Sports

Cavaliers beat Pride for first win

Friday, September 14, 2012

By TIM O’SULLIVAN

Concord Monitor

PENACOOK – In the first half, Merrimack Valley stopped its own drives with mistakes at the worst time. By the second half, it was the Hollis Brookline defense stopping the Pride and quarterback Ivan Nyamagabo. Either way, it was a surprise to MV Coach David Jackson.

“I didn’t see this coming, being shut out like that,” Jackson said. “They played great D against us and we made enough mistakes to not get points when we were down there.”

Merrimack Valley (0-2) avoided being completely shut out thanks to a fourth quarter touchdown from Nyamagabo, but it was much too late by then. The Cavaliers (1-1) had already churned out three second-half touchdowns on their way to a 35-8 win Friday night in Penacook. It was nearly a complete turnaround for Hollis after last week’s 41-0 loss to Division I Concord.

“We’re playing in our division now, which makes a big difference,” HB head coach Milton Robinson said. “They kids were really fired up for our first division game and they came out and played really well.”

Like it did last week in its 43-19 loss to D-II Manchester West, the Pride offense moved the ball early in the game. Unlike last week, the yards didn’t turn into points. Behind the passing of Nyamagabo (13 for 25, 103 yards, two interceptions), MV drove to the Hollis 26 on its first possession, but a missed snap on fourth down halted the march. The Pride moved it to the Hollis 23 on its next drive, but Nyamagabo threw an ill-advised pass to the back of the end zone that was intercepted by Nick Noval. They marched to midfield twice more in the half, but couldn’t get further.

“It seemed like all the negative plays came when we could afford it the least, like medium distance or down in the red zone,” Jackson said. “Missing snaps, blown assignments, penalties, we’re not going to beat good teams that way.”

“Too many little penalties,” said MV sophomore Krys Abbott. “We just have to eliminate those and we’ll be fine.”

Hollis Brookline, on the other hand, found its offensive consistency from the start. The Cavaliers put together a 14-play touchdown drive on its first series that ended with an 11-yard scoring pass from Max Friedman (5 for 15, 70 yards, touchdown, interception) to Jason Van Coughnett with 3:37 to go in the first. The drive also included three fourth-down conversions, including one in Hollis Brookline territory.

“The decision on that first one was our punter (Noval) had his helmet ripped off so we couldn’t punt, so the decision was made for me,” Robinson said. “But that’s kind of who I am. I don’t really like to punt. I like to go for it, trust my offense and trust my offensive coordinator. Sometimes it burns you and sometimes it does well. Tonight it did real well.”

The Cavaliers added to their lead when Noval went 48 yards on a counter run to make it 14-0 with 10:49 to go in the half. Not only did Norval have two interceptions, he also finished with a game-high 127 rushing yards on 21 carries, and went 5-for-5 kicking PATs.

Hollis threatened again late in the first half, but an interception from Cole Martin and a pair of nice plays from Tristan McNell (sack, tackle for a loss) kept it 14-0 at the half.

“There were a few breakdowns that gave up some big plays, but my hats off to our defense,” Jackson said. “They played better than they have in a long time.”

“Except for a couple turnovers, they were right in the game with us in the first half,” Robinson said. “They’ve got a good young team and they’ll challenge some teams in our division this year.”

The second half, however, was a different story. Hollis opened the third with three straight touchdown drives while the Pride opened with two straight three-and-outs. The Cavaliers got a 3-yard scoring run from Norval and two touchdowns from Matt Ferenczhalmy (9 carries, 82 yards) to take a 35-0 lead with 2:03 left in the third and send the game to running time.

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