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Bow Repeats Quick Start, Drops Cards in D-III Football Final

  • Cardinals head coach Paul Silva thanks the team for their hard work following their loss to Bow in the New Hamphsire Division III Championship game in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. The final score was 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Cardinals head coach Paul Silva thanks the team for their hard work following their loss to Bow in the New Hamphsire Division III Championship game in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. The final score was 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cardinal Donald Pellerin leaps for a catch over Bow's Kyle Milne in ghe final minutes of their New Hamphsire Division III Championship matchup in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. Bow won the game 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Cardinal Donald Pellerin leaps for a catch over Bow's Kyle Milne in ghe final minutes of their New Hamphsire Division III Championship matchup in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. Bow won the game 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cardinal Brandon Bell takes a moment during halftime of their New Hamphsire Division III Championship game against Bow in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. Bow won the game 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Cardinal Brandon Bell takes a moment during halftime of their New Hamphsire Division III Championship game against Bow in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. Bow won the game 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cardinals head coach Paul Silva thanks the team for their hard work following their loss to Bow in the New Hamphsire Division III Championship game in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. The final score was 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Cardinal Donald Pellerin leaps for a catch over Bow's Kyle Milne in ghe final minutes of their New Hamphsire Division III Championship matchup in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. Bow won the game 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Cardinal Brandon Bell takes a moment during halftime of their New Hamphsire Division III Championship game against Bow in Bow, N.H. on November 23, 2013. Bow won the game 20-6. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

Bow, n.h. — The only performance the Stevens High football team wanted to avoid repeating during Saturday’s NHIAA Division III championship game at Bow was its first game against the Falcons, when penalties and field position weighed heavily in Bow’s 28-14 win in September. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, that’s exactly what happened.

Second-ranked Stevens was flagged six times for 60 yards and allowed No. 1 Bow to start in Cardinals territory four times as the Falcons won 20-6 on a sunny, but cold and blustery, afternoon at Bow High School.

Bow (10-1) jumped out to a 14-0 advantage at halftime — the same score it led by at the break two months ago — and held on for its second state title in its 16-year history. Playing in their first title game in eight years and vying for their first state title since 1968, the Cards (8-3) lost for the first time since the previous time they played the Falcons, snapping a seven-game winning streak.

Both teams’ 1,000-yard running backs broke 100 Saturday, with Stevens’ Donald Pellerin rushing for 131 yards on 23 carries and the Falcons’ Matt Ehrenberg churning out 89 of his 129 yards in the second half.

Bow scored on two of its first three possessions and won more than the field position battle, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball throughout much of the afternoon.

“They came out ready and they deserved it,” said Stevens coach Paul Silva of Bow. “All around, I think we’re pretty close with them. We were competitive, but they executed and controlled the line of scrimmage a little bit better than we did.”

Going against a stiff north wind in the first quarter, Stevens’ delay-of-game penalty on its opening drive helped force a punt, and Ehrenberg returned Ryan Tanguay’s breeze-stifled kick 12 yards to the Stevens 19.

“It was kind of deja vu right there for us, because we gave them good field position early and they capitalized the first time we played them, too,” said Pellerin, who doubles as a defensive back and had a fumble recovery Saturday. “That kind of gave them some energy to build off of.”

Stevens later converted twice on third down to approach midfield, but Reynolds picked off a Tanguay throw on the first play of the second quarter to give Bow the ball at its own 32. Ehrenberg and Chris Robbins (15 carries, 89 yards) got the Falcons into Stevens territory before a personal foul against Stevens for running into team personnel on the Bow sideline set the Falcons up at the Cards’ 19. Senior Alex Reitze ran twice for 10 yards before a nine-yard rumble up the middle from Robbins made it 14-0 with eight minutes left in the half.

Including the penalty, Bow earned five first downs and used three running backs during the 68-yard march.

“We got some momentum and kept going with it,” said 13th-year Bow coach Paul Cohen. “We knew we were going to need good defense in this game, and we got the turnover. Offensively, we’re blessed to have a whole stable of backs who can contribute.”

The first single-season 1,000-yard runner in Bow history, Ehrenberg had just six of Bow’s 22 carries and 40 yards in the first half. He had eight more yards than that and just one fewer carry on the Falcons’ opening drive of the second half alone, carrying six times for 48 yards — including a 27-yard burst down the right sideline — to set Bow up with first-and-goal. He left shaken up following a big collision on a two-yard gain inside the 10, but Robbins did the honors from there with a seven-yard run to set up his own one-yard touchdown to make it 20-0.

Ehrenberg went on to record 12 carries for 89 yards in the second half, both figures doubling his totals from the first two quarters. Saving his best stuff for the stretch run was no accident.

“We knew (Stevens) was going to spy on him, and we didn’t want them to put us back on our heels if they stopped him early,” Cohen said. “So we kind of waited until the second half to unleash him. Again, we’re fortunate to have a number of guys who can run the ball effectively.”

Stevens’ Collin Belt blocked the PAT and the Cards got a turnover on Bow’s next possession, Pellerin falling on an Ehrenberg fumble at the Cardinals’ 32. Freshman Richard Bell ran for 14 yards and Pellerin for gains of 8, 14 and 12 to set up first-and-goal at the Falcons 4-yard line. Pellerin was stuffed on first down, but Tanguay found Brandon Bell in the right slot on second-and-goal for a three-yard score to get Stevens on the board. Bow blocked the extra point to keep it 20-6 with 10:54 remaining.

“At that point, I felt like we were still in it, being down by two scores,” Pellerin said. “We just couldn’t come all the way back.”

After the Cards’ score, Bow used up clock by driving to the Stevens 30 before punting from there, Reynolds’ 29-yarder pinning Stevens inside its own 1. The Cards turned it over on downs at the 6 but got it right back when Bryar Rouiillard fell on Reitze’s fumble on second-and-goal.

“You can’t take away anything from my guys, because they played with a lot of heart,” said Silva. “We turn it over on downs late in the game inside our own 10 and find a way to get it back. That shows you how much heart this team has and that’s the way they’ve played all year.

“We started the year 1-2. And I don’t think many people thought we’d end up where we did, winning the (D-III West) division title and making it to the state championship game.”

With 3:15 to play after the takeaway, Stevens made it to the 38 before giving it up on downs with 1:24 left.

Bow knelt three times to end it.

Extra Points: Silva was teary-eyed during the Cardinals’ post-game huddle, thanking players for a memorable season. Silva’s father, longtime Fall Mountain and Stevens multi-sport coach Ralph Silva, died in October at age 82. … Cohen also dedicated the season to his dad, Dr. Kenneth Cohen, who passed away last December. … Cardinals quarterbacks Tanguay and Rouillard combined to complete 9 of 19 passes for 50 yards, with Brandon Bell leading all receivers with three catches for 33 yards and a score. … Bow threw the ball just once, a halfback option by Lacourciere that was intercepted by Tanguay early in the second quarter. Stevens went three-and-out following the pick. … Stevens had 15 first downs, Bow 14. … Bow’s Merrimack County neighbor, Concord High, beat Pinkerton 42-14 in the D-I final Saturday to cap an undefeated season. Bow High and Concord High are separated by less than 4½ miles.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.