CANTON — When Canton last won the Hockomock League football title during the 1990 season, its bid for an outright crown was thwarted in a late-season loss at home to North Attleborough.
On Friday, North Attleborough spoiled the host Bulldogs’ long-awaited coronation party in a defensive battle, 14-10. With the win, the Red Rocketeers made history, clinching a share of four straight league titles for the first time in school history.
“These guys had an opportunity in front of them to do something that no senior group has ever done,” said North Attleborough coach Don Johnson. “We really haven’t gotten a big play on defense. Tonight we needed our defense to step up and we finally got that big play.”
Canton (6-1) had the would-be game-winning drive halted via an interception in the end zone. On second down from the North Attleborough 18, Canton quarterback John Hagan went for the win, heaving a pass toward Jace Emma in the back of the end zone. But out of nowhere, North senior Omar Jasseh leapt to reel in the pass, breaking Canton hearts.
“The play ended up breaking down a little bit and [Hagan] tried to make something good of it,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “It almost worked. Johnny looked to make the winning play and [Jasseh] made a nice catch.”
The win was especially meaningful for North Attleborough assistant coach Derek Herber, who played on that 1990 team which pulled off the same feat.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Herber. “Very similar type teams both years. They were undefeated and we came in with a loss and were able to pull one out.”
North Attleborough (5-2) used their first offensive possession to go 89 yards in just five plays, capped off on a 4-yard keeper by senior Nicholas Raneri for a touchdown. For the rest of the half, North managed just 24 total yards and fell behind at the break, 10-7.
With adjustments made at halftime, the Red Rocketeers got leading rusher Brendan McHugh more involved. The senior rushed for 74 of his 97 yards in the second half, including a 46-yard touchdown that turned out to be the game-winner.
“Really we just had to get ourselves refocused,” said McHugh. “We came out flying because we were determined. This is what we wanted all year and this is what we worked for.”
Dan Shulman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.