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Football

Revamped offense shows signs of life

FOOTBALL: Cougars air it out but come up short versus once-mighty Souhegan

  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.
  • ConVal football hosted Souhegan on Friday, Oct. 18. The Cougars lost to the Sabers 34-7.

The Cougars needed a score in the worst way. Down 34-0 with mere minutes left in Friday’s game against Souhegan, a touchdown wouldn’t make a huge difference in the outcome of the game, but nonetheless, it was what ConVal needed. Junior quarterback John Crowley dropped back to pass. He lobbed the ball toward the back left corner of the end zone for lanky freshman receiver Liam Baldwin, who was bracketed by two Sabers defenders. Baldwin lept in the air, pirouetting backwards in midair, and hauled in the Crowley pass before plummeting back to earth. The crowd erupted, and the weight on the collective Cougar chest was lifted.

“The world stopped,” said ConVal senior running back/linebacker Riordan McCole. “I was in the end zone, I saw my player catch it – God, it felt great. A burst of happiness right through my whole body.”

That score broke a streak of 183 consecutive points scored by ConVal opponents since the last Cougar score (week two against Kingswood).

“It was great to get on the scoreboard,” head coach Ryan McCartney said after the game. “Our offense did a fantastic job. I don’t know many 0-7 teams that are going to come out and play like that. No kids are quitting, no kids are complaining, and all the credit goes to those kids. They did a great job tonight.”

Moral victories aside, the Cougars did drop the game to the Sabers by a final score of 34-7. Souhegan running back Drew Prescott lived up to his hype, rushing for 228 yards and three touchdowns, including a nifty 80-yard scamper up the middle in the second quarter. Aside from a few big runs by Prescott, however, the defense played a solid game, breaking through to the backfield for a bevy of tackles for loss. Senior Jordan Loll led the defense with 14 tackles. McCole added four tackles of his own and was in on a late forced-fumble.

“We showed the blitzes,” McCole said, “we faked the blitzes and we did blitz, and honestly they didn’t know what to do when we did that.”

Turnovers have been the biggest problem for ConVal all year, especially turnovers that left Cougar opponents with a short field. While ConVal did commit three turnovers on the night, their offense did enough to move the ball before those turnovers that they were able to avoid those crippling short fields.

“When you make teams go 80, 90, we’re so much better,” McCartney said. “The defense was fired up and they executed the game plan to perfection. Drew Prescott’s a pretty tough runner. He broke some arm tackles, and that’s gonna happen, but for the most part, they held that team in check. They did a really nice job.”

Quarterback John Crowley aired it out early and often in the Cougar loss, finishing 13-for-35 for 122 yards, 72 of which went to sophomore Brandon Carland. This is a new look for ConVal; the team went with multiple spread sets and trips formations Friday night and sent the receivers downfield on the majority of its offensive snaps. McCartney said that was as much out of necessity as it was strategy.

“We’ve lost three backs this year due to injury,” McCartney said, “and when you’re an I [formation] team and you no longer have your starting tailback and one of your fullbacks, it’s probably not a good idea to stay with that. So we went to the spread. We’ve got a talented corps of receivers.”

After the game, Crowley told us that the relationship between himself and those talented, young receivers is burgeoning.

“I definitely think our receivers are coming along,” Crowley said. “You’ve got have faith in your teammates.”

Whether this trust, hard work and commitment leads to a ConVal victory this season remains to be seen. According to McCartney, however, it is certainly paying dividends.

“I think what we saw tonight was a team coming together, having fun, being relaxed and realizing that we’ve done all the mistakes we can make, so let’s not worry about any of that,” McCartney said. “Let’s not worry about the score, let’s not worry about anything – just go out and have fun.”

ConVal, now 0-7, hosts 1-6 Hollis-Brookline on Friday night at 7 p.m.

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