Alvirne, Campbell prepare for football finals at UNH on Saturdaya
It’s New Hampshire high school football’s Championship Week, and the area has, for the first time since 2010, two teams competing on the final day.
Who cares that they’ll be underdogs?
But in reality, that’s what the Alvirne High School Broncos in Division II and the Campbell Cougars in Division III will be this Saturday at the University of New Hampshire.
Campbell, which squeezed by Stevens 8-0 on Saturday in the Division III semifinals, will go up against Monadnock in a rematch of last year’s title game at 11 a.m. The Cougars pulled that one out, 12-8, to finish out a memorable undefeated season.
But this time it’s Monadnock that comes into this one unbeaten (11-0) and the closest game it has played was an 18-13 regular season contest against Trinity.
First year coach Glen Costello’s Cougars, meanwhile, are 9-2 and one of those losses was a 36-14 drubbing in Swanzey at the hands of the Huskies.
Monadnock will no doubt
Alvirne? The Broncos are having an incredible time. They rallied a couple of weeks ago from three TDs down in the fourth quarter to beat Milford, the first of two consecutive wins over the Spartans. But Saturday, down three vs. St. Thomas and with the Saints owning the football with 1:30 left, Tarek Rothe’s Broncos pulled out a stunning win.
And their reward, as they prep for their first football title game appearance ever, is they get to play 11-0 Plymouth at 2:30 p.m., your basic football dynasty. The Bobcats, whose closest win was a 40-27 game with Gilford-Belmont, have six titles in the last 10 years, including the last two in Division II ((back-to-back wins over Bow).
Underdogs? Sure, but the Broncos and Cougars will tell you that’s why they play the games. It’s ironic that the two programs will be playing for titles on the same day at the same location. Remember, when Alvirne began its program in the mid 1990s, there were players on the team from Litchfield as Campbell had not yet been built.
Broncos coach Tarek Rothe is also a former Campbell assistant, working with former Cougars coach Greg Gush.
” Shout out to my friends (Rothe and Glen Costello) on wins today to get their teams to the state championship games,” Gush tweeted Saturday evening. “Well done gents. Now finish it!”
The Cougars have their work cut out. In the first meeting with Monadnock, both Chandler Matson and Tim Hart ran for two TDs each for the Huskies, who were in complete control.
Campbell ran just 13 plays in the first half of that contest, one of them being a 70-yard Keegan Mills TD run that briefly tied the game at 8. Campbell didn’t score again until a Connor Sweeney run in the fourth quarter.
Ironically, Sweeney scored the lone TD in Saturday’s semifinal win over Stevens while Mills sat after injuring his ankle in the second quarter, not returning for the remainder of the game. Obviously his health will be a key for Saturday.
There are analytic staffs across the Granite State trying to make sense of the Broncos’ Saturday night stunner of No. 2 St. Thomas.
Alvirne was outgained 336-196 (4.9-to-3.4 yards per play), and the turnover battle was pretty much even. The Broncos turned it over once and St. Thomas twice, but the Saints also blocked an Alvirne punt.
So how did the upstart pull this one off?
The answer is simple. “Heart,” according to coach Tarek Rothe.
Football is not a game of statistics or tendencies. Often times, it’s a game of guts. And that’s what a banged-up Broncos’ team showed on Saturday.
“We said,’ we want this,’ since last January, and it’s paying off now,” said quarterback/safety/defensive end Kyle Gora.
There were heroes all over the defensive.
Grady Hudson’s pick-and-return might go down as the most athletic play in the region this fall. Gora added an interception, and the guys up front heaped the pressure on St. Thomas QB Shawn DeKorne all day long.
They are playing hurt.
End Adam Tice barely practiced all week. Lineman Gregg Ellis played most of the game with a broken nose and didn’t miss a snap on either side of the ball.
And then there is the relentless one, senior Thomas Keegan.
“He is just a beast, offense and defense,” said Rothe.
They battered DeKorne all afternoon, and to the Broncos’ credit, the hits were legal, clean and lethal.
And it is from there that we go to the opposition, first and foremost DeKorne.
Talk about courageous. The Saints’ senior endured the siege all night. He absorbed hit after hit, one by linebacker Alex Giuffrida when the QB was totally exposed stands out, and kept rolling himself off the turf and getting back for the next snap. Even in defeat, DeKorne’s efforts, throwing a pair of TD passes and running for the third were legendary.
And while saluting St. Thomas, Will MacLean had a monster day at receiver, netting 168 yards on his 11 catches.
Again, the Alvirne stats weren’t pretty: Jamie Bertrand hurt the Saints at the edge with six runs for 44 yards. Giuffrida carried 12 times for 14 yards, and Gora rushed 21 times for 30 yards. Morgan Williams led the receivers with three catches for 59 yards. Kyle Boucher (26 yards), Bertrand (11 yards) and Jack Regan (5 yards) all had a catch apiece.
“I trust all of them,” said Gora, on his penchant for spreading the rock around.
The Tomahawks fell Saturday in the semis for the second time in three years to Bedford. Can they get back there next year?
They lose Kip Jackson’s first four year group and a talented group of seniors. A nucleus next fall of this year’s top juniors, arguable tight end Jared Dyer, quarterback James Dowling, and end Devin Wood should go a long way to making them formidable again.
“Even in college you start over but you get to pick your guys,” Tomahawks coach Kip Jackson said. “We have the guys that are in the school that we get. We’ll start over next week. It’s 52 weeks a year now.”
Merrimack got hurt by a good Bedford team. The Tomahawks took the ball rather than the wind to start the game, to keep it out of Bedford’s hands. But a tipped pass/interception led to one score.
Still in the game 21-8, the Tomahawks were in trouble with the wind as well as soon as the fourth quarter started.
“As soon as the field flipped with the wind, we were going to be in trouble,” Jackson said.
He was happy with the interior defense, as the Bulldogs weren’t able to run inside. They had just one rushing TD, a 10-yard run by QB Thomas Morgan.
“They came out in a different front that we weren’t ready for,” Bedford coach Derek Stank said. “But our boys were able to respond.”
What does Jackson think of the Bedford-Pinkerton final?
“I haven’t seen Pinkerton, but I’m sure it will be a great game,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to seeing it.”
But he’d rather be coaching in it. Instead, this past Saturday, he said good-bye to seniors like Ben Eichman, Tristan Wood, Adam Thornton, etc.
“We had a great group of seniors,” Jackson said. “This was our first class that we’ve had for four years, and they’re great kids. We’ve had some other kids that we’ve had in the program for three years, so hopefully we can continue to improve.”