Souhegan shoots again for push to postseason

The second season of Robin Bowkett’s tenure as head football coach at Souhegan High commences this week.

There is no talk of a sophomore slump or any kind of a step backwards.

“Year Two of a culture and a system,” said Bowkett. “It has to make things a lot easier than in Year One.”

The Sabers rolled into the Division II playoffs last fall at 5-3, falling in the opener to eventual champion Plymouth, 49-21.

These Sabers want more. They’ll have to overcome a painful graduation and ensuing numbers crunch to get there.

“It’s not ideal,” said Bowkett of having just 46 players in the program from grades 9-12. “Last year, there was 60 in the program with 20 seniors and 25 freshmen. This year we have just nine seniors.”

Building up numbers is a major platform for the Bowkett administration.

He has phased in with the youth programs and the numbers in grades 5-7 are again on the mend.

This year, though, as many as seven or eight Sabers will be starting on both sides of the football.

Souhegan recently returned from Camp Robin Hood in Freedom, where the team spent the week along with Goffstown High, a predicted power in Division I, and Milford High, which should be a contender in Division II South.

“We had a great week with Milford. It was awesome from a team-bonding standpoint, developing mental and physical toughness,” said Bowkett. “We have stuff to clean up, but we will be better.”

One minor question could be developing at quarterback, where incumbent John Lohnes got a bit dinged up and missed the Queen City Jamboree.

“He got hit throwing a pass, right on the arm and had a sprain near the collar-bone,” said Bowkett. “The swelling is down. If (the jamboree) was a championship game, he could have played, but it didn’t make sense. We expect to have him Friday night vs. St. Thomas (in the season opener).”

Lohnes should be one of the top signal callers in all of DII after learning his trade under fire a year ago.

“He’s had a year in the system and is a very smart kid. He’s picked it up and he loves the game of football,” said Bowkett. “He’s one of the best leaders I’ve been around. He knows when to talk, leads by example. On the field, you want a guy who no matter how many times he’s knocked down, he’s coming back. That’s hard to find.”

If Lohnes can’t go, it would be Luke Civiello, who threw for one score and ran for another in the jamboree loss to Manchester Central. Promising sophomore Luke Manning is right there as well.

Weapons like receiver Trey Johnson and bruising slotback Aidan Casey will make like less stressful for the Saber QBs.

Four or five others are in the receiver mix, including Manning if he’s not playing QB. Sharing the rushing load will be Jacob Grassett, Tyler Hall and Riley Laughlin, all multi-sport guys with athleticism and a will to succeed.

Defensively at linebacker, Grassett made 99 tackles a year ago and he returns inside to start alongside promising sophomore Mike Maroun, who has also earned a starting nod at offensive guard.

“Speed will be an asset on defense for us,” said Bowkett. “We might not be the biggest, but we’ll fly to the football, rip the ball out and get some takeaways. We like to attack in all three phases.”

Seniors two-way trench warriors Ries Grondstra and Vincent Bowman will anchor the middle of the defense. Alex Karpawich is an athlete to watch, returning at defensive end.