BOW — After his Bow High School football team finally scored on Plymouth late in both teams’ season-opening game, Falcons coach Paul Cohen knew it was time to gamble.
Cohen decided to go for the two-point conversion and called a passing play that has been in his playbook for several years but he has sparingly used.
Bow senior quarterback Sebastian Beaulieu hit junior tight end Cooper Larrabee in the left side of the end zone to convert the two-point try, which proved to be the difference in the Falcons’ 8-7 home triumph over three-time defending Division II champion Plymouth on Saturday.
The Bobcats entered Saturday with a 27-game winning streak that included triumphs over Bow in both the 2016 and 2017 D-II title game. The Falcons lost each of their five previous games against Plymouth.
“We said before the game, ‘If it comes down to it, we can’t be afraid to try something that they’re not expecting,’” Cohen said. “And sure enough that was the difference.”
Bow senior running back Steven Guerrette capped a seven-play, 23-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:33 remaining to cut the Falcons’ deficit to 7-6 and set up his team’s game-winning two-point attempt.
When Beaulieu got the two-point call from Cohen, the quarterback was surprised but not nervous.
“Our coach is usually pretty cautious when it comes to those situations so I was pretty excited and pretty surprised to get that call,” Beaulieu said. “But we had a nice play drawn up and I was really confident in it. (I) put it in the spot where (Larrabee) could catch it and we made the play.”
Plymouth coach Chris Sanborn said if he was in the same situation as Cohen at home, he thinks he would have gone for the two-point conversion.
Following the Falcons’ touchdown, Plymouth got the ball with 8:30 left but punted from its own 43 yard-line after seven plays. With three timeouts in hand, Sanborn decided to punt in order to pin the Falcons deep in their own end and try to get the ball back. Bow took over with 5:26 remaining, picked up three first downs and ran the clock out.
Plymouth had a 7-0 advantage at halftime thanks to Ian Tryder’s fumble recovery in the end zone with 6:09 left in the first quarter on Bow’s second play from scrimmage. Falcons senior running back Hunter Fortier fumbled the ball on a pitch run to the left and Tryder pounced on it in the end zone for the score. Pete Wingsted made the ensuing point-after kick to give Plymouth a 7-0 advantage.
Alongside Cohen’s decision to go for two, the Falcons’ other notable key to victory was their sizable time-of-possession advantage. Bow’s offense ran about 57 offensive plays — 24 of which were Guerrette runs — over six possessions. Plymouth’s offense ran 29 plays over five possessions.
“I’ve done that to a lot of offensive coordinators,” Sanborn said Bow’s time of possession edge. “I was saying to my coaches, ‘Now I know how they feel when I do it to them.’ I’ve been on the other side of that. (Bow) used the clock. We had our chances.”
Plymouth’s defense denied the Falcons on two trips inside the Plymouth 5-yard line, forcing a turnover on downs and a fumble. The Bobcats drove to Bow’s 1-yard line over 12 plays on their opening possession but turned the ball over on downs following a failed fourth-and-goal quarterback sneak by junior Cody Bannon (3 of 6 passing, 62 yards).
Tryder ran for a team-high 20 yards on two carries and senior captain Cole Swanson caught two passes for a team-high 47 yards for Plymouth.
Guerrette gained 89 yards on his 24 carries and Andrew Robbins added 28 rushing yards on nine carries for Bow. Beaulieu completed each of his four passes for 53 yards.
“It means everything,” Beaulieu said of the victory. “(Plymouth) is a team that we respect and they’re always fantastic year in and year out so we knew we wanted to beat them and send a message this year and luckily we were able to do that (Saturday).”