It was the most appropriate way for Mansfield to end their season and a perfect summary of the season. After almost 40 minutes of football, the game came down to one play for one of the most exciting teams in the state.
“This has been this team all year, just make it very exciting but we always find a way in the fourth quarter to get it done," said Mansfield coach Mike Redding.
The Mansfield Hornets snuck by the Foxborough Warriors, 14-7, in a Thanksgiving Day thriller, scoring with only seconds left in the game.
The first break of the game came from when Foxborough picked off Mansfield quarterback George Busharis at the Warrior 31-yard line.
After a couple of big passes from Foxborough QB Nick Sestito, including a 31- yard pass to Greg Stamatov, Kiivone Howard ended the drive with a touchdown from the Mansfield 1-yard line on fourth and goal.
The Hornets tried to play aggressive throughout the first half. With star running back Greg Donahue leaving the game early with an ankle injury, the Hornets relied on Blayne Taylor (16 carries 85 yards) and Dan Gilmore to fill the hole left by Donahue.
The Hornets came out as a different team after halftime and as they have all season, found a way in the fourth quarter. Gilmore evened the score with a 14- yard run with five minutes left in the game.
The touchdown was only the beginning of what was the Dan Gilmore showcase. After Sestito threw to Stamatov who was in double coverage, it was Gilmore who came up with the interception to set the Hornets up at the Foxborough 45-yard line with 3:30 left in the game.
With a chance to win the game, it was a chance for the Foxborough defense to once again step up. A three and out forced a punt and a chance for the Warriors to either win the game or force overtime with less than two minutes to play.
Playing very conservative at the end of the game as they attempted to run out the clock, the Warriors used two quarterback keepers and a run from Howard on a three and out, the Warriors were forced to punt and give Mansfield one last chance to win the game with 1:35 left.
The Warriors were able to force a third and 7 but Busharis was able to find Mike Blackman for a 7-yard pickup down to the Foxborough 13-yard line with 10 seconds on the clock.
The Hornets were initially going to go for the field goal but it was their offense that took the field. With time ticking fast, Busharis found a wide open Gilmore on the left end for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 3.4 seconds left for the win.
It was a surprise game for Gilmore (60 all purpose yards, two touchdowns) who is usually used on the defensive side of the ball. It was the senior who is usually a defensive back who stepped up to avoid a Thanksgiving day upset.
“One of those Thanksgiving Day heroes you don’t expect to play offense and he scores the two touchdowns to win you the game,” said Redding.
Gilmore also had a hand in calling the final play. After noticing the tendencies of the Warriors' defense, it was Gilmore who suggested Mansfield’s final play.
“I noticed when we ran routes to the right side of the field the corner was following,” said Gilmore.
The observation meant an open left side of the field when the Hornets faked a play to the right and the Warriors bit.
As exciting it was for Mansfield to win, it was equally heartbreaking for the Warriors. Playing one of their best games of the year, the Warriors were so close to ending the year on a high note.
“I’m proud of my kids. That’s all I can say. They came back and played well over their capabilities on Thanksgiving,” said Foxborough coach Jack Martinelli.
The Hornets will end the season at 9-2 with a share of the Kelley-Rex title but will lose the division’s tournament spot on a series of tiebreakers to King Philip. The Warriors will end the season at 4-7.
The game once again proved that on Thanksgiving records can be irrelevant when it comes to rivalries and tradition. No one epected this game to be a close as it was and yet the underdog Warriors still found a way to make Mansfield earn the win.
“I know they didn't win. but they can walk off the field with their heads up,” said Martinelli.
Even without a playoff game to look forward to, Gilmore remains firm that this was a great way to end the season.
“We went out on top," he said. "It's the best way to go out. We played with pride for 40 minutes. Just the best way to go out on top for the seniors.”