The Whitman-Hanson Regional High football team is back in the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
“I’m very proud,” W-H head coach Mike Driscoll said. “They worked hard in the offseason, they worked hard in season, so they expected it. We’re just happy [with] what they’ve done so far.”
The Panthers are fresh of what Driscoll coined their best game of the season, a 43-20 win over Silver Lake. In the tilt, W-H (5-2) didn’t punt once, and the defense didn’t allow a touchdown until the third quarter, when it was a 35-6 game.
But, the playoffs present a different challenge and W-H certainly knows that. The Panthers have been subject to a first-round exit each of the past three seasons. Last fall it was North Attleboro which ousted W-H from the playoffs. In its two campaigns prior, Driscoll’s squad entered as the final team in, which is no easy task.
“I think a lot of it comes down to just match-ups, and we haven’t had good matchups for us,” Driscoll said. “Last year we had to go into North Attleboro as a young team, and that’s intimidating. We were the eight seed [two] years in a row so you’re not going to get much luck there.”
This time around, W-H which is boasting its best record since 2004, will enter the Division 3 South Sectional tournament as the No. 5 seed and will face off against No. 4 Stoughton at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at Brockton High’s Marciano Stadium.
The Black Knights, who hail from the Hockomock League Davenport Division, finished their regular season campaign at 5-2. A 28-24 triumph over Catholic Memorial in Week 3 was by far their most impressive win. Stoughton’s last loss came two weeks ago at the hands of North Attleboro, 35-21. It was the Red Rocketeers who ended the Panthers’ playoff run last season in first round of the Division 2 South Sectional tournament.
“They got a good team,” Driscoll said of the Black Knights. “They fly around on defense [and] their offense is very methodical. Their running backs are good, they have a huge tight end, and defensively they create some match-up problems for us, but I think it’s going to be a classic game.”
Since the MIAA switched to a new playoff format at the outset of the 2013 season, the Black Knights, who are coached by Greg Burke, have made it past the first round each time – which included a trip to the Division 3 state semifinals in 2013.
Driscoll said the key to this one is going to be unfamiliarity.
“When you play these teams over and over again in the league, they tend to know you, and will take away something, or will try to,” he said. “This is a little bit different match-up so teams are just going to come out and do what they do. It’s going to come down to who makes the plays during the game and who’s going to make the plays.”
LEANING ON PHELPS
W-H is going to rely heavily, like it has done all season, on the legs and arm of junior dual-threat quarterback Ethan Phelps, the repertoire he has built with his receiving corps, the steady presence of junior running back Brendan Frawley and the two-way leadership of senior Riley Holland if it’s going to upset Stoughton.
The winner will advance to play the victor of No. 8 Walpole (2-5) at No. 1 North Attleboro (6-1) in the South Sectional semifinals next week.
“I finally feel like we’re where we need to be,” Driscoll said. “We’re probably a year away, but we can be competitive in this, and I like the matchup. I think its two really even teams. If we do what we do, we’ll be pretty good in this tournament.”