Potent offense is too much for top-ranked Falcons.
BOW — Something had to give in an NHIAA Division II football semifinal pitting an obstinate defense against an adamant offense. Fifth-seeded Hollis/Brookline refused to yield and ran over previously unbeaten Bow, 34-14, to advance to its first-ever championship game.
Junior running back Marc-Andre Thermitus raced his way to three touchdowns while senior quarterback Sander Wimmer ran for one and threw a 33-yard bullet for another to lead the winners. En route to the Cavaliers’ second straight tourney win on the road, the duo each rushed for more than 100 yards, breaking tackle after tackle and sidestepping defenders.
The Cavaliers (9-2) will take one more bus ride, heading to Durham to face Plymouth (8-2) next Sunday and determine the D-II champ.
“When the season started, no one gave us a chance to make the playoffs,” Hollis/Brookline coach Chris Lones shouted from inside a post-game huddle overflowing with beaming smiles. “Yet when the playoffs started, we were the one team no one wanted to play and now we’re heading to UNH. I love you guys.”
The score was a bit misleading. It was anyone’s game until the fourth quarter. Come crunch time the Cavaliers, who had tallied more than 49 points on eight occasions this fall, became just the third team to score more than two touchdowns against tightfisted Bow, which had posted five shutouts.
“They were the better team today,” said Bow coach Paul Cohen. This was Bow’s third semifinal appearance in five seasons. “We had hoped to keep the ball longer on offense, but made too many fundamental mistakes. There was a lot of momentum shift, and they ended up with more than us.”
The two teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Wimmer lined a 33-yard pass, hitting Blake Bergeson in full stride in the end zone. Cornerback Adam Rayan thwarted Bow’s next possession by batting away a pass and forcing a punt.
Wimmer then produced a highlight reel of his own, evading the rush while completing two passes, rumbling over several defenders on a 22-yard run and then plunging in for a score from 4 yards out, making it 20-7 midway through the second quarter.
“We always say, you can’t let anyone take you to the ground, even when your tackled,” said Wimmer. He bounced off would-be tacklers when running and was nearly impossible to sack when passing. On several third-down plays he avoided sacks to complete passes for first downs.
“There were some big Bow boys coming after me in the pocket so I had to dodge and weave a bit,” said Wimmer. The QB completed 11 of 15 passes for 195 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Bow wouldn’t buckle, putting together its trademark scoring drive: rushing for 65 yards on 13 plays while eating up the final 6:05 of the second quarter. Andrew Robbins scored from 5 yards out on a fourth-down play. Bow trailed 20-14 at intermission and received the second-half kickoff.
During the drive, Thomas Rolla (93 yards) and Steven Guerrette (127 yards and a touchdown), Bow’s fourth back to gain 1,000 career yards, were able to find daylight by cutting outside.
“We made some changes during the half,” said Lones. “We did a better job plugging holes. It’s tougher to gain yards when a 250-pound lineman in standing in the way.
Bow went three and out in the opening drive of the second half. The Falcons got the ball back when Sebastian Beaulieu intercepted a pass in the end zone. The Falcons began another methodical drive downfield. Michael Curtin thwarted the potential game-tying drive by forcing and recovering a fumble.
After swiping back momentum, Thermitus scored on a 5-yard run with 53 seconds left in the third quarter. He added an insurance touchdown with 1:30 remaining.
“The line made some big holes and I just had to keep my legs churning. What a fantastic feeling, scoring touchdowns in a game as terrific as this,” said Thermitus. “And, we get to play one more game.”