MANSFIELD, Mass. - When everything was said it done, even Mansfield head coach Mike Redding admitted he was looking forward to watching the film of the game because he had lost track of what had happened.
And you can't blame him either, as No. 1 Mansfield hung on to beat Attleboro, 49-42, in a see-saw type game, breaking the 2013 ESPN Boston curse of being the top ranked team.
"When do you score 49 and have to hang on to win at the end?" Redding said after the game. "It was just great football. They ought to be so proud of themselves, we're proud of our guys. I'm glad we don't play them again because I don't think I want them again the rest of the year."
Coming into the game, Mansfield and Attleboro ranked as two of the best offenses in the entire Hockomock. And quarterbacks Kyle Wisnieski and Tim Walsh were a step above the rest. It looked as though it was going to be a shootout and neither offense disappointed.
Attleboro saw their second play of the game go 63 yards for a touchdown as Walsh connected with Damon Belin for a big touchdown just 41 seconds into the game. It didn't take long for Wisnieski and company to answer. Wisnieski hit Brendan Hill over the middle for 24 yards and then Michael Hershman down the left sideline for 34, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run from Miguel Villar-Perez. It was 7-7 less than 3 minutes into the game.
But Attleboro made it 14-7 just over two minutes later as Walsh hit Belin on a short screen pass and the junior scampered 66 yards for a touchdown. The defenses were finally able to hit a groove and the teams went scoreless for the next 7:52 of game play, in what seemed like an eternity between scores the way this game played.
Mansfield struck next to tie the game, bringing the ball 55 yards on 10 plays, including five straight pass plays, then followed by five straight run plays. The drive was capped off by a Alex Ruddy 2-yard plunge.
After forcing an Attleboro punt, Mansfield's offense continued their groove, going 49 yards on eight plays with Wisnieski connecting with Hill in the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good. The Mansfield defense came up with another big stop as Attleboro went three-and-out, and the Hornet offense marched down the field again.
Wisnieski hooked up with Hershman for a 36-yard play on a third and 14, and then hit Villar-Perez for 14 more. After an illegal shift forced Mansfield back to the 8-yard line for second and goal, Wisnieski lofted what looked like a hopeful pass towards the goal line and Villar-Perez was able to dive back for it and make the catch. The Hornets headed into halftime up 26-14 with 19 unanswered points.
Although both teams were spotlighted for their offenses, the Hornets had allowed on average less than 14 points a game and the Bombardiers less than 12.
"I think both teams are pretty good defensively, but you get a good weather night and you get into that fifth week of the year when both offenses are clicking, it's hard to stop people when you got kids pulling the trigger like Kyle and Tim," Redding added.
The Bombardiers didn't give in though and their defense was finally able to get a stop on the Hornets on their first offensive drive of the second half. After a bad snap forced a scramble and a turnover on downs, Attleboro took over at the Mansfield 40-yard line. Walsh hit Tom Burns for a 17 yard catch and then found Luke Morrison in the end zone less than 2 minutes into the second half to make it 26-21.
"We could have done one of two things at halftime," Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan said. "We could have packed it in or we could have came back. I'm very proud of the way we came back. That's a good football team but I think people recognized we're a good football team tonight. It was a battle of the titans."
On the ensuing kick off, Attleboro junior Ross Killion came away with the fumble recovery to set up Attleboro at the Hornet 29. After two straight runs by Belin, Walsh connected with Burns over the middle - who made a spectacular one handed catch with a defender right on him - and ran it in for touchdown, giving Attleboro the lead back at 28-26 with eight even to go in the third quarter.
But Mansfield's offense quickly found its rhythm from the first half again as Wisnieski hit Hershman for a 32-yard pick up on their first play. After a false start pushed them back to the Attleboro 42, Wisnieski connected with Hill for a 38-yard pass. After Attleboro was able to stop Villar-Perez at the one, Wisnieski kept it himself for a 1-yard touchdown run to regain the lead. Wisnieski found a diving Hill in the corner of the end zone for the two point conversion to make it 34-28.
"We thought we good throw on them we had some good match ups," Redding said. "Mike [Hershman] was a big factor tonight and so was Brendan [Hill]. Both teams are so talented offensively. You get a good weather night, and both teams are in a groove, the defenses it's what 'what can you do?' Even times when we had great coverages they made throws and catches. Walsh got out of trouble so many times. We just did enough to win and that's a great win against a very good football team."
It looked as though the Hornets delivered the final blow when they forced an Attleboro three-and-out and then took the ball 65 yards on 7 plays that saw Wisnieski connect with Kyle Hurley for a 4-yard touchdown pass and Ruddy ran it in for two, making it 42-28 Hornets.
It looked even more bleak for the Bombardiers when their next series resulted in an Aurien Dawkins’ interception that was tipped off Morrison's hands. Five plays later, Villar-Perez went 27 yards in a Madden-like run to make it 49-28 with 10:40 left in the game.
But the Bombardiers didn't give up, taking it from their own 35 in just five plays for a score when Walsh connected with Morrison — who was visibly cramping while running — for a 26-yard touchdown pass. The Bombardier defense then came up with a huge stop, forcing a Mansfield punt. Walsh then guided his team from their own 31, completing six passes in a row, finding Burns on a 7-yard touchdown to bring Attleboro within one score with 5:09 to play.
Stakes were raised even higher when Mansfield was faced with a third and 6 from their own 32, and Bilen was able to come up with an interception of Wisnieski. Attleboro had the ball at the Mansfield 37 with just minutes to play and down by just one touchdown.
"There were really two or three points for either team to just throw in the towel and say 'they've got us' and neither team quit and battled back," said Redding. "It was an amazing game. It will be fun to sit down and look at it on film because I've lost track of what happened."
In the end though, it was the Mansfield defense that came up with the plays. Attleboro's first screen pass went for negative yards and then three straight incompletions turned the ball back over to Mansfield. As Mansfield faced third and 5 on their next series, Wisnieski connected with Hill for a six yard pick up to seal the game.
It was an unreal battle of quarterbacks as Wisnieski went 18 of 24 for 306 yards, tossing three touchdowns and rushing for another. For Walsh, his numbers were something you don't see many losing quarterbacks have: 18 of 29 for 362 yards and 6 touchdowns. Both quarterbacks had a second-half interception.
"[Tim's] got great feet and sense when the ends get up field and goes underneath," Redding said. When we pressured, he got out of the pocket and he keeps plays alive. We knew that coming in and we designed a lot of stuff to try and keep him in the pocket, he was just too good. Kyle does the same stuff, he makes throws and gets out of trouble. They're two guys that can throw the ball and do a lot with their feet."
Mansfield improves to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Kelley-Rex division of the Hockomock. The Hornets will now host Taunton (2-2) next Friday night. Attleboro picks up their first loss, going to 3-1 and 1-1 in the division with rival North Attleboro coming in for a rare non-Thanksgiving clash between the neighboring towns.
"We're onto North Attleboro next week and our season continues," Strachan said. "We've just got to learn from this experience, Mansfield is a great team."