Bulldogs earn huge statement win vs. rivals

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Senior Jake Ragusa has played his way into the MVP conversation. (Mike Barucci photo)

Senior Jake Ragusa has played his way into the MVP conversation. (Mike Barucci photo)

Update: The CHS football team continued their winning ways with a 40-14 road victory over Oliver Ames Friday night. The Bulldogs improved to 3-1 in league play and 5-1 overall and are currently in a three-way tie with Stoughton and Foxboro for first place in the Davenport Division. 

The Canton High football team’s magical 2015 season added another thrilling chapter last week as the Bulldogs knocked off their archrivals from Stoughton 22-21 in overtime on the road Friday night.

Now sporting an impressive 4-1 record with division wins over Stoughton and Milford and a very competitive 10-7 loss to Foxboro, the Bulldogs are making a strong case to be invited to the playoffs later this month.

With upcoming road games against Oliver Ames tomorrow night and Sharon on October 24, head coach Dave Bohane said, “We control our future.”

Bohane said the thrilling win over Stoughton at Sarno Field could be a game changer for the program. “To beat a great team like Stoughton on their home field in [rainy] conditions is something special,” he said. “Our guys are special. They are tough. They never give up.”

After the game as the team buses pulled out of Pearl Street in Stoughton, one could hear the elated Bulldog football players shouting, “Canton football! Canton football!”

For the third time this season, Canton won a game in overtime, scoring in the extra period and then holding the opponent on a two-point conversion attempt. The Ragusa brothers, senior Jake and sophomore Alec, and senior Joe Bires led a swarming defense, snuffing out the Stoughton rushing attempt. Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said as soon as he saw Canton line up its defense, he wanted a timeout to insert a passing play, but the timeout was not granted. “Hey, it was a good game between two tough teams,” he said. “We came up a little short. We didn’t get it done.”

The Bulldogs got the winning touchdown from Jake Ragusa, who finished the game with 120 rushing yards while also making eight tackles and sacking the quarterback twice in a dominant defensive performance. Sophomore Jude Albert also played a strong game on defense, helping to stop the run with six tackles and playing well in pass coverage.

Receiver Michael Harris caught a key 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dennis Ross. Senior Woanyen Mahn may have played every down, making several special teams tackles, contributing offensively with 49 rushing yards, and helping the Canton secondary in pass coverage. Junior Djimon Harding had a strong second half with three tackles and a sack, and the offensive and defensive lines, which has been a strength of the team all season, turned in another outstanding performance.

The game certainly did not start well for Canton as the Bulldogs committed several penalties and fell behind 6-0 on a Black Knight touchdown run midway through the opening quarter. Late in the second quarter, after Albert stopped a Stoughton drive with fine pass coverage, Jake Ragusa began to take over with his running ability, capping off a 60-yard, 11-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Thomas Monagle added the extra point as Canton went into halftime with a slim 7-6 lead.

In the second half, Canton appeared to have the run game in hand, dominating the clock before a fumble gave the Knights new life in Bulldog territory with 5:53 left in the game. Gibb then hit Guy Eddy on a short pass in the flat and he scampered 18 yards for the touchdown to put Stoughton up 12-7.

With under three minutes left to play, Ross got the passing game going with a fourth-down throw to Ragusa and a 35-yard strike to Harris, who caught the ball with two defenders on him and raced into the end zone with 1:18 left. Mahn then converted the two-point attempt as Canton took a 15-12 lead.

But Stoughton was not done, and on a third-and-seven play, Gibb hit Elice on a 43-yard slant pass, setting up the Knights at the seven-yard line with 32 seconds left. The Bulldog defense held and Stoughton was forced to go for the field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Bohane said after the game that Jake Ragusa and Bires should be considered for league MVP. On Ragusa, Bohane said, “He’s like the straw that stirs the drink. Jake and Joe, they’re the guys that we rally around.”

Bohane said last year’s Thanksgiving loss to Stoughton still haunts his players and coaches. “Last year’s game was an absolute kick in the stomach to us,” he said. “Tonight was a great night for us and the program. I am so proud of the guys. To win here is incredible. This is one tight, tough group of kids.”

The Bulldogs will face the Knights again in a rematch on Thanksgiving Day at CHS.

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