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Despite Blackout, Stoughton High Football Shines Bright in Season Opening Win

The Stoughton High football team came away with a 28-13 win at Holliston Friday night to kick off the 2012 season. Check out a video interview with Adam Leonard and Aaron and Matthew Mack in the media gallery.

In the 28-13 win Friday night in the , the Black Knights seemed to have an answer each time Holliston scored or made a big play.

Both times Holliston scored Stoughton responded with lengthy touchdown drives. If Holliston was driving the ball, Stoughton would come up with a sack or interception.

"We toughed it out, we [played] Stoughton football," head coach Greg Burke said. "We weren't quitting and that's how you got to do it. You have to battle, fight."

"We could have executed better but we made the plays that counted, that needed to be [made]," senior captain Aaron Mack said.

No play, however, was bigger than Adam Leonard's interception with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Stoughton had a 20-13 lead and Holliston had advanced the ball to the Black Knights 33, looking for the game-tying score. Shawn Connolly came up with a sack on second down, driving the Panthers back and then on the very next play, Leonard, playing linebacker, saw a screen pass developing and positioned himself to make an interception in open space, giving Stoughton the ball back at its own 45.

Nine plays later (including penalties), a 21-yard touchdown run by Mack, followed by a two-point conversion run by Frankie Morris, effectively put the game away, giving Stoughton a 15-point lead, 28-13, with 1:22 left.

"Leonard is one of the smartest kids - he's the heart and soul of our team," Burke said. "We told him to watch that screen, we weren't going to get beat on it."

"Their [split ends] were wide so I knew something was going on and the quarterback dropped back further than five steps - and we've been practicing that all week. So I just saw running back go to the side and I ran up. He was getting pressure by the line...and [the quarterback] just threw a bad pass and I was right there to make that pick," Leonard said.

Any chance of an improbable Holliston comeback ended with Malachi Baugh coming up with an interception with less than a minute to play, putting the Stoughton offense back on the field to take a knee.

Mack had two rushing touchdowns, Morris had a rushing touchdown, and quarterback Dan Eckler had a touchdown pass to Andrew Kelly.

Holliston scored first to go up 7-0 on its opening possession, but Stoughton rallied with an 81-yard scoring drive on its first possession, highlighted by a 30-yard Mack run. Morris scored from seven yards out with 1:27 left in the first.

Stoughton went up 14-7 on a one-yard run by Mack with 5:11 left in the second quarter.

Holliston threatened to tie the game at the end of the first half advancing the ball to the Stoughton 8-yard line with six seconds left in the second quarter. But, the Black Knights kept the Panthers off the scoreboard when pressure from pass rusher Joey Wilder set up a Morris sack to end the half.

The game was delayed almost 20 minutes midway through the third quarter due to a power outage at the Holliston football field. After play resumed, Holliston scored but missed the extra point so the Panthers trailed 14-13.

Stoughton started its ensuing possession on the Holliston 38 with 4:54 left in the third. Fourteen plays and 8:18 later, Eckler found Kelly in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass. Stoughton missed the extra point, but increased the lead to 20-13.

Leonard then came up with his interception on the next Holliston drive, followed by the Mack touchdown run.

At quarterback, Eckler only threw four passes (with two completions and a touchdown), but had two first down runs on quarterback keepers and combined with Leonard, who plays center on the offensive line, to draw the Holliston defense offside four times. Eckler showed poise under center. 

"He's a smart kid," Burke said of Eckler. "He had some big passes, he's going to be good, he ran a couple of nice ones. He's the key for us."

Running backs Mack, Morris and Baugh proved tough to bring down all game.

On defense, Wilder provided a constant pass rush for Stoughton. He combined with Mike Connelly for a sack to end Holliston's second drive; stuffed the Holliston ball carrier (with an assist from Kelly) to force a turnover on downs late in the second quarter; and set up the Morris sack to end the first half.

These two teams , with Holliston beating Stoughton in Stoughton, 28-15. The Panthers were a Division 3 playoff team in 2011, winning the Tri-Valley League (large) championship.

Stoughton, 1-0, will travel to Taunton next Friday to for its first meeting with the newest member of the Hockomock League.

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Josh Brown contributed reporting.

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Bob Evangelista September 10, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I think someone needs to hug a tree....this is getting deep I'm out...How did we go from one man's excitement over a game with no mention of expectations for the rest of the season nor in my opinion was one implied. I agree with Steve, no one is overexerting these kids and winning/losing teaches life lessons. What life dishes out is not fair. It is good to know Mr. Fiscal that if I ever lose my job I know I can get a hug from you and you will be there to explain to my boss it wasn't fair. You seem like a nice guy but let's keep things in perspective. Sports in general is great because it teaches young athletes today that as they grow older that not everything is easy nor is it given to you. If you want something then you need to work for it. When your knocked down or had a bad day at work you brush it off and persevere through it. You are correct there are some bad eggs coaching but more than not there are some very good ones. I like to think the glass is half full.
Fiscal Conservative September 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Mr E: "Sports in general is great because it teaches young athletes today that as they grow older that not everything is easy nor is it given to you. If you want something then you need to work for it. When your knocked down or had a bad day at work you brush it off and persevere through it." Great quote!!! This is what I want the student/athlete to leave with. Time in athletics is short, should be enjoyed. Life is long, lessons learned should last a lifetime. I had my "glory days" both as a player and parent. I'm still giving back, trying to teach those valuable lessons that need to be carried through life. Sorry if my enthusiasm isn't as great as others. I've just seen far too many negatives in my 60 plus(getting closer to 70 yrs) years on the field/court/rink. I guess I'm just an old codger who hasn't kept up with modern times. I'm not apologizing, just longing for simpler times, I guess. Go SHS.
Stephen Mack September 10, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Mr. FC, you don't have to worry about "demeaning" in any way....My life certainly entails more than what happens on a football field on Friday nights....But Stoughton Sports is a big portion....Mr. FC I have been working with "troubled" young people all of my adult life. I have assisted the Boston Police Department with gang related activity in Boston for many years. I've been shot at from gang members.....once you've had bullets fly by your right ear what words that enter that ear are not as sharp. As far as this great group of kids from Stoughton I want them to know that I am there in their corner, and i recognize their contribution to a team effort. I think the Coaches at SHS have done a great job teaching our boys that it's a team effort. You openly challenged my abilities to deal and motivate not only my sons, but persons outside. Thousands of kids I've had the pleasure of working with through the years. I've seen them come out of gangs, and go into Ivy League Institutions. Because of some of this "success" i've had my wife and I had the opportunity to travel at home and abroad to speak to various youth organizations. Don't worry, I am not trying to live some dream through my sons... I do pressure them, I pressure them to be their very best. Actually, I demand that they are their best both on and off the field...I believe the game of football does mimick life in many respects...but i not only pressure them, but i pressure all young men to always do their best....
Fiscal Conservative September 11, 2012 at 09:59 AM
So, Mr Mack, it seems you and I are on the "same page" afterall. We just go about it in different ways. What you do, in your profession, is commendable. I, too, have worked with (and still do) youth for over 40 years. I hope that my life's work has benefitted those I was with. Although I'm an old "codger" (I like that term) I still mentor HS students. I, too, am the proud parent of very good athletes. I just went about things in a different way. There was far less "social media" available when my chidren were younger. I cannot say if I would have used it. Feel free to expound your feelings, you and I seem to want the best for our student/athlete, we just go about it differently. My bottom line is I want the lessons they learn, in competition, to be with them throughout life. I only want the best for them. We use different techniques to attain our goals, sounds like we are having some success. Bottom line, I guess, is we're both compassionate about the way we feel. Sometimes we may forget that we all do not use the same methods to reach our goals. May we both continue to "pressure the kids to be their best.".
Lauren Morris September 14, 2012 at 07:33 PM
I agree- SHS pride! This team has it! I am so happy for the athletes and there win last week and hope there is a repeat tonight!! Lauren Morris

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