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Spartan’s quarterback Chris Cushing hands off to running back Zachery Wiggin during the first quarter in Pembroke’s 40-13 loss to Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 5. (David Suitor photo)

Pembroke faces off against best in the division

The 2-2 Pembroke Academy Spartans football team took to its home turf Friday, Oct. 5, against the Division III-leading Souhegan Sabers. After Souhegan took a blowout lead early, Pembroke battled in the second half for a 40-13 loss.

'We have great respect for Souhegan,' said Pembroke head coach Brian Gridley. 'We knew they were going to be an explosive team.'

The Sabers opened the scoring two minutes into the first quarter. By the end of the period Souhegan found the endzone twice more for a 21-0 lead heading into the second quarter.

The second quarter was more of the same, and the Spartans scurried into the locker room down 34-0.

'We told them, going into the second half, that it was going to be more of a character game,' Gridley said. 'The one thing that our coaching staff is very, very proud of is the fight the kids had. We've been preaching all along, it's not about the jersey, it's about the soldier underneath the jersey, and we felt like, even though the score got out of hand quite quickly, that our kids just kept fighting.'

Gridley said his team came out in the second half with a different view on the game. He and his coaching staff still felt confident about the game plan they put together coming in, but his players took a positive attitude toward the bleak outlook.

'I don't think it was anything that the coaches did,' Gridley said of the turnaround. 'It was just the fact that the kids might've felt like, 'man, we just got a little bit slapped across the face and now we've got to pick ourselves back up off the mat and dust ourselves off and go after it.' I think, as coaches, we try to motivate kids, but motivation comes from within.'

The Spartans gave up another score with 7:12 left in the third quarter when Souhegan recovered a fumble for a touchdown.

The score was 40-0.

Pembroke started to move the ball offensively against the stout Sabers defense. The Spartans broke a long run up the sideline to set up a short punch-in to tally their first touchdown.

Pembroke started to show fight on the defensive side as well. With time expiring in the third quarter, Zachary Wiggin ended a Souhegan drive when he broke through the offensive line and wrapped up the Saber ball carrier before he could get past the line of scrimmage.

With solid play in the trenches from their offensive line, the Spartans continued to move the ball on the ground in the fourth quarter.

Nicholas Francois burst ahead for several lengthy runs, and Chris Ford, an offensive lineman turned fullback, even got in on the carries with a first down run.

The majority of Pembroke's success on the ground came on power runs up the middle. Francois bullied his way into the endzone to make it 40-13, where the score would stay, with 2:42 left in the game.

Souhegan improved to 5-0 with the win, while Pembroke, fresh off a 40-0 win over Merrimack Valley, dropped to 2-3. The Spartans host Merrimack (0-5) on Saturday, Oct. 13.

Gridley said he was proud of the way his team worked in the second half and they need to bring that intensity for the rest of the season.

'Our kids were still fighting and working hard to show that they weren't going to roll over,' Gridley said. 'If you take the scoreboard out of it and just look at how hard we're fighting, it would be hard for us to see who might be in the lead.'

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