Souhegan football has no trouble in routing ConVal

Photo by CHRIS PANTAZIS Souhegan receiver Jake Civiello hauls in a pass during his Sabers’ 2019 home-opener against Con-Val on Friday night.

AMHERST – The Souhegan High football squad strode into its 2019 home opener on Friday night aiming to advance to 2-0 on the young Division II season. And the visiting ConVal Cougars’ crew was looking to perform the same feat.

But it became evident extremely quickly to everybody in attendance at the Amherst school that the visiting Cougars weren’t going to be any match for their hosts, who grasped a huge lead at halftime en route to a 41-0 hammering of their stunned guests which kept their early-season mark unblemished.

Coach Robin Bowkett’s Souhegan bunch scored on five of its seven offensive possessions in the opening half on the way to the 35-0 lead at the break, which had the spirited home crowd juiced. Junior standouts Austin Jain and Luke Manning drove the offense to more than 300 yards in the first two periods for the huge advantage. And the locals’ defense held the frustrated ConVal contingent to a mere 14 offensive yards – all on the ground – during those two dominant quarters.

And there didn’t wind up being any reason for the hosts to look back over their shoulders the rest of the way as their defense held the claw-less Cougars to just 53 offensive yards overall.

The Sabers ended up with quite a few reasons to be pleased with their flawed but gutsy season-opening win over a tough Saint Thomas crew in Dover the previous Saturday. ConVal likewise began its 2019 campaign with success in the form of a 21-17 edging of Kingswood a week earlier.

But Bowkett was one extremely happy guy in the aftermath of the Friday night win, with both his offense and defense giving him reasons to grin.

“We were better on defense,” he said in comparing his team’s two 2019 efforts. “We were better with getting lined up cleaner, knowing who was where, and playing assignment football. Our defensive guy J.T. Anderson doesn’t get enough credit.”

Souhegan claimed the first points of Friday night a little more than six minutes into the opening quarter when a five-play drive was capped off by a 1-yard dive into the end zone by quarterback Jain. The hosts then pulled off two straight successful two-point conversions, with the first being wiped out by a holding penalty. But Jain followed up that frustrating moment by hitting teammate Reese Colby with a throw in the end zone on another two-point try which stood to make it an 8-0 game with 5:51 left in the stanza.

The Sabers then took full advantage of what was in essence a long on-side kick which Con-Val failed to field, with the hosts starting a new offensive series on the opposing 28. And it only took one play to cover those yards on a toss from Jain to Luke Manning. Riley Lawhorn’s extra-point made it a 15-0 contest with 5:48 to go in the first.

Souhegan had a glittering chance to increase its lead in the final minutes of the period when it found itself on a drive at the Con-Val 12 with a first down. But an interception at the goal line ended that productive push.

But the Sabers did in fact increase their advantage in the first 1:01 of the second period with Manning at quarterback and running like the wind out of that spot. He covered 37 of the 43 yards the hosts needed on their next possession with keepers, sprinting 11 yards to pay dirt in helping to make it a 22-0 Souhegan lead.

And the local squad’s lead bulged to 28-0 midway through the second period when Jain and his offense capped off a seven-play drive with an 11-yard scoring toss to Ryan Hauser with 6:07 remaining in the half.

At halftime, the local gridders had a total of 329 offensive yards with 250 of those coming via the passing game. Jain had all but six of those with 244 yards on 11-for-16 passing with two touchdown passes.

The visitors finally completed a pass early in the third quarter, but with the clock on running time a big Con-Val comeback was even less likely than it would normally be.

Souhegan notched the final six points of the game in the final five minutes of play on a 29-yard scoring sprint by Maverick Derushia.

“I’m very pleased with the way the guys executed. They took advantage of some opportunities, and this crowd was just electric tonight,” said coach Bowkett.