Souhegan wins, but misses postseason

PELHAM – Mike Lochman knew one thing for certain at the end of Friday night’s game between the Souhegan and Pelham high school football teams.

Lochman’s Sabers held up their end of the deal, beating the Pythons 14-9 to wrap up the regular season. The tiebreakers and the rating system were something for someone else to worry about.

A year after suffering their first losing season in more than 15 years, Souhegan finished up at 5-3 in the toughest conference in Division II, something from which Lochman was more than willing to hang his hat.

Souhegan left the field Friday knowing that if Trinity lost at St. Thomas on Saturday, and a few other things worked out in its favor, the Sabers could sneak into the South Conference championship game next weekend against Windham. While Trinity did end up falling to St. Thomas, Milford ended up with a better rating than both the Pioneers and the Sabers and claimed the final spot in the championship game.

“You could be (frustrated), I think, but we play in a very good conference in our division and we’re proud of that,” Lochman said. “I think that we’re proud of the progress that we’ve made this season.

“We’d love to be in the postseason, but in this structure, that you know it is what it is, you’ve got to win conference games. We had some misfires early on where we know we could have done a better job.”

Tyler Howard turned a solid performance for Souhegan, rushing for 125 yards and the game-winning touchdown on 19 carries, and also came up four sacks, including three on Pelham’s final two drives that put the Pythons (2-6) away. Zach Bossi, who had four catches for 54 yards, added a 21-yard touchdown reception from Mike Mancini on the final play of the first half.

“He did a heck of job for us and he really brings the physicality that we needed in a game like this,” Lochman said of Howard. “We’re very fortunate to have a body like that and an attitude like that.”

The Sabers had great field position on its first two drives, but couldn’t get anything to show for it, and on Pelham’s first play of the second, Nick Johnson raced 68 yards up the middle of the field to the Souhegan 1-yard line.

Johnson scored on the next play, but the Pythons weren’t able to convert the two-point conversion and settled for a 6-0 lead.

On Souhegan’s next possession, Bossi fumbled the snap on what would have been a punt, setting Pelham up at the Sabers’ 16. But the defense held and the Pythons settled for a 27-yard field goal by Kyle Masson and a 9-0 lead.

Bossi’s touchdown reception made it 9-7 at the half, and on Souhegan’s first drive of the third quarter, Howard capped an eight-play, 57-yard drive with an 11-yard scoring run.

The Souhegan defense tightened up in the second half, holding Pelham to just 13 yards, including zero on the ground. The Sabers also sacked quarterback Trevor Gagnon six times.

“Defensively, this was our best effort all season,” Lochman said. “Pelham is a very good team and they’ve been good all year offensively, despite the points they put up.

“It was probably our best team performance, too. All around, everybody stepped up and played knowing that this could be our last game, and also knowing that there was a small chance we could go on. I’m proud of them for that.”