Pelham overtakes Souhegan

AMHERST – The stakes were high in last Friday night’s football game between the Souhegan Sabers and Pelham Pythons. Each team came into the night tied for first in the Division II Western Conference at 7-0, and both have made easy work of their schedules to this point, practically sealing all their victories in the first half of each game.

But on this night fans at Souhegan’s Saber Field were treated to one of the most exciting games of the season as Pelham scored with 32 seconds left to pull out a 28-21 win.

Tied 21-21 the Pythons started their final drive with six minutes to go starting on their own 35-yard line. Led by running back Ethan Demmons, Pelham methodically moved down the field and reached the 3-yard-line with 49 seconds left.

It took two attempts to reach the end zone but the Pythons got push from their line to allow quarterback Jake Travis to fall into the end zone with 32 seconds left on the clock.

Down 28-21, the Sabers made one last attempt to tie the game. Quarterback Romy Jain completed two big passes to get to around Pelham’s 40-yard line but after using their final timeout, the Sabers could not get another play off, taking their first loss of the season.

“We practice two-minute drills every week,” said Souhegan coach Robin Bowkett on the end of the game. “We are ready for those situations, but we just didn’t have enough time at the end. Really proud of our guys, battled to the last second.”

This was the matchup both teams have been waiting for all year and the head coaches on each side could not have happier with how their kids competed.

“We had a lot of confidence in ourselves all season,” said Pelham coach Tom Babaian. “We knew they were a great team and we had to rise to the occasion.”

From each team’s first offensive possessions, it was clear they had different styles. Pelham ran 11 plays to kill most of the clock in the quarter and eventually had to punt. On Souhegan’s first play from scrimmage, Jain found Steven Reynolds on a deep pass that was good for an 80-yard touchdown, giving the Sabers the early 7-0.

Facing what he thought was the best front seven they played all season, Bowkett’s offense relied on Jain’s arm and the deep passes. All three of Jain’s touchdown passes were 20 yards or more, finishing with 370 yards on the night. Running back J.J. Bright only had four carries for eight yards and lost two fumbles.

After Souhegan scored the first touchdown, the rest of the half belonged to Pelham. Alongside Demmons, the Pythons relied on handing the ball to Alex Carroll and Scott Paquette as well. The trio combined for 123 yards in the first half, allowing Travis to have to throw only three times in the half, two of which went for touchdown passes of 27 and 40 yards respectively. That gave the Sabers their first halftime deficit all season, 14-7.

“We felt that we maybe gave them one of those scores and stopped ourselves,” said Bowkett at halftime. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy but we told ourselves, ‘Hey let’s keep playing, there’s plenty of football left.'”

To Souhegan’s credit, it kept the game within a touchdown for its entirety. After Madux McGrath intercepted Travis in the end zone to begin the half, Jain responded with several big passes, one of which came on fourth-and-6 from Souhegan’s own 26-yard line, that culminated to a 27-yard touchdown pass up to slot to Reynolds to tie the score at 14.

The two teams would trade touchdowns at the beginning of the fourth quarter thanks to Demmons, who finished with 104 rushing yards on 24 attempts, running in a 4-yard touchdown, which was followed by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jain to Connor Cassidy.

That touchdown tied that game at 21 and set up Pelham’s game-winning touchdown on the next drive.