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Friday night football: Lebanon defense dictates another shutout

  • Cameron Davio

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/23/2020 10:50:41 PM
Modified: 10/23/2020 11:13:46 PM

HANOVER — Hanover High’s football night in one image: Speedy sophomore Ben Williams finding a seam on a fourth-quarter kickoff return, seeing daylight … and running smack into Lebanon High tackler Cameron Davio with a loud thud.

Talk all you want about how solid their offense occasionally looks, but the Raiders are riding high on their defense with the NHIAA Division II tournament right around the corner. After a pair of quick-strike scoring drives, Lebanon sat back and watched its defense dictate the terms of an eventual 41-0 blanking of the Marauders on Friday night at Merriman-Branch Field.

The Raiders (4-0) have surrendered just 20 points in four contests, none in the last two and none to an opposing offense since the first half of their season opener a month ago. Whoever encounters Lebanon in the D-II tournament — that foe should be known by Saturday night — they’ll have to solve a defense that has its end of the field padlocked.

“I think we’ve got a really tough group of individuals,” said Davio, a junior defensive end and offensive guard. “We’ve got really good edge protection, and we’ve got some monsters in the middle. We’ve got some really good corners and outside linebackers, and we’ve got a really solid group altogether. We can take on anything.”

Lebanon’s speed caught the Marauders (4-1) by surprise, resulting in a 14-0 lead for the visitors before the game was 6½ minutes old. That speed was evident all night as the Raiders outgained their rivals, 349-101, and allowed them to run just eight plays on the Lebanon side of midfield.

All four primary members of the Raiders’ backfield — Jackson Stone, Nyeoti Punni, Cole Shambo and C.J. Childs — had a rushing touchdown. Stone added a 78-yard TD punt return in the second half and tossed a scoring pass to Shambo.

“I think they were a level of speed and physicality that we haven’t seen yet,” Hanover coach Sam Cavallaro said. “They are an excellent football team. I don’t think our guys were ready for it.”

Lebanon’s linemen stuffed their Hanover counterparts on both sides of the ball. The Raiders turned that dominance into two first-quarter scores, an 18-yard Stone keeper (off a perfect dive fake to fullback Childs) and a 6-yard Shambo dash off the right side. Tanner Ames booted both extra points.

The Marauders tweaked their defense to counter; the effect slowed Lebanon through the rest of the first half, but Hanover found no purchase against the Raiders’ defense. Davio and fellow end Connor Brown prevented Williams and teammate Seamus Murphy from rounding corners, and defensive tackles Josh Mondragon and John Carrier left little room inside.

“We didn’t do nothing; we just pushed them around all night up front, and that was the difference tonight,” Lebanon coach Chris Childs said. “We were really good up front tonight.”

Hanover looked to have Lebanon stopped near midfield on its opening possession of the third quarter only to have Stone connect with C.J. Childs on a 36-yard down-and-out behind the secondary on fourth-and-4 from the Hanover 47-yard line. Childs’ 3-yard plunge three plays later gave the Raiders a 21-0 cushion.

Stone shed a tackle for a 78-yard TD punt return after Hanover’s next three-and-out. An interception of Marauder quarterback Colin Pierce by Lebanon outside linebacker Justin DeCarlo set up a 22-yard screen pass from Stone to Shambo, with the Hartford High transfer breaking three tackles en route to the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Punni capped the rout with a 3-yard TD run with 1:33 to play.

Lebanon hasn’t surrendered an offensive touchdown in more than 14 quarters of play, not since the second quarter of its opening win over Stevens on Sept. 25. The only other points the Raiders have permitted have come on a Cardinal kickoff return and a Newport blocked punt recovery three weeks back.

Since then, a big fat zero. It’s going to take some effort for someone to break down that wall.

“We’re amazing on both sides of the ball,” Davio said, “but defense wins championships.”

Audibles: Punni had a game-high 91 yards on 13 carries for Lebanon. Shambo ran for 83 yards on 12 attempts, Stone had 56 on seven carries and Childs contributed 27 on seven rushes. … Stone’s 131-yard rushing effort in a 21-0 shutout of Keene last week is the only 100-yard game by a Raider back this season. … Murphy had 85 yards on 17 carries to lead Hanover. Williams added 60 yards on 13 rushes. … Lebanon’s defense sacked Pierce and Hanover backup QB Roger Lucas four times for 49 yards in losses. Davio led the way with 1½ sacks, sharing one with Childs. Stone and Brown recorded the others. … A Hanover police officer monitored the access road on the south end of Merriman-Branch to enforce the school’s coronavirus-influenced ban on visiting fans. … Hanover punter Josh Bucci averaged 29 yards on six kicks, opening with a 40-yarder on his first attempt in the opening quarter. … Ames was 4-for-4 on PATs. Noah Mekus attempted the other two for Lebanon, hitting the second after the first was blocked.

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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