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Mascoma Football is Tough on Turf

— Seems Mascoma High’s tough mudders can be the greatest show on turf, too.

Overcoming some hesitation about home-field advantage at someone else’s home, the top-ranked Royals rode Kyle Kosiorek’s 150 rushing yards and three touchdowns — including one on a very rare pass — to a 42-6 win over No. 4 Newfound in the NHIAA Division VI semifinals yesterday.

A waterlogged home field made so by Hurricane Sandy earlier in the week moved the contest to the artificial surface of Hanover High’s Merriman-Branch Field. The Royals (8-2) didn’t take long to overcome their concerns about the surface, never trailing after the first of Mike Seiffert’s two TD runs and intercepting Newfound quarterback Jared Dearborn five times.

“I thought the team executed excellent today,” Mascoma coach Ray Kershaw said. “They knew what they had to do, they came out and they did it.

They’d never played on turf before. They were a little nervous about it, but they adapted well.” Mascoma will host No. 2 Franklin — a 14-10 winner over No. 3 Campbell yesterday — on Saturday at 1 p.m. The location isn’t certain yet, with ability of the Royals’ home field to dry out and the potential for a midweek Nor’easter looming as factors in the decision.

Mascoma could do a lot worse than return to Merriman-Branch. Its double-wing offense worked just fine on the carpet, and the Royals’ ball-hawking defensive backs made sure the Bears’ spread attack never gained traction.

“We made way too many mistakes, and they didn’t,” Newfound coach Greg Dalzell said. “That’s it in a nutshell.” The Royals’ apprehension played out in two early developments.

Newfound (6-4) caught Mascoma napping on the opening kick, with Eric Vose recovering Jake Dearborn’s rolling service in front of the Bears’ bench. Dalzell kept the ball on the ground until third-and-goal at the Mascoma 6-yard line, when quarterback Jared Dearborn (13-for-31 passing, 105 yards) overshot Jake Dearborn in the end zone, the Royals’ Justin Marsh making the interception.

Mascoma didn’t make Newfound pay for that turnover — Kosiorek gave the football back six plays later with a fumble at the Bears’ 49 — but every other one cost the visitors.

“We always do gang tackles; everyone has to be at the ball at that time,” said Kosiorek, who had a number of jarring collisions with Newfound ballcarriers yesterday. “Once they see the ball cross the line of scrimmage, everybody has to run for it.” Mascoma ran most of the rest of the day after Jared Dearborn misfired on a fourth-down screen pass to fellow sophomore R.J. Silva at the Mascoma 44 late in the first quarter.

With Kosiorek, a junior, and senior Steven Griswold doing most of the work, the Royals marched 56 yards for their first touchdown, an 8-yard Seiffert dive with 30.4 seconds left in the stanza. Kosiorek followed with the 2-point conversion run.

Newfound answered with a fine toss from Jared Dearborn, a 10-yarder on fourth down out of play action to junior Devin Fields. Silva came up short on the conversion run. The Bears would get no closer.

“We tried to play some zone against them in the past, against the spread, and we didn’t have that much luck, so we played man,” Kershaw said. “I’m not a big fan of man coverage because it leaves a lot of holes in our defense, but that’s what the kids did best at, so that’s what we played. It worked just fine.” Kosiorek stretched Mascoma’s lead back to 14-6 with a 2-yard run with 3:32 left in the half. Senior Zach Warner’s interception and 28-yard return to the Newfound 14 gave Seiffert his second TD of the half, on a 2-yard dive, just 88 seconds later for a 22-6 lead following Kosiorek’s conversion run.

The Royals picked Jared Dearborn’s first two passes of the second half as well, and the first — a diving grab by senior defensive end Chris Sanborn — led to something Mascoma fans have rarely seen this year.

Facing fourth-and-5 at the Newfound 15, Warner connected with Kosiorek on a 15-yard touchdown pass, the first of 2012 for a Mascoma team that had thrown for all of 50 yards all season.

“I think it’s easier for us to play one-on-one because we have the speed to keep up with each guy,” Kosiorek said. “Zone sometimes doesn’t work for us, but we have that safety back there.” Eddie Bianco cashed in the latter pickoff (courtesy of Griswold) with a 5-yard scoring run, and Kosiorek converted Newfound’s last interception (Warner’s second of the day) with a 12-yard TD dash in the final minute of the third quarter.

“We have a great sophomore quarterback, but he had a tough day today,” Dalzell said. “They played great today. It was just the mistakes; the mistakes killed us.” A Mascoma program that had never known success before is now riding a six-game winning streak into its first state championship game. Kosiorek isn’t concerned about where it’s played, so long as it’s a place the Royals can call home.

“Doesn’t matter to me,” Kosiorek declared. “Either way, we’re going to win it.”

∎ Audibles: The Royals played their second game in tie-dyed socks, a tribute to Mascoma senior Amanda Foden, the 17-year-old who passed away from cancer on Oct. 23. The Royals also had tie-dyed stickers on the backs of their helmets that read, “In Memory of Amanda.” Foden had an affinity for tie-dye, Kershaw noted before the game. … Mascoma beat Franklin in their Sept. 1 season opener in West Canaan, 26-13, a game that Kosiorek was the table-setter for the Royals’ run to success: “We were prepping for them, we beat them, it fired us all up, then we knew we could have it through the whole year.” … Mascoma supporters filled about two-thirds of Merriman-Branch’s bleachers and lined the field-side fence from behind the Royals’ bench to beyond the base of the parking lot steps. … Seiffert added 52 rushing yards and Bianco finished with 41 for the Royals, who outgained Newfound 306-110 on the ground for the day. … Silva had a team-high 61 rushing yards for the Bears, all in the first half. Jake Dearborn led Newfound with 63 receiving yards on six receptions. … Kosiorek was 3-for-4 on conversion runs to go with his three TDs for the Royals.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.