High Schools: MV football is playoff-bound
Merrimack Valley stamped its ticket to the postseason for the first time in the football program’s history, thanks in no small part to the legs and arm of Ivan Niyamugabo.
“He was absolutely, ridiculously the man,” Coach David Jackson said after his Pride (7-1) beat St. Thomas, 34-13, yesterday, eliminating the Saints (6-2) from playoff contention and garnering MV a date with Portsmouth in two weeks for the Division II East Conference title.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround for a team that went winless in nine games last year and a program that has just one winning season (5-4 in 2008) since it joined the NHIAA ranks in 2002.
Niyamugabo and the Pride wasted little time asserting themselves in Dover, either. The junior quarterback hit Cole Martin for a 78-yard touchdown pass (with Ryan Simoneau kicking the PAT) then added a 6-yard scoring run of his own before a Simoneau 27-yard field goal sent the Pride into halftime with a 16-0 lead.
St. Thomas pulled within 16-7 to start the second half, but Niyamugabo restored order for MV with a pair of touchdowns before the end of the quarter – the first a 24-yard pass to Tommy Schneider and the second a 40-yard run – to make it 28-7 heading into the final 12 minutes. Martin scored his second TD of the game, this one on an 8-yard run, to all but put the game away before the Saints tacked on one final score.
Niyamugabo had a monster game for the Pride – “He had a million (yards) rushing and another half a thousand passing,” Jackson said – actually running for 133 on seven carries and completing 13 of 20 passes for 204 yards. Tucker Burt added 75 yards rushing, while Martin (three catches for 90 yards) and Schneider (four catches for 55 yards) led the receiving corps. Buddy Hughes played inspired after a death in his family to lead the MV defense, along with Jake Davidson and Ryan Head.
D-III FIELD HOCKEY
No. 4 HOPKINTON 2,
No. 5 Newfound 0
Courtney Crouch scored two goals and goalie Maddy Bergethon made 12 saves to lead the Hawks (14-2) past the quarterfinal round with a home shutout of Newfound (11-5).
Crouch got Hopkinton on the board early in the first half from a corner, assisted by Ireland Tawney.
Newfound pressured in the second half and had a number of great shots but Bergethon was on fire in net. The Hawks finally doubled their lead midway through the half after Brittany Marshall got the ball to the end line and shot along the baseline for Crouch, who got a stick on the ball and put it in near post.
Maddy Sorel and Callie Chase were the architects of another strong defensive performance for Hopkinton, which will face No. 1 Derryfield at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter in the semifinals Wednesday at 7 p.m.
No. 2 Gilford 2,
No. 7 WINNISQUAM 0
The Bears (10-4-2) had their season come to an end in the quarterfinal round against undefeated Gilford (14-0-2). No further details were reported.
Gilford will play No. 3 Berlin in the semifinals Wednesday.