Monadnock wins defensive struggle to earn first title in 51 years in Div. V final
The third-seeded Huskies took hold of the clock and managed their way to a 9-0 upset of the top-seeded Hilltoppers of Somersworth in the Division V state football championship at Somersworth High School.
"This means a ton to us, but what means more is that we get to see these happy faces," said Monadnock head coach Linwood Patnode. "These people have been waiting an awful long time for this. Fifty-one years and we've never won one. I feel good for the parents and grandparents."
The bruising charges of running back Drew Bolewski led the way for Monadnock, as the junior scored the only touchdown of the game and finished with 76 yards on the ground.
"Boy, this feels good right now," said Patnode. "We tried to (shut them out) and it was a good thing, too, because we couldn't score on them. I knew it was going to be tough to score on them because boy, that's a tough football team right there."
Bolewski's game-high 16 carries were a big part of Patnode's game plan that focused on clock control and moving the chains.
"We had to (keep running the clock). That was the game plan. With our offense, we're a little bit one-dimensional, so we have to just kind of burn clock and play defense," said the coach and Monadnock alum. "Drew is a warrior. That kid just brings it. The bigger the game, the better he plays."
In addition to having time on its side, Monadnock took control of the momentum on the first drive of the game and kept it when Mason LeClair picked off a desperation toss by Somersworth quarterback Drew Francoeur on a 4th-and-1 attempt. On the ensuing drive, Bolewski broke through a wall of defenders to run it 34 yards for the touchdown, then LeClair picked up a Toppers fumble on the first play of the next Somersworth possession.
"We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game and we had some mistakes in the beginning. Then a couple of turnovers that really hurt and they converted on those turnovers," said Somersworth head coach Dan Hodsdon. "We didn't take advantage of things when we needed to. There were a couple of open passes that we couldn't hit and we knew coming in we'd have to hit a couple of those and we just didn't."
After a weak Somersworth punt from its own end zone gave the Huskies field position at the 8-yard line, Trevor Goquen lifted one through the uprights to give Monadnock a 9-0 lead. After the teams exchanged four punts, it looked like Somersworth had something going after Francoeur hit Curtis Michaud for a leaping, 36-yard catch to put the ball in Huskies territory, but Zach Jarvis subsequently sacked Francoeur for a big loss and the Toppers failed to score before the break.
Midway through the third, Kevin Clougherty, who finished with two catches for 15 yards on offense, blocked a Monadnock punt to give the Toppers the ball with good positioning, but a holding penalty on a 20-yard run by Francoeur and another sack by Jarvis put an end to the red zone threat.
Somersworth's best opportunity came in the fourth, when an Isaiah Prince pass interference call on Michaud and an 11-yard run by Francoeur brought the ball to within scoring distance. Michaud then dropped two consecutive tough but catchable passes in the end zone and Darren Glore tripped and fell in the end zone on a pass to him on fourth down for the turnover.
It looked like the Toppers would get one more shot when they held the Huskies for three downs, but a 50-yard run by Prince on a fake punt iced it, handing Monadnock the title.
"The kids fought hard all year and I've got a great group of senior leaders, but losing is bad. It's terrible. They feel bad right now; we all feel bad, but life goes on and they're still a great group of kids," said Hodsdon. "We're going to go back to work for next year and we've got some good kids that are going to be around, but we're going to miss this group. They were the heart and soul of our team and we're really going to miss them."
Francoeur completed 6-of-17 passes for 93 yards and the interception. Glore caught two of them for 22 yards. Running back Josh Ream carried the ball 14 times, but totaled just 35 yards.
Dylan Lane and Jake Poulin split 16 carries for 34 yards for Monadnock...