Few teams in the state are playing better football than Souhegan right now. The Sabers have now won 5 games in a row, including a convincing 36-14 win Friday night on the road against a Bedford team that had won 6 straight games coming into tonight. Souhegan had already been eliminated from playoff contention, while Bedford had a chance to secure the #1 seed in the Division III playoffs with a win. But on this night it was pretty obvious who the better team was, and it wasn't the team fighting for the #1 seed.
"We wanted to make a statement with this game tonight" said Souhegan head coach Mike Beliveau. "I wanted to not only win, but win by a significant margin. I want the 4 teams who did make the playoffs to be happy we're not in it."
Considering Bedford had won 6 in a row, including wins over Portsmouth and Hollis-Brookline, they had to be considered the D-III favorites going into tonight. So the fact that Souhegan went on the road and not only beat Bedford, but they beat them by 3 touchdowns speaks volumes to just how well the Sabers are playing right now. There's no question Goffstown, Hollis, Portsmouth and Bedford are glad they won't have to face in the playoffs. Who would have thought, the best team in D-III wouldn't even make the playoffs?!
Souhegan jumped out to a quick 19-0 lead in the 1st quarter, as QB Robbie McCormick (187 passing yards and 2 TD's plus 43 yards rushing) threw 2 TD passes in the game;s first 5 minutes. They didn't look back, as 13 points was as close as Bedford would get to them the rest of the game. After a 32 yard touchdown run by Jason Doheny the Sabers had their largest lead of the game, 30-7 in the 3rd quarter.
Souhegan outplayed Bedford in all phases of the game. As tough as it is for Souhegan that they're out of the playoffs they have to feel pretty good about how well they are playing to end the season. No matter who ends of winning this year's D-III title folks across the state will be asking each other whether that team would have still won the title if Souhegan was in the playoffs. Unfortunately we'll just never know.
McCormick had a big game at QB, Chris Chininis caught 7 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, and he also rushed the ball 2 times for 38 yards and another TD. Tim Beliveau (son of Coach Beliveau) caught 7 passes for 57 yards. Doheny had 42 yards on 5 carries and a TD, Brandon O'Connell also scored a rushing TD. Tyler Ford caught 3 passes for 27 yards and a score. Ford also did an outstanding job punting the football (he's as good a punter as I've seen all year). Others who played well for the Sabers are Jake Kennedy (tough, physical lineman), Denny Desserault (35 rushing yards), Terry Dugdale (excellent job defensively in the secondary). Barry Ewing and Alex Price were both standouts defensively.
There's no question it wasn't Bedford's best game. They played hard, but defensively they couldn't match up with Souhegan's speed and toughness. And on offense they held Bedford running back Jordan Garron to just 60 yards (30 of those yards came on one play. And Souhegan was also able to contain the Bedford passing game, something else that is easier said than done. Bulldogs QB James Caparell was routinely overthrowing his receivers. He ended up with 144 yards passing on the game, but he was just 17/42 on completions and he also held on to the ball too long, and ended up taking sacks or trying to run the ball when there was no room there. There's no question that Caparell has an absolute cannon for an arm (I haven't seen another QB this year in NH with an arm as strong as his), but his accuracy was certainly off tonight. With weapons like Mike Gardiner, Matt Dillon, Dylan York and Brian Collins it is easy to see why Bedford's passing game has been successful this year.
However, Bedford did play the majority of this game without one of their best players. Junior David Cannone, who starts at both full back and linebacker, came out of the game late in the 1st quarter and did not return.
"We're not sure what it was that knocked David out" said Bedford head coach Kurt Hines, who coached as an assistant at Souhegan under Coach Beliveau before taking the Bedford job. "It looked like it might be a concussion though."
One bright spot for for Bedford was the play of senior linebacker Matt Poremba. Poremba was all over the field, and he had one series of plays in the 1st half where he flat out took the game over. On 1st down he rushed the passer from the edge, getting to the QB in a hurry, forcing McCormick to throw the ball much sooner than he wanted to, and the pass fell incomplete. On 2nd down Poremba made a nice tackle after Souhegan was only able to gain 1 yard on a screen pass. Then on the 3rd and long he again rushed the passer, this time bringing McCormick down for the sack and a 7 yard loss. That forced Souhegan to punt, as the Bedford fans let out a loud cheer for Poremba's great effort.
The winner of Saturday afternoon's Hollis-Brookline vs. Goffstown game will be the #1 seed in the D-III playoffs.