By: Jeremy Leveille
The defending D-II champs move a step closer to repeating, as Windham defeats Lebanon 34-16 on Saturday afternoon in Windham in a game that was much closer than the final score indicates.
Lebanon actually led this game with 9:00 left in the 4th quarter. But then the Jaguars outscored the Raiders 20-0 the rest of the way. Victor Pizzotti rushed for 3 touchdowns to lead Windham, while getting help from teammates Matt Shea (116 rushing yards and 1 TD) and Kyle Adamson (was a beast on defense).
"We got together and said how we were getting pushed around in the 1st half - we didn't want it to end that way" explained Pizzotti, who is only a junior but is one of the better 2-way players in the state. "We love to run the ball and pound it between the tackles - it wears teams down. Our o-line is the reason we won."
"We had to overcome some adversity" said Windham head coach Bill Raycraft. "This is a grind it out kind of team. We have a lot of blue collar kids."
It was a close, highly competitive back-and-forth game for most of the way. Lebanon took their first lead on a 42 yard field goal by senior Ethan Didehbani. That's right, 42 yards - a very impressive kick for a high school kid. That made it 10-7 Raiders with 8:25 left in the 3rd quarter. The score was set up by a 12 yard pass from QB Caleb Broughton to senior WR Jeremiah Morton on 3rd and 4 and a 10 yard run by Tavian Tobin.
Windham tries to answer back on their ensuing drive, but the Lebanon defense is up to the challenge. Walker Tuttle makes a hard hit on 'D'. On 4th and 3 from the WHS 33 yard line, Jaguars QB Ben Emrick picks up 6 yards and the 1st down on a keeper. Then teammate Corey Kneeland (45 rushing yards on 8 carries) rushed for a 14 yard gain. But then the drive stalled. Lebanon sophomore Eylander made a good hit on 4th down, resulting in a turnover on downs - Raiders football.
Lebanon was quickly forced to punt, giving the ball right back to Windham. This time, the Jaguars punched it into the end zone to re-take the lead. Emrick made a tough run for 15 yards, refusing to go down. Lebanon struggled to wrap him up, and they struggled to wrap up Shea and Shane Lafond on the following couple of carries as well. This is where you could see that the momentum had swung over to Windham's sideline. The Raiders have more 2-way players and Windham's depth was becoming a factor.
"We played good for about 3 and a half quarters" lamented Lebanon head coach Chris Childs. "Then the physicality wore us down and we ran out of gas at the end."
Kneeland kept the drive going with a 10 yard run to set up 1st and goal from the 10. Pizzotti ran in the 10 yard TD from there (thanks to some great blocking up front), as Windham goes back on top 14-10 with 1:29 left in the 3rd quarter.
Lebanon re-takes the lead on their next drive. Lebanon junior RB/B Ryan Milliken (107 rushing yards) rushed for a 10 yard gain. Eylander followed that up with a 26 yard run. Lebanon got all the way to the 3 yard line, but then Adamson tackled Milliken in the backfield for a 9 yard loss.
"He's a player" said Coach Raycraft about Adamson. "He has the speed to make the plays and the football I.Q. to be in the right spot."
Lebanon kept battling back though, as Broughton connects with Tobin for a 12 yard TD pass. The Windham DB fell down, leaving Tobin wide open in the end zone. The PAT was blocked by Pizzotti, and Lebanon now had a 16-14 lead with 11:55 left in the 4th quarter.
"I'm proud of the kids - we had a great year" said Coach Childs. "We have a lot a lot of younger kids out there. Milliken and Broughton are only juniors. Linemen Michael Fluery and Ryan Shippa are only sophomores."
From that point on it was all Windham. The Jaguars have more depth, so they were still out there flying around, while Lebanon was getting tired. Shea ran for a 14 yard gain, followed by a 29 yard pickup with some good blocking up front by the line. Pizzotti quickly capped the drive with a 4 yard TD carry. Just like that Windham was back on top, 20-16 with 8:57 left in the 4th quarter. It was Pizzoti's third TD run of the game (he rushed for 59 yards).
Lebanon football, trying to answer back. Adamson made yet another tackle in the backfield. Then on 4th and 7 Broughton scrambled but was tackled just shy of the 1st down marker. That play right there was huge, as it resulted in a turnover on downs and gave Windham the ball back with only about 5:00 left in regulation.
Windham ball, and they were successfully able to run the clock down and move the chains. Pizzotti picks up a 5 yard run on 3rd and 1. Then on keeper Emrick (77 rushing yards and 58 passing yards) rushes for 14 yards. That was another big 1st down, to keep the clock moving and keep the ball away from Lebanon. Pizzotti picked up yet another 1st down, on a 3 yard carry and Shea capped the drive with a 6 yard TD run. That essentially iced the game, as the Jaguars now led 26-16 with just 1:37 left in the 4th quarter.
Lebanon ball, and their only hope at this point is to spread the field, throw the football and hopefully get a couple of very quick scores. Nate Perkins was in at Q for the Raiders. He threw a backwards pass that fell incomplete, resulting in a fumble. Windham defender Richard Hume picked up the fumble and ran it in 29 yards for the touchdown. Lafond runs in the 2-point conversion, and now the game was getting out of hand, as Windham now led 34-16 with just 32 seconds remaining.
The Jaguars hold on from there for the 34-16 victory. They advance to the D-II semi-finals, where they will play at home next Saturday and take on the winner of the Kennett vs. Kearsarge game.
It was 7-7 at halftime. Pizzotti got Windham on the board first, diving in to the end zone from 3 yards out. The score was set up by a 42 yard pass from Emrick to Adamson, a 12 yard run by Piizzotti and a 10 yard pass from Emrick to Lafond.
Lebanon tied it up 7-7 late in the 1st half. Milliken rushed for a 14 yard gain, followed by a costly facemask penalty on Windham on 3rd and 4 when the Jaguars had Milliken bottled up at the line of scrimmage. Milliken then ran for a 13 yard pickup, followed by a 13 yard completion from Broughton to Morton - great throw and great catch! Broughton continued to air it out, and on 3rd and 5 from the WHS 15 yard line Broughton zipped a pass to Tobin for a 15 yard TD pass.