sachems.
“The beginning, the first half, we came out real soft,” Johnston said. “I don’t know why the first game of the year we weren’t ready for it.”
Then, that changed. Thanks to McEvoy.
“[The hit] just sparked us. Everybody got going and we fed off of that.”
Undaunted: The Warriors were able to wear down Middleborough in the second half thanks to a relentless edge rush from junior defensive end Peter Garrity.
The 6-foot, 175-pounder registered a pass defended in the first half, batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage. He also tallied two tackles that went for no gain or a loss.
“He’s a kid that we have high expectations for,” Lee said of Garrity. “He has a big job to do for us and he was able to do it today.”
Building blocks: While the Sachems offense sputtered in the second half, there were plenty of positives to take away from a rough afternoon.
Middleborough, coming off its first winning season since 2005, under Patrick Kingman, has a core strength on the defensive line. The Sachems more than held their own for the better part of three quarters against a relentless KP rushing attack.
They also got penetration. Senior defensive tackle Vasili Papathanasiou finished with 1.5 tackles for loss.
Also, look out for senior two-way tackle Jeremy Hernandez. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder recently won the heavyweight wrestling title at the Bay State Games.