NHIAA football: Bow’s offensive line has made a big push this season

  • Bow’s Matt Nicholls runs through the hole created by Jack Tellifson (left) and Seamus O’Reilly (right) during a Division II game against Merrimack Valley on Oct. 13. Bow Coach Paul Cohen calls his offensive line, “the doughnut factory,” becasue, “They make the big holes for the running backs.” The ground game has helped the Falcons reach the Division II championship game for a second straight year. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

Monitor staff
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

BOW – Two seasons in Division II and two runs through the postseason tournament, the Bow High football team has established itself as a powerhouse.

The only thing missing is a D-II state championship, and the No. 8 Falcons (8-2) will get another shot on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s final against No. 2 Plymouth (10-0) at the University of New Hampshire.

Led by running backs Jack Corriveau, a 2016 D-II Second Team pick, and Ben Kimball, the Falcons have leaned heavily on the rush. Coach Paul Cohen and his staff don’t lack faith in the passing attack, but the production from Bow’s stable of backs has made it easy for the play callers to keep the ball on the ground.

A share of credit for the running game’s success is due to the players that never hear their names called over the loudspeakers in a game: the offensive line.

They’re not looking for recognition. A humble group that has been playing together since their days in the Bow Youth Football program, the big players up front have the type of mindset that most coaches love.

“I just listen to the coaches and do what I’m supposed to do,” said senior tackle and captain Nolan Filteau, a First Team D-II pick on defense last year.

Simple, right? Not quite.

Bow runs a fluid offense where players are often running on and off the field. That includes the offensive line. In addition to Filteau, Andrew Berube (tackle), Christopher Wheeler (guard), Jack Tellifson (guard) and Seamus O’Reilly (center), Benjamin Boisvert and Jonathan Guimond complete a group that Cohen describes as “more of a starting seven than a starting five.”

Who’s on the field is dictated by several factors including, but not limited to, field position, game clock and defensive scheme. On the field, the linemen have to be ready to flip positions. An offense such as this calls for each player to know the role and responsibility of every position.

It’s been a learning process that began in the early days of preseason, but the group’s chemistry has helped them adapt quickly under the tutelage of assistant coaches Eric Phelps and Ron Corriveau.

“They’ve learned to work well together,” Cohen said. “They know exactly what each one of them is capable of, so it’s almost like they don’t even have to talk necessarily. They know because they’ve played next to that person for so long. They’re all very versatile and can do whatever we need them to do.”

The rushing attack was on full display last weekend in Bow’s 19-7 semifinal win over Hanover where Bow quarterback Matt Harkins attempted fewer than 10 passes. Instead, Harkins was taking the snap from O’Reilly under center and either handing off to one his backs or taking it himself for a gain on the ground.

After the game, Jack Corriveau, who scored two touchdowns (one on the ground and the other off a catch) while rushing for 150 yards, sang his praises for the offensive line. They’re usually the first group he gives credit to after a game.

The sentiment is mutual. Before practice Tuesday, O’Reilly spoke to the cohesiveness between the line and the running backs.

“They’re doing great,” the junior center said. “If we make mistakes, they can read our mistakes and help us improve. They make what we do a lot easier.”

Hanover, the fourth seed in the tournament, knew it was facing a strong rushing team in Bow. Coach Sam Cavallaro said defending the run was the focus of their defensive game plan. In the end, Cavallaro said the game was decided by the more physical team on the line of scrimmage. Bow, he said, had the edge in that area.

“They really out-physicaled us,” he said. “It wasn’t by a ton, but it was enough for the game.”

The Falcons will need to establish a grinding tempo again this weekend, which will be the fourth time they’ve played Plymouth in two seasons. Bow lost to Plymouth, 42-26, on Sept. 23 in their only meeting since last fall’s D-II championship. The Bobcats claimed the 2016 title in a narrow 27-24 win, and they beat Bow during the 2016 regular season, 28-12.

The Falcons will continue work this week fine tuning their offense, studying film and preparing to collide with another hard-hitting team. And when the ball is handed off on Saturday, the coaching staff and the running backs are confident the space will be there rush.

The offensive line has been able to make that space consistently this season. Cohen even has a nickname for his “big humans” up front.

“I call them the doughnut factory,” Cohen said. “They make the big holes for the running backs to come shooting through. And the running backs understand without the line they’re not going anywhere, so it’s truly a collective effort.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)