NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH — With big plays on offense hard to come by for either side, Tyler Bannon took it upon himself to make his mark on defense.
The junior linebacker had two forced fumbles in the fourth quarter Saturday for North Attleborough, each play resulting in a turnover and allowing the Red Rocketeers to hang on for a 14-6 win over Stoughton at Beaupre Field.
The win ensured North (4-0) at least a share of the Hockomock League Davenport Division title, a year after suffering its first losing campaign in 26 seasons.
“Getting stops are the most important thing,” Bannon said. “It was the most important game of the season. Defense wins games.”
The Black Knights (3-1) compiled just 61 yards of offense in the first half, trailing 14-0 at the break on a pair of short touchdown runs by Red Rocketeers quarterback Tyler DeMattio. They remained off the scoreboard until the first play of the fourth quarter, when John Burke connected with Christian Ais in the flats, and Ais took off 43 yards to the end zone on fourth-and-8.
Though the point-after attempt was blocked, Stoughton remained alive thanks to some timely stops of its own. Christopher Ais — Christian’s twin brother — stopped DeMattio for an 11-yard loss on fourth down on North’s following possession.
Bannon made his first big play in response, knocking a ball loose from Christian Ais at the Red Rocketeers’ 30-yard line with 6:10 left in the fourth and recovering it himself.
But the Black Knights again stopped DeMattio on fourth down, as Davin Swierzewski was the first to arrive behind the line of scrimmage for Stoughton to give it possession at its 9 and 3:34 remaining.
The Black Knights picked up two first downs before Bannon made his presence felt again, knocking a ball loose on a completion to Jonah Ly that was recovered by Greg Berthiaume with 1:17 to go.
Stoughton got the ball back with 10 seconds left at the North 20, throwing two heaves to the end zone that fell incomplete.
“We kept giving them chances,” North coach Don Johnson said. “We could never get that third score. But the defense kept stepping up and making plays.”