Newton South quarterback Austin Burton was off to a bad start.
In Newton South’s 29-22 win against Westford on Saturday, the Lions’ only home night game of the season, Burton completed only six of his first 16 pass attempts, although one was for a touchdown. On Newton South’s next possession, Burton’s first pass was picked off, and Westford turned it into a touchdown.
“It’s resiliency with him,” coach Ted Delicandro said. “He’s only a sophomore, but when things go bad, he gets a little down on himself, but he gets back up.”
But arguably the best sophomore in Massachusetts didn’t fold while carrying the weight of his team’s playoff hopes. He hasn’t racked up 1,726 passing yards and 18 touchdowns by playing flustered.
So in the second quarter, on a third-and-5, Burton launched a 69-yard touchdown pass to Anthony DeNitto, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Though a 21-yard pass to DeNitto in the fourth quarter would win the game for Newton South, the second-quarter series swung the momentum in Newton South’s favor. Burton completed 15 of 34 passes for 344 yards and four touchdown, and Newton South improved to 4-1.
“He’s great,” Delicandro said. “He’s a hard working kid and you’ve got to have faith in him because he’s been doing really well.”
Quincy running back driven by memory of his grandmother
Jahvae Handsom-Fields imagines the most peaceful person he’s known before he takes the field for Quincy.
The running back imagines the smile and laughter of his grandmother, Greta, who died last fall.
“Every time I step on to the field I just try to make her proud,” Handsom-Fields said.
He has rushed for nine touchdowns this season, and led Quincy to a 5-0 record, including a victory over Plymouth North Friday.
Handsom-Fields’s grandmother didn’t get the chance to see her grandson play for Quincy — she was already in and out of hospitals when he made the varsity team.
But she was well aware when Handsom-Fields became a varsity starter last year as a sophomore. She knew he was splitting carries with a senior captain, but also starting at free safety. Every time he went to visit her in the hospital, she got updates on his performances.
“In a game sometimes I just want to break down, but I do it for her,” Handsom-Field said.
Handsom-Fields’s drive and toughness is complemented by his level head, Quincy head coach Bill Reardon said.
“I know we don’t [measure] body fat percentage, but I got to imagine [his] is in the single digits,” Reardon said. “The kid is just in tremendous shape, just naturally gifted and tough as nails.”
When Handsome-Field isn’t at practice, he’s likely in the gym. Reardon also said he is an ideal teammate and didn’t complain about sharing the running back load last year.
“He’s there every day, never misses a practice, and he’s there early,” Reardon said.
“You run the same kind of drills Tuesdays and Wednesdays and you see a lot of kids in the backfield saying, ‘I don’t want to do this again.’ But Jahvae’s at the front of the line. He does every drill 100 percent.
“He just gets it. He understands that he wants to be the best that he can be.”
High football IQ, lean stature
North Attleboro coach Don Johnson said no one is surprised anymore when cornerback/receiver Andrew Hanwell makes a play. He’s made so many this year, it’s almost a given he’ll have an effect on a game’s outcome.
“He’s very quick, very athletic, and has great hands,” Johnson said, “so he’s got all those intangibles.”
Despite Hanwell’s lean stature — Johnson calls him 5 feet, 11 inches and 150 pounds soaking wet — he’s become one of the Rocketeers’ most consistent players. He had three interceptions Friday, ending Attleboro drives deep in North Attleboro territory.
Hanwell helped the Rocketeers improve to 3-2 on the season and 2-1 in the Hockomock Kelley-Rex division after beating Attleboro (2-3, 1-2 Kelley-Rex), 24-14.
“He’s the one with the highest football IQ on the team,” Johnson said. “He’s that proverbial kid that’s like having a coach on the field.”
Hanwell usually matched up with his opponents’ best receiver. He locked down Attleboro’s Brenden Massey and kept him out of the end zone.
Johnson said Hanwell didn’t have nearly as significant a role as a sophomore or junior. He had to wait his turn, but he earned this job early and has excelled at the position.
“There were always people bigger and stronger in front of him,” Johnson said, “but this year he’s really grown into the role and done a great job for us.”
Hanwell’s first key play Friday came on Attleboro’s second snap. He tipped a halfback pass at the goal line into the hands of diving teammate Benny Horton to keep the Bombardiers out of the end zone.
He added an interception of his own on Attleboro’s third possession, and tacked on two more in the fourth quarter. Both fourth-quarter stops came deep in North Attleboro’s territory. The Bombardiers were trying to make a comeback, but Hanwell ensured they didn’t.
Johnson said Hanwell is also the team’s best receiver, and spends time at running back in certain packages.
“He’s one of those guys that has the respect of his teammates,” Johnson said. “He’s a quiet leader who leads by example. They love him.”
The hook and ladder, Plymouth South style
Plymouth South coach Scott Fry needed his team to get 80 yards in less than a minute, so he turned to a play that worked in a similar situation two years ago.
In 2012, the Panthers beat Nauset on a “hook-and-ladder” to earn a playoff berth.
On Saturday, a hook-and-ladder to Dylan Anti took Plymouth South to the Scituate 10-yard line, which set up quarterback Andrew Shortall to punch it in from five yards.
With nine seconds left, the Panthers (3-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) captured a 27-21 win, erasing a nine-point deficit in four minutes.
“Two years later,” Fry said, “it was a big play for us to win a game that was big in the league and the playoff race.”
Many players from the 2012 team were in attendance Saturday afternoon, in town for Columbus Day weekend. For most of the game, it looked like those alumni would see a dud, as the Panthers trailed Scituate (2-3, 0-3) 21-12 late.
But a Plymouth South drive capped off by a nine-yard run from Shortall sliced the deficit to 21-19. A Scituate three-and-out then set the stage for Fry’s hook-and-ladder.
“The hook and ladder was a neat thing, considering the history of that play for us,” Fry said.
Fry sung the praises of his quarterback’s performance as well as of the Sailors’ quarterback, Christian Brady.
Fry said Shortall is quick to learn from his mistakes, but will need to keep the miscues to a minimum this week against Hanover, which cruised by Scituate, 47-26, and shut out North Quincy, 27-0.
“I hope we can piggyback off this and turn it into something special,” Fry said.
Kevin Chen, Andover — The running back totaled 201 yards on the ground and two scores in a 41-23 victory over Billerica.
Johnny Mims, Dorchester — The quarterback rushed for 217 yards, threw for 120 yards and had four touchdowns in a 34-20 win over O’Bryant.
Nick Smith, Whitman-Hanson — The quarterback totaled 206 yards and four touchdowns on the ground against Silver Lake in a 42-33 win.
Brooks Tyrrell, Marblehead — Tyrrell led the No. 8 Magicians over Beverly, 48-22, with 274 yards and three scores on the ground.
Devin Demeritt, Duxbury — The sophomore rushed 26 times for 205 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in a 42-14 win over Hingham.
Justin Ireland, Norton — The junior recorded 200 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries in a 33-14 win over Bellingham.
BC High’s Sean Holleran (147 yards, 2 TDs); Bishop Fenwick’s Rufus Rushins (109 yards); Bishop Stang’s Jeff Chicca (113 yards, TD); Brighton’s Dexter Andrews (150 yards, 3 TDs); East Boston’s Jose Harry (130 yards, 4 TDs) and Terrence Moore (150 yards, 2 TDs); Foxborough’s Ronnie Martin (158 yards, 2 TDs); Hamilton-Wenham’s Jimmy Littlefield (166 yards, 2 TDs); Haverhill’s Ian Kessel (143 yards, TD) and Pedro Santiago (120 yards, 2 TDs); Holliston’s Nick Athy (123 yards, 3 TDs); Ipswich’s Charlie Gillis (106 yards); King Phillip’s Mark Glebus (151 yards, 2 TDs); Martha’s Vineyard’s Jacob Cardoza (129 yds); Masconomet’s Gavin Monagle (175 yards, 2 TDs) and Scott Foden (156 yards, TD); Middleborough’s Brendan Chipman (116 yards); Natick’s Chad Kidd (132 yards 2 TDs); New Bedford’s Hector Diaz (111 yards, TD); Newton North’s Trevor Martinez-Tobin (117 yards, TD); North Attleboro’s Connor Flynn (105 yards, 1 TD); Northeast’s Kevin Rosado (162 yds); Quincy’s Jahvae Handsom-Field (129 yards, TD); Revere’s Kaleb Silva (150 yards, 2 TDs); Somerset Berkley’s Mark Tonucci (171 yards, 4 TDs); Triton’s Justin Cashman (152 yards, 3 TDs); Wakefield’s Luke Martin (115 yards, 1 TD); Walpole’s Steve Cuqua (108 yards, 2 TDs); Xaverian’s Jake Farrell (136 yards, 2 TDs).Trevor Hass, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Brandan Blom, Ryan Leger, Eric Russo, Richard Morin, and Rachel G. Bowers contributed to this report.