photo by David Redding/Team Photographer
Mansfield Football finished a near perfect season by trouncing number one seed Natick in the Division 2 South Final by a score of 22-3 and will head back to the Superbowl for a chance at the State Championship after a six year hiatus. The road to Natick was, as usual, straight through long time rival King Philip. Prior to the semi-final against KP on November 8 every game between the two competitive programs since 2016 was decided by three or fewer points. Senior outside linebacker Paden Palanza said that “beating King Philip the second time by such a large margin got us really believing we have a great shot at winning it all, while making it clear that the team understands that winning the State Championship cannot be seen as a walk in the park. “We’re not not treating the Superbowl any different than any other previous match-up,” he added and said that studying film and working hard during practice cannot stop now.
Mansfield has a special team this year with a comradery that is rare to see. Since their fall trip to Ohio where they played state powerhouse LaSalle High School, saw Notre Dame play, toured the Underground Railroad Museum and visited Ohio State, they have picked up each other when they are down and worked together to come out on top. And with an undefeated Hockomock record, Mansfield has been the team other towns have circled on the calendar as they have proven themselves as being a force to be reckoned with. Senior offensive and defensive linemen Andrew Cowles expressed how important the fans have meant this season. “Seeing the student body cheer us on week in and week out has pushed us to play that much harder,” said Cowles who also made a point of saying what it means seeing Mansfield alumni present at the games noting that former players continue to return to support the team just as they have for the greater portion of the last twenty-five years.
Coach Mike Redding has instilled a winning culture at Mansfield since he began his tenure with the program in 1988, and the opportunity to be number 1 that has eluded the team for six years is one that players, fans and alumni are all hoping for. In the end, however, to these players football has been more than a game. Every player reiterated the same message that being able to put differences aside and unite as a team for a common goal is a belief that can be followed in all aspects of life. To see such young men rely so heavily on one another is unbelievably rare to see, so when you do see it, you understand how remarkable the teamwork is.
Mansfield takse on Lincoln-Sudbury in the D2 Massachusetts State Championship on December 6th/7th at Gillette Stadium.