By: Jeremy Leveille
How about those Goffstown Grizzlies? Just four years ago they were competing in Division III. Then they were forced to move up two divisions to D-I, they graduated their best player Connor Benjamin, their other top player for prep school (Chris Garrison) and is now playing for Boston College. Plus last season the Grizzlies watched as Goffstown resident TJ Urbanik led Pinkerton to an undefeated D-I state title.
Yet here they are, undefeated and headed to the D-I championship game following a thrilling 24-17 comeback win over Bedford. Goffstown is the best story in NH high school football this year. You have to give a lot of credit to head coach Justin Huft, his staff and his players.
"It's an amazing day" said Coach Huft with a smile. "I can't believe we're one of only two teams left in the state."
Goffstown trailed 14-0 early in the 2nd quarter after Bedford got 2 touchdowns in less than 3 minutes. Things were looking bleak for the Grizzlies at that time, as both TDs came as a result of high snaps on punts, which gave the Bulldogs the ball inside the GHS 10 yard line. Still, Goffstown regrouped, battled back and got the win.
"We've got heart - that's what it is" said Goffstown senior quarterback Casey Gervais, who passed for 1 touchdown and ran for another. "When we went down 14-0 it was an eye opener. We knew we had to step it up."
The winning score came from senior RB Connor Bourque. Bourque broke loose for a 70 yard touchdown run, putting the Grizzlies back on top 24-17 with just 1:35 left in the 4th quarter. Bourque has scored many touchdowns and has had many long runs in his career - that right there was the biggest run of his life so far. Bourque got a good block from Gervais, but he still was nearly brought down at the line of scrimmage. Bourque managed to slip away from a couple of tackles, then turned on the jets once he hit the second level of the Bedford defense and sprinted up the left sideline for the score.
"Our goal there was just to go down and kill the clock" explained Bourque, who was humble and poised, even after lading his team to the biggest win in program history. "We didn't want to score with so much time left. I just kept my feet moving and was able to slide out of some tackles. People might call me the hero, but I wouldn't have done it without my teammates blocking for me."
Bedford then got the ball back with one last chance for a score to either win it or send it to overtime. Bulldogs sophomore QB Connor Robert (who definitely does not play like a sophomore) got sacked by Tim Comeau and Joey Poisson. Robert got right back up and fired a 17 yard pass over to Shahrukh Hussain, and then a 12 yard pass to Liam Greene. The clock was ticking away, and then came a crucial 3rd and 10 on the GHS 35 yard line. Again, it was Comeau coming up big with another sack. This went for a loss of 10 yards, bringing up 4th down and 20 on the GHS 45 yard line. It was Bedford's last shot. Robert's desperation pass attempt down field fell incomplete - turnover on downs. Gervais comes back out with the Grizzlies' offense, takes a knee and Goffstown wins it 24-17. The Grizzlies are headed to the D-I title game next Sunday at UNH where they will take on Exeter.
This game did not start off well for Goffstown. It was scoreless after 1 quarter, with both defenses dominating early on. Alex Abad picked off a pass for the Bulldogs, and on the ensuing Bedford possession Goffstown got the ball right back, courtesy of an interception by sophomore Andrew Duval (who made plays all game long on both sides of the football).
As soon as the 2nd quarter got started things went poorly for the Grizzlies. They lined up to punt, but the snap was high. Punter Jack Nordin (who was a beast throughout the game as a pass rusher on 'D') bobbled the ball and then fumbled it. He recovered the fumble, but Bedford now took over possession on the GHS 4 yard line. From there Robert kept it himself and ran in the 4 yard TD. The Bulldogs were on the board first, 7-0 with 11:00 left in the 1st half.
Goffstown gets the ball back, but they are quickly forced to punt again thanks to some tough defense by Abad and Daniel Flynn. Again, Nordin was unable to handle the high snap, he slipped and fell to the ground. Bedford takes over on the GHS 6 yard line. On 4th and goal from the 1 yard line Robert sneaks in for his second TD of the game. 2 touchdowns for Bedford in less than 3 minutes and just like that the undefeated, #1 ranked Grizzlies are down 14-0.
Goffstown needed to pull it together right then and they did. Bourque runs for a 14 yard gain. Then Gervais connects with Frankie Castillo-Diaz for a 9 yard completion on 4th and 3 from the BHS 33 yard line. Then on 3rd and 7 from the BHS 21 yard line Gervais finds Duval on a screen pass which turns into a 21 yard TD pass. Duval was determined to get into the end zone there. The Grizzlies are pumped, as they finally are back on the right track. Now it's 14-7 Bedford with 2:34 left in the 2nd quarter.
Bedford is quickly forced to punt, so Goffstown gets the ball back with a chance to get another score before halftime. Ben Miller makes a nice tackle for the Bulldogs, but then Bourque picks up a 1st down on 4th and 1. Then Gervais airs it out, finding Pat Leahy for a big 38 yard pass play. Time is running out in the 1st half, and kicker Sam Heidenreich boots a 32 yard field goal as time expires. It's 14-10 Bedford at the end of a hard fought 1st half in front of a packed crowd.
Goffstown ball to start the 2nd half. hey are forced to punt, but Carter Cormier makes a great special teams play to hustle down field and down the ball on the 1 yard line. Then Bedford is forced to punt, and Goffstown gets good field position on the BHS 45 yard line. Again, the Grizzlies give it to Bourque and let him do his thing. He runs for a 17 yard gain, then picks up runs of 7 and 9 yards. For the game he finished with 159 yards and 1 TD. Then Gervais fakes the hand-off to Bourque, keeps it himself and runs in untouched from 3 yards out. It's 17 unanswered points for the Grizzlies, who now have their first lead, 17-14 with 5:00 left in the 3rd quarter.
That's how the score remains until 1:52 left in the 4th quarter. Bedford got excellent field position, on the GHS 39 yard line. Then Cooper Anibal kicked a 39 yard field goal to tie it up 17-17.
At that point most of the fans in attendance were probably thinking we were headed to overtime. But Connor Bourque had other ideas. He is a special player, and has the ability to score a TD any time he touches the ball. He proved it once again today and the Grizzlies are headed to the title game.
And how about that Goffstown defense? The only two Bedford TDs came as a result of field position inside the 10 yard line. Other than that Bedford was not able to move the ball very effectively on Goffstown, despite the fact that Bedford is much bigger up front and overall the Grizzlies are not very big on 'D' at all. What they lack in size they make up for by have a group of tough kids who are fast, are well coached, they know how to get to the right spots and they know how to hit people. And it's not just 1 or 2 guys, lots of guys stepped up on 'D' for them. Tim Commeau, Tyler Small, Leahy, Ian Routhier, Duval, Poisson, Cam Bond and Damian Jackson all made big plays on 'D'.
"Tim Comeau played a great game" said Coach Huft. "I don't know how many sacks he had, but he had a few. He's a great kid, too."
Bedford had a great season, but they came up just short in this one.