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Goffstown quarterback Connor Benjamin (5) carries the ball against Portsmouth in the Division III state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 17. Benjamin’s 265 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns were not enough to make up for Goffstown’s defensive struggles. The Grizzlies fell to the Clippers 54-27. (Dan Suitor Photo)

Goffstown loses despite staying within striking distance in second half of championship tilt

PORTSMOUTH - The Grizzlies came from behind to win their first playoff game in school history on Nov. 10 against top-ranked Souhegan, but could not finish their dream season with a championship. Portsmouth's offense proved too potent, and Goffstown fell in the finals, 54-27, on Nov. 17.

While Portsmouth held a lead for the majority of the game, Goffstown seemingly stayed within striking distance into the second half. The Clippers, unlike Souhegan a week prior, would not relinquish their lead.

Goffstown quarterback Connor Benjamin led his team all season, and did so again, finishing the championship game with 135 yards rushing, 130 passing yards and three touchdowns.

'We did something big there, won a playoff game, made the championship and obviously it didn't go our way, but we played hard, we worked hard all season to get here, and there's nothing else you can ask for,' Benjamin said.

Running back Peter Shea powered his way to 40 rushing yards and a touchdown, and Ashton Florence added a 48-yard touchdown.

'We had a good game plan for offense, trying to keep the ball on the outsides and stay away from their spy in the middle,' Shea said. 'A few of their players are just really good football players. They just kept coming after us and they got good penetration.'

But the offensive effort wasn't enough to make up for Goffstown's defensive struggles.

Led by quarterback Donovan Phanor, Portsmouth piled on points late. He ended with 180 passing yards, 178 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

'They're a heck of a team,' Goffstown head coach Justin Hufft said. '[Phanor] certainly made a lot of plays. We had a hard time stopping him.'

Portsmouth's Colin MacDonald also gave the Grizzlies fits. He caught six passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

As they often did during the season, Goffstown had to face bigger opponents during the two playoff games. Hufft said he was proud of the team's toughness against a talented, physical foe.

'What these kids accomplished for being as small as we were, as undersized every week, they really fought hard,' said Hufft. 'It was up-and-down, it was tough. We lost a few key kids right before the season started and at the beginning of the season.'

The Grizzlies graduate eight seniors from their championship runner-up squad. Although it was a small group, Hufft said they were the key to this season's success.

'They really built the bedrock here for, hopefully, a great future for Goffstown football,' he said. 'The team hadn't been to the playoffs in a long time, and they went two years in a row, and they won the first playoff game in school history.'

Shea and Benjamin, keys to both the Grizzlies' offense and defense, are part of that group of departing seniors.

They enjoyed the best season in school history, and said, despite the loss, they were proud of the way their team played.

'I wouldn't change anybody on our team for a day,' Shea said. 'We had an awesome team. Everybody played their hearts out. Everybody gave it everything they'd got. They just got the best of us today.'

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