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Panthers dress rehearsal vs. Exeter doesnt go well

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Nashua South's Chris Keefe tries to move around a block by Panther lineman Glen Preston during Friday night's Divison I contest at Stellos Stadium.

NASHUA – The dress rehearsal didn’t go so well for the Nashua High School South football team on Friday night.

They broke a lot of the rules you need to adhere to when playing Exeter, and the result was a 30-14 loss at the hands of the Blue Hawks at Stellos Stadium.

It was a game that basically meant nothing except to show both teams what not do when, as expected, they face each other again in the playoffs at Bill Ball Stadium next Saturday.

South’s list is a little longer.

Turnovers, special teams penalties, and a few other miscues gave the Blue Hawks a 24-0 halftime lead and that was that.

“I would’ve liked to have seen us play cleaner,” South coach Scott Knight said. “That first half was a disaster. Special teams, everything else, turnovers – those were things we’ve been really good about.”

“South was very physical, their defensive ends were tough, linebackers were tough, and they made it hard on us,” Exeter coach Bill Ball said after his team wrapped up an 8-1 regular season. “We had some turnovers, gave us a short field a couple of times.

“But I know better. I know what next Saturday is going to be like. … We know what we’re in for.”

Things sarted to go downhill for the 6-3 Panthers when the Blue Hawks’ Jaedon Cliche picked off South QB Chris Keefe, setting up a Nolan Elmore 28-yard field goal with 4:05 left in the first quarter.

The Blue Hawks, who totaled 238 yards, made it a 10-0 game early in the second quarter, with Ryan Grijalva plunging in from a yard out, capping a 60-yard drive nearly three minutes in.

Cliche later picked off another Keefe offering at the South 35 and returned it to the 8, setting up a two yard Uly Ellis run to help put the Blue Hawks up 17-0.

“You can’t give them a short field,” Knight said. “And we gave them a short field the whole first half.”

As if that wasn’t bad, a shanked punt gave the Blue Hawks another short field, and it took just five plays to go 38 yards, with Ellis running in from nine yards out for 24-0 lead with 3:05 left in the half.

Then the Blue Hawks reverted back to old-time Exeter football, a patented 14-play, 70-yard drive that chewed up the first 8:47 of the third quarter. Danny Doris finished it with a 5-yard TD run and the score was 30-0.

It was too little, too late, but the fourth quarter belonged to South with Josh Compoh setting up his own 4-yard TD with 11:39 left with a 58-yard run,

Jason Compoh added a 3-yard TD with 5:53 to go.

“After their long drive, I thought we responded,” Knight said. “We came to life, started playing a little defense, we started playing. But too late.”

“I happy with the win,” Ball said. “But it’s playoff time.”

No more rehearsals as the show now begins.