Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tarrier’s Take…Blue Hawks Ride the Grant Express Into Title Game

By Pete Tarrier

It’s pretty unusual for a 165 pound kid to be utilized as a “workhorse”. But that’s exactly what Exeter did with junior running back Tyler Grant in their 17-7 win over Nashua South in the Division 1 semi-finals on Saturday afternoon at Eustis Field at Bill Ball Stadium.

Grant (pictured above) carried the ball a whopping 36 times for 226 yards and 2 TD’s as the second seeded Blue Hawks improved to 10-1 on the season, setting up a Championship Game battle against the #1 seeded Pinkerton Astros next Saturday in Derry.

The opening drive of the game stalled on the Nashua South 2 yard line so the Blue Hawks had to settle for a 19 yard Logan Laurent field goal for a 3-0 early lead. South couldn’t do anything with the football in the 1st or 2nd quarters, and they went into the locker room with just 20 yards total offense. Grant, on the other hand, ran 15 times for 87 yards and a score in the opening half as the Blue Hawks built a 10-0 lead at the break.

Exeter usually employs a balanced ground attack with several different ball carriers to try to keep opposing defenses guessing. But coach Bill Ball quickly realized that the Panthers couldn’t stop Grant, so he figured they should probably just keep giving it to #45. “He’s not a big kid, but he’s just so tough and he runs so hard…we just decided we should stick with what was working”, Ball said.

It looked like South might be able to seize the momentum when after a nice 3rd quarter opening kickoff return to near midfield, Exeter’s Colby Swane fumbled, and the ball was recovered by the Panthers. But South sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight fumbled it right back on the next play. Later in the quarter, South’s Ray Ramos blocked an Exeter punt. The Panthers recovered and moved the ball down to the Exeter 22, but on 1st down and 10 from there, Armond McRae was stuffed for a 6 yard loss which ultimately led to a missed 44 yard FG attempt by kicker Chris Dennis. Exeter used a 29 yard scoring run from Grant in the 4th quarter to build a 17 nothing lead. This was Grant’s most impressive run of the day as he bounced off of several tacklers at the line, spun to the left, turned the corner and beat the defense down the sideline for the TD.

Credit should also go to Exeter’s swarming defense led by senior lineman Tim Stackhouse who had a sack and a key 3rd down pass knockdown. Exeter has now held high scoring Nashua South to just 7 points in each of their 2 meetings this season. The explosive McRae was once again a non-factor, as the Panthers senior runner couldn’t get on track and wound up with under 50 rushing yards for the game. Knight was held in check as well, except for a late 4th quarter drive that gave the Panthers their only score of the game. By that time they were still down 17-7 following the 2 yard Knight touchdown run with just over 4 minutes to play. When Exeter got the ball back they never gave it up again as a final dose of Grant runs kept moving the chains until the clock ran out on South’s season.

After the game in coach Ball’s office, I asked what they needed to do differently in next week’s title match up against a Pinkerton team that beat them 42-16 on October 6th. “A lot!”, said Ball. “They handled us the last time. But I think we are a different football team now. I think we left there that Thursday night with a little bit more resolve, probably with our egos bruised and battered a little bit. Then we turned around and had a pretty good week against Salem the next week (32-6 win) and we’ve had a pretty good run over the last 5 weeks.”

In my personal opinion, if anyone in NH is good enough to give the Astros a run for their money…and the fans of NH High School football an exciting Division 1 Championship Game, it’s probably the Exeter Blue Hawks.

Pete is a co-host of the ‘New Hampshire High School Football Show’, which airs Saturday mornings from 7-9 am on WGIR 610 AM, on the seacoast on 96.7 The The Wave and online at:

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