Sometimes when an athlete is returning from a serious injury that caused him to miss either all or most of the previous season, he will hold back and play tentatively, afraid to get re-injured. Other times however the player will be so pumped to get back on the field they will go out there and play amazing. What happened in Friday nights Londonderry vs. BG game was definitely the latter.
QB/DB Eric Fairweather connected with RB/DB Michael Ryan on a 42 yard touchdown pass. Fairweather rushed for 111 yards and 2 TDs, including an 80 yard TD run. Plus Fairweather and Ryan intercepted 2 passes apiece on defense, leading the Lancers to a 28-6 win over Bishop Guertin in the season opener.
Ryan missed the entire 2013 season with a knee injury, and QB/DB Eric Fairweather missed the majority of last season with a hand injury as well as a knee injury. Londonderry still made the playoffs despite those injuries. Now they are both back and healthy for their senior season. The Lancers also have a new head coach in Jimmy Lauzon who has brought a new sense of optimism and energy to the program.
"We wanted the team to believe, and now they do" said Coach Lauzon, who was an assistant coach at Saint Anselm College last season. "People were coming up and hugging me after the game, because they realize we have something special here. More than anything I'm happy for the kids."
While Londonderry got big games from their 2 guys who were returning from injury, it was the opposite for BG as the Cardinals' top 2 running backs left Friday night's contest with injuries. Junior RB/DB Jackson Housman was carted off the field early in the 2nd quarter after getting tackled on a run, and senior RB Kelvin Rivera sat for the majority of the 2nd half.
"The injuries hurt us tonight - Kelvin has a broken hand, and Kelvin with the knee" said Bishop Guertin head coach Travis Cote. "We're not sure when they'll be back, we'll find out more tomorrow."
BG's offense struggled to get the ball in the end zone, going scoreless in the 2nd half with Housman and Rivera on the sidelines. It put more pressure on junior Jordan Hiscoe, in his first year as the starter at QB. Hiscoe started off strong throwing the ball, but then threw 4 interceptions.
"I got tackled and I felt the knee cave in" said Housman. "They don't think it's a tear."
BG actually gained more yards than Londonderry, but they had 4 interceptions and 2 possessions in the 2nd half where they got inside the LHS 25 yard line before turning it over on downs.
"They're a good team, Jimmy has done an excellent job over there" commented Coach Cote. "And we're not going to beat a good team like that with that many turnovers."
Both teams were plagued with turnovers and penalties throughout the game. That combined with how warm it was out, and it definitely had the feel of a week 1 game. So if BG had more yards and both teams were plagued with penalties and turnovers, what was the difference? Well, Londonderry simply made more big plays and suffered less injuries).
You had Fairweather's 42 yard TD pass to Ryan, Fairweather's 80 yard TD run and Fairweather and Ryan had 2 INT's apiece on 'D'. As big as those plays were, the turning point and biggest play of the game was a 92 yard kickoff return for touchdown by senior RB Dennis Bishop.
Just a couple minutes earlier, Bishop fumbled the ball on a run, giving BG possession on the LHS 20 yard line (fumble recovery by Chase Hughes). Rivera made a good run, and then Brandon Levesque ran in the TD from 7 yards out for BG. So after Londonderry had the early momentum, the momentum was now on the Cardinals' side, as they now trailed just 7-6.
On the ensuing kickoff Bishop gave the momentum back to the Lancers and they held it for the rest of the game. Bishop redeemed himself for his fumble just moments ago, as he got some good blocks and broke loose through the middle of the field before bouncing it to the left sideline, spring 92 yards for the score.
"That return was huge for us" said Coach Lauzon. "We work on special teams a lot in practice, probably more than any team in the state. I'm glad we got a return touchdown so that practice has paid off."
Londonderry's first big play came on defense. BG had advanced into LHS territory and were threatening to score, but then Fairweather picked off Hiscoe back on his own 35 yard line. Londonderry capitalized on the turnover. Matt Beals made a good tackle for BG. But then Fairweather made a 2 step drop and hit Ryan coming across the middle with a short dump off pass right in stride. Ryan took it to the house from there, 42 yards for the TD. Ryan is a hard hitter on defense, and a fast, tough, explosive play maker on offense.
"We're happy to have Mike back" said Lauzon. "I was ready to unleash him."
The PAT was good by senior kicker John Derhak and it was 7-0 Lancers with 1:19 left in the 1st quarter. Derhak was a perfect 4/4 on PATs, and all of his kickoffs went deep into BG's end.
BG got the ball back, and marched down the field, deep into Londonderry territory. Hiscoe scrambled to avoid a sack, completing a 21 yard pass to Matt Theriault. Housaman made a 1st down run, but on his next run he injured his knee and left the game. Then Hiscoe's pass to the end zone was intercepted by Ryan, who made a tremendous diving grab.
That's when Bishop fumbled, BG got the recovery and Levesque ran in the TD to get the Cardinals on the board but Bishop answered with the kickoff return for TD. BG had one last chance to score before halftime, but Hiscoe's pass was again intercepted by Ryan. It was 14-6 Lancers at halftime.
The turnovers continued in the 2nd half. BG had the ball, and after a pair of 1st down runs by Rivera, Hiscoe got hit as he looked to pass by Anvar Bieler. Bieler came from the blind side, Hiscoe couldn't see him coming. Hiscoe fumbled, and it was recovered by Sean Psaledas for Londonderry. The Lancers gave the ball right back though, as Bishop fumbled again, and it was recovered by BG's Kyle Cushion.
Bg was still very much in it, but now was playing without both Housman and Rivera. They marched down the field and had 1st and 10 on the LHS 14 yard line. but then Guertin got whistled for a delay of game and an offensive pass interference in the end zone and ended up turning it over on downs.
Londonderry ball, but again they gave it right back to BG. Fairweather's pass was tipped and then intercepted by BG senior DB Brendan MacVarish. So again, BG had good field position and was only down by 1 score. They had 4th down and 2 on the LHS 21 yard line, but Dwyer was gang tackled for no gain by a host of Lancer defenders, led by Wiedenfeld.
That's when Fairweather ran a misdirection play, faking the handoff to Bishop, keeping it himself and sprinting 80 yards for the touchdown. 21-6 Londonderry, 10:30 left in the 4th quarter.
"The hole was huge on that side, and then I made the cut back and hit it" commented Fairweather.
BG still had a chance late in the 4th, but Hiscoe's pass was intercepted by Fairweather on the BG 32 yard line. Moments later Fairweather scored from 2 yards out on a keeper to make it 28-6 Lancers with just 1:18 remaining in regulation and seal the win.
"I thought we ran the ball effectively" said Cote. "The kids never gave up, they just kept fighting."
Also stepping up for BG was Thomas Hart and David Hanna, while Joshua Brathwaite and Matthew Freda played well for Londonderry.