Laconia 27, Kearsarge-Mount Royal 18

The Sachems find a way. After a forgettable opener with Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton, Laconia came out and played inspired, sportsmanlike football on Friday night under the lights at Fitzgerald Field. There were zero unsportsmanlike penalties and despite some key injuries and a tough Kearsarge-Mount Royal team, they found a way to win in the fourth quarter. I love a good redemption story and they boys delivered.

Coach Kozens was also puffing his chest out after the game, brimming with pride speaking with WEMJ’s Eric Nelson. “It was a big maturity upgrade from last week. I’m proud of the kids. We took a lot of heat in the media and took it to heart and were motivated all week. They cleaned up their act and played sound football on both sides of the ball.” He spoke about the adversity and resiliency of his team. “When guys got called upon they responded. We had kids go down and had some kids step up for a great team win. We were playing guys all over the place and a lot of guys played that have not gotten many reps this year but they stepped up and I couldn’t be any more proud of them.”

It was the defense that started and ended the game while the offense, despite some big plays, remained predictable and one-dimensional. Kearsarge took the opening kick and showed the Sachems something they had not seen this year with a spread formation. After a 14-yard first down run by Jak Jallah and a big run by tailback Gavyn Magistro, Jallah looked to a slot receiver down the right seam but senior co-captain Jake Steele swung over from his safety position and picked it off, setting up the Sachems' first possession.

The highlight of their first drive was a 57-yard scamper by Steele to set up Laconia’s first scoring chance, a 26-yard field goal attempt that was doomed from the start. Bad snap and hold had Ryan Piava’s first-ever attempt blocked. We remained scoreless until late in the quarter when Steele again ripped off a huge run. This time 53 yards to set up Laconia deep in the red zone. All 6 plays on the drive went to Steele including the capper, a two yard plunge to pay dirt. With Paiva drilling the PAT Laconia led 7-0. Early in the second the Cougars responded, exploiting the secondary of Laconia for a very nice 25-yard pitch and catch from Jallah to Andrew Normandin. The PAT was no good so the Sachems led 7-6. Back came Laconia with The “Man of Steele” with a one play 72-yard run and Paiva PAT giving the Sachems an eight-point lead. Not to be outdone, the “Magic Man,” Maigistro, astonished the Cougar faithful with a 57-yard run to the house with a few minutes left in the half, cutting the Laconia lead to 2 after they botched the PAT again.

Just when you thought Laconia was going to take the lead to the half the Sachems did everything they could to hand the Cougars more points with a fumble lost at midfield. That turned into a field goal attempt blocked and possession for the Sachems at their own 13. Laconia moved the ball out of the shadow of their goal post before Paiva flipped the field with a beautiful punt inside the opposing 30. Kearsarge could not do anything as Laconia’s defense stiffened. A poor punt gave Laconia great field position at midfield with a little over a minute to play when disaster happened. Jack Ancora’s first pass of the game was picked off by Brodie Messer as he cut in front of the intended receiver setting up Jallah and the offense for one final drive. He made Laconia pay with a 2-play, 59-yard drive aided by a 15-yard personal foul that, in this commentator’s opinion, was a tough call to go against Laconia. It was like lightning striking as it happened so quickly. Jallah connected on a 20-yard TD pass to Brodi Mulligan and the Cougars took a 4 point lead to the half as they again missed the PAT. Those misses came back to bite them in the end.

Coach Kozens spoke about his defensive game plan. “I thought we had a great game plan. Coach Greely had a great week of practice and got them motivated and to buy in to what we were doing. The kids responded. They’re very coachable. We expected to play more man coverage but we got into a jam and mixed in some zone defense and tried to confuse them. The front 4 played great all night. We only brought four and played great man defense behind them. They put a lot of stress on them and did a great job.”

The defense came out in the second half and decided to put the clamps down on KMR. They gave them nothing and it was a thing of beauty. The problem was, until the fourth quarter, the Cougars were doing the same thing on defense. It did not help that after one run in the second half Jake Steele suffered a knee injury and left the game and didn’t return. Coach Kozens had to make a change at quarterback, too, bringing sophomore Cody Greenwood off the bench to replace Ancor.

In the first half Garrett Whitney was a beast on both sides of the ball opening huge holes for Steele while destroying the cougar offense as he was in the backfield more than some of their runners! Kozens spoke about Whitney’s return. “The kid has a lot of pent up frustration after not playing in the preseason after getting hurt in our third practice. He never missed a summer workout. He’s probably run that hill behind the shed a thousand times. He led us and inspired us.” In the second half, he and Caleb Roy had to shoulder most of the running assignments. Back and forth the teams went with defense dominating until late in the game when the Sachem defense forced a punt from the Cougar’s 1 yard line. Set up at the 34, Laconia opened up with three plays to get a first down at the 24 with consecutive runs. Then a surprise. Kozens drew up a play-action pass that caught most everyone by surprise. Out of a tight run formation with Ryan Chaisson spread out wide to the right, the Cougars took the cheese as Chaisson cut inside and then out and was wide open for the perfectly placed spiral from Greenwood for 6! With Paiva’s PAT the Sachems went up by three, 21-18.

Kozens said the measurement for a first down gave him time to draw it up. “We knew they were coming hard. They put everyone in the box and we haven’t thrown the ball much all season. We caught a break with the measurement so I called Chaisson and Greenwood over and put the play in so they knew it was coming. When it came they executed it to perfection. It’s nothing we’ve ever run but it opened up by 20 yards. Those two guys didn’t play in the opener and have worked really hard all season and they played inspired.”

Before anyone could settle back in from the excitement and relief of taking the lead there was still 2:34 on the clock and KMR had shown the ability to score quickly despite being shut down in the second half. After a deep kickoff by Paiva, the Cougars again were shut down with two incomplete passes and a huge sack by Bryce McCrea, who had a great game with several tackles and sacks in a dominating performance up front. Kozens spoke about his big lineman. “He’s really grown up. He’s been starting since he’s been a freshman and grown up to another level as a football player and a human being. He’s bought into the Sachem way, leading us and tonight played inspired and played with a lot of heart.” With under two minutes to play they punted with a full complement of time outs looking to stuff the Sachems and get the ball back. Well the punt was poor and Laconia took over at the Cougar 48. Looking to run the clock the Sachems handed the ball to their big fullback off left tackle. A rugby scrum ensued with the pile moving forward and no whistle. Whitney busted out of the pile, to everyone’s amazement, and rumbled, John Riggins style, down the left sideline to the endzone, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. The PAT was muffed and the Sachems went up by the final margin 27-18. Kozens talked about the play. “That touchdown was just a wedge play trying to run the clock out. The line got the push and he ran the last 40 because he ran that hill all summer.”

Despite not playing in the second half, Steele led all rushers with 17 carries for 226 yards. Whitney ran nine times for 95 yards and Roy was 10 for 45. Just how dominating was the defense? Jallah was 10-14 for 132 yards 2 touchdowns and a pick in the first half. Second half he was 4-13 and 53 yards. Magistro had 90 rushing yards in the first half and only 17 in the second. Normandin caught all 5 of his balls in the first half. They gave them nothing in the second half and won the game with defense.

Takeaways: The return of Garrett Whitney cannot be overstated. He dominated on both sides of the ball, opening huge holes for the big runs by Steele, led the defense and picked up the slack on offense when they needed him most. Ryan Paiva as a kicker and punter might have been the most important player on the field next to Steele and Whitney. His extra points are automatic, he has the length and accuracy to get three points when you get inside the 25 and he has the ability to flip the field with his great punting. The switch at quarterback may be significant if Ryan Dee cannot return this year. Greenwood has shown the ability to lead the offense and has a good enough, accurate arm to keep defenses honest and not load the box to stop the run. This may give Kozens a little more of the playbook to work with. He spoke about the change at quarterback. “I told Greenwood last night to be ready mentally. I think he took that to heart. He had some chances early with little success but due to a freak injury he got his chance. We tell the kids all the time when you get opportunities in life you need to take advantage of them.” The injury to Steele, if serious, will further hamper the offense. With Steele out in the second half it was even more impressive what the defense did as Patrick Duggin, Caleb Roy and Ryan Chaisson put together a good performance fending off Jallah and their receivers while giving the front four and linebackers a chance to bottle him up and force him off his spot.

Onto Somersworth as the Sachems hit the road for the first time this season. The Hilltoppers are coming off two embarrassing losses to Campbell and Friday to Monadnock 44-0. Monadnock is the real deal scoring 88 points and giving up nothing. Laconia has to make that trip on Oct. 12. Hear every Sachems game live on 107.3 WEMJ starting with the pre-game show at 6:30 p.m. this Friday.

Bow 45, Kingswood 6

The Falcons took out their frustrations on the Knights and avenged their opening game championship rematch loss to Plymouth with a sound defeat of Kingswood. This takes the Knights to 0-2 on the young season. Next up a home game against the 2-0 Hanover Marauders Friday night.

Plymouth 27, John Stark 13

The Bobcats meanwhile continued their quest for another championship, beating Parker McQuarrie and the John Stark Generals in their second home game in as many weeks. They hit the road next week taking a short ride south to the Meadows to take on Gilford-Belmont.

Gilford-Belmont 20, Merrimack Valley 7

The Golden Eagles traveled to Penacook, took on the Pride and come away with a huge 20-7 win, putting them on top of the Division II North conference standings at 2-0 on the season. After an opening Pride touchdown the Eagles ran the kickoff back to the 4 yard line and pushed it across in two plays. Then the defense stuffed MV on the Eagle 10 and G-B drove 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. All was quiet until the fourth quarter. G-B got an insurance score when Alex Cheek hooked up with Curtis Nelson on a 29-yard TD pass. Cheek threw for two touchdowns on nine of fourteen passing for 140 yards. Blake Descota led the offense with 27 rushes for 126 yards. He also reeled in three passes for 30 yards and other touchdown. Patrick Carr snagged four balls for 60 yards and Nelson grabbed two Cheek throws for 40 yards and a touchdown. On the defensive side of the ball Jon Mitchell had a monster game at linebacker recording a game-high 17 tackles for G-B. Coach Josh Marzahl was glad the way the team responded after the opening score by MV. “Our defense pretty much dominated after that. They gave the offense plenty of chances and wasted a lot of the clock.” He mentioned the game plan was to run the ball. “We had a very conscious effort to establish the run. Something we didn’t do in week one. The offensive line did a very good job giving us plenty of room to run.” Don’t get too comfortable Golden Eagle fans. Did you see who’s on the schedule next? I smell upset!

Inter-Lakes 15, Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton 14

It was the home opener for the Lakers and they didn’t disappoint, getting their first win of the season. Blake Dunlap and Damon Patraw scored touchdowns while Mykyle Merrill picked off two balls.

Winnisquam 39, Farmington-Nute 7

Phil Nichols leads the way as the Winnisquam Bears explode for 486 total yards on offense. Nichols was 11-13 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and one on the ground. His favorite target was Gunnar Horman snagging seven for 70 and two touchdowns while Garrett Mango only caught three but had 122 yards. The thunder and lightning attack in the backfield of Angelo Glover and Bryson Wiles combined to rush for 266 yards. Coach Pat Riberty was happy with his offense. “We started slow kind of feeling things out in our first two series before we got rolling. Overall I think we’re all pretty happy.” With a big lead it allowed Riberty to experiment and get his starters some rest. “We tried moving some guys around to see our weaknesses and give some young kids some playing time. It also helps us avoid the injury bug.” Next up for the Bears is Fall Mountain Friday night under the lights in Langdon.

Franklin 27, Mascoma Valley 6

Franklin's Jacob Beaupre rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown while Harrison Clark sneaks one in for his rushing touchdown. He was four of nine passing for 100 yards and two touchdowns. It was a ground and pound game for the Golden Tornadoes with Devon Savage carrying the ball 10 times for 55 yards and a touchdown, Travis Perry was eight for 40 and Kainan Clark had 49 yards on nine carries. In the air, Beaupre caught two balls, both for touchdowns and 64 yards while Tarin Laramie had the other two catches for 36 yards. Coach Jeff Davis noted the contributions. “Jacob Beaupre had an absolutely great game. He came in on defense and helped us there and caught two touchdown passes. Harrison Clark took charge of the offense and kept everyone right in line and played very well.” One thing he noted was the penalties. “We were negative 95 yards and that’s something we will clean up and be better next game. The new helmet to helmet rule is something we’re still getting used to.” Next up for the Tornadoes is Farminton-Nute on Saturday.

Newfound 61, Bishop Brady 13

The Newfound Bears are finding life in the new division to their liking, as they crushed crushing the Giants. Brady is a small squad of around 20 kids and have some large holes to fill from graduation but take nothing away from the Bears as they dominated from the start.

The road ahead: More results as we are into the fall season in earnest with every team and program underway.

Hear Keith Murray’s Local Sports Updates everyday on 101.5 WEEI Sports Radio. Reach Keith by email: Sports@1015WEEI.com

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