In one of the wildest games the folks who were in attendance will ever see, the Merrimack High football team scored 4 straight touchdowns to end the 2nd half to defeat Manchester Memorial 53-47 in Division 1 action on Friday night in Manchester.
Memorial (now 1-1 on the season) led by as many as 22 when it was 28-6 Crusaders late in the 2nd quarter. In the 2nd half they had leads of 21 (41-20) and 20 points (47-27). But then Merrimack (now 2-0 on the season) made an amazing comeback, making more plays late in the game when it mattered most to pull off the win. Did I mention there were 3 touchdowns scored in the last minute of the 2nd quarter?
Memorial QB Stephen Deane threw for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns on 7/11 passing. For Merrimack, Joe Giampetro (118 yards) and Jeff Genet (yards) both went over 100 yards rushing.
There was too many shifts in momentum to count, it was just one big play after another. You knew that with it being Friday the 13th tha something crazy would happen. This game had it all. Yes, it even had a little defense. In fact, the biggest factor in the Tomahawks comeback was being able to force 3 fumbles in the 2nd half.
The first one came with 2:04 left in the 3rd quarter, as Fernando Santiago recovered the fumble for Merrimack and ran it 40 yards for the TD. That made it a 1 possession game at 47-41. On Memorial very next drive they again fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Merrimack. A few plays later Giampetro ran in a 10 yard TD to tie it up 47-47.
So then what happened on Memorial's next possession? Another fumble, as they tried to punt it away but the snap went over the punter's head resulting in a fumble. Memorial recovered it, however Merrimack got the ball back with he turnover. The Tomahawks were given terrific field position at the Memorial 34 yard line, and after a big 4th down conversion was successful Genet scored what would turn out to be the game winning TD on a 24 yard run.
Merrimack's other big defensive play came on a 43 yard interception return for touchdown by Ryan Barry. Meanwhile the biggest defensive play for Memorial came on the very first drive of the game, when Merrimack drove all the way down the field from their 20 yard line into the red zone. Tomahawks QB Devin Gillis (93 yards passing and 40 yards rushing on the game) made a 14 yard run but then fumbled it on the 2 yard line and it was recovered by Isaac Velez for the Crusaders.
But make no mistake, this game was not about defense. It was a good old fashioned shootout. The big gains and TDs came fast and furiously, if you get my Tokyo drift (get it?). For example, on back to back drives in the 2nd quarter, Memorial had a 74 yard TD pass followed by a 75 yard TD pass. The first one was Deane connecting with Deon Ball coming across the middle of the field. Ball (2 catches for 104 yards and a score) went virtually untouched on his way to the end zone. That put Memorial up 21-6 with 6:33 left in the 2nd quarter. Merrimack then had a quick possession ending in a punt.
Memorial started their ensuing drive at their own 11 yard line. Deane hit Velez for a 14 yard completion. On the very next play it was again Deane to Velez, but this time Velez made the catch and ran all the way to the end zone. It was a short pass, but Velez really turned on the jets, showing tremendous speed and athleticism in the open field. Just like that it was 28-6 Memorial with 3:11 left in the 2nd quarter.
The Crusaders' possession before those 2 also ended with a long TD. Peter Abood scored on a 10 yard TD run. That was set up by a 63 yard pass play from Deane to Velez (3 catches for 152 yards and 1 TD). So to recap - in 3 consecutive drives, Deane completed passes of 63 yards, 74 yards and 75 yards.
As if that wasn't enough, Deane hit Abood for a 53 yard TD pass with 4.5 seconds left in the 1st half. He had 265 yards passing and 3 TDs - in the 2nd quarter alone!
Memorial led 34-20 at halftime. The big plays were just getting started. On the first possession of the 2nd half, Crusaders junior running back Daquan Henclewood (134 yards rushing a 1 TD on just 5 carries) exploded for a 60 yard TD run. That gave the Crusaders a 41-20 lead just 14 seconds into the 3rd quarter.
Merrimack answered right back, as Gillis found Andrew DeGregorio for a 46 yard TD pass. What happened next? Another touchdown of course! This time it was Deane to Harmel Nkangolo from 26 yards out to once again give Memorial a 3 score lead at 47-27 with 6:52 left in the 3rd quarter.
Unfortunately for Memorial they came down with a sudden case of fumble-itis and would go scoreless the rest of the way while Merrimack reeled off 4 touchdowns in a row for the win. Spencer Duhamel and Velez made a nice hit defensively for Memorial, but Merrimack marched down the field. The Tomahawks converted a big 4th and 1 play on the Memorial 2 yard line, then Jordan Miranda (70 rushing yards and 2 TDs) ran it in from the 1 yard line for the score.
After the game Merrimack celebrated on the field in jubilation. Yes, it is only a week 2 victory. But this is a Merrimack program that has struggled mightily for the past few years, so they deserve to enjoy it. There might not have been much defense played on either side, but there was some amazing plays on offense. And this was a game that the kids on both teams will remember for a long time.