ATTLEBORO, Mass. -- The 2013 Attleboro Bombardiers have a new field, a new coaching staff, and a new direction on both sides of the ball. They also have a pair of blowout wins to start the season, but on Friday night at Tozier-Cassidy Field, Attleboro still felt as though it had something to prove. It still had to show that it could make a mark in the Hockomock League.
Thanks to a pair of touchdown tosses from quarterback Tim Walsh, three interceptions from senior Tom Burns, and strong running game, Attleboro (3-0) earned its first league win of the season 37-20 over the visiting Franklin Panthers.
“This is a great start to the Hockomock League,” said Walsh afterwards. “There’s a bunch of great teams in here so it’s great to get rolling.”
Head coach Mike Strachan remarked, “We’re improving. That’s a very good football team, very well coached, so that’s a good start to the season.”
Attleboro jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on a pair of touchdown passes by Tim Walsh, one to big tight end Luke Morrison and the other to running back Brandon Clark. Franklin looked to get momentum back on a six-yard touchdown run by Chris Roche, only to have Patrick Dunn snag a low snap on the extra point attempt and race 85 yards for two points for the Bombardiers.
Strachan called it a critical turning point for his team.
“That’s a four-point touchdown,” he explained. “That was a critical moment for us, I think. We tell our kids to finish every play and it shows. When you look at what that meant early in the game, it was a very big play.”
Attleboro got possession back leading 16-6 and proceeded to march 64 yards in nine plays for another score. Senior captain Dave Duquette punched it in from six yards to extend the lead before halftime.
Franklin came out of halftime intent on getting back into the game. The Panthers took the opening possession all the way for a score. It was an impressive 13-play, 63-yard drive that cut the lead to just 10 points. But, once again, the momentum lasted only a couple of minutes. Attleboro responded with a 13-play, 80-yard drive of its own, finished by a 12-yard touchdown run by Burns.
Strachan mused, “We thought it was very important to come back and answer it and our kids did. They made some big plays on that drive.”
The Panthers came back again with a touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Nick Zucco (11-27, 103 yards and 16 carries, 53 yards), his second of the night. After and Attleboro three and out, Franklin had a chance to make the game interesting, but Burns stepped up with his second pick of the night.
Franklin head coach Brad Sidwell was disappointed in the turnovers, but believed it was on the other side of the ball that the game was lost.
He remarked, “We did some good things and obviously we turned the ball over a little too much, but we were going to have to be perfect the way that our defense was playing, which was not very good.”
Sidwell added succinctly, “Attleboro did a good job and they’re a good team. They played better than us tonight.”
Junior running back Damon Belin would finish off the Panthers with a 43-yard touchdown run (his first for the varsity). Belin had six carries for 82 yards, all in the second half. After throwing 15 times in the opening two quarters in Attleboro’s fast-paced spread offense, Walsh (14-20, 187 yards, 2 TD) only threw five times in the second half as the Bombardiers showed off the running game to burn the clock.
Walsh was enthusiastic about the team’s ability to mix things up on offense. He explained, “When we’re throwing the ball, we’re gaining yards, they’re not expecting the run. When we get the run going –- a two-way attack you just can’t stop it.”
Tom Burns earned praise from both his coach and quarterback for his performance on both sides of the ball against the Panthers. Although only listed at 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Burns was regularly taking on bigger receivers and tacklers. It was his interception with just fewer than three minutes remaining that iced it for Attleboro.
“He’s a great leader for us,” said Strachan. “Huge plays, I mean, those picks were at critical moments for in the game and the touchdown… he broke three tackles to get in. It was a very good run; [he’s a] very good player.”
Walsh agreed, “He brings a ton of energy. He’s a real tough kid and no matter what he’s going to be out there. It’s just great having a real tough kid on your team giving 100 percent.”
The Attleboro coaching staff was pleased with the performance.
“I think it was really a great team effort,” said Strachan. “Granted, we’re still looking to make improvements, but that was a good win for us.”