The Exeter High football team improved to 7-1 on the season with a 24-14 victory over Manchester Central on Friday night at Gil Stadium. In doing so, the Blue Hawks continue to have one of the best single season turnarounds in recent memory. Last season in their first year in Division I they went just 1-9 (0-8 in D-I), but with tonight's win they are now 7-1 on the season (6-1 in D-I).
How have they done it? Well simply put, they've gotten back to playing 'Blue Hawk Football.' That is, playing disciplined, smart, physical football, with a tough defense and a ball control offense. They slowly, methodically wear teams down and grind out wins.
That's exactly what they did tonight vs. Central at Gill Stadium in Manchester. Exeter jumped to a 21-0 1st half lead. With 8 minutes left in the game it was still 21-0 Blue Hawks. Central then got a pair of TD's late to make it interesting, cutting the lead to 21-14. It was too little too late though, as kicker Logan Laurent connected on a 37 yard field goal with 1:26 left to make it 24-14 and put the game on ice.
Colby Swane had 145 total yards and a touchdown. 'Big Gain Swane' caught a 47 yard TD pass in the 1st quarter from QB Jamie Tymann, then Swane also made a BIG 40 yard run late when Exeter was trying to ice the game. Tyler Grant had 74 total yards and 2 TD's plus 6 tackles and an interception on defense. He converted a BIG 4th and 1 play late which set up Laurent's field goal. Laurent not only kicked a 37 yard field goal and was a perfect 3/3 on extra points, but he also kicked 4 kickoffs into the end zone. Here's the scary part for their opponents - Swane, Grant and Laurent are all only JUNIORS.
Grant, as well as fellow defensive backs Conor Carrier and Ethan Joyce (also just a junior) did a tremendous job of shutting down the Central passing game, which has been nearly unstoppable this season. The Little Green have a very good QB in Riley Cote and 4 good wide outs in Junior Brown, Jared Chandler, Jordan McCarthy and Troy Pelletier. They have been throwing the ball on everybody this year, but it just didn't happen tonight (in the 1st half at least). The Exeter defense was able to sack Cote twice for -14 yards, they intercepted him twice and they deflected 4 more of his passes which were also nearly intercepted. They held Cote to 118 yards passing, with the majority of that coming late in the game after the Blue Hawks already had a 3 TD lead in the 4th quarter.
At that point Central was able to get some momentum on offense, throwing the ball around and moving the chains. But much of that was because Exeter was up by 3 TD's so they were giving the Little Green those short passes underneath as long as the ball didn't go up over their heads for big gains. It also helped the Central comeback that they were able to recover an onside kick, something that VERY rarely happens in high school football.
In addition to the secondary, others who played well defensively for Exeter were Jake Pleadwell, Tim Stackhouse, James Vogt and Joe Moser. Not only did the Blue Hawks shut down Central's passing game, but they also limited running back Hector Velez (who had been on a tear lately) to just 52 yards on 13 carries.
Central now has 3 losses in the division and still has to play Pinkerton, meaning they will likely miss the playoffs for the second straight year. As for Exeter, they're in the playoffs and next Friday night they will play Nashua South at Stellos Stadium with the #2 seed in the D-I playoffs and a home playoff game on the line. That will be a BIG game, and one that could go either way.