Jumping for Joy
Raiders Sky-High After Reclaiming Principals Cup
Lebanon High's Grayson Hardy, left, celebrates with teammate Richard Rogers after kicking a field goal during Friday night's game against Hanover in Hanover, N.H., October 11, 2013.
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Lebanon's Calvin Hunnewell, right, makes an attempt at slowing the progress of Hanover's Joey Porter during their game on Friday night in Hanover.
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Hanover — Two big plays and three big kicks equaled one big prize for the Lebanon High football team on Friday night.
The Raiders picked up touchdowns from Austin Pelletier, Nevin Kapuscinski and Dominick Morrill and three field goals from Grayson Hardy in a 30-14 win over Hanover at Merriman-Branch Field. The victory brought the chrysanthemum-filled Principals Cup back to Lebanon for just the second time in a decade and the first since the Raiders’ undefeated run to an NHIAA state championship three years ago.
In breaking a four-game losing streak, Lebanon (2-4) never trailed after Hardy booted a 33-yard field goal on the visitors’ first possession. An 84-yard TD pass from quarterback Joe Flanagan to Pelletier and a 93-yard Kapuscinski scoring dash upped the lead to 17-0, and the Marauders (1-5) — despite the improvisation of athletic quarterback Shawn Cavallaro — would get no closer to their rivals than two scores the rest of the game.
“In my tenure, we’ve been close,” seventh-year Lebanon coach Chris Childs said. “Last year was a last-second play over the top, they beat us, and one time up here we had the lead and they drove it down the length of the field and scored. We’ve been close, so it’s kind of nice to get over the top.”
The Lebanon defense came out flying at Cavallaro, with Morrill leading the charge from the line. The Raider senior dropped the Hanover QB for a three-yard loss on the game’s first play and joined a gaggle in sacking Cavallaro two plays later to force a punt. Pelletier’s 44-yard return eventually netted Hardy’s first field goal.
The big plays started coming shortly thereafter. Pelletier did much of the work on the long TD pass connection, weaving around catch-up tacklers after outleaping Marauder cornerback Ben Healy for a Flanagan lob with 2:16 left in the first quarter. Hardy’s point-after made it 10-0 for the visitors.
“We came out of the gate real fast, and I think that shocked them a little bit,” Childs said. “We got the lead and just kept building on it.”
The lead was up to 17-0 on the next big Lebanon strike.
Alternating Morrill and junior Cameron Broughton on inside runs, Childs called Kapuscinki’s number on a counter play on a first-and-18 from the Lebanon 7 early in the second period following a holding penalty. With guard Calvin Hunnewell leading into the hole, Kapuscinski outsprinted the Hanover defense to paydirt with 8:16 to go in the half.
“I think Lebanon played extremely well,” Hanover coach Mike Ivanoski said. “We made some key mistakes. I just thought that they played better than we did.”
All Hanover needed to put some life in the game was free space and Cavallaro. Lebanon provided the former by backing off the shifty senior, who quickly took advantage.
From the Hanover 25, Cavallaro (22 carries, 114 yards) dashed 22 yards for a first down, getting another with a 19-yard keeper on a designed rollout run. Once in first-and-goal territory, Joey Porter worked the ball to the Lebanon 4, and Cavallaro took it the rest of the way.
“We were trying to open up,” Ivanoski said. “They were coming hard, but toward the end of the half they started to back off a little bit. We thought we could do some movement there and make some read decisions, and I think (Cavallaro) did a nice job there.”
Lebanon’s next two touches all but decided the contest.
Taking possession with less than a minute remaining before halftime, Flanagan moved the Raiders from the Lebanon 32 to the Hanover 26 in four plays, keyed by another 28-yard counter by Kapuscinski (nine carries, 136 yards). Hardy booted a 43-yard field goal as time expired — his second kick of that distance in as many weeks — for a 20-7 lead at the break.
Flanagan led the Raiders on an 8½-minute scoring march to open the second half. The 15-play drive covered just 59 yards, but it included two third-down conversion runs by Lucas Gerow and a 15-yard Flanagan sprint pass to Morrill on fourth down. Morrill eventually cashed in from the 2 for a 27-7 lead with 3:24 left in the third quarter.
“He can run with the ball a little bit more; he’s a little bit more mobile than Travis is,” Childs said of Flanagan, who started behind center in place of senior Travis Hastings for the second time in three games. “He tends to move the offense a little better, so that’s why we’ve been giving him a go.”
Cavallaro sped through a pulled-back Lebanon defense for a 40-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the period. He turned into Hanover’s only viable offensive weapon, however, and the Raiders made sure to shut him down.
The combination of the long scoring drive and other lengthy Lebanon possessions limited the Marauders to just 16 second-half plays from scrimmage; Cavallaro ran or threw on 15 of them. The Raiders killed five minutes off the clock with a drive that died at the Hanover 36; another march resulted in Hardy’s final three-pointer, from 35 yards, with 50.2 seconds left in the game.
In all, the Raiders ran 34 offensive plays in the final two periods. The biggest ones had come and gone by then.
Audibles: Lebanon’s one downer was losing Morrill to apparent concussion symptoms on the next-to-last play of the third quarter. Morrill was slammed to the turf by Hanover nose guard Schuyler Cyrus on a short run and stayed down momentarily before walking off the field with assistance, ending his night. Morrill sat out the 2012 football season because of earlier concussion issues. … Flanagan completed all four of his passes for 114 yards and the TD to Pelletier. … Lebanon’s defense harassed Cavallaro into a 1-for-10 throwing night, the only completion a 13-yarder to Jeff Gorham on the Marauders’ second-half scoring drive. … Gerow intercepted Cavallaro at the Hanover 1 early in the second quarter for the game’s only turnover. … In addition to taking on placekicking duties, Hardy has moved from tight end to offensive tackle in recent weeks. “We thought we needed some help there, and he a classic all-about-team (guy),” Childs said. “He took the change without a problem.” … Hardy now has five field goals on the year. The Upper Valley’s nine remaining schools had a combined one entering Friday night. … The Raiders outgained Hanover in total offensive yards 374-173. Lebanon drew 93 yards in penalties — compared to just 15 by the Marauders — but weren’t adversely affected by the flags. … Both teams return to action on Friday, with Lebanon visiting Laconia and Hanover heading to Merrimack Valley.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.