In a close, back-and-forth battle between 2 evenly matched teams, the Manchester Central Little Green made more big plays late in the game to defeat Goffstown 22-21 on Friday night at Gill Stadium. Senior running back Jesiah Wade (246 rushing yards and 2 TDs) dove into the end zone from the 2 yard line to score what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Central started that drive way back on their own 10 yard line. They were down 21-15 with only 2:30 left - their backs were against the wall. Then Wade broke through the Goffstown defense and was off to the races, sprinting 68 yards all the way to the Grizzlies' 7 yard line. He nearly went all the way for the score right then, but a Goffstown defender made a shoestring tackle to save the touchdown. Wade showed tremendous breakaway speed on that run. Goffstown's 'D' stepped up big over the next couple of plays, especially lineman Joseph Small who made a big hit. But then they were called for pass interference, giving Central the ball on the 2 yard line. Wade punched it in from there, sending the Little Green sideline, their fans and marching band into a frenzy. The extra point was good by Central kicker Keegan Laberge, giving the Little Green a 22-21 lead with only 1:39 remaining.
Goffstown got the ball back, with a chance to come back and win it. Grizzlies QB Casey Gervais led the offense back out onto the field, but they were unable to move the football. John Howard sacked Gervais, forcing Goffstown into a 4th and 17 from back on their own 18 yard line. Gervais threw a pass down field along the left sideline, but it was overthrown and fell incomplete. Turnover on downs, Central football. Sophomore QB Anthony Dimauro took a knee, and Central wins it 22-21 to improve to 2-2 on the season in Division I play.
The Grizzlies had the edge for most of the way. They were playing harder, more disciplined and overall more inspired football. They had a 15-8 edge late in the 3rd quarter. On 4th and 1 Gervais faked a handoff to running back Connor Bourque (over 130 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards), and kept it himself, running for 27 yards and the 1st down. Soon after the Grizzlies were in the red zone and were seriously threatening to take a 2 possession lead.
That is when the tide turned in Central's favor though, as senior WR/DB Tyler Kelley made a HUGE play. Kelley dove in front of Gervais' pass, intercepting it on the 10 yard line. That play re-energized the Little Green sideline, giving them hope. On the very next play, Dimauro threw a bomb down the field, connecting with speedy WR Nathan Guillermo for an 89 yard touchdown pass. PT good, game all tied up 15-15 with 1:33 left in the 3rd quarter.
Up until that point Central had been rotating quarterbacks, with both Dimauro and Jacob Stanko (both are only sophomores) getting snaps. However after that big TD pass, Coach Ray stuck with Dimauro for the rest of the game. Starting QB Richie Greely is currently sidelined with an arm injury.
After Central tied it up at 15-15, Goffstown answered right back to re-take the lead. Bourque broke free for a 40 yard run. Zach Lansing made a strong hit defensively for Central, but Goffstown was still in the red zone. The Grizzlies then ran that same play that was working very well for them where Gervais fakes the handoff to the RB and then keeps it himself and runs it up the middle. It worked this time as well, as Gervais ran in from 5 yards out for the TD. It was his 2nd rushing score of the game to go with 1 passing TD. On the night Gervais had over 12 passing yards and over 50 rushing yards. He has solid pocket presence and is a dual threat as a passer and rusher. The extra point was blocked, so Goffstown is up 21-15 with 10:39 left in the 4th quarter.
Central not only blocked that PAT attempt, but they also blocked a field goal shortly thereafter. Christian Marquis and Bourque had runs of 13 and 18 yards, respectively. That set up a 25 yard FG attempt by kicker Samuel Shearin. The kick was blocked though by Jorge Gomes and Joe Vrastenes for Central. Those 2 blocked kicks were key for Central. Without them, Goffstown likely wins this game.
However Central had a missed opportunity of their own. In the 1st quarter the Little Green got all the way to the Goffstown 4 yard line before turning it over. Wade ran for a 27 yard gain to set up 1st and goal on the 8. Goffstown's 'D' stepped up big for the rest of that drive though, especially Small and Ryan Pinard (both were beats on defense for the Grizzlies). It was 4th down and goal from there 4 when Pinard blocked Stanko's pass at the line of scrimmage. Turnover on downs.
Goffstown struck first on the ensuing possession, as Gervais faked the handoff to Bourque and ran it in from 4 yards out (there's that play again!). That TD was set up by a 47 yard screen pass from Gervais to Bourque. Goffstown went up 7-0 with 9:26 to play in the 2nd quarter.
Central answered right back on their next drive, as Wade went off for a 40 yard TD run. Central ran in the 2 point conversion to take an 8-7 lead with 8:15 left in the 1st half. On Goffstown's next drive Gervais had his pass tipped and intercepted by Gomes. Central gets the ball back, but was not able to move the ball. Ian Routhier got some good pressure on the QB, and made a sack. The Little Green were forced to punt, but it was blocked by Goffstown and recovered by Tim Comeau on the Central 38 yard line. This game had a little of everything!
The Grizzlies took advantage of the great field position, as Gervais hit Paul Teixeira with a 29 yard pass. Then Gervais again found Teixeira, this time for a 7 yard TD pass. Marquis ran in the 2 point conversion, and Goffstown goes back on top 15-8 with 4:08 to go in the 2nd quarter.
Goffstown falls to 1-3 on the season, a year after they went to the D-III championship game. To be fair though, they did move up to Division I this season, while all of the teams they competed against last year are now in D-II.