Friday night in North Sutton the Kearsarge Cougars and Hanover Marauders rekindled an old I-89 rivalry. These two programs have had some classic match ups over the years but because of the new alignments it's been several years since they have played each other. They were scheduled to play last season but the game got cancelled. Last night's game didn't disappoint as the rivalry picked up right where it left off with a hard fought back and forth thriller that the outcome wasn't decided until the last 2 minutes of the game.
Keasarge energized the hometown crowd by coming out of the locker room in brand new black/blue uniforms changing from their traditional blue/gold. The home town team team was trying to send a message that this game had special meaning. Hanover's two best players over the last couple years have been the Cavallaro brothers Jack and Shawn. Jack is one of the best players in the state of New Hampshire currently ranked #5 by the NH Notebook and Shawn is a current freshman at UNH. Both brothers grew up in the Kearsarge youth football program leading several of their teams to undefeated seasons. Sam Cavallaro their father also ran the Kearsarge youth program during all those years but had the opportunity to take a new job at Dartmouth and moved the family 30 miles north to Hanover. This was a reunion game for Jack playing against many of the kids he grew up with! Sam is also on the Hanover coaching staff.
Kearsarge received the opening kick off but after 3 plays was forced to punt. Kearsarge got their first big break when Hanover fumbled the punt and the Cougars took over at Hanover's 42. After 2 first downs the Marauder defense stiffed and stopped the Cougars at the 22. It didn't take Hanover long and on a 3rd and 5 senior running back #27 Jeff Gorham took a double dive hand off from quarterback Dom Linehan and went 73 yards for a touchdown giving the Marauders a 7-0 lead. Gorham had 139 yards rushing on the night with most of it coming in the 1st half.
Kearsarge goes 3 and out on their next possession and Hanover after a short punt receives the the ball in great field position at the Cougar's 44. It took only 10 plays for another senior back #34 Joey Porter to take it in from the 1 and put Hanover up 14-0. Kearsarge was hoping that those black jerseys would fire the team up to a good start but it was all Hanover until mid way through the 2nd quarter.
Kearsarge on their 4th possession finally got things going with their thunder and lightning backfield duo of junior 6' 2" 230 lbs. #34 Riley Antle and sophomore #32 165 lbs. Justin Norris. Antle has a Czonka running style with surprising speed and Norris is the prototypical skat back. Antle after several long runs finishes a long drive with a 2 yard touchdown to bring the score to 14-7 at the half.
For most of the 1st half Hanover had the upper hand but that last scoring drive by the Cougars seemed to wake them up.The Keasarge head coach Zach Matthews went in at halftime and made some adjustments "we moved one of are linebackers up and made some adjustments along the defensive line." The adjustments seemed to work because Hanover was held to under 50 yards in rushing offense in the 2nd half.
On Hanover's 1st possession of the 2nd half Cougar defensive tackle junior #55 6' 3" 240 lbs. Austin Hogancamp picked off a deflected Linehan pass giving the Cougars great field position at the 33. Hogancamp is a complete beast only a junior a player with a bright future that needs to be watched. Senior running back #27 Elliot Lukaties takes it in from the 10 tying the score 14-14.
Hanover's Porter took the ensuing kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown putting Hanover in the lead 20-14 after a missed extra point. Kearsarge had there 2nd long drive of the night starting from their 12 going 13 plays and scoring on a clutch 4th down and 15 pass from quarterback #18 Ryan Stanley to tight end #36 Cam Webster. Stanley at only 5" 7" completed several big passes on the night none bigger than the one to Webster. Unfortunately the Cougars missed their extra point leaving the score at 20-20.
With 3:50 left in the game and the score tied 20-20 the Cougars made the defensive play of the night. The ball on Hanover's 44 4th and 1 coach Matthews calls a time out and goes out and talks to the defense. He calls a blitz and senior linebacker #30 Bryson Barthol comes up big with a tackle in Hanover's backfield giving the ball back to the Cougars with 3:47 to play.
Stanley hits Norris with a big pass out of the backfield bringing the ball down to the 15. From their it was #34 Antle pounding away at the Hanover defense taking it in from 4 yards out to seal the victory for the Cougars 27-20. Antle and Norris are force to be reckon with in division 2. Antle finishes the night with 139 yards on 25 carries and 2 touchdowns and Norris had 112 yards on 18 carries, 2 receptions for 50 yards. Both of these young men still have a lot of football left in their future.
This was a big win for Kearsarge, they are a young team that is only going to get better. If the playoffs are in their future this was a must win because their schedule only gets tougher with Merrimack Valley coming to town next week for homecoming. It's still early but Hanover will be faced with a must win to keep their play off hopes alive next week against Laconia.