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Concord stymies Exeter, 22-10, to reach D-I title game

  • Concord High School senior runningback Marc Gaudet celebrates after scoring a touchdown during Concord's victory over Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School senior runningback Marc Gaudet celebrates after scoring a touchdown during Concord's victory over Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School's Marc Gaudet (14), Kyle Cushman (72) and Nicholas Comeau (19) stop Exeter runningback Ryan Kelly in his tracks during Concord's victory in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School's Marc Gaudet (14), Kyle Cushman (72) and Nicholas Comeau (19) stop Exeter runningback Ryan Kelly in his tracks during Concord's victory in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School senior runningback Marc Gaudet celebrates after scoring a touchdown during Concord's victory over Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School's Marc Gaudet (14), Kyle Cushman (72) and Nicholas Comeau (19) stop Exeter runningback Ryan Kelly in his tracks during Concord's victory in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School beats Exeter in division I football semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord on November 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

Their backs against their own goal line, staring up at an imposing Exeter offensive line and at a second-quarter deficit for only the second time all season, Concord High’s defense did what they’ve done all season – they made the stop.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide limited the No. 4 Blue Hawks to a field goal after a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. And 67 seconds and 10 plays later, Concord was celebrating in the end zone at the other end of the field after taking a 14-10 lead just before halftime. The field goal was the last points Concord allowed as the Crimson Tide beat two-time defending champion Exeter, 22-10, yesterday to reach the state championship game for the first time since 2002.

The Tide (11-0) will host No. 3 Pinkerton (9-2) on Saturday for the Division I title. The Astros beat No. 2 Keene, 44-20, in the other semifinal.

“It’s fantastic. It’s been four long years of hard work. To get here, it’s a great feeling,” said Kyle Corriveau, who platooned with Matt Campbell at nose tackle with Concord’s starter benched after being ejected last week. “(Pinkerton)’s not going to be an easy game. … We’re going to have to man up and come to play. They’re going to come to play. It’s going to be a fistfight.”

Much like yesterday’s battle in the trenches.

Exeter’s behemoth offensive line of Collin Richardson, Zach Adler, Neil Vorster, Jacob DiGiovanni and Peter Lalime paved the way for 280 yards on the ground a week ago. But Concord, on the strength of Corriveau, Campbell, Dylan Naylor and Wyatt LaBombard up front, limited the Blue Hawks (7-4) to just 186 – with more than a third of them coming on a prolonged 10-minute drive spanning the first and second quarters.

With Exeter pounding the ball out of a T offense, Concord stuffed the box, with linebackers Marc Gaudet and Walters Ndi acting more as defensive ends and the Tide employing a third inside linebacker to join Will Scharlotte and Logan Lamoureux to close off the inside running lanes.

“(Defensive coordinator) Mike Pelletier did a great job scheming and game planning. He put a great game plan together today and the kids really flourished,” Concord Coach Eric Brown said. “We weren’t sure – everything looks good when you draw it up on the white board – but we tried it out on Wednesday, we liked what we saw and our kids executed the game plan almost to perfection.”

Exeter’s game plan was working to perfection early. After the Tide scored on its first possession, with Gaudet running in from 7 yards out, the Blue Hawks went on that 10-minute drive – aided by a first down on a faked punt from their own 31 – eating up clock and more importantly keeping the ball out of the hands of Concord’s explosive offense. The 74-yard drive ended with a 19-yard burst up the middle from Jay Inzenga (110 yards on 23 carries). Matthew Oppici’s kick made it 7-6.

Concord went three-and-out, then Gaudet sacked quarterback Joey Jones (5-for-10, 52 yards) to end a Blue Hawks drive. But when Concord got the ball back, Exeter stripped QB Rob Law (7-for-15, 107 yards) as he attempted a pass, and Lalime returned the fumble to the Tide 4-yard line.

But the left side of the Concord line stuffed Ryan Kelly for no gain. Then it held Inzenga to a single yard. Then Seimou Smith came up with a crushing hit on Stephen Polhemus as he was about to catch a pass in the end zone, leaving Exeter with Oppici’s 20-yard field goal and a 10-6 lead.

“We knew they were tough. That offense they run they just try to shove it down your throat,” Law said. “They’re a physical team, but we were expecting it, we were ready. They’re a good team, though.”

So Law went to work, orchestrating a 70-yard drive in just 67 seconds. On first down, he scrambled before finding Ndi, his safety valve, a few yards away, and Ndi turned it into a 14-yard gain. Law hit Gaudet over the middle for 9 yards. He hit Smith deep down the right sideline for 37 yards to the Exeter 12. Then, after spiking to stop the clock and two straight incompletions, Concord faced fourth-and-10. Once again, with Exeter blanketing Concord’s receivers, Law checked down to Ndi, who darted in from 12 yards out. When Law ran in the two-point conversion, Concord headed into halftime up 14-10.

“That completely shifted momentum for us,” Corriveau said. “I think that’s why we won this game, that drive right there.”

“They made a play at the end and that’s what it’s all about, making plays,” Exeter Coach Bill Ball said. “We came up here and played an undefeated team, we thought we had a plan to get it done, we just came up short.”

Concord fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half, but Exeter gave the ball right back when Jacob Szulc recovered a fumble a play later. A 66-yard run by Leo Sudieh (88 yards on eight carries) put Concord in the red zone with a chance to break the game open, but Exeter’s defense stuffed the Tide on fourth-and-1 from the 4.

Smith gave Concord the ball back with an interception near midfield, and this time Concord didn’t miss its chance. A 6-yard catch by Gaudet, a 6-yard run by Law and a powerful 34-yard run from Ndi got the Tide back to the 4-yard line, from where Sudieh zipped in for a 22-10 lead after Bakir Bascelic’s conversion catch.

With just more than a quarter to play, time was running out on Exeter’s ball-control offense. And Concord got the one last defensive stand it needed with 5:44 to play. With the Blue Hawks threatening at the 15, Lamoureux nearly sacked Jones, but Ndi was there to tackle him for a 3-yard loss. On fourth-and-8 from the 18, Jones completed a pass to Mark Cicchini Jr., but Smith and a swarm of Tide defenders dropped him a yard short, all but sealing a trip to the title game.

“Defense won this game today,” Law said. “Exeter fights for every yard and our defense had to fight back with the same intensity.”

(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or ssmith@cmonitor.com.)

Concord 22 Exeter 10

Exeter (7-4) 0 10 0 0 — 10

Concord (11-0) 6 8 8 0 — 22

First Quarter

Con—Marc Gaudet 7 run (kick failed), 4:27.

Second Quarter

Exe—Jay Inzenga 19 run (Matthew Oppici kick), 2:28.

Exe—FG Oppici 20, 10:27.

Con—Walters Ndi 12 pass from Rob Law (Law run), 11:34.

Third Quarter

Con—Leo Sudieh 4 run (Bakir Bascelic pass from Law), 8:55.

Exe Con

First downs 17 12

Rushes-yards 59-186 28-218

Passing 52 107

Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-0

Comp-Att-Int 5-10-1 7-15-0

Sacked-Yards Lost 2-17 0-0

Fumbles-Lost 4-1 3-2

Penalties-Yards 3-15 5-30

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Exeter, Inzenga 23-110, Ryan Kelly 16-49, Chris Kelley 10-27, Mark Cicchini Jr. 2-10, Peter Lalime 1-5, Joey Jones 7-(minus-15). Concord, Sudieh 8-88, Ndi 6-50, Gaudet 9-39, Law 5-41.

PASSING—Exeter, Jones 5-10-1-52. Concord, Law 7-15-0-107.

RECEIVING—Exeter, Stephen Polhemus 3-26, Max Medley 1-19, Cicchini Jr. 1-7. Concord, Smith 1-37, Ndi 2-26, Nick Comeau 1-23, Gaudet 3-21.

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