By: Jeremy Leveille
Just 3 years ago Goffstown was in Division III. Now they're undefeated D-I state champs. In Saturday afternoon's title game, Goffstown and Exeter were tied up 14-14 at halftime. But the Grizzlies outscored the Blue Hawks 28-0 in the 2nd half, cruising to a 42-14 win and the first football state championship in school history.
"I never could have predicted that Goffstown would do this in D-I" said Goffstown head coach Justin Huft.
"It's surreal" said Goffstown senior captain Tim Comeau. "In the 2nd half our nerves went down and we had less penalties. We wanted it bad. Coach Huft is the best coach in the state."
For the past 3 seasons QB Casey Gervais and RB Connor Bourque have formed a killer combination for the Goffstown offense. The duo ended their careers on top, each scoring 3 touchdowns in the win. Bourque rushed for 211 yards on 24 carries, while Gervais rushed for 76 yards on 12 carries and was 3/5 passing for 18 yards.
"It's nice having a QB who can run - defenses can't just key on me" said Bourque. "We were only 3-6 my sophomore year and only went 5-4 last year. Our school has never won a football state championship before. So to do this is unbelievable - it's a special feeling."
"We've played together since 2nd grade - it's an awesome feeling" said Gervais.
Goffstown got the ball first to begin the 2nd half and immediately it was the Bourque and Gervais show. Exeter's Ruben Abounaja made a nice tackle. Then Gervais dropped back to pass, didn't find anyone open but found running room in the middle of the field so he took off and ran, picking up a 1st down. Then Bourque took the hand-off and raced 44 yards for the touchdown. He is so elusive and tough to wrap up. The TD made it 21-14 Grizzlies with 9:36 left in the 3rd quarter.
"Our offensive line stepped up, especially in the 2nd half" said coach Huft.
Exeter got the ball back, but they were quickly forced to punt. Goffstown gets good field position. Then on a crucial 4th and inches conversion attempt from the EHS 20 yard line Bourque picks up the 1st down - just barely. Gervais kept it himself, picking up a 15 yard gain. Then Gervais caps the drive by running it in from 4 yards out. The Grizzlies now lead 28-14 with 4:12 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Blue Hawks get the ball back, and this time they really need a score as it's the first time all game where they trailed by 2 scores. Tim Comeau made a nice tackle for no gain. Then Exeter junior QB Kyle Ball hits senior TE Hunter Long for a 21 yard completion - a great catch by Long. Just when the Blue Hawk offense was building momentum, Ball threw another pass down field but this time it was intercepted by Goffstown sophomore Andrew Duval. Duval returned the INT 43 yards all the way to the Exeter 30 yard line.
The Goffstown offense takes over, and Gervais runs for a 12 yard gain, followed quickly by a 5 yard TD run - his third score of the game. The Grizzlies lead is now 35-14 with 11:33 left in the 4th quarter, as the game began to get out of hand.
Exeter gets the ball back, still holding on to a small glimmer of hope. But then they fumbled, and it was recovered by Goffstown DB Tyler Small. Then Bourque does it again, taking the hand-off and racing 33 yards for his third TD of the game. It was another terrific run, as he made a great cut and showed his incredible quickness and elusiveness. That made it 42-14 Goffstown, and made it 28 points in a row for the Grizzlies.
"Connor is so quick" said Coach Huft. "Playing on this surface he has an extra gear. He's a special player. He'll be remembered at this school for a long time."
Duval put the icing on the cake, intercepting another pass thrown by Ball on Exeter's ensuing drive. It was a long pass that Duval picked off back on his own 12 yard line - the second INT of the contest for Duval. Goffstown wins it 42-14.
It's the third year in a row that the D-I champion went undefeated, following Pinkerton (2014) and Concord (2013). All 3 divisions of NHIAA football this season had undefeated champs - Newport (D-III), St. Thomas (D-II) and Goffstown (D-I).
Goffstown may have dominated the 2nd half, but the 1st half it was an evenly matched game. Exeter had the ball first to start the 1st quarter. On 3rd and 5 from their own 36 yard line, Ball's pass fell incomplete thanks to some great pressure by Joey Poisson and the Blue Hawks were forced to punt.
The Grizzlies got on the board first on their first drive. On 4th and 2 from the EHS 412 yard line, Gervais faked the hand-off and picked up yards and the 1st down on a keeper. The then quick, elusive and slippery Bourque took the hand-off and rushed 32 yards for his first TD of the game. The PAT was good (kicker Sam Heindenreich was 6/6 on PATs) and it was 7-0 Goffstown with 8:06 left in the 1st quarter.
Exeter football trying to answer back. But again it was Poisson providing the pressure on Ball, forcing him to throw an incomplete pass. The Blue Hawks once again punt it away.
Goffstown retains possession, but they immediately give it right back as Gervais' long pass down field is intercepted by Long. The pass was intended for Duval, who is at least 5 or 6 inches shorter than Long.
Exeter's offense heads back out there, and this time they get on the board. Senior Mason Wallace (36 yards rushing plus caught 3 passes for 28 yards) rushed for a 10 yard gain and then caught a 10 yard pass. Poisson and Jack Nordin teamed up on one play to stuff the run nicely. Then on 4th and 6 from the GHS 38 yard line Ball connected with Wallace for an 18 yard completion. Then Ball made another nice throw, this time avoiding the pass rush and finding Long for a 13 yard gain. Then Ball kept it himself for the 5 yard TD run, knotting the score at 7-7 with 1:46 left in the 1st quarter.
Goffstown now tries to answer back. Gervais hits Duval for a 12 yard pass play. But the drive stalls and the Grizzlies are forced to punt. On Exeter's next possession, Cameron Bond provided a strong pass rush, forcing another errant throw by Ball and the Blue Hawks were forced to punt.
Then Goffstown re-takes the lead. Gervais runs for a 9 yard gain, Bourque sprints for a 15 yard pickup and Gervais caps the drive by sneaking into the end zone from 2 yards out. The Grizzlies now lead 14-7 with 8:22 left in the 1st half.
On Exeter's next drive Adam Moses makes a nice hit for Goffstown and the Blue Hawks are forced to punt. But then Exeter quickly gets the gets the ball right back following a Goffstown punt. Jackson Allen (81 rushing yards) runs for an 11 yard gain. Then Ball completed a 25 yard pass to Long (5 catches for 79 yards). Then Cam Flanagan runs for a 10 yard gain, and Ball caps the drive by sneaking in from the 1 yard line to tie it back up 14-14 with just 12 seconds left in the 2nd quarter.
There's no debate about who the best football team in the NHIAA is this season - it's Goffstown. They had an amazing season. Not bad for the smallest school in D-I.
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