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For Bow football team, familiarity breeds cohesiveness

  • Bow High School football hosts Campbell High School in Bow on Saturday, November 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Bow High School football hosts Campbell High School in Bow on Saturday, November 2, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Bow High School football hosts Campbell High School in Bow on Saturday, November 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Bow High School football hosts Campbell High School in Bow on Saturday, November 2, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Bow High School football hosts Campbell High School in Bow on Saturday, November 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Bow High School football hosts Campbell High School in Bow on Saturday, November 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

The signs first appeared near the end of last season. A cohesion was developing between the juniors, sophomores and freshmen on the Bow football team. That togetherness carried into the weight room during winter workouts, and kept going through summer conditioning.

“They became a very bonded group,” Bow Coach Paul Cohen said. “They were conscientious, very diligent, very supportive of each other, both the real physical studs and also the kids who are just developing.”

The camaraderie has been paying off all fall for the Falcons. They went 7-1 during

the regular season, earning their first playoff berth since 2009. Last week they avenged their only loss of the season against previously undefeated Pelham, claiming an 18-6 road win over the Pythons in the Division III quarterfinals. The cohesive Falcons, now seeded No. 1, will be rewarded again tomorrow, this time with the first home playoff game in school history when they host No. 4 Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough (5-4).

“I’ve been waiting to see this for a few years now. I’ve seen bits of it here and there, but not enough to be really consistent,” Cohen said. “We had talent, but there was just that little intangible that could never quite be put together when we really needed it to take the next step into the postseason.”

“This team is the most together we’ve seen in a long time,” said lineman Mike Johnson, one of Bow’s four senior captains along with quarterback Derek Polish, tight end/linebacker Travis Reynolds and lineman/linebacker Dwight Alford. “Everyone connects with each other. In the past we’ve had rivalries within the team, and I don’t see that this year.”

The bonding on this team may have become apparent to the coaching staff a year ago, but it’s been developing for eight years. This group of seniors and juniors played together on a fourth- and fifth-grade team way back then, and they’ve been together ever since.

“We’ve been together for so long that we know what other people are going to do on the field,” Polish said. “It makes it easier for us to function. Everything is fluent.”

The Falcons do have a bona fide star in junior running back Matt Ehrenberg, who has rushed for a school-record 1,338 yards this season, but he hasn’t done that all on his own. Ehrenberg is always quick to credit his offensive line, which is one of, if not the biggest and most physically imposing groups in D-III. Plus, the Falcons have good depth in the backfield, so Ehrenberg doesn’t have to carry the ball 30-40 times a game.

As good as Bow’s running game has been, the defense has been just as impressive. The Falcons have posted three shutouts this season and are holding opponents to 9.3 points per game.

The team unity has also paid dividends during the tough times and close games. If there’s a breakdown on a play, no one is pointing fingers, which can be easy to do on a football field, where there are so many moving parts.

“We’re a very tight-knit group,” Reynolds said. “We don’t fight on the field or have any arguments. We just try to respond together.”

“You can hear some teams jawing at each other. We’re not that team,” Alford said. “If there’s a problem, we work it out and get it done.”

Bow faced plenty of problems when it traveled to Somersworth on Oct. 25. The Falcons needed a win to stay a leg up in the playoff race, and they led for most of the game, but the Hilltoppers kept coming back. It took a blocked PAT at the end of regulation from backup quarterback Sean Stewart and an overtime touchdown run on third down from Reynolds to finally seal the 33-27 win, which “showed this team’s true colors,” Cohen said.

The regular-season contest against Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough provided another example of Bow’s cohesive strength. The Falcons went into that one with several starters injured and lost a few more during the game, but they still managed to drop a 33-0 decision on the Lakers.

“In years past if we would lose two or three starters because they didn’t dress or got hurt in the game, there was a drop-off. Not to say the kids didn’t battle, but there was a drop-off in performance and there was a drop-off in their can-do mindset,” Cohen said. “With these guys it wasn’t like that. Even though we had a lot of people on the sideline who we would have preferred to be playing, the team kept going.”

Despite the lopsided regular-season score, Bow won’t be looking past Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough. The Lakers have a potent, power running game of their own with several capable backs, including Nick Hurd, Nick Brothers and Devante Carter. They also have a defense that’s shown improvement during the course of the year, and they’re coming off a 27-14 playoff road win against Gilford (6-3), a team they lost to in the regular season.

“I don’t think the score really describes what happened in that first game with Inter-Lakes,” Polish said. “That team beat us up. They were always pushing and they never gave up. It’s definitely not going to be an easy game.”

Plus, these Falcons don’t want to be the first Bow team to host a playoff game and then wind up losing it.

“It’s really nice to be playing at home,” Johnson said. “It’s the first time it’s ever happened, so it’s nice to be making history, and we want to make more.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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