By: Ross Laorenza
It was a memorable night for Devin Leonard as he rushed for 232 yards and 5 touchdowns to help Nashua North defeat crosstown rival Nashua South 47-27. This was North’s first victory over South in four years. The Titans trailed for the majority of the first half but momentum swung in their favor late in the third quarter. Titans coach Dante Laurendi credited second half adjustments and all around great play in the victory.
The Panther’s offense struck first blood in his heated rivalry with a trick play. South ran a half back pass with Joshua Schoolcraft (#27) on the receiving end for the touchdown. The Titans were quick to counter, facing 3rd and 3 from their own 33, Jared Levesque (#22) connected with Stephen Lambert (#88) for a 67 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7 all.
Nashua South start the 2nd quarter strong with a deep pass from quarterback Sean Holland (#7) to Schoolcraft for a 36 yard touchdown. There was contact between Schoolcraft and the corner covering on the play, but no flag was thrown for offensive pass interference.
Alexander Amigo (#40) intercepted a Levesque pass on North’s ensuing drive and returned it to the 15 yard line. It only took one play as Myles Johnson (#24) rushed up the middle for a 15 yard score. South tried to reach into their bags of tricks once more by faking the extra point and trying for a 2-point conversion, but the pass in the flat was broken up. With back-to-back scores the Panthers lead 20-7. The Titans had a very promising drive nearing the end of the first half completing consecutive passes for 24, 28 and 15 yards to get down into the red zone. However the drive would end with another Alexander Amigo interception. This one in the end zone. After two quarters South: 20, North: 7.
All seemed bleak for the Titans but in stepped Devin Leonard and his amazing second half performance. After a South 3-and-out to start the second half North gained possession at their own 41. South was flagged for encroachment giving North a manageable 1st and 5 to go. Leonard gained 5 and then some gaining 18 to the weak side. He followed that with a 37 yard rushing touchdown to bring his team within 6 points, 20-14.
The teams traded a pair of failing drive before South gained possession with 7:23 to go in the 3rd quarter. Sean Holland connected with Collin Morrow for a 25 yard completion to put the Panthers in scoring range. Two plays later Owen Amigo (#34) slipped underneath the defense to a 10 yard rushing TD. South: 27, North, 14.
Nashua North needed an answer and a sustained drive to prove they could stay in the game. They got that drive on their next possession. A 10 play 52 yard drive culminating with a gutsy 4th and 6 pass from junior QB Jeff Baldassari to wide out Josh Rodriguez (#24) for an 11 yard score. 27-21 with the Titans on the comeback trail.
South’s next drive could not have gone worse. With momentum changing with each possession the Panthers had a chance to solidify their lead. Instead, Mason Dane (#9) picked off a Holland pass and ran it back to the 30 yard line. It was one of many great plays by the Titan defense.
Four plays later Devan Leonard ran off the right side of the lien for a 20 yard touchdown that could have put North ahead, however the extra point was blocked. So at the end of three quarters we’re all tied up North: 27, South: 27.
Devan and the Titan offensive line really took over the game in the fourth quarter. After he got his team in scoring range with a punt return to the Panther 32 yard line, Leonard scored again for 11 yards out to give the Titans their first lead of the game. The coaches in the press box could be heard stressing protection on the extra point. The line solidified and the kick sail through the uprights. 34-27 North leads.
The Panthers would attempt to get the tying score and nearly had it on their next possession. Terrell Lewis had two steps on the defensive back running a post pattern put the pass from Holland went right through his hands. Lewis looked visibly frustrated as picked himself up off the turf. South would go for it on 4th and 6 but Mason Dane made his second big play of the half finding the underneath receiver and stopping him cold. Unfortunately, the receiver Alexander Amigo was injured on the play. He would need to be helped off the field by the medical staff.
Once play resumed it was more Devin Leonard; 51 yards more to be exact. Leonard sprinted through a hole off the right side of the line untouched for the touchdown putting North ahead two scores with 6:42 remaining.
The Titan defense intercepted their 3rd pass of the game giving the ball back over to their offense who methodically picked their way up the field. They took another minute and a half off the clock before Leonard scored his 5th touchdown of the game to seal the victory for North.
Back-to-back sacks by Levi Gosselin (#18) and the Titan D kept the Panthers from scoring again in the closing minutes. Final score: Nashua North: 47, Nashua South 27. North outscored South 41-7 after trailing 20-6 at the end of the 1st half. Devin Leonard’s 232 yards and 5 TD’s was a truly impressive performance. He hardly came off the field also playing on defense and special teams in additional to his offensive explosion. It will interesting to see if he can continue this success the next game.
“I think this is a great win for us,” said Coach Dante Laurendi. “I’m really proud of the way we responded at half time…The biggest thing we got is that we really played together as a team. The kids supported each other, we rebounded, we played together as a complete team and I’m really proud of them for that.”
From the Battle of the Bridge, Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook