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Mark DeBiasio (Captain), Brian Droney (Captain), Jason Kipp (Captain), Jesse Austin, Mike Barry, Jim McGowan, Matt Feid, Aaron Chabot, Tony Pino, Kyle Vandegeisen, Derek Nemeth, Ryan McNally, Scott McCluskey, Mark Vandette, Matt McGuire, Anthony Pirri, Pat Beith, Andrew Sherman, Rich Fellmann, Mike Vigorito, Chris Rushlow, Marc Guimond, Jason Gomes, Brad Davison, Mike Campbell, Ben Caranci, Chris O'Brien, Ryan Gazzola, Glenn Gaumond, Chad Barrs, Tyler King, Joe Antosca, Peter Mercier, Corey Davison, Sean Cragan, Jim LeBlanc, Jim Lodge, Shawn Kelly, Chris Hatch, Matt Parker, Zach Hamilton, Ethan Weeman, Mike Berg, Mike Tryon, Chris Schlick, Aaron Lacasse, Mark Homsi, Josh Merigold, Peter McCormick, Gary Maitland, Dan Luzon, Dave Weber, Joe Digeorge, Pat Kelleher, Derekjeppe, Jason Desmarais, Steve Bibby, Bryan Mcguire, Ian Lowe, Derek Brown, Chris Tosti, Doug Chabot, Neil Bailey, Nick Gordon, Chris Roy, Jason Aransky, Dave Reed, Ben Schlick, Mike Tryon
The 1995 Red Rocketeers entered the preseason with high expectations. They may have struggled at times during the previous 6-4 season, but there was an attitude surrounding this team. They had a chip on their shoulder, a motivation that would help to propel them to a 10-0 regular season record. They dedicated themselves in the weight room, and adopted the mantra of L.T.D. (Loyalty, Toughness, and Discipline) to help them to prepare for the season. These high expectations weren’t shared by all, though. The Boston Globe would predict a sixth place finish in the Hockomock League for these Rocketeers. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Led by captains Mark DeBiasio, Brian Droney, and Jason Kipp the Rocketeers would go on to win their first 10 games of the season, and eventually go down as one of the best teams in Rocketeer history.
The season opened on a Friday night at Community field against a tough Bishop Feehan team. North Attleboro wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as Chris Rushlow returned the opening kickoff for a 77 yard touchdown, and Jesse Austin hit Ryan Gazzola in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion to grab a stunning 8-0 lead.
After North methodically worked their way down the field on their next possession for their second (and last) score of the game – an Anthony Pirri 3 yard run -the Big Red defense took charge by playing a nearly flawless first half to maintain a one touchdown lead. The second half saw two teams playing with great intensity and purpose. The Shamrocks closed the gap to 15-13 in the third quarter, but the Big Red defense closed out the victory. With North Attleboro in the Feehan offensive backfield for what seemed like the entire fourth quarter, seniors Kipp (15 tackles), Sean Cragan (4 tackles and 2 sacks in the fourth quarter), and Pirri (12 tackles) led the way to a thrilling, hard fought victory that would be the staple of the 1995 season.
In a 31-6 victory over Sharon, the defense was immense again as they allowed a mere 8 yards in the first half and 57 total yards for the game while collecting 3 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Shawn Kelly led the defense with 6 tackles in one half of action, while DeBiasio, Kipp, and Jim LeBlanc also contributed in the domination. The offensive line created huge holes for Pirri, DeBiasio, and Jason Gomes running the ball, and the Hall of Fame tandem of QB Kyle VanDeGiesen and WR Mark Vandette hooked up for a 22-yard 4th quarter touchdown strike.
In Week #3 against Canton, the return of Droney made for a long night for the Bulldog defense. Inserting Droney in the lineup gave the offense a boost, and they were off and running to a 36-6 victory. DeBiasio scored 59 seconds into the game on a 27-yard run. The second quarter had three Big Red touchdowns; a Jesse Austin quarterback sneak; Droney plunging in from the 1 yard line; and finally a Droney 15-yard reception. The second half once again saw a VanDeGiesen to Vandette touchdown to close out the scoring for the Rocketeers. The offensive line of Dave Weber, Chris Schlick, Cragan, Kipp, Joe DiGeorge, and Dave Reed thoroughly dominated the Bulldogs upfront. Meanwhile, the defense limited Canton’s offense to one first down and a mere 25 yards rushing in the first half. Kipp (6 tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery), Kelly (10 tackles) and defensive linemen LeBlanc, Cragan, and Mike Tryon (a fumble recovery) were terrific for the Big Red “D”.
After two dominating performances, the Rocketeers found themselves in what would become a familiar situation – needing to come from behind for a victory. After playing a poor offensive half of football in Stoughton and trailing 7-0, the Rocketeers came out in the second half and fumbled the ball away to Stoughton on North’s own 15-yard line on the very first play from scrimmage. Many teams would get down on themselves, but that wasn’t the character of this team. North responded by forcing a fumble of its own only two plays later when Cragan came crashing down from his defensive end spot, forcing an errant QB pitch that was broken up by a host of Rocketeers, and recovered by Kipp. This single play energized the team. Early in the fourth quarter, Austin completed passes to Pat Beith and Anthony Pirri to move downfield and again connected with Beith on fourth down from the two yard line for a score. When the two point conversion failed, North still trailed 7-6 with just 5 minutes remaining, but after regaining possession one last time with 3 minutes left, a huge fourth down catch by Pirri setup the biggest play of the season up this point – a 46-yard touchdown run by DeBiasio behind a critical block by left tackle Shawn Kelly with a little over a minute remaining to give the Rocketeers a 12- 7 lead. Stoughton’s last chance would be thwarted by back-to- back sacks from Tryon and Schlick to end the game. It was an emotional win, and it would be the first of five come from behind victories in the second half of the season.
During a convincing 33-22 win over Oliver Ames, Big Red’s defense completely shut down the Tigers, forcing punts on seven of eight series and allowing only one first half first down to go with minus-9 rushing yards. Offensively, the Rocketeers scored touchdowns on four of their first six series and piled up 249 rushing yards in the first half alone while improving to 5-0. The sixth game of the season against Franklin would turn into an instant classic. Trailing 20-6 after a sluggish first-half and the team’s pursuit of a perfect season hanging in the balance, it was an impassioned locker-room speech from Captain Kipp igniting a fire that would propel his teammates in the 2nd half, even though the deficit initially grew to 26-6. DeBiasio sprang loose for a 41-yard TD run; Glenn Gaumond delivered a vicious hit on the ensuing kickoff return; North’s D forced a 3-andout, and momentum had swung in Big Red’s favor. Austin’s QB sneak cut the lead to 26-21 and following a huge DeBiasio sack the Rocketeers worked their way down the field with tough, smart blocking and gritty running from the backs. Following Pirri’s 23-yard run, Droney went untouched into the end zone behind a monster block from Joe DiGeorge to take the lead, cementing an incredible 29-26 comeback victory.
Game 7 on the schedule saw two undefeated teams battling under the lights at Community Field as the Rocketeers hosted Foxboro in front of an estimated five thousand fans. Trailing again at halftime 7-0, North Attleboro came out passing in the second half. Austin hit Pirri for 17 yards, then Droney for 17 yards, and finally Pirri again for 34 yards and a touchdown to tie the game. After the Rocketeers marched 80 yards for a 4th quarter Droney touchdown scamper to give Big Red a 14-7 lead with five minutes remaining, Foxboro’s bid to steal the victory failed as Ryan Gazzola swatted away a 2-pt conversion pass in the end zone following the Warrior’s last touchdown to preserve the victory, 14-13. Gazzola then recovered the onside kick to help seal the victory. The Rocketeer defense controlled the line of scrimmage against a much bigger offensive line, and benefitted from superb games by Derek Jeppe (8 tackles), Cragan (6 tackles and a sack), Shawn Kelly (three quarterback sacks), and Tryon’s huge quarterback sack to end the game. The Rocketeers had clearly put themselves in the driver’s seat for the league title with the win. The following week, behind another strong showing from its defensive and offensive lines North defeated King Philip 42-12. The Rocketeers outgained the Warriors 276 -61 yards in the first half and went into halftime with a 35-0 lead as they thoughts quickly turned to a final regular season tilt with Mansfield .
The North Attleboro defense arrived in Mansfield ready to make a statement. With Mansfield holding a 7-6 lead late in the second quarter and driving for a second score, Brian Droney’s interception and 34-yard return setup the offense on a 10-play drive that ended with his own touchdown run, giving North all the points that they would need. Until the final minute of the game, Mansfield would run only 9 plays and gain a total of 4 yards in the second half, while North would go on to rush 30 times for 251 yards in the second half and score two more touchdowns. The Rocketeers completely dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half and for the game, and the defense would allow only 38 passing yards to the top passing offense in the league. Once again it was the entire defense that thrived, but Jason Kipp and Sean Cragan’s effort certainly stood out in the victory.
The 75th edition of the North Attleboro – Attleboro Thanksgiving Day game would be called “a game for the ages” by the Sun Chronicle, and most in attendance couldn’t agree more. The first half in particular was a see-saw affair. North took an early 7-0 lead when Ryan Gazzola intercepted a pass on the second play of the game, and then Droney capped a short drive with an 11 yard touchdown run. Attleboro fought back with two scores in a 5 minute span, but North responded to even the score at 14 midway through the second quarter. DeBiasio took a screen pass 22 yards to the Attleboro 8-yard line to set up Droney’s second touchdown of the day, a 10-yard reception, but Attleboro refused to back down and actually owned a 21-14 lead at the half. The second half saw Austin connect with Rushlow for a 46-yard TD catch to tie the score at 21, and then with only 27 seconds remaining the most memorable play of the season would carry the Rocketeers to victory. Droney slipped out of the backfield into the corner of the end zone, where he jumped to snare a pass over the outstretched arms of an Attleboro defender for a touchdown, and pandemonium erupted as the win gave North Attleboro an unblemished 10-0 record, and a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl would be played in Marshfield and unfortunately, the Rocketeers met up with one of the best teams in the state. The Rocketeers fought hard and held an 8-6 lead at the half, but the size and precision of the Marshfield offense would wear down the Big Red defense and deny them the undefeated season that have strived for all year. The final score was 26-8, but it didn’t detract from what this team had achieved. They had earned a tough Hockomock League title, and more importantly they displayed great character in doing so. The senior class would be remembered in years to come for their leadership on the field, and their dedication in the weight room which set the tone for their incredible season. They were loyal, tough, and disciplined – and their LTD motto from 1995 continues to act as an inspirational guiding force for the Big Red Football program to the present day.