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The Stoughton High football team led at Sharon for all but 11 seconds, but unfortunately for the Black Knights those 11 seconds were the final ones. Sharon upset visiting Stoughton 16-14 Saturday afternoon, after Sean Asnes scored a last-second touchdown.
It was the first loss of the season for Stoughton (6-1). Meanwhile Sharon improves to 6-1, bouncing back from last week's 43-0 loss at King Philip. Half of Sharon's six wins are the result of fourth quarter comebacks.
Trailing Stoughton 14-10 with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter, Sharon got the ball back at its own 21 yard line, after forcing the Black Knights to punt.
A heavy dose of Asnes running the ball brought Sharon all the way to the Stoughton 6 with 28 seconds left.
While Stoughton's average margin of victory this season has been almost 17 points, the Black Knights defense has been challenged, and the unit gives up yards, but not points. In true bend but don't break fashion, Stoughton comes up with a big play before the opposing team gets into the endzone.
Stoughton had just missed out on a big play earlier in Sharon's late game drive. Seven plays into the drive, Sean O'Neill's pass was tipped by Stoughton's Aaron Mack and Marcus Middleton appeared to come up with an interception, but the referees ruled he did not have possession and the pass was simply incomplete.
Eight plays later (including penalties), Sharon had the ball at the Stoughton 6, but Mike Connelly and Andrew Kelly stuffed Asnes' run, pushing him back to the 9.
With 23 seconds left, and with Sharon facing a third down, Stoughton needed one or two more stops and the Black Knights would escape.
But Asnes took the next carry, headed towards the Stoughton sideline while turning up field, and scored from nine yards out, giving Sharon the lead with just 11 seconds left. Sharon missed the extra point, but led by two.
The Stoughton offense took the field for one final play, but quarterback Dan Eckler was sacked, ending the game.
It would be unfair to say a single loss undid the dominant start to the season for the Stoughton High football team, but the Black Knights suffered a significant setback Saturday.
Asnes' nine-yard game-winning touchdown run changed the scope of the Hockomock League's Davenport Division heading into the final four weeks of the season.
Sharon is now 2-0 in Davenport Division play, while Stoughton falls to 1-1. With the other four teams in the Davenport all having a division loss, Sharon is the only unbeaten team remaining.
Heading into the Sharon game, Stoughton was the Davenport favorite. Now, Stoughton will have to hope for Sharon to slip-up down the stretch to keep its playoff hopes alive. Only the Davenport Division winner advances to the Division 3 playoffs.
"We control our own destiny which is always important," Sharon coach Dave Morse said following his team's win.
Stoughton held a 14-3 lead at the half, but had trouble establishing a rhythm on offense in the third and fourth quarters. Aside from the final play of the game, Stoughton had three possessions in the second half and only ran 12 plays, never entered Sharon territory, and punted after each drive.
"We didn't score in the second half. That's what happens," Stoughton coach Greg Burke said. "They did a good job. They took us away and hats off to them. They're a good team. They're working hard."
"Our defense battled and stayed with them and clawed away," Morse said. "They stayed away from giving up the big play."
And as Stoughton's offense struggled, its defense had trouble containing the Sharon run in the second half, Asnes in particular. After only 13 yards in the first half, Asnes had 133 in the second half, scoring two touchdowns, and had 70 yards rushing on Sharon's game-winning drive.
"Second half we didn't do the job stopping the run. They got into an I [formation] and cut down the use of our speed and got us inside and did a great job," Burke said. "They out-blocked us."
For the first time all season, Stoughton was without senior captain Adam Leonard, the starting middle linebacker and defensive leader (as well as starting center on the offensive line). Leonard was out with a leg injury and watched the game on crutches from the sidelines.
"Not having Leonard in there hurt us, but that's no excuse, no excuse at all," Burke said.
While Stoughton wasn't able to force a turnover on Sharon's final drive, the defense came up with a pair of turnovers in the first half, leading to both of Stoughton's touchdowns.
After Stoughton punted on its opening drive, Sharon drove to the Stoughton 17, but O'Neill's pass was intercepted by Kelly at the 10. The senior captain returned the ball 52-yards to the Sharon 38. Six plays later, Frankie Morris scored on an 11-yard run. The extra point was no good, but Stoughton led 6-0 with 1:39 left in the first.
Stoughton's next offensive drive stalled at the Sharon 24, with Stoughton turning the ball over on downs, but on the first play of the ensuing Sharon drive, Asnes fumbled, and Stoughton's Tim Porter recovered, returning the ball 20 yards to the Sharon 4. Aaron Mack got the 4-yard touchdown and Morris got the two-point conversion to give Stoughton a 14-0 lead with three minutes to go in the first half.
Sharon marched on its final drive of the first half, and while the Eagles were kept out of the end zone, Eric Lesser hit a 25-yard field goal to put Sharon on the board, cutting the Stoughton lead to 14-3.
Sharon scored on the opening drive of the second half on Asnes' 4th and goal run from the 1. The extra point made it a 14-10 game.
The teams then traded punts, and a Sharon turnover on downs, before the Eagles orchestrated the final game-winning touchdown drive.
Morris led Stoughton with 66 yards rushing, 3 yards receiving and a touchdown; Baugh added 25 yards on the ground and 13 receiving; Middleton had 10 yards rushing; and Mack had 9 yards rushing, 7 receiving and a touchdown. Eckler had 23 yards passing.
Stoughton (6-1 overall, 1-1 division) looks to bounce back at Oliver Ames (5-2, 0-1) this upcoming Friday, while Sharon travels to Randolph for a non-league game.
Josh Brown contributed reporting.