Souhegan defense gets ornery; Sabers sting Timberlane, roll to state finals
AMHERST — Timberlane Regional caught the undefeated Souhegan High footballers on the wrong day.
The Owls paid dearly for the Sabers’ defense surrendering 34 points in last week’s state quarterfinal. Will Boyle, Alex Karpawich and the ornery Souhegan defense came into Saturday’s Division 2 semifinal intent on shutting down upstart Timberlane. The 6-0 Sabers did just that, holding the Owls to 0 points vs. the regulars on just 105 yards in a 31-7 thumping. Souhegan now advances to the state title game vs. 5-0 Plymouth, next Saturday.
“This is awesome, this is awesome. One more,” said Sabers’ coach Robin Bowkett, whose club will look to nail down Souhegan’s first state football title since 2010.
“Let’s roll, baby. Nothing better than Souhegan and Plymouth. What’s better than that? (Plymouth) is obviously the perennial (premier) program in the state. Should be awesome.”
Karpawich set the tone with a big sack on the opening set of downs, a Timberlane 3-and-out that netted -17 yards. The defense — one that had allowed just 21 points all season before Hollis Brookline carved it up a week ago — was back and bitter.
“Sometimes we just don’t click as well, and we let up more than we want,too,” said Boyle, who had a sack and two other tackles for loss on Saturday. “Once we came out strong, it set us up for the game. Our defense really got rolling, and it was nice.”
Honestly, the Sabers had to be that stout. Timberlane came to play.
Through nearly two quarters, it was scoreless.
With just under three minutes until halftime, Souhegan made its own break when Luke Manning busted through and smothered a punt. Actually, Manning had more punter than punt, but he did manage to tip the ball, making the play legal. He and the Owl punter tumbled, and the football sat still on the Timberlane 25.
“I finally got mine,” said Boyle, after watching his team score four TDs on defense or special teams a week ago. “I plowed through the line as best as I could. I saw the ball on the ground, and I just figured why not … pick it up and go?
“It was something I never really expected. I just saw Luke (Manning) dive, and the ball was right in front of me.”
The scoop and score made it 7-0 with 2:27 to play before intermission.
But Souhegan wasn’t done.
The Sagers got the 3-and-out they needed defensively, and the California Kid, Austin Jain found his rhythm in the two-minute drill.
Jain made his chilly 1-for-7 start an instant memory, connecting with Reese Colby (for 8), Riley Lawhorn (22), Luke Manning (36) and then Jake Civiello for a 14-yard touchdown with 42 seconds left.
It might have been a scoreless game, and instead the Sabers led, 14-0.
“We talk a lot about starting fast, win the middle eight, and finish the game in the fourth,” said Bowkett, with the middle eight being the pivotal four minutes before halftime and the opening four minutes of the third quarter. “The middle eight, if you win that, you’re in pretty good position. We scored twice before the half, we drove down the field and had about a six-minute drive to start the second half. I’m really proud of how we came together there.”
Souhegan pretty much finished the job on the opening possession of the third, methodically marching 61 yards on nine plays (eight rushes), closing with a 26-yard field goal from the drive’s workhorse Lawhorn.
The boot made it 17-0, and the way Souhegan was defending, Timberlane had little to no chance.
“We stopped getting cute. Let’s just do what’s been working for us, what’s got us here, which is getting the ball to Riley,” said Bowkett of his senior steamroller who had runs of 5, 11, 13 and 14 to set up his 3-pointer. “The blocks on the perimeter were great. He got the edge and I’m just proud of our execution there.”
If any doubt lingered, Jain took care of that, tossing a pair of TD passes to Reese Colby, one for 6 and the other for 24 yards.
On the day, Jain was an efficient 16 of 26 for 194 yards. He spread the ball around, with Manning pulling in five passes for 63 yards to lead the way. Civiello (4-48), Colby (3-38) and Connor Holland (2-22) all made big catches.
Civiello also had a pair of second-half interceptions.
“He’s a stud. He’s like a quiet stud,” said Bowkett. “He doesn’t catch too, too many balls, but when he does, you feel like it’s always a touchdown. We’ve got great players, man. It’s fun.”