An elated Jack Martinelli watched with a proud smile as his Foxborough High School football team celebrated a thrilling, 27-21 Thanksgiving Day victory over rival Mansfield (7-4) at Alumni Field.
“I could not be more thrilled with this win,” Martinelli said. “Terrific win … proud of all 34 of my seniors.”
The win was Foxborough’s first against Mansfield since 2006, ending a five-game losing streak vs. the Hornets. Thursday’s victory also cemented the legacy of the 2012 Warriors.
“In this game, you are only remembered of how good you were from your last win,” Martinelli said. “That was a decision [Foxborough’s players] had to make. Did they want to be remembered as the team that beat North Attleboro and Mansfield or just a 7-4 football team?”
These Warriors chose to leave a lasting impression in the 82nd game of the Foxborough-Mansfield Thanksgiving Day series and perhaps one of the best non-playoff teams in the program’s history.
After an ineffective first half put Foxborough in a 14-0 hole, the Warriors responded with 21 unanswered points to take a 21-14 lead with 9:54 left in the fourth quarter.
“Kids make plays and they made plays in the second half,” Martinelli said. … “The emotion and momentum had to change [from the first half].”
And it did.
Foxborough took the opening possession of the second half 62 yards in just under four minutes to get on the board. FHS quarterback Mike Slaby found receiver Jalen Reed in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was no good – partially blocked, but the Warriors had grabbed momentum.
“The kids decided to put it together,” Martinelli said. “Mike Slaby threw the ball perfect.”
From there, Foxborough’s veteran leadership took over to keep that momentum in the Warriors’ favor.
After just four carries for 15 yards in the first half, FHS running back and senior captain, Kiivone Howard, erupted, scoring Foxborough’s final three touchdowns.
Just two plays after Foxborough’s defense forced a Mansfield turnover on downs at the Warriors’ 29-yard-line, Howard found running room down the right sideline and sprinted 71 yards for the score. Howard found similar running room on the ensuing 2-point conversion and just like that, the game was tied at 14 with 1:59 to play in the third quarter.
“The senior leadership on this football team has been terrific,” Martinelli said. “Senior leadership took over.”
Mansfield fumbled on its ensuing possession and Foxborough recovered the ball at the Hornets’ 44-yard-line. Foxborough capped off a 44-yard drive with a 9-yard run by Howard to take its first lead of the day. The Warriors converted the extra point to go ahead 21-14 with 9:54 to play in the fourth quarter.
Mansfield – like any true rival - would not go down without a fight, however and responded with a touchdown of its own a few minutes later.
After recovering a Foxborough fumble on the Warriors’ 38-yard-line, Mansfield’s Kevin Makie scored his lone touchdown of the day on a 3-yard run. The extra point was good and the game was tied at 21 with 3:57 left in the game.
But Foxborough made the decision at halftime to be remembered for beating Mansfield and that’s exactly what they did.
With about 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Howard took a handoff between the tackles and ran right through the gut of Mansfield’s defense for a 65-yard score – his third touchdown of the game and 23rd of the season. The extra point was no good – wide ride – but the Warriors regained the lead, 27-21.
From there Foxborough’s defense rose to the occasion to seal the Warriors’ victory.
Mansfield quarterback Kyle Wisnieski fired a ball downfield intended for Michael Hershman with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
As Hershman began to haul in the pass deep in Warriors’ territory, FHS senior Alex Pacitti lit up the Mansfield receiver with a bone-crushing hit that jarred the ball into the air and into the hands of FHS linebacker Luc Valenza for the interception.
“That was a great hit,” Martinelli said.
However, Foxborough’s ensuing clock-killing drive stalled and the Warriors were forced to punt with 1:02 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Mansfield began its final possession on its own 39 with under one minute to play and no timeouts. The Hornets managed to get to Foxborough’s 36-yard-line with 29 seconds remaining before the Warriors’ defense crushed any hopes of a Mansfield comeback.
After a Foxborough sack of Wisnieski with just over 10 seconds left, Mansfield had time for one more play. Wisnieski dropped back and tossed up a prayer that was intercepted by Reed as time expired.
“[Reed] had a terrific game in every phase,” Martinelli said.
When Reed was downed by Mansfield’s defense the Warriors’ bench and crowd erupted simultaneously in cheer, celebrating Foxborough’s six-point victory in what will be deemed an instant classic in this 82-year-old rivalry.
“Anything short of a victory [against Mansfield] would not have been a true picture of how they played [this season],” Martinelli said of his team.
Foxborough’s season ended on Alumni Field Thursday but the 2012 Warriors’ legacy was born. This team, led by its 34 seniors, will be remembered for its tough, physical defense and a power running game that featured Howard and Valenza.
These Warriors were a team that worked hard for each of their eight wins this season and played with the resiliency of a champion. They may not have won any titles or earned any playoff berths this season but these young men accomplished two notable victories that eluded many Warriors’ teams before them and finished with their first winning season (8-3) in three seasons and best record in the past four.
NOTABLE VICTORIES in 2012
- And now on Thanksgiving, Foxborough ended a five-game losing streak against its oldest rival.
“They needed this for them and their legacy and their reputation and a good representation of all the hard work they started working for this season in December,” Martinelli said.
HOWARD NAMED MVP
Foxborough’s Kiivone Howard was awarded the Vincent Igo MVP award for his outstanding play Thursday. Howard finishes the season with 23 rushing touchdowns.
NADER RECEIVES JEFF PARKER AWARD
Foxborough senior Paul Nader was awarded the Jeff Parker outstanding lineman award for his play Thursday. Parker was an outstanding FHS football player and wrestler who lost his life to melanoma in 2010.
TD: M. Hershman (MHS) 33 yd. pass from K. Wisnieski (2-point conversion no good) 6-0 Mansfield with 7:03 to play.
TD: Brendan Hill (MHS) 10 yd. pass from K. Wisnieski (K. Makie run converts 2-pt conversion) 14-0 Mansfield with 8:20 to play.
TD: J. Reed (FHS) 19 yd. pass from M. Slaby (extra point blocked) 14-6 Mansfield with 7:26 to play.
TD: K. Howard (FHS) 71 yd. run (Howard run converts 2-pt conversion) 14-14 with 1:59 to play
TD: K. Howard (FHS) 9 yd. run (extra point good) 21-14 Foxborough with 9:54 to play
TD: K. Makie (MHS) 3 yd. run (extra point good) 21-21 with 3:57 to play
TD: K. Howard (FHS) 65 yd. run (extra point no good) 27-21 Foxborough with 3:05 to play.
MANSFIELD LEADS ALL-TIME SERIES
Despite Thursday’s loss, Mansfield still leads the all-time series with Foxborough, 46-33-3. To view the history of the Foxborough-Mansfield rivalry, click here.
LOG ON TO FOXBOROUGH PATCH FRIDAY TO VIEW PHOTO GALLERY
Be sure to log on to Foxborough Patch Friday morning – or sign up for our morning newsletter to have the story e-mailed to your inbox – to view our photo gallery from Thursday’s game! Consider it our Thanksgiving Day leftovers for you!