Friday, October 19, 2012

Goffstown Comes Back to Beat Milford

In a game with major playoff implications in Division III, the Goffstown Grizzlies came back from being down 21-0 to defeat Milford 30-28 on a rainy, muddy Friday night in Milford.

This was definitely a wild game. There were 2 fumbles late, with Goffstown recovering both, which was a huge factor. The Grizzlies also had a 75 yard touchdown run called back at the end of the game, Milford completed a lot more passes than they normally do despite the bad weather. And oh by the way Goffstown scored the go-ahead TD on a blocked punt.

"People will be talking about this game for a long time" said Milford head coach Keith Jones. "The Mud Bowl vs. Goffstown."

Going in, most people would agree that these were 2 fairly evenly matched teams and that this game could go either way. And based on the way the game played out that was certainly the case.

Early on though it was all Milford. Led by 2 touchdown passes by QB Harrison Urda, the Spartans jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the 1st half.

"They took it to us early on" said Goffstown head coach Justin Huft. "They really came out the stronger team in the 1st half."

But as the 1st half went on the Grizzlies were able to crawl back in the game. They got a big kickoff return by junior Ashton Florence and went into halftime trailing just 21-16.

"We just had to take it one score at a time, you can't get all 21 points at once" said Coach Huft. "Ashton really picked us up with that kick return."

So Milford was up 21-16 at the half, and they got the ball to start the 3rd quarter with a chance to push their lead back to 2 scores. But they were force to punt, and that's when the play of the game happened. The Spartans were punting from way back in their own end, and Goffstown junior Ryan Pinard blocked the punt. Senior lineman Connor Wynn recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and just like that the Grizzlies had their first lead of the game. The extra point was no good, so it was 22-21 Goffstown with 9:53 left in the 3rd quarter.

"It was the first blocked punt we've had all year" said Huft. "But we've been working on it in practice so we went for it there."

That play really shifted to the momentum towards the Grizzlies. Milford then got the ball back, but Goffstown's Christian Marquis intercepted a pass on the Milford 30 yard line which was thrown by Urda. Marquis returned the INT to the Spartan's 18 yard line. After a couple of penalties pushed the Grizzlies back, Peter Shea ran for an 18 yard gain, then ran in a 7 yard touchdown to put Goffstown up 28-21 with 6:44 left in the 3rd quarter.

Goffstown then went for the 2 point conversion to try and give themselves a 2 score lead. It turned out to be the toughest 3 yards QB Connor Benjamin has ever gotten, as he ran to the right side and just barely got into the end zone. But he got in there and that made it 30-21 Grizzlies. That 2 point conversion turned out to be the difference in the game!

So after they were up by 3 TD's earlier, now Milford got the ball back trailing by 2 scores. The Spartans responded with a 13 play drive, going the length of the field for a touchdown. They played typical smash mouth Milford football on the drive, while also mixing in a couple of timely pass plays. The key play on the drive was a 22 yard pass play from Urda to Ian Michaud on 4th down and 18. It was a great catch by Michaud and kept the drive alive for Milford.

A couple plays later it was 1st and goal for the Spartans on the Goffstown 2 yard line. The hand off went to RB Connor Borne, who was immediately stuffed at the line by the Grizzlies 'D'. Urda saw this, and before Goffstown was able to wrap Borne up and tackle him down Urda actually grabbed the ball out of Borne's hands and ran it into the end zone from the 2 yard line. It was a risky move by Urda considering how wet the football was, but it was a move that certainly paid off!

"That was a great drive" said Coach Jones with a smile. "It was all good stuff."

Morgan Andrews (the best girls soccer player in the entire country) capped the drive by kicking the extra point to cut the Goffstown lead to 30-28 with 9:56 left in the 4th quarter.

Milford then came up with a big defensive stand on the next possession. Goffstown was able to get near midfield, and it was 4th down and 4. Benjamin tried to run for the 1st down but was stopped short of the marker, resulting in a turnover on downs.

That gave the Spartans the ball back with plenty of time on the clock, good field position and a chance to re-take the lead. And after another long pass from Urda to Michaud they were able to get inside the Grizzlies 30 yard line. If they could just get a little closer they would be in field goal range for Andrews to kick the game winner.

"I wanted to get to at least the 20 before we considered bring Morgan in to kick a field goal" said Jones. "We got to the 25, but that would be a 42 yard field goal which would be too long in the mud since she wouldn't be able to plant her foot."

Shea made a solid hit defensively, and on the next play Milford fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Goffstown junior Mitchell Cusson. That turned out to be a huge turnover for the Spartans, who would not get the ball back for the rest of the game.

"They mishandled the ball early and we capitalized" and then in the 2nd half we mishandled it and they capitalized. We had too many miscues."

The Grizzlies got the ball back with a 30-28 lead and 2:44 left in the 4th quarter. Milford was playing solid defense, led by Ben Smith. They weren't allowing Goffstown to get much yardage, but Goffstown was milking the clock down and the clock was not Milford's friend at this point.

But then Benjamin ran the ball and fumbled it. Here was Milford's chance. If they could recover it they still had time to get the winning score as there was 1:39 left to play. But just like the other 2 fumbles in the 2nd half this one was also recovered by the Grizzlies.

Goffstown nearly put the game on ice on the next play, as Benjamin broke loose on a carry and ran it 75 yards for the touchdown. But the play was called back due to an illegal block in the back on Goffstown. Still, the Grizzlies were able to run the clock down and hold on for the 30-28 win.

After winning 5 games in a row (including a win over D-I Nashua North) Milford has now lost 2 in a row. They have played the past couple of games without arguably their best player Joe Albina.

"Our injury situation is not good" lamented Jones. "They're dropping like flies."

There is still a lot of football left to be played, but it looks like this game will likely determine the #3 and #4 seeds in D-III. Earlier in the season Souhegan beat Portsmouth, Portsmouth crushed Goffstown and last week Souhegan beat Milford. So more than likely Souhegan is your #1 seed, Portsmouth will be #2, and the winner of this game (Goffstown) will be the #3 and the loser of this game (Milford) will be the #4. Things could change though, since you still have Portsmouth and Milford playing each other next week, and Goffstown plays Souhegan the week after that.

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