While the had outplayed Taunton for the first three quarters of Friday's contest, the Black Knights only carried a 6-0 lead into the final 11 minutes of play, unable to break the game open.
Two Taunton turnovers in the fourth quarter changed that however, as the Black Knights capitalized on the Tiger miscues, pulling away for a 22-0 road win . Meanwhile Taunton, the Hockomock league's newest member, falls to 0-2.
Down by six, Taunton had possession to start the fourth and was driving, looking for a potential game-tying score. But about three minutes into the fourth, Stoughton's Aaron Mack recovered a fumble at the Stoughton 34-yard line, one of six turnovers the Stoughton defense forced on the afternoon.
"Our defense came up big," Stoughton coach Greg Burke said.
The Stoughton offense took the field and on the very next play quarterback Dan Eckler found Mack, who caught the ball and spun past a number of Taunton defenders for a 66-yard touchdown catch and run. A two-point conversion pass from Eckler to Malachi Baugh put the Black Knights up 14-0 with 8 minutes left in the game.
"[Eckler] can throw the ball, he can run the ball, he's a good leader," Burke said of his quarterback. "Our pass blocking was great."
Three minutes later, with the Taunton offense driving again, Stoughton's Tim Porter came up with an interception, which set up Stoughton's next score.
The Stoughton offense took over at its own 23 following the Porter pick and five plays later found the end zone, with Baugh breaking free for a 56-yard touchdown run with 2:30 left in the game.
A two-point conversion pass from Eckler to tight end Andrew Kelly in the back of the end zone put the Black Knights up 22-0, effectively dashing any hopes of a Taunton comeback.
Baugh ended Taunton's ensuing offensive drive early, recording his second interception of the season with 1:53 left in the fourth, allowing the Stoughton offense to take a knee and run out the clock.
With both teams struggling to find a rhythm in the first half - at one point Stoughton and Taunton traded fumbles on consecutive plays in the first quarter - it was a Taunton turnover which set up Stoughton's first score.
Less than a minute into the second quarter, Andrew Valle intercepted a pass from Taunton quarterback Adam Leonard inside Stoughton's 20-yard line. The Black Knights preceded to go on a near-eight minute drive highlighted by Eckler finding Valle down the field for a 35-yard pass on third down, and capped by Frankie Morris, who scored on a run from five yards out with 2:28 left in the half.
Stoughton missed the extra point, but took a 6-0 lead.
, Burke felt his team played its best football in the second half.
"We made a lot of mistakes [in the] first half. Thank goodness they weren't winning. We didn't play well the first half [and] that's our fault...we seemed to hang in [there] and make some plays," Burke said.
"I think the second half we controlled the ball a little more," he continued. "Each week we played better in the second half."
Stoughton's three-man backfield of Mack, Morris and Baugh once again led the charge on offense picking up almost 200 yards combined on the ground, paced by a 101-yard effort by Baugh.
Stoughton mixed in more passing against Taunton than in . After throwing just four times against Holliston, Eckler completed five of eight passes for 134 yards and a touchdown against Taunton. He also added a pair of successful two-point conversion passes through the air.
While the Black Knights missed injured defensive starters Mike Connelly and Rob Allen on the defensive line, Stoughton perfectly executed the bend-but-don't-break defense to preserve the shutout.
Taunton was able to move the ball but all eight drives came up empty, often because Stoughton forced a turnover. The Tigers fumbled three times, threw three interceptions, turned the ball over on downs once and punted once. Meanwhile, Stoughton took much better care of the ball, only fumbling once.
On defense, Kelly and Dominic Evangelista both came up with sacks. Stoughton's Adam Leonard and Joey Wilder combined for a sack, while Leonard also recorded two tackles behind the line of scrimmage. And, Valle, Porter and Baugh came up with the aforementioned interceptions. Mack and Wilder also had fumble recoveries.
Stoughton scored all three of its touchdowns off Taunton turnovers.
2-0 Stoughton has its home-opener next Friday, hosting Pembroke, a team Davenport Division rival Oliver Ames beat in the playoffs en route to the Division 3 Super Bowl a year ago. Meanwhile, Taunton looks for its first win of the season against Durfee.
Josh Brown contributed reporting.