NHIAA Div. III Football Championship Preview: Goffstown's September loss was motivational tool
Head Coach Justin Hufft directs his players during Goffstown High School's football practice on Thursday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Goffstown at a glanceRecord: 6-3 Division III, 6-5 overall
Win streak: 1 game
Coach: Justin Hufft (2nd season), 14-7
History: Goffstown picked up its first playoff win last weekend with a thrilling 54-53 win over top-seeded Souhegan of Amherst in overtime.
Captains: RB Peter Shea, QB Connor Benjamin, OL Connor Wynn, OL Gregory Brunette.
Other key players: DB Mike O'Donnell, SE Ashton Florence
On Sept. 29, the last time the Goffstown High football team was at Tom Daubney Field, it suffered a 56-22 loss at the hands of Portsmouth, its worst of the season.
The loss didn't weigh too heavily on the Grizzlies, however. In fact, coach Justin Hufft said it has served as motivation. On Saturday, Goffstown will return to Tom Daubney Field, this time with a lot more on the line.
That's when the fourth-seeded Grizzlies (6-3) will take on the No. 3 Clippers (7-2) in the Division III championship. Game time is 1 p.m.
"We didn't play the way we wanted to play in that game," Hufft said. "We've progressed for the most part going forward."
Hufft said his team had some injuries in that game but still lacked the intensity and execution required to beat the defending champion Clippers on their home turf.
The next week Goffstown rolled over Merrimack Valley of Penacook, 47-12, then dismantled Alvirne of Hudson, 39-14, after that. That set up a showdown with Milford, one of the best teams in the league, and the Grizzlies prevailed, 30-28.
The team was rolling, but Hufft wanted it to be healthy for the playoffs so he was conservative over the final two games of the regular season, both of which the team lost.
The boys rebounded nicely in the playoffs when it faced top-seeded and undefeated Souhegan of Amherst for the second week in a row, this time in the semifinals.
The Sabers edged Goffstown, 32-27, in the regular season. The playoff game was just as explosive. This time it was the Grizzlies who came out on top, 54-53, thanks to a two-point conversion by quarterback Connor Benjamin in overtime.
Finally, the team was healthy and starting to play it should.
"It has taken a while for the kids to come together as a unit," Hufft said. "The kids I've got out there I feel good about."
It took a Herculean effort from Benjamin to pull off that win. The senior captain rushed for 217 yards and threw for another 309 as he figured in on all seven Goffstown touchdowns.
A lot of what Goffstown does on Saturday will depend upon how well Benjamin plays.
"There's no getting away from the fact that he's one of the best players in the state," Hufft said. "He's playing better now than he has all season."