An early season Division 3 match up had the Hilltoppers of Somersworth make the long across state trip to Claremont to take on the Cardinals of Stevens. This match up is between 2 teams that have been play off rivals in the old division 5.With the state realigning from 6 divisions to 3 these 2 teams should be preseason favorites to make the playoffs under the new play off format.
For the first game of the season it doesn't get much better than a 2 overtime thriller that had the home fans of Claremont go home happy and well entertained with a 31 to 25 victory. An exciting ending of the game that started ugly with 2 teams playing like it was the first scrimmage of the season. Fumbles, penalties, and poor execution by both teams dominated the 1st quarter.
Stevens fumbled the ball on it's second play from scrimmage giving the Hilltoppers a great early opportunity recovering at the 12. Somersworth couldn't take advantage of the great field position and went 4 and out. The Hilltoppers struggled the whole 1st quarter. Having 3 possessions, the first ending on downs and the next 2 ending on fumbles.
Stevens on it's 3rd possession finally shook the early game nerves and went on a 11 play drive ending with a nice 4 yard touchdown catch by #17 senior wide receiver Austin Tenney. Stevens takes a 7-0 lead to end the first quarter. The second quarter saw both teams settle down into the flow of the game but neither team managed to but any points on the board. The first half ended with Stevens up 7-0.
Somersworth played an ugly 1st half but it didn't take them long to make things happen to start the 2nd half. Senior quarterback #9 Mike Paquette on the 3rd play from scrimmage hit a wide open #7 senior Collin Backenmeyer on a 61 yard touchdown pass 7-6. The Hilltoppers missed the all important extra point. Paquette who threw only 2 passes in the first half showed that he is a weapon throwing the ball and that future teams will have to prepare for.
There is no doubt who the man is for the 2013 edition of Stevens Cardinal football team. Senior captain running back #8 Donald Pellerin is a horse. Pellerin takes the ensuing kick off 84 yards for a touchdown and puts Stevens up 13-6. Everything that Stevens does on offense goes through Pellerin. The senior running back had 40 carries for 197 yards 3 TD's running the ball and 1 on the kick return. As good as Pellerin is if the Cardinals want to make a long play off run they will need to develop more weapons. They can't expect the young man to carry that kind of work load every week.
Somersworth a good balanced running attack with #4 Elyjah Dejoie and #22 Nick Honaker, Dejoie scored from 2 yards out to close the score to 13-12. Another missed extra point keeps Stevens in the lead.
Pellerin breaks a nice run scoring from 30 yards out making the score 19-12. Stevens goes for 2 to put the game out of reach, unfortunately an Incomplete pass leaves the door open.
With 6:32 remaining in the game the Hilltoppers start on their 28. Paquette does it again and hits Backenmeyer in stride with a beautiful 47 yard touch down pass. Paquette totals 3 for 8 passing 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. Backenmeyer had 2 catches 108 yards and 2 TD's.
With score 19-18 Somerswoth's coach Dan Hodgdon goes for the tie and not the win. Extra point is good 19-19 and we are off to overtime. Interesting decision not going for the win on the road!
The Hilltoppers win the OT toss and choose offense another interesting decision? The rule of thumb if you win the toss is to start on defense. Both teams score and miss the extra point, 25-25. The 2nd OT has the Hilltoppers starting on offense. This time they could not score so the ball goes back to Stevens. Three carries by Pellerin gives the hometown Cardinals a thrilling double overtime victory 31-25.
For the first game of the season and once both teams settled down in the 2nd half this was an excellent match between 2 teams that should be still playing past Halloween. Somersworth is young with only 6 seniors but they have a well balanced running and passing attack. Stevens has a very solid offensive line and with the running of Pellerin will dominate a lot of teams. If they want to go far in the play offs they will need to develop a few more weapons.