ConVal readies for Hollis-Brookline

  • Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Hollis-Brookline’s Matt Simco is one of the top receivers in the state. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Hollis-Brookline knocked out ConVal QB Dan Spezzaferri during last season’s game, but the Cougars got the last laugh with the victory. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, October 04, 2017 6:15PM

A win against Hollis-Brookline Friday night would not only give ConVal another victory in their heated rivalry with the Cavaliers, it would make them 5-0 for the first time in program history. But to Cougar head coach Paul Landau, a win is a win, especially as the playoff race ramps up.

“I think it’s just win the next game and it has some perks associated with it,” said Landau. “The goal is to be a playoff team and compete for a state championship...six wins is probably going to do it. The winner of this game has an inside track on a playoff spot so that makes it a huge game regardless.”

Last year’s tilt was perhaps the most memorable game of the season for ConVal, as they pulled out a statement win in a hostile environment despite losing quarterback Dan Spezzaferri midway through to a concussion.

“Last year was a really heated contest between two teams that were fighting for a playoff spot,” Landau said.

This year promises to be no different. ConVal is rolling at 4-0, already the best start in school history. Hollis-Brookline is 3-1, their only loss coming in the season opener against undefeated Windham.

That game cost the Cavaliers starting quarterback Joey Delaney, who suffered a fractured collarbone.

In his stead, the Cavs turned to sophomore quarterback Sander Wimmer, and they haven’t lost since.

“He’s done a really good job with their offense and they seem like they’re really clicking on that side of the ball,” said Landau.

Wimmer has thrown for a division-leading 920 yards with 13 touchdowns and 3 interceptions this season in Hollis-Brookline’s wide-open spread offense, a bit of a change for ConVal’s defense after a slew of run-heavy opponents.

“This is the first game where someone is really going to stretch our pass defense,” Landau said, “so we’re going to find out a lot about how good we are on that side of the ball and in that facet of the game. It’s a different kind of challenge for our defense and a big test.”

Wimmer’s go-to guy is senior WR/TE Matt Simco, who’s already racked up 28 catches for 547 yards and nine touchdowns this year, all tops in DII.

“He’s one of the best receivers in the state,” Landau said.

If ConVal can find a solution to the Wimmer-to-Simco combination, they should have a good shot at a win. The Cavaliers don’t present much of a threat on the ground, and the Cougar front seven are playing out of their minds to open the season.

On offense, ConVal will have a luxury that they weren’t afforded in last year’s Hollis-Brookline game: Spezzaferri, who’s in good health coming into Friday’s matchup. Spezzaferri has led the balanced ConVal attack with 507 pass yards and six touchdowns while rushing for another 206 yards.

Landau’s team should be ready to go, despite season-ending injuries to Clayton Coons, Justin Clark and Pat Laroche. ConVal will need to be sure they don’t let the emotions of a rivalry game get in the way as they take on the Cavaliers.

“They're just a really solid football team,” Landau said.. “They're not going to beat themselves. They're well-coached. We're going to have to play a really smart game, we're going to have to limit our penalties, which we've had over the last couple weeks, and really make sure that we take care of the football and all those things, because they're good and if we don't play our best game, they can come in here and certainly beat us.”

Gametime is 7 p.m. at ConVal this Friday night.

Sports Editor Ben Conant can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 226, or bconant@ledgertranscript.com.