Souhegan's Tyler Ford and Goffstown's Connor Benjamin are clearly 2 of the most valuables players in the state for their respective teams. They both showed why that is the case on Saturday night. In a back-and-forth shootout, Souhegan defeated Goffstown 32-27. It was senior night for Goffstown in a game that was played at the gorgeous Grappone Stadium on the campus of Saint Anselm College.
Ford was the MVP of the game. He threw for 208 yards and 1 touchdown, to go with 58 rushing yards and 2 more TDs (for a total of 266 yards and 3 TDs). He also intercepted 2 passes on defense in the 4th quarter. And oh by the way he also averaged over 50 yards on his punts, including one punt that went 68 yards.
Benjamin meanwhile rushed for 203 yards and 2 touchdown on 22 carries. He also passed for 48 yards and intercepted 1 pass on 'D'. So one QB had 200+ yards passing and the other had 200+ yards rushing - that doesn't happen everyday!
Souhegan took the lead for good on a 16 yard TD run by Ford on a QB keeper. That made it 32-27 Sabers with 1:00 left in the 3rd quarter. The Grizzlies had 4 more possessions after that but came up empty each time.
The playoff seedings in Division III are now set. These same 2 teams (Goffstown and Souhegan) will play each other once again next week in the D-III semi-finals, but this time it will be in Amherst. Souhegan went a perfect 8-0 in the division (9-1 overall) so they are the #1 seed, while Goffstown is the #4 seed at 5-3. The other semi-final will be #3 seed Portsmouth @ #2 seed Milford. Both teams went 6-2 in the division, but Milford won the regular season match up between the 2 teams so the Spartans get home field advanatage.
Souhegan is trying to win their fourth state title in the last 5 years under Coach Beliveau. They are the definite favorites to make it happen, as they have won 9 games in a row. With that being said, Goffstown gave them a very good battle on Saturday night.
The Sabers got on the board first in this game on Ford's first TD run, keeping it on the option and running it in from 15 yards out. Earlier on the drive Ford completed a 44 yard pass to Ryan D'Auteuil, while Ashton Florence and Mike O'Donnell both made strong plays on defense for Goffstown.
The Grizzlies would then score back-to-back touchdowns. Benjamin picked up 13 yards on the ground on a crucial 3rd and 9 play from the Souhegan 28. Then Peter Shea (95 yards rushing and 2 TDs) broke through the middle of the Saber's defense for a 13 yard score.
Then Benjamin intercepted a pass thrown by Ford, giving Goffstown the ball on the Souhegan 38. Shea then ran for 14 yards, and Benjamin followed that up with a 24 yard TD run. This had the makings of a real shootout, with the Grizzlies now leading 14-7 with 3:15 left in the 1st quarter.
Goffstown was then able to force a punt, as Florence, Brandon Bushee and Gregory Brunette all played tough defense. That is when Ford had his 68 yard punt. It was just 2 weeks ago when he had a 74 yard punt against Manchester Central. This kid could be a D-I punter in college.
Souhegan then got a stop, and then tied the game up at 14-14 on a 20 yard TD run by junior RB Andrew Prescott (91 yards and 2 TDs on 12 carries). Ford converted a crucial 4th down earlier on the drive by picking up a yard and a half on 4th and 1 from the Goffstown 36 yard line. Connor Wynn also made a nice hit earlier on the drive for the Grizzlies.
Goffstown then went back in the lead. Benjamin completed a 48 yard pass to Florence, who battled for some tough yards after the catch. Florence was tackled at the Souhegan 1 yard line, and then Shea ran in the TD from 1 yard out. Alex Hansis made a nice tackle earlier on the drive for the Sabers, who now trailed 21-14 with 3:35 left in the 2nd quarter.
Souhegan answered right back though. Ford completed a 27 yard pass to Denny Desserault, then a 41 yard pass to Brandon Len. Florence made another good hit, but then Prescott made another impressive run with an 11 yard TD. The extra point was blocked, so Goffstown was still up 21-20 with 1:10 left in the 1st half.
The offensive flurry continued, as Benjamin was then intercepted by Trey Darrow. The Sabers got the ball back on their own 43 yard line, and then Ford threw a 57 yard TD pass to Len. Len made a great catch and run on that play, and it was also a case of a couple missed tackles by Goffstown. That gave Souhegan a 26-21 lead going into halftime, as Hansis made a sack to end the half.
Len is having an all-state caliber season for Souhegan. Not bad for a basketball kid who is a senior playing on the football team for the first time since 8th grade! I wonder when the last time a kid made all-state after not playing the sport for 3 years in a row?!
It was a very entertaining 1st half of action. Lots of offense, not very much defense.
Goffstown went back on top just 53 seconds into the 3rd quarter. Benjamin made a 47 yard run, and then he ran in a 5 yard TD. The 2 point conversion was no good, but the Grizzlies now had a 27-26 lead. Unfortunately for Coach Huft and company those would be their last points of the game.
Souhegan buckled down on 'D' the rest of the game. Sabers' lineman and UNH recruit Jake Kennedy sacked Benjamin, Cameron Crook made some nice tackles, Ford picked off Benjamin twice in the 4th quarter and Florence had a costly fumble which was recovered by Souhegan.
Meanwhile Goffstown got another interception of their own from junior Ryan Pinard. But the Grizzlies were forced to punt it away.
Then Prescott made back-to-back 12 yard runs, followed by Ford's 16 yard TD run which would put Souhegan ahead for good.
Souhegan is the favorite going into the playoffs to the the D-III title. They went undefeated in the division. With that being said, each of their wins over the other 3 playoff teams (Goffstown, Portsmouth and Milford) were by single digits. The Sabers didn't blow out any of these teams, so they can be beat.
But you really do have to give Coach Beliveau and his team a lot of credit. Not only are they undefeated in the division, but they have done it without the following 3 guys in the lineup - Seth Learned, Andrew Crane and Trevor Knight. Learned started on both sides of the ball last year as a freshman for Souhegan but has missed the entire season with an ankle injury. Crane and Knight meanwhile are both Amherst residents but go to different schools besides Souhegan. Crane is one of the top OL/DL prospects in all of New England. He is currently a junior at Lawrence Academy. Knight is the QB for Nashua South, where he plays for head coach Scott Knight (Trevor's father). He is one of the top QB's in the entire state of NH. It is scary to think how good Souhegan would be if Knight and Crane were going there and if Learned was healthy!
That's why you have to give Beliveau a lot of credit. There is a reason why the current head coaches at Merrimack, Hollis-Brookline, Bedford and Goffstown are all former assistants of Beliveau at Souhegan. You have to give credit to Kennedy, Ford and the rest of the kids on that team.