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Division II Football Finals: Beliveau hopes history is rewritten

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Nov 17, 2020

Telegraph file photo by TOM KING Former Souhegan head and current assistant football coach Mike Beliveau is anxious to see the Sabers renew their rivalry with Plymouth again in Saturday's Division II finals. In doing so, he offers some key historical perspective.

Souhegan vs. Plymouth.

The thought of renewing that championship rivalry this Saturday at Saber Field conjures up some special feelings on the part of Souhegan assistant coach Mike Beliveau.

Remember, he’s the Sabers former longtime head coach, and the head man for the five Souhegan losses to Plymouth what was then the Division III finals. The Sabers will host Plymouth in what is now the Division II championship game. Change the league name, but the feeling is still the same. The losses came in 1998, 2002, ’03, ’05 and ’07. All at Plymouth.

However the magical season for Beliveau and the Sabers, who have won four championships was 2004. That was when the Sabers beat Plymouth in the regular season up in Plymouth, and then 28-10 in that year’s semis, played in Amherst. Plymouth was coached by the legendary Chuck Lenahan, who retired after 43 seasons as the Bobcats head coach in 2013.

“That regular season win gave us the feeling we could do anything by getting the monkey off our back,” Beliveau said.

“As I think back, I think back with nothing but respect for Coach Lenahan and that program. It’s not just their football program, it’s the town football culture. It’s unreal, and I respect it to death.”

And here’s how much Beliveau respects it:

“I can tell you this,” he said. “The time we won up there probably to me felt better than any championship win. It just felt impossible to win there. Even though it was a regualar season game.

“I felt in my head they were impossible to beat. And we finally dug down and beat them. It was a very emotional and poignant point in my career.”

That win helped the Sabers have home field advantage in the semis, and, trailing 10-0, they came back with 28 unanswered points. Then they walloped rival Milford 41-0 in the finals.

“It was a great year,” Beliveau said, noting that current Saber head coach Robin Bowkett’s younger brother Colin was on that 2004 team.

“He played a major role,” Beliveau said. “He switched from a tough-nosed running back to our center. And up there, in the regular season win, Colin played an amazing game on both sides of the ball, center and linebacker.”

Beliveau feels it’s a fitting final this season.

“Knowing in preseason we had a good club, and knowing in preseason Plymouth would be Plymouth and be there,” he said, “it feels right to me. It feels like this game coming up is the right game.”

Beliveau said he still thinks about the Plymouth celebrations after those title game wins, five titles over the teams he coached.

“And I dream of doing it on our field,” he said. “And doing it on our field for the first time (in the finals) against them with our group. I really want our players to feel that, and I do, too, personally. But a lot of work to be done.”

Beliveau has some thoughts on how this game could be approached differently than his five Bobcat title bouts.

“What I’ll impart on them is they (the Bobcats) have a system, it’s been in place for years,” Beliveau said. “They believe in it, and they all do their job. And the other thing they do is, they play penalty free, error-free football.

“But one thing I want to say is that in years past, I used to maybe give the wrong message to my teams that we’ve got to play perfect to beat Plymouth. And I’m not sure that was a good message over the years.”

And he feels now the message coming from Bowkett is different, and the way to go. “Maybe the message is enjoy the hell out of all this, play as well as we possibly can and good things fall into place.”

And Souhegan can get its first win in a championship game over a Plymouth team, and rewrite some history.


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