Football: Behind new coach, new QB, ConVal smothers Kingswood in opener

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal football team hosted Kingswood in the season opener Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/9/2019 1:35:18 PM

Peter Wetherill wasn’t supposed to be the starting quarterback for ConVal this fall. California transfer Zack Blohm was set to start, with Tristan Hutchinson working hard to challenge him for that role; Wetherill was slotted to play receiver and running back in the Cougars’ new flexbone offense. But after Blohm went down with a season-ending knee injury off the field and Hutchinson suffered a concussion, someone had to step up.

”You put the ball in your best playmaker’s hands,” said first-year head coach Rob Clauss after Friday night’s season opener against Kingswood. “Peter volunteered and took it, he had to learn the offense all over again from a different position, and he did it and he did it well.”

Wetherill led the offense with nearly 100 rushing yards and all three of ConVal’s touchdowns as the Cougars held on for a 21-17 win over the Knights, the first win for ConVal in a year’s time. The Cougars won the season opener over Kingswood in 2018 before going 1-8 on the year.

 “This feels amazing,” Wetherill said. “We had a rough, rough season last year...this is a great bounceback. We can say we’re undefeated  – I’m not saying that’s gonna stand, but I hope it will stand and I hope we have a good season.”

ConVal allowed a couple big plays on the Knights’ opening drive, leading to a score, and struggled a bit on their opening drive, where Wetherill converted a fake punt on fourth down but then threw an interception. But ConVal would force a bad Kingswood punt, recover deep in Knights’ territory and score on a Wetherill sneak. 

ConVal set themselves up again with a 45-yard Alex Heck punt return to the seven yard line, but couldn’t punch it in; however, Lenny Romard recovered a fumble and Wetherill snuck in another touchdown to put ConVal up 14-6 in the second quarter. 

“I gotta give it to our linemen and our halfbacks,” Wetherill said. “They lead block like monsters. Without them, I would be killed every play. I love them with all my heart. I tell them every time in the huddle, I love you guys – keep blocking for me.”

ConVal put together one more scoring drive in the second half, with Wetherill ripping off a 30-yard run and then an 18-yard scoring scamper, and the lead was theirs to defend. 

Things got tight from there, as Kingswood put together two more scoring drives, adding a field goal. a touchdown and a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 21-17.

ConVal had a chance to ice the game, but Kingswood got a stop with a minute left to go and got into the red zone with the opportunity to win with a touchdown. But, ConVal lineman Haven Lambert broke through the Kingswood line and took down the quarterback on one play, and on the next, defensive back Justin Burns, playing through an arm injury, made an interception at the five-yard line and put the game away for good, as Wetherill took a knee and the clock expired.

“One of the things that was important to me as a head coach was we had a history of when things got rough, we would pull apart instead of pull together,” Clauss said. “It was a big focus in the offseason to really work on changing the culture, where when things get tough, we lean in, we pull together, we don’t point fingers and pull apart, and they did that. I don’t care what happens the rest of the year, they were in a tight football game and they pulled together for the first time in a long time, and I can hang my hat on that. 

Friday night marked the first game for Clauss at ConVal, but he said it felt like coming home. Clauss, who teaches at Nashua South, worked with ConVal principal Michelle Voto there; as an assistant football coach at South, he coached ConVal defensive coordinator Shawn DeCost.

“To have coached Shawn DeCost and then having him have a career at Franklin Pierce as a player and then as a coach, and then here,” Clauss said, “it was like a coming home for me...It is a little bit of a homecoming. I feel at home, I love this community, I know it’s a soccer town and they’re state champions, and they had a great win today, an overtime 2-1 win and then for us to come over and follow it up? It’s a new ConVal football program and there’s a lot of togetherness that’s happening. I’m just happy to be here.”

ConVal also got solid efforts from lineman Gareth Armstrong, receiver/defensive lineman Liam Denehy and WR/DB Erich Clark, among others.

The Cougars (1-0) are at Souhegan (1-0) Friday at 7 p.m. The Sabers beat St. Thomas 34-25 last week.

“We’re going over to their house,” Clauss said. “It’s a turf field, they’re a quick team, they run their zone read, they’ve got guys who can sling it.”

Notes

■Justin Burns’ game-clinching interception will help his case for getting matching tattoos with defensive coordinator Shawn DeCost. After Burns, No. 21 for ConVal, learned that DeCost wore 21 in his playing days, he lobbied DeCost to get matching “21” tattoos.

“He asks me every day,” DeCost said.

■Cougar cornerback Tyler Finley isn’t the biggest player on the field, but he had the biggest hit on Friday night, upending Knights running back Joseph Russo along the sideline in the third quarter.

■ConVal’s injuries are already piling up. Along with Blohm, lost for the season, and Hutchinson, who should be back this week, ConVal’s starting safety Isaiah Michaels is out for the year with a broken collarbone, and linebacker Andrew Skillings missed Friday’s game with injury as well.


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