High School Football Rewind: Nashua South diversifies
What can we gather from the results of for the local opening weekend of high school football?
Well, basically what we saw this past weekend likely will be a lot different come early November.
Isn’t it always?
Campbell (30-0 over Somersworth) and Nashua North (35-8 over Winnacunnet) were the most decisive winners, while Nashua South (10-6 over Portsmouth) and Merrimack (33-28 at Spaulding) won fairly close games.
Division II finalist Alvirne pitched a shutout over Pelham and also in the division Milford got off to a good 35-21 start over local rival Hollis Brookline as did Souhegan, 34-25 over St. Thomas.
South’s win was not really a typical Panther victory as we’ve seen in past seasons, and this Saturday night’s game with Bishop Guertin at Stellos Stadium should be interesting. The Cardinals lost to Exeter 29-6 Friday without starting QB Hayden Moses, who is done for the year with a torn ACL.
It was a different type of win for South on Friday: Defense and special teams ruled.
“Traditionally, we’re used to moving the ball up and down the field,” Panthers coach Scott Knight said. “But they’re (Portsmouth) as good a team up front (defensively) as we’ll ever see. We have decent size and they dwarfed us.
“We won the game on defense and special teams. We showed some resiliency. I was really happy with our special teams play. We got good cover, we got a turnover.”
South now has a kicking game. Jake Smith booted a 25 yard field goal, and punter Zakaray Hureau kept the Clippers in bad field position much of the game.
“He had a couple of good punts, and almost coffin-cornered one over here,” Knight said, pointing to one end zone. So I was real happy that overall our special teams were really solid, and I thought that was the difference.”
Meanwhile, defensively, Jake McDevitt had two interceptions and almost had a third as the ClipperCats – Portsmouth is co-opping with Oyster River – committed five turnovers. And two Knight’s point, the visitors’ two fumbles were on special teams that South pounced on, a bad snap on a punt and a muffed punt. The former set up South’s only TD, a 1-yard Joe Buturla run.
Meanwhile, the only big play the ClipperCats managed was a 35-yard completion from QB Jacob Boutin to Oscar Lalime to set up a first and goal at the South 5 with 1:19 to play. But Lalime couldn’t get to the corner of the end zone in time to catch a Boutin pass on the ClipperCats’ final play.
“We played solid ‘D’,” Knight said. “Forced a few turnovers, and did what we had to do.”
But with Knight, it came down to his team’s play on special teams.
“That stuff,” Knight said, “can win you games. … We put a lot of time into it, and it paid off this week.”
South back/receiver Jason Compoh made his return from a rolled ankle after missing most of the preseason.
Speaking of injuries, the Cardinals were dealt a tough blow over a week ago when senior quarterback Hayden Moses went down with a torn ACL in the preseason Manchester Jamboree, his season over even before it started.
It was a tough blow for the Cards, who had another QB from last year, Joe DaSilva, transfer to Windham. Moses had gotten the bulk of the snaps in preseason and was lauded by Cards coach John Trisciani for his off-season work.
“I feel awful for Hayden Moses,” Trisciani said. “He s the hardest working high school football player I have ever coached. I have no doubt he will fully recover and come out of this as the best version of himself. I’m so proud of Hayden and how he is handling this situation, helping the team any way he can.”
But Trisciani and the Cards have to move forward, and they did that in Friday’s 29-6 loss to Exeter with junior Josh Larson behind center. Larson threw a TD pass to Kyle Baker in the loss.
“Larson did the best he could given the circumstances,” Trisciani said. “I need to do a better job putting him in a position to succeed.”
And it’s Larson’s job moving forward, and he’ll have his hands full Saturday agaist a ball-hawking South defense. But the goal is for him to take it step by step and improve.
“He is our quarterback,” Trisciani said, “and I’m excited for him to see how he improves throughout the season.”
Elsewhere in local Division I, Nashua North will host Spaulding on Friday and will try to continue to spread the wealth around the Titan offense. The Titans, besides vaunted QB Curtis Harris, have other playmakers, including junior back Xavier Provost, who had two TDS Friday, including a 98-yard kickoff return.
Merrimack needed all its firepower Friday to hold off Spaulding, so the Titan defense could be challenged more than it was last week.
The Tomahawks will host Dover on Friday, and the Green Wave bested Keene 28-14 on Friday. But Merrimack will score points because of the talent of Jared Dyer (passing and rushing TD), Devin Wood (two receiving TDs) and Zach Twardosky (two rushing Tds).
Right now, with the exception of Exeter, local teams in the West could have an edge over the East (Seacoast), but that can certainly change.
Injuries, namely the one that kept Quinten Wimmer out of the Cavaliers’ opener with Milford, were the talk of Week 1 in Division II.
“We’re lucky (Wimmer) wasn’t out there,” admitted Milford’s Gavin Urda, who had one of the two Spartan interceptions on Friday night with Sean Hanrahan scoring the other.
The talented slot receiver/safety, who caught 48 passes for 913 yards and nine TDs last year, was hurt in a scrimmage and is still kind of in a holding pattern to see when he’ll be back.
“Hopefully we get (some news) on Monday,” said Hollis Brookline coach Chris Lones. “He’s progressed. He’s so much better than he was two days after it happened. He’s running, doing a lot of stuff. We just don’t want to take him to the next level until we confirm it. Our trainer has been working with him every day.”
With the usual early-season cramping run rampant on the Cavaliers’ sideline, JV players were called to duty.
HB played a pair of freshmen and three sophomores, including Zach Redus who delivered a couple of big catches in the loss.
Hanover, a 35-0 loser to Kennett in Week 1, will be the guest of the Cavaliers on Saturday.
Like the HB staff, Keith Jones and the Milford High coaching staff were forced to get creative as the game went on, altering lineups as athletes were stung by cramps and other minor ailments.
The one that could be a bit more serious and certainly hurts the Spartans was the leg injury suffered early by all-Division II South two-way lineman Colton Burrows.
“Colton going down really changes our offensive game plan, and we lost him on the first defensive series,” said Jones. “We were shuffling the deck a little bit. There was a lot of cramping. We played well up front, until we were replacing guys.”
Kyle Forsley had a big night in the trenches, while Noah Santos and J.R. Ughu wreaked havoc on the Spartans’ defensive line all night.
Logan Barnhill, Matt Hannon and Hanrahan were ball hawks, too, on defense, and if all else fails?
“That ’14’ played pretty good, too. He had a lot of tackles,” said Jones of his quarterback/safety Gavin Urda.