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Big plays haunt Crusaders in loss to Redhawks

October 29, 2009
CONTOOCOOK — Two plays can make all the difference. The Littleton Crusaders gave the Hopkinton Redhawks all they could handle last Sunday at Houston Field. But a 64-yard scoring scamper and a touchdown pass with time running out in the first half spoiled Littleton's afternoon.

"All it takes is a couple of plays to open up. It was a tough one to lose because we know it had playoff ramifications," Littleton coach Mike Doolan said. "It was a pretty evenly matched game in my opinion. But unfortunately it just didn't work out for us today."

Hopkinton drove 81 yards in just five plays to get on the scoreboard early. On third-and-eight from the Redhawks 36-yard line, quarterback Taylor Hallett raced around left end and streaked 64 yards up the left sideline to put Hopkinton up 6-0 with 9:13 left in the second quarter.

Just six seconds before halftime, the Redhawks marched 67 yards in 11 plays to reach Littleton's 3-yard line. On third-and-one from the 3, Hallett dumped a short pass to Michael Gallagher for the touchdown, giving the Redhawks a 13-0 lead with :06 remaining on the clock.

Under pressure, Hallett barely got off the wobbly touchdown pass and Gallagher scooped it up just over the goal line, inches before it hit the end zone turf. The late touchdown was the last thing the Crusaders needed before the intermission.

"It was a bad pass and the kid caught it on his knees on the ground," Doolan said. "It was just one of those things where you throw your hat down and say 'Wow, what happened there?' "

The Crusaders (2-6) shut out Hopkinton (5-3) after halftime but couldn't erase their early deficit. Littleton lost to Hopkinton 27-8 Sept. 19 at Apthorp Common in Littleton but the Crusaders played much better in the rematch.

Littleton running back Michael Sheppard gained 70 yards on 17 carries and caught one pass for 26 yards but the Crusaders couldn't get on the scoreboard.

"The second half the defense did an exceptional job," Doolan said. "We pretty much dominated the second half, as far as offense. We just couldn't punch it in. I was really proud of the offense, and the defense, they were so strong."

On its first possession of the second half, Littleton drove 61 yards in 11 plays to move the football to Hopkinton's 1-yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, the Redhawks stuffed the Crusaders to thwart the drive.

On Hopkinton's ensuing possession, the Crusaders forced a fumble and Littleton's Adam Roy recovered on the Redhawks 29-yard line. Littleton couldn't take advantage of the turnover and good field position, moving only 14 yards in six plays before giving the ball up on downs.

The Redhawks were able to make the big plays when they had to. The Crusaders couldn't take advantage of their scoring opportunities. Coach Doolan hopes to reverse that scenario. Littleton will host the Granite State Panthers in its regular-season finale this weekend at Apthorp Common in Littleton.

"We're going to come back. We're going to try to get these guys up for the next game. The last game always has the most meaning for the seniors," Doolan said. "More than likely it's the last game the seniors will ever play."

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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