South falls to Keene in West Conference title game

NASHUA – Alex Parenteau and the rest of the Blackbirds swooped into Stellos Stadium with a vengeance Saturday afternoon, then flew the coop with the West Conference title under wing and a semifinal home game to look forward to next week.

Nashua High School South football fans are accustomed to watching a senior quarterback dash and dart his way up and down the field. Unfortunately for the Panthers’ faithful, it was Keene’s signal caller making all the right moves.

Parenteau rushed for 146 yards on 28 carries and scored two touchdowns, while also throwing for two touchdowns and 118 yards in the Blackbirds’ 38-21 Division I quarterfinal win.

It was a win that fittingly ended with Parenteau forcing South quarterback Trevor Knight out of bounds at the Keene 2 as time expired.

“That was awesome,” Parenteau said of the game’s final play. “I really didn’t want him to score right there.

“Our defense, we have 10 seniors starting, so we just fly around and get to the ball. We ground the ball out on offense. We just have a versatile team.”

Complementing Parenteau in the Blackbirds’ backfield was junior tailback Tim Lane, who pounded away for 100 yards and a touchdown of his own on 25 carries.

“Our line does a great job up front, and that’s where it all starts,” Parenteau said. “Me and Tim hit the hole hard and just try to get as many as we can.”

On the other side, Keene’s defense held Knight to 89 yards on the ground – half of that coming on his 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He also threw for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

It wasn’t enough to overcome another slow start offensively, which included a fumble on the Panthers’ first possession and three straight three-and-outs through the first five minutes of the second quarter.

South’s high-octane offense ran into a determined defensive unit, led by Parenteau, Jimmy Heaney and Hunter Wilkinson.

“This is one hell of a defensive unit,” Wilkinson said. “We are tough, fast and we get the job done. We have 10 seniors on this side of the ball – we’re a band of brothers – and we work so well together.

“We came in here knowing our job was to limit what Trevor does. Don’t give up the big play. We gave up a couple of them, but it didn’t get in the way of our overall goal. We regrouped, came together and finished off the job.”

Keene held the Panthers to only four plays of 20 yards or more, one on Knight’s 48-yard second-quarter TD run, another on a 40-yard pass from Knight to Josh Perry on the opening drive of the third quarter, and twice on a Knight 20-yard run and 24-yard pass to Jesse Clauss on South’s final drive in garbage time as the game came to a close.

“It was hard to get things going at times against the best defense we’ve seen,” said Knight, who played half of the third quarter and all of the fourth with an injury to his throwing arm. “They are fast on the edge and quick to the ball. Their defense was around the ball all day. Our defense didn’t play too well today. I think that was the difference.”

Keene’s offense found the end zone first. After a scoreless first quarter, the Blackbirds went up 6-0 on a 5-yard run by Parenteau.

South took advantage of Keene’s miss on the PAT kick to grab a 7-6 lead two minutes later when Knight connected with Clauss (three catches, 46 yards) from the 17 and Ryan Guidaboni added the kick.

That lead was short-lived, as Parenteau marched the Blackbirds 69 yards on seven plays to find Isaiah Singer on an 11-yard pass play. Keene running back Tom Galanes then found tight end Emmett Kiernan on an option pass for two points and a 14-7 lead.

A minute later, Knight had things all square again, breaking off a 48-yard TD run and holding for Guidaboni’s kick.

At 14-14 and 1:38 left in the half, Keene drove the field again. Parenteau ran twice for 27 yards and connected on two passes for 26 yards, which set up a 26-yard field goal by Erick Zecha and a 17-14 Keene lead at the break.

South came out of that break on fire. Andrew DeCarteret (6-26) took the first play for 5 yards, followed by Knight’s 40-yard connection with Perry, a 4-yard Knight run, a 7-yard Perry run, a Keene sack and a 13-yard Knight to Robbie Smyth TD pass.

The Guidaboni kick split the uprights and the Panthers stole momentum with a 21-17 lead.

At least it seemed that way.

“We had to limit Trevor and what he can do,” said Parenteau, whose Blackbirds will host Pinkerton Academy in the semifinals after the Astros’ 55-7 quarterfinal win over Londonderry on Saturday. “When they came out of the half and took the lead, we let him get away from us a little. The challenge was bouncing right back when we got the ball.”

Lane and Parenteau made sure that happened. The Blackbirds used one carry by Galanes for 3 yards, three runs by Lane for 16 yards and two touches by Parenteau for 32 yards – including one for 19 and a TD to regain the lead 24-21 with 7:37 left in the third quarter.

Parenteau would add another TD pass to his totals, finding Galanes with 45 seconds left in the third quarter to ice the game, which Lane would finalize with a 1-yard run in the final minute.

South coach Scott Knight looked back to the first quarter, when his Panthers seemed stuck in their end and unable to advance the ball past the 47.

“We were buried in the whole first quarter,” Knight said. “We were buried in our end, and that was a killer, too. I was thinking if we can just get going, we’ll be OK.

“Until they scored, we didn’t get going. Then we got going, and then we stopped playing D.”