There was some good, some bad and some ugly from the opening games from our lakes region teams over the weekend. First the GOOD, with Gilford playing a sloppy first half against a team they should have blown out considering past matchups and program history. Pembroke Academy didn’t win a game last season but apparently the program building of legendary coach Larry McElreavy is finally starting to set in. The Spartans took advantage of sloppy undisciplined play by the Golden Eagles in the first half as they look to get their feet under them with a new quarterback. Pembroke took a 12-0 lead into the halftime break and looked nothing like the hapless bunch from the past couple of years. Third-year Gilford coach Josh Marzahl corralled the boys in the locker room and made the necessary changes. “We saw some things and made the adjustments. We came out better in the second half. We had fewer penalties and mental mistakes.” Gilford exploited the Pembroke defense for 3 touchdowns and a field goal to capture the come from behind win at the gun. On their final drive, trailing by two, Alex Cheek guided the Golden Eagles to the 12 yard line with 1.8 seconds left when Gilford set up for a 27 yard field goal to win it. A field goal at this level is something rarely seen even in division II. Most of your kickers are on the soccer pitch and not the football field. Patrick Carr lined it up and the team perfectly executed the snap, hold and kick right through the uprights for a 21-20 victory. Gilford goes to 1-0 and atop the standings of Division II North! Cheek finished his first start at Quarterback going a very efficient 24-30 for 267 yards and 2 touchdowns and one on the ground. Carr was a favorite target of Cheek snagging 7 balls for 80 yards and a touchdown. Mrazahl noted the smaller squads and new practice schedule as factors in the game. “For both Pembroke and us we have about 32 kids with 18 seeing significant time and at the end I think we were both just gassed. Loosing 4 days of conditioning hurts too but it also compresses the time you get to install new schemes and work with new players.” Next up is a trip to Penacook to take on the Merrimack Pride this Saturday afternoon.
Laconia drops opener
The Ugly came from Laconia’s Fitzgerald field where the Sachems started the season as they have the previous 6 seasons, with a disappointing loss. This time the Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton Red Hawks came to town with upset on their mind in just their third year as a varsity program. In previous years they have collected only three wins in Division II. Like Laconia, they dropped down to Division III and hoped to be more competitive. This is a time when Laconia should have blown out a team like this but they were stymied most of the night struggling to move the ball against a very fast and active Red Hawk defense. They also were very vanilla on offense and predictable, with a lot of their key starters on the injury list. A lot of their drives were short-circuited by undisciplined personal foul penalties and unsportsmanlike penalties which is something we never see from a Craig Kozens team. He was very contrite after the game speaking with WEMJ’s Eric Nelson. “Very disappointed in the discipline and penalties and lack of following assignments. They deserved to win tonight. Good things happen to good people and we weren’t good people tonight, so I guess we got what we deserved.” Frankly he could have been more critical of his team as it was embarrassing. On one play Jake Steele ran 20 yard from the Sachem 20 to the 40 to keep a drive alive, but a personal foul penalty negated the run. On another play, Steele ran to convert a first down but it was negated by another penalty and then the wheels fell off. Two more penalties for unsportsmanlike behavior that resulted in a Sachem ejection and 35 yards in penalties, pinning Laconia under their goal posts at the 4. The Red Hawks smelled blood and strung out a sweep into the end zone for a safety. Ugly indeed. I tweeted after the game that I was personally embarrassed at the unsportsmanlike behavior of a few of the players. I’m sure Coach Kozens will address it and get it right even if it means suspending or cutting a player. What we saw Friday night was not sportsmanlike or worthy of wearing the Sachem colors. It’s a low point for the program. OK, off the soapbox and onto the game…
With all that said, the Sachems had a chance to win, believe it or not! The game started with a great 43-yard kickoff return by Steele to the HDH 40, setting the Sachems up with great field position. But Laconia short-circuited the drive after one first down with a holding penalty and 23-yard sack. After a scoreless first quarter Laconia put together a 13-play 5 minute drive capped by a 1-yard Kelby Brooker TD run and Steele 2 point conversion rush. After a false start plagued opening 2 drives, the Red Hawks switched things up and took advantage of some confusion in the Sachems secondary. They ran a crossing pattern to the left that resulted in 2 Laconia defenders running into each other and Joe Sawitzki wide open in the flat. Caleb Yianakopolos hit him in stride for a 50 yard touchdown. The two point conversion failed. Right before the half is when the safety happened, so it was tied at 8 at the break.
Laconia opened the second half on defense and they forced a quick three and out to get the ball, but on their third play from scrimmage they fumbled, giving the ball to HDH at midfield. The Sachems stiffened on D again and got the ball back and quickly cashed in as Steele found some rare daylight on an off tackle play and sprinted to the south endzone for a 45-yard touchdown. After a failed two point conversion HDH answered quickly as Colby Quiet (who you might recall destroyed Laconia in the lacrosse championship game in the spring) busted through for a 36-yard run to paydirt tying the score. It was 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter and Laconia could get nothing going. HDH, meanwhile, was cashing in on all the penalties Laconia was handing them for first downs and huge chunks of yardage. The Red Hawks got the ball back midway through the fourth quarter and they got a heavy dose of Quiet over and over again as he ran 6 of 7 plays, eventually getting in the end zone for the go ahead TD. Laconia blocked the extra point try but still trailed 20-14. The resilient Sachems mustered a last minute 14-play 69 yard drive with Jake Steele carrying the load with 10 rushes putting the ball on the 4 yard line with 1:30 left on the clock and a fourth and goal play. After their second time out they drew up a play action pass that would have worked except for the Red Hawk defense crashing in on first year quarterback Jack Ancora. Tyler Richter snuck out into the left corner of the endzone and was wide open but Ancora was hit before he threw it and the ball never made it close to Ritcher.
Kozens knew that play was going to be a bit chaotic for both teams. “It was a combination of things. I told the officials before the game that it was going to be sloppy football in week one in New Hampshire due to the shortened season.” Over 20 penalties were called and Laconia had well over 100 yards of penalty yardage assessed on accepted penalties. The Sachems are also dealing with an inordinate number of injures, but Kozens made no excuse. “We’ve tried all preseason to move guys around and find places for people. We have been limited in what we can do, due to a lot of injuries. We’re trying to find ourselves out there.” The medical staff is earning their money with a couple of head injuries require the concussion protocol and two key players missing. Ryan Dee, the projected starting quarterback, has been dealing with a serious back injury and has been cleared to begin some athletic activities and is week to week, but don’t expect him before mid-season. The heart and soul of the defense and team co-captain, Garrett Whitney, suffered a shoulder injury in the Lebanon scrimmage and could return this week. As for the bright spot, it was Jake Steele. “He gave his heart to the team tonight," Kozens said of his star tailback. "When there was nothing there, he made something out of nothing. He made big plays and played like a senior tonight. Hopefully we can get his co-captain Garrett (Whitney) back on the field next week and continue to grow as a team.” Steele carried the ball 35 times for 165 yards and had several long runs called back due to penalties otherwise he’d be well over 200 yards and we’d be singing a different tune today! Next up is another home game Friday night against newly formed Kearsarge-Mount Royal.
In other action from the weekend, it was a forgettable game for Inter-Lakes-Moultonborough as they traveled to Monadnock and were soundly defeated 44-0. The Lakers are getting their first taste of the newly formed Division III with lower enrolled Division II teams like Laconia, Kearsarge, Monadnock and Lebanon dropping into their previously dominated domain. Hopefully for the Lakers they can right the ship Saturday in their home opener against the now inspired Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton Red Hawks. Game time is at noon, so get your Laker gear on and get out to Meredith and root on the Lakers!
Division IV opens up this weekend with all lakes region teams at home. Winnisquam hosts Farmington-Nute, Newfound entertains Bishop Brady while Franklin takes on Mascoma Valley.
Belmont stayed unbeaten with a 5-0 shutout of Somersworth. Laconia took another loss, losing 5-0 in Manchester to Trinity. In Division IV Moultonborough Academy goes to 3-0 with a win over Epping.
Belmont crushed Laconia 4-0, as the Red Raiders remain perfect on the young season and the Sachems suffered their first defeat. Gilford got a surprise from Lakes Region foe Prospect Mountain with a scoreless tie. Inter-Lakes got tripped up by Raymond 2-1 and Newfound got their first win against Conant, 5-2. Winnisquam netted their first goals of the season but still fell to White Mountains 3-2. In Division IV Franklin continued to struggle, losing 11-0 to Portsmouth Christian.
Gilford shallacked Winnisquam 5-0 for their first win. Laurel Gingrich netted three goals while Brianna Salanitro got a pair and Jenna Delucca made 7 saves for the shutout. Newfound also stayed unbeaten with another shutout as they beat Franklin 8-0.
Interlakes opened their campaign with a straight set victory over Newfound. Emma Wheeler had 19 service points, 7 aces, 8 kills, 10 digs and 3 blocks in an all-around great performance. Not to be outdone, Jessalyn Brown was the assist master with 21. Coach Randy Mattson noted: “Also contributing were Delaney Smith with 12 points and 2 kills, Ava Duymazlar had 5 kills and 12 digs. Madisyn Wilson had 10 receive passes and 7 digs and Morgan White got 3 kills and 5 points.”
Laconia had a tough first match against Oyster River losing 3-1 (25-13, 19-25, 26-24 and 25-20) in a very competitive game. First year coach Mary Ann Myers didn’t like the start. “We came out shaky, with some first game jitters and nerves and didn't really play Laconia volleyball.” But things got rolling in the 2nd set as they jumped out to an early 8 point lead and winning their lone set. Overall Myers was pleased with the kids’ performance. “I had two freshman starters - Caitlin and Norah Dunleavy that both did an excellent job in their very first high school game. I got solid play on all parts of the court from Hannah Dow. She ended the night with 18 kills, 18 digs, and was 100 percent from the service line. Caitlin Beattie had an amazing first outing with 6 aces, 14 digs, and 20 assists. Defensively Gabby Caravona added 20 digs and Avy Bartlett recorded 11 digs and 5 blocks.” Next up a home match against John Stark today at 5:45.
Friday night Gilford opened up their season at Pelham. First year head coach Amy Tripp described the start. “It was very exciting to finally play a match after intense pre-season practices. The senior leadership of Jennie Gannon, Lexi Bosivert, Karly Sanborn and Maggie McNeill was strong and the girls played well together keeping their energy up throughout the match!” The Golden Eagles won in 3 sets 25-12, 25-17, 25-5. McNeill led in kills with 9, followed by Boisvert and Abby Warren with 6 apiece. Sanborn had 22 assists. Sam Holland playing libero led with 15 digs in the backcourt, followed by Boisvert with 14. Tripp added that her bench played a big role as well. “Michelle Gallant came in at the end of the third game and served 3 in a row to clinch the match.” The Lady Eagles have their home opener against Milford Thursday evening.
Franklin High School Athlete of the week: This year’s first FHS Female Athlete Of The Week is Sophomore Jill Weaver of the field hockey team. Coach Shelby Joyce said, “Jill was a workhorse in the team’s first two games, especially in the offensive end of the field.” The Male AOTW is Junior Chandler Glover of the soccer team. Coach Kevin VanGorden said, “Chandler did a fantastic job all around in his first ever game for FHS.”
The road ahead: More high school results and also another conversation with Scott Crowder about the sports complex proposed project at the state school and the NH Wolves Jr. Hockey teams are getting set for another season! Hear Keith Murray’s Local Sports Updates everyday on 101.5 WEEI Sports Radio. Reach Keith by email: Sports@101.5WEEI.com