TAUNTON, Mass. -- Every game, each team is looking to come out and set the tone early on.
King Philip accomplished that by recovering their own kick off at the Taunton 11-yard line and, two plays later, Joe Johnston ran it in from eight yards out for a quick 7-0 lead 16 seconds into the game.
The No. 19 Warriors continued to roll, beating Taunton, 41-6, in the Hockomock opener for both sides.
"It was huge," Johnston said of the opening kick recovery. "As we were running out there, coach said 'you've got to capitalize on these opportunities.' We had two plays and just punched it in. Right then we weren't going back from there."
Things didn't start much better for the Taunton offense, who looked to be mounting some momentum on their first drive, but after an illegal shift on a third and 2, Jason Wholly intercepted Kyle Medeira to give the ball back to the Warriors (3-0, 1-0). Taunton's defense was able to make a stand but again the offense flustered, this time Andrew Hayward was able to come up with a strip and recovery on Taunton's Domingo Jenkins.
King Philip's ensuring drive went 70 yards on 14 plays, capped off with a J.J. Dillon quarterback keeper from inside the 1-yard line.
"Turnovers are just a huge part of the game," KP head coach Brian Lee said. "You break down the statistics on turnovers and wins. If you can force a turnover, things are going to do your way. You get the ball and it’s uplifting for your team and its disheartening for the other team."
The Tigers (2-1, 0-1) responded with their best play of the game on their next drive. After a run play went for negative yards, Madeira used play action to draw the defense in and then launched a deep ball to a wide open Gerald Cortijo for a 66-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 13-6.
But that would be the lone tally for the Tigers as King Philip went on to score four more touchdowns, including a backbreaker for Taunton right before half. The Tigers defense were able to stop KP three times in a throw from inside the 10, but on fourth and goal, Dillon found Johnston out on a flat for a touchdown. The extra point made it 19-6 with just 30 seconds to go in the half.
"The beginning of the season everything was falling our way," Taunton head coach Chris Greding said. "We had one turnover on offense at the beginning of the season. The wheels came off in the first half. We're not good enough to allow that to happen especially against a great team like King Philip. With the penalties and the turnovers, and the opening kick off, we just couldn't respond."
KP scored three more times in the third quarter: Johnston’s 28-yard run, Christian Flaherty’s 1-yard run, and Mark Glebus’ 39-yard run.
Johnston finished with 157 yards, two rushing touchdowns, and a 6-yard touchdown reception. Both Johnston and Lee credited the KP offensive line for their offensive play.
"We get a lot from those guys," Lee said. "They're not humongous, they're not particularly angry they're very nice boys. But they do what they're told to do and they work hard and they're a good unit."
Johnston took a step further to credit not only his offensive line, but the fullbacks and tightens.
"They were great," Johnston said. "Offensive line, fullbacks, tight ends. We needed them to be great because they're stout up front. Last year we didn't have this much success up front. Once we figured out what they were doing on defense we couldn't be stopped."
JOHNSTON A STUD: By halftime, Johnston had already amassed for over 75 yards, a rushing touchdown, and a receiving touchdown. On the second play of the second half - a first and 20 for KP - Johnston took a play action pass for 21 yards. He then took the handoff three times in a row, and on the third try, burst through the right side, hurdling over Taunton defenders for a 28-yard touchdown run.
The run had a high degree of difficulty, but Johnston made it seem like it was a walk in the park.
And Johnston's philosophy behind his runs is even more elementary.
"I don't like to be tackled," Johnston laughed. "I try to run angry, I'm generally a really happy kid. Once I get on the football field, something gets into me and I like to run angry."
Even as King Philip seemingly was trying to run out the clock in the second half, Johnston broke off a 45-yard run that brought the ball down to the Taunton 6 yard line.
"Twenty-eight -- that kid's a stud," Greding said referring to Johnston's number. "He's real good."
THINGS DON'T GET EASIER: One game down, four more to go for both KP and Taunton against their Kelley-Rex opponents. But with each week, there will be more challenges.
The Warriors will now host four straight games against their divisional opponents, starting with North Attleborough, who are coming off a loss against Mansfield. Taunton will travel to Franklin, a team that they were able to beat last year for their first ever Hockomock win.
"We're just happy to be moving on to next week and getting out of here healthy," Lee said. "The Kelley-Rex right now is just loaded with some very good, physical teams. Its more about survival than anything else."
SIGH OF RELIEF FOR TAUNTON: Late in the first quarter, KP running back took the carry towards the left sideline and up the field for a gain of 17 yards.
But all eyes quickly shifted back to the line of scrimmage, as Taunton junior defensive lineman Cian Doherty lay face down with little movement. There was a quick decision to call for an ambulance and minutes later paramedics arrived. Doherty was stretchered off the field but there was good news after the game.
“His neck kind of flung back and sent a sensation down his spine,” Greding said. “He has movement. It just more or less was a precautionary thing.”
Even better for the Tigers was that Doherty tweeted later Friday night that he was doing well.