It was a close, hard fought game throughout. There was so many shifts in momentum, an so little offense that you never really knew who had the upper hand. That's why it was fitting that these two teams needed overtime for a winner to be determined. That's when Connor Benjamin (Goffstown) raced to the right corner of the end zone from 7 yards out to score the winning touchdown, securing a 13-7 victory for the West squad.
"It was a toss to the right, coach made a great call" said Benjamin, who won a game for Goffstown last fall over Souhegan on a similar play. "All I was thinking about was the Souhegan game. I just ran my hardest and tried to get to the corner pylon."
Benjamin played QB in high school, played B in this game, finishing with a team-leading 57 yards rushing on 14 carries to go with 2 catches for 16 yards. Taking home MVP honors however, was lineman Rick Holt (Portsmouth High) from team East. In defeat, Holt had a team-high 8.5 tackles (6 were solo), plus 1 sack for -17 yards, and he also blocked a FG which sent the game to overtime. Holt, who will be playing his college football on this same field at UNH, was an absolute beast. All game the coaches for team West could be heard yelling to their players to please block #71.
"I knew Coach MacDonnell was here watching, so I wanted to play my best for him" said Holt. "I have been doing the UNH conditioning program since March, so I feel like I'm in better shape than most of the guys in this game which helped."
It should come as no surprise that a lineman got the MVP award, considering this was a game that was dominated by defense. A 1 yard TD pass from QB James Caparell to Brian Collins (both from Bedford High, both to play football at URI) in the 1st quarter and a 1 yard TD run by Ryan Monette (St. Thomas, headed to St. Anselm College) for the East team in the 4th quarter accounted for the game's only scoring in regulation.
In addition to Holt, the East squad got strong defensive play from Exeter's Jameson Whiteley (7 tackles, and an interception) and Chris Ford from Pembroke (6 tackles). Team West meanwhile was led defensively by CJ Gosselin from Stevens High (7.5 tackles), David Cannone from Bedford (9.5 tackles), Romeo Masuku of Trinity (2 sacks which totaled a loss of 18 yards) and Deric Wagner from Nashua North (game-high 10 tackles plus a fumble recovery). Zach Ziemba from Manchester West meanwhile had 3 tackles (1 for a loss) and also prevented a touchdown with some excellent coverage on a pass attempt to Tyler Grant of Exeter.
Gosselin had the biggest cheering section of any player there, and he also showed that although he plays for a Division V high school team he can play with the best players in the state.
"20 of the people who came out to support me were family members alone" said Gosselin, who played linebacker at Stevens but moved over to defensive end for this game. "We're one big family in Claremont, so if one person makes it then everyone comes out. I owe my performance to our scout offense and coaches who did a great job of preparing us. I felt like I had to show that I belonged out here."
Both of Masuku's sacks came on back-to-back plays in the 4th quarter with the game tied up 7-7. The second was a big one, as it went for a loss of 12 yards.
"Coach told me and CJ all week long, to prepare for the QB Waggle" explained Masuku, who helped Trinity win state titles in both football and basketball. "I just tried to use my quickness to my advantage and it helped get our team the win."
Team East got the ball first in overtime, and got all the way to the 1 yard line after a tough run by Monette (who had a game-high 165 all-purpose yards. But then Jamie Vogt of Exeter fumbled it on the 1, and it was recovered Tyler Ford of Souhegan. In addition to that big recovery, Ford also made some nice tackles from his DB position and had some booming punts on special teams (including one that went for 75 yards.
That gave Team West the ball, and all the had to do was score and they had the win. A couple plays later Benjamin ran it in from 7 yards out, he was mauled by his teammates who celebrated the victory.
Others who played well included Dylan Drew of Lebanon at linebacker for Team West, and Christian Dyer of Winnacunnet who combined with Holt up front to open up holes for the running game on the TD drive for Team East.