Things weren’t going right for the Nashua High School North football team for a couple of weeks, and the result was a three-game losing streak for the Titans.
Against Merrimack on Thursday, almost everything worked out for North, and the result was a 28-14 come-from-behind win at Stellos Stadium that kept alive the Titans’ hopes of postseason play.
Myles Cassin-Reed rushed for 98 yards and three touchdowns and Max Fay added 148 yards on the ground, as North (2-3) got 294 of its 418 yards of offense running the ball. Cassin-Reed also had an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter that helped keep the Titans up by a touchdown.
Just as importantly, North didn’t turn the ball over and was called for seven penalties, four of which came on special teams.
“This is how we’re capable of playing,” North coach Jason Robie said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t shown that. We know we can play like this. It’s just putting it all together.”
For the third week in a row, Merrimack (2-3) was plagued by turnovers. The Tomahawks coughed up the ball four times, twice inside the Titans’ 20-yard line.
“Losing the turnover battle is always going to kill you, especially when you do it in crucial situations and then don’t cause any,” Merrimack coach Dante Laurendi said. “In the past, we’ve been able to get in there and force turnovers and we weren’t able to do that.”
While quarterback Justin Grassini (8 of 19, 99 yards) was intercepted three times, the back-breaker came in the third quarter with the Tomahawks up 14-13 and driving. Merrimack had the ball inside the North 10, but a Ryan Barry fumble was
recovered by the Titans.
“We had a chance to change the complexion of the game and didn’t do it,” Laurendi said. “That was the momentum shift. We had them down and we go on a great drive and put the ball on the ground.
“That’s a big momentum shift and then they were able to move the ball out and answer on their own.”
Joe Giampietro led Merrimack with 118 yards rushing, including a 78-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half that gave the Tomahawks a 14-7 lead.
Grassini got Merrimack on the board first on his team’s first drive, executing a fake handoff so well, that the official on the sideline closest to the sophomore didn’t realize who had the ball until Grassini was in the end zone.
But North answered, going on an eight-play, 70-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Cassin-Reed.
North responded again after Giampietro’s touchdown run, going on a seven-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass from Colby Gunter (8 of 14, 124) to Levi Gosselin. But the extra point by Sushant Niroula was wide left, leaving North down 14-13.
After Barry’s fumble, the teams traded punts, and the Titans got the ball back at their own 6-yard line.
A 33-yard pass play from Gunter to Shane LeGraw helped get North toward midfield, and Fay rushed for 39 yards on the 94-yard drive that ended on a 3-yard scoring run by Cassin-Reed.
Gunter hit Fay for the two-points and North led 21-14 with 10:01 to play.
“We tried to keep kids fresh and we had a solid outside game, and at the end, I thought we wore them down a little with our trap game,” Robie said.
“We’re able to run that trap out of so many different formations and if it’s working, we’re going to keep doing . Even if it’s not working, we’re going to keep doing it, because that’s what our offense is.”
Merrimack got the ball down to the Titans’ 15, but on third-and-14, Grassini was picked by Cassin-Reed in the end zone. North went on an eight-play, 80-yard drive to put the game out of reach.