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Birds of a Feather: Two-Quarterback System Symbolizes Stevens’ Team-First Ethic

  • Cardinals left tackle Kai Kleyensteuber stretches before practice in Claremont, N.H. on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Stevens will host Epping-Newmarket on Saturday in the state semifinals. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Cardinals left tackle Kai Kleyensteuber stretches before practice in Claremont, N.H. on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Stevens will host Epping-Newmarket on Saturday in the state semifinals. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cardinals head coach Paul Silva talks with players during practice in Claremont, N.H. on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Stevens will host Epping-Newmarket on Saturday in the state semifinals. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Cardinals head coach Paul Silva talks with players during practice in Claremont, N.H. on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Stevens will host Epping-Newmarket on Saturday in the state semifinals. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cardinals left tackle Kai Kleyensteuber stretches before practice in Claremont, N.H. on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Stevens will host Epping-Newmarket on Saturday in the state semifinals. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Cardinals head coach Paul Silva talks with players during practice in Claremont, N.H. on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Stevens will host Epping-Newmarket on Saturday in the state semifinals. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

Claremont — Hard to defend, and harder to figure.

The Stevens High football team, riding a six-game winning streak, is heading to the NHIAA Division III semifinals with two quarterbacks Ryan Tanguay and Bryar Roulliard — whose sport of choice is baseball.

But baseball season is far away. It’s the gridiron that holds their attention today.

“It makes it hard for teams to prepare for us,” said Tanguay, who returned to football this fall after a two-year absence. “We each can give the other team a different look.”

Stevens, after a 1-2 start, has been steamrolling through Division III foes. The Cardinals will host Epping-Newmarket on Saturday in a 1 p.m. showdown to see who will play for the state championship the following week.

Sometimes a two-quarterback system is a two-headed monster, but Tanguay, a senior, and Rouillard, a junior, are the best of friends on the baseball diamond, and the football field.

They come at opponents from two different skill sets. Tanguay is 6-foot-3 and Rouillard 5-7. And Tanguay, who throws a baseball more than 80 mph, can heave a football a long way, while Rouillard is a finesse player who tossed a touchdown pass into the arms of Nate White — as if the ball were coming out of a funnel — to get the Cardinals off and running in their quarterfinal win over Newport last week.

“They get along great,” Stevens coach Paul Silva said. “In fact, everyone here gets along great.”

Getting along was one area that seemed to resonate through the whole team. “We are family and we care for each other,” Tanguay said.

Added Rouillard: “We hang out a lot and we have no bad eggs here. If there were, we would take of them ourselves.”

And they also protect each other.

“I’ve only been sacked once, and that was because I ran out of the pocket,” said Tanguay.

“You know I took a few hits in the Newport game,but it was my fault,” Rouillard said. “I should have stayed in the pocket.”

The credit for Tanguay and Rouillard staying on their feet most of the time, must go to Stevens’ offensive line. That group consists of 270-pound Noah Ladd, 240-pound Robbie Knight, 205-pound Cody Wirkkala, 200-pound Kai Kleyensteuber and the little guy in the line, 190-pound Collin Belt.

“I think we just do a good job being physical,” said Ladd.

The togetherness on the team has a sad foundation. It began building last year with the death of assistant coach Aaron Robar. Then, just a few weeks ago, the team had to overcome the passing of Ralph Silva, offensive coordinator and Paul Silva’s father.

Hardly a post-game interview goes by that Coach Silva does not mention his love for his team and what they have been through. That affection is certainly returned.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to be coached by anyone but Paul Silva,” Tanguay said. “He’s just a super guy who just keeps telling us that we are as good as anybody.

“You know, I think we are. He’s made a believer out of me.”

Tanguay, whether he’s bagging groceries at Market Basket on Sunday afternoons, dropping in 3-pointers for the basketball team or throwing strikes in the spring, never seems to get upset about what’s going on around him. His facial expression rarely seems to change.

“That’s the way I am,” he said.

If there is one thing that gets Tanguay to change his expression, however, it’s 160-pound senior running back Don Pellerin, he of the 20 touchdowns and more than 1,300 rushing yards.

Some might say that Pellerin is punishing himself, because he runs so many times between the tackles as opposed to going outside.

His teammates shrug off that kind of talk.

“Some of those plays are designed to go either way and he always goes inside,” said Tanguay. “He’s invincible.

“I just don’t know how he does it.”

Stevens has not won a state championship in any sport since the 1989 boys soccer team, but Ladd likes what has been going on with this team and its chances to bring his school a state championship.

“I can just feel it,” he said.