PELHAM — Friday was the first time all season that the Pelham football team allowed points, and the Pythons could not have cared less.
The train kept rolling for the Division III Pythons as they rolled past Division II Milford 34-13 on Friday night to improve to 4-0. Pelham never trailed and controlled the game.
The turning point came on the first play of the second half when senior Jake Herrling returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a score to open a 22-6 lead. Herrling also rushed for 67 yards.
“He’s a great leader,” Pelham coach Tom Babaian said. “Him and Zach Jones are our two captains, and they’ve done a phenomenal job all year guiding the young kids and moving them along through the ups and downs.”
The win set Pelham up in a prime position to make a run at the program’s first state championship since the Pythons won back-to-back Division V titles in 2007 and 2008. And it’s a well-rounded Pelham team on both sides of the ball.
Herrling is providing leadership, especially in a young backfield alongside sophomore quarterback Jake Travis and sophomore tailback Ethan Demmons.
Travis went 4-for-5 for 85 yards passing and rushed for 29 yards and three scores in short-yardage situations. Demmons had 57 yards and Pelham’s final score. Milford was never able to consistently find a way to stop the Pythons.
“I have all the faith in the world in those guys,” Herrling said. “They played well tonight so all my trust is in them. I just guide them.”
After three shutout wins to start the season, the Pythons played with confidence with the ball. Pelham punted just twice, and one of those came with three minutes left in the game.
Defensively, the Pythons allowed points for the first time all season, but the points came in flashes. Milford’s two scores came on runs of 50 and 54 yards. Outside of those two plays, Milford was able to muster 120 total yards.
The Achilles heel for the Pythons was mental mistakes, both in play execution and racking up penalties, and that was something Babaian said would be the focal point of practice this week before Laconia.
“We have a lot to correct,” Babaian said. “A lot of penalties and a lot of mishaps, but we’ll get back to work tomorrow and Monday and get rid of some of those deficiencies.”