Saturday, October 9, 2010
Keene Stays Unbeaten With Win at Merrimack
Keene defeated Merrimack tonight 16-14 in a Division II battle with a spot in the playoffs possibly on the line. Keene's defense came up big in the second half, the Luopa - Boulay connection was in full force, and the Blackbirds also had a scary moment for their starting tailback.
Here's the full game recap.
Scary Moment for Keene
Just 22 seconds into to the 2nd half Keene lost their starting running back and senior captain for the rest of the game.
"He has a dislocated patella" explained Keene Head Coach John Luopa.
It looked just like any old running play up the middle. Chris Lacroix (pictured above) gained 3 yards on the play. But he was badly injured. Play was stopped for a good 20 minutes, and he was then put on a stretcher and driven off in an ambulance. You hate to see that happen to anybody.
As the emergency staff pushed Lacroix off the field on the stretcher he held up his pointer finger up towards the sky to let everyone know that he was conscious and that he was going to be ok. As soon as he did, the place erupted and the fans, players, coaches, etc. gave him a standing ovation. Good moment.
Best of luck to Chris on a full recovery.
Keene's 2nd Half "D" Was the Difference
This game started off with a lot of offense and not much defense. Initially it looked like it would be a shootout. Three of the game's first four possessions were long drives with lots of yardage. Both teams got one TD on the board, and Keene could have had a second but they got inside the Merrimack 30 and then fumbled.
But after that the defenses really buckled down, with only 2 more touchdowns being scored the rest of the game, and the teams combined for a mere 9 2nd half points (all by Keene).
Merrimack senior Brody Williams ran for 107 yards and a TD in the 1st half, but managed just 9 yards and 0 TD's in the 2nd.
While both defenses stepped up big as the game wore on, Keene's was especially impressive. Here are 3 plays in particular that were huge for the Blackbirds, and ended up being the difference...
1) Russell tackled King in End Zone for Safety - Game's tied at 14 with about 6 minutes left to play. Keene had just got a nice punt from Eric Haas to pin Merrimack down at their own 7 yard line. The Tomahawks ran the option. The snap was mishandled, and by the time QB Zach Harris had it there was a couple of Keene defenders in the backfield bearing down on him. Harris pitched it over to Jackson King, who was then tackled in the end zone by senior lineman Taylor Russell resulting in a safety and a 16-14 lead for Keene. This was the play of the game.
2) Russell Brings the Pressure, Amman Makes the INT - Merrimack is down 16-14 still, but had the ball with over 3 minutes left with a chance to take the lead. All they needed was a field goal to go ahead. They were at about their own 30 yard line when Harris dropped back to pass looking for a receiver. As soon as he dropped back though he was pressured and then hit by Russell. Harris managed to throw the ball just as the hit came, but the pass was intercepted by Matt Amman for Keene on the Merrimack 37 yard line. Harris got no protection on the play, Taylor made a nice play, and Amman made a big INT.
3) Pair of Blackbirds Sack Harris on 4th & Long - It was Merrimack's last chance at a comeback. They were still down 16-14, and got the ball back with 1:13 left in the game. Harris made a couple of nice passes downfield to receivers, and got the ball into Keene territory. That's when the drive stalled though, and the it was 4th and 10 on the Keene 48 with about 45 seconds left. If the Tomahawks could get a first down on this play they would have had a pretty good chance at the win. But Keene brought the house, blitzing the QB on the 4th and long play. Merrimack didn't have enough blockers, and Harris was sacked by a pair of Blackbird defenders. Turnover on downs. Game over.
Luopa - to - Boulay Connection
Keene fans have been ranting and raving about these 2 guys on this site for weeks. Now I got a chance to see them firsthand, and I was very impressed.
Time and time again it was QB Lucas Luopa dropping back, looking downfield, and finding WR Jimmy Boulay for a big gain. Merrimack had no answer for it. On the very next play after the injury to Lacroix his Boulay for a about a 30 yard completion. It was automatic.
What should be scary for the other teams in D-II is that Luopa is only a sophomore and Boulay is only a junior, so they'll both be back next year. Boulay also showed versatility. After Lacroix's injury, he became the featured back, rushing the ball 10 times in the 2nd half.
There was also one trick play where the roles were reversed, and it was actually Boulay throwing the ball down the field to Luopa for a 1st down.
By the end of the game Boulay had 6 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, to go with 37 yards rushing and also 12 yards passing. Luopa threw for 194 yards and a TD, rushed for 9 yards and had 12 yards receiving.
A bizarre moment happened in the 3rd quarter of this contest. After Luopa completed a 24 yard pass to Boulay, the flags came flying onto the field. First there was just one flag that was thrown, for unsportsmanlike conduct. Then three more flags came flying right after. They were all unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called on Keene. 4 flags...2 more, and we would have had ourselves a theme park! (get it?).