WRENTHAM — With two unbeaten teams squaring off Friday night between Milford and King Philip, it felt like the playoffs were starting early.
And the way it has been lately, that’s just how the host Warriors like it.
In a back-and-forth affair, King Philip provided the finishing touches in the second half of a 23-14 win.
With the victory, KP improves to 7-0, and Milford drops to 6-1, and the former clinches at least a share of the Hockomock League Kelley-Rex title with a 3-0 mark.
“It was nice to see everyone, in all things, contributing,” KP coach Brian Lee said.
True to form for KP, the Warriors came through with maybe their biggest plays on defense. Brandon Nicastro made two interceptions, including a pick six, and Hayden Schmitz made another in the first quarter.
Offensively, the running game again proved critical for the Warriors. Andrew Laplante rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Sophomore Tallan King had 52 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Laplante, over the last few weeks, has separated himself as the top back in the rotation that also includes Aidan Astorino.
“You just need that dude,” Lee said. “(Laplante)’s not playing a lot of defense for us right now. . . . It was just nice to see, he’s kind of becoming the guy, the number one guy. And then everybody else can split those carries after that. Having someone that you know what you’re getting and that stability, is nice.”
Nicastro’s pick six was immense. Milford led 7-3 and had the ball deep in its own end. Scarlet Hawks quarterback Jack Buckley lofted a pass toward the near sideline. Nicastro intercepted it, gathered himself and raced down the sideline for a 40-yard score as KP took a 10-7 lead into the break.
“I saw the route. I’ve been watching a lot of film all week,” Nicastro said. “They went to the slant earlier, in the beginning of the game. I know they weren’t going to do it again, because I broke that one up. I was waiting for the slant and go. I saw the ball in the air, jumped up, and made the play.”
But Milford wasn’t done. Buckley (101 yards passing) hit Jason Stokes with a 36-yard scoring pass over the middle early in the third to give the Scarlet Hawks a 14-10 lead.
KP answered, as King ran it in from a yard out on the ensuing possession to give the Warriors a 16-14 advantage.
The Warriors blocked an Araujo (92 yards rushing on 17 carries) 46-yard field goal attempt at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Laplante then put it away when he took an option pitch to the right for a 6-yard touchdown to help complete the scoring.
KP scored first on a Woods 25-yard field goal to start the second quarter. Araujo plowed in from a yard out in the second quarter to take the lead before Nicastro’s heroics.
“We had a couple kids get dinged up pretty good tonight, starters,” Milford coach Dale Olson said. “Sophomores went in and played tremendous for us tonight. We’ll rebound just fine. That’s a solid Division 2 team. We’re going to move on and play in the Division 3 playoffs, but we’ve got to get ready to play Franklin, a very good Franklin team.”
King Philip’s Brandon Nicastro is lifted by teammate Daniel Silveria (5) after he intercepted a pass and scored a touchdown during a 23-14 win over Milford. (Amanda Sabga/Boston Herald)