Cougars fall in final seconds in Division III title game
DURHAM – Campbell High School football coach Glen Costello trusted his defense.
The Monadnock Regional offensive unit trusted the process, as well as kicker Issac Jasinski.
The Huskies’ process and Jasinski won out, as the kicker’s 27-yard field goal with one second left sent the Cougars down to defeat 15-12 in Saturday’s thrilling Division III championship game at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium.
“At the end of the day, I trust those kids to finish,” Costello said. “And we came within a foot or two of that ball being wide, and it would’ve been a different ball game.”
The “process” was a clock-chewing, grinding 18-play, 62-yard march that took the 11-0 Huskies from their own 28 to the Cougar 10. It was all on the ground and chewed up all but one second of the remaining 4:56. With six seconds left, Monadnock coach Ryan Avery trotted out Jasinski, a soccer player who had yet to kick a field goal in his football side job, and had just booted his first extra point of the season in last week’s semifinals. And, to make it even tougher, he had had an extra point blocked a few minutes earlier in the game that left things tied at 12.
“We’ve been practicing it,” Avery said. “I felt good about it. We were really thinking distance, we were thinking end zone, and we just ran out of time.”
But not out of plays, and Jasinski made the most important one.
“I just went out there, just like in practice, go through the motions, get ready, and the snap came,” Jasinksi said. “I actually thought I got a slow start to it, but I just tried to put it up there.”
It was a crushing loss for the No. 3, 8-3 Cougars, for a few reasons. One, they were a decided underdog, having lost 36-14 to the Huskies during the regular season, but they didn’t play like one. Two, they had taken a 12-0 lead on Conor Sweeney runs of 24 and 77 yards in the first half, thanks in part to two Monadnock fumbles. The unbeaten Huskies were on the ropes early.
“Monadnock’s a very good team,” Costello said. “They come after it. It’s tough to gain any yards on them. Two big plays is pretty impressive.”
And to hold the Huskies to basically a couple of big plays on defense for Campbell was just as impressive. Plus, remember, the Cougars were missing two-way standout Keegan Mills (ankle) as well.
“Hats off them,” Avery said of Campbell. “They played so hard. Their kids really buckled down. With the Mills kid being out, they played extra hard. I couldn’t ask for a better game. Our kids, I don’t know if they were a little shell-shocked at the beginning because of the moment or whatever.”
Huskies QB Tim Santaw ran for a team high 81 yards and was 3-of-7 for 65 yards and a TD. But he fumbled the ball away on his team’s first two series and after Cougar Chad Martel recovered the second at the Huskie 35. Campbell took advantage of that plus a fourth down encroachment penalty, leading to Sweeney’s 24-yard run around left end with 4:54 left in the opening quarter.
However, Campbell QB Adam Breton was stopped on a two-point conversion attempt, and the Cougars settled for a 6-0 lead.
Sweeney, who scored Campbell’s lone TD in their semifinal win over Stevens, proved a capable offensive replacement for Mills as he had 127 yards on 30 workhorse carries. One of those was a 77-yard scamper down the right side just 23 seconds into the second quarter and despite another failed two-point attempt, the Cougars had a stunning 12-0 lead.
But other than those two plays, Campbell just couldn’t muster an effective offensive attack, held to 134 total net yards – just 18 in the second half. It was only a matter of time before the Huskies would break through, and they did it in the air on a 32-yard Santaw TD pass to Cole Jarvis with 1:26 left in the second quarter. Monadnock’s two-point attempt also failed, and it was 12-6 at the half.
“Santaw’s a very good quarterback,” Costello said. “Our plan was to try to keep him inside the pocket. We knew the second he broke outside he’s dangerous, because he can put the ball on the spot.”
He burned the Cougars again late in the third quarter, with his team still down six, hitting back Tim Hart on a 23-yard fourth-and-6 conversion down to the Cougar 13. Two plays later Santaw ran it in from 12 yards out and the game was tied.
Instead of going for two, Avery summoned Jasinski for a simple extra point. But it was blocked by Breton, and the game stayed tied with 11:54 to play.
“We had just kicked one extra point last week,” Avery said. “I figured 12-12, we’ll kick an extra point right here, and we’ll go up by one and put the pressure on them. But it’s not who we are.”
No, who the Huskies are was that final drive, the longest gain an 8-yard Santaw run. He threw one pass, incomplete.
“I was feeling better about our offense, they started moving the ball down the field,” Avery said. “I was hoping we would work the time off the clock and score at the end.”
“We’re a ground team, and our coach all year told us to trust the process, it got us to where we were,” Santaw said. “I’ll always trust that man.”
After the Huskies had tied the game, the Cougars actually had a chance to take the lead on their own field goal attempt, but a 37-yarder by Chad Martel was blocked by Monadnock’s Joey Joslyn with 8:23 to play.
But Costello was proud of his team, as this wasn’t supposed to be a game down to the wire, unlike last year’s 12-8 Cougar title win over Monadnock.
“I’m very proud of the effort the kids put in,” Costello said. “They met what I knew they were capable of doing. Sometimes you come up short despite all the effort.”