By: Jeremy Leveille
Entering this weekend there was 2 unbeaten teams left in D-I - Exeter and Goffstown. Exeter lost on Friday night (to Merrimack) - would Goffstown be next? Nope. The Grizzlies solidified their place as the #1 football team in NH, beating a very tough Bishop Guertin team 35-29 on Saturday afternoon in Goffstown.
The Grizzlies were going up against the high powered BG offense led by QB JT Hiscoe and RB Jackson Housman. The Cardinals have been putting 50 points on people with no sweat. Goffstown also has four defensive starters out with injuries (Cameron Bond, Damian Jackson, Christian Melanson and Sam Malone). So the fact that the Grizzlies were still able to pull out the win is even more impressive.
How'd they do it? Well, there were 2 big plays (1 in each half) in particular which went a long way in determining the outcome of this one - both plays went Gofftown's way. The first one came with BG having possession of the football, trailing 14-7 in the 2nd quarter. The drive started off well for the Cardinals, as Housman made a terrific kick return to give them good field position on the Goffstown 39 yard line. But then it happened - with Hiscoe lined up in the shotgun, the snap sailed high up over his head. Hiscoe turned around and sprinted backwards about 20 yards to recover the fumble. As Hiscoe leaned down to pick the football up it bounced away from him, and into the hands of Goffstown senior Pat Leahy (who was getting the start with all of the Grizzlies' injuries on defense). Leahy recovered the fumble and took it to the house, 48 yards for the touchdown. So instead of BG potentially tying the game up if they had scored there, it was now 21-7 Goffstown, with 8:44 left in the 1st half.
The other big play doesn't require as much of a detailed explanation. At halftime the score was 21-13 Goffstown. he Grizzlies get the ball first to begin the 2nd half. Goffstown senior Connor Bourque (pound for pound the best player in the state) takes the kickoff, uses his exceptional speed and elusiveness to break loose for the 75 yard kickoff return for a TD. The Grizzlies go back up by 2 scores, 28-13 with 11:47 left in the 3rd quarter. Bourque is a play maker, he is capable of taking it to the house every time he touches the football, and he's very tough for an opposing defense to bottle up. He did to BG what he's been doing to every team Goffstown has played against for the past 3 years.
In a game between 2 very good, evenly matched football teams - those 2 plays described above turned out to be the difference. So what else happened? BG had the ball first to open the contest. On the very first play from scrimmage, Housman takes the hand-off and breaks 3 tackles en route to a 14 yard gain. His team may not have come out on top, but Housman played his heart, he took a beating out there and left it all out on the field. He rushed for 89 yards and 1 TD, he caught 2 passes for 31 yards. He had some outstanding kick and punt returns, and also made some hard hits on defense. Housman is easily one of the top players in the state.
Hiscoe looked to throw it deep, but his pass was broken up thanks to some good coverage by Goffstown sophomore Andrew Duval. On 3rd and 10 from the 49 yard line, Hiscoe connected with WR Nick Lorden for a 12 yard pickup. But then Goffstown's 'D' stepped up, the drive stalled and BG was forced to punt.
Goffstown began their first drive back on their own 20. Sam Colantuoni and Calvin Basta combined to stuff the run. So the Grizzlies looked to the air, and senior QB Casey Gervais zipped a pass to Duval for a 10 yard gain, and then found Duval again for an 11 yard completion. Then Gervais hit TE Tim Comeau for a 12 yard pickup. But then on 4th and 6 from the BG 37 yard line the Grizzlies went for it. Gervais pass for Frankie Castillo-Diaz fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs. Good pass coverage on the play by Michael Allanach.
BG gets the ball back and we get our first score of the game. Hiscoe shows off his strong arm, zipping a 9 yard pass to Lorden, a 34 yard pass to Dylan Fagan, a 15 yard pass to Fagan and then capped the drive with a 9 yard TD pass to Fagan. The Cardinals were on the board first, up 7-0 with 5:53 left in the 1st quarter.
Goffstown answered right back. Joey Gaudey and TJ Hart teamed up for a tough hit near the line of scrimmage for BG. Then Gervais kept it himself for a 12 yard gain. Bourque made a big run, breaking loose for a 43 yard gain. Again, Bourque shows that great speed and elusiveness. Bourque capped the drive by running it into the end zone from the 2 yard line. Bourque had 142 rushing yards and 1 TD, plus 4 catches for 46 yards. We were now all tied up 7-7, with 3:40 left in the 1st quarter.
BG looks to answer back. On 3rd and 5 from their own 42 yard line, Hiscoe connected with receiver Sarveen Shafian-Raad for an 8 yard gain. Then it was Hiscoe-to-Lorden for a 13 yard pickup. Housman ran for a 1st down, but then on 4th down and 9 from the Goffstown 23 yard line, Hiscoe's pass for Lorden was broken up by Grizzlies DB Zach Comeau and fell incomplete. The pass was thrown a little behind Lorden, otherwise it would have likely been a touchdown for BG.
Goffstown gets the ball back, looking to take their first lead of the game. Gervais finds Duval for an 11 yard completion. Hart made a nice hit on 'D'. Bourque runs for a 12 yard gain, followed by a 13 yard run by Castillo-Diaz. Then Gervais capped the drive by keeping it himself and running in the 4 yard TD (his first of 2 rushing TDs on the game). The Grizzlies take their first lead, 14-7 with 10:23 left in the 2nd quarter.
That's when BG got the ball back, the snap goes over Hiscoe's head, Leahy picks up the fumble and runs it in for the TD.
Later in the 2nd quarter, Duval makes a great play by intercepting a pass thrown by Hiscoe. Despite the INT, Hiscoe still had an impressive performance with 194 passing yards and 2 TDs.
Goffstown gets the ball back, looking to build on a 2 score lead. Housman makes a great hit on defense. Allanach makes a nice hit as well, for a loss of 2 yards. On 3rd and long Gervais connects with Bourque on a short pass, Bourque turns it into a big gain of 27 yards. Gervais keeps it and runs for a 13 yard gain. Colantuoni (only a sophomore, yet he's already 6-foot-2, 295 lbs. and loves to hit people) then made another nice tackle. BG's defense continued to step up, as Housman dropped back in pass coverage and intercepted Gervais.
BG ball back at their own 46 yard line. Hiscoe goes back to work, airing it out. He finds Fagan for a 20 yard completion. Then Housman runs for a 12 yard pickup. Jack Nordin made a nice hit on 'D' for Goffstown, but then Hiscoe found Lorden in the end zone from 8 yards out for his second TD pass of the game. Hiscoe tried to sneak it in for the 2 point conversion, but was denied. Goffstown still leads 21-13, with 1:39 left in the 1st half.
Gofftown ball, but now they have a new QB. Gervais is on the sideline being worked on by the trainer, and Nik oquin is in at QB. he completes a short pass to Bourque, which Bourque turns into a 20 yard gain. Then Moquin's pass is batted down by Nathaniel Gonzalez. Sam Heidenrich is brought in to attempt a 43 yard field goal. The kick is no good, and it's 21-13 Goffstown at halftime.
That's when Bourque returned the opening kickoff the of the 2nd half 75 yards for the score. After that setback, BG dusted themselves off and answered right back with a TD of their own. Hiscoe threw a bomb down field, connected on a 45 yard pass play to Shafian-Raad. Housman ran for a 12 yard gain and then capped the drive with a 3 yard TD run. The 2 point conversion was good, as Hiscoe found Lorden in the end zone and it was 28-21 Goffstown with 10:17 left in the 3rd quarter.
Goffstown ball, but they're not able to answer back the BG touchdown. Gaudey makes another nice hit, followed by another nice tackle by Hart. Then on 3rd and 7 from their own 45 yard lineBourque caught a short pass, but it went for a 6 yard loss, thanks to another nice tackle by Gaudey.
BG retains possession, but they are quickly forced to punt. Goffstown fumbles the punt return and it's recovered by Allanach for the Cardinals. So BG catches a break and gets the ball back, on the Goffstown 30 yard line. Hiscoe throws a 30 yard TD pass to Lorden, but Lorden is whistled for offensive pass interference, so the TD is waved off. Housman runs fr a 14 yard gain. Another defensive player leaves with an injury for Goffstown (Ethan Houle). On 4th and 11 from the Goffstown 28 yard line, Hiscoe again throws it deep for Lorden. Zach Comeau was there with good coverage, and the pass falls incomplete. Turnover on downs.
The Grizzlies get the ball back and go back up by 2 scores. Chase Hughes makes a nice tackle for BG, but then Bourque breaks off a 16 yard run followed by a 33 yard run by Bourque. Hughes makes another nice tackle, for no gain. Then on 4th and 1 from the BG 9 yard line Bourque picks up 4 yards on the ground. Gervais keeps it himself and runs in the 5 yard TD - his second TD run of the game. Gervais limped into the end zone though, and he would sit the rest of the game as Moquin would go back in at QB. It was now 35-21 Goffstown with 1:02 left in the 3rd quarter.
BG football, as Housman makes yet another terrific kick return. The Cardinals elect to go with some trickery, attempting a HB pass play. The pass is underthrown and intercepted by Duval (his second IT of the game).
Goffstown retains possession, with Moquin in at QB as we begin the 4th quarter. The Grizzlies are quickly forced to punt. BG inadvertently touches the ball as it's bouncing, causing a fumble which is recovered by Goffstown. Another tough break for the Cardinals! Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, they weren't able to take advantage of their good fortune, and quickly punted it away again.
BG gets the ball back. Time is ticking away in the 4th quarter and they're still down by 2 scores. They really need a score here. On 3rd and 10 from their own 21 yard line Hiscoe is sacked by Tim Comeau. Hiscoe is slow getting up after the pay. He had to be helped off the field and did not return.
The BG punt was a very short one. Goffstown ball, looking to run out the clock. Gaudey makes a couple more nice tackles, followed by a tough hit by teammate Ben Beals. The Grizzlies are again forced to punt.
Guertin football, but they're still trailing by 2 scores and are playing without their starting QB. The new QB for the Cardinals is sophomore Sam Raitt. He connects with Housman for a 26 yard completion. Then he gets sacked by Leahy. Raitt brushes himself off and delivers a pass on target to Fagan for 23 yards all the way down to the 3 yard line.
Here's where a scary moment happened though, as Fagan came down hard on that play. He was not able to get up. Fagan was lying on the ground still, for over 20 minutes before an ambulance came out onto the field. Fagan was played on a stretcher and carried into the back of the ambulance before it drove off. You hate to see something like that happen to a kid. The NH Notebook sends our best wishes to Fagan, hoping he's okay and for a speedy recovery.
Back to the game. Goffstown defender Ian Routher made a good hit. Then Raitt runs it into the end zone from the yards out. BG is still in it! Goffstown still leads 35-29 with 1:32 left in the 4th quarter. You have to give Raitt credit for the way he performed out there for a kid being thrown into the fire at the end of the game against the top team in the state.
So now we all know what's coming next - the onside kick attempt by BG. Unfortunately for the Cardinals it doesn't work out as planned, and the kick is recovered by Carter Cormier for the Grizzlies. Moquin leads the Goffstown offense back out onto the field, takes a knee and the Grizzles hang on for the 35-29 win.
This was one of the best games we've seen all year. Definitely 2 of the top teams in the state. Most impressive is the depth of Goffstown, being able to still win with so many injuries on defense against such an explosive offense. Not bad for one of the smallest schools in D-I. The Grizzlies look like the team to beat as we near the playoffs.