NHIAA D-III Football Semifinals: Goffstown wins upset OT thriller
AMHERST - With the season on the line, Goffstown put the ball in the hands of its best player and all that stood between the Grizzlies and a spot in the Division III championship was three yards and a Souhegan defense determined to stop them and punch its own ticket.
Connor Benjamin powered his way in for a two-point conversion in the first overtime period and the No. 4 Grizzlies stunned top-seeded and undefeated Souhegan, 54-53, in the Division III semifinals on Saturday.
"That was a gutsy play to go for it at the end," Benjamin said. "I had some good blocking up front and I had to get in for the win."
The game went into overtime with the teams tied at 46. The Sabers (8-1), who were ranked seventh in the most recent Union Leader/WMUR/WGIR Power Poll, got the ball first and only needed two plays to score from the 10-yard line. They booted the extra point and took a 53-46 lead.
Goffstown (6-3) then got the ball at the 10 and also needed just two plays to score. It decided to go for the two-point conversion, however, and the gutsy call paid off big for head coach Justin Hufft.
"It was such an offensive game," Goffstown coach Justin Hufft said. "I just figured if we had a chance to win the game with our offense, we had to do that."
The win puts Goffstown in the title game against No. 3 Portsmouth next Saturday at 1 p.m. on the Clippers' home field. Portsmouth downed No. 2 Milford 7-0 in the other semifinal.
It was a battle between two great offenses and quarterbacks who both put up big numbers. Benjamin finished with 217 yards rushing on 27 carries while going 14-for-26 through the air for 309 yards. He was also a part of all seven Goffstown touchdowns as he rushed for four and threw for three.
Souhegan quarterback Tyler Ford was just as good. He had 48 yards on the ground and threw for 312 on 14-of-25 passing. He figured in six of the Sabers' eight scores, three on the ground and three passing.
Drew Prescott had the other Souhegan touchdowns, a 50-yard run to give his team a 40-29 lead with 6:38 left in the third and the one in overtime.
The offenses kept exchanging haymakers and it looked like the Sabers were in control as they held a 46-38 lead and had the Grizzlies pinned at their own 11-yard line with 4:19 left in regulation.
Goffstown went on the move, and on a first-and-10 from his own 45, Benjamin made something out of nothing.
He fumbled the snap and almost immediately had Sabers defenders on him. He escaped the pressure by rolling to his left. He got some room and tossed the ball downfield to Ashton Florence, who made the catch along the left sideline and ran in for the score to make it 46-44 with 1:44 left in the fourth.
"I bobbled the snap and I was thinking the play was over," Benjamin said. "I picked it up, dodged a couple of tackles and I saw Ashton down the field. I gave him the nod to keep going and I threw it up for him."
Florence saw his quarterback was in trouble and adjusted his route accordingly.
"I faked inside, went outside, got open and relied on (Benjamin) to get me the ball," Florence said.
Benjamin then ran in the two-point conversion to tie it up and force overtime.
Goffstown led most of the first half until Souhegan scored twice in the final six minutes to take a 26-20 lead at the break.
Things went back-and-forth in the second half. The Sabers took their biggest lead of the game at 40-29 midway through the third, but the Grizzlies battled all the way back.
"A lot of kids made great plays," Souhegan coach Mike Beliveau said. "I'm sure it will go down in history as a really great NHIAA football game."
Portsmouth 7, Milford 0
Jake Becker scored the only touchdown of the game on Portsmouth's first drive when he hauled in a 15-yard pass from Donovan Phanor to give the No. 3 Clippers a 7-0 win over No. 2 Milford on the Spartans' home field.
Neither defense would budge after that, as is usually the case when the two squads meet up, according to Portsmouth coach Bill Murphy.
"It's always low scoring and this year we ended out on top," Murphy said.
Standouts on the defensive side for the Clippers included Ricky Holt, Kurtis Leonard and Becker.
Milford coach Keith Jones said his team didn't get many opportunities to score and it was tough for both teams to move the ball all day.
"Everybody just kept having to punt," Jones said.