Another memorable moment in the North-South rivalry
You cross that Bridge, you never know what you’ll see.
The annual Battle of the Bridge, football style, between Nashua High School North and South always gives you the rare moments on Stellos Stadium’s Motta Field that adds to the lore of the rivalry.
Two years ago it was the untimed down with Nashua South scoring a TD and then a two-point conversion to pull out an improbable win.
And Friday night, we saw a 101-yard interception return.
“Damn that doesn’t happen every day,” someone said when told of the play.
You had to see it. Nashua North’s Luke Peters was alone just over the end line and probably was shocked when Nashua South’s Cody Jackson threw the ball right at him. Peters didn’t waste any time in taking off down the sideline, some 101 yards untouched for a TD just over three minutes into the third quarter. The play didn’t yet give the Titans the lead – they closed to within 15-13 – but you could tell it completely deflated the young, impressionable Panthers as North rallied from 15-0 down to win 28-15.
“I was looking at the QB,” Peters said. “I didn’t know what rout the receiver was running. I was just getting into my zone. It came right to me.”
Did he see anything in front of him?
“I saw (Jackson) coming,” Peters said. “I don’t know if he hit my foot or not. He’s quick.”
It’s the second time in a week that the 5-foot-6 junior made a play that totally impacted a game. Last week he somehow won the battle with Bishop Guertin 6-5 receiver Connor Lennon to intercept a pass on the opposite side of the same end zone to preserve a Titan 21-17 win.
And last night’s play, as North head coach Chad Zibolis would say, “totally” changed the game.
And Peters’ night.
He was having a tough day. He woke up Friday morning with a sore throat “and legs dead.” He was pounding the Motta Field turf on the game’s third play from scrimmage, dropping a pass from North QB John Canaway in the flat that he knew had he caught it he was off to the races as well. Oh, yeah, then he fumbled the ball away to South’s Bruno Goncalves at the Panther 36, killing a Titan drive.
“Luke had to get out of his own head at the beginning of the game there,” North coach Chad Zibolis said. “He has a fumble, a dropped pass at the beginning of the game, and then he comes up with that. It’s a heckuva job coming back from two things that were really rough for him to kind of get through, and then he has that pick and it’s huge.
“That’s the kind of stuff that some of these kids with this North-South game it gets into their heads, and stuff like that happens. He fought through it, we all fought through it.”
Peters also had a two-point conversion reception, and he ripped off a 26-yard run that helped set up another North score. Geez, this kid just keeps making plays, huh? South had a first and goal at the 2, lost three yards, but the Panthers were still at the 5 with a chance to take at least a commanding 21-6 lead. Instead it became 15-13.
“That was a 14-point swing,” a disapointed South coach Scott Knight lamented.
We’ll see how it all plays out from here. The Panthers are so young, and probably will get younger after losing some key players to injuries in a nightmare of the second half. They face 1-3 Manchester Central next Friday night at 0-4, but it is a chance for their first win.
North, now 3-1, goes from the frying pan into the fire as they head to face unbeaten defending champs Bedford, a team that ruined their season last November in the playoffs.
The Titans survived last night, and we saw something we probably won’t see again for a long time. It was a play that in reality produced a win for Zibolis and his crew, but afterward was it a sigh of relief or a celebration?
“A little of both,” he said with a grin.
That’s pretty much the way the Battle of the Bridge always is.
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