Spartans pull away from Sabers
Milford scores 26-14 win in rivalry battle
MILFORD – For every Souhegan push, Milford pushed right back – and pulled away over the final 12 minutes.
The Sabers tied it up late in the third quarter, but the Spartans responded with 13 points in less than three minutes to deliver a knockout blow and beat Souhegan 26-14 on Friday night at Milford High School in the latest meeting between the local rivals.
"It’s always good to beat a rival. It’s great," Milford senior Teagan Vitali said. "Every time we play each other, every year, it’s always a battle and it’s nice to come out on top."
Milford improves to 4-1, while the Sabers drop to 1-4.
"It’s a crazy victory for us," said Milford senior Ryan Camirand, who hauled in two scores. "We put Souhegan down."
Milford effectively bottled up standout running back Dante Savo for most of the night, but the Souhegan junior broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown with 45 seconds left in the third quarter to knot the contest at 14.
Milford answered on the most pivotal play of the game. Facing a fourth-and-5, junior quarterback Zach King connected with Camirand for a 34-yard touchdown and the eventual game-winning score.
"I took off as fast as I could, looked up and the ball was right there," Camirand said. "Thank God I caught it."
Souhegan fumbled on the second snap of the ensuing drive and Milford pounced on it to take possession at the Souhegan 25. Five plays later, Vitali plunged into the end zone from 3 yards out to supply the Spartans with a 12-point advantage with 8:40 to go.
"I thought defensively, we played our rear ends off," Milford coach Keith Jones said. "We did a lot of great things."
The Sabers drove the ball to the Milford 5 and nearly cut the deficit to one score, but Collin Cederberg wreaked some havoc up the middle to force a fumble, which was gobbled up by the Spartans and they ran the clock out from there.
"We made mistakes at very tough times," Souhegan coach Mike Lochman said. "It’s been a little bit of a theme. We’ve paid for it when that’s happened."
Despite the loss, Souhegan still left an impression on the Milford coach.
"They played hard. They hit. They play great defense," Jones said of the Sabers. "We’re going to be sore tomorrow, let’s say that."
Maverick Dodier sparked the Spartans with a 75-yard touchdown burst at the 9:30 mark of the first quarter. The junior finished with a game-high 104 rushing yards on nine attempts.
Souhegan evened it when Savo scooped up a fumble and returned it 43 yards for a score in the second quarter. Savo led the Sabers with 85 rushing yards on 13 carries and also caught two passes for 14 yards.
Milford reclaimed the lead when King hit Camirand for a 56- yard touchdown with 3:12 left in the half for a 14-7 cushion at the break.
Camirand had two catches for 90 yards, while King was 3-of-7 passing for 93 yards, a TD and an interception. The numbers weren’t great, but Jones was pleased with the poise in big moments.
"He probably had his worst game of the year, but at the same time, he had one his best games of the year," Jones said of King. "He just continues to get it done and make plays."
Vitali closes victory for Milford
The term closer typically refers to a relief pitcher in baseball.
However, Milford senior Teagan Vitali filled the role for the Spartans during the win.
Vitali had one carry for 1 yard when Milford (4-1) entered the locker room for halftime. He finished with a game-high 17 carries for 65 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown plunge to give the Spartans a two-possession lead with 8:40 to play.
"Bottom line, he’s our senior captain and he was a stud for us last year. When the game is on the line, he’s the guy," Jones said. "We wanted to give it to him down the stretch and pound them and pound them and try to wear them out and win the game. He did that."
Vitali was happy to see his team respond after the Sabers squared the game late in the third quarter.
"It’s great to know that we can do that," Vitali said. "This is the first time that we’ve actually had to battle with a team like that. It’s nice to know we can keep our heads in the game and keep coming."
Milford travels to defending D-II champion St. Thomas Aquinas (3-2) on Saturday.
Souhegan hopes to grow up fast
The Sabers dropped a third straight decision on Friday and although those losses have come against high-caliber squads, Souhegan coach Mike Lochman believes it’s time for his team to take a step forward.
He knows mistakes will happen, but they need to be less frequent.
"It’s part of the growing pains, but the other message we sent is that we can’t use the ‘young team’ excuse anymore," Lochman said. "We have a half season of experience under our belts and it’s time to grow up a little bit."
Andersen Geffrard, a sophomore, made his first career start for the Sabers during Friday’s loss in place of Palmer Belowski. Geffrard was 7 of 15 passing for 67 yards with an interception and he gained 14 yards on the ground. If Geffrard continues to play behind center, it has less to do with Belowski’s performance and more to do with his value on defense with injuries forcing a move to middle linebacker.
"We wanted to take a look at it this week. I thought (Geffrard) had a lot of poise. He ran the offense well. We’re going to continue to evaluate things. We have a lot of faith in both of those guys right now," Lochman said. "We really weren’t excited about playing a starting quarterback at inside backer against a team like this. It was more about that than anything."
The Sabers aim to bounce back against winless Manchester West on Friday at home.