A lot of folks who enjoy watching New Hampshire Division I high school football had their eyes focused on what would happen when the undefeated squads from Londonderry and Nashua North High Schools met up at LHS on Friday night, Sept. 15.
Both teams came in with unblemished 2-0 records, with the LHS Lancers having outscored the Alvirne and Timberlane contingents by a combined 82-28 margin, and the North Titans having bested those same two opponents by a nearly-identical 86-30 tally.
And the battle between the Lancers and Titans wound up being every bit as entertaining as some had predicted, with the host Londonderry crew walking away from its home field in a celebratory mood after having tallied a dramatic, 26-21 downing of North to advance to 3-0 on the still-young 2017 campaign.
Londonderry put forth an excellent, full-team effort in the victory, with the centerpiece being a four-touchdown, 141-yard rushing performance from senior quarterback Mike McAlister. And the Lancer defense also put forth a fine, largely “bend-but-don’t-break” effort against a rival offense which piled up all kinds of yardage in averaging 43 points in its first two contests of the season.
The Titans managed a tiny, 21-20 lead with 3:05 remaining in the final quarter before McAlister put his Lancers up 26-21 by scoring his fourth touchdown of the night with 2:23 showing on the game clock.
North then embarked on an offensive series which could have potentially handed it its third win in as many tries, but that drive came to an end with just 38 ticks of the clock remaining when Londonderry senior linebacker Jacob Dionne intercepted a pass at the LHS 20-yard-line. And all the hosts needed to do from there on was run out the clock.
“We showed a lot of character tonight,” said LHS coach Jimmy Lauzon. “The senior class has shown a lot of character and leadership and led us to this win. Now we can finally talk about Pinkerton.”
The latter part of that comment referred to the Lancers’ Mack Plaque meeting with the strong, arch-rival Pinkerton Academy Astros in Derry this Friday night Sept. 22.
The Astros will be coming off their first loss in the season at the hands of Salem (35-20).
Quarterback McAlister – who combined with sophomore running back Jeff Wiedenfeld (112 rushing yards on 22 carries) for a glittering 253 ground yards – gave his Lancers a 6-0 lead with just 1:28 remaining in the first quarter by running the ball into the end zone from 14 yards out. Londonderry’s two-point conversion try failed.
But it took the powerful Titans a mere four plays and a little less than a minute to collect a 7-6 lead by virtue of a 53-yard touchdown pass and the subsequent extra-point kick. And 7-6 was where the score stood when the teams adjourned to their respective locker rooms for halftime.
The two offenses had been almost identically productive in the opening half, with Londonderry notching 159 yards and North bagging 156. Some 132 of the Lancers’ yards had come via the ground game, with Wiedenfeld notching 95 yards on 13 carries. He had a total of 99 rushing yards in his team’s win over Timberlane in Plaistow a week earlier.
When play resumed, LHS needed very little time to reclaim the lead as it made just four plays to push 65 yards on a drive which culminated with a 34-yard scoring sprint from quarterback McAlister. This time, the locals got the extra-point from kicker Pat Zepf in taking a 13-7 lead.
And the Londonderry lead grew to 20-7 with 5:38 left in the contest when quarterback McAlister capped off a six-play drive – set up by a fumble recovery by junior lineman Patrick Hagearty – with a 44-yard scoring run.
But the visiting Titans notched 14 points in a span of just 2:33 thanks to a short touchdown rush followed by a long fumble recovery for points to make it a 21-20 game in the Nashua team’s favor.
With 3:05 showing up on the clock, Londonderry got the third great runback of a kick on the night from senior Connor Dubois which set up the hosts at the North 16. And two plays later the Lancers were celebrating McAlister’s fourth score of the evening on a nine-yard run.
The locals’ two-point conversion try failed, but they now led 26-21 and that’s where the score would end up.
The now 2-1 Titans would finish up with a bit more yardage (356) than their 3-0 host (315), but the Lancers were all smiles with a dramatic victory tucked away.
“This is another step along a good road for us,” said quarterback McAlister. “We’ve had a losing record each of the last two years, and people didn’t know what to expect from us this year. But we can have a good season if we keep playing the way we have so far.”