Kearsarge football falls to No. 1 Pelham in first playoff game since 2015

Monitor staff
Published: 11/7/2021 2:06:17 PM

PELHAM – It was a mismatch on paper, and that’s the way it played out.

No. 1 Pelham (9-0) controlled every aspect of the game in a 46-6 victory over No. 4 Kearsarge (6-3) in Saturday’s Division III football semifinal, but it was hardly unexpected.

Pelham – the defending D-III champions and a program moving up to D-II in 2022 – entered the postseason tournament scoring an average of 49 points a game and allowing just 4.3. The closest game the Pythons have played all year was a 40-8 blowout over Monadnock and their starters rarely see the field in the second half. 

For Kearsarge, simply making the playoffs was an accomplishment in and of itself. While the Cougars hoped for better in their first playoff appearance since 2015, the takeaway from the season is still positive.

After going 1-8 in 2018, 0-9 in 2019 and 0-2 to open this season, Kearsarge rattled off six victories to close out the regular season, capped by an 8-3 victory over No. 2 Trinity last week.

“The season as a whole, definitely a success,” Kearsarge head coach Cody Anderson said. “A trip to the playoffs, nobody should ever complain about. We’re lucky to be here. These kids are a special group and it showed. They were just willing to work. No matter what happened, no matter how bad the odds seemed, they came and they put in the work. Even this week, going in knowing we were banged up, knowing the opponent we were up against, they came and they worked. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Pelham senior captain and defensive back Kevin Bodenrader blocked two punts and had an interception, setting up short touchdown runs for junior running backs Ethan Demmons (two touchdowns, 37 rush yards on five carries) and Alex Carroll (two touchdowns, 31 rush yards on five carries).

Bodenrader (24 yards on three carries) scored when teammate Ethan Giniewicz blocked Kearsarge’s third punt of the game and ran with it 15 yards to the end zone, and Will Nicolls (22 yards on six carries) helped the Pythons move the ball.

Jake Cawthron also scored on a fumble recovery for Pelham when an incomplete pass by Kearsarge quarterback Parker Goin (5-for-15, 86 passing yards) was ruled a backwards lateral, while the Pythons’ defense had four sacks and didn’t allow Kearsarge to make a play for positive yards until the final drive of the first half. 

Pelham garnered 128 yards in the first half, while the Cougars offense had minus-45. Pelham led 25-0 after the first quarter and 46-0 at halftime.

Kearsarge was hampered by the absence of senior captain Jack Chambers on the line and running backs JJ Davis  and John Fraioli, leaving senior Anders Sailer and freshman Damon Dawson to handle the load in the backfield.

“Numbers definitely help. That’s been one of our struggles this year,” Anderson said. “And (Pelham is) really well-coached. They had some good schemes that we had no answer for with the personnel we had.” 

With the game in running time in the second half, Goin and George Jallah (two catches for 54 yards) went for broke, attempting several long passing plays, eventually getting Goin in position to run in a 15-yard touchdown as the game clock expired. 

“Our goal was to get to the playoffs and we knew it could be done,” Kearsarge senior Jerome Donohue said.

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