Sunday, September 30, 2012

Portsmouth Crushes Goffstown

Going into the season the talk of Division III was that it was a 3 team race (Souhegan, Portsmouth, Goffstown). Well, now it is a 2 team race. Goffstown jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead. But from that point on it was complete domination by Portsmouth. QB Tyler McFarland, WR/DB Donovan Phanor, OL/DL Rick Holt, WR/DT/P Colin MacDonald, RB/DB Dillon Crosby and WR/DB Jack Young all had big games for the Clippers. And defending D-III champs Portsmouth defeated Goffstown 56-22 on Saturday afternoon in Division III action.

"After that first touchdown they scored we really dug in on defense" said Holt, who is one of the top linemen in the state. "Then on 3rd down I batted down their pass which got me going. That forced them to punt which was big and then from there we were able to stop their quarterback which was a key for us coming in."

The quarterback for Goffstown is Connor Benjamin, considered by many to be one of the top players in the entire state. He has been putting up some staggering numbers so far this season, including some games where had had 500+ yards of total offense and other games where he accounted for 6 touchdowns. But Portsmouth had a good game plan coming in, and they executed it. And as a result it was a tough day for Benjamin, who completed just 6/18 passes, was sacked 3 times and threw 3 interceptions. On the bright side he did have 121 total yards (between rushing and receiving) to go with 2 rushing TD's and 1 passing TD.

"I was proud of the way Connor hung in there and kept battling" said Goffstown head Justin Huft, whose team is now 2-3 on the season (2-1 in D-III). "We had a lot of dropped passes. Also the protection wasn't good, they were much bigger up front which hurt us. We just don't have a lot of size. We're smaller than everyone we're going to play against."

Goffstown got a 76 yard kickoff return from Ashton Florence on the opening kickoff of the game, which allowed the Grizzlies to start their first drive at the Clipper's 14 yard line. A couple plays later Benjamin ran in a 1 yard TD and with 10:01 left in the 1st quarter it was already 7-0 Goffstown. Then Portsmouth got the ball for the first time but fumbled it. The fumble was recovered by Gregory Brunette, and this time Goffstown would start their drive on the Portsmouth 27. It was starting to look like it would be a long day for Portsmouth.

But my how things would change! On 3rd and 3 for Goffstown on the Portsmouth 5 yard line Benjamin dropped back to pass. That's when Holt batted the pass down to force the field goal attempt. That play got the Clippers going, and after Matt Garrison kicked the 21 yard field goal to put the Grizzlies up 10-0 it was all Portsmouth from there.

From that point the Clippers rattled off 35 straight points and went into halftime up 35-10. The story offensively for Portsmouth was the strong play of junior QB Nathan McFarland, who was making just his second varsity start. McFarland threw for 157 yards and 4 TD's, while also rushing for 79 yards and 1 TD. He picked up a number of timely first downs, both with his arm and with his legs. He also made some terrific throws on deep balls. His 3 TD passes all went to senior Colin MacDonald - from 31, 25 and 18 yards out. He showed good arms strength and put put excellent touch on the ball on all 3 throws. His rushing TD was from 17 yards out, and on that play he got some good blocks which opened up the middle of the field, and from there he made a nice cut back to the middle and ran it in.

"Our defense just isn't very good" lamented Coach Huft. "We didn't tackle well. They played well though, they executed well and they have size up front to go with speed on the outside."

Late in the 2nd quarter McFarland got hit hard while throwing a pass down field. He had to leave the game, and was replaced by Donovan Phanor, who started at QB for the Clippers in their first 3 games. Clipper fans had to be holding their breathe at that point, because they already had one injured QB in senior Travis MacDonald. MacDonald was the preseason favorite to start at QB but an injury has kept him out the whole season so far. So the last thing they needed was another injured signal caller, especially when McFarland was having such a good game. But luckily, he returned to the game a few plays later and then went on to throw 4 more TD passes.

"Nathan did a really nice job for us today" said Portsmouth head coach Bill Murphy. "Travis should be back in a couple weeks, and then we'll have a nice competition."

Phanor had 54 total yards and a touchdown on offense, to go with an interception on defense. Colin MacDonald had 3 catches for 74 yards and a TD, and he also played some tough defense. Dillon Crosby had 94 yards rushing and a TD on just 6 carries. Jack Young had a 59 yard TD catch, plus a number of big tackles and a fumble recovery on defense and a 35 yard kickoff return on special teams.

Mikel Toar had a rushing TD on offense and an interception on defense. Also playing well for Portsmouth was Kurtis Leonard, Jake Becker and Justis Mattis-Clark.

Portsmouth was not only playing without Travis MacDonald, but also running back Peter Hamblett and WR/DB Jack Mackey, who are both out for the year. Mackey was on crutches with a torn MCL.

Portsmouth lost to Souhegan week 2 by a score of 18-13. I would be SHOCKED if those 2 teams do no meet in the D-III title game in November. If they do it would be the fourth time in the last 5 years that the D-III final is Portsmouth and Souhegan. Souhegan has won the first 3 meetings. But last season Portsmouth beat Souhegan in the regular season and then went on to win the championship while the Sabers missed the playoffs. This season Souhegan defeated the Clippers 18-13 in week 2. But if PHS keeps playing like this don't be surprised if they win the rematch in November.

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