Seniors stepped up when needed

AMHERST – Five weeks into the season, even Souhegan High football coach Robin Bowkett had his doubts.

The Sabers were 2-3, still stinging from a 47-27 loss to arch-rival Milford.

“Right then and there, the kids just decided that’s not the way they were going out,” said Bowkett. “They wanted to keep fighting, stick together and start holding people accountable. It was pretty great to see.”

The message started with the three captains: John Lohnes, Jacob Grassett and Ries Grondstra.

“The way we looked at it, there were two choices. We could play it out and finish at 2-7,” said Lohnes, the senior quarterback. “Or we could come together. We knew we had to win out, and we believed that we could do it. We believed in each other.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Souhegan won its four final games of the regular season. The Sabers then stunned second-seeded Bow in the opening round of the Division II playoffs, only to fall in the semis at unbeaten Plymouth.

“What a great ride,” said Bowkett.

The first win was an absolute tone-setter with the Sabers pummelling Pelham.

The previous week Pelham had manhandled Hollis Brookline.

“I think we realized with beating Pelham just how good we could be,” said Lohnes. “Guys played for each other. It was a family.”

The captains weren’t the only seniors to raise their performance levels, on the field and off.

Vincent Bowman forced his way back on the field and played lineman with a soft cast. Matt Safarz was a force in the trenches.

Tyler Hall and Luke Civiello, athletes who previously had focussed on lacrosse, went all-in for the football program, accepting their roles and excelling.

Steven Pariselli played as strong a second half on the defensive side as anyone, and special-teamers like Rob McGrath delivered big time.

“It was the greatest season of my football life,” said Lohnes, “the high school football experience you dream of having.”

And the legacy will live on.

“Kids are excited. They’re having fun playing football at Souhegan, and that’s what we are looking for,” said Bowkett.

“They’ve created a culture here. We a lot closer to (Championship Saturday at) Durham than we used to be. The young guys in the program see how close we are. They are about starting up in the weight room. They all see the sacrifice it takes to get there.”