Cards Oust Tigers
Claremont — How much does Donald Pellerin like playing football?
“When I was eating last night, I started getting goose bumps,” the Stevens High senior running back said. “I couldn’t wait for today to get here.”
Today got here in a big way for Pellerin and the Cardinals, who dismantled a good Newport team 34-6 Saturday at Barnes Park to give Stevens the NHIAA Division III West Conference championship.
Pellerin, who is at his happiest when he’s on the football field, carried the ball 27 times for 175 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 20 touchdowns and 1,332 rushing yards on the season. He has carried the ball a whopping 237 times in nine games this fall.
Unofficially, the victory earned the Cardinals a home game in the semifinals of the Division III tournament next Saturday against Epping-Newmarket, a 28-0 winner over Bishop Brady to win the East Conference title. Other Division III winners were Bow in the South and InterLakes-Moultonborough in the North.
Both the Tigers and Cardinals entered the game at 6-2, and Stevens’ 9-6 win during the regular season gave every indication that this would be a close game. It wasn’t
Stevens rolled up 457 yards of total offense, while the Tigers (6-3) were stuck in the negatives. That’s because the Tigers had to scrap their game plan when tough-running sophomore running back C. J. Lawrence suffered what appeared to be a broken collarbone in the first quarter.
“Not only is he a top running back, but plays the center of our defense,” Newport coach Larry Carle said.
To add to their woes, Newport also lost running back Tanner Sherman, who got banged up late in the second half and left the game early in the third quarter.
“That’s half our backfield, for crying out loud,” said Carle. “I thought we had a good game plan, but that went out the door with those injuries.”
While the Tigers were looking for replacements, the Cardinals were getting huge contributions from brothers Richard and Brandon Bell along with Nate White. Richard Bell, just a freshman, had a 18 carries for 132 yards, and coach Paul Silva said he was in his “beast mode.”
His brother, junior Brandon Bell, rushed 12 times for 60 yards. White, a senior wide receiver, had three receptions and a touchdown. He also had a hole-opening block on Pellerin’s touchdown run in the second quarter.
The Cardinals (7-2) had a dinner at Arrowhead Friday night, and Pellerin said the conversation was about defense.
“I knew if we could do the job on defense we could win today,” he said.
Added Silva: “There was some talk about us not being physical. I asked them to be physical today, and they were.”
In the early going, Newport had its chances, only to see those opportunities wasted.
Twice, the Tigers had receivers open outside, and twice there were dropped passes. The one that hurt the most came on the Tigers’ first possession, when they had fourth-and-7 on the Stevens’ 34. Quarterback Tom Hogan hit the receiver in the hands, but the ball was dropped and possession turned over to Stevens.
“We had some guys open in the flats today and we had a couple of drops,” Carle said. “This was a disappointing day.”
Stevens, known more as a ground-pounding team, got two long pass completions to White in its first possession. The first was for 31 yards, the second a 28-yard scoring strike from quarterback Bryar Rouillard. The TD pass was a little behind White who turned, made the catch and took it in.
Stevens followed that with a drive that stalled at the 10, but Newport could get only five yards in three plays and had to punt away, giving Stevens good field possession on its 46.
Seven plays later ,Pellerin, with a key block from White, went wide from the 19 to score. Rouillard’s first kick, which was good off the goal post, was true on his second try to make it 14-0.
Following the Stevens kickoff, Newport went three-and-out and Stevens made it a 21-0 game on a 90-yard drive that included a 51-yard Pellerin run before the 160-pound senior took it in from the 9. Rouillard was once again good with his extra point kick.
Newport’s lone score came with 5:28 left when Zach Brown picked up a loose ball and rambled 40 yards for the TD.