North vs. Merrimack: Play it again, please
Nashua North vs. Merrimack.
We want more.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and on the first Saturday in November, the day for the Division I high school football quarterfinals, it’ll happen. Or maybe in the semis?
It more or less looks like the chances are 50-50, depending on this Friday’s Merrimack-Bedford biggie in the Bulldog Pound. Of course newly crowned West Conference champion Merrimack would likely have to lose that one to end up as the second seed and not the first. North is likely the third seed, something cemented with a win Friday Friday at home vs. Concord.
We don’t care what has to happen. Let’s get these two teams on the field again. Soon. Because the first meeting was tremendous.
“I would have said the same thing, win or lose,” Merrimack coach Kip Jackson said after his Tomahawks were one score better than the Titans on Friday night at Student Memorial Field, 32-24. “It was great. This was a great football game for people to experience.”
“This was,” North coach Dante Laurendi said, “one of the most physical football games both sides have been in all year.”
Play it again.
“No matter if you’re in the playoffs, you have to beat somebody twice, it’s always going to be a tough task,” Laurendi said. “Obviously, if we have to come here again, it’s going to be a really tough game. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to do that.”
We want more Ben Eichman of Merrimack. Not just for his four TDs and other great plays the other night, but for his attitude. After some immediate post game celebration, where was Eichman? He walked over alone to the then-empty visiting sideline, picked up all the cones and yard markers, etc., and brought them into the equipment shed located away from the far corner of the end zone. Eventually a couple of teammates helped. A kid who had basically one of the biggest games of his high school career.
“I do it after every game,” Eichman said. “Not everything’s about celebrating, you know? You’ve just got to keep going on to the next game, and keep the tradition going, whatever you do.”
“He’s just a special kid,” Jackson said. “Just has grown so much over the last few years. … We have a pretty selfless group of kids. It’s something I’ve been preaching as a program,and I’m glad the kids have bought into that.”
That’s all Jackson, one of the best coaches around for his knowledge but also the value system he teaches his players. Where else do you find an entire team come up and shake your hand after you attend a preseason practice?
But the connection the two programs have is amazing, as Laurendi left the Tomahawks job for the only other coaching job he would take, North, because he had previously been an assistant and teaches at the school.
He knew Eichman when he was coaching the ‘Hawks. “He was an eighth grader,” he said with a grin, “so he was not allowed on the sideline. But we knew he was pretty good….Talented kid, has really been showing his talents the last couple of weeks.”
We want more Harris, trading big plays with Eichman. Jackson was talking about how North finally foiled a very good Tomahawk defense with some big third and fourth down plays, because the talented Titan sophomore just wouldn’t go away.
“They got a lot of third and fourth and longs that just killed us,” Jackson said. “They were big plays. … Every play I’m talking about Harris was involved in.”
In the end, Eichman came out on top. Seniors usually do.
“I sensed he was going to have a special night,” Jackson said of Eichman. “Did I know he was going to have it in the third quarter? No. But I’m sure damn glad he did.”
And he’s glad the Tomahawks are back in the playoffs.
“Im sure we’ll see (North) again,” Jackson said. “They’re a good team.”
So is Merrimack. The area’s best two teams were on display.
“It was,” Laurendi said, “just a great high school football game.”
Whatever has to happen, hopefully the football gods will make happen and we can do it all over again.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251,email@example.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.