Ehrenberg Makes Falcons Fly

Bow High School junior runningback Matthew Ehrenberg became the first Bow football player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season during Bow's game against Campbell High School in Bow on Saturday, November 2, 2013.

(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

Bow High School junior runningback Matthew Ehrenberg became the first Bow football player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season during Bow's game against Campbell High School in Bow on Saturday, November 2, 2013. (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

Bow, n.h. — There might not be a hole through which Matt Ehrenberg can run, or even a crack, but it doesn’t matter. The Bow High junior can find yards where it looks like there’s nothing but defenders.

“He has something you can’t coach; he has the ability to see stuff before it’s going to happen,” Bow offensive coordinator Bob Polish said this week. “He makes a little head move, or something with his shoulders, and he makes people miss, and then he’s gone. It’s just amazing. I think the game is in slow motion for him, I really do.”

There are also plenty of occasions when the Falcons’ physical and efficient offensive line opens gaping holes. That blocking, plus Ehrenberg’s uncanny elusiveness, has equaled 1,380 yards — the first 1,000-yard rushing season in the 16-year history of Bow football — and 23 touchdowns for Ehrenberg. It has also led the Falcons to a 9-1 record and a spot in today’s NHIAA Division III championship game against Stevens (8-2).

But don’t ask Ehrenberg how he runs to daylight in the darkness. It’s as much a mystery to him as it is to those watching.

“It just happens,” he said. “I don’t really know how to explain it.”

Ehrenberg, with some help from his family, had to find openings where it seemed there were none just to get on his first football field. He was ready to play the game when he was in second grade, but there was no youth program in Bow at the time. So his mother signed him up for the Hooksett Hurricanes youth program.

He mostly played at linebacker for the Hurricanes, and when he did get in on offense, it was as a lineman. Three years later, Ehrenberg went to the new Bow Bulldogs youth program. He was a quarterback for the Bulldogs that first season before moving to running back the next year, and even then Ehrenberg had an unusual style. Instead of staying low, he ran upright, and rather than staying on course, he liked to take the long route.

“I’ve been coaching Matt since he was in the fifth grade, and every year we would tell him he can’t run like he runs,” said Polish, who was one of the people who started the Bulldogs program. “We told him he can’t run up and down and he can’t cut across the grain, and that as soon as you get to sixth grade it won’t work. And then we told him it wouldn’t work in seventh grade, and then eighth grade and all the way through, but he just kept doing it, and it kept working.”

During his freshman year at Bow High, Ehrenberg was strictly a junior varsity player. He moved up to the varsity level as a sophomore, but most of his playing time came on defense. He got a chance at safety in the fifth game of the season, returned an interception 94 yards for a touchdown, and he’s been starting there ever since.

“I’ve had all kinds of different athletes in my career, and he is certainly an exceptional athlete,” said Paul Cohen, Bow’s head coach. “He’s tall (6-foot-2), and he’s not physically imposing (165 pounds), but he has a natural ability to see the field on either side of the ball and that’s one of the reasons he’s at safety. He can see a lot of things at once, which is certainly important at that position.”

Ehrenberg wasn’t sure what his role would be before this season began, but he was fairly sure the Falcons would find success.

“I just looked at it like it was going to be a team effort,” he said. “These are all the same kids I played youth football with and I knew if we played together we would be a really hard team to stop.”

The coaching staff, however, had some high hopes for Ehrenberg, and the junior turned those hopes into reality.

“We thought he was a diamond in the rough, if you will,” Cohen said after Ehrenberg passed the 1,000-yard plateau in Bow’s regular-season finale, a 29-0 win over Campbell. “And we were hoping that he would come to fruition this year, and he certainly has.”

Vision, quickness and speed aren’t the only traits that make Ehrenberg such a productive runner. He’s also a fierce competitor, determined to make the most out of every carry and win every contest, big or small. There have been times, especially early in the season, when that fiery nature erupted into counterproductive actions. He would complain about a non-call, or get upset over a hit that he felt was cheap or late.

His teammates were on the lookout for such outbursts and were quick to pull Ehrenberg away from any confrontation. But he’s worked on staying calm no matter what the situation, and he’s made great strides toward that goal as the weeks have passed. The change is evident to the coaches and players at Bow, but they also know Ehrenberg still has the special emotional charge that makes him a better player and can inspire an entire team.

“Matt has a real love for the game and you can tell with the passion he shows on the field,” said quarterback Derek Polish, a senior captain. “It’s amazing to have that on the team because he’s one of the players the team will definitely rally around. When the going gets tough, people definitely look to him to see what he’s going to do.”

That was the case in the Falcons’ 18-6 quarterfinal win against Pelham, the only team to beat Bow this year. After breaking off a 92-yard touchdown run to snap a 6-6 tie on the first play of the fourth quarter, Ehrenberg intercepted a pass deep in Bow territory to end Pelham’s next drive, ran for another score to give the Falcons some breathing room, and finished the day with 226 yards on 22 carries.

InterLakes-Moultonborough was keying on Ehrenberg in last week’s semifinal game, and the Lakers held him to 42 yards on 14 carries. But he was still the go-to guy in the red zone, scoring four touchdowns in the Falcons’ 42-0 win.

Stevens will probably be keying on Ehrenberg in the title game, but that won’t matter to him. Chances are good Ehrenberg will find openings where it looks like there are none, just like he’s been doing all season.