It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition as of late: Stoughton beats Canton.
Since 1995, the Black Knights have won 15 of the last 17 Thanksgiving games against the Bulldogs.
“There’s only one way to end the season, and that’s to beat Canton,” Senior captain Kevin Richard said to loud cheers at the annual Pep Rally on Wednesday.
“We’re keeping that [Thanksgiving] trophy here,” senior captain Andrew Paredes said during his Pep Rally speech. “This is its home and its not going to leave.”
And, after the Stoughton High football team’s on Thanksgiving morning this year, that trophy isn’t going anywhere—it’s staying at Stoughton High.
Aaron Mack had four touchdowns and the Black Knight defense turned in one of its best efforts of the season, giving Stoughton its seventh straight Thanksgiving Day win over Canton.
With the win, Stoughton takes a 43-39-4 lead in the , which dates back to 1926.
“Seniors win football games,” Stoughton coach Greg Burke said after the win.
And while Mack, a junior, provided the scoring, seniors, did in fact, turn in a number of key plays.
Brandon Alves had three sacks and numerous tackles behind the line of scrimmage; Asad Elmi blocked a punt deep in Canton territory midway through the third quarter, setting up Mack’s third score; and Alex Kimball sacked Canton quarterback Anthony Bires on 4th and 16 for a 10-yard loss, giving the Black Knights the ball at the Canton six, setting up Mack’s final score.
Marcus Middleton picked off Bires near the goal line with five seconds to play, as Canton was driving to score, to cap the victory. The interception allowed Burke to send out 11 seniors to take a knee and mark the official end of the game.
“We got them all in today. That makes me happy—all the seniors playing,” Burke said.
Unfortunately for Stoughton, Thanksgiving will be the last game of the season, and the last game the seniors play. Stoughton had a chance to earn a if along with their win over Canton Sharon was also able to beat Oliver Ames. Stoughton took care of things on their end, but Sharon fell 34-8 at home to OA, giving the Tigers the Davenport Division title and a spot in the Division 3 playoffs.
“We were hoping for an upset, but we weren’t really concerned about that other game, we were concerned about our own game,” Burke said. “We said maybe we’ll get some Lady Luck.”
But even though Lady Luck failed to show, and Stoughton won’t be going to the playoffs, the Black Knights finish the season at 6-5 and 3-1 in the Davenport Division, turning in their first winning season since 2006.
Meanwhile, Canton finishes the season at 3-7, an improvement from their 0-10-1 mark in 2010.
Stoughton scored first, early in the second quarter, after converting two fourth downs. Facing 4th and 10 from the Canton 25, Alex Fernandes, flushed from the pocket, found Middleton for a 16-yard gain and the first down. Four plays later on 4th and 1, Mack scored his first of four touchdowns. After the extra point, Stoughton led 7-0 with 8:47 left in the half.
Stoughton extended their lead on their opening drive of the second half. A 30-yard run by Frankie Morris and a 12-yard run from Malachi Baugh helped Stoughton advance to the Canton 4-yard line. Mack finished off the drive with a 4-yard TD run, giving Stoughton the 14-0 lead with 7:57 left in the third.
On the ensuing Canton drive Alves recorded his third sack of the game, setting up a 4th and 6 from the Canton 19. Elmi then blocked the Canton punt, giving Stoughton the ball at the Bulldog 14.
“I was just pumped up for the game,” Alves said of his three sacks.
Burke gave credit to Alves and his other interior defensive linemen, Paredes.
“There wasn’t two guys in the state who could block these two guys all day.”
Runs from Morris and Baugh once again set up Mack for a touchdown, this one from three yards out with 4:01 left in the third.
Canton’s lone score of the game came after Stoughton fumbled a punt return deep in their own territory. The Bulldogs took over at the Stoughton 25, and on 4th and 22, Bires found Elias Camacho for a 22-yard touchdown pass at the end of the third quarter to made it 21-7, but that was as close as Canton would get.
Stoughton’s final score came after Kimball recorded a fourth down sack midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Black Knights the ball at the Canton six. Mack had a six-yard touchdown run to account for the final tally.
The Stoughton defense turned in perhaps its best performance since the 8-0 win at (or the 13-7 double overtime win vs. ). Canton had trouble moving the ball all game.
“We just really never got a rhythm going on offense. Give Stoughton credit they are very physical up front. We couldn't get a first down and move the ball. Right now they were better than we were,” Canton coach Dave Bohane said.
“This is a pretty good Canton team,” Burke said. “I’ve got film of them scoring touchdowns left and right.”
Stoughton ends the season with the best scoring defense in the Davenport Division (161 points allowed, 14.6 per game) and the third best scoring defense in the 10-team Hockomock League (behind only North Attleboro and King Philip).
They also end the season getting to keep the Thanksgiving trophy at Stoughton High for at least another year.
Check out the player interviews in the media gallery above (videos by Ryan Lanigan).
Ryan Lanigan contributed reporting.