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NHIAA football: No. 2 Plymouth and No. 8 Bow set to square off again for D-II championship

  • Plymouth takes down Bow junior Mark Borak (22) during the Division II championship football game at the University of New Hampshire Wildcat Stadium in Durham on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. Bow lost to Plymouth, 27-24. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

  • Bow junior Grady Beaulieu (16) looks for an opening in the Plymouth defense during the Division II championship football game at the University of New Hampshire Wildcat Stadium in Durham on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. Bow lost to Plymouth, 27-24. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

  • Plymouth breaks up a pass intended for Bow junior Grady Beaulieu (16) before making an interception in the final play of the game during the Division II championship football game at the University of New Hampshire Wildcat Stadium in Durham on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. Bow lost to Plymouth, 27-24. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

  • Plymouth breaks up a pass intended for Bow’s Grady Beaulieu (16) before making an interception on the final play of the game during the 2016 Division II championship game. The Falcons lost, 27-24. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file

  • The Plymouth defense takes down Bow quarterback Matthew Harkins (7) during the 2016 Division II championship football game at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium in Durham. Bow lost to Plymouth, 27-24. The teams play again for the Division II title on Saturday starting at 2:30 p.m. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file



Monitor staff
Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Bow and Plymouth high school football teams should know each other pretty well by now.

The No. 8 Falcons and No. 2 Bobcats will square off for the fourth time in two seasons when the teams meet again in the Division II championship game on Saturday in Durham. Plymouth defeated Bow, 27-24, in last fall’s title game to capture its 12th championship in the last 16 years.

A year has since passed and the bruises have faded. New ones will emerge during Saturday’s tilt at Wildcat Stadium in what is expected to be a brutal clash between two hard-nosed programs. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

The undefeated Bobcats (10-0) dealt Bow (8-2) its toughest loss of the year in a 42-26 contest up north on Sept. 23. Plymouth and John Stark were the only teams to hold Bow to fewer than 29 points this season as the Falcons averaged 33 points per game.

Eight weeks separate the Falcons from that setback. The only other blemish on their regular-season schedule was a 7-6 loss to John Stark on Oct. 21.

With two losses on their résumé, the Falcons snuck into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed. Since then, the Falcons have knocked out two undefeated teams – top-seed Windham and No. 4 Hanover – to earn a return ticket to the championship round and another shot against Plymouth.

The Bobcats have held the edge the last two years, beating Bow in each of their three matchups since the beginning of the 2016 season.

“We’re facing a team that beat us up pretty badly (eight) weeks ago and we know we’re going to have to play a whole lot better than that,” Bow Coach Paul Cohen said. “But from then to now, this is a different team. They’ve faced some adversity and overcome it and have come together as a group.”

Coaches love to use the term “smash-mouth football,” and Saturday’s game is expected to personify that style of play. Both teams bring tough rushing attacks with quick tailbacks behind a gritty offensive line.

Bow has leaned heavily on its running game this season, led by 2016 D-II second team pick Jack Corriveau. Likewise, the Falcons will be tasked with stopping Plymouth running back Garrett Macomber, the reigning Division II player of the year.

Last season’s championship game boiled down to Corriveau versus Macomber on offense. Corriveau scored all three of Bow’s touchdowns, one on the ground and two through the air from quarterback Matt Harkins. Macomber, despite missing a big chunk of the first half with a hip injury, matched Corriveau with three trips to the end zone and averaged 6 yards per carry.

Both are now seniors and will carry the brunt of offensive production for their teams on Saturday.

“He’s a solid running back; very big, very fast, very powerful,” Cohen said of Macomber. “The only thing we have going for us is we saw him last year in the final and we know what he can do. He’s bigger this year than he was last year, and that’s to be expected. With everything on the line, we’ll come up with a scheme that hopefully can stymie his best efforts on Saturday.”

Though a run-first offense, Plymouth balances out with a strong quarterback in Ben Olmstead, a three-year starter who has thrown 14 touchdowns this year and just one interception.

Bow’s offensive line has played a significant role in paving the way for Corriveau and fellow running backs Ben Kimball and Matt Nicholls this season. Plymouth brings a fiery rushing attack on defense, and the Falcons’ line will need to be as diligent in making the right blocks as it is physical in executing them.

“They’re tough. They’re fast to the ball,” Bow senior tackle Nolan Filteau said. “I think we handled ourselves (in the regular-season matchup) but we definitely need to improve for this game.”

“Their defense is a very stingy, a very hard-hitting group of kids,” Cohen said. “They’re going to come at you. They’re not so much a reading team as they are an attack team, so we have to stay on our blocks and we have to execute on the offensive side the way we’re capable of. If we don’t, we’re facing a similar situation from eight weeks ago.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)