Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dover Kicks Last Second FG, Beats Spaulding in D-II Semis

There was a TON of buildup for this game. And guess what, it lived up to every bit of it. Cam Rewucki kicked the game-winning 29 yard field goal as time expired, giving the Dover High football team a 24-21 win over Spaulding in the Division II semi-finals.

"It was my first field goal of the season" said Rewucki, who is only a sophomore. "We usually get touchdowns so we haven't needed to kick field goals. But it feels great, all adrenaline."

You could not ask for a better day for football, just perfect football weather. And a jam-packed Dunaway Field (you couldn't find a parking spot anywhere!) Dover and Spaulding - one of the biggest rivalries in the state of New Hampshire. This was the 118th meeting on the gridiron between these two seacoast rival schools, and it was the first time ever they met in a playoff game. The fans were loud and it was a GREAT atmosphere (special shout-out to the Dover student section for their sign!).

And on the field it was an epic battle. Dover senior QB Tyler Zabkar turned in a gutsy performance. He's only 5'7", so it has to be tough for him to see over the lineman rushing at him. Yet he still threw for 186 yards and 1 touchdown, to go with 62 yards rushing. Zabkar made some BIG completions on the game's final drive to set up the field goal by Rewucki.

"We were just trying to move the chains, get the ball down the field and punch it in" said Zabkar, who is also a captain for the defending D-II champs Dover hockey team.

With the win, Dover advances to the D-II title game next Saturday at 1 PM. They will travel to Stellos Stadium in Nashua to take on #1 seed Bishop Guertin, who defeated Timberlane this afternoon in the other semi-final 29-26 in another nail biter.

As for Spaulding, their Cinderella season has come to a heartbreaking conclusion. This is a program that went 3 years without winning a game in the division, then they started out this season with 4 straight losses (the Red Raiders got shut out in 3 of those games). Then Spaulding reeled off 5 straight wins, by an average of 29 points. Their turnaround was the best story in NH football this season.

"We just got the kids to buy into our system and believe they could win" said Spaulding head coach Dennis Fontaine, who was a first-year coach this year for the Red Raiders after coming over from St. Thomas where he was the defensive coordinator. "It wasn't easy in the beginning of the season, but then they started to believe and were learning to play better football."

And they nearly pulled off the win this afternoon vs. Dover as well. Spaulding went down 14-0 early, but battled back with 2 straight touchdowns of their own, cutting the Green Wave lead to 14-13 with 1:10 left in the 2nd quarter. Then they tied the game up at 21-21 with 2:16 left in the 3rd quarter when Justin Crowder ran in a TD from 1 yard and then Dylan Adams ran in the 2 point conversion.

Unfortunately for Spaulding, the game came down to who got the ball last. That team was Dover, and they made the necessary plays to get down the field and in field goal range for the kick by Rewucki.

"We played our hearts out, I couldn't ask for anything more from our kids" said "Coming back from that deficit was great for our kids. We gave it all we had, and Dover did the same. They were just 3 points better."

A big sequence in this game came in that last 1:10 of the 2nd quarter, after Spaulding was able to close the Dover lead to 14-13. The Red Raiders had the momentum on their side after getting 2 straight scores, but then Dover took it right back going into halftime. Zabkar connected with Taylor Curry on a 58 yard pass play down the left sideline, setting up 1st down and goal for the Green Wave at the Spaulding 8 yard line. 2 plays later it was once again the Zabkar-to-Curry connection, as they teamed up for an 8 yard TD pass (Curry was WIDE open in the corner of the end zone). Curry finished the game with 6 catches for 123 yards and a TD.

Dover's first 2 touchdowns were both scored by junior RB/DB Colin Shaughnessy (pictured above). Shaughnessy is a tough runner and also made a big 25 yard catch late in the game as well as some key tackles defensively to go with his 62 rushing yards.

Spaulding made some big plays of their own in the passing game. QB Sam Oullette threw for 78 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 25 yards and a TD. Most of his passing went to receiver Nathan Zriny, who made 3 catches for 77 yards and a score. When Spaulding scored their second TD of the game to make it 14-13 Dover it was an AWESOME play. Oulette threw a BOMB down field to Zriny, who was being double-covered on the play. The ball somehow managed to float just BARELY over the outstretched hands of BOTH of the Green Wave defenders and into the hands of Zriny, who then ran in for the touchdown. hat play was set up by a 33 yard run by junior Kevin Medara.

"Sam made a fantastic throw on that play" said Coach Fontaine. "We have been a running team all year, but our passing game has gotten better."

Oullette also made some big completions on the team's first touchdown drive. It was 3rd down and 15 on their own 43 yard line, and Oullette completed a pass down field to Zriny. Then a few plays later it was once again 3rd and long, and once again he completed a pass to Zriny, this one for 13 yards and a 1st down. Earlier on the drive Bobby Dow (who also made some BIG tackles defensively) converted a crucial run on 4th and 1. The drive ended with Oullette running it in on a keeper from 2 yards out on 4th and goal.

Another big play for Spaulding was also a controversial one. It came late in the 4th quarter, with the game tied up at 21-21 and Dover driving and trying to re-take the lead. The Green Wave started the drive on the Spaulding 38 yard line, then Zabkar threw a pass down field intended for Eric Leighton. Red Raiders defensive back Seth jumped up to try and make the interception. Both Leighton and Fogg came down with their hands on the football. The officials ruled the play an interception and Spaulding took over possession, while the Dover sideline went nuts, claiming that it should have been a completion and Green Wave ball. They didn't get the call, but they still won the game.

As good as Zabkar, Curry and Shaughnessy were on offense and as big as the kick by Rewucki was, you have to give credit to the Dover defense as well because they played great in this game. Leading the way were Matt Brown and Matt Dow, who both made some big stops, rushed the passer and were able to get into the Spaulding back field and make plays. Also making plays on defense were Kyle Sewards, Eric Miller, Leighton, Eric Wilson, Chris Maglaras and Eric Waddington. These guys are fast and they're tough. They're well coached, they get to their spots, they fill their gaps and they make some hard hits.

Spaulding also had some standouts defensively. In particular, Tanner Daniels (one of the top sophomore players in the state), Dow, Dillon Couture, Josh Tapley and Fogg were all big time play makers on defense for the Red Raiders. Tapley made a big deflection defensively on a 4th and 2 play, forcing a Dover turnover in the red zone.

As good as Brown and Dow were for Dover, Daniels and Couture were just as good for Spaulding. These were 2 VERY good defenses. It was overall a VERY well played game. You couldn't ask for more on a fall Saturday afternoon on the seacoast. Playoff football at its best. A great game, it's just unfortunate that one team had to lose. Dover running back Joe McKee did suffer an injury early in the game and did not return. Hopefully he is healthy for the title game next weekend.

Spaulding returns a lot of kids next year, look for them to back in the playoffs once again.

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