Football: In desperate need of a win, Bow grows up under the lights

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 09-18-2023 10:57 AM

BOW – For a team that entered Friday night 0-2, having been outscored 63-21 so far this year, Bow High football’s season essentially hung in the balance against Gilford-Belmont under the lights at home. A loss would pin the Falcons at 0-3 and continue the struggle for a program that graduated 15 seniors last year; a win would provide a glimmer of hope that the season could still be turned around.

From the opening kickoff, the Falcons did everything they could to provide that glimmer of hope. When the offense took the field for the first time, it marched the ball down for a touchdown. When the Falcons muffed a punt and subsequently gave up a touchdown run to the Golden Eagles that halved their lead to 14-7, they responded with a quick score of their own. When Gilford-Belmont converted on two fourth downs late in the fourth quarter, the defense ultimately stood tall.

It all added up to a 34-21 victory.

Falcons head coach Paul Cohen could breathe a sigh of relief – at least for the night – that his young group is beginning to turn the corner.

“The past two weeks have been tough, no question,” he said following the win. “Our kicking game was awesome tonight. Special teams, big improvement. Solid defense all around. Several times where we bent but didn’t break. Mistakes were made? Yeah. But with a young team, you really expect that, so I’m very, very proud of what they showed tonight. I think they really grew up tonight.”

Bow kicker Jared Dolder knocked through two field goals, from 24 and 34 yards out, converted all four extra points and booted a couple of kickoffs into the end zone.

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The biggest point of success came in the run game. Having fallen behind early in their first two contests, the Falcons (1-2) couldn’t rely on that component as much as they usually like to. Friday night was different.

Senior Gavin McCabe had seven carries, 66 yards and three touchdowns, sophomore Caleb Schumacher carried the ball 23 times for 135 yards, fellow sophomore Miles Miller had 64 yards on seven carries, and junior quarterback Brady Lover added 10 rushes for 66 yards and a touchdown of his own.

Sean Nicholls anchored the Bow line on both sides of the ball, opening holes for the Falcon backs and making three tackles for loss defensively.

“When you have a team like ours, historically that’s been more run-oriented, when everything finally clicks, when the offensive line understands their assignment, the running backs understand how to read the blocks correctly, that’s when the big holes open up, and that was evident tonight,” Cohen said.

On the other side, the loss came as a bit of a surprise for a Gilford-Belmont team that took down Sanborn last week, 42-35. The Golden Eagles (1-2) had chances, like when Noah Harder ran in a 36-yard TD immediately after Bow muffed a punt in the second quarter, but they ultimately could not slow down the Falcons’ rushing attack.

It all came down to physicality, head coach Josh Marzhal said.

“They were just being a little bit more physical, pushing us around a little bit up front,” he said of Bow. “We’ve gotta kinda revisit how we’re blocking, make sure we’re doing that right, but credit to them. They came out. They came out physical. They came out to win. I think we lacked a little bit of physicality tonight that we normally bring.”

A point of optimism moving forward for Marzhal’s team, though, is the potential for first-year quarterback Anakin Underhill. Under duress for much of the evening, he still showcased a big arm and the ability to push the ball down the field when Gilford-Belmont needed a big play. He finished the evening 12-for-23 with 139 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s getting hit, but what I admire most from the guy is he’s getting up every play or he’s limping back to the huddle or running back, he’s doing it with a positive attitude and making throws,” Marzhal said. “We’re really impressed with how he’s come along as a thrower and a passer. He’s come a long way.”

Running back Noah Harder scored all three of the Golden Eagle touchdowns, twice on the ground (he had 73 yards on 11 carries) and one through the air (he caught a pair of passes for 22 years), and Logan Grant was Underhill’s top target with 60 receiving yards on five catches.

But for all their efforts, the night still belonged to the Falcons.

Students surrounded the field with pink shirts, honoring former football player Nick Ouellette, who died tragically two years ago Sunday. In the first game since that dark anniversary, the two teams combined for 55 points, the same as the uniform number Ouellette proudly wore in his time with the program.

While Cohen probably would’ve preferred more of the 55 points to have come from his bunch, there’s no questioning he can feel much better about where his team is after this performance. Ouellette, too, likely would’ve approved of the effort.

“When I was in the Corps, we had a saying, ‘Own the night,’ ” Cohen later added. “Bow football did just that. I am so proud of what they accomplished this evening.”

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