Walpole sons reviving fathers’ title hopes

WALPOLE – Doug Cantrell and Chris Mackenzie had their time as part of the renowned Walpole football program.

More than three decades later, they are relishing in the success of their sons.

Noah Mackenzie has blossomed into one of the premier quarterbacks in the state. Cash Cantrell has followed in his father’s footsteps and become one of the better receivers for a Timberwolves’ team competing in the Div. 3 state championship game Thursday night at Gillette Stadium against Milton.

For Doug Cantrell, seeing his son make it to the championship game helps erase some of the disappointment he faced. A wide receiver under the legendary John Lee, Cantrell graduated in 1988, one year before Walpole stunned Brockton 6-2 to win the 1989 Super Bowl.

“Part of me was pissed at the time, I was so jealous of those guys,” Cantrell says with a laugh. “Now I am so happy that this is happening for these kids. It’s great to see these kids keeping the tradition alive.

“I’m really happy for Cash, especially since he missed last year with an injury. It was tough for me seeing him out.”

Mackenzie isn’t surprised that Walpole seemingly came out nowhere to emerge as one of the two finalists for the grand prize in Div. 3. In a tightly-knit community like Walpole, many youngsters grow up playing football and Mackenzie was well aware of what kind of talent was there.

“Doug and I coached them in youth football and you could see that they had the ability,” said Mackenzie, who played in two Super Bowls and was part of the 1989 championship squad. “As a parent, you are always proud of your kid. Noah has had a good year, but he’s fortunate to have receivers with the ability to turn a 15-yard catch into a 70-yard touchdown.”

Like any fathers and sons who play the same sport, people love to compare the two and see who was better. Since Mackenzie played linebacker and freely admits he could never throw the ball, there were comparisons there.

As for Cantrell and his son? There was a little goodnatured banter as to who is the better receiver.

“My father told me he was the type of receiver who could go up and catch anything,” Cash Cantrell said with a smile. “But I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet.”

The response from Doug? “Oh, I’m sure there is an eight-track or something like that around somewhere. If anyone would know, it’s probably my father.”

Cash Cantrell attended a preseason game at Gillette Stadium and couldn’t help but wonder that there was a chance he could be playing on that same field in December if things went well.

Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, the season didn’t start as they intended. Season-opening losses to King Philip (31-0) and Natick (14-7), followed by a narrow setback to Needham (21-19) two weeks later left Walpole staring at a 1-3 record and dwindling hopes.

“My father told me about the tradition of the program and the high expectations that go along with it,” Cantrell said. “I remember after the Needham game, my father hugged me and told me it was coming. Everything seemed to happen after that game.”

Walpole coach Chris Sullivan never lost the faith, adamant that his team was ready to turn the corner at any time. Mackenzie was one of many players on the team who believed the Timberwolves were on the cusp.

“I knew we had the talent, but we were making too many mistakes,” Mackenzie said. “Once we stopped making the mistakes, we started winning games.”

The streak started with a win over Shrewsbury and continue into the postseason, where the Timberwolves rallied in the final minute to defeat Mansfield, 39-31. In the state semifinal against another quality Hockomock League opponent in Milford, Mackenzie threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, while Cantrell contributed a TD reception which put Walpole ahead for good and they went on win, 45-35.

“Beating Milford and knowing we were going to Gillette was an awesome feeling,” Mackenzie said. “It was next level of happiness for me and my teammates.”

Not to mention their fathers.

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