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Pembroke football team earns coach’s respect in lopsided loss to Portsmouth

PEMBROKE – The Pembroke football team was, admittedly so by Coach Brian Gridley, mainly out to gain the respect of a strong and playoff-bound Portsmouth team yesterday. Whether they achieved that, the Spartans (3-5) earned the pride of their head coach despite a lopsided 51-7 loss to the Clippers (7-1).

“When things aren’t going your way, sports can build your character and they can also reveal it,” Gridley said. “I thought our kids played hard all the way through, right until the final bell.”

Not an easy task, especially when you consider that Portsmouth scored on each of its first three possessions, giving it a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Mikel Toar (six carries for 34 yards) found the end zone first for Portsmouth on a 5-yard run. The Clippers then completed their next two drives with passes from senior quarterback Donovan Phanor (11-for-18, 213 yards) for touchdowns, the first to Joey Auger for 26 yards, the second to Matthew Boisvert for 13 yards. Kicker Ian Troost, who converted on 5 of 6 extra point attempts, was the next to score, knocking through a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter.

With the game not totally out of reach yet, Pembroke showed resilience late in the half. With just a few minutes left in the second quarter, the Spartans defence forced its second turnover of the game (the first was an interception by Liam Wright). Having been pinned deep in their own territory on a punt, the Clippers tried to run their way out of trouble, but a free hand stripped Toar of the ball and Vinny Dustin was there to pounce on it.

The turnover, which was recovered inside the Portsmouth 20-yard line, led to the only Pembroke score of the day, a 3-yard run from Dustin to bring the Spartans to within 17 just before the half at 24-7.

“We told the kids to just keep fighting,” Gridley said of his halftime talk. “Like the manager outside the ring of a title weight fight, we just told them they were playing strong and to keep it up. It was getting a little chippy on both sides, but we had to just persevere through it and let our pads do the talking, and I thought they did that.”

The third quarter was perhaps even more rough for the Spartans than the first as Phanor and the Clippers offense went right back to putting points on the board. Phanor struck first with his legs, scoring on a 5-yard run. Auger then scored his second touchdown, this time on a 1-yard run.

The nail in the coffin came late in the third when Phanor connected on an 85-yard pass play to Nathaniel McFarland, who was able to break one tackle and go untouched the last 55 yards for the score.

While the Clippers offense was rolling, the Spartans only sputtered, turning the ball over five times in the second half, the last hurting the most as Portsmouth’s Patrick Glynn scooped up a loose ball and took it 30 yards for the score. Isabelle Pafford converted the extra point to round out the scoring at 51-7.

Pembroke travels to undefeated Monadnock on Saturday for its final game of the season. Portsmouth hosts 1-7 Hanover.

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