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One last leap

  • The ConVal football team lost to Saint Thomas on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team lost to Saint Thomas on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team lost to Saint Thomas on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal senior wide receiver Makeen Wilson gets loose in the open field against Saint Thomas on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The ConVal football team lost to Saint Thomas on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team lost to Saint Thomas on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team lost to Saint Thomas on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team lost to Saint Thomas on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, October 23, 2017 5:49PM

After a season-opening four-game win streak and a subsequent three-game skid that culminated in a beatdown by Saint Thomas on Friday night, the ConVal football season is teetering on the brink.

“We’ve done a lot of good things with this program — it’s been a while since we got beat like this,” said ConVal head coach Paul Landau after the Cougars’ 48-7 loss to Saint Thomas. It was a sour senior night for ConVal as the Saints pushed them around and looked every bit like a 7-1 team.

“We spent a lot of time talking about wanting to be a playoff team,” Landau said, “and we've got to work a lot harder in order for that to happen. That starts with me. I've got to do a better job of motivating these guys, getting them in the weight room somehow. That's everybody in the whole program.”

The Saints returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then got great position on a fumbled punt attempt by ConVal that led to a field goal, and Saint Thomas led 10-0 after just two minutes.

But the Cougars would settle in for a bit after that. Keenan Wilson, in at quarterback for the third straight week, led ConVal on a drive to the Saint Thomas 18. On 4th and 6, the QB lobbed one up for receiver Makeen Wilson. A Saint Thomas defender had the ball in his grasp in the end zone on a leaping attempt, but by the time he and the ConVal senior receiver landed, it was Makeen who had the ball in his hands for a Cougar score.

ConVal appeared at ease at that point, with momentum in their favor. The crowd roared as Liam Denehy and Zack Obuchowski brought down Saint Thomas QB Shawn DeKorne for a big sack on the ensuing possession, and ConVal got the ball back.

“I thought our defensive gameplan was great,” Landau said. The usual suspects contributed on defense. Senior Dan Curran — who’s played every snap on both sides of the ball this season — had a team-high nine tackles. Senior linebackers Obuchowski and Jake Phillips had seven tackles apiece and senior Nick Lee added four.

Keenan Wilson would drive the Cougars down to the goal line once again, with another fourth down conversion, but he threw a pick in the end zone.

Saint Thomas would drive and score again on a 31-yard touchdown pass just before the half, deflating the ConVal spirits.

“I think it took a little bit of wind out of our sails for sure,” Landau said. “It was a big momentum play.”

In the second half, it was all Saint Thomas. The Saints reeled off 38 straight points as the already dinged-up Cougars kept losing players to injury. ConVal has lost 11 starters since opening day — an entire offense- or defense-worth of players.

“Injuries are part of the game, but the last few weeks have been tough,” Landau said. “I think our guys have been pretty resilient in the face of those injuries but at some point you’ve just got a really inexperienced team out there. Those guys battled, played hard, but with inexperience comes mistakes. Some of our older guys made mistakes too, and those hurt us.”

Despite the three-game losing streak, ConVal (4-3) still has an outside shot at the playoffs. To make it in, they’ll need to win on the road at Windham (6-0) Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

“We've just got to work hard in practice this week,” said Phillips. “We're playing a different type of team than we did today. We're playing a power running team, and we've stacked up better against those teams.”

Windham’s offensive attack is led by Royce Belsky (a name that may terrify Cougar fans who remember Parker Belsky running roughshod in recent years).

It’s going to be a tough task for ConVal, and even with a win, they’d need a loss from Souhegan, at least, to get them in. Still, it’s not the worst position to be in.

“We still have a chance,” Landau said. “There are a lot of other teams in the state that would like to be in this position and still have an outside shot.”

Phillips and his fellow seniors will have to dig deep if they want to extend their season and their career.

“It all comes down to the final game,” Phillips said. “It's going to be a good one.”