CLAREMONT — Keaghan McAllister accounted for both Stevens touchdowns and 200 yards on the ground to push Stevens past Laconia 14-12 on Friday night, setting the stage for the game of the year next Friday in Claremont.
After a quick 3 and out for the Sachems on their first possession, the Cardinals marched 52 yards in seven minutes, capped off by a great line push with McAllister behind them for a quick 7-0 lead. The big plays on that drive were a 21-yard pass from Owen Taylor to McAllister then a Taylor sweep behind his pulling guard as the Cardinals just out-muscled the larger Laconia line.
Laconia began to put some air under the ball as Ryan Dee found Patrick Duggan for 19 yards but the drive stalled, forcing a punt and giving Stevens the ball on the Cardinals’ 20-yard line. Taylor hit Lucas Mudge for 9 quick yards, then it was Mathew Jones busting a 13-yard gain before McAllister ripped off 42 yards then hit pay-dirt a few plays later for a 14-0 Stevens lead.
Early in the second quarter, Dee found Jaekwon Sylvia for a 34-yard pass play. Then big Kayden LeClair bruised his way for 13 yards and a score to cut the lead to 14-6 as the extra point was blocked. After three plays gained only 3 yards, Laconia had the ball back and momentum on their side after a punt attempt went horribly wrong for Stevens. Dee was looking to run the ball more and Quentin Bucknell had no part of that with a hard tackle followed up with a solid hit compliments of Tucker Derosier. On 4th down, Dee found Duggan again, this time in the corner of the end zone to cut the lead to 14-12 at the half.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game but we’ve overcome so many things this season and this team sticks up for each other and when they scored, there was nobody with their heads down,” said the Cardinals’ Tucker Derosier.
The second half was an old fashioned physical battle as teams traded turnovers and field possession but no change in the score. After a blocked Stevens punt and Laconia turned the ball over on downs, the Cardinals had the ball on their own 10-yard line with seven minutes remaining. Penalties backed the Cardinals deeper but a huge 3rd down run by McAllister gave the Cardinals a first down with under three minutes left. Two plays later, McAllister broke free on the right side and with lots of open field in his sights, he flew 75 yards to pay-dirt but a cramp brought him down at the 2 yard line.
After the Sachems burned all their timeouts, the Cardinals fumbled on 4th down, giving the visitors a chance. Taylor ended the game with an interception at midfield, giving the Cardinals a big win and a date with Lebanon next week in a battle for the top spot.
“I cannot begin to tell how proud I am of this team. You can’t measure heart but I can tell you that these guys have more than anyone can imagine,” said Stevens head coach Paul Silva after the game.
Lebanon defeated Epping-Newmarket to move to 6-0 Friday night while the Cardinals are in second place at 5-1. This will be the game of the year next Friday in Claremont in an old fashioned CVL matchup.
“This game is all about team and having each other’s back. We are like family and we all stick together on and off the field. This is a very special group of guys on this team,” said McAllister after the game.