AMHERST — With both teams coming off statement-making victories a week ago, Friday night’s NHIAA Division II match-up between Pelham and Souhegan became a bit more compelling.
When it was all said and done, overtime was needed to decide a victor, and that honor went to Pelham, which held on for a 21-20 overtime decision.
Senior quarterback Ian Hoey gave the Pythons (4-2) the lead in the extra frame with a 10-yard sprint on the second play from scrimmage. Now it was Souhegan’s turn, and Ryan Hauser’s sweep from the 10, on the team’s first attempt, had the Sabers within a point. Opting to go for the win, Hauser was called upon again. Initially fumbling the handoff, the senior scooped it up but was immediately stuffed by a horde of Python defenders to preserve the triumph.
“These kids have been playing hard all year,” said Pelham coach Tom Babaian, whose team knocked off Hollis/Brookline last weekend. “The kids just kept on battling tonight and that is something you just can’t coach. They have shown that they have a lot of resiliency. It’s been unbelievable. I think for Souhegan that was the right call to make. You go for the win and that’s what they did. Tonight we came out on the right end of the stick.”
With the game tied 7-7 heading into the final quarter, Pelham sustained a 41-yard drive before Hoey bolted in from 6 yards out to go ahead. But the Sabers (4-2) struck back quickly. With time winding down, they drove 63 yards behind quarterback Austin Jain to set up his 1-yard plunge to make it 14-all with 1:42 left.
Still with a chance to win it in regulation, the Pythons methodically moved down field before a Hoey floater was intercepted by Reese Colby to force overtime.
Neither team could move the ball with much fluidity until the fourth quarter. The Sabers relied primarily on the pass, while Pelham remained loyal to its versatile ground attack.
After Pelham’s initial drive to begin the game stalled on the Souhegan 20, the Sabers, who stunned Milford a week ago, took over and proceeded to march 75 yards, capped off by a Jain 29-yard scoring strike to Connor Holland over the middle to put them on top 7-0 with 1:40 remaining in the first quarter.
But the Pythons’ ground game came forth on their ensuing possession. A key 24-yard carry by Charlie Katin led to a Matthew Muise 1-yard dive over the goal line to square things at 7-all.
Neither club could sustain much for the remainder of the first half. In the waning seconds before intermission, Pelham moved into Souhegan territory but Jake Herrling’s 45 yard field goal attempt fell short.
For the game, Pelham outgained the Sabers 284 yards to 222. Hoey threw for 87 yards and rushed for 46. Jain, a junior, was 15 of 27 passing for 170 yards.