FOXBOROUGH - Mansfield came into yesterday's game against rival Foxboro with a 7-0 league record and the Hockomock title already wrapped up.
But instead of looking ahead to Tuesday's matchup with Bishop Feehan in the Division 2 playoffs, the Hornets were focused on the task at hand, and they used a 21-point explosion in the second quarter to prevail, 31-7.
The key to such a decisive victory? Motivation. Mansfield (10-1) had plenty of it, as the players and coaches still harbor the memory of losing on Thanksgiving last year, then watching as Foxboro went on to win the Super Bowl.
"I think having already clinched a playoff spot, there was this thought that we might not come out here and give 100 percent," said Mansfield captain Michael Abany. "But after the loss last year, this was almost bigger than a playoff game to us. That's what drove us all week in practice, and that's what we showed on the field today."
Foxboro (8-3) didn't make things easy for Mansfield early. After a scoreless first quarter, the Warriors jumped ahead midway through the second when Brian Swanton hit Stephan Neville for a 56-yard touchdown. Neville took a short out on third and 7, slipped a tackle, and outran two defensive backs to give Foxboro a 7-0 lead.
That seemed to serve as a wake-up call. Mansfield had been sloppy to that point, losing three fumbles and picking up just three first downs, but it answered this time.
On the first play, Abany took a handoff up the middle and broke free down the right sideline for a 59-yard touchdown. The floodgates were open.
"It was a simple dive play," Abany said. "We did a good job of getting a body on a body up front, and I was able to bounce it outside."
The Mansfield defense forced a quick punt, and it took just one play for the Hornets to take the lead. This time it was senior Michael Morrill taking an inside counter 67 yards to make it 14-7.
Foxboro's next drive ended when David Westhaver intercepted a pass at the Mansfield 26. A 14-yard pass from Mark Gilson moved Mansfield to the 40, then Gilson hit Powell Simpson for a back-breaking 60-yard touchdown.
Powell ran past his defender, creating so much space that he had time to turn and catch Gilson's slightly underthrown ball before galloping the final 15 yards.
"Last year, we fell behind, 7-0, early, and we didn't answer," said Mansfield coach Michael Redding. "This time we were able to come right back and get the momentum and get our confidence back.
"When Michael scored on that long run, and we ended up scoring 21 points in a span of six minutes just before the half, that was certainly the turning point."
Mansfield kicker Curtis Graham hit a 32-yard field goal early in the fourth to make it 24-7, and a 77-yard touchdown run by Shawn Doherty against the second-stringers provided the final margin.