HERE’S one thing we learned from Saturday’s NHIAA Division I and Division II championship games: Depth matters, and this year it mattered at the quarterback position in particular.
Quarterback Gary Shivell guided Timberlane to a 13-10 victory over Milford in the Division II title game, and Drew Heenan led Londonderry to a 24-14 victory over Winnacunnet in the Division I championship game. Neither Shivell nor Heenan began the season as the No. 1 quarterback on his team’s depth chart.
Shivell, a sophomore, began the season as the backup to Dom Coppeta, but took control of the offense when Coppeta broke his fibula during an Oct. 8 victory over Sanborn. As a starter, Shivell guided Timberlane (12-0) to three regular-season victories and three playoff victories.
“Losing Dom … he was our starter for a reason, but we felt good about Gary and being able to win with him,” Timberlane coach Kevin Fitzgerald said. “He prepared well all year. As a competitor and as an athlete you have to keep yourself ready and keep yourself prepared — that’s at all positions in any sport really. He certainly did that and proved that he was capable.”
Timberlane was without running back Dan Post (ACL) for the championship game. Post was the team’s second-leading rusher this season. Shivell had modest passing stats against Milford (he completed 3 of 6 passes for 22 yards), but helped fill the void left by Post by running for 55 yards on nine carries.
“He was extremely poised, extremely confident,” Fitzgerald said. “We used him as a changeup to Dom running inside, and he was outstanding in the run game. We knew Gary could run. We didn’t have to use him in that capacity — against St. Thomas (in the semifinals) he had a couple carries — but we knew we had that in our back pocket. We hadn’t used him up until that point, but we felt good about him being able to run the football for us.”
You could make a strong case that Heenan was the MVP of the Division I championship game. He completed 9 of 11 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and gained a game-high 66 yards on 17 carries to help the Lancers finish with an 11-1 record and the top spot in the Union Leader Power Poll.
Andrew Kullman caught both of Heenan’s TD passes, which covered 63 and 33 yards.
“He (Heenan) has ice in his veins,” Londonderry coach Jimmy Lauzon said. “He’s not scared of the big moment. Once he was in charge of everything I think he felt very comfortable and the guys trusted him.”
Senior Aidan Washington began the season as Londonderry’s No. 1 QB. Heenan was getting a series here and there early in the year, but became the starter when Washington sustained a knee injury against Pinkerton Academy in Week 4.
Heenan made three starts, all victories, before Washington returned as the starter for Londonderry’s Week 8 game at Salem (a 35-21 loss). Washington broke his collarbone the following week against Nashua North, which meant it was once again Heenan’s offense.
“Just wanted to get the ball into our playmakers’ hands and let them do what they do,” Heenan said following Saturday’s win. “I love Aidan. He’s one of my best friends. We’ve played football and baseball together since we were like 6 or 7. I’m happy that we won the game, but I’m also a little bit upset because he didn’t get to play much in the second half of the season.”
Heenan, a junior, finished the season with 49 completions in 88 pass attempts for 943 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was intercepted four times. He also rushed for 720 yards and five TDs on 136 carries.
“He’s a good football player,” Winnacunnet coach Ryan Francoeur said. “Presents a lot of challenges. They’re going to have a good one on their hands with him next year too.”