WRENTHAM — Scoring just four plays into Friday night’s game, Mansfield’s offense looked like as if it wouldn’t be tamed.
The Hornets were taking on King Philip, however. The decades-old rivals have engaged in close contests of late, with each of the last three meetings decided by 3 points or less. The matchup at Macktaz Field kept with the recent trend, with fourth-ranked Mansfield getting its mojo back just in time to hold off the seventh-ranked Warriors, 15-13.
“It’s Mansfield-KP, it’s got to go to the wire,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said. “Both teams are going to find a way to get points, but it’s always great defensively. It’s business as usual between these two.”
Danny Rapoza was on the receiving end of a 33-yard touchdown pass from Jack Moussette which gave the Hornets (3-1, 2-0) the lead for good with 9:38 to go in the first quarter. The offense ground to a halt soon after, with Mansfield punting on its next two possessions, running out of time in the first half, and turning the ball over on downs on each of its first two series of the second half.
In the meantime, King Philip (3-1, 1-1) was in the midst of remaking its offense on the fly after tailback Ryan Halliday exited in the second quarter with a thumb injury. It took some time, but quarterback Robbie Jarest got in a groove, completing five passes for 83 yards on a 14-play, 80-yard drive which got the Warriors on the scoreboard with 6:32 left in the third quarter.
After Crawford Cantave plunged in from the 1, however, Mansfield’s Nick Marciano blocked the PAT to keep the Hornets ahead. The play loomed large when Cincere Gill scampered into the end zone from 20 yards out with 7:18 left in the fourth and Mansfield made it a two-score game with a successful 2-point conversion.
Redding said he deliberated going for 2 to begin with, but after a Warriors penalty moved Mansfield to the 1-yard line, it became a no-brainer. Marciano validated his decision by leaping over the line, giving the Hornets a 15-6 lead.
The Warriors scored on a Jarest 16-yard pass to Alex Behling with 3:18 left, one possession after a Makhi Baskin interception seemingly doomed them. But a failed onside kick and subsequent first down run by Vinnie Holmes sealed the deal for the Hornets.
Holmes paced Mansfield with 106 yards on the ground. Jarest finished with 194 yards through the air for King Philip.
“It’s great football,” Redding said. “I’m sure Part II is coming in November, so we’ll see what happens.”