Goffstown wins an OT shootout; now heads to championship tilt against Portsmouth
Goffstown’s Connor Benjamin (5) takes a snap during the Grizzlies’ 54-53 overtime victory over No. 1 Souhegan. Benjamin finished with more than 450 all-purpose yards to go along with three passing and two rushing touchdowns. (John Kanellos Photo)
Grizzlies head coach Justin Hufft had a decision to make at the end of Goffstown’s overtime thriller against top-seeded Souhegan on Saturday, Nov. 10. His defense had just let up a touchdown and extra point to the Sabers, before his offense marched into the endzone for a rebuttal touchdown in overtime.
Would he elect to kick the field goal to tie the game and let Souhegan get another chance to win, or would he let the offense go for two points and a chance to put the game away?
Hufft kept his offense on the field.
Quarterback Connor Benjamin crossed the goal line for the Grizzlies, who thrust their way into the Division III championship game with a 54-53, upset win.
“It was a thriller throughout,” Hufft said. “We played well, but we certainly made a fair amount of mistakes, which is why the score was as high as it was.”
The Grizzlies are now set to take on No. 3 Portsmouth in the title game on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. Both teams upset their semifinal opponents, so with Goffstown being the No. 4 seed, the game will be played at Portsmouth.
The game swayed back-and-forth from the onset. Goffstown started out hot, but Souhegan battled back to take the lead at halftime. The Sabers added to the lead in the second half, going up by two scores, but the Grizzlies made their own run and tied the game at 46 with less than two minutes to play.
Benjamin ran the Goffstown offense over the typically stout Souhegan defense. He finished 15 for 28 with 306 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air. He also contributed 162 yards rushing on 29 carries, adding another two touchdowns on the ground.
Ashton Florence led the Grizzlies’ receiving corps with six catches for 147 yards – amounting to a 24.5 yards per catch average. Peter Shea carried the ball 11 times for 65 yards, and punched it in for two scores of his own.
“Connor Benjamin made some big plays, Ashton Florence made some big plays,” Hufft said.
Hufft also attributed success on both sides of the ball to lineman Greg Brunette.
“Especially after looking at the film, Greg Brunette played really well,” said Hufft. “He was blowing up double teams and he really had a monster game.”
Another nonskill player jumped out at Hufft as well. Matched-up with one of the premiere Division III players, who could be playing football at a Division I college in the near future, Ben Genest played one of his best games of the fall.
“Ben Genest, another linebacker-lineman type, forced two turnovers on defense and played well at center all game going against a Division I recruit from Souhegan,” Hufft said.
With sites on a championship, only Portsmouth stands in the Grizzlies’ way. The Clippers won the early season matchup 56-22 on Sept. 28, but the two teams have changed.
The Goffstown offense has been on a tear since then, averaging 37.5 points per game. Portsmouth’s offense had been similarly streaking until last week’s low-scoring, 7-0, win over Milford. But the Clippers have stepped up on defense by holding their last two opponents scoreless.
“We need to block better, offensively, both on the line and the skill positions,” Hufft said. “They do a lot of things well. They’ve got a lot of good athletes and good size.”
Hufft said his main emphasis to his players this week is taking care of the ball. He wants to eliminate the mistakes that allowed Souhegan to tally 53 points in the semifinals.
“It’s a team we can play with,” said Hufft. “If we don’t turn the ball over, we can play with anybody.”
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