The Davenport Division champion Sharon High football team lost their final regular-season game, on Thanksgiving, 35-7, to rival Oliver Ames, dropping to 8-3.
“We played a good team. We didn’t come out as strong as we should have,” said senior captain Calvin Joseph. “We just made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of the game. We got down too early, and before you knew it, the game was out of reach.”
Head Coach Dave Morse said, “Good job by them. They came out with a good gameplan. We didn’t tackle; made some mistakes. I‘ve got to do a better job of coaching our guys up. The effort was certainly there; we just have to execute more.”
“They had a good offense. We just couldn’t stop them,” Joseph said. “Our defense has to step it up, and be able to stop big plays and big teams, like they were.”
In front of an enormous crowd of Eastonians and Sharonians on a mild morning, Oliver Ames won the coin toss and elected to send visiting Sharon on offense first, just after 10:00 am.
The Eagles, playing in their first game since the Davenport-clinching victory over Foxboro on Nov. 10, marched down the field on their opening drive.
Thanks in large part to strong running of tailback duo senior captain Sean Asnes and junior Evantz Elisma, Jr., Sharon took the ball to 15-yard line.
Morse says that the Eagles performed “fine” at the line of scrimmage. “We moved the ball on offense a little bit. They [Oliver Ames] did a good job; we did a good job. I think it was two evenly-matched teams up front.”
However, the Tiger defense stopped the Eagles inside the red zone. “It’s tough to score on a good defense, so once you’re down there, you’ve got to be able to punch it in,” Morse said.
Oliver Ames wasted no time on their first drive. A 55-yard gain on a screen pass, followed by a 23-yard catch down the Tiger sideline, set the home team up inside the Eagles’ red zone.
On 3rd-and-11, a swing pass to a wide receiver resulted in a 13-yard touchdown for Oliver Ames. An extra point made the score 7-0, Tigers.
The highlight of the next Sharon drive was senior wideout Bradley Kaufman’s leaping snag over a defender of junior Sean O’Neill’s toss, gaining the Eagles 29 yards.
Again, though that drive ended fruitlessly inside Tiger territory on a turnover on downs, with Oliver Ames taking over at their own 37. The Tigers responded with another touchdown.
Later in the second quarter, a Sharon turnover set OA’s shop up at the Sharon 22, with the home team attempting to further please the present Eastonians with a three-touchdown lead.
On 3rd-and-6, Eagles senior safety Jared Fogel soared into the air and snatched the ball, saving a touchdown with 2:04 left in the second quarter.
The Sharon offense came alive. Asnes has two ten-plus-yard runs. Kaufman caught a short pass and broke a tackle, gaining 12, taking the ball to Oliver Ames’ 40.
After three incompletions, the Eagles lined up in the shotgun. Sharon’s offensive line gave O’Neill plenty of time to throw, and he found Fogel in the middle of the field on a deep post pattern.
Fogel fought off two defenders for the grab, which put the Eagles on the scoreboard. Senior Eric Lesser’s extra point trimmed Sharon’s deficit to 14-7.
“That was a momentum-shift, because we hadn’t scored at all in the whole half,” Joseph said. “That changed everything for us [at the time].”
Morse said, “We did what we needed to do – put points on the board. It was good for momentum at that point.”
Sophomore Adrian Lingo kicked off to the Tigers with :34 to go in the half. A strong return, followed by a 34-yard hook-and-ladder play, put Oliver Ames at the Sharon 29-yard line.
With three seconds remaining, the Tigers floated a pass into the well-covered right corner of the endzone, which was deflected into the air.
An Oliver Ames receiver snared the pigskin before diving out of bounds. A two-point conversion sent Sharon into the locker room down, 22-7.
“The Hail Mary gave them a little momentum back,” said Morse, who termed the play a fluke. “Our defense was playing well at that point; it’s a shame that a Hail Mary put some points on the board for them.
“But we’ve got to make plays – when the ball is in the air, our guys have got just as much right to it,” Morse added.
Joseph says that the Eagles had their opportunities offensively in the first half. “In the first half, we had 28 points that we could have scored. We could have been up, 28-22.
“But things happen. Everything happens for a reason, so you’ve just got to take it upon yourself to not make the same mistakes next time,” Joseph added.
Joseph says that the Eagles did not let the late first-half touchdown sink them mentally during the halftime break.
“It did put us a little further [into a hole on the scoreboard]. But we kept our heads up, because we knew we had to come out in the second half strong,” Joseph said.
Sharon forced Oliver Ames to punt on their first second-half series. Morse said, “Our guys came out of the locker room fine.
“We made some adjustments, did a lot of mental stuff in there. Our defense played well at the beginning of the half,” Morse added.
A holding call set the Eagles back on their next drive. Senior linebacker Toby Modebelu said, “We shot ourselves in the foot. We were beating down on ourselves.”
Morse said, “We certainly did [have chances]. A couple of mistakes – penalties, stuff like that – will kill you.”
Sharon’s defense bottled up the Tigers on the next drive, but Oliver Ames picked up 13 yards on a fake punt to keep the Eagles offense on the sidelines.
The Tigers picked up a first down on a 3rd-and-2 run and another on a screen pass. On the first play of the fourth quarter, 3rd down from the Sharon 4, a wide receiver screen gave Oliver Ames a 28-7 lead.
Modebelu said that the Eagles defense needs to work more on identifying plays as they develop. “Just better reads. Make your reads and trust your reads. Don’t second-guess yourself.
“And then be quicker to the ball. On those screens that they kept getting us on, we weren’t quick enough to the ball, and it cost us, big-time,” Modebelu added.
Sharon’s offense did not move the ball on their next drive against an inspired and confident Oliver Ames squad, putting the Eagles’ defense back into action with little time to rest.
Morse said, “We can’t leave the defense on the field for that long – they’re going to wear down; that’s just a fact.”
Oliver Ames kept the ball on the ground for most of an 11-play march, which spanned a large chunk of the fourth quarter. As the Muscato Stadium public address announcer said, “The turkey keeps cookin’ and the clock keeps tickin’.”
Modebelu said, “We’ve got to be more physical and tougher up front. Their offensive line was getting off the ball quickly and strongly; we have to react to that and counter that. And we had mental lapses, as well.”
Oliver Ames tacked on another touchdown at the game’s tail end, making the final tally 35-7.
Sharon senior captain Jalen Epps claimed the Eagles’ game MVP award, but the offensive lineman, along with his teammates, could only watch as the Tigers celebrated around the Thanksgiving Day trophy, theirs for the ninth consecutive season.
Joseph said, “Good for them. They played their butts off. They played well, they played hard, and they came out on top.
“Hopefully, next year, the [Sharon] team takes it upon themselves to make big plays, step it up when needed, and we’ll come out on top,” Joseph added.
Morse says that for the Eagles, who finished 2012 4-3 in the Hockomock League and 3-1 in the Davenport, having already secured a playoff berth did not make the taste of the defeat less bitter.
“Game is on the schedule against a rival, and we want to win it, regardless of what’s happening afterwards.
“We didn’t show up to get some practice in; we showed up to win the game. Me and the [other] coaches have got to do a better job of that,” Morse added.
Modebelu says that not dwelling on the loss will be crucial. “We’ve just got to move on, even though it’s a heartbreaker, especially on Thanksgiving. But we’ve got a bigger goal than to just a Thanksgiving win.”
“This game is behind us now,” Morse said. “We’re going to enjoy our Thanksgiving, and our guys are moving on.”
Joseph says that he was pleased to not hand in his pads, signaling the season’s conclusion, following the Thanksgiving game. Unlike in seasons past, Sharon has postseason games to play.
The Eagles will face Patriot League (Fisher) division champion Pembroke on Nov. 27 at 5:15 pm at Braintree High School in their first Division 3 playoff game.
Joseph said, “We’ve just got to keep our heads up, look ahead to next week and the playoffs. We’ve got 5 days to prepare.
“This week in practice, we’ve got to give everything we’ve got, because that’s not a lot of time. Step up for next game, and hopefully, we’ll come out on top in the playoffs,” Joseph added.
“We’ve just got to make plays on defense, offense, and special teams,” Morse said. “No penalties and no mental lapses.”