Saturday, September 1, 2012

Grant Leads Exeter Past Dover in Opener

Exeter senior RB/DB Tyler Grant showed why he is one of, if not the best player in the state on Friday night. He ran for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns on 13 carries, and was also a force on defense. Behind a strong rushing attack and defensive effort the Blue Hawks defeated Dover 42-7 on Friday night at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter.

"It was a lot more competitive than the final score indicates" echoed Bill Ball, who is in his 20th season as Exeter's head coach. "Dover had some momentum early. Then we were aided by a couple of penalties they made."

One of the early penalties that really hurt the Green Wave was a roughing the punter call with about 4:00 left in the 2nd quarter and Dover was only down 6-0 at the time. Exeter was punting the ball away deep inside their own territory. Ethan Joyce (who also plays QB and DB for Exeter) punted the ball away, and the Dover return man called for a fair catch at his own 45 yard line. But a flag came out, a roughing the punter was called and instead of Dover getting the ball on the 45 Exeter got the ball back. 2 plays later Grant took a misdirection hand off on a counter play, exploded into Dover's secondary where he broke 3 tackles and scampered into the end zone. It was a 51 yard TD run for Grant, and then Joyce ran in the 2 point conversion to make it 14-0 Blue Hawks. In less than a minute, the momentum of the game had completely shifted.

"That was a big call" said Coach Ball. "It was a tough break for them, especially since Tyler ran for the touchdown right after. That counter play has worked for us for a long time."

Grant ran for 2 more TD's in the 3rd quarter, one from 38 yards out and the other from 17 yards. Going for over 100 yards rushing is nothing new to Grant, who was one of the state's top backs last season as well when Exeter won the D-I state championship. He was named te NH Notebook D-I Player of the Year in 2011 and is the preseason favorite to win that award once again. His first few carries went for modest gains, but he definitely got better as the game went on.

"What we do is just keep pounding it and pounding it and wear the defense down" said Grant, who also plays baseball at Exeter. "We all started feeling more comfortable out there, then I got some blocks, broke some tackles and broke loose on a couple runs."

Grant was complimented in the back field nicely by fellow senior Galen Antolino, who ran for 74 yards and 1 touchdown on 11 carries. Antolino put Exeter on the board on their first possession with an 18 yard TD. The Blue Hawks got some very favorable field possession on that drive after Brian Henry intercepted a pass thrown by Dover QB Derek Stegmen. Henry returned the INT to the Green Wave 30 yard line. I would say starting at your opponent's 30 is pretty good field position!

Overall you have to be very impressed with the Blue Hawk defense. Grant and Henry played terrific, as did James Vogt, Jameson Whitely, Jacob Boria, Ryan Kelly and Ron Spaulding. These guys in particular were flying all over the field, making some hard hits and had a number of tackles for loss of yards and sacks.

It wasn't until 9:49 left in the 4th quarter before Dover finally got on the scoreboard, on a 3 yard TD run by Colin Shaughnessy. Kyle Seawards and Shaughnessy are the primary ball carriers for the Green Wave. They are both tough runners, but combined for just 45 rushing yards on the game.

After the Shaughnessy TD run Dover was down 28-7 with 9:49 left to play in the game. They attempted an onside kick but were unsuccessful in getting the ball back. Both teams then pulled their starters and put their backups in for the remainder of the game.

It was only a 3 possession game with almost 10 minutes left, so normally I believe Dover would have kept their starters in and tried to make a comeback. However since this was a non-league game that doesn't count in the standings neither coach wanted to risk having a starter get injured.

Other than a couple of big runs by Grant and Antolino, Dover's defense did pretty good. Casey Bado had an interception for them, and Seawards, Eric Waddington, Isaiah Bickman and Brendan Madsen also made some solid defensive stops out there.

Also, Stegmen played well in his first ever varsity start at QB. He hit 6 different receivers with passes, and considering he was going up against a defense that is possibly the best in the state and it was his first varsity start he did very well. He will get better as the season goes on, as will Dover's team overall.

It should also be noted that speedy tailback Colby Swane and all-state kicker Logan Laurent were both out of the lineup for this game. Sophomore Matt Oppici did the kicking for the Blue Hawks.

"Coach's decision" said Coach Ball.

Photo credit: Exeter Blue Hawks Photos

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