Turnovers be damned, the Londonderry High School football squad showed enough mental toughness and clutch play on both sides of the ball to be able to best the visiting Salem High Blue Devils 28-21 at LHS Friday evening, Sept. 7.
Trailing 21-14 early in the third quarter, the Lancers scored late in that quarter to knot the score and then bagged the winning points with less than three minutes to go in the fourth period on a short run by junior star Jeff Wiedenfeld.
The hosts, who were looking forward to playing the Salem High troop after starting their 2018 campaign with a romp over the Portsmouth High Clippers on the seacoast the previous Friday night, fumbled the football away no less than four times but still managed to vanquish the Blue Devils.
“When our schedule came out and we saw Salem week two, we said ‘We can jump into the driver’s seat or we can play from behind.’ This doesn’t mean we’re going to stay on top the rest of the way, but it feels good not to have to chase anybody,” said coach Jimmy Lauzon right after the contest as his players celebrated like they’d just won a playoff game.
The hosts put the game’s first points up on the board after Salem went three plays and out on the opening series.
Starting from its own 41-yard-line, the LHS offense took 11 plays to reach pay-dirt on a 3-yard scoring toss from senior quarterback Evan Cormier to junior wide-out Alex Tsetsilas. Senior kicker Zack Chau added the first of his four point-after boots and the score sat at 7-0. And Cormier would go on to have a productive night for his crew along with touchdown machine Wiedenfeld.
However, the Lancer lead would only last 1:24 as Salem responded with a three-play series concluding with a 72-yard scoring run by Riley Mulvey and the PAT to knot the score at 7-7.
However, the hosts went back up 14-7 before period one concluded as a seven-play drive culminated with a 2-yard scoring push by Wiedenfeld with 2:44 to go in the quarter.
But the Devils knotted the score back up at 14-14 with just two ticks of the clock left in the first when they ran a five=play series which culminated in a 47-yard scoring sprint by fullback Domenic Paci.
But the second quarter wound up being rather nightmarish for the locals who coughed up the pigskin no less than three times in those 12 minutes, with two of the fumbles ending drives and the third coming on an attempted punt-return. The first of those turnovers came, quite frustratingly, inside the Salem 10 as the Lancers were within sniffing distance of the go-ahead score.
But Salem wasn’t able to do any scoring in the quarter either as they fumbled the ball away once and then had an 18-yard field goal try blocked. So the teams adjourned for halftime with the score deadlocked at 14-14.
Londonderry got the ball first to start the second half but went three plays and out, and the Devils responded with an economical and productive series which produced a 60-yard run followed by a 2-yard scoring sprint to pay-dirt.
Londonderry would not trail for long, however, as it knotted the game tally up at 21-21 on a four-play series which culminated with a 10-yard scoring sprint by Wiedenfeld.
The Lancers’ pivotal defensive stand came late in the third period and into the fourth, with Salem concluding the third with a first down situation on the LHS 18.
The Lancer defense clamped down and shut down several consecutive plays, leaving the visitors in a fourth down situation on which they failed and handed the ball over on downs with 10:14 to go in regulation time.
The Lancers then dove into an offensive series which covered 79 yards on 14 plays, chewed up nearly eight big minutes, and ended with a 6-yard scoring jaunt by who else but Wiedenfeld.
Now leading 28-21 with 2:57 remaining, the Lancers squashed a comeback-minded Salem series which withered at the LHS 34.
The victorious hosts completed the evening with 417 total offensive yards on 179 rushing and 238 passing. Quarterback Cormier completed 15 of 18 tosses for the 238 yards and one score. Back Wiedenfeld ran for 88 yards and the three huge scores for his side. Jake Holland caught six passes for 90 yards. The LHS defense held Salem under 350 total yards and to just 62 passing on some 15 attempts.
So, the now 2-0 Londonderry Lancers look at a road trip over to Plaistow this Friday night to take on a host Timberlane Regional Owls’ crew that sits at 0-2 and has been routed by both the Dover and Exeter contingents thus far.