Football: Londonderry’s size and physicality too much for Concord in season-opening loss

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 09-02-2023 11:58 AM

LONDONDERRY – Londonderry’s quarterback Conor Williams had just competed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Carroll to put the Lancers ahead 7-0 with 3:07 left in the first quarter of Friday’s season opener against Concord. On the Tide’s ensuing possession, Jackson Borkush broke off a 70-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7. It looked like a shootout was in store. But as it turned out, Londonderry (1-0) was the only one to keep up the pace. The Lancers won going away, 41-14. 

Against a physically commanding opponent, Concord’s (0-1) quarterback Colby Nyhan dealt with pressure in his face all game, running back Eli Bahuma had little room to showcase his elite agility and the defense struggled to get off the field, allowing multiple chunk plays against the Londonderry offense.

It all added up to a 27-point loss to open the 2023 season. Here are three notes from the performance:

Tide’s offensive line struggles to assert itself

More often than not on Friday, it seemed like one of two things happened when Concord’s offense ran a play: Nyhan was off to the races trying to avoid a sack, or Bahuma was stuffed at or near the line of scrimmage. With several players having graduated off of the offensive line from last season, it was a new-look group that had the unenviable challenge of facing one of the more physical teams in Division I.

“They did exactly what we expect most teams to do. They said, ‘We gotta stop number 7,’” Concord head coach Jim Corkum said, referring to Bahuma who scored 22 touchdowns for the Tide last season. “They devoted a lot of their game plan to trying to stop him. It's hard for five guys on the line to block everybody when they're bringing a lot of pressure, and when you also have good players and a good game plan.”

Bahuma finished the game with 53 yards on 20 carries (2.7 yards per rush) and a late touchdown. 

The result surely is far from what Corkum hoped for from a group that has high expectations for the season, but sometimes a team just gets outplayed by superior competition, and that’s what happened on Friday. The Lancers’ defense had six sacks and five additional tackles for loss.

“I've only been doing this for three years, but in my three years, I think that was the most physical football team that I've coached against,” Corkum said. “I'm proud of our kids, how we battled. I felt we fought, and the effort was there for sure. Nobody quit. I just don't think we were quite ready for this caliber, this speed, this physicality, and ultimately it falls on me as a head coach. I gotta have our guys more ready to go against teams like this.”

Big plays demoralize the defense

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Especially in the first half, Concord’s defense gave itself plenty of chances to get off the field but just could not make that last stop. The biggest backbreaker came with 1:19 remaining in the second quarter, when Lancers’ QB Alexander Villa completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Seth Doyon on third-and-9 to put Londonderry up 21-7. The deficit would only grow from there in the second half.

“The score seems deceptive because I was actually pretty happy with how our defense played in the first half,” Corkum said. “We were making them fight for everything they got and put them in some fourth down situations. We just couldn't get ourselves off the field in those key situations, and we allowed them to keep extending drives.”

One challenge in particular Concord had to deal with was the Lancers use of four different quarterbacks throughout the game. Corkum knew they could see multiple guys throughout the course of the game, but stopping four, all with high-level abilities, only presented an additional wrinkle his team couldn’t quite handle. Villa, Williams, Cam Brutus and Sam Ogden all took reps under center.

Jackson Borkush seizing his chance as a senior

Concord’s longest play from scrimmage was by far Borkush’s 70-yard run in the first quarter. With several other chunk plays, the senior running back showcased his top-end speed and why he could be another key player to watch for the Tide as the season progresses. He finished the game seven carries, 97 yards and the one touchdown.

“Jackson's been such a great kid in our program for the last three years,” Corkum said. “He's a speed guy. He's one of the fastest kids on our team. He's done great all summer. Good leader. I was really happy to see him make the plays he made. He deserves it, and he's going to continue to help us.”

If the Tide are to get back on track in two weeks when it plays again against Salem, Borkush will likely play a big role. And while Friday’s result was certainly not optimal, Concord still has the rest of the season ahead to continue to grow and improve.

“There's no playoff spots being given out tonight, no champions being crowned tonight,” Corkum said. “We have a long season in front of us, so that's what we're going to focus on.”

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