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Milford, Souhegan among contenders

One third of the Division II South regular season is in the books, and both Milford High and Souhegan High appear to be right where they had hoped.

The Spartans were forced to go to overtime to knock off a gritty Pelham bunch on an extremely successful “New Hampshire Tackles Hunger” night.

The place was packed and the cause noble as Milford improved to 3-0. The Spartans are now the lone D-II South team to remain unbeaten.

A “threat” posed at Alvirne during the day, according to sources, forced postponement of the Broncos Friday night home game with previously 2-0 Souhegan to Saturday night.

With the entire state watching the lone game in town, Alvirne nipped the Sabers on a late two-point conversion.

That left five teams at 2-1 in the conference, including Souhegan and Alvirne plus Saint Thomas, Hollis Brookline and Manchester West.

Milford travels to Saint Thomas on Saturday night (6 p.m.) to face the Saints and QB Cam Paquette (706 yards, eight TDs).

Saint Thomas owns a win over Alvirne, so it is a legit 2-1 with a real home-field advantage in this one on the Seacoast.

Three receivers, Will MacLean, Cooper Bloomquist and Adam Stewart, have shared the bulk of the pass-catching load.

The Spartans, who were absolutely dynamite against HB’s spread attack in the opener, will again need their defensive best.

Souhegan’s toughest foe might be complacency as the Sabers host winless Sanborn on Friday.

Coach Robin Bowkett will fight to keep his troops from looking ahead to the showdown with the Spartans coming up. The Sabers will need to focus on the Indians, who are hungry to break into the win column.

SPARTANS WORK OVERTIME

Pelham High, in Week 3, did things neither Milford High opponent to date could do.

Things like keep the Spartans from ringing up numbers on the scoreboard and corralling QB Gavin Urda. The Pythons forced Milford into errors and kept the home team off its offensive schedule.

But Friday night, Milford let the rest of the state know that underneath the speed and flash, there’s plenty of grit, too. Somehow, the Spartans just willed themselves to a 14-13 overtime decision to move to 3-0.

Sophomore Logan Barnhill picked off the two-point pass attempt in the overtime, ending an absolute slugfest as he was mobbed by his mates. Give Pelham and riverboat gambler Tom Babaian credit, he went for the win, not the tie. The Pythons will garner plenty of respect around Division II South for this effort. Still, they fall to 1-2.

“We expected them to be tough but we didn’t expect it to be that close,” said Barnhill. “We didn’t play our best game. But we got the win.”

Nothing came easy for Milford, which ground out 238 yards on 49 carries, hardly explosive numbers for this crew. In fact, the Spartans found themselves on the wrong end of a 7-0 score from the early minutes of the game into the fourth quarter.

“They beat us off the ball and played the game on our side of the line,” said Spartans’ coach Keith Jones. “We must have had 25 penalties. Every time we got something going, something bad would happen.

“But facing that kind of adversity, I’m proud of our kids. They managed to come back.”

Finally, the Spartans were able to piece a drive together, methodically moving 65 yards on 11 plays and overcoming their third holding call of the second half and sixth of the night.

“We hung in there and kept fighting against a great football team,” said Jones. “They won the battle up front. Lucky for us, we made a few plays when we needed to.”

And while QB Gavin Urda closed out the drive, sweeping right end for five yards on third and goal for the score, it was all about balance as Sean Hanrahan, Matt Hannon, Barnhall, Caden Zalenski and J.R. Ughu all contributed tough runs in the march.

Colin Gregg’s PAT with 9:04 to play, rattled off the upright but fell in nicely and knotted things at 7-7, ultimately setting things up for overtime.

Milford got the ball first in the extra session.

Barnhill hammered for five on first down and four on second before Hanrahan dove in from the 1. This time, Gregg’s PAT was pure.

Pelham QB Ian Hoey wasted little time, hitting Colby Travis for a 10-yard fade. And after a timeout, Babaian chose to throw it again for the win.

Enter Barnhill, who stepped in front of the Hoey heave and picked it off to save the day.

“I didn’t want to let my team down. I had to step up and I did,” said Barnhill of the game-saver. “Last year, I didn’t get to play varsity. And I’ve really wanted to prove myself at the varsity level.”

Both Zalenski, on seven carries, and Ughu, on 10, each carved up 58 yards of hard-earned turf on the ground. Urda managed just 47 yards on 15 tries, clicking on 4 of 11 passing for 44 yards through the air.

Pelham presented an interesting blueprint on defense against the Spartans Friday night, something Jones absolutely expected.

“Coach (Tom) Babaian has been doing that to people for a long time,” said Jones, pointing to matchup with Pelham in his first season at Milford in which the Pythons stopped the Spartans in overtime, in a game a lot like Friday night.

The Pythons stacked the box, trying to take away the inside runs of JR Ughu and the keepers by QB Gavin Urda.

At some point, the Spartans will need to find a counter. On Friday night, it was all about some serious defense, limiting mistakes and coming up with just enough offense.

Milford now heads to Saint Thomas on Saturday night.

SOUHEGAN FALLS

Alex Giuffrida found the end zone with 25 seconds left in regulation to bring Alvirne within one, and then successfully converted the 2-point attempt for the 23-22 win over Souhegan Saturday night.

Giuffrida scores three TDs on a night that started slow for the Broncos.

Souhegan (2-1) opened the scoring, then held Alvirne (2-1) scoreless until the final minute of the first half, when Giuffrida found the end zone from two yards out. Cory Couilliard added the point after kick for a 7-6 lead at the break.

The Broncos extended the lead to 15-6 on another Giuffrida run, while Dylan Bliss added two on a conversion rush for a 13-6 advantage.

Souhegan came right back with its own score to pull within three at 15-13, and then tied it up with a safety.

The Sabers went ahead 22-15 with under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for Alvirne’s last-second finish.

QB Austin Jain threw TD passes to Luke Manning and Reese Colby on Saturday night. Colby also added a TD run.

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