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Big Second Half Sends Somersworth Football Past Stevens

— Drew Francoeur didn’t know what was up with the Somersworth High football team at halftime of yesterday’s New Hampshire Division V semifinals. The Hilltoppers were trailing by a point to a team they had beaten by four touchdowns in the regular season, and their playoff future was very much in doubt.

Not to worry. Top-seeded Somersworth scored 21 unanswered points in the second half and cruised to a 27-10 win over No. 4 Stevens, advancing to a championship game for the first time since 2004.

“We didn’t come out as fired up as we thought we were going to, and it really showed out there,” Francoeur said. “Once we came out in the second half, that’s when everything changed.” Somersworth (8-1) will host No. 3 Monadnock (7-2), which was a 14-6 upset winner over No. 2 Kearsarge (7-2) in yesterday’s other semifinal.

Monadnock handed Somersworth its only loss of the season, 21-14 in overtime on Sept. 22.

“You can’t ask for anything more out of a senior-leader group,” Somersworth coach Dan Hodsdon said. “They responded well. We came back and got the job done.” Stevens scored a touchdown with 59 seconds to go in the first half to lead 7-6 at halftime, then expanded the lead to 10-6 on a 35-yard field goal by Rocky Beliveau on its first possession of the second half.

After a number of drives fizzled in the first half, the Hilltoppers finally got going on offense on its second possession of the second half. Francoeur engineered an 11-play, 77-yard drive that consisted of all running plays. Curtis Michaud had five touches for 38 yards on the drive, which included a 1-yard plunge for a touchdown.

“Our line stepped it up a lot,” Francoeur said. “They were really blocking well. They opened up a lot of holes. Curt ran great.” Michaud came up with huge interception on the second play of Stevens’ next possession, returning it to the Cardinals’ 26. Five plays later, Francoeur ran it in from 2 yards out and kicked the extra point to put Somersworth up 20-10.

“I didn’t see it clearly at all,” Michaud said. “I was just watching (the quarterback’s) eyes and he looked at me. I saw the ball come toward me and it was there.” Stevens’ defense did well to key in on Somersworth running back Josh Ream, who had 198 yards against the Cardinals when the teams met on Oct.

5, a 27-0 Somersworth win. While Ream was held to 51 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown yesterday, he had an interception early in the fourth quarter and returned it to the Stevens 25.

With Stevens neutralizing Ream, Michaud picked up his game to the tune of 102 rushing yards on 20 touches. Francoeur was 3 for 9 passing for 42 yards and an interception late in the first half. Francoeur ran the ball 20 times for 82 yards.

Seven plays after Ream’s INT, Francoeur scored his second touchdown of the afternoon, this time from 10 yards out, making it 27-10 with 6:44 to go in the game.

“When you get that momentum as a team, it tends to keep going your way,” Hodsdon said. “We stressed that on both sides of the ball. We can’t let them keep momentum.” Somersworth’s defense was outstanding in the first half, forcing the Cardinals to go three-and-out on their first four possessions. Stevens finally got its inaugural first down with 2:23 to go in the first half, and that was on a penalty. Donald Pellerin got the Cardinals on the board with a 31-yard touchdown run late in the first half for the 7-6 lead.

“With what they did to us the last time we were down here, I don’t think anyone was going to expect what that score was at halftime,” Stevens coach Paul Silva said. “We came up short in the end of the scoreboard, (but) we did the best we could today.” The Hilltoppers scored on their second possession of the game. A punt into the wind gave Somersworth the ball at the Stevens 35, and Ream scored from 6 yards out Two plays later for a 6-0 lead. The run was set up by a 30-yard pass from Francoeur to Darren Glore on the previous play.