Bow faces familiar challenge with trip to undefeated Hanover for D-II football semifinal

  • Bow quarterback Matt Harkins (7) and running back Jack Corriveau (44), seen here facing Hanover in the 2016 Division II semifinals, are going to be back in Hanover on Saturday when the No. 8 Falcons (7-2) meet No. 4 Hanover (9-0) in a rematch. Bow won last year’s game, 38-24, as Harkins and Corriveau both scored late touchdowns to help the Falcons reach the championship game. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • Bow quarterback Matt Harkins (7) drops back to pass during last year’s Division II semifinals against Hanover. Harkins and the Falcons will be back in Hanover on Saturday as No. 8 Bow (7-2) takes on No. 4 Hanover (9-0) in a semifinal rematch. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • Bow Coach Paul Cohen addresses his team after its 38-24 win over Hanover in the 2016 Division II semifinals. The two teams will meet in a semifinal rematch on Saturday at 1 p.m. when No. 8 Bow (7-2) travels to No. 4 Hanover (9-0). RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

Monitor staff
Saturday, November 11, 2017

BOW – Nothing will be easy for No. 8 Bow (7-2) when it travels to No. 4 Hanover (9-0) for Saturday’s 1 p.m. Division II football semifinal. But it will be familiar.

Just last week the Falcons went on the road to face another D-II unbeaten, No. 1 Windham, and came home with a 20-15 win. And just last year the Falcons went to Hanover for a semifinal game and claimed a 38-24 decision.

“It was a really hard-fought game last year against Hanover. Their team was very strong, just like this year,” Bow quarterback Matt Harkins said. “It’s going to be a really good game again.”

The Marauders are coming off a 42-21 quarterfinal win against No. 5 Hollis-Brookline. Hanover forced five turnovers in that game and got four rushing touchdowns from Caleb Putnam. The aggressive, ball-hawking defense and prolific running attack underscore just how physical these Marauders like to play.

“I feel like they’re better overall than last year, so we really need to come together and put up a fight,” said Bow senior lineman Nolan Filteau, who knows all about grinding it out in the trenches and predicted that this game would be, “even harder, more physical,” than last year’s affair with Hanover.

Physical is just fine with the Falcons. They like to mix it up on both sides of the ball with beefy lines led by the 220-pound Filteau and 6-foot-3, 260-pound Andrew Berube, a stable of running backs led by Jack Corriveau and a collection of hard-hitting defenders like linebacker Ben Kimball.

“Hanover is a physical team, but in looking at the film I don’t think they’ve dealt with a team that’s as physical as my team when we’re firing on all cylinders,” Bow Coach Paul Cohen said. “We did that last week and it worked it out well, so that’s going to be a big part of our game plan – we want to outhit them on both sides of the ball.”

Going into last week’s quarterfinal, Windham was averaging 40.8 points per game and its lowest output of the season was 25 points. But that was before facing Bow’s hard-charging defense. The Falcons shut out the Jaguars in the first half and held them to 25 points below their average after swatting down a Hail Mary attempt in the end zone to seal the win and a fifth straight trip to the semifinals (three in D-III and now two in D-II).

“We love the playoffs,” said Harkins, who was one of the defenders knocking down Windham’s Hail Mary bid. “We live for it.”

Bow got a 75-yard touchdown run from Corriveau to open the scoring last week. After that, it was a pair of scoring passes from Harkins – a 20-yard hookup with Kimball and a 12-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Mark Borak that erased a 15-14 Windham lead.

“We really came together when we needed to last week,” Cohen said. “Things could have turned the other way and all these kids would be sitting at home watching cartoons on TV right now, but fortunately for us when we really had to stop them, we did. And when we really needed to score, we were able to do that.”

That performance – which Cohen, Harkins and Filteau all agreed was Bow’s best of the year – has given the Falcons extra doses of confidence and motivation.

“We’ve been really focused because we know we can play against the best and win,” Harkins said. “And there’s just a lot of excitement around the team.”

The touchdown passes from Harkins were critical against Windham because Bow is a run-first team. The Falcons will likely need more offensive diversity on Saturday, but that’s one of the things that won’t come easy in Hanover. The Marauders are one of the few teams in D-II that run a zone pass defense, so Harkins will be in for a unique challenge.

“They’re really good at reading the quarterback,” Harkins said. “They had six interceptions against John Stark and their really good quarterback, Parker McQuarrie, so it’s going to be tough to pass against them. But we’ve been working on throwing against zone all week, so hopefully we can tough it out.”

Harkins showed his personal offensive versatility last year when he ran for a 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter during the semifinal against Hanover. The Falcons also got an 88-yard touchdown run from Corriveau last November as they punched their ticket to the D-II final in their first year in the division.

Plymouth beat Bow in the 2016 championship game, 27-24. The No. 2 Bobcats are 9-0 this year and hosting No. 3 St. Thomas (8-1) in Saturday’s other D-II semifinal. The Falcons, however, are not looking ahead to any potential rematch.

“We can’t look past this game,” Filteau said. “We have to focus on this week and this week alone.”

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