Throughout the weeks of its pre-season, the 2016 Londonderry High School football squad heard its fair share of speeches about how vital it would be to keep mistakes down to a minimum if it’s going to return to being a Division I playoff team.
But as is so often the case, the Lancers found out that actions speak larger than words in their season-opener against the defending D-I champions from Goffstown High School in Goffstown Saturday, Sept. 3.
Coach Jimmy Lauzon saw his charges play hard and do quite a few good things on the gridiron against the Grizzlies. But the six turnovers proved costly to the Lancers in what ended up being a 19-14 loss.
Londonderry fumbled the football away four times and handed it over to Goffstown on pass interceptions twice, with the decisive turnover being a fumble in the Lancers’ own end zone with 1:05 left to play.
Prior to that pivotal play, the visitors led 14-13 and had a chance to run out the clock by possessing the ball following a beautiful pass interception by senior standout Cam MacDonald. But it wasn’t to be on this warm Saturday afternoon in front of a large and spirited crowd.
“I loved the effort, I loved the physicality, but you can’t turn the ball over five or six times and expect to win. You just can’;t do that,” said Lauzon.
The Lancers received strong performances from numerous sources, and they tallied 367 yards of offense to Goffstown’s 232. The LHS passing game collected more yardage than the host Grizzlies’ entire offense did, with senior quarterback Jake Stevens completing 27 of the 41 passes for 288 yards and both Londonderry scores. His favorite targets were MacDonald, who caught 10 tosses for 145 yards and the first Lancer score, and junior Adam Wilkinson, who hauled in eight tosses for 64 yards and the other LHS touchdown.
The Londonderry offense scuffled on its first three possessions of the day, turning the ball over all three times on two interceptions and one fumble.
The LHS defense was nothing short of machine-like, refusing to allow Goffstown its first first down until late in the first half.
Londonderry snagged a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter when it ended a short drive with a 31-yard pass connection from Stevens to MacDonald.
The Grizzlies trimmed their deficit to 7-3 late in the second period when kicker Sam Heidenreich wowed the crowd by hammering a 47-yard field goal through the uprights. The score would remain at 7-3 at halftime, with the LHS gaining 195 offensive yards to Goffstown’s paltry 58.
But the hosts were very effective with their first offensive series of the second half, using 11 plays to drive 62 yards to pay-dirt on a 6-yard quarterback run.
Facing a 10-7 deficit, Londonderry went on offense and ran an eight-play drive that ended at the Goffstown 27 on a fumble.
The Grizzlies then went back down the field and upped their lead to 13-7 on a 32-yard field goal with 2:08 remaining in quarter number three.
The Lancers appeared to have the game tied as the fourth quarter began on a long pass play, but the 47-yard connection ended badly when Londonderry fumbled the ball away at the Goffstown three at the tail-end of that play.
However, the Lancer defense refused to allow the Grizzlies’ offense to move the ball at all on the hosts’ subsequent series, and LHS quarterback Stevens and his offense were back on the grid in mere minutes to start a series on Goffstown’s side of the 50.
Nine plays later the locals were celebrating Stevens’ nine-yard scoring toss to Wilkinson, and kicker Pat Zepf’s successful point-after try made it a 14-13 game in Londonderry’s favor with 7:15 remaining.
MacDonald’s interception of a Goffstown pass at the LHS five with just 1:22 showing on the clock gave the local gridders a chance to end the game by running out the remaining time. But the Londonderry offense was moved back from the five to the one on a sack on the first play, and the Lancers fumbled the ball away in the end zone on the next play with Goffstown lineman Adam Moses coming up with it.
The Lancers will aim to collect their first win of the 2016 campaign on their home field this Friday night, Sept. 9, when they host Manchester Central High School.
LHS quarterback Jake Stevens tucks the ball into the chest of running back Eric Doran during the Lancers’ season-opener.
Photo by Chris Paul