Sophomore Nick Brothers tries to keep his feet with a Bow tackler in pursuit during I-L/MA's Division III semifinal loss to the Falcons on Saturday. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 18, 2013BOW – It was going to take a herculean effort for the Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough football team to pull off the road upset on Saturday. The Lakers fell short, gaining just 103 yards of offense in a 42-0 loss to top-seeded Bow in the NHIAA Division III semifinals.
Fourth-seeded I-L/MA finished its season 5-5 overall, champions of the North Conference. Bow (9-1) advanced to this weekend's state title meeting with second-seeded Stevens High School, a 13-0 winner over Epping/Newmarket in the other D-III semi.
"The final score of this game is the final score of this game. It doesn't represent our season or put a dark cloud on our season by any means," explained I-L/MA second year head coach Jon Francis. "It was a great turnaround from 1-7 last year. We had great senior leadership this year and we were able to get back to some of our winning ways and get into the semifinals."
The meeting was the second of the season between the two sides, as they met earlier this season in Meredith with Bow also earning a shutout in a 33-0 victory.
"We played this team way back in October missing starters," said Bow head coach Paul Cohen of the Lakers. "Even though the score was lopsided (33-0), we didn't play well. Now that we're firing on all cylinders I told them that it's really, really important that they come out and make a statement."
The Lakers offense struggled all afternoon in the rematch, with poor field position throughout the contest making things that much more difficult against one of the top defenses in the state. I-L/MA started all 11 of its possessions in its own territory, while the Falcons managed to start eight of their 11 possessions in Laker territory.
"Field position killed us," Francis admitted. "When you get to this point in the season and these types of games, you have to be good in every aspect of the game and any of our sort of weak areas were exposed today. Bow took advantage like any good football team would."
The result was a Bow offense that churned out positive yards early and often, taking advantage of that good field position to jump ahead just 4:02 into the first quarter on a Matthew Ehrenberg seven-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.
Ehrenberg, who rushed for over 1,000 yards this fall, made it 13-0 just 1:26 later, as the Falcons recovered the ball on a short kickoff that the Lakers failed to pounce on.
"I think it surprised them but it was not a planned on-side kick," said Cohen of the play.
Christopher Robbins made it 20-0 Bow with a 10-yard TD run early in the second quarter, and Ehrenberg scored his third touchdown of the day with 42 seconds left before intermission to give the Falcons a commanding 28-0 lead at the break.
"They put some points up quickly," said Francis of Bow. "We had a lot of arm tackles in the beginning and some blown coverages, penalties, things like that. We definitely didn't help ourselves out in a game where we needed to play perfectly and even then, it might not have been enough. So anything that you do that isn't perfect when you play a team like Bow, which is a great, disciplined team all around, is going to hurt you twice as bad."
After a scoreless third period, Ehrenberg scored his fourth and final touchdown of the day with 8:47 left in the fourth quarter to put things away at 35-0. Bow tacked on a final score with 1:52 left to seal the deal at 42-0.
"We came in thinking that we have something to prove now, they don't," said Cohen of the Lakers. "They're the fourth seed and they would like nothing more than to eclipse our dreams of going all the way. The kids responded and did what we needed them to do. We told them that you cannot take this game lightly, you cannot take this team lightly. They're coming down here with the mindset that we would love to beat Bow. They would never forget that."
I-L/MA managed just 103 yards of offense on the afternoon, with quarterback Josh Blundo providing a good chunk of that by throwing for 69 yards through the air on 6 of 14 completions. Kodey Converse had three of those receptions for 23 yards, while Dylan Sheehan (two catches, 38 yards) and Nick Hurd (one catch, eight yards) also hauled in passes. Sophomore Nick Brothers was the leading rusher for the Lakers with 26 yards on 14 carries, while Devante Carter fought through pain for 17 yards on just six carries. Senior lineman Alec Beauchemin recovered a fumble on defense to thwart a Bow drive inside the red zone.
"(Being one of 12 teams left between the three divisions) means a lot," said Francis of the Lakers' appearance at semifinal weekend. "We feel very fortunate. The kids worked very hard in the offseason and during the season and stepped up big when they needed to. So to be among the top 12 teams (remaining) in the state is just phenomenal in my opinion."
The squad will graduate a talented and passionate senior class that helped turn the tides following a tough 2012 campaign.
"Like I said to the seniors, they left us in good standing for next year and we have something to shoot for moving ahead," Francis said. "They know that they can play at this level, championship football, and next year we'll look to improve and make it to that championship game."
Ehrenberg finished with 15 carries for 69 yards and the four touchdowns, as Bow piled up 256 yards on the ground in the victory that sent them into the finals.