Campbell tops Monadnock in championship thriller
Division III Football Final: Mills scores twice in 12-8 instant classic victory
DURHAM – There was no litany of penalties, mistakes or big-game jitters. In Saturday’s Division III State Championship final, Campbell High School took every shot, absorbing the very best unbeaten Monadnock could deliver.
Make that previously unbeaten Monadnock.
Top-seeded Campbell rallied from an 8-6 deficit on Keegan Mills’ 33-yard TD dash with 2:53 left on the clock and held on for the dramatic 12-8 title win here at UNH’s Wildcat Stadium before about 600 faithful fans.
The perfect season!
“The best ever, it’s a feeling like no other, everything I’ve ever dreamed of,” said senior halfback Ryan Yanuszewski, whose sentiment was echoed all over the champs’ sideline.
“It’s everything I’ve ever wanted,” said classmate Dylan Putzlocker. “Freshmen year, we came in and did the same thing, but it didn’t mean as much. As a senior, being a part of it like this, first person, it’s amazing.”
Part heavyweight slugfest, part war of wills, total epic was this title game – a pair of antiquated yet remarkably efficient running offenses tested by savage, aggressive defenses.
Neither side would budge.
“This (Monadnock) team was awesome,” said Yanuszewski. “They gave everything on the field. so did we. It was just a battle.”
A scoreless first quarter, which saw the two small-school titans play nearly eight minutes before Cougar Nick Boucher moved the chains on 3rd-and-6, for the game’s first first-down.
The second quarter proved a bit more eventful as Campbell QB Adam Breton delivered the morning’s first game-changer on his first touch of the football.
Breton, a junior, hit Dylan Putzlocker for 38 yards to the Monadnock 2. It took four tries, but Campbell finally broke the ice with Mills barely piling in from the six-inch line on fourth-and-goal.
Yes, Monadnock was that stubborn. And resilient, too.
The Huskies came right back, marching 65 yards on 14 rushes, the last a Tim Hart six-yard TD, and when Chandler Matson ran in the two-point conversion, Campbell trailed, 8-6 – only its second deficit of the season.
“We went into the locker and just said to keep our heads up,” said Mills. “Who cares if we hadn’t run the ball much (19 carries, 17 yards)? The second half is our time to shine. We just powered through the football. We changed our offense, and they had a tough time adjusting. And we kept running, running and running.”
The rock fight continued through a scoreless third, but Campbell’s depth, or Monadnock’s lack thereof, might have taken its toll.
There seemed to be a little more life in the Cougar legs, namely Mills, who finally got untracked offensively in the fourth.
“They’re very physical, too,” said Mills. “Our speed was great today, too. That was the difference.”
The sophomore, who ran 13 times for 22 yards in the first three, punished Monadnock with his four fourth-quarter carries – runs of 2, 12, 11 and 33, the last of which was the game-winning TD.
“It was a ‘Latex Crack’ and (tight end) Carter (Vedrani) made the huge block on the end,” said Mills, whose dash to the left pylon made it 12-8.
Mills and the defense were called on for one more stop, and the rest of the day, Monadnock gave the Cougars all they could handle.
The Huskies completed their first pass attempt of the day, clicking on fourth-and-4 with 1:50 left to move it to the Campbell 33.
A 13-yard toss to Matson would move the ball inside the 20 with a minute to go. Mills’ ninth solo tackle – his 18th total tackle of the day – stuffed a run on first down, and three straight incompletions would kick-start the championship celebration.
All that was left was the trophy collection and a team-wide victory lap around Wildcat Stadium.
“This team is something special,” said Putzlocker, one of 11 graduating seniors on the Campbell roster. “It’s going to be a long while until you see another team like this.”