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Tomahawks use big plays and hold off Panthers, 27-21

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Sep 17, 2022

Nashua South's Nathan Smith finds himself sandwiched between Merrimack's Logan Day (21) and Dominick Helmig after a reception during Friday night's game in Merrimack. (Telegraph photo by TOM KING)

MERRIMACK – Sometimes it’s not how you start or even how you finish, but how you play in between.

In between was pretty good for the Merrimack High School football team on Friday night, good enough for a 27-21 win over area rival Nashua South at Student Memorial Field.

And for the 0-3 Panthers, it was just the opposite. They began the game looking nothing like the team that got blown out by Windham six days earlier, and ended it with two late TDs.

Yet in between, Tomahawks QB Trent Jackson tossed three touchdown passes, and South QB Karsten Lemire threw a pair of interceptions, one of them a 45-yard pick six by Remeillo Hyde that ended up being the difference in the game.

Somehow the ‘Hawks (2-1 overall, 2-0 Division I) overcame their slow start, which included two turnovers and a South TD (2-yard Alvin-Pasqual Rosario run after a red zone fumble recovery). But the second quarter included a big red zone stop after a bad punt snap, a 24-yard Hyde run that led to the first Jackson TD pass, a 40-yarder to senior receiver Owen Sadowski to help tie the game at 7 with 6:49 left in the first half, and it stayed that way going into the half. Disaster averted.

“All three games we’ve done this,” Jackson said of the slow start. “Lucky I don’t have any hair. … We didn’t play as well as we wanted to in the first half, and South was playing with a purpose.

“They had the ball the entire first quarter. … Our team was staggering a little bit. But it was good to get that stop, and then once we got the score, we were able to get going.”

The second half? Jackson’s 67-yard catch-and-run slant pass to Garron Brown put the Hawks on top for good, 13-7, with 7:07 left in the third quarter.

After a South three-and-out, the Tomahawks put together a 10-play, 52 yard drive with Jackson hitting Brown again on a 3-yard third down TD pass. Reese Lopez’s PAT made it 20-7 with 2:27 left in the third.

“We had some big mental lapses on a couple of those big plays,” South coach Scott Knight said. “But we cleaned some things up, we’re better than we were a week ago. The kids played hard, but some of those mental lapses are killing us.”

Jackson, who was 14 of 23 for 233 yards and his three TDs certainly was.

“Trent does a good job of reading defenses and I thought he made some good throws tonight,” Jackson said.

For as well as he threw the ball, Lemire (20 of 36 for 159 yards, two TDs, two INTs) made two critical fourth quarter errors. The first was an interception by Merrimack’s Sahil Mujawar in the red zone with 10:15 left in the game. The second was unfortunately his next pass, picked off in the flat by Hyde and returned 45 yards to paydirt to help make it a 27-7 game with 5:47 left.

“Coach was telling me to move out on trips (three receivers to one side), I moved out and his eyes were right there and I picked it up,” Hyde said.

“It was good to be able to see the defense make some of those plays,” Jackson said. “But we obviously have a lot of stuff to work on. This upcoming week we’re going to play what’s arguably the best team (Bishop Guertin) in the state.”

The Panthers weren’t done, though. Lemire tossed two late TD passes, a 26-yarder to Kyle Emmons and a 6-yard toss to Joshua Tripp. But the latter came with 48 seconds left, and Hyde recovered the ensuing on-sides kick to end it.

South just hopes that didn’t end their season. They left here last year 0-3 as well, en route to 3-6.

“We just have to get on a roll,” Knight said. “We’ll see what happens. I thought Karsten definitely grew up as the game went on.”

While the Tomahawks woke up.

“We started out flat,” Hyde said, “but we turned it around.”

Which is what the Panthers are hoping to do in the next few weeks.


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