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Friday, November 23, 2012

Souhegan capitalizes on Merrimack miscues in Battle for the Milk Jug

MERRIMACK – The Merrimack High School football team has had more than its share of obstacles this season, but still had one more go through if it wanted to pick up a win this fall: Souhegan quarterback Tyler Ford.

However, this was an obstacle the Tomahawks could not overcome as Ford led the way offensively in the Sabres’ 41-14 rout over Merrimack (0-11) at Student Memorial Field in Thursday morning’s Battle for the Milk Jug. ...

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MERRIMACK – The Merrimack High School football team has had more than its share of obstacles this season, but still had one more go through if it wanted to pick up a win this fall: Souhegan quarterback Tyler Ford.

However, this was an obstacle the Tomahawks could not overcome as Ford led the way offensively in the Sabres’ 41-14 rout over Merrimack (0-11) at Student Memorial Field in Thursday morning’s Battle for the Milk Jug.

While much of the talk before the game was surrounding 18-year Souhegan head coach Mike Beliveau coaching his last game for the Sabres, it was Ford who stole the show.

The senior quarterback was 12 for 21 passing with 162 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 134 yards and a touchdown, and even made a 30-yard touchdown grab as he carried Souhegan (10-2) to yet another 40-point performance this season while breaking the 2,000 yard passing and 1,000 yard rushing mark for the year.

“That’s one heck of a year,” Beliveau said of Ford’s milestone. “And to hear some people say that he shouldn’t be considered as one of the top players in the state; hello, are you watching what I’m watching?

“Tyler does everything but drive the bus. He’s an unbelievable player.”

One disappointment Beliveau was left with at the end of the day was not having Tomahawks head coach Joe Battista on the other sideline. Battista, a former assistant under Beliveau at Souhegan, was not present for the Thanksgiving game for undisclosed reasons. Filling in as interim head coach for Merrimack was Justin Smith, who couldn’t comment on Battista’s absence.

What did come as no surprise was the bag of tricks Beliveau came out with on offense. While the results were mixed early on, the Sabres capitalized in a big way midway through the second quarter as senior wide receiver Brandon Len was the second recipient of a double-reverse play. Len hit Ford in stride over the shoulder in the end zone to put Souhegan up 22-0.

“I wanted to (run more trick plays) but the coaches upstairs were like ‘no more, no more they’re mot executing them,’ ” Beliveau said. “We opened the game where Tyler handed it off to Jacques Elias, who took three strides right and tried to throw a quarterback screen back to him, and as soon as that didn’t go well they were like ‘no more, no more.’ ”

The touchdown pass was only a portion of a big day for Len. The senior made six catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns, including the backbreaker at the end of the first half in the back corner of the end zone on a 5-yard pass from Ford to put the Sabres up 29-0 heading into halftime.

The Sabres blew an ideal scoring opportunity in the possession prior to Len’s touchdown by fumbling on the 1-yard line, but caught a break when Merrimack coughed the ball up just two plays later, giving Souhegan the ball at the Merrimack 25 and setting up Len for the touchdown.

“They had fun today,” Beliveau said. “They were a little sloppy and we were a little loose, but we still put up over 40 points and showcased some athletes, got some statistical numbers.”

Elias and Denny Dessureault also ran for touchdowns for Souhegan in the second half.

The Tomahawks looked as if they were going to make things interesting early on, driving the ball into Souhegan territory on the first possession of the game, but Ryan Stevens’ pitch intended for running back Sean McCarthy was well off the mark and the Sabres recovered the loose ball.

Souhegan responded by scoring on its next two possessions. Then the inability of Merrimack to come up with the ball on the ensuing kickoff led to yet another scoring opportunity for the Sabres in Tomahawks territory.

“We had some momentum going there in that first drive,” Smith said. “We turned the ball over and things spiraled out of control after that. But that’s kind of the way the season’s gone.”

While the mistakes caught up to Merrimack in the end, something that has been the case all season long, the Tomahawks showed some resolve down 41-0 in the fourth quarter.

Senior running backs Ben DiPalermo and McCarthy came up with 53 and 20-yard touchdown runs, respectively, in the last two possessions of the game.

“The positive we take out of it is the kids didn’t quit,” Smith said. “They did keep fighting and they gave us everything they had.”

Smith attributed that resolve at the end to the leadership of his seniors.

“That’s the kind of leadership that the seniors have given us all year,” he said. “We expect nothing less of them. They never quit on us no matter what the situation was and that kind of held us together throughout the year.”