Saturday, October 5, 2013

With Big 2nd Half, Unbeaten South Tops Exeter

By: Jeremy Leveille
In the 1st half it was Matt Oppici 6 Nashua South 0, but in the 2nd half it was South 28 Exeter 0. The result was a 28-6 victory for the Nashua South Purple Panthers, who remain unbeaten on the season (5-0) and in the process hand the 2-time defending D-I champs Exeter (3-2) their second straight loss on Friday night at Stellos Stadium in Nashua. Going into this game some people doubted South, because even though they were 4-0 they had yet to beat a team with a winning record. Well, they definitely silenced any and all doubters with this win.

Oppici accounted for the only points in the 1st half with a pair of field goals - one from 36 yards out and the other from 24. This was a highly anticipated matchup between 2 of the top 5 ranked teams in the state, but the intensity and level of play was low in the 1st half on both sides.

That all changed in the 2nd half, as South QB Trevor Knight took over and the Purple Panthers' defense continued to dominate. Knight ran for 2 touchdowns and threw for another TD. South scored on their first 3 possessions of the 2nd half to build a commanding 21-6 lead. After a quiet 1st hal, Knight ended up with 189 yards rushing and 168 yards passing.

"Trevor had real bad back spasms in the 1st half and was misfiring on some passes" said Nashua South head coach Scott Knight (and Trevor's father). "Overall though we were out of sync in the 1st half, and has some brain cramps."

Knight (UNH recruit) ran for a 73 yard touchdown on the 2nd half's second play from scrimmage. He bounced it to the outside edge, made a juke move to fake out a defender and was off to the races, sprinting up the right sideline for the score. After the PAT by Ryan Guidaboni (who was 4/4 on PATs) it was 7-6 South.

Exeter punted it away on their next possession, and then Knight went back to work on offense. After a good hit by Blue Hawks DB Jay Inzenga, Knight connected with Andrew Decarteret on a 12 yard pass. Then he hit Josh Perry for a a 24 yard completion to the Exeter 18 yard line. A South penalty brought the ball back 5 yards, but then Knight through a 24 yard TD pass to Jesse Clauss. Knight made a great pump fake, the Exeter DB bit on it, leaving Clauss wide open in the end zone. South 14 Exeter 6, 7:20 left 3rd quarter.

After a great kickoff return by Joey Jones, the Blue Hawks were once again forced to punt. South was also forced to punt on their next possession, but Exeter was called for a roughing the kicker penalty which turned out to be VERY costly. It was a tough call - Exeter's coaches were irate, yelling that the kicker was already down. But the act is the kid did get hit. South not only gets the ball back, gets a 1st down, but now they spot it in Exeter territory on the 47 yard line. Knight continued to hit his receivers, this time it was Robbie Smyth with receptions of 20 and 24 yards. The second catch nearly went for a TD, but the officials said he was out at the 1 yard line. Knight sneaks it in from there for the score. South 21 Exeter 6, 4:11 left 3rd quarter. My how this game had changed so quickly!

Now Exeter really needs a score. But South's 'D' was up to the challenge, as Decarteret continued to play well on both sides of the football. He made a sack (Exeter rotated QBs with both Jones and Zach Pafford getting snaps) and the Blue Hawks again punted it.

Knight made a 16 yard run on South's next drive, but they too were forced to punt. Exeter's gets favorable field position at their own 45 yard line. They really needed a score here. A South false start gives Exeter a 1st down. Then comes 4th and 5 for Exeter on the South 28 yard line - a huge play here. Handoff to Ryan Kelly, who only gains 2 yards and is stopped short of the 1st down. Turnover down downs. It's tough to come back from down by 2 or 3 scores in the 2nd half when you don't have a passing game.

A missed opportunity for the Blue Hawks, and South takes advantage of it. Knight connects with Clauss for a 17 yard completion, then makes another great run, this one for 35 yards. Knight got hit on the run, made a spin move away from the defender to keep his balance, stayed on his feet and kept on running. He nearly went for the touchdown, but was marked down at the 1 yard line. Collin Morrow runs it in from the 1, and it's 28-6 South with 2:00 left in the 4th quarter.

Exeter fumbles on their next drive, it's recovered by the Purple Panthers. Knight takes a knee, game over.

So how about that South defense? In addition to Decarteret, you also had #70 Henyer Hidalgo, #64 Jesus Antonio, #66 Brayden Hollowell and #59 Kelmy Anziani who all played very well.

"Our defense kept us in it" said Coach Knight. "We stopped their run. They're big up front, but I thought with our size we matched up well with them up front. We have some guys on our defense who have only been playing football or a month and a half, or for only a year. We're mostly juniors back there, too. They've really come along."

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