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Lebanon football falls on hard times

  • Lebanon’s Joshua Ball (24) tries to tackle Souhegan’s Connor Cassidy (5) as he runs the ball down the field during a game at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Lebanon head coach Herb Hatch instructs his players from the sidelines during a game against Souhegan High School at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Senior Richie Gatto cheers from the student section during Lebanon’s first home football game of the season against Souhegan High School at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Gatto is a member of the team but is unable to play because of a knee injury. “I’m here to support,” he said. “Whatever happens on the scoreboard happens I guess.” (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Lily Poljacik, left, talks to her friends as they sit on the couch, from left, Sam Bates, Nick Brill, Olivia Johns, Megan Bell, and Deanna Lindberg before Lebanon’s first home football game of the season against Souhegan High School at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The seniors said they were disappointed that the football team is off to such a terrible start in their final year of high school, and lamented that they are no longer allowed to bring couches out to the student section because of the school’s newly remodeled track. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Lebanon’s Noah Lamontagne (88) and Shane Camp (10) chase after Souhegan’s Connor Cassidy (5) as he runs the ball down the field after an intercepted pass during a game at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2022 7:41:15 AM
Modified: 9/26/2022 7:41:32 AM

LEBANON — The Lebanon High tailback received a handoff Saturday night and was met a step later by a trio of Souhegan tacklers. Driven backwards, the hapless Raider wound up beneath five or six opponents and five or six yards behind the line of scrimmage.

On the sidelines, first-year Lebanon coach Herb Hatch was gobsmacked.

“What happened?” Hatch shouted, arms out wide.

It’s a question Raiders supporters have asked throughout the season’s first four weeks. Lebanon, an NHAA Division II semifinalist last November, is winless and has been outscored, 211-6. The Raiders lost, 61-0, to Souhegan, and the undefeated Sabers probably could have scored twice as many points if they’d been so inclined.

“We’re overmatched and undermanned,” Hatch said. “We did what we could do.”

The Raiders are trying but they dressed only 24 players against Souhegan and about 10 are players Hatch said are too small and inexperienced for varsity competition. Lebanon finished the game with a handful of healthy substitutes

Is Hatch concerned that a game or the season’s remainder could be called off because Lebanon doesn’t have enough bodies?

“It’s been a worry all season,” the coach said. “We’re taking it day-by-day here. We don’t know who’s going to show up or when. Tonight, we didn’t know until right before kickoff if two guys who started were going to be available.”

Lebanon graduated 13 seniors from last season’s team, seven of them two-way starters. Fifteen-year head coach Chris Childs officially resigned in February.

The search for a replacement didn’t produce a successor until late May.

That’s when Lebanon athletic director Mike Stone, once a successful head football coach at Hartford High, mentioned his dilemma to the 68-year-old Hatch, who was officiating a Lebanon boys lacrosse game. Hatch hadn’t been a head football coach for 23 years, but he’d done well as Hanover’s gridiron and boys lacrosse bench boss during the early 1990s.

Retired from a teaching career, Hatch took the job but described himself as “a stop-gap,” in place for a season or two until Lebanon can find a long-term replacement. He left summer training responsibility mostly on Lebanon’s players.

Childs had drawn Raiders to the weight room for team-only sessions and entered them in passing and linemen competitions, habits that ended after his departure.

Hatch was dismayed when preseason practice began. Fewer players showed up than he’d expected and they weren’t experienced or in good shape. Lebanon focused on the game’s basics while other programs fine-tuned their established systems.

Lebanon lost its opener, 41-6, at Laconia and its second game, 62-0, at Manchester West. During that second contest, the Raiders fumbled seven times and lost four of them. They surrendered touchdowns via run, pass, kickoff return, punt return and fumble return.

The Raiders lost, 47-0, last week at Hollis-Brookline before returning for Saturday’s homecoming clash with Souhegan.

The Sabers opened the scoring with a touchdown pass on their third offensive snap, intercepted a Morgan Melendy toss three plays later and needed only two more snaps to go up, 13-0. The home student section, much of it clad in white, went bonkers when Souhegan botched its second extra-point attempt, correctly anticipating that it was the evening’s high point for the hosts.

Two plays later, Lebanon suffered the first of its three fumbles. Its next possession ended with a snap over punter Ryan Lundrigan’s head. Souhegan’s next play was a touchdown pass that was wiped out by a penalty. No matter — the Sabers threw for another scoring strike on their next snap.

Souhegan ended the first quarter up, 34-0, despite having run only nine plays. Quarterback Jain Romy completed 7 of 8 passes for 152 yards and five touchdowns during the game. Lebanon’s Melendy had both his pass attempts intercepted and backup Patrick O’Neal didn’t complete either of his tries during a second half played with a running clock.

The Raiders’ Josh Ball carried 13 times for 20 yards. Lebanon rushed 34 times for 17 yards as a team.

“The older kids, they’re discouraged,” said Hatch, whose program canceled its first four JV games because of low numbers. “But we see real potential in some of the younger kids. We’re still together after all the adversity we’ve had.”

Notes: Lebanon returned only two starters from last season but neither has played of late. Running back Sawyer Beaulieu was lost during the opener with a broken leg and tight end Tanner Ames has been out since that game because of a concussion … The new track that surrounds the football field was said to be on schedule for completion last month. The pavement is down but is missing its rubberized surface… Lebanon’s pep band continues to blossom under second-year director Dominick Defrancisco. Roughly 25 members moved sharply through various tunes and clearly had a blast despite the score … Lebanon has in recent years recorded game action with a video camera atop a hand-cranked pole that extends roughly 20 feet. Such setups have become common among Division II teams and Souhegan brought one Saturday. The Raiders haven’t deployed that technology this season … Lebanon’s roster lists 10 seniors, five juniors and eight sophomores. The 10 freshmen came from a middle school team that didn’t win a game last fall. Childs said he usually had between 30 and 35 players during his tenure.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.


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