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.


Josh Brown contributed reporting.


Snyder's Stoughton September 08, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Great way to start the season, Black Knights! Well written article and excellent photos took me into the game.
Fiscal Conservative September 08, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Connolly, Connelly, Morris, Leonard. Names I know well. Congrats on a big win. Wish you & your teammates well this season. Work hard SHS. Pride!!!
Stephen Mack September 08, 2012 at 06:46 PM
What an absolutely fabulous football game. The back and forth momentum changes throughout the game kept all the fans on the edge of their seats throughout the game. Coach Burke said “we toughed it out, we weren’t quitting”… I think that was evident quite early on, and it was clearly exhibited with a tackle made by Matthew Mack, when a runner was breaking away from the pack, and headed into the end zone, and Matthew came across the field caught him before the touchdown…. Holliston went on to score, but it seemed to symbolize what Stoughton was going to be about last night…. What a tremendous team effort… big plays made by big players throughout the game. Dan Eckler great job at quarterback, expecting big things from him this year. His two scrambles were huge in keeping very important drives going. Frankie Morris, just a bull….he lifts linebackers up, and then puts them down…
Stephen Mack September 08, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Mack, Baugh, Morris- Best Backfield around?….probably…. Aaron Mack was simply the “Man”, another 100 yard game, with multiple touchdowns, Stoughton’s own Touchdown Maker…Last two games- 6 touchdowns….(any idea of career Touchdown Leader for Stoughton High School- Aaron should be pretty close to being in the conversation in a little while) Adam Leonard and his pick was simply a great play made by a great player. Holliston was moving the ball until Adam stepped in and said, nuffs enough….Strength of this team are it’s strong senior leadership. Unveiling of SHS secret weapon…Andrew Kelley from tight end position….Good job Andrew….I was also really proud of the turnout….really good to see….again, this is a special group of kids, and deserve our support….should be a great season….really a fun night….
Fiscal Conservative September 09, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Calm down Mr. Mack, one game a season doesn't make. Let's not concern ourselves w/individual records. Those who know, realize that it will be the other 10 on the field who will make any records possible. Parental pride is OK, let's not start it after one game. SHS has a long tradition of wonderful and talented athletes. Times have changed, as has the game has been played. There were years when only 8 games were played a season, not like 11 now. SHS has running backs who the the State in total yardage, SHS has had undefeated teams. So much has occured over time that "townies" can be proud of. So, enjoy the win, enjoy your son's success (he's the one working at it, not you. Don't live your life through him). I, too, hope they make the post season. Whether they do, or not, I will enjoy their efforts. High School athletics is an extension of the classroom, let the student/athlete learn all they can from this experience, in a positive way. We don't need parents putting undo pressure on them. The fun is taken out of the game, once that happens. To the Mack kids, good job. Remember, 11 on the field succeeds, 1 playing for the individual often leads to failure. Hope you attain your goals. There will be failures along the path to success. Learn from them to reach your goals. Now, work hard for next week. Hard work leads to success. Praise will never get you your next win, you MUST earn it.
Jeffrey Pickette (Editor) September 10, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Hi Fiscal, I see no issue with Mr. Mack's comments. If you notice he also shows a lot of support and enthusiasm for players other than his two sons. Always appreciate his input following games.
Kevin Berkowsky September 10, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Couldn't agree more Jeff...kudos to Steve for his undying support for his kids, the football team and the high school...in an age where overpriced and under-performing professional athletes have lost their luster...it's nice to cheer and support the local kids that show spirit, determination and give 150% effort...no doubt, if we had more people who were just as positive and showed just as much enthusiasm as Steve, we'd all be a little better off. I guess some people will always find negative things to say no matter how positive things are...some just like to hear themselves talk or read their own opinions. Give a team the tools for a chance to win and then let the kids show what they can do...After last year's loss, the team turned the tables on Holliston this year - take a bow, Stoughton football. Hats off to the coaching staff and the players for their successful preparation in getting off to a good start this season! Best of luck this fall! And keep up the great football coverage, Jeff. GO KNIGHTS!!!
Fiscal Conservative September 10, 2012 at 09:58 AM
I, too, want success for ALL programs. Just have to temper ourselves. One game, although a great win, doesn't create a great season. My hopes will rise as the wins build. Too many times, I've seen a season unfold in ways I am not happy with. Injuries and other factors can cause a drastic change in the path we want. Yeah, I'm a bit cynical, seen and experienced far too much as a player, coach, dad, whatever. I've learned over time to take each game as it comes. I don't make predictions "best hoop team ever", "best backfield", "record holders". Far too many variables. If, and when, they happen I'll be on the band wagon. I, personally, know many of the players and coaches. Good & capable people. I want them to enjoy what they are doing. I don't want to see undo, outside pressure placed upon them. This pressure, early in the season, tends to grow and the fun is taken out of the game. Remember, they are young and impressionable. Kids, go out, play hard, work hard and accept the results of your efforts. Success only comes with the effort you put in, not the praise others give.
Stephen Mack September 10, 2012 at 12:02 PM
FC, I actually thought about you after my intial comments....I think i have left dozens of comments on the Patch. For some reasons you have a tendency of attacking any comments of mine, and I knew it would happen in this case...I have no difficulty given credit to whom it is due.... My boys have played "Team Sports" since they were 6....and for the most part have been starters, and very important contributors to every single team they've played on.....this is the first time ever i've ever highlighted them....but as mentioned by other comments, credit was also given to the entire SHS team, especially this class group of Seniors..Play of the game was made by Adam Leonard...and again, Dan Eckler's two scrambles were HUGE....At the same time...Aaron Mack's first carry of the year was a tough hard nose carry into the heart of the defense for 30 yards... a "BIT CYNICAL" --- You say you don't make PREDICTIONS "best hoop team ever"-- last year during the season you were on me and the basketball team for it's style of play... I've haven't seen any comments after the season were you give kudos to last years hoop team....and yes, it was the "best team ever" coming outta Stoughton....and yes I did make that predictions before last years team began the season...that's the fun of playing/watchings sports....Best Backfield....not based on "one game", did you go to any games at all last year...Mack, Middleton, Morris was a great combination as Jr's now they are all seniors...
Stephen Mack September 10, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Yes, we do have to have this discussions....if you read and paid attention to various publications like the Stoughton Patch, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, ESPNBoston Brockton Enterprise, etc. you would realize that this is a great backfield..My thought is that it is the "BEST BACKFIELD IN HOCK"......I can have an opinion, it's allowed...certainly ...it might not be the correct one....i wish i were perfect like you mr FC....but alas, i am just a mere mortal, i have not yet obtain perfection like you... Mr. FC....would have hated to play on any team you coached.... "NO PRESSURE"? are you kidding me...that's the enjoyment in athletics....I am assuming you want Stoughton to adopt the youth baseball policy of many other towns in Mass, where no score is kept.....because the dont want any to feel like a loser....? Pet peeve that i have is that in this country we have lost the ability to 'HANDLE PRESSURE"....you say in your comment above you want the kids to enjoy the game....no you don't...for true athletes....the enjoyment comes in the competition....the greater the competiton (pressure) the greater the enjoyment.... by the way...those two Mack Boys are pretty special...even though they may have a terrible dad...
Heather September 10, 2012 at 12:26 PM
In 1992 the girls basketball team made it just as far as the boys team made it last year. Yes, they were a great team last year and deserve to be commended. However, let's not forget about the other team that did it first.
Bob Evangelista September 10, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Let's not forget the great job the offensive line did!!(if I had a roster I would attach it) I don't usually write on these things but I must. First, anyone who doesn't put their name on anything I automatically delete. Second, everybody needs to loosen up. Third, Steve Mack is a good person who is proud of his son's accomplishments and his intent is never to undermine anyone or anyone's child. I have known Steve for many years and he has even coached with me. In that role, he was never just there to coach his sons but treated every player with the same respect and was well liked by the players/coaches.Fourth, I have coached the majority of these kids in football that are both seniors and juniors now, from when they were playing in the mites where they looked like they were playing in their pajama's to when they were young adults going into high school. I think all these kids are special because from mites to High School this group has stayed together as a team all these years and have done a great job policing each other. This is a great group of kids and I am proud of what they have become. I wish all the teams at Stoughton High School tremendous success. As I taught these kids over the year, we win and lose together because fault lies with everyone and credit is given to everyone. Go Black Knights! Bob Evangelista
Smart Liberal September 10, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Here comes Fiscal Conservative to rain on everyone's parade!
Fiscal Conservative September 10, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Pressure that players place on themselves and teammates has, and always will be there, its part of the game. Pressure from parents and other adults is unwarranted. Encouragement, on the other hand is welcome. All I want to see is success and the student/athlete enjoy participating in athletic events. Its great to get that win & I hope the success continues. I just don't think that thinking about "records" after one game is warranted. As the season progresses, maybe then, just not now. Too many variables are involved. If you took me wrong, I'm sorry for you. The game is about the kids. I have been involved with high school and college sports for over 60 years as a player, coach & sports official. Many of the changes that have taken place are not for the better. Society has placed far too much importance on winning, yet teams are only remembered for their final game. Remember, the 18-0 Pats of several years ago? Thought to be the best. Well, they lost the final game. They were a good team, not the best. Speaking of which, the '68 boys hoop team lost, in the garden, last second on a missed free throw. I want you to enjoy the season, I want you to enjoy the players success. Sorry, if it bothers you that I feel praise should grow as the season develops. I hope your son breaks records, if thats what you want. I want SHS at Gillette, if possible. If not, I hope they enjoy their season, especially Sr's. for most, this is it for them. Encourage and console when needed.
Fiscal Conservative September 10, 2012 at 06:09 PM
2:09 pm on Monday, September 10, 2012 Walter Brennan, in the Guns of Will Sonnett stated: "No brag, Just fact". Let the season develop, if the facts continue to develop with W's, then you can spout off a bit more. Not after one game. Too early. I'd rather be a "cautious" conservative, than having to eat my words at a later date, because of things out of our control. I'll enjoy the season, hope you do.
Fiscal Conservative September 10, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Mr. Mack: I don't mean to demean you in any way. I've just seen far too much pressure put on kids by adults. Many athletes stop playing when the get to HS because they've "had it". This really bothers me. HS athletics kept me in school and out of trouble (although I'm a bit of an instigator). I'm sure that there are players on this team that are like I was. Many lessons I learned playing sports led to a successful career. I want each to experience the positive I did. I guess I was lucky when I was a kid. We didn't have all the youth sports that kids have today. I didn't play "organized" sports until HS. I didn't have to deal w/frustrated athletes coaching as my children did. Many good ones, many bad ones. We always see stories about "crazed" adults ruining activities for the athletes. Maybe I've a bit over sensitive to the issue, I've just seen so much harm from "overzealous" adults. I'm really glad for your children's success. I want the season to progress to a great finish, for ALL SHS teams.
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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