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    North Attleborough defense just couldn’t make that one big stop

    Foxborough-12/1/17- Division 3 superbowl- North Attleboough vs St. John's of Shrewsbury . St. John's qb Steven Bucciaglika runs for a long 2nd qtr gain. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff(sports)
    John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
    St. John’s quarterback Steven Bucciaglia’s ability to run and pass gave North Attleboro problems throughout the game.

    FOXBOROUGH — St. John’s of Shrewsbury dismantled opposing defenses all season long with its no-huddle, spread offense, and even in Friday’s Division 3 Super Bowl against North Attleborough, it was no different.

    The Pioneers didn’t punt until the last two minutes of the game, with their first five drives all ending in touchdowns en route to a 35-33 win and the D3 crown.

    Even the Red Rocketeers’ defense, which allowed just 11.5 points per game coming into Friday, was scrambling early. The quick pace of the Pioneers’ attack (45.2 points per game) led to a variety of issues with pre-snap alignments for North Attleborough, allowing senior quarterback Steven Bucciaglia and St. John’s to find openings downfield and move the ball effectively.


    “That’s always part of our game plan,” said St. John’s coach John Andreoli of his offense’s fast-paced style. “Steven does a great job of checking out of things based on the defense he sees, and they had guys playing both ways, running sideline to sideline — it can get tiresome, and that’s part of the spread offense.”

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    After using four down linemen for most of the game, the Red Rocketeers changed their defensive front late in the third quarter in a desperate attempt to slow down the Pioneers’ offense. But it backfired.

    Trailing, 28-20, North Attleborough decided to bring an extra player up to the line of scrimmage and try to force Bucciaglia to make a mistake with a five-man rush. Instead, the senior quarterback evaded blitzers long enough on a third-and-12 to expose an opening in the secondary, finding sophomore John Brunelle wide open up the seam for a 74-yard touchdown and all but extinguishing North Attleborough’s hope for a comeback.

    “They were in zero coverage, man to man, and they were sending the house,” said Bucciaglia of the long touchdown. “I pointed out the coverage before, pointed out the blitz, and the offensive line did a great job, John did a great job getting open on it, so that was easy for me.”

    One of the stingiest defenses in eastern Mass. had few answers for the swift and concise attack of the Pioneers.


    “They were the real deal. They were what we were afraid we were going to face,” said North Attleborough coach Don Johnson. “We really just couldn’t get that one big stop that we needed early in the game.”

    Henry Brechter can be reached at henry.brechter@globe.com.