Sabers hang on, knock off Hollis

AMHERST – Robin Bowkett and his staff could take a bow for their halftime adjustments to the Souhegan High defensive scheme.

Or they could be honest and tell the truth.

Friday night’s 35-28 comeback win over Hollis Brookline had a lot more to do with the players than any X’s and/or O’s.

“We didn’t change our defense much, it was just a mentality thing, We really needed to make those stops,” said Saber sophomore Alex Karpawich, who had a pair of second-half sacks for a Saber defense that didn’t allow an offensive HB score after the break.

“It was just so important to our team. We needed to get it done, especially after last year (when HB rallied to win from down three TDs at halftime).”

The win puts both teams at 4-3 in a scramble for the Division II playoffs with two weeks left in the regular season.

“We keep winning, and we’re in that’s all we know,” said Bowkett. “This is fun. Every week is like a playoff game. And it’s great to get our first home win.”

For a half, defense seemed like a dirty word with both teams stacking chunk plays together.

Sander Wimmer hit Michael Gillespie for a pair of long gains (41 and 34 yards) leading to Chad Brown’s 1-yard TD dive for Hollis.

Wimmer’s opposite number, John Lohnes answered right back with connections to Trey Johnson for 16 anf 18, followed by a 3-yard TD to Luke Manning.

And the first-half shootout was on.

Wimmer hit his twin brother Quinten for TDs of 79 and 15 yards to account for the other Cavalier fireworks, while Lohnes had a pair of short TD runs, sending it to the break at 21-20 HB.

But that’s when the Sabers said enough is enough on the defensive side of things.

Lohnes’ third TD run, a 6-yarder, was followed up by a two-point pass to Luke Manning, giving Souhegan a 28-21 lead, its first advantage of the night.

That too would be short-lived, though. It’s offense sputtering, HB locked in on the other two phases of the game, first with a key defensive stop and then a blocked punt by Ronnie Hilliard which sophomore Kyle Manley pounced on in the end zone, knotting things at 28-28.

But Lohnes just wouldn’t be denied, completing his scoring full house (three TD runs, two TD passes) with a 5-yard toss to Jacob Grassett midway through the fourth for the game-winner.

Hollis Brookline would get two chances to tie, but a Karpawich sack ended one threat and some desperate defensive work in the secondary halted the final try in the waning seconds.

“That whole defensive front really upped their pressure in the second half. It was great,” lauded Bowkett. Mike Maroun (2 sacks) was all over the quarterback. Alex Karpawich was all over the quarterback. Ries Grondstra as well. They did a heck of a job.”

Wimmer was again under attack in the HB pocket, hitting 17 of 32 for 286 yards, but the five Souhegan sacks took their toll. Quinten Wimmer finished a busy night with six catches for 158 yards.

Notes and quotes

The Sabers have scored 78 points in the last two weeks, and there is no secret as to whom is making this offense go.

In the two victories over Pelham and HB — each a potential playoff team — Lohnes was 33 of 62 for 447 yards and four TD passes. He’s also run 44 times 234 yards and three scores.

“Keeping the team alive, having something to play for is extremely important. We managed to get it done,” said Lohnes about Friday night’s 35-28 win. “This means a lot, a lot more to our morale than anything. We’ve struggled to win at home (now 1-3) and the playoffs are on the line for us every time we’re out there. This win is something that will really, really help us push on.”

While on the subject of the Sabers, Hollis Brookline OC Shaun Aubut is as big a fan as there is of Souhegan slot man Trey Johnson.

Johnson shredded HB for 10 catches Friday night.

“He’s just really, really good,” said the Cavaliers assistant. “And he’s still just a junior – wow!”

You know Johnson’s QB is a fan.

“Trey and I have such good chemistry. We’re always on the same page with routes and stuff,” said Lohnes.

“I think that’s a huge part of him getting open so consistently. I have that with all my receivers but with him it’s special.”

Speaking of Lohnes’ receivers, Luke Manning and Reese Colby have really emerged as weapons.

“Luke and Colby are both sophomores. At the beginning of the year we had about a half dozen sophomore receivers and we all were wondering who would step up,” said Lohnes. “Those two guys have risen to the challenge and took it on themselves to step up and take leadership and take the spots they’ve earned.”