Saturday, September 29, 2012

Keene Over Spaulding in the Mud

On a rainy, muddy Friday night in Rochester, both Keene and Spaulding were slowed down by the weather conditions. Based on how the two teams have played so far this season, most would probably call the Blackbirds heavy favorites going into this one. But not only did the weather slow both teams down but it was also the equalizer.

The result was a 6-0 victory for Keene, who improves to 4-1 (2-1 in D-II) on the season. The lone score of the game came on the last play from scrimmage in the 1st half, when Keene QB Lucas Luopa threw a 22 yard touchdown pass to Matt Delvecchio. Delvecchio was wide open on the play, and Spaulding missed a couple of tackles before he found the end zone. Luopa was 6/11 passing for 94 yards and a TD in the 1st half, but sat out the 2nd half. Delvecchio took his place at QB in the 2nd half. He threw just 1 pass.

"He didn't play the 2nd half" said Keene head coach John Luopa, who is also Lucas Luopa's father. "That's all I'll say on that one, I'll pull a Bill Belichek. Look, he's one of the most dynamic players in the state, do you think I'd be sitting him if he was healthy? It wasn't a disciplinary thing."

Spaulding definitely had their chances to come up with a score, but they just could not get much of anything going offensively in this game. Part of it was the field conditions slowing them down and part of it was Keene's tough defense.

The Blackbirds have a strong all around defense, from the line to the linebackers to the DB's. Alex Parenteau, Hunter Wilkinson, Alex Austin, Nathan Rickson, Jimmy Heaney, Delvecchio and Tom Galanes all played well defensively for Keene.

"It took us a little time to adjust to the conditions" said Coach Luopa. "At midfield you were literally standing in water. But then our defense came out and played awesome for us."

Trevon Scott was really the only offensive weapon Spaulding had in this game. He had 87 rushing yards on 18 carries and 1 catch for 15 yards (102 total yards). But Spaulding wasn't able to turn those yards into points. They also didn't have anyone else step up and make plays on offense. Keep in mind though, this is a team that continues to play without one of their captains, Tyrone Scott.

The Red Raider's best chance to score actually came on the game's first possession. Keene fumbled the opening kickoff, and Spaulding recovered it on the Keene 30 yard line. They were then able to advance the ball to the Keene 10 before turning it over on downs.

"We had some mental mistakes that hurt us" said Spaulding head coach Claude Gagnon. "That's why we didn't score. Also, the conditions prevented us from getting to the edge with the run."

Spaulding's other good chance at scoring also came in the 1st half. The Red Raiders were getting some momentum going with Trevon Scott running the ball. They got down to the Keene 20 before the drive stalled and they brought in kicker Brian Chick to attempt a 37 yard field goal. The kick was blocked at the line by the Blackbirds though, and it was another missed scoring opportunity for Spaulding.

In the 2nd half neither team was able to get much of anything going offensively. The field conditions just kept getting worse and worse, so play really slowed down a lot. Also Keene's offense struggled without Luopa in there. Both defenses dominated as well. Kevin Medara, Tanner Daniels and Anthony Diprzio all played well defensively for the Red Raiders.

Keene had a good chance to make it a 2 score game in the 4th quarter, which would have really put the game out of reach. Tim Lane made a 60 yard run, getting all the way down to the Spaulding 24. The Red Raiders were also called for a late hit on the play, so the ball was moved half the distance to the goal to the Spaulding 12. Keene got all the way to the 6 yard line, but it was 4th and 3 so they attempted a 23 yard FG. The kick was no good though, so it was still 6-0 Keene.

Spaulding then got the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game. They were down 6-0 and there was 3:00 left. But Delvecchio and Wilkinson made a couple of big tackles, then Spaulding QB Sam Oullette threw a long pass down field and it was intercepted by Galanes on the Spaulding 45 yard line. Galanes returned the pick to the SHS 34.

"It just wasn't a throwing night" lamented Coach Gagnon.

Keene then fumbled the ball on the ensuing possession. It was their fourth fumble of the game, and all 4 of them were recovered by the Red Raiders. The Blackbirds fumbled 4 times and sat their star QB the whole 2nd half, but still won somehow. That is how much Spaulding struggled on offense right there (along with the poor field conditions of course).

So Spaulding got the ball back after the fumble with only :11 left in the game. Oullette dropped back to pass, but he was sacked by Heaney. The time ran out, and the game was over. Spaulding is now just 1-4 on the season.

Keene is a very good team. They have a tough, hard-hitting defense and some explosive weapons on offense. Everyone talks about Luopa (and he is REALLY good), but Parenteau, Delvecchio, Galanes and Lane are all dangerous play makers as well. I would like to see what these guys can do with good field conditions. They had a 1 point loss to Bedford, but that game could have definitely gone either way. Look for this team to make some noise in D-II before it is said and done.

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