Check out postgame interviews with Stoughton seniors Mike Connelly, Dan Eckler, Andrew Kelly, Aaron Mack, Marcus Middleton, Frankie Morris, and coach Greg Burke in the media gallery of this article.
For the Stoughton High football team, Friday night's game at Oliver Ames was all about getting back to the basics.
It was also about getting back to winning. A simplified game plan with just four offensive plays was all it took for the Black Knights to dominate the Tigers, 44-21, and come away with a crucial Hockomock League Davenport Division victory.
"That’s all we did," Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. "Four plays – we ran them about 100 times each and that’s all we did all week. That’s all we did. We executed. You can run a billion plays but if you can’t execute them right, they’re no good. We got back to what we’re trying to do and we’re not changing for the rest of the year."
With the win, Stoughton bounces back from its first loss of the season last week at Sharon, improving to 7-1 (2-1 in the Davenport Division). The Tigers dropped to 5-3 (0-2 in the Davenport).
Stoughton keeps pace with Foxborough (also 2-1 in the Davenport) in chasing Sharon (2-0 in the Davenport) for the division championship, which is based on a team's four-game division record at season's end.
Stoughton's power run game with a mix of a play-action air game was too much for the Tigers from the beginning.
Oliver Ames fell behind when Stoughton quarterback Dan Eckler hit Marcus Middleton for a 41-yard touchdown on the Black Knights' first offensive series of the game.
After forcing a turnover on downs, Stoughton took the ball down the field again and running back Malachi Baugh walked into the endzone from the 1-yard line with 9:07 left in the 2nd quarter. After Stoughton missed a 2-point conversion attempt following its first touchdown, Frankie Morris converted with a run following the second touchdown.
While the Tigers faced a 14-0 deficit early, things looked promising for OA when running back Matt Berksza scored from 3-yards out to put the Tigers within a score.
But Stoughton was quick to answer and reassert control of the game. On Stoughton's first offensive play after the OA touchdown, Eckler threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Kelly. A 2-point conversion pass from Eckler to Lennox Green made the score 22-7.
"I was running up field, running up on a seam and Eckler just placed it perfectly - right where it needed to be," Kelly said.
"I have to give all the credit to the offensive live," Eckler said of his success passing. "I didn't get touched at all. When I don't get touched all I have to do is throw the ball up."
After an OA three-and-out, Middleton capped the ensuing Stoughton drive with a 2-yard TD run. A successful 2-point conversion run from Baugh made the score 30-7 at the half, and capped an impressive performance from the Stoughton offense that found the endzone on its first four possessions.
"I thought we did a couple of nice things and I thought we were there, but we could just never catch our breath," OA coach Jim Artz said. "We get the game back to a one score game and then the very next play we have a mental mistake that gives up the  yard touchdown that puts them right back up. We were just never able to catch our breath."
Oliver Ames was dominated by a stacked rushing attack from the Black Knights. Stoughton had four backs with over 50 yards rushing. Baugh had 146 yards rushing and 1 TD. Aaron Mack had 95 yards rushing with a TD. Morris finished with 89 yards on the ground and Middleton had 52 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving and 2 TDs, one catching and one rushing.
"That’s just old school smash mouth football and it’s not like they surprised us with anything," Artz said. "They were bigger, stronger, tougher and they wanted it more than we did."
Eckler finished 4/9 passing for 132 yards with 2 touchdowns and added 14 yards rushing and 1 rushing TD.
Kelly finished with 82 yards receiving. In addition to the long touchdown, he also came up with a key 20-yard first down catch on a third and long on Stoughton's opening drive.
The Black Knights put an exclamation point on their night with an Eckler TD run in the third quarter and a Mack 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Oliver Ames scored twice in the 4th quarter on a Nick Cidado 4-yard touchdown run and a Berksza 5-yard run.
Cidado finished the game 13/31 passing for 115 yards and an interception (Aaron Mack). He added 72 yards rushing and 1 rushing TD. St. Clair Ryan led the Tigers on the ground with 72 yards rushing and Greg Cummings finished with 63 yards receiving. Berksza added 20 yards on the ground and two scores.
With no wins in the Davenport and two division games remaining against Canton and Sharon, the Tigers now have their backs against a wall.
"Somewhere along the way we’ve lost a lot of what we’ve become," Artz said. "We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to play better. This isn’t what I feel is indicative of our team. We didn’t play very well."
The Black Knights will stay focused on securing a division title. After games against Attleboro and Bridgewater-Raynham, they will square off against Davenport Division rival Canton on Thanksgiving, a must-win game for Stoughton.
Stoughton will need some help from Foxborough and Oliver Ames, who play Sharon the last two weeks of the season. Stoughton will need to beat Canton, and ideally have Sharon lose both games - but at the very least once - to have a chance at the Division title and a trip to the Division 3 playoffs.
"We’ve still got an uphill battle," Burke said. "But, [OA has] beaten us two years in a row and we had a great week of practice – focused. It was nice to play on a Friday night and I’m just happy for our seniors. We’ve got one [Division game] left we’ve got to win."
Jeffrey Pickette and Josh Brown contributed reporting to this article.