MANSFIELD — Since the 2017 Division 2 South semifinals, the previous four matchups between the Mansfield and King Philip football teams had been decided by 3 points or less.
The thing was, while the overall series was tied at two games apiece between the Hockomock League rivals during that stretch, the Warriors had gotten the best of the Hornets in the postseason twice.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding equated the situation to a gorilla on his team’s back, a weight that was exorcised following a resounding 34-6 win for the second-seeded Hornets, who advance to the sectional final against top-seeded Natick.
“It would’ve been another long year if we blew this one,” Redding said.
Thanks in part to four total touchdowns — three receiving and one rushing — for junior Cincere Gill, Mansfield (8-1) didn’t have to stare down an offseason full of what could have been. Gill’s 9-yard touchdown reception from Jack Moussette on the first play of the second quarter broke open the scoring for the Hornets, who never trailed the Warriors (7-2).
Following a King Philip punt, Gill hauled in a 46-yard touchdown pass in stride to double Mansfield’s lead, which increased to 21-0 by halftime after an 11-yard touchdown reception by tight end Everett Knowlton.
Nick Marciano came up with an interception on the first series of the second half for the Hornets, which four plays later led to an 11-yard rushing score for Gill. After the Warriors got on the board courtesy of a 19-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Jarest to Anthony McKinney, Gill responded with a 23-yard touchdown reception, which followed a failed on-sides kick attempt by KP.
“We had a great night throwing, I think that was the difference,” Redding said. “We had some good matchups with Cincere out as a receiver. We ran pretty well, but we couldn’t make a living [off it]. We had to throw.”
Moussette finished 11-of-16 passing for 226 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Gill had five receptions for 106 yards.