MANSFIELD, Mass. -- It’s a play that Mansfield coach Mike Redding has pocketed for eight weeks while waiting for the perfect time to unleash it.
After a fumble recovery by the Hornets defense in Thursday’s contest against Hockomock League rival Foxborough, that opportunity finally surfaced.
Redding called for a flea flicker, and juniors George Busharis and Blayne Taylor executed the play to perfection, giving No. 3 Mansfield a three-score lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The Hornets completed an undefeated run through the Hockomock League with a 32-12 defeat of Foxborough at Alumni Field on Thanksgiving Day.
“We wanted to get the lead early, and we felt confident with George running the play,” says Redding. “We hadn’t done it since the second game.”
Mansfield got out to a quick start going 76 yards in six plays culminating with a 55-yard strike to Taylor to go up 6-0 in the first. Strong running by senior captain Jamel Marshall softened up the Warriors’ secondary as Taylor slipped by the safety on a deep post.
Two possessions later, Busharis found junior Dylan Finerty on a screen pass that went for 49 yards. Marshal scored his 18th rushing touchdown of the season from a yard out to put Mansfield up 12-0.
Foxborough appeared heading for a score to pull within 12-6 as Nick Sestito found Greg Stamatov for a 34-yard pass then hit Ed Lincoln for a 20-yard screen to the Mansfield 20. But a high snap led to a fumble and an opportunity for Mansfield to deliver a knockout blow. Marshal rushed for 14 yards and Jeff Hill added a 17-yard pass to set up the kill shot. Busharis handed off to Marshall, who pivoted and returned to Busharis. He made an easy pass to Taylor for a 19-0 advantage.
“We work on it a lot in practice,” says Taylor. “I was nervous. [The safety] had to bite on the fake, and he did.”
Hill punctuated the scoring for the first unit, running a perfect corner route and hauling in a 16-yard strike just before the half.
While the defense was racking up yardage, the Mansfield defense was stingy in shutting out their annual Thanksgiving Day rivals until the fourth quarter. Senior linebacker Justin Pennellatore and lineman Kyle McGuire made life miserable for the Foxborough offense.
“It just came down to us swarming,” says Pennellatore. “We just had to get after it early and have them be one dimensional. It’s definitely easier to play defense when you’re expecting the pass.”
Foxborough struggled to move the ball consistently against the Hornets defense but got a solid day from Sestito and bruising senior captain Billy Roberts.
With the win, Mansfield locks up the Davenport Division title at 10-1 and moves on to face Walpole Tuesday in the first round of the Division 2A playoffs. The game time and location is still to be determined.
“It will be a great one,” says Redding. “We got them in 2004 and they got us in ’08. It will be a great game between two great teams.”
F 0-0-0-12 -- 12
M 6-20-0-6 -- 32
M George Busharis to Blayne Taylor for 56 yd (kick failed)
M Jamel Marshal 1 yd run (conv failed)
M Busharis to Taylor 36 yards (kick good by Drew McGeary)
M Busharis to Jeff Hill for 17 yards (kick good by McGeary)
M Robby Rapoza 32 yards (kick no good)
F Sestito to Ed Lincoln 27 yards (kick blocked)
F J.P. Bernabe 30 yard run (kick failed)