Confident, but Cautious: Favored Cardinals Hope to Avoid Pratfalls
Cardinals running back Donald Pellerin, right, runs back a kick while Bryar Rouillard runs interference 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 »
Stevens running back Donald Pellerin is tackled by Mascoma defenders during their game in West Canaan, N.H. on Saturday, October 5, 2013. Stevens won the game 42-22. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont — It’s one of those “Better Be Careful” games.
When Stevens High hosts Epping-Newmarket in Saturday’s NHIAA Division III semifinal, the Cardinals will have to forget they are the favorite. Having won their last six games, including last week’s 34-6 win over Newport in the D-III quarterfinal, Stevens has allowed just 24 points in its last four games to take a 7-2 record into this weekend’s encounter.
Also, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents, 226-130.
At the same time, the Blue Devils (5-4) have given up 187 points and scored 163. In addition the Blue Devils were in a division that did not have a team over .500 during the regular season — Epping-Newmarket and Bishop Brady each finished at 4-4.
While the Blue Devils and Cardinals did not play against each other during the regular season, they had four common opponents. The results of those games only add to the pile of information that points the favorite arrow toward Stevens. For example:
Stevens beat Somersworth, 31-25, while Epping-Newmarket lost to the Toppers, 39-7.
Both teams lost to Campbell, but the Cards’ defeat came when they missed a two-point conversion in overtime, 21-20. Somersworth mauled the Blue Devils, 53-20.
Epping-Newmarket topped Raymond, 21-12, while the Cardinals had one of those keep-the-score down 34-6 wins.
The other common opponent was Farmington-Nute, a team Stevens defeated 42-6, while the Blue Devils were 20-0 winners.
One of the reasons for the Cardinals’ success this fall has been the ability to avoid injuries. Last year the team was devastated by injuries to quarterback Logan Batchelder and running back Billy Brooks. This year has been different.
“There were definitely a lot of injuries that hurt us last year,” 270-pound tackle Noah Ladd said.
“We’ve got some bumps and bruises — like everyone else,” said Stevens coach Paul Silva. “But we’re in pretty good shape. We’ll be ready.”
As game day draws closer, Silva hopes to learn a little more about Saturday’s opponent.
“They are really aggressive and have two real good linebackers,” Silva said.
The Cardinals have spent the week refining the game plan and are happy to have another home game.
“I know we’ll have a good crowd,” added Silva. “This should be fun.”
Should the Cardinals prevail, they would play the winner of the Bow vs. InterLakes-Moultonborough semifinal for the D-III title.