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  • Staff photo by JOE MARCHILENA

    Souhegan's Tim Beliveau celebrates after a sack of Merrimack's Devin Gillis.
  • Staff photo by JOE MARCHILENA

    Merrimack's Jordan Miranda can't break up a pass to Souhegan's Denny Dessureault.
  • Staff photo by JOE MARCHILENA

    Souhegan's Terry Dugdale takes down Merrimack's Chaz Myers.
  • Staff photo by JOE MARCHILENA

    Souhegan's Alex Price wraps up Merrimack's Jackson King during Thursday's Turkey Bowl. Souhegan won 48-21.
  • Staff photo by JOE MARCHILENA

    Souhegan coach Mike Beliveau picks up the Milk Jug after the Sabers defeated Merrimack 48-21 Thursday in the Turkey Bowl. It was the 10th win for Souhegan in 15 games against the Tomahawks.
  • Staff photo by JOE MARCHILENA

    Souhegan's Travis Hobbs, left, and Tyler Hansis celebrate after Hansis scored a touchdown in Thursday's Turkey Bowl. Souhegan defeated Merrimack 48-21.
  • Staff photo by JOE MARCHILENA

    Souhegan coach Mike Beliveau hands the Milk Jug to his captains, from left, Robby McCormick, Tim Beliveau, Chris Chininis and Alex Price after the Sabers defeated Merrimack 48-21 Thursday in the Turkey Bowl. It was the 10th win for Souhegan in 15 games against the Tomahawks.
Friday, November 25, 2011

Sabers pull out 48-21 win over Tomahawks

AMHERST – Thursday was a day for the football players who really were playing in their final Turkey Bowl.

While high school administrators and coaches from Souhegan and Merrimack will decide the fate of the annual Thanksgiving game off the field, it was the seniors from both teams who turned in the big plays that resulted in the Sabers’ 48-21 win over the Tomahawks at Souhegan High School.

There was Merrimack’s Jackson King, who had 155 yards of offense and scored all three of his team’s touchdowns, and Sam Prive, having his way along both lines.

There was Souhegan’s Robby McCormick, who threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, and Tim Beliveau, who caught four passes for 112 yards and a score.

And there was Chris Chininis, who turned in the two biggest plays of the day in the second quarter to help bring the Milk Jug, given to the winner each year, back to Amherst.

“That kid is a good football player,” Merrimack coach Joe Battista said of Chininis.

After Souhegan (7-4) got out to a 19-0 lead, Merrimack (2-9) battled back to make it 19-14 early in the second quarter. The Tomahawks had a second-and-goal at Souhegan’s 7 when Chininis intercepted a pass by King at the goal line and returned it to the Souhegan 38. Eight plays later, Brandon O’Connell scored from 5 yards out to put the Sabers up 27-14.

Later in the half, the Sabers called for a fake punt on their own 18, but didn’t get it, and Merrimack scored on a 2-yard run by King to make it a 27-21 game with 50 seconds left in the half.

But back came the Sabers, thanks to Chininis. The senior got the kickoff at his own 10, cut through the Tomahawks return team, and sprinted down the left sideline for a 90-yard return. Souhegan coach Mike Beliveau was running alongside Chininis on the sideline for about 30 yards of the return.

“I was running after him a little bit,” Beliveau said. “(Chininis) picks the ball off at the goal line and gets us out of a bad deal there. Then he takes me off the hook because I fake a punt at our own 18-yard line, again because I’m a little bit nutty, and Chris returns the kickoff 90 yards. I was like ‘thank you, Chris.’ ”

There was still a half of football left, and Merrimack threatened a few times in the second half – including a first down at the Souhegan 20 after an interception by Marc Roy – but the Tomahawks struggled to take advantage of their opportunities.

“Any time you give up a big special teams play like that, it hurts you,” Battista said. “We had a slow start, but I thought we came back from that really nice. Second half, we had our opportunities, we just didn’t come through. We could have been right back in it, but it just didn’t work out our way.”

Souhegan opened the game with a trick play, running a double reverse to set up Tyler Ford’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Tim Beliveau.

“We were on to that and we called it and we were ready for it, we just obviously didn’t cover it well enough,” Battista said.

The play put the Sabers up just 20 seconds into the game and had Mike Beliveau smiling for several reasons.

“We drew one up in the dirt to start the game,” he said. “They were even yelling ‘watch the trick play’ because they know I’m crazy. We went double-reverse pass and it’s thrown to Tim (the coach’s son) … that was an exciting and emotional 20 seconds for me.”

Souhegan now holds a 10-5 advantage over Merrimack in the Turkey Bowl, taking back the Milk Jug after the Tomahawks snapped a seven-game losing streak last year.

And after talk of it being the last game in the series, there may be another one next year. Souhegan had initially said it wanted this to be the final game at the beginning of the season, but in the days leading up to it, the Sabers had a change of heart.

Both sides will discuss possibilities in the following week to determine whether to continue playing on Thanksgiving.

at Amherst

SOUHEGAN 48, MERRIMACK 21

Merrimack (2-9) 7 14 0 0 – 21

Souhegan (7-4) 19 14 8 7 – 48

FIRST QUARTER

S-Tim Beliveau 70 pass from Tyler Ford (Cam Crook kick), 11:40.

S-Robby McCormick 1 run (kick failed), 8:20.

S-Ford 14 pass from McCormick (rush failed), 5:43.

M-Jackson King 6 run (Devin Martin kick), 2:21.

SECOND QUARTER

M-King 28 run (Martin kick), 11:49.

S-Brandon O’Connell 5 run (McCormick pass to Ford), 6:40.

M-King 2 run (Martin kick), 50.2.

S-Chris Chininis 90 kickoff return (rush failed), 37.8.

THIRD QUARTER

S-Ford 5 pass from McCormick (McCormick pass to Beliveau), 2:05.

FOURTH QUARTER

S-Tyler Hansis 11 run (Guillermo Prol-Castelo kick), 3:20.

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: M (47-164) - Jackson King 29-107, Chaz Myers 12-40, Joe Miranda 2-31, Devin Gillis 4-(-14). S (27-122) - Brandon O’Connell 7-32, Jason Doheny 3-28, Terry Dugdale, 2-19, Tyler Hansis 2-19, Denny Dessureault 3-15, Chris Chininis 2-12, Travis Hobbs 1-5, Barry Ewing 1-1, Drew Prescott 1-(-2), Robby McCormick 6-(-7).

PASSING: M (2-8-75-0-1) - Gillis 2-5-75-0-0, King 0-3-0-0-1. S (14-24-316-3-2) - McCormick 13-22-246-2-2, Ford 1-2-70-1-0.

RECEIVING: M-King 1-48, Myers 1-27. S-Ford 6-99, Beliveau 4-112, Dessureault 2-36, Chininis 1-44, Doheny 1-27.

MISSED FIELD GOALS: None