Bulldog mistakes prove costly in T-Day loss to rivals

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Senior Jake Ragusa was this year’s Davenport Division MVP. (Mike Barucci photo)

A combination of turnovers and costly penalties along with several big plays by the Stoughton offense foiled Thanksgiving Day for the Canton High Bulldogs as the Black Knights prevailed 26-13 before a capacity crowd at Canton’s Memorial Field.

This year marked the 90th meeting between the two rival schools, with Stoughton holding a slight lead in the series at 45-40-4 going into the game. Both teams finished the season at 6-5 with the Black Knights earning a share of the Davenport Division title and a playoff berth.

Blue skies and temperatures in the mid 40s made for near-perfect football conditions. But the game did not start out well for Canton as the visiting Black Knights scored nearly four minutes into the game on a 36-yard touchdown pass from senior Jake Gibb to Izon Swain-Price. Stoughton led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and 14-7 at the half before adding two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Canton made it a one-score game (20-13) late in the fourth but could not get the big stop on defense when it counted.

Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said his team was determined to outhit the Bulldogs in the game, noting that Canton had the edge in its overtime win earlier in the season. “Today, we were the hammer and not the nail,” he said.

The Bulldogs started slow after a hand injury to Jake Ragusa, but the senior captain and Davenport Division MVP came back late in the first quarter to ignite the Bulldog offense. Ragusa finished the game with 114 rushing yards and a team-leading eight tackles on defense.

Despite gaining 182 yards on the ground, the Bulldogs were hurt by the lack of a consistent passing attack and critical mistakes. More often than not, a positive play was negated by a fumble, a sack, or a penalty.

“The mistakes came at the inopportune times,” acknowledged CHS head coach Dave Bohane. “Momentum wise, we could not gain control and it hurt us. Give credit to Stoughton. They took advantage and on this day, they were a little better than us.”

Still, there were many positives for Canton, including an impressive drive late in the first half that culminated with a 19-yard touchdown run by senior captain Woanyen Mahn (58 yards).

Unfortunately, Canton’s momentum was short-lived as Stoughton marched from its own five-yard line to the end zone in the final minute before halftime, aided by an 87-yard run by the Black Knights’ Christian Hill. Canton’s Nick Gustafson sprinted almost the entire length of the field to tackle Hill at the eight, but two plays later, Stoughton’s Guy Eddy dove into the end zone to make it 14-7.

The score remained the same through the third quarter but again momentum turned to the Knights when Stoughton recovered a Canton fumble at the Bulldogs’ 48-yard line. The Knights then mounted a drive that resulted in an eight-yard scoring pass from Gibb to Eddy at the 10:53 mark of the fourth quarter.

With the Bulldogs trailing 20-7, Ragusa and Mahn answered the call and led the team on a 54-yard march that ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Ragusa with 5:42 left in the game.

But the Blacks Knights were undaunted, and on second down from the Canton 37-yard line, Gibb tossed a play-action pass to Swain-Price, who ran into the end zone untouched to make it 26-13 with just over four minutes to play.

Game Notes

CHS senior Mike McMahon was chosen by his teammates and coaches to wear No. 27 in honor of the late Ricky Shannon, a former Bulldog star who died tragically in a house fire in 2008. “Ricky Shannon was a great kid and fierce competitor, and Mike certainly brings the tenacity to the field every day,” said Coach Bohane. “Mike is a very coachable kid, a ‘steady Eddy’ on the field … Ragusa led the team with eight tackles but sophomores Jude Albert and Alec Ragusa (Jake’s younger brother) made their mark with 11 tackles between them … Honorary captains for the Bulldogs were former CHS standouts Doug Ragusa and John Bires. Doug is the father of Jake and Alec Ragusa and Bires is the father of senior captain Joe Bires.

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