The Stevens High School Cardinals made their way south on Saturday, Nov. 14, to take on the Pelham Pythons as they sought to add their second state championship in the last five years. They knew it would be no easy task as they were taken on the undefeated Pythons on their home turf and ultimately the Cardinals came up short of their goal.
But the score didn’t indicate how well Stevens played during their 40-0 loss with a few key plays sprinkled in that might have made a difference.
Stevens took possession to start the game and gained a quick first down on an 11-yard rush from Owen Taylor. Then on a second-and-eight from their own 37-yard line, Taylor dropped back to pass and threw a ball down the right sideline that was intercepted around midfield by Mason Fecteau of the Pythons. Fecteau sped down the sideline and into the end zone for the first Pelham touchdown of the day. There was some controversy on whether or not the ball had been fumbled or not but the referees ruled that Fecteau had crossed the goal line before fumbling. The extra point was missed wide right to keep the Cardinals within six points.
The Cardinals were held to a three and out on the next possession and after a 35-yard Owen Taylor punt, it was time for the Pelham offense to go to work for the first time. Senior running back Jake Herrling led the charge with 36 yards on four carries capped by a four-yard touchdown run. Herrling also converted the two-point conversion for the Pythons to give them a 14-0 lead over the Cardinals in the 1st quarter. Herrling led Pelham in rushing on the day with 160 yards on nine carries.
Stevens may have been down early, but they kept fighting.
“I thought we played hard today. We played a very good team. They are physical and executed extremely well,” said Stevens coach Paul Silva. “We made a few mistakes early and they took advantage of them. I am proud of the fact they didn’t quit today. All you can ask for as a coach is for them to leave it all on the field, and I thought they did that today.”
After going down 14 points early, Stevens went on their longest drive of the game. This drive started at their own 7-yard line after a penalty on the kickoff. The Cardinals went to the air where Owen Taylor completed long passes to Clayton Wadsworth of 25 and 42 yards to lead them into the red zone. This was possible because of the line play of the young Cardinals who held strong against a tough Pelham defense giving Taylor enough time to throw.
“We did a pretty good job on the lines given the size and experience of Pelham,” Silva said. “We gave Owen some time to throw and they made some nice plays in the secondary against us. We start three sophomores on both lines who have improved every game and got six games of valuable experience against some very good teams. You get better by playing and by playing good competition. I think it will really help them next year.”
Once the Cardinals were inside the 20-yard line, the Pythons defense rose to the challenge and held the Cardinals to a turnover on downs.
Pelham took possession back at their own 11-yard line and wasted no time going right back to the ground game. A variety of runners worked the ball to the 41-yard line with short gains before Jake Herrling juked a couple Stevens defenders and took the ball 59 yards for his second touchdown of the day. Kevin Bordenrader took the ball around the left end for the two-point conversion to give the Pythons a 22-0 lead.
On the next Stevens possession, they were able to gain one first down on a 12-yard completion from Taylor to Wadsworth before being forced to punt the ball back to Pelham. Pelham went back to the run game and again made it to the endzone with quarterback Jake Travis running 27 yards right up the middle for the touchdown. The two point conversion was no good putting the Pelham lead at 28-0.
Pelham added on to their lead after an interception led to a passing touchdown from Travis to Pelham tight end Zach Jones. The extra point was unsuccessful to put the score at 34-0 as they headed to the half.
Pelham scored on the first drive of the second half on a Derek Muise one-yard touchdown run to give them a 40-0 lead. The rest of the game was led by the defenses as neither team was able to add to the scoreboard the remainder of the game.
The season may not have ended exactly as Stevens wanted the season to end but coach Silva was happy they were able to have a season at all.
“We were thrilled to get the opportunity to play full contact football this season. It was great to get the chance to be the only state in New England who had that chance,” Silva said. “I think the players did a great job with all of the protocols that we had in place. The kids and coaches took wearing their masks and disinfecting their pads and helmets seriously, as a result we were able to get a full season in and I commend them for that and playing until the last day of the season.”
For the Cardinals, Taylor led the way with 107 yards passing and 53 yards rushing and Wadsworth paced the team with six catches for 90 yards receiving.
Stevens will be graduating only six seniors form this years team as Braxton LeBlanc, JJ Tursky, Owen Taylor, Clayton Wadsworth, Luke Forrest and Eddie Brodeur stepped off the field for the last time as a Cardinal football player.